Williams Bros 1/32 Shoenfeldt Firecracker




$16.95 MSRP


two options


Scott Van Aken





In 1936 a wealthy pilot named Bill Shoenfeldt became interested in air racing and purchased Keith Rider's R-4 racer. He then began modifications to it to where it had the potential to become the fastest racer around. A new Menasco C-645 was installed, which made it quite nose heavy and required ballast in the tail. A young pilot named Tony LeVier applied for the job of piloting the 'Firecracker' but another pilot was given the nod.

In 1937 the aircraft was piloted to a few good finishes in several races including a third in the prestigious 200 mile Thompson Trophy event. Still more was hoped for with the aircraft and for the 1938 season, LeVier was hired. LeVier was also the mechanic on the aircraft. Even then there were problems. At Oakland, The plane accelerated so quickly that air pressure prevented the landing gear from fully retracting. Despite this, LeVier won both events he entered in the limited class and placed third in the unlimited event, the best showing for the plane during 1938.

For 1939, a new airfoil was used for the wing and the landing gear was modified for full retraction as was a new nose cowling made. During the 1939 National Air Races, LeVier mistakenly thought that he was being lapped when he was actually in the lead and so made no attempt to catch the eventual winner, Roscoe Turner, even though LeVier had the fastest plane.


One has to approach a Williams Bros kit as a short run kit; though a very well done short run kit. This one appears to be no different. Molded in medium grey plastic on two sprues, the detailing of the kit is raised panel lines with a very nicely done fabric representation. There is some flash on a few parts and a lot on the prop. Cooling vents on the upper cowling of one fuselage half are a bit deformed on my kit. The gear wells are covered over on the lower wing. This is undoubtedly to make it easier for those who want to do the 1939 aircraft with the gear up. For the 1938/37 version, there are half wheels to simply glue in place. For gear down, the doors will have to be cut off. Alternate engine cowling fronts are provided. A fake crankcase and engine bulkhead are provided to prevent see-through. The exhaust stacks are separate and quite small. You might want to consider making new ones out of tubing.  The cockpit is very basic and consists of a seat, control stick, rudder pedals, and instrument panel. An instrument panel gauge template is provided. There is some sidewall detail. No display stand is provided.

Instructions are well done. There is a written construction sequence provided as well as an exploded view of the kit parts and several photos of the actual aircraft. The box art can be used to assist in painting. Decals are nicely done though starting to yellow slightly. Markings are provided for both the 1938 and 1939 season



Williams Bros (who also does a nice 1/72 B-10 Mon-kee bomber) only produce kits that interest them and fortunately for us all, that seems to mean a lot of 1930s aircraft, including a nice batch of air racers. This one isn't the most widely known aircraft, but it has few parts and should be most colorful when finished. I'd recommend this one to anyone who wants to do a short run kit, but doesn't want to hassle with resin or photoetched stuff.

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