Matchbox 1/72 P-12E

KIT: Matchbox 1/72 P-12E
KIT #: PK-2
PRICE: Probably about $1.98 back then (expensive import)
DECALS: Two Options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


Boeing Aircraft Company developed the aircraft as a private venture to replace the Boeing Aircraft Company F3B and F2B with the United States Navy. The new aircraft was smaller, lighter and more agile than the ones it replaced but still used the Waspengine of the F3B. This resulted in a higher top speed and overall better performance. As result of Navy evaluation 27 were ordered as the F4B-1, later evaluation by the United States Army Air Corps resulted in orders with the designation P-12. Boeing Aircraft Company supplied the USAAC with 366 P-12's between 1929 and 1932. Production of all variants totaled 586.

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 , 745h, 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 1934-35. Survivors were relegated to training duties until 1941, when most were grounded and assigned to mechanics schools.


One of the first of Matchbox's kits, the P-12 was produced along with several other biplanes of the thirties, most of the others being British. These kits were designed for what was then 'pocket money' and all over the place in the UK. Many found their way to enthusiasts and kids here in the US as well where the Matchbox name was well known and their brightly molded plastic kitssoon found favor.

The nice thing about the biplane kits is that there were not a lot of struts to worry about. The interplane struts were molded with the fuselage halves or on the section in between that fit on the top of the forward fuselage. It really makes for trouble-free construction and pretty well eliminates alignment problems in regards to the upper and lower wing. The cockpit is Spartan to the extreme with just a slab seat and a pilot, though a clear windscreen is provided. The wings and tail planes are one-piece moldings. Landing gear is equally as well designed and sturdy. The P-12 kit provides an option for small bombs.

Instructions are typical Matchbox with clear construction steps and all the painting information at the end of the instructions. When building these, I thought nothing of the way these instructions were set up, yet now Ican see that these were rather different from the norm. Markings for two planes. One in mostly red trim for the 18th PG in Hawaii and the other for the 17th PG at March Field in California that was mostly trimmed in black and yellow. Mark Fordham built his kit with the 18th PG markings while back in the mid 1980s, I did mine with the 17th PG.


Construction is about as straight-forward as can be. Minimal parts means few opportunities to make mistakes. I did know that I wanted to rig this one so stretched a bunch of sprue prior to starting construction. Of course, over the years, much of that sprue has come adrift, but it matters not as beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it is a proud member of my P-1 to F-117 US fighter collection.

I basically built the fuselage and landing gear first. This way I could have everything together and solid before starting in on painting.


Paint arrives early on biplanes as most of us will paint the wings and fuselage separately. So it was with this Matchbox P-12E. I also needed to paint the fuselage band and engine cowl ring in yellow so after the usual white undercoat, yellow was applied in great quantity. The fuselage was painted with standard Olive Drab. Not sure if any P-12s were given the blue fuselage we see on some planes from this time. I used the Gunze line of acrylics for this kit and most others at that time. Testors non-buffing Aluminum metallizer was used for the propeller.

Once the main painting was done, most building was started by attaching the lower wings and the tail planes. This allowed me to use whatever filler was needed and then repaint as necessary.


For this, it was simply a case of attach the painted wheels, the engine and cowl ring, and the upper wing. Then a spate of rigging took place. While it has been several decades since this was built, I believe that I struggled somewhat with all the rigging. Then, the kit was given a gloss coat for the decals. I used kit decals on the model, though I do believe that I cut the black bands from the fuselage band decal as I'd already painted the yellow band. The decals produced by Matchbox back then did work to a point, though several applications of setting solution were needed. This was especially true for the rudder stripes and the fuselage stripes, which on their own, would not have fit at all well. I used yellow decal circles for the outer wheel hubs.


So there you have it. The kit is really a treat to build and is still around if you seek it out. Though no longer as inexpensive as it was 25 years ago, it is still worthy of a build.


May 2008

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