Heller 1/72 P-47N Thunderbolt
Seldom do I see a kit that has nothing whatsoever to recommend
it. The Heller P-47N is one of those rare few.
In the late 1970s, Heller started to produce some nice little kits in 1/72. This one predates that rebirth by a number of years. I don’t know exactly when the kit was first issued, but the one I built has been in my possession since the mid-’70s. I believe it was also reboxed (as were several other Heller kits) by Aurora in the early to mid-’70s.
The kit is similar in overall detail and accuracy to the 1/72 Airfix and Revell “Warbirds”
kits of the mid-’60s, or maybe just a touch better.
The first thing that strikes you, whether viewing it in the box or a completed model, is that the distinctive Thunderbolt cowling doesn’t look right. Not only is is misshapen (looks too large in the front to me), but it seems to hang or droop at an unnatural angle. Unfortunately, it’s molded as part of the fuselage, so fixing this would involve cutting the cowling off and repositioning it in some way, which would be much more difficult than it sounds.
There’s a cockpit, of sorts. The engine is weak, as are the prop, the wheels, and the
landing gear. The canopy isn’t shaped or framed correctly. The shape of the fin doesn’t look quite right.
Well, for $6 (as this is written, currently on sale for $3.96 at Squadron Mail Order), it’s still worthwhile buying one just for the wings, which you could mate to a better P-47D kit to make your own N conversion, right? Sorry, even that won’t work. The wings of the Heller Jug appear to have been engineered and built upside down--there’s airfoil on the bottom but the top surfaces are nearly flat. Was Republic perhaps testing a secret “NASA Supercritical airfoil" wing on the P-47 in the 1940s, and this is what Heller has chosen to model for us? I doubt it. In short, the wings are worthless for transplanting on anything else.
The model is covered in fine raised details and tiny rivets, but at this point, who cares?
There’s not much to do with this kit except sell it, give it away, or build it
out-of-box as a “breather” between serious projects, or as a test vehicle for a
new paint, technique, etc. The latter is what I did with my copy of the kit four
or five years ago when I wanted to experiment with Floquil Old Silver. The kit
went together OOB without any glitches that I recall (it would be a good starter
kit for a youngster or new modeler). I painted it with Floquil Old Silver with
Model Master FS34087 Olive Drab antiglare panels. The only markings applied were
some generic SuperScale stars-and-bars. I used the kit-supplied 5-inch HVARs and
bombs, matching a famous P-47N photo that was apparently a factory publicity
shot. The kit includes the small antennas that mount on either side of the
dorsal strake, but given the model’s overall low level of accuracy, I didn’t
bother to glue them on.
The kit went together easily and looks pretty much like a P-47N from three feet away. It was a fun project, but I don’t consider it a serious model. If you want to build a good P-47N in 1/72, I’d suggest starting with the Detail & Scale book on the Thunderbolt and two of your favorite P-47D kits, using the wings of one to lengthen the wings of the other. (If you start with the recent Revell P-47M kit, you’ll have the correct engine, too!) The Heller kit will be able to contribute nothing to your project except perhaps the dorsal strake, and you can build that yourself out of sheet styrene and save the money.
Have fun with it or give it to a kid, but the Heller P-47N is a sow’s ear that’s not worth the effort of trying to turn it into a silk purse. Model on!
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