Italeri 1/48 Fiat CR.42AS
|NOTES:||Eduard etched used for seat restraint system, kit decals for instruments.|
The Fiat CR.42 was a result of Celestino Rosatelli’s innovative aeronautical designs evolution. Starting with the CR.1 in 1924 the CR.42 first flew May 23, 1938. At a time when low wing, high powered monoplane fighters were flying or in thier prototype stages this bi-plane aircraft seemed to be an anachronism. Rather than launch into a discussion on the state of the art at that time let’s focus on how good this was as the apex of development of the CR series of fighters. Its test pilot after the first flight stated it was “the ultimate pilot’s airplane”. The CR.42 was powered by the FIAT A.74 RC.38 radial engine which produced 828 h.p. at 12, 465 feet. Even an in line DB601E engine was fitted and tested in this airframe (CR.42DB) during 1942 but by the end of initial flight testing the air ministry recognized the day of the bi-plane was over and that ended the CR.42. Its initial armament consisted of two fuselage mounted Breda-SAFAT .50 caliber (12.7mm) guns synchronized to fire through the propeller arc. A field conversion was available and used to replace the weapons with Breda-SAFAT .30 caliber (7.7mm) guns – as a weight saving gambit.
The CR.42 was produced from February 1939 through June 1943 for a total of 1700 airframes. It evolved from the initial day fighter design into a night fighter, fighter bomber and two seat training airframes. It was well liked by its pilots and served in Italy, Western Europe (Belgium/France), Mediterranean, Russian and North African fronts. It was even used by the Luftwaffe, designated CR.42LW, in Italy during 1944 and in France during late 1943 for anti-partisan missions. When the war ended it was still in service stationed in Austria and Croatia. It was an ace maker logging air-to-air combat success for pilots from Italy, Hungary, and Belgium.
Italeri have released three versions of their CR.42 Falco kit. The first release, a CR.42 LW (# 2640), in late 2004 was for the CR.42LW Luftwaffe Night Attack version with an extended exhaust muffler and partial landing gear spats. That kit had no bombs which is an omission. It was followed by this release, # 2653, a CR.42AS Fighter-Bomber, which added a no spats landing gear (it also has the full spats plastic parts as well) and some bombs the following year. Parts tree “A” was changed adding the partial spats landing gear and bombs. Parts tree “B” was changed deleting the Luftwaffe specific parts for the night operations extended exhaust and partial spats parts. The Italeri # 2653 release has a wonderful color printed walk-around booklet that is of great modeling value and tremendous help in building this aircraft. There are many details on the CR.42 to be found and understood. The booklet positively helps with and adds a lot to your building satisfaction. In 2007 the # 2702 Falco Aces release came out featuring the most produced version of the CR.42 with colors and markings of aces from Italy, Hungary and Belgium. Italeri’s # 2702 Falco Aces features the required full spat landing gear and simple (non-dust filter) carburetor air intake along the bottom centerline. The first two releases by Italeri, # 2640 and # 2653, only have the dust filter air intake limiting how many CR.42 versions you can produce from those kits.
The Italeri CR.42 was well received when it was released and several in-box reviews appeared giving it positive marks but always indicating that the value of this kit would be determined after it was built. It was hoped that a new tool injection plastic kit of the CR.42 from a major manufacturer would reward modelers with a kit they have been waiting for. Classic Airframes released a series of CR.42 kits, starting in 1995 with # 402, followed a few years later with an improved tooling for kits #474, 475, 496, 497, 498, and 499 spanning all the possible CR.42 variants including a two seat trainer and seaplane! The Classic Airframes kits are still available from many hobby shops, eBay and some internet retailers as well. I mention the CA kit here because it set the standard against which the Italeri kit would be compared.
The main differences in the three Italeri CR.42 kit releases are in the landing gear, bomb racks/shackles and carburetor intake parts. Sadly, very few Italeri CR.42’s have appeared at modeling contests that I have been to. I have not seen many in on-line web builds either despite the many versions and years of sales availability. In general it could be because bi-planes are more difficult to build. It could also be because the specific kit releases proved to be difficult to build into nice replicas due to construction impediments.
Scott reviewed the kit stating “For decades we had no 1/48 CR.42 until Classic Airframes released their short run kit several years ago (about 1996). While nice, it had some issues in terms of dimensions. This kit was retooled last year (i.e. about 2007) and produced in a much nicer version. So it was with much surprise that we find Italeri producing the same aircraft as a 1/48 kit. Now one might think that I'd compare the two, but really, it is an apples and oranges thing. The CA kit is a short run multimedia kit with lots of resin bits and pieces. This is a mainstream injection molded kit and so does not have the usual resin and photo etched bits that one finds in short run kits. Not the same animals at all.”
