I first built one of Eduard’s P-39 kit’s almost five years ago, that one being the Accurate Miniatures’ P-39 Racer boxing. I really enjoyed the kit, and had been meaning to build one again. But time and other projects fly by. Sometime last fall, Squadron had Eduard’s Weekend Edition of the P-39N kit on sale, so I picked it up. At the time it was on sale for $9.99, which is an amazing bargain. (It’s still available at a very reasonable price, $17.96 as of this writing.)
Shortly after purchasing the kit, I began reading a book about a Russian Airacobra pilot in World War II. Redstar Airacobra: Memoirs of a Soviet Fighter Ace 1941-45 by Evgeniy Mariinskiy, available at Amazon as a Kindle book for only $9.99, is a very interesting read. It’s translation is a little rough in places, and at times I had trouble figuring out the time frame of things, but it really gives a great look at Airacobra operations on the Eastern Front in WWII.
One of the parts I found most fascinating was that Mariinskiy’s descriptions of his flying was almost entirely air-to-air combat, flown against “skinnies” (Me-109s) and “clodhoppers” (Stukas) as he termed them. The impression I had of P-39s was of a sluggish, almost-coulda-been fighter using it’s 37mm cannon to blast away at tanks. But the book opened my eyes to the fact that Russian pilots flew it as a fighter, and did so successfully.
I’ve been further researching this aspect of the P-39s story, and I find that it’s a bit too simplified to simply say it was a dog and was only good for shooting at tanks. History has given it the short end of the stick, as far as I can tell. While it certainly did have its shortcomings, the P-39 deserves far more credit than it received, I believe.
To put this in perspective, one writer posed an interesting question- if the AVG would have received P-39s instead of P-40s, would it’s reputation and the P-40′s reputation be switched? It’s an interesting thought… the P-39 was actually a bit faster, had the same engine, and handled about the same as a P-40. We’ll never know, but it is interesting to ponder.
Anyway…. all of this reading about Russian P-39s made me cast an eye towards the Eduard kit, sitting on my shelf. And once I found a set of markings for Mariinskiy’s plane, I decided to do a P-39 build. In fact, I did a dual build- also building Monogram’s P-39 as an Airacobra I, which will be Pt. II of this build report and comparison.
If nothing else, the Eduard P-39, regardless of which variant you build, is versatile. In the box is the plastic for every P-39 variant from the -d through the -Q model. You can download instructions for the various kits from Eduard’s site, so if you have an Eduard P-39, as long as you can get the right markings, you can build just about anything. That is a great bonus, to Eduard’s credit.
After downloading the instructions for the Q model from Eduard, I started on the cockpit. The Weekend Edition kits don’t have any photoetch, but the cockpit is nicely detailed anyway. Picking out a few details with various colors and applying some drybrushing and an oil wash brings out everything. Because of the “car doors” the P-39 had, the cockpit is very visible, so your work won’t be hidden.
Assembly of the fuselage is simple and without problems. Do make sure you put plenty of weight in the nose, or this one will be a tail sitter. I thought I put enough in, but…. well, more on that later.
The wing-to-fuselage fit is also good, with only a little filler needed here and there to hide the seams where the join is not perfect. There was a little gap at one wing root, but using a rubber band to pull that wing up closed the gap nicely. Call it “setting dihedral”.
Throughout the build, make sure to pay close attention to the parts used for each version, and if possible, check photos. With a few exceptions, P-39s looked very similar, regardless of model, sometimes with only very minor visual details differentiating them. So be sure and check out your references. (One note… if you build a P-39Q-21 or -25, you’ll probably need the four bladed prop, which is included in the kit.)
Paints used were Tamiya, with various shading/fading, chipping and oil washes to give it a weathered look. Decals were from a manufacturer I’d never heard of, Authentic Decals. Their Bell P-39 Airacobra Lend-Lease set (48-18) is an excellent value, as it has markings for eight aircraft. The decals are very high quality, and I was very pleased with them. You can pick up a set at scale-model-kits.com, or find them on eBay at RebelAlpha’s online store. I’ve received orders from both and highly recommend them.
As I mentioned earlier, be sure and put plenty of weight in the nose. After I had the landing gear installed… usually one of my last steps… I set it down, and it plopped right back on its tail. I finally hit on a solution that did not require any surgery on the kit, or resorting to using a prop underneath the fuselage. I have a bag of small pieces of lead foil from a dentists office, and I folded a few pieces up, cutting them into small chunks. I then dropped these small pieces, one at a time, into the open area of the nose gear. I occasionally applied some thich CA to hold it all in place. After adding weight and testing several times, she finally settled down into the right position. I added a few more pieces, just to make sure.
When all was said and done, I was very happy with this kit, especially having read about it in the book. That is one of the things I love about modeling… in a way, it’s holding history in your hand.