Eduard 1/48 P-39D Airacobra






Three options


Scott Van Aken


Cutting Edge decals used


The P-39 was one of those planes that only saw service because it was needed and there was little else to replace it. Though it was an excellent pilot's plane and handled superbly well at low altitude, it was high altitude that was the main thinking of US planners. However, war was looming and a bird in the hand.........

The vast majority of P-39s were exported to the Soviet Union. Some were sent to the British who rejected the type as not being suitable for the European theater after trying out some in squadron service. The aircraft's saving grace was that it was rather heavily armed. In addition to six machine guns, it also carried a 20mm or 37 mm cannon in the nose, firing through the spinner. Thanks to having the engine behind the pilot, there was lots of room in the nose for weapons, a feature much loved by the Soviets.

Americans used them in the Southwest Pacific with the 5th Air Force in the Solomons and in New Guinea, where their ruggedness and heavy firepower made them especially good at ground attack (as the Soviets had already discovered). Though not able to hold their own against the more nimble Japanese fighters, they were able to do passably well in air to air combat when flown by an experienced pilot. The Soviets found them more than a match for the less agile 109s and even did well against the FW-190, often bringing the pilot home when his aircraft was heavily damaged.

The type eventually metamorphed into the excellent P-63, though none really saw any combat until the very last months of the war and then with the Soviets.  


The Eduard P-39 comes in a number of different boxings and includes the usual Profipack version with extra bits added in. The sprues in these boxings are identical. The alert modeler can do any version with the bits in at hand as long as he has the aftermarket decals for what he needs and a good reference. I have one and was able to discern what bits are needed to do a P-39D.

The kit itself is superbly molded in Olive Drab plastic with fine engraved panel lines and a very good fabric representation on the control surfaces. Flash, ejector pin marks and sink areas are nearly non-existent. I did find a few pieces bent/broken because of damage in the bag, but none that are not fixable. The kit also includes a nose weight, an essential bit for a tail heavy plane such as this one.

A nice edition to the kit are a set of masks for the canopy, wheels, and wing walk areas. Much of the canopy mask is only for the edges of the area, the rest needing to be filled with liquid mask or some other material.  Markings are provided for three planes: A.I. Pokryshkin's P-39N from 9 GIAD (a scheme that has seen much use from what I've noted at contests), a P-39K of the 40 FS/35 FG in New Guinea during the summer of 1943 and a French P-39N of GC II/6 in late 1944. All are in OD over Neutral Grey. I found it interesting that all three schemes show the upper wing color slightly wrapping around to the underside, something I've not seen in other references. Decals are superbly printed and include a full stencil suite.


Construction, as with most of my models, began with the interior. However, I'd decided to replace the kit seat with an excellent resin replacement by Ultracast. Nothing really wrong with the kit seat, just that Ultracast's is so much better. And it includes the harness. After it was cut from the mold block, it was glued into place on the floor. Then I added the other parts of the cockpit tub that I could and spray painted the entire thing in Testors ModelMaster enamel FS 34097 to try to simulate Bell interior green. While that was drying, I glued together the flattened main wheels and sanded the seam smooth. Then other projects took over and the kit sat in the 'unfinished kit' pile for about a year.

Deciding to do something with it in order to make room for more unfinished kits, I went back to work. I assembled the radio and after painting it black, glued it in place. I also glued in the armored glass behind the pilot. Some of the interior placard decals were applied at this time and I glued together the nose gear well. This is an extremely fiddly construct and so you have to really be on top of things to get everything to line up properly.

Meanwhile, I glued in the wheel wells and then the landing light. This latter item was painted silver on the inside. The wing leading edge radiator inlets were then glued in place, followed by the upper and lower wing halves. The trailing edge of the wing is a bit thick so you may wish to thin down the inner wing to a more acceptable knife edge. I had to putty the heck out of the entire wing seam.

While that was drying, I completed installing all the little bits into the cockpit. Placing the instrument panel isn't clearly delineated in the instructions, so I left that off until it was time to glue the interior into a fuselage half. Eduard gives you a killer nose weight that needs to be slightly trimmed of its stub in the back before setting in place atop the nose gear. Then the interior is glued in place and I was quite pleased with the fit.  After a few touch-ups, I glued the other half and puttied the seams. I also glued on the lower wing at this time. Fit is actually quite good, though there are some small gaps at the upper wing root area. I added the usual filler to take care of those. With all that done, the tail planes were added. No problems here at all.

