Accurate Miniatures 1/48 A-36 Apache

KIT #: 3401
PRICE: 25 in 2007
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Spiros Pendedekas
NOTES: Reboxed by Italeri in 2013


Following the Mustang I's successful combat initiation and wanting to ensure that the type remained in production, North American kept pressing the newly redesignated USAAF for a fighter contract of the essentially similar P-51, 93 of which had passed into the USAAF when the Lend-Lease contract with Britain ran out of funds.

Whereas no funds were available for new fighter contracts in 1942, the appropriations for attack aircraft led USAAF General Oliver P. Echols, responsible for the development, procurement and supply of aircraft and aeronautical equipment, to specify modifications which would turn the P-51 into a dive bomber, so the A-36 was born. The resulting contract for 500 A-36 aircraft fitted with bomb racks, dive brakes, and heavier-duty wing that was signed on 16 April 1942, was a major contributor to keep the P-51 program alive.

The “Apache”, basically utilizing the P-51 airframe and Allison engine, was structurally reinforced at several high stress areas, with the engine optimized for use at low altitudes. A set of hydraulically operated dive brakes were installed in each main wing plane, which, combined with the slightly inboard placement of the bomb racks, necessitated a complete redesign of the P-51 wing. The main air scoop inlet became a fixed unit with a larger opening, replacing the earlier scoop which could be lowered into the airstream. Finally, the carburetor air intake was later fitted with a tropical air filter to stop sand and grit being ingested into the engine.

Primarily deployed in the Mediterranean theater, the plane, though essentially a stop-gap measure, proved to be a potent weapon: thanks to its dive brakes, it could dive vertically from 12,000 ft with a dive speed not exceeding 390 mph. Depending on the target and defenses, the bomb release would take place between 2,000 and 4,000 ft, followed by an immediate sharp "pull up."
Despite establishing a reputation for reliability and performance, the one "Achilles' heel" of the type (and the entire Mustang series, as a matter of fact) remained the ventral-fuselage location of the radiator/cooling system, leading to many of the losses.  

Some disquieting accident rates resulted in orders issued to Combat Units to restrict their approach to a 70° "glide" attack and refrain from using the dive brakes, the latter exhibiting a tendency to extend unequally due to variations in hydraulic pressure, setting up an invariable roll. Whereas these restricting orders were generally ignored by experienced pilots, who invented proper techniques to cure the dive brakes anomaly and, subsequently, achieving extremely consistent results, some units did wire-shut their dive brakes until modifications were made to the hydraulic actuators. The dive brakes were nevertheless a successful design, much appreciated by pilots, offering the plane the required stability and control when in a dive, with the statement of them being “mostly wired-shut due to malfunctions or because of the danger of deploying” leaning towards exaggeration.

Besides dive bombing, the type racked up aerial victories, totaling 84 enemy aircraft downed and creating an "ace", Lieutenant Michael T. Russo from the 27th FBG (ultimately, the only ace using the Allison-engined Mustang). As fighting intensified, the type began to suffer an alarming loss rate with 177 falling to enemy action, the main reason for the attrition being the hazardous missions the plane undertook. By June 1944, A-36s in Europe were replaced by P-40s and P-47s.

The plane also served in the China-Burma-India theater, tasked with reconnaissance, dive bombing, attack and fighter missions. Its main opponent, the Ki-43, being light and highly agile, could outmaneuver it at all altitudes, but it was lightly armed and offered little protection for pilot or fuel tanks. The Apache, having to carry out long-range missions, often at altitudes above The Hump, meant its Allison engine was below peak performance, so it would typically fight the Oscar at a significant disadvantage.

The A-36 was a great dive-bomber, acquiring a reputation for precision, sturdiness and silence. Its relatively brief service life should not camouflage the fact that it made a major contribution to the Allied war effort, especially in the Mediterranean and it amounted to the first USAAF combat use of a Mustang variant.


This is the initial release 1/48 A-36, belonging to the early Mustang series that Accurate Miniatures decided to treat us from as far back as 1994. By all means a very nice kit, even for today’s standards, the specific kit was bought in 2007 and has been patiently residing in my Shelf of Doom ever since, asking for a chance to be built, with its high time arriving 15 years later.

For a more in-depth view of its contents, please read the 
preview  of this fine kit found at the MM archives.


Since Accurate Miniatures provided the nose separately, in order to cater for other variants, first thing I did was to attach each nose half to each fuselage half, thus obtaining two “complete” fuselage halves: this is crucial, in order to avoid the mismatch that would possibly arise, had I assembled the nose and fuselage separately and then joined them.

Having two complete fuselage halves, I went on attaching all interior bits, namely the cockpit floor with the stick attached onto it, the instrument panel, the very nicely detailed sidewalls, the batteries and radio aft of the pilot’s seat and the radiator exhaust door at the rear. The fuselage halves were then joined with fit being very good. I did not attach the seat, the rollover frame, the gunsight and the rear wheel, planning to fit them at the end stages. Basic cockpit color was Hu226 Interior Green, with black instrument panel, front anti-glare area, stick grip, side consoles and rear batteries. The kit provided instrument decal was applied and looked very nice indeed.

Main wing came next: again, I refrained from the usual (and tempting) method of attaching the top halves onto the underside single half and affix the assembled wing to the fuselage: what I did was to first attach the lower single wing half to the fuselage, then, after having shaved off all locating pins, I attached the top wing halves to the fuselage wing roots, obtaining the best possible fit there and, finally, let the wing halves “rest” to the lower half and securing them with water thin glue by its capillary action. This way, a nice allover fit was ensured (not implying that the nicely designed AM kit would exhibit gaps there no matter what - indeed, the opposite would be expected).

