|KIT:||Pacific Coast Models 1/32 Macchi C.202|
While the Macchi C.200 Saetta had little about it to reveal its ancestry among the world’s fastest racing aircraft, due to the unavailability of a modern powerplant which meant that designer Mario Castoldi had to use a bulky, low-powered radial engine, the C.202 was able to make use of the German Daimler-Benz DB 601, one of the finest in-line liquid-cooled aircraft engines ever built. With this compact powerplant, the lines of the M.C.72 - once holder of the world’s absolute air speed record - returned. Indeed, Castoldi’s design for what was known as the “Folgore” (“Lightning”) is considered one of the most aesthetically-pleasing designs for a fighter airplane created by anyone during the Second World War.
While its armament of only two .50 caliber machine guns mounted in the forward fuselage and firing through the propeller arc - later augmented by two 7.62mm weapons in the wings - was considerably less than that of the Spitfire, Hurricane, Kittyhawk and Warhawk by which the Folgore was opposed, its finger-light control, outstanding maneuverability, and speed equal to that of the Spitfire while exceeding that of the Hurricane or the Curtiss Kittyhawk and Warhawk, could more than make up for the lighter armament in the hands of a capable pilot. Castoldi’s design secret of having one wing longer than the other to counteract torque meant the pilot did not have to constantly worry about trimming as he changed speed, adding to the aircraft’s superior maneuverability.
Fortunately for the Allies, the real Achilles Heel of the C.202 was the Italian aircraft industry, which never managed to understand and adapt the methods of mass production used by Italy’s opponents or her ally Germany. As a result, only about 1,700 Folgores were produced by Aermacchi and Breda between the initial introduction of the C.202 in 1941 and the Italian surrender in 1943. This was hardly enough to have even a moderate effect on the course of the war. Coupled with the fact that the Italian license-built version of the DB 601 suffered from quality control issues and never produced the power of the original, and was never produced in mass numbers - and that replacement German engines were hard to come by and only sent by the Germans after their own needs were catered to - the Folgore can be clearly seen as one of the great “might have beens” of the Second World War.
Despite all of these handicaps, the C.202 established an enviable record in air combat over North Africa, Malta, and Sicily during the middle years of the war. British and later American pilots considered it a dangerous opponent.
With the Italian surrender in September 1943, those units of the Regia Aeronautica in the south of Italy generally joined the Allied side. Given that the Italians were facing the British invasion across the straits of Messina into the “boot heel” of Italy, and the American invasion south of Naples at Salerno at the time of the surrender, it is not surprising that the majority of the C.202-equipped units were in the south of Italy and became part of the Co-Belligerent Air Force. The Folgore was flown over the Balkans and soldiered on until the middle of 1944 when spares for the engine became a serious issue since there were fewer abandoned German airframes to cannibalize.
Following the end of the war, some Folgores were sold to the Egyptian Air Force, though they did not take part in the fighting during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948-49.
Kits of the C.202 Folgore have been fairly common in both 1/72 and 1/48 scale, with those by Hasegawa in both scales being considered the best of the lot. 1/32 has not been so well-served, with a very ancient ID Models vacuform that I recall from the 1980s, and a resin/multi-media kit by CraftWorks released in the late 1990s. This kit had some serious accuracy issues, as well as being very complicated and being released by a company that still had more than a thing or two to learn about casting resin. This year, 21st Century Toys released a 1/32 diecast C.202 that is very accurate in outline and has accurate camouflage and markings (there’s a reason why the company hired Roy Sutherland and put him in charge of approving kit designs and paintings and markings decisions), which more than a few modelers purchased for inclusion in their collections.
This kit by Pacific Coast Models has been eagerly awaited ever since the company released their 1/32 C.200 Saetta with the promise of a C.202 and C.205 shortly thereafter. As it turned out, “shortly thereafter” turned into a bit more than a year, due to a myriad of problems surrounding accuracy of the kit design, buildability, markings, etc. The extended wait has been worth it.
Modelers who have purchased the PCM C.200 kit will know the accuracy and quality standards the kit represents. With the major airframe parts in limited-run injection plastic, and the cockpit and lower engine cowling in resin (since that last will change when the quite-similar-yet-different C.205 appears), the kit is eminently buildable. The decal sheet is by Cartograph, and features markings for five different aircraft, including the well-known “Dai Banana!” flown by former banana importer and 10-victory ace Sgt. Major Ennio Tarantola of the 51st Stormo.
This kit looks to be of similar quality to the excellent C.200 kit released by Pacific Coast Models. It is certainly now the premiere kit of this airplane in this scale. It will certainly look good sitting next to the earlier airplane, as well as near the Hasegawa Bf-109s and Fw-190s in1/32.
With the appearance of this long-awaited kit, as well as the other excellent releases like the Trumpeter SBD, and other kits that seem to be popping up every week, the summer of 2006 looks to be one of the best in a long time. We are definitely in the Golden Age of Scale Modeling.
Review kit courtesy of Pacific Coast Models.
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