Pacific Coast 1/32 Fiat G.55 Serie I
KIT #: 32007
PRICE: $64.95 MSRP
DECALS: Five options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Short run multimedia kit


      Aviation historians commonly consider the Fiat G.55 Centauro the best single seat fighter produced for the Italian air force during the Second World War.  The airplane clearly demonstrated parity with, if not superiority, to the Bf-109G, the Fw-190A, the P-51D and the Spitfire IX, demonstrating that the Italian aviation industry was capable of designing and producing a world-class fighter.  Unfortunately for Italy (and fortunately for the Allies), it came just too late to have a major effect on the conduct of the war.

     The Fiat G.55 was Fiat’s answer to a 1942 requirement placed by the Regia Aeronautica for a fighter that would be designed from the outset to take advantage of the German Daimler-Benz engine.  The previous fighters - the Macchi C.202 and the Reggiane Re.2001 - had been developments of earlier designs to utilize the Daimler-Benz DB601.  Named Centauro the G.55 was a development of the G.50 Freccia, though it owed little more than a general layout commonality to that fighter.  Fiat was fortunate that they had already been working on an advanced design when the Regia Aeronautica decided to produce a “third generation” fighter.  The previous design had been planned to utilize a domestic high-performance engine which did not come to fruition.  Modification of the advanced design to utilize the German DB605 engine was relatively easy, and it put Fiat ahead of its competitors - Reggiane with their Re.2005 and Macchi with their C.205N and their “stopgap” C.205V, with the Fiat prototype taking flight on April 30, 1942, well before the competition.

     The G.55 was originally designed around an engine-mounted MG151 20mm cannon, with four Breda SAFAT 12.7mm machine guns 9n the nose, firing through the propeller.  This became the Serie O, 12 of which were ordered as pre-production aircraft; these were the only G.55s to see any service with the Regia Aeronautica prior to the Italian surrender in September 1943, though their use was limited to interceptions of Allied bombers in the vicinity of Rome prior to the declaration of Rome as an “open city.”

     By May 1943, the Serie I had flown with the central MG151, two 12.7mm machine guns in the upper forward fuselage, and an MG151 in each wing.  Italian pilots were elated when the Serie I proved itself more maneuverable than either the Bf-109G or the Fw-190A in tests that summer, with the Italian fighter being able to accelerate away from both German fighters in a dive and only being inferior to the Focke-Wulf as regarded roll rate.

     By the time production began for the Serie I in the fall of 1943, Italy had surrendered.  The pilots of the Serie O aircraft were all from Northern Italy, an d since Fiat was based in Turin in the Republica Sociale Italiana declared by Mussolini following his rescue by the Germans, it was logical that the airplane would now become the main equipment of the Aviazione Della R.S.I., the new Fascist Air Force, and several thousand G.55s were ordered.

     Unfortunately, shortages of engines began to develop quickly.  The license-built Italian engine of the DB605 was as good as the license-built Italian version of the DB601 (not very), and the Italians were forced again to depend on German production for their engines, which put them at the end of the priority list after the DB605s were produced for the Luftwaffe. In the end, due to shortages and non-delivery of the DB 605A-1 engines, only 105 FIAT G55's were produced.  Force majeure required that the Italian units re-equip with the Bf-109G, though some unofficial production of the G.55 continued until the end of the war.

     Following the end of the war, production of the G.55 resumed for foreign export with G.55A single-seaters and G.55B two-seat trainers built. The G.55A was armed with either 2 12.7mm machine guns or 2 20mm canon in the wing,  plus the 2 12.7mm machine guns in the cowling. The postwar Italian Aor Force purchased 10 two-seaters and 9 fighters, while  30 - 15 G.55As and 15 G.55Bs - were sold to Argentina. Argentina returned 17 G.55As that were then sold to Egypt in 1948, though they did not take part in hostilities.  The final version of the G.55 was the G.59, which was redesigned to use a Merlin engine.  The Italian Air Force bought 10 single-seater and 10 two seater G.59s to use as fighter trainers in 1952-52, thus making the Fiat design the last piston-engine Italian fighter in production.


     This kit by Pacific Coast Models is the first G.55 to appear in 1/32 scale, and continues the company’s specialization of producing models of Italian aircraft.  As with the Reggianne Re.2005 and the Spitfire IX kits, this kit is produced by Sword of the Czech Republic, with photo-etch from Eduard and decals from Cartograph.

     The G.55 has had a spotty history as a model. Back in the early 1970s, the company that later became Italerei produced a 1/72 kit that was acceptable for the time and can still be found.  (As mentioned in the preview, Frog did a fairly nice one that was later reissued by Revell.  MPM/Special Hobby have an excellent series of G.55s in 1/72, the results of one build can be seen here. Ed) Earlier in the late 1960s, Merit had produced a G.55 that was really 1/50 scale though marketed as 1/48; it did superficially resemble a G.55 and was released in the 1980s by SMER, and may still be found.  This kit is only worthwhile if you are on a really tight budget and price is your only consideration.  In the mid-1990, Classic Airframes produced a 1/48 G.55 that suffered from serious shape problems.  In 2007, Special Hobby released a G.55 with fuselages allowing a modeler to do either the Serie O or Serie I, and this is the best kit of the airplane available in 1/48.  MPM/Special Hobby had announced last year that they would produce a 1/32 kit, but they have been beaten to the starting gate by this kit from Pacific Coast Hobbies 

     The kit is typical Sword: shiny injection plastic, a bit thick, with panel lines that are slightly heavy but will look OK under the proverbial coat of paint from my experience.  The cockpit and wheel wells and engine are done with very crisp resin parts that are so well-done there are very few parts, yet the result will look highly detailed.  Test-fitting the kit reveals that the fit of the plastic parts is superior to that of the Re.2005 and somewhat better than the Spitfire IX, both of which are very good examples of limited-run kits.  The two part canopy and windscreen are thick, but very clear. 