In order for more “dynamic” looks, I decided to separate the elevators by carefully and patiently running the back side of my hobby knife into the hinge lines. Upon separation, I sanded smooth all resulting edges and then attached only the stabilizers to the fuselage, leaving the elevators out to facilitate painting. The radiator scoop was attached at this time as well, its fit needing some attention at the points it meets the fuselage.

The complete basic model was then initially filled with liquefied styrene, then with “normal” putty and sanded smooth, with not too much filling actually needed, as fit was mostly very good. After attaching the keyed bomb racks under the wings, I took my Apache to the paint shop!


I first painted all undersides, including the gear doors, with a leftover Molak 1126 Neutral Gray. I was ready to mask it off and happily proceed to the topsides, when Tom Cleaver told me that I had forgotten to attach the carburetor intake, which I immediately did. Once again, Tom saved my day, just in time.

After filling and sanding the intake smooth, I used tack strings to mask the camo borders and then painted all topsides with Hu155 Olive Drab. Upon removing the tack strings, nice demarcation lines arised (neither too hard nor too soft), with a coat of future preparing the bird for decals.

I usd the kit decals, in order to depict the only scheme provided, which is 27FG’s s/n 284071 bird, as it stood in Italy in Spring 1944, having performed 190 bomb runs. Despite their age, the decals generally behaved satisfactorily, and settled down reasonably with the help of decal softening solution. They presented little, if any, silvering, and the whites and yellows were reasonably opaque. The infamous wing ID broad yellow lines were also provided as decals and did not conform that well, needing copious amounts of softening solution and inevitable time consuming touch-ups. The fact that they cross over the perforated part of the air brakes did not help either and, to summarize, take Tom’s advice to toss the yellow band decals and paint them, instead of playing smartypants like Yours Truly and paying the price…

A coat of Future sealed the decals.


I attached the main landing gear legs, followed by the wheels, for which I chose the “weighted” option. The rim faces were separately molded, which made painting a breeze. The rear wheel was attached at this time as well, quite effortlessly, since Accurate Miniatures have brilliantly molded one of its fuselage housings with a suitable notch, so the strut can be press-fitted and clicked into place! Well done AM!

The doors were then attached, where I chose to glue the main ones shut, as, to my understanding, in earlier Mustangs they would not droop upon engine shutdown. The main legs received brake lines from stretched sprue, accordingly routed. Landing gear legs and the outer rims were painted “steel”, the inner rims were painted gunmetal, tires and brake flexible hoses were painted black, oleos were highlighted with my fine tip silver pen, whereas bays and door innards were painted Hu226 Interior Green.

The rollover frame was attached, followed by the seat, which received seat belts made from masking tape and painted “leather”. The elevators were then attached “drooped”, accompanied by a control stick push forward (in a brutal manner, truth be told, since it was molded together with its connecting rod underneath). Finally, the exhausts, guns and bomb sway braces were painted Testors Burned metal and attached to their corresponding positions.

The prop was assembled and had its spinner base seam filled and sanded smooth, The spinner was painted red, whereas the blades were painted black with yellow tips. I decided to apply the blade data stencils at their roots, though these were fading soon out in the field. The prop was then affixed into place, followed by the pitot tube, which had its body painted per the camo and its tip burned metal.

Since Accurate Miniatures stated in their very comprehensive supporting text that the specific bird was pretty well used, having performed its 190 bombing missions, I did not restrain myself too much in weathering. I first gave the bird a black wash that accentuated all engraved details and gave areas like the bays and various hinges an oily look. I then applied dry pastels of dark brown/black shades at all areas where dirt, grime or even engine staining would accumulate. Finally, silver dry brushing was applied not only at the usual suspect places to simulate paint chipping and dings (blade tips, wing roots and so on), but also in the main bays to accentuate the nicely molded piping. A satin (towards matt) coat gave the Apache its final finish.

The transparencies had their frames hand painted and were attached, with fit being good, the minor gaps faired with white glue. A couple of sprue gates were too close to the actual transparent parts, which were slightly affected upon removal from the sprues, but nothing too serious.

The antenna mast was finally attached and thin stretched sprue was run from its tip to the fin, with a smaller piece ending into the spine just aft of the mast. The top beacon was simulated with a “pin” from my fine tip silver pen onto the corresponding spine bulge, whereas the wingtip lights were replicated by mini blobs of red and green clear paint, before calling the A-36 done!  


This is a really fine kit of the very important  in many respects Mustang dive bomber variant. Overall shape looks spot-on, molding is superb, panel lines are nicely engraved, cockpit, landing gear and details in general are more than adequate for the majority of us, fit is very nice (provided you will attach each nose half to each fuselage half first, then join the fuselage), transparencies are good and decals, with the exception of the notorious wing yellow bands, were usable.

Instructions are very explanatory text-wise, but lack pictorial-wise, as they are done by hand in a somehow simplistic manner. In any case, praise the net days, you can easily download the vastly upgraded ones that come with the Italeri reboxing. Almost as easily built as the Tamiya Mustang, the kit can be tackled by even a novice.

Accurate Miniatures has to be congratulated for coming up with such a great kit from as far as 1994, let alone the fact that, to my knowledge, even nowadays (2023),  this is still your only mainstream option for a quarter scale A-36. Though it is sad that AM does not exist any more, the good news is that their molds have survived and found their way through other manufacturers, with the specific kit reboxed by Italeri in 2013, featuring great instructions and superb decal options.

In any case, if you own one or come across one of these kits, by all means grab it and build it, coming up with a wonderful A-36 and letting your casual (not Experten) friends wonder what on earth this “perforated panel “ on the Mustang wing stands for.

Happy Modeling!

Spiros Pendedekas

March 2015

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