Next I glued on the canopy and then tried to fit in the doors prior to painting. The truth is that the doors just don't fit well in the closed position so the only real choice in things is to glue them open and attach them after all is done. Now I'd rather not do that, but really have no choice. The only other airframe bit that needed attached was the upper gun section. I'm doing my kit as a P-39D in a pre-war scheme so chose the one without the pronounced dampeners on the back of each gun trough. Probably got it wrong, but from what I could tell using the reference, this would be most likely.

The next step was to glue the prop spinner and aft plate together. I chose a three-bladed prop instead of one of the two four-bladed options that were more likely to be used on late P-39s. There is no blade angle alignment guide on the parts so one just has to follow the instructions to get it right. I next glued on the stabilizers, stuffed all the holes with tissue and headed for the paint shop.


During this portion of the build, I used all Testors ModelMaster enamels for my various colors. First I painted the lower portion of the airframe with Neutral Grey. This included the outside of the gear doors.  When dry, the tailplane undersides were masked off. Then the upper cockpit area was painted FS 34097 as were all the landing gear parts and the insides of the gear doors and various struts. This color comes pretty close to matching the color images of the unrestored P-39 that is shown in the reference. When that was dry, the upper surface was given a coat of Olive Drab. I also painted the spinner white and then yellow. I did the usual back and forth to try to cover everything. Naturally, more will have to be done a bit later once I get the model on its landing gear.

Back at the work bench, I wrapped the oleos of the landing gear struts in Chrome Bare Metal Foil and then assembled the rest of the landing gear bits. The oleo scissors fit well on the main gear, but seem a bit out of place on the nose gear as there really isn't any concrete attachment points. The wheels I painted aluminum as per the kit instructions, but I feel I probably could have done these in Neutral Grey without anyone batting an eyelash. The wheels then got painted a faded black that Floquil produces.

Next, I took the time to install the prop blades. Fit is a bit sloppy, but the end result is OK. I then installed the four wing guns. These need to have the holes in the leading edge of the wing drilled out all the way. Then the guns merely slip on in and fit quite well. I then glued in the main landing gear. Noting a seam that had opened in the lower front, I refilled that and sanded it smooth. I also installed the wing pitot tube and took the kit back to the paint shop for some underside retouch.

I also glued on all the landing gear doors, and found that the nose gear doors took a bit of extra effort to get properly aligned. During this process I also attached the wheels and found them to fit very well and quite tightly. I also tried to attach the prop, but found that no matter what I did, it wouldn't fit on the shaft. Perhaps the blades were fit in too far or something, but I ended up cutting off the shaft and gluing the spinner directly to the front of the airframe. I then outlined the control surfaces with a drafting pen and headed back to the paint shop to have a coat of gloss acrylic clear applied.

With that on and dry, it was time for decals. I decided to do a 40 PS/31 PG P-39D which took part in the Carolina Maneuvers in 1941. These markings are on Cutting Edge 48-143 and are designed for the Eduard kit. However, they are a tad oversized. At least, they are according to the panel line placement as shown in the decal instructions. Regardless, they are quite opaque and went on with no trouble. The data decals had to come from the Eduard sheet as none are provided with the CE aftermarket ones. The Eduard decals are very thin and give you just one chance. I totally screwed up the thin line decals so had to leave all of the warning stripe ones off. The rest succumbed to Solvaset as did the CE decals. With the decals on, I cleaned off any dried solvent and glue before giving the model a coat of clear matte acrylic.


Returning to the bench, I replaced the two gear doors I knocked off while handling the kit. Then I removed the masking from the canopy and the inside and outside of the doors. The superb Ultracast tubular exhaust were then painted Burnt Iron and glued in. This was followed by the nose cannon and finally, I glued on the cockpit doors. Then I used pastels to make it look a bit less new and to give the exhaust some character.


As often happens, I don't get around to building a kit until all the buzz is gone and everyone else has done several! While not the amazing wonder kit that come from other companies, this one was no more difficult to build than any Monogram or Italeri kit and definitely takes Eduard out of the short run category.

August 2004
# 1329 in a series



Bell P-39 Airacobra, by Juszczak and Peczkowaski. Mushroom Models Publications 2003

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