Monogram 1/48 P-47D Thunderbolt
KIT #: 5487
PRICE: A few dollars at a swap meet
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 1993 boxing


All P-47s built up until the P-47D-25 had a pointed windscreen and did not have good visibility to the rear. The British then came up with a much better solution, devising an all-round vision "bubble canopy" for the Hawker Typhoon. USAAF officials liked the bubble canopy, and quickly adapted it to American fighters, including the P-51 and the Thunderbolt. The first P-47 with a bubble canopy was a modified P-47D-5 completed in the summer of 1943 and redesignated XP-47K. Another older P-47D was modified to provide an internal fuel capacity of 370 U.S. gal (1,402 l) and given the designation XP-47L. The bubble canopy and increased fuel capacity were then rolled into production together, resulting in the block 25 P-47D (rather than a new variant designation). First deliveries to combat groups began in May 1944.

It was followed by similar bubble-top variants, including the P-47D-26, D-27, D-28 and D-30. Improvements added in this series included engine refinements, more internal fuel capacity, and the addition of dive recovery flaps. Cutting down the rear fuselage to accommodate the bubble canopy produced yaw instability, and the P-47D-40 introduced a dorsal fin extension in the form of a narrow triangle running from the vertical tailplane to the radio aerial. The fin fillet was retrofitted in the field to earlier P-47D bubble-top variants. The P-47D-40 also featured provisions for 10 "zero length" stub launchers for 5 in (127 mm) High velocity aircraft rockets (HVARs), as well as the new K-14 computing gunsight. This was a license-built copy of the British Ferranti GGS Mark IID computing gyroscopic sight which allowed the pilot to dial in target wingspan and range, and would then move the gunsight reticle to compensate for the required deflection.

The bubbletop P-47s were nicknamed "Superbolts" by combat pilots in the field.


Unlike many who have been building models a long time, this is only my third Monogram P-47.  I previously built a bubbletop in about 1985 in Peruvian Air Force markings that was (and may still be) in the model room at the San Diego Aerospace museum, and a razorback in around 1988. I would hazard a guess that this is Monogram's first 'serious' 1/48 scale kit as it has a date of 1967 molded on the underside of one elevator.

As one expects from Monogram airplane kits, the detailing is really quite good. The exterior detailing is of the raised panel line school, and thanks to the silver plastic, those who must re-engrave their kits will find it easy as there is a 'ghost' of the panel lines in the plastic once the lines have been smoothed down.  The cockpit tub is nicely done with a seat molded in place. All one has to add is the control stick and the instrument panel, which has the rudder pedals molded in place. The seat has belt detail molded in, though one is supposed to use the enclosed pilot figure.

The landing gear is a single piece on either side with two piece wheels that sport a diamond tread pattern. The tail wheel is molded in with the tail gear. There are inner gear doors with retraction struts. The two outer doors are molded as a single piece and both of mine had sink areas on them, which I did not fill as it would have meant destroying the rivet detail on them. The two tail gear doors are molded in one piece and the tail gear fits into the piece.

Wings are two pieces per side with the gun barrels, pitot tube and wing racks molded in place. The wheel wells are properly deep. The kit includes two bombs for the bomb racks and a large 'squished' centerline fuel tank. The windscreen and canopy are separate items so one can pose the canopy open to see the interior. The kit comes with a Hamilton Standard prop which somewhat limits the markings one can do. I'm not sure just what versions used this prop, but I'm sure one of you knows. My kit came with no instructions and while this boxing is supposed to have a photo etch fret, that was not included, hence the cheap price. There is a decal sheet for the box art plane which may well be from the 56 FG. I'll leave this and the dash version to the experts as I know just enough to get into trouble.


I had every hope of this being a fairly quick build. These Monogram kits are generally low on the hassle spectrum, though I have had fit issues with them from time to time. All the large parts on my kit had departed the sprue (or were removed by the previous owner) and resulted in missing or broken inner gun barrels on the wings. These barrels are in line with the wings so are probably wrong.

Anyway, I usually start off kits by gluing subassemblies and doing preliminary painting. In this case, the gluing meant the wing halves, bombs, drop tank and wheels. Preliminary painting meant interior in chromate green and wheel wells along with inner gear doors in chromate yellow. I'm sure the interior is supposed to be something exotic like bronze green, but I didn't have any on hand. I also cleaned up the gear legs and painted those aluminum. The engine is a single insert molded into one piece with the intake. I painted the upper section aluminum and the lower section dark aluminum along with the interior of the cowling (which was probably unpainted). I then did detail painting on the engine and the interior bits.

