Matchbox 1/72 P-12E

KIT #: PK-3
PRICE: I paid $3.00
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


P-12s were flown by the 17th Pursuit Group (34th, 73rd, and 95th Pursuit Squadrons) at March Field, California, and the 20th Pursuit Group (55th, 77th and 79th Pursuit Squadrons) at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. Older P-12s were used by groups overseas: the 4th Composite Group (3rd Pursuit Squadron) in the Philippines, the 16th Pursuit Group (24th, 29th, 74th, and 79th Pursuit Squadrons) in the Canal Zone, and the 18th Pursuit Group (6th and 19th Pursuit Squadrons) in Hawaii.

The P-12 remained in service with first-line pursuit groups until replaced by Boeing P-26s in 19341935. Survivors were relegated to training duties until 1941, when most were grounded and assigned to mechanic's schools. A total of 110 P-12Es were built.


Back when Matchbox was a going concern, they, along with Frog were one of my favorite model companies. Not particularly because of their subjects, but because they offered multiple markings options, sometimes with what I then thought were 'exotic' air arms. Matchbox kits had an edge on Frog in that their kits were generally very easy to build. The engineering was such that parts lined up and while sometimes the bits were a touch flimsy (the Mirage III landing gear come to mind), they were generally quite rugged.

The P-12 was the third kit produced by Matchbox after the Hawker Fury and Supermarine Spitfire. The company went on to produce a number of most welcome 1930's biplanes, some of which have never been reproduced by other companies.

Typical of their kits, this one is in multiple colored plastic with generally, the fuselage bits in brown and the wings in yellow. This is, of course, to help in painting. The P-12 has no real cockpit as one is supposed to firmly plant the pilot into the L shaped seat and that fills the cockpit opening. There is a nicely molded engine and a two piece cowling to go around it.

The flying surfaces are a single mold with the usual 'hills and valleys' wing fabric. The tail sections were corrugated metal aside from the flight control surfaces. The lower and upper wing are a single piece. Both of these items have a gian sink mark in them. The lower one will be covered up and you are not supposed to look at the underside of the upper wing so many will want to break out the filler for this one.

Landing gear legs, interplane struts and wing struts are nice and beefy with the interplane struts fitting snugly into the upper fuselage. About the only 'options', which aren't optional as the holes are already drilled for them, are a pair of light bombs and racks for the underside of the wing and a long range fuel tank for the fuselage center section. There is also a somewhat thick windscreen.

Instructions are the usual fold out type used by Matchbox on their series 1 kits. All the color information is provided on the ends of the box bottom. There are markings for two planes, both with OD fuselage and yellow flight surfaces. One is from the 95th Attack Squadron based at March AFB and the other is with the 27th Pursuit Squadron. The decal sheet does not include all the various stripes and flashes, those needing painted in place, but does include the rudder stripes for both options and the upper wing chevron for the 27th PS aircraft. No rigging diagram is provided, but you can figure out what is what from the nicely done box art.  The decals are probably useless after all these years, but Starfighter Decals has produced several sheets for this kit so you have a lot of options.

Your editor built this kit back when dinosaurs ruled the earth and it still looks nice after over 30 years on various shelves.

So it isn't a new kit and it isn't up to modern standards. So what. The kit is accurate, if lacking in tiny detail parts, it is easy to build and it is not difficult to find. It is also relatively inexpensive so when you do find it, you won't have to take out a bank loan to buy it. If you find one, pick it up and spend some quality time building what is still a very nice little kit.


Copyright October 2015

My thanks to me for the preview kit.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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