     Decals are provided for five aircraft flown by the Aviazione Della R.S.I..  Two are in dark green and grey, one (the boxart airplane) is in German 74/75/76, one is in Dark Earth and Dark Green banded markings, and the last is in the tri-color “splinter camouflage.”


     This is easily the best 1/32 kit from Pacific Coast Models yet, even better than the very good Spitfire, in terms of production design and ease of assembly.  Everything fits quite closely, which is a first for a Sword kit in my experience.  While it is indeed a limited-run kit and therefore requires that you test-fit twice before gluing once, the various parts did not need much more than clean-up for everything to fit nicely.

     I built the model as two sub-assemblies: fuselage with cockpit and tail, and wing with wheel well. 

     The first thing I did was glue the fuselage halves together, and attach the panel for the fuselage guns, and attach the resin exhausts in place; this last required some clean-up of the open area in the fuselage to get good fit, but was otherwise no problem. 

     I then glued the upper wings to the lower outer panels; these benefitted from sanding down the interior of the trailing edges before assembly to get nice thin trailing edges.

     I then moved on to the detail parts.

      The resin detail parts are really nice.  They are crisp, with a lot of molded-in detail that means a modeler is not going to spend a lot of time assembling fiddly resin parts and taking the chance of getting them wrong.  I first airbrushed all the cockpit and wheel well parts with Xtracrylix “British Interior Green, then hand-painted the details with Tamiya Semi-Gloss Black, and Tamiya Aluminum, which I mostly used to “pop out” detail by dry-brushing for weathering.  I then gave all the parts a “wash” of Tamiya “Smoke” mixed with Future.  When this was all dry, I airbrushed the parts with Xtracrylix Flat Varnish. 

     The only part of the details I didn’t like was the photo-etch individual instrument faces.  It was guaranteed I would lose at least two and in fact I lost three.  Fortunately those were the very small ones, and their lack of presence was not really that noticeable in the end.  I think it would have been very easy to do the usual photo-etch “sandwich,” which would have been easy to glue to the resin instrument panel.

     Once all that was done, I cut off the parts from their molding blocks with the trusty Dremel, and assembled the wheel wells and the cockpit tub.

     The wheel well assembly was then attached to the lower center wing.  Test-fitting showed the central part of the wheel well with the engine detail was not going to fit without some extra effort.  I dremeled the exterior of that part till it was paper-thin, and it still wouldn’t fit because the inner area of the exhausts was in the way.  I ended up dremeling the exhausts until the rear area was flush with the interior of the fuselage, at which point everything fit easily.

     I then slid the wings over the outer end of the wheel wells and discovered I needed to dremel the wheel wells to fit; these were thinned down until I could see light through them, at which point the wing assembly was easy.  I rubber-banded the wings to the lower center assembly to get a good fit.

     The cockpit tub slipped into position without a problem and was pushed up into final position.  The good news here was that doing so widened the fuselage just enough to give a good tight fit of the fuselage sub-assembly to the wing sub-assembly.  In fact, it was so tight I had to use some big rubber bands to hold it in position while it set up overnight.

     The result of all this nice tight fit was that I only had to sand things down a bit, apply Tamiya Surfacer (the only available replacement for Mr. Surfacer, and a very good replacement since I think it’s the same substance) to all the seams, then sand the joints smooth.  I rescribed where necessary, and the model was ready for the paint shop 



     I first pre-shaded the model.  I had decided to do the airplane as the G.55 Serie I of 3rd Squadriglia, 1st Gruppo Caccia, since the “chevron” camouflage was unlike any other model in my collection of Italian fighters.  I painted the lower surfaces with Tamiya “Sky Grey.”  The upper surface camouflage was Tamiya “Japanese Army Green” and a mixture of Gunze-Sangyo “Dark Earth” and Tamiya “Desert Yellow” to match the shade in the color profile.  Everything was airbrushed freehand.  When this was dry, I gave the model a coat of Xtracrylix Gloss Varnish.


     The Cartograf decals went on without problem under a couple coats of Micro-Sol.  I used an old decal from a Super-Scale Luftwaffe sheet for the black spiral on the white spinner. When the decals were dry, I washed the model to get rid of setting solution residue and gave it a coat of Xtracrylix Satin Varnish.


     The model was given a final coat of Xtracrylix Flat Varnish with a brushful of Tamiya “Flat Base” added in for a flatter final finish.  I applied exhaust stains with Tamiya “Smoke.”  Since these airplanes didn’t see a lot of operational use, I left the model clean otherwise.

     The prop and spinner were assembled and attached, and the landing gear was attached; there was nothing fiddly about this landing gear assembly.  I unmasked the windscreen and canopy and mounted the canopy in the open position.


     Aesthetically, Italian fighters looked really good when their well-designed airframes were mated to Daimler-Benz engines.  I think the G.55 may be the best-looking of the bunch.  It looks really nice sitting on the shelf next to the Macchi C.200 and C.202 and the Re.2005. 

     Overall, this kit is one of the easiest limited-run kits I have done, with the only difficulty being the need to grind down the resin parts to fit inside the wings and then inside the fuselage.  There was no problem in accomplishing that (your Dremel is your friend!), after which assembly was very easy.  A modeler with a couple of limited-run kits under their belt should have no trouble turning out a really nice-looking result.  Highly recommended.

Tom Cleaver

December 2008

Thanks to Pacific Coast Models for the review kit.  Get yours at

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