Revell 1/48 P-39 Airacobra

KIT #: 85-5255
PRICE: $14.95 MSRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Ralph Koziarski
NOTES: Reissue of Monogram kit


The P-39 Aircobra was designed in response to the US Army Air Corps’ request for a high-altitude pursuit fighter in the late 1930s. The request called for a rugged, heavily armed fighter with a rapid climb-rate. Bell Aircraft’s response to the request was a  unique mid-fuselage mounted engine  which freed up space in the nose for heavy armament, and allowed for a streamlined fuselage design. The Aircobra performed poorly at altitudes above 17000, but despite this, in 1939, the Army began to place orders for the aircraft (…but nothing like this ever happened again, ever. Nope…). Several nations, including the USA, Great Britain, the USSR, Australia, France, and Portugal used the Aircobra during, and shortly after World War II.

Beginning in 1941 Aircobras were supplied to Great Britain and later the USSR as part of the lend-lease program. The RAF found the fighter inferior to their own designs, and would shortly reject them. The USSR however, found the heavy armament and low-altitude performance of the Aircobra advantageous in the Eastern Front; as much of the air combat there took place during encounters between German and Soviet aircraft flying at low altitudes in support of ground troops. At least a handful of VVS pilots became aces on the Aircobra.

The US Army found limited success with the aircraft which they employed in the South Pacific and North Africa, until more modern aircraft became readily available. In both cases, the aircraft were used primarily for strafing attacks, and in support of ground troops. The aircraft modeled here was stationed at Canton Island, and was used in air support during the invasion of the Gilbert Islands.


This kit is a great classic. Originally released by Monogram, in the late 1960s, it was top of the line. A goodly amount of cockpit, and wheel-well detail, a basic, but sufficient gun bay, and a partially exposed engine must have made many a young boy exited back then. The kit was updated and rereleased under the Promodeler brand in the mid 1990s. Finally, Revell cleaned up the molds and released the kit once again in late 2008. Surface detail consists of petite raised panel lines, and recessed control surfaces. The wheel wells are boxed in, and include some basic plumbing. The engine, cockpit, and gun bay are moderately well detailed, and provide a nice canvas for the super-detailers wishing to spruce things up.

This most recent reincarnation of the model comes in a standard gray plastic, which is almost flash free, and contains few sink marks and other imperfections. The kit retains the classic options to model the gun-bay, engine bay, and one of the cockpit “car-doors” open; and includes both a seated and standing pilot, as well as a mechanic figure kneeling on an oild-drum. The modeler also has the option of two kinds of exhaust pipes, bomb or drop-tank and several different cannon/machine –gun layouts. The kit includes three markings options

Not being  a rivet-counter, I can not comment on how well the kit scales out. But it looks to me like a P-39. The only area which to my eye seems to be lacking is the forward edge of the wing. The air-scoops and filters in at the front of the lower wing, look a bit flat to me, but again I am no expert on the type.


It has been some months since I have completed construction, so I can not provide a blow-by-blow account of how things went. I will instead focus on the areas of construction which I found especially memorable and or problematic. In an nutshell though, fit of the parts was good, and many of the problems I ran into with the kit were a result of my building it with the wheels up.

I began the model by assembling and painting the cockpit and gun bay. I was initially planning on detailing both, but lost interest when I could not come up with an adequate way to pack enough weight into the nose to keep the plane from tail sitting. At this point I sealed up the gun bay, and finished the cockpit OOB. I installed the figure provided in the kit, which I painted in a light khaki uniform, to make him look like a South Pacific airman.

The fuselage was sewn up, and all relevant panels and parts attached. I do not recall any problems with fit up to this point. I attached the main wing by first gluing the upper wings to the fuselage, and then attaching the lower wing to the completed assembly. I find this method to be a surefire way  in avoiding poor wing-root fit, particularly in older models. It is a lot easier to sand and fill the leading and trailing edges if they don’t fit, than it is to monkey around with a wing root. On this model, the method proved useful, and the only filling I recall doing, was at the back end of the lower wing, on the belly of the plane. A little bit of super glue made quick work of the gap. The fit of the horizontal stabilizers was a bit more dodgy and required a bit of filler at the roots. The kit I was building had underwing gun-pods, which I added at this point. These required just a little bit of filler to conform to the curve of the wing.

The landing gear covers provided in the kit work like a dream when posed open, but as is often the case, they were too small when closed up. After some fuss, I decided to simply fashion closed gear doors from card stock and attach them to wheel wells filled with epoxy putty. This gave the model some added heft, which feels kind of nice when its picked up.

I masked up the canopy parts and glued them onto the fuselage in preparation for painting. Maybe it was just me, but do take care with the car-door windows. On my model, both of them ended up being pushed inside of the canopy, and so I simply replaced them with Krystal Klear once the kit was completed.


As mentioned above, Revell provides the builder with three marking options in this kit. The first is an olive drab over neutral gray machine used in North Africa. This has some attractive yellow numbers, and red outlined US insignia. The second option, is a flamboyant Cactus Airforce version in dark green and brown camouflage with a shark-mouth and fighting rooster “nose-art”. The final option, which I chose is “Devastating Devil” in coral pink temporary camouflage, when the aircraft was stationed at the coral atoll of Canton Island. The decals for this option are possibly incorrect, in that the US insignia have a blue outline, when in fact they may need to be red; although that is debatable. Similarly, “Devastating Devil is in black, when it may have been red on the real aircraft.  

I painted the model’s underside with Tamiya neutral gray. I then added some white to the gray, and randomly misted on fine coats to break up the monotony of the color. The topside was then painted with olive drab, followed by several mist coats of a home mixed coral pink. I think I mixed Vallejo red and flesh highlight, and maybe added a touch of yellow. Vallejo paints are somewhat fragile, and once I finished painting the topside, I scrubbed portions with a toothbrush to simulate the finish being sand-blasted by flying bits of loose Canton Island coral picked up and blown about by prop wash.

I ended up replacing the US insignia for the fuselage with red outlined stars from my spares box, but used the codes and “nose art”. I also used the red outline stars from the North African bird on the wings. The Revell decals are sharply printed, and went onto the model without a hitch. I used Microset solution to assist in setting the decals down over a coat of Future.

The decals were oversprayed with Model Master Acrylic flat coat, and before it had a chance to fully cure, I rubbed in some pastel dusts to further weather the aircraft. A final mist coat of MM Acrylic flat-coat sealed everything in.


Final construction included the painting of small details like exhausts, a pitot tube, and the prop. I painted the spinner yellow, but have since heard that perhaps it should be OD or black. I hollowed out the 37 mm cannon, and drilled a small hole in the bottom to accept a length of acrylic rod. The other end of the rod was glued into a small block of free flooring sample, and that was it.


I simply love old models, and it makes me very glad when Revell, Airfix, and the other classic manufacturers rerelease their oldies with new smart new decals. This kit is inexpensive and easy to find in most hobby shops and even craft stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby. It is a nice alternative to the far more expensive Eduard kit, and even with minimal TLC builds into a beautiful kit of one of the funkier looking fighters of WW II. I would recommend without hesitation to both beginners and advanced modelers alike.

Ralph Koziarski

January 2011

Thanks to me and my fondness for anything different from the norm for this one.

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