That helped me with answering the question of do I want to buy and build some of the newly released Italeri models or get down to building the Classic Airframes kits in the stash. So I bought the Italeri kit and cut into the two large sprues that fill a pretty good sized box. The clear windscreen was the only part found on the small clear tree. It has an indentation on the forward portion, probably to represent the glass screen of the gunsight, though one is not indicated nor is this feature explained in the box instructions. At first I did not know why Italeri had this strangely shaped diagram on the front windscreen. Most kit reviewers overlooked or failed to comment on this windscreen anomaly. I still don’t really “know” but here’s what I think after reviewing the Italeri kit # 2653 booklets color photos found on page 30. Many web reviewers made no mention of it or noted it looked like an opening for a telescopic sight. Some were unsure as to its meaning or purpose. So I will go out on a limb and note the gunsight is just behind the front windscreen and probably represents the gunsight glass superimposed on the windscreen as a design simplification. It, the gunsight, is there at the top of part A2. Once the cockpit is in the fuselage, the San Giorgio Type B reflector gunsight in the middle of the panel pokes up behind and below the windscreen – almost touching it. Thus, by placing it as part of the front windscreen’s “panel lines” it looks like the gun sight glass is there, sitting on the gunsight, when looked at from certain angles. It is an interesting alternative but I would have preferred a separate gunsight with glass on the clear parts tree.
The kit cockpit seemed designed for a novice modeler and had rough details. It greatly benefited from adding some Eduard etched details. I had much higher expectations of Italeri for this kit after my recent build of their Macchi MC.200 kit which I found to be quite nice. I even found the fit of the completed cockpit tub into the fuselage to be a problem on one of my two initial builds for this kit. This was unexpected since the kit looks like it is very simple to assemble due to the few parts involved in its construction. The only saving grace is you cannot see much of the cockpit once the kit is built due to the small cockpit opening. However, the bi-plane wings do not obstruct peering into the cockpit and that means you should think about improving this area, especially the seat and main panels with some color etched metal.
Since resin aftermarket details for the Italeri CR.42 are hard to find and you can peer into the cockpit, I was concerned about the lack of detail. Folks at contests surely will peer into the cockpit. Although it is a very simple cockpit comparing pictures to the kit plastic with an actual airframe left me wondering why the opportunity to make a definitive CR.42 was missed by Italeri. The oxygen tank and compressed air tanks are missing from the cockpit area. The San Giorgio gunsight is poorly done and the magnetic compass that sits under it is missing from the cockpit. The finished cockpit has a brown or natural leather color trim pad running from the headrest to the front edges of the cockpit. This is clearly seen in the photos on pages 30 and 31 of the Italeri booklet. The padding even encompasses the rear edges of the windscreen. Only the rear headrest padding is provided, the rest of the cockpit opening padding is not represented in the kit plastic.
As our Editor Scott noted, and I too was perplexed that the general color of the interior was given as light grey and not the Italian Interior Green found on most Italian aircraft. However, this is the color used in the aircraft FIAT built after the war. A beautiful restoration CR.42 was created from parts for an Italian Aviation Museum. It is documented in color photographs in the booklet that comes with kit # 2653. There are two options for the instrument sections. Both decals and raised detail panels are offered for the main instruments and side panel. Also, a seatbelt decal is provided but is fictitious since the real restraint system looks nothing like the decal.
I built my CR.42’s using several variations of cockpit additions. I think the combination of instrument decals with some decal solvent on the raised detail panels looked best if you want to avoid any aftermarket additions. I tried this on a build of the Italeri CR.42LW version and turned out to be the best almost OOB route. However, the kit seat belt decals were incorrect so the build was accompanied by Eduard "EU49017 Seatbelts Italy" pre-painted etched metal seatbelts. I did not use the flat plastic instrument side panel and main console part 48A and used 6A with 49A/50A. I used the raised detail panels applying the decal with some Microsol. The solvent worked perfectly to adapt the decal to the raised surface and gave a better end result. The instructions would have you apply the decal to the flat plastic parts. By using the raised detail part you can easily paint it flat black after the decal snuggles down since the decals are raised above the plastic panel (see photo comparison) for an improved appearance.