Once the cockpit was painted and assembled, it was attached to the interior and the fuselage halves were cemented together. There were some gaps and those were filled with super glue and sanded down. I also performed this function on the wings after sanding away what few gun barrels were left as I'll replace those with tubing after re-drilling out the holes. I also had to rescribe the tread detail on the kit wheels. I had thought about using aftermarket, but felt the kit ones were fine with a touch of work. That is 46 tiny scribes per wheel!

After replacing lost detail on the fuselage, I then drilled out the holes in the leading edge of the wing for the replacement barrels. I could tell right away that they were not going to be in a straight line! The tailplanes were then cemented in place. This was followed by the wing. I needed filler on the underside.

I then sprayed the wheel wells with yellow primer and filled them with tissue when dry. The windscreen and canopy were masked with the windscreen glued in place. I tacked on the canopy with clear paint and after prepping a bunch of parts on the sprue (by that I mean scraping seams), I headed for the paint shop.


I have probably two to three dozen 1/48 P-47 decal sheets. Out of all those, I could find only a couple where the airplane used a Hamilton Standard prop. Were I planning on putting any additional money into the kit, I'd use an aftermarket prop, but I wasn't. The idea was to build this kit in a couple of weeks, not a couple of months. I eventually chose Aeromaster sheet 48-789 which had a markings for a plane of the 84 FS/78 FG that happened to have the required prop. This plane is overall unpainted metal with a white and black checkered cowling and full invasion stripes.

The first step was to paint all the white bits and this included the landing gear covers. I then broke out the tape and masked the white parts, painting the rest of it black. I should mention that I suck at doing invasion stripes so they are not uniform. That was masked and everything else painted aluminum. Doing the stripes on the gear doors took some estimates as the two outer doors are molded together and in the extended position, but I think I at least got it close. The upper fuselage was then painted olive drab. Again, masking was required for the airframe and the cowling as the cowl flaps are in aluminum, even if the rest of the cowling was painted white.

Back at the bench, the landing gear was installed. The main gear are a pretty loose fit so one needs to pay some attention to installation. It was then that I noticed that the wings seemed to have too much diheadral in them. Nothing I could do about it so there it stays.

These Aeromaster decals are from 2006 and are printed in Mexico. They did not want to work well at all with setting solutions. I used Solvaset and had difficulty getting them to properly conform to all the raised detail. It often took several applications. The decals are not sized for the Monogram kit, but for the Tamiya version. The black bands were a bit small and needed touch-up with black paint after they had dried. I also thought the insignia were a bit large as well, but since I needed to use the silver surround ones, using other options was not an option. I was not surprised when the cowling decals did not fit. Apparently the Monogram cowling is not large enough in circumference or the Tamiya one is too big. The two main pieces fit well, but the lower section was where there were issues. The unit badge and wheel cover decals were Alps printed.

There was not that much in terms of assembly to do for the final bits. I did not clear coat the decals, though perhaps I should. I had to make the gun barrels so cut sections of stainless steel tubing and inserted them in the holes. These needed a #56 drill bit to make them large enough to fit. As mentioned earlier, I'm not good at keeping things lined up so these are a tad off. Other things that needed glued on were the inner and outer gear doors along with the inner door retraction struts and the main wheels. I then installed the engine into the cowling after giving it a wash using AK Interactive's fine engine washes. I also used their clear paint to do formation lights and the ID lights under the wing.

The last steps were to install the prop shaft and then glue on the propeller. Attaching the engine cowling was next and it doesn't have a lot of area on which to be attached so one has to do this carefully. Moving to the underside, the drop tank was glued on as were the bombs. I removed the masking from the windscreen and canopy, cementing the canopy in the closed position after I lost the cross brace that I'd glued in place inside it (just how does that happen?). A bit of pastel exhaust staining was done and that was it. I would have done a bit more, but ran out of motivation.


I am not sure when the last time this kit was reissued, but I'll bet it won't be long before we see it again. It is not a difficult build and while the detail level isn't up to modern standards, it still has a lot going for it considering the kit is nearly 50 years old. Probably the only real down side is it only coming with a Hamilton Standard prop, though that can be rectified by aftermarket. These can be found for little money from vendors at shows and swap meets, so finding one should be easy enough. It makes into a nice model that will look good gracing your display shelf. Though I'm not much of a Thunderbolt fan, I've built three of them in this scale over the last year.


December 2014

Thanks to me for picking this one up.

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