Kit: Savoia Marchetti S.M. 81 "Pipistrello"

Scale: 1/72

Kit Number: 10-008

Manufacturer: SuperModel

Price: $20.98 U.S.

Media: injection-molded


The S.M. 81 was an Italian three-engine, fixed-gear, bomber/transport plane from the late 1930's to early 1940's. It saw action in Ethiopia, Spain, North Africa and some on the Russian front. It was developed from the S.M.73 transport aircraft, and eventually led to the development of the S.M. 79 bomber.

The kit is molded in a fairly soft yellow plastic. Be careful sanding and cutting so you don't take off more than anticipated. There are 136 parts, including 22 clear, and 12 to 15 parts which are not used, depending on which version you build. There are two versions, an early version with longer Piaggio engines, and a later version, with shorter, Alfa Romeo engines. I built the Piaggio version.

Instructions: The plans are poor. There are only two assembly drawings, which as you can expect, are very busy. The parts are numbered in the sequence which they recommend you follow when gluing them together. There are arrows all over the page, many of which are hard to follow. It's not too difficult if you've built several models before, but beginners will have trouble following the instructions. After careful study of the plans, it is pretty clear where most of the parts go. All except for the exhaust stacks on the Piaggio engines. There is no obvious placement for these pieces, and I ended up just gluing them to the insides of the trailing edge of the engine cowls. They look ok, as long as you don't peer into the back of the cowls. It looks as though the Alfa engines may have a more sensible exhaust placement.

The cockpit is very barren, with two seats, two control sticks, and a decal instrument panel. Not alot is visible through the canopy anyway, but I added some seat belts to add something to the very plain seats. The panel lines are raised, and very fine. I lost a few when sanding the top fuselage seam smooth. Four figures are included, two pilots, and two gunners.

Construction problems: Only two. First, the upper and lower gun turrets must be pinched between the two fuselage halves when gluing the fuselage together. It would have been much easier to be able to add them towards the end of the project. Second, the landing gear struts. There are some oval attachment points that must be glued to the bottom of the fuselage, and the landing gear struts are then glued to these attachment points. There are marks on the fuselage showing where the oval pieces are to be attached. Do not glue them there. If you do (as I did), the gear struts will not reach them. Glue them instead to the ends of the struts first, and then glue the completed landing gear assembly to the plane (if you have the kit, you'll know what I mean).

Pluses: The kit has nicely detailed engines, a torpedo, several machine guns, moveable turrets, and separate control surfaces. Minuses: The clear parts are thick, and had many scratches and mold imperfections. The side windows, which are small and round, all had deep dimples in the center of them. Instead, I used Micro Krystal Klear to make the windows. I already mentioned the problem with the landing gear, and the lack of placement points for the Piaggio exhaust stacks. A small amount of filler putty was needed to fill in depressions on the outside of the fuselage caused by locator pins on the inside. The seam between the wings and fuselage was minor, and filled by running super glue down the seam.

The decals were pretty thin, and had beautiful color. They were very slightly out of register; you could only notice it on the nose markings. The painting and decal placement instructions were printed on the back of the box. The colors on the box were very poor. The color descriptions were general, such as Light Green, and Light Grey, and there were no references to any specific brand of paint.

I painted mine with Polly Scale acrylic colors using Italian Hazel Tan, Italian Light Blue Grey, and Italian Camoflage Green. Engine cowls and propellers I did with Testors Metalizer. The decals set very well using the Micro-set/sol system, and I then finished it with Polly Scale Clear Flat. Even though there were some hassles during construction, the finished model looks quite striking, and is actually very large for a 1/72 scale kit. I would recommend this kit to everyone interested in Italian aircraft. The problems are minor and easily fixed. If all Super Model kits are like this one, I wouldn't hesitate to build another. The only suggestion I would make is to find vacuform canopies, if available (I believe that Falcon has a 1/72 Italian set).

Reviewed by Doug Chaltry (

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