There is no mention that two steel support rigging cables are part of the end portions of the struts. They are in an “X” configuration and nowhere to be seen as a suggested addition in the assembly instructions. They do appear in the instruction booklets painting guide, decal colors and markings placement profiles for the aircraft if you look closely. The kit decals should have the prominent FIAT A.74 engine information plate (see page 24 & 25 of the kit # 2653 booklet). The FIAT “eliche” or propeller logo which is similar to the Hamilton Standard prop logo (its picture is on pg. 27 kit # 2653 booklet) is close enough so I will give them an OK on that item. These are examples of the small details that could have made the kit a standout and worth its asking price.
Italeri would have you glue all the struts in step 4 and simply flip the upper wing upside down. Because of its superior engineering all the struts would line up and drop into the slots on the small lower wing and fuselage. This didn’t happen as you can expect. The struts require perfect, and I mean perfect alignment partly because they have raked angles. They are not positioned vertically upright, that is at a 90 degree angle, so gluing those at the required angle, per the diagram, did not work for me. Although the end points have accurate angles as part of their design they did not click into place. The tips have rounded attachment points which make it easy if you are sliding it into the holes using some liquid glue. My experience building four of these kits, working them two at a time (simultaneously) was the struts tend to wander and fall over while you attempt to glue them in place. They also come loose while drying because some are apparently slightly short and stressed to fit. The small rounded knobs on the ends tend to slip out of their attachment points (holes) very frequently. This was most frustrating even when using a special tool like the SRAM to hold the wings in place while attempting to align and attach the struts.
The engine is complete and nicely done. It is a nice reproduction of the FIAT A.74 RC.38 radial engine and is similar to the Italeri Macchi MC.200 engine with two rows of cylinders and separate push rod detailing. However, the pushrods did not reach the top portion of the cylinder heads which was a shock and disappointment because they were fine on my Italeri MC.200 build. The CR.42, all three Italeri produced versions that I built, suffered from short push rods (part # 23a & 19a). Also, the prominent engine manufacturers data plate on the engine’s port side is missing from the kits decals. It is quite large and visible on the actual engine. A tiny decal is all that was required to improve this area.
The landing gear has separate tires and is well moulded on the sprue. The tires are easy to attach and look the part once on the kit. Separate gun barrels, aileron and rudder actuating rods are provided.
Instructions are quite good, providing clear construction sections with color information given as needed. These are all given as Model Master paint numbers (Vallejo became the OEM maker for Italeri paints after this kit was released) references as well as a generic name. The initial Italeri CR.42 kits used Model Master paint numbers so this is a change for Italeri. My only concern is the Model Master MM2110 Italian Sand color is very different from the Tamiya Desert Sand (XF-59) that I usually use on Italian desert camouflaged aircraft. The Tamiya XF-59 has a yellow tint compared to the Model Master’s brown tint. The Tamiya shade is closer to color profile drawings. I did not have the newly released Italeri or Vallejo paints on hand to round out the color comparisons. This move by Italeri to expand their predict line with paints reminded me of the Monogram Models paint line released many years ago.
Markings are provided for four camouflaged aircraft, one representing the well known smoke ring scheme and the others similarly colored overall green with brown mottle serving in North Africa. The color box art also supplements the painting information. Three of the aircraft are similarly colored except for the “smoke ring” version. They all have flat light gray undersides and overall dark green with brown mottled upper surfaces. The kit decals are well printed, and gloss finished so you will need some dull coating as a final finish. I was surprised to see they were not done by Cartograph but they appear similar to Cartograph quality. They are very thin, the printing is crisp, small details such as stencils are clearly printed and are opaque and easy to work with. The white paint used in the decal is not opaque enough and you might want to paint those areas white before applying the kit decals. Perhaps the thinness of the decal prevents the white from blocking a bleed-through of underlying colors.
The kit cockpit is a very simple assembly consisting of eight parts. I used the kit decals for the instruments and Eduard etched for the restraining system which added a lot especially providing the unique look of the restraining chains, seat belts and seat cushion that is missing from the OOB Italeri kit.
The fuselage halves closed with some minor concerns coming from the cockpit area. I did not attach the two cowl guns in step 2 preferring to leave them off until the final, post painting detail step.
