Matchbox 1/72 B-339 Buffalo

KIT #: PK-
DECALS: Two Options
REVIEWER: Carmel. J. Attard
NOTES: Pavla detail set used


Buffalo B39 (F2A) was the first monoplane fighter to equip the US Navy squadrons. A requirement was issued in 1939 for a new generation of carrier-based fighters. This involved a monoplane configuration, wing flaps, arrestor gear, retractable landing gear and an enclosed cockpit.

Brewster company proposed a type with designation XFBA-1. A prototype Brewster XF2A-1 (B-139) resulted from the XFBA-1 proposal and order was raised on 22/6/36 and the type flew for the first time in December 1939. It was all-metal construction except for the fabric covering of its control surfaces. 54 examples of the F2A-1 production model being ordered. Delivery started 12 months later, nine aircraft going almost immediately to equip the US Navy’s VF-3 squadron. The balance of 45 aircraft being diverted to Finland, which was then fighting off the might of the USSR in the so-called ‘Winter War’. Later these equipped the Finnish Air Force’s HleLv24 and 26. These transferred aircraft remained successfully operational until mid 1944. The US Navy ordered 43 of the improved version in early 1939 known as F2A-2 having a more powerful engine, an improved propeller and inbuilt floatation gear.

Belgian and British purchasing missions ordered 40 B-339 and 170 B-339E aircraft respectively, most of the former going to UK after Belgium have been overrun in April 1940. Of these a small number served with No 805 and 885 Squadrons FAA. Delivery of the aircraft ordered for the RAF designated Buffalo Mk1 began in July 1940, but service trials immediately revealed that the Buffalo’s performance was totally inadequate for the type’s effective development in the European theatre. Instead these were sent to the Far East to equip RAF’s 67, 146, 243, 453, and 488 Squadrons, as well as RAAF No 21 Squadron in defence of Singapore and Straits Settlements. These were found to be unsuitable for the task and the few aircraft that survived the Japanese invasion fought alongside American Volunteer Group operating in Burma.

Buffalo fighters had the most successful combat record. This was when a small number out of almost 100 ordered for the Netherlands East Indies army saw action in Java and Malaya. Buffalo Mk1 / WB142 belonged to 488 Squadron RNZAF that was based at Kallang, Singapore in October 1941.


Two kits were assembled, one from Airfix, another from Matchbox range of models.

The Airfix kit makes up into an attractive little model. This is very accurate in outline and surface detail and also has the shapely tapered up wing tips, a feature common in wing design detail. The moulding appears very good while the rived detail appears slightly overscale. The canopy transparency is very clear and also includes the glazed window at the bottom of the cockpit floor. Decals cater for a US Navy VF-2 Buffalo F2A-2 and a Buffalo Mk1 of 67 Squadron RAF Mingalodon, Burma.

The Matchbox kit has a two-colour sprue set with fitting of parts being good. Detail is sparse but still makes an enjoyable build. Cockpit canopy is adequate and clear although it causes a challenge to paint. There are several sinkholes in wing and fuselage. The type has no bottom glazing. The wings proved too narrow for the slots they intended to fit into. Care is required to remove delicate items such as the undercarriage gear from the sprue. 


The Matchbox kit of the Brewster Buffalo had to wait a long time until recently when a Pavla Models resin set came about. From past experience I found that these sets not only can they be adopted for the latest kits on the market but also to previously released models which are to same scale and which are accurate on most of the parts. The good thing about the Airfix and Matchbox kits is that they both provide a pilot figure that more often than not appeared accurate and I find it one indication to give a scale measure to the model they are added to. The Pavla set was strictly speaking intended to go with a Hasegawa model of the Buffalo, which is a more recent one. With the Matchbox kit providing a good fuselage there was no reason to go for a Hasegawa one since all the accurate parts coming with the Pavla set can replace the other parts in the Matchbox kit. The resin set consists of a complete new wing in two parts that contains all the fine engraved panel lines with space for separate ailerons, and provision for flaps in the lowered position. The wings also have the ammunition panels on both sides that come separate and when left open these reveal ammunition compartments that hold the ammunition box and gun inside. These items are also included as separate parts to both wings. Accurate and more detailed ailerons, elevators tail plane parts and rudder are all provided and these replacement parts made the kit all the more accurate as they had nicely done fabric texture. Separate flaps with cross webbing detail on the inside are also provided which I assembled in the lowered position. There is also wheel well interior detail and wheel doors are more accurate than any I have seen on the two models.

 Kit landing gear is very thin and fragile but it fits well and I recommend care when handling the model. Other construction stages on the Matchbox kit were as follows. The

Kit part of the wing that slots inside the fuselage was marked and cut chord wise as this part has to be added to the resin wing in order to bring the wing span to correct dimensions. (This may not be required if using the Hasegawa kit). The exhaust stacks at the side of nose were drilled. The kit rudder was sawn off and replaced with the new resin one which is slightly shorter.  Two gun ports were drilled on the leading edge, one at each side. Cockpit interior I added an instrument panel, control column, seat belt, and back seat brackets but I have left out the life raft container that was not always carried with land based Buffalos. Fuselage mast antenna and the starboard wing pitot tube were replaced with metal ones of same thickness. Wireless added using invisible thread. The wing legs were made thicker adding a stretch sprue piece to bring to correct thickness. I also added hydraulic pipes to undercarriage, which were often appearing prominent in photos.


 Cockpit interior was interior green, wheel well and ammunition wing interior and the inside of flaps were dark zinc chromate green, upper surfaces were camouflaged in similar camouflage colours used for RAF fighters of dark earth and olive green. The underside was painted sky under the starboard wing and black under port wing. The kit decals that I used in spite of their age were quite good and adhered well retaining the original shade of colours. They represent a machine of 488 Squadron RNZAF based at Kallang, Singapore. I did not use the sky fuselage band decal as it did not quite fit the fuselage tapered aft correctly and a cleaner job was made using airbrush. All paint was of Model Master brand. The Airfix Brewster was painted overall grey camouflage apart from the interior while other paint details were in common with the land based Buffalo. Markings were as depicted on the Pavla set pack.


Merging a Matchbox Buffalo with resin set proved possible and a smooth assembly through out. Overall this was a fun detail build and I highly recommend a Pavla set if you want to make a pleasing model of the Buffalo.

Carmel. J. Attard

December 2012

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