Matchbox 1/72 P-47 Thunderbolt

KIT #:  
PRICE: 63 pence when new
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Carmel. J. Attard
NOTES: Pavla upgrade parts used.


The republic P-47 Thunderbolt was the biggest and heaviest single-seat piston-engine fighter to see combat in WWII. It was a mighty warplane which dwarfed its rivals but which was to become one of the most influential aircraft of the war and the most widely built US fighter. Originally designed in 1940 by the Russian-born Alexander Kartveli, the first P-47 made its initial test flight on May 6th 1941 and production started in March 1942. Weighing over 6 tons the Thunderbolt brought a new phase in fighter design to air warfare. . It’s great weight gave the ‘Jug’ as was most commonly known tremendous diving speeds and its rugged construction enabled it to absorb terrific punishment and still bring its pilot home safely.

 The P-47 bulky airframe also offered one great advantage as it proved a steady platform for a wide range of armament. In fact the P-47 became widely used for low-level strafing missions in support of ground troops carrying a wide variety of rockets and bombs. The P-47 first combat assignment was in UK joining the massive force of daylight bombers known as the ‘Mighty Eight’ where they provided a good measure of protection for the bombers. When the P-51 Mustangs became available which had longer-range for bomber escort, the P-47 turned to fighter-bomber duties, finding its true niche, and did as much as any type to pulverize the Third Reich into final submission.

Between May 1941 and December 1945 a total of 15,683 Thunderbolts of all types were manufactured and at least 6,500 were in front line service at the end of the war in 1945. More than 20 countries operated the P-47 until its retirement.


The kit follows the usual Matchbox style with parts in two color plastic and being basically accurate though lacks any fineness whatsoever with particular presence of trench deep surface detail but basically limited to control surfaces and several raised panel lines. Fit of parts was good and filler was required at wing root joints. One major complain was the thickness of canopy in spite that it was clear. A vac-form one from Pavla set provided the right replacement. Incidentally I also built the P-47 “Silver Lady” in its later life with Malcolm Hood that was also provided in the same Pavla detail set. The replacement vac-form canopies required careful trimming using a sharp razor blade until they fitted nicely on the respective P-47s. The Matchbox kit comes with two decal options; both carry Normandy Invasion stripes, one being camouflaged olive drab upper surfaces and neutral gray undersides with white nose and tail bend. The other option is an all-metal finish depicting a P-47 D-22-RE of 410th Fighter Squadron, 373 Fighter Group, 9th Air Force. The decals are of good quality but in spite of all I decided to decorate my Matchbox kit to represent “Kansas Tornado” picked from Pavla set 72-29.

Unlike RAF fighters, American P-47s carried highly colorful unit and individual markings during operations in the European Theatre. No standard scheme applied, most fighter groups could be identified by particular tail colors and nosebands painted around the engine cowlings. In addition combat pilots adorned their Jugs with fanciful insignias and flamboyant nicknames as “Little Chief”, “Silver Lady” and “Kansas Tornado II”. These are all featured in this P-47s kit set construction. Each of these representable P-47s had a remarkable history as indicated below:


The Matchbox kit of the P-47 proved to be a straightforward assembly. A certain amount of small details enhanced the model considerably and the following additions were made. The cockpit coaming and instrument panel was lacking, this was made from scrap plastic shaped to suit. Side panel detail was also added and seat straps decorating the seat were made from cut to size masking tape. A forward gun sight was fixed over the coaming. Engine cowling gills were tapered to a sharp edge. A small air intake was opened at the lower end of the cowling front and a separating panel between radial engine and the lower intake was added made from shaped plastic card. Exhaust outlet under fuselage also opened by drilling and shaping with needle files.

The undercarriage legs were shown in the wrong way round on the instruction sheet, these were fixed in correct mode. These were also reshaped at upper end adjacent to the wheel wells. Two tail wheel doors, which were missing, were shaped from scrap plastic pieces and glued in place. A small fairing was also built up with Plasto filler positioned at the front of the tail wheel forming the Turbo Supercharger compartment air vent, which is behind the exhaust hood fairing. A thin nylon thread aerial also added at the rear upper fuselage while an aerial mast replaced the kit one with one made from a metal pin. A fixed tab was added to elevator and another one to starboard aileron. The exhaust gas gate at forward fuselage lower was not convincing and it was drilled open.

Missing formation light on fuselage and one at rear were added. A more detailed central fuel tank from Pavla resin set was added. Finally a bombs also coming from Pavla set, was added under each wing. Also coming from the Pavla set was an accurate pair of triple-tube 4.5-inch M10 rocket launchers. These were aligned with the guns as the pilot used standard gun sight to launch the rockets. These could have been fitted in place of the bomb racks but instead I fitted these on P-47 ‘Silver Lady’



In October 1943 camouflage on P-47s was officially dropped from production aircraft, so natural metal aircraft began to appear in theatre from early 1944. Under wing insignia were usually large to help avoid friendly ground fire. Nose art was rife from an early stage. In June 1944 black and white invasion stripes were added mostly to undersides but on occasions these were wrapped round the entire fuselage and wings. All decals of the metal finish P-47s came from Pavla set which also contained the resin parts. The ‘Red Indian “ decals on the camouflaged P-47D came from Hasegawa offering while ‘Silver Lady’ and ‘Kansas Tornado P-47s were Pavla decals.

 I have used Pactra paint for the camouflaged P-47. The all-metal finished ones were airbrushed from a mix of clear varnish and silver dope and added a few drops of gloss white to complete the mix. Two coats of Klear were applied before decal application. Though only 'Kansas Tornado' is a Matchbox kit, two others are shown for comparison.

1)     P-47 D-15-RE “Little Chief”, a Frog kit. This razorback P-47 was the mount of Lieutenant Frank Klibbe, and is depicted as it appeared in March 1944. Klibbe was assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron of the 56th Fighter Group then stationed at Halsworth. This P-47 was used to gain four of Klibbe’s seven confirmed Kills. During this period the 56th was employed on long range escorts for bombers, having received drop tanks in February. 

2)     P-47 D- 22RE “Silver Lady” is a Hasegawa kit. This is another P-47 assigned to 61st Fighter Squadron of the 56th Fighter Group. This machine carries seven German crosses and flown by such well-known aces as Gabreski, Lanowski and Smith. The aircraft seemingly had a charmed life and completed countless missions without a single abort. 

3)     P-47D-22-RE “Kansas Tornado”, the subject of the review. When 405th Fighter Group moved to France on 30th June 1944, the aircraft is depicted in colors as it appeared at St Dizier, France in September 1944. The group framed the canopy in individual squadron colors, in this instance the blue   of 510Fighter Squadron. The pilot was Captain Howard Curran, officially credited with three kills although the pilot claimed four.


In building three scale models of the P-47D I felt that justice was done and was a tribute to a very important fighter that without doubt gave its full share to shorten the war in Europe and South East Asia during WWII.

Carmel. J. Attard

June 2012

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