By the fourth build I think I isolated what was causing the strut misalignment problem. It all happens with step # 4! In my opinion parts 12B and 14B throw off the alignment possibly because they are the wrong length or the attachment points are poorly located. If they are glued in place after the two inner cabane struts the wing will twist out of alignment when viewed from above. This problem will skew the top wing and then all the other struts will be short or not reach their correct locations. I found by gluing parts 13B and 15B then attaching it to the wings before the glue has set permits the first alignment to be usable and sets the foundation for the next steps. I used the SRAM tool to hold the wing in place (see photo) while attaching the upper wing to parts 13B and 15B. Once dry I glued in place the outer braces, parts 8/9 and 18/19. Once they set the rest were put in place and they were much easier to get into their assigned locations. Doing it this way means parts 12/14 are the last struts to go into place. It was a struggle to get them, parts 12/14, to fit so there may be a better way. I have yet to find a perfect way to get this step go smoothly. It is a big barrier to creating a desire to build more of these aircraft. Also, I recommend not attaching the pitot tube at this point as indicated in the instructions. I tried this on the first build, much to my skepticism and yes it broke off. I replaced it with a metal pin which was much more durable than plastic and it was added as one of the final pre-painting steps. Some other web builds that I read had photos of weighted objects used to force the struts into place while the glue dried.
Step 5 has you assembling the engine and engine cowl. Part “B” of step 5 has you cutting the exhaust ring into two parts and attaching it to the engine. I could not understand why Italeri didn’t leave this as a one part unit and would have you cut it into two parts. It is so much easier to work with as one part. The alignment is also better. I followed their instructions in one CR.42 build and in the other three CR.42 builds I left part 18A as one unit and found it much easier to attach to the engine as a single part. The attachment, whether you use the Italeri two part process or keep it as a uni-body assembly as I tried, is not precise. It just did not properly line up and attach to the exhaust ports on the Italeri engine.
Step 5 has you attaching the cowl rings and again there is some sloppy design or misguided effort to open up the cowl. Breaking down this area into four parts creates a troublesome area where it should be a quick painting and assembly process. I inserted the engine, glued all the sections together and left the cowl off the fuselage for painting. I did it this way to permit an easier painting of the exhausts and insertion of the exhaust stacks as well as getting the exterior paint coverage into the section at the nose that connects with the front cowl. The disadvantage of this is the engine air intake does not properly attach to the cowl without leaving a noticeable gap. Part 40, which is the engine air intake is added in step 6. This is where having the cowl as a one or two part item with the intake portion (Part 40) under the cowl, that is moulded with it rather than as a separate part would have been a better modeling solution. But, if you have a multi-piece cowl as your design objective this causes potential alignment problems. My vote is for a one piece crisply moulded cowl…
Step 8 has you assemble and attach the spats and landing gear. No surprises here except for the above mentioned misalignment gaps requiring filler putty. The spats required filler and sanding before attachment. Step 9/10 is the attachment of the windshield, aileron and rudder horns plus the venturi tube on the fuselage. The aileron and rudder horn linkages are a tad thick. I thought about replacing the long rod segments with some guitar wire. Due to the many other inaccuracies I found as I built this kit I did not think it was worth my time investment to fix these on this build. The rudder and aileron related small parts are too large and the ones Classic airframes used which are in etched metal, are a better example of staying in scale with small parts but the etched is not as easy to apply. The Italeri horns are easy to work with though so it is a tradeoff between finesse, ease of assembly and injection moulding tolerances. Note, part 39A, a sway support brace connecting the two spats has a forward sweep. Since there is no attachment key aligning it or preventing you from gluing it in backwards be aware of this and dry fit because you could attach it backwards. If you overlook this concern the join results in braces that fail to connect with the spats. The brace also serves as a nice alignment tool to keep the landing gear correctly aligned.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
The decals come on a well printed sheet with four options. I chose the markings for a smoke ring version used in a fighter-bomber training school “Scuola Caccia Assalto” based in Ravena, Italy during April 1942. There are some very clear photos appearing in reference books for this aircraft. There may be a mismatch of the wing markings used. The kit instructions do not match the kit box top art nor a similar decal found in the Classic Airframes CR.42AS kit. Since there was a transitional period when the white background was phased out and a low-viz black only R.A. marking used perhaps it is not an error.
I built two of these at the same time in order to have the two different “AS” landing gear variations so the second version represents an airframe from the Regia Aeronautica, 387th Squadriglia, 158th Gruppo, 50th Stormo Assaulto in Lybia during August 1942.
The colors used were Verde Mimetico 2, applied using Testors Model Master # 2112 Italian Olive Green, Model Master # 2111 Italian Dark Brown mottle over a base layer of Model Master # 2110 Italian Sand enamels. The under surfaces and wing struts were over Flat Light Gray (FS.36495) undersurfaces using Gunze H306 acrylic. I experienced some problems applying the decals. They did not want to slide off the carrier sheet and I had to pry them off with tweezers. Perhaps humidity during storage activated the decal glue or I left them in the water too long or not long enough?
Weathering and Final Coat – some pastel chalk and black/brown pin wash was used. I sprayed on a Future coat used during the initial decal application and after decaling was completed I used Future using a brush to seal all of the decals. Testors Dull Cote was used during the final step to seal all of the decals and give the correct flat finish.
The props had the correct decal stencil. The kit decal # 15 are the prop logos. They were supplied with the kit and look like the Hamilton Standard logo. It was so small I could not make out if the printing indicated a “FIAT” logo stencil on the prop since they are similar in shape and appearance the Hamilton Standard logo.
The kit looked decent once assembly was completed if you don’t look too closely. I went over the kit to fix a number of small gaps or incomplete joins with Tamiya putty and some Mr. Surfacer 500. One of my biggest concerns was the gap between the fuselage cowl and engine air intake. I had to use glue and clamps to mate these parts since they are separate units. The intake should have been moulded as part of the cowl but that would mean a loss of ease of manufacture since the other CR.42 versions have no dust filter box at the tip of the intake. Classic Airframes took the same approach as Italeri with this component. The CA kit has you cut off the tip and add a resin dust filter box to the tip. That would have solved the gap problem I experienced with Italeri.
The very last steps were attaching the wing bracing wires, the venturi and engine with its cowl since I opted to paint the kit with the cowl off. That allowed me to attach the exhausts after the cowl was painted and avoid repainting them. I could do this because Italeri provided a keyed attachment point for the engine to the fuselage. The only problem is the dust filter tunnel and nose tip underneath the cowl does not get attached as closely as I would like. Normally I would attach the cowl and paint everything at the same time but I did it this way to avoid having paint getting in behind the cowl flaps. That could have affected the aluminum engine or inside cowl green zinc chromate paint.
The wing tip lights were painted Testors chrome silver. The lights needed some filing and sanding because the upper and lower wing segments of the wing lights failed to correctly align. The first time I thought it was my error, but by the fourth kit it gave me an impression of weak quality in the moulds. If the lights would have been one piece units and part of either the top or bottom wing half this misalignment could have been avoided. When it was dry I used Tamiya clear red and green over the lights and the model was finished.
I am not sure that attaching the pitot tube on the wing is correct. It does not appear on the Classic airframes instructions and they have proven to be a good, reliable source e of details for the Cr.42. I tried searching for this component on period pictures of the CR.42 but came up empty handed.
Italeri could have moulded their plastic parts much better and improved the kit assembly process by doing so. Some of the parts are somewhat crude, especially compared to other major plastic kit manufacturers. Some parts were not the crisply moulded plastic I would have expected from them. I always try to be positive about a kit release since I truly appreciate a manufacturer making the investment in new moulds, marketing and research. I was really looking forward to Italeri’s release of this kit and to this build. That makes me more kind and generous in my evaluation. As much as I like the subject matter and trying as hard as I can, this is a situation where I failed to be able to overlook the weak details and poor engineering given its relatively high price.
The overall shape and dimensions of the kit are correct so don’t lose hope since you can build a very nice model from this kit with a lot of care and application of modeling skills to overcome kit deficiencies. I encourage you to build one because some of the problems can be seen as a challenge to apply some modeling skills and it’s part of the hobby. I am very pleased to look at this CR.42 now that it is completed. I will build a few more when I can get them for a more reasonable price. My finished kit may not be a contest ready model but it is satisfying to have one built sitting on my model shelf and there are other CR.42’s I would like to model just because I like the colors and markings.
Despite the Italeri kit being an all styrene effort, I would say the Classic
Airframes CR.42 kit(s), second release series, is a competitive alternative to
Italeri in all respects. The CA kit has a much better cockpit with far more
accurate detail. You have to balance that with the inherent complexity of
working with mixed media including some thin and at times flimsy etched metal
bracing for the CA kit interior (in its first release), so be careful what you
wish for. The CA kit is more difficult to build with a far greater parts count
Fiat CR 32/CR 42 In Action, # 1172 by George Punka, Squadron Signal Books 2000
Profile Publications No. 16 FIAT Cr.42
C.R. 42 Falco Italeri Kit # 2653 booklet, 2006
Fiat Cr.42 Ali e'Colori No. 1 La Bancarella Aeronautica
SKYmodels decal 'Fiat CR.42', # 48-036 and 48-037
Fiat CR 42, Ali D’Italia #1, La Bancarella Aeronautica, 1995
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