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Hasegawa's 1/48 scale Air-A-Cutie
P-39Q Airacobra

by David W. Aungst


Bell P-39Q Airacobra

Hasegawa's 1/48 scale Airacobra is available online from Squadron.com




I must start by apologizing to Lee Kolosna.

I know that these markings are close to being #1 on Lee's list of modeling clichés. But hey, it is still the only Airacobra I have ever wanted to build.

Besides, our model club has an annual "Boobs & Butts Nose Art" theme night in August each year, and I wanted this to be my contribution. There are few modeling subjects that have so large of an artwork on both sides of the aircraft.


Hasegawa Box Art
Hasegawa Box Art

Some years ago, I acquired an Eduard Airacobra to do this project. When Hasegawa released the special issue kit with the "Air A Cutie" markings already in the box, I decided to buy that kit and use it instead.




This is the Hasegawa 1/48th scale kit. I built it almost completely out-of-the-box. My only change to the kit was to add some etched metal seat harnesses. The kit builds nicely, but not without a few issues. The problems I had were in two places. One was with the insert pieces in the wing for both for the guns and the root intakes. These required some minor filling and sanding.

Another problem point was with the cockpit glass. I am unsure if I did this to myself in construction or if the kit has a real problem, but I found the cockpit glass was really much more narrow than the fuselage it was supposed to attach to. I added a couple spacers under the glass to stretch it out to better fit, but I still had a noticeable step on the right side of the cockpit glass, behind the door. Having never read of anyone else getting this issue on the Hasegawa kit, I think I may have had a distorted cockpit glass piece in my kit.

The cockpit as provided by the kit is quite nice with no upgrades needed. All I did was some careful painting. There are two sets of decals provided for the instrument panels. One set is black with white details. The other set is clear with white details. I considered using the clear set to see how they made the round instruments look, but in the end I just did some dry-brushing with no decals in the cockpit.


Cockpit Pieces Painted
Cockpit Pieces Painted
Seat and Harnesses
Seat and Harnesses
Cockpit in Fuselage
Cockpit in Fuselage

The rest of the kit assembled easily and I was painting the exterior colors in no time.


Painting and Markings


I used Testor's Model Master enamels to finish this model.

The camouflage is the standard of Olive Drab upper surfaces over Neutral Gray lower surfaces. I used the modern colors (since it is what I have) and painted these with F.S.34087 and F.S.36270, respectively. I painted the white areas using Flat Header White, then masked these areas and painted the camouflage.

The decals got interesting. "Air-A-Cutie" is pretty much the only P-39 I have ever wanted to build. Over the years, as different decal companies released versions of these markings, I would pick them up. It is amusing to see the variations in the decals when you compare them (see below).

The first company to release a set (that I bought) was SuperScale on sheet 48-499. They had an earlier release of these markings, but the art work on that release had next to no definition in the flesh tones, so I never picked that release up. On sheet 48-499, they re-did the art work, adding significant definition to the art work.
Much later, Cutting Edge released a decal set with "Air-A-Cutie", CED48035. This set was a big leg up over the SuperScale release since the flesh tones were better colored and there was much more definition to the flesh tones.
  Cutting Edge
Still later, the Cutting Edge people introduced a new line of super-detailed nose art decals called PYN-up Decals. It was a natural choice for them to re-make the "Air-A-Cutie" markings using the new technology. With this set, the flesh tones evened off into a more photographic representation with an even transitions from darks to lights.
  PYN-up Decals
The final version of the markings comes from the recent release of the Hasegawa P-39 Airacobra kit. The art work is not the best, but it is work-able if it is all you can get. The flesh tones are better than the old SuperScale sheet, but not as good as either of the Cutting Edge sheets.   Hasegawa

Now that I have reviewed the decals, all I had to do was pick a set for the model. It was easy to rule out the SuperScale and Hasegawa versions. The two Cutting Edge versions were the question. Things would have been easier if I had some images of "Air A Cutie" to look at. As it turned out, my meager P-39 file had only one black-n-white image to look at (from the "In Action" book), and that one was washed out enough to make it pretty worthless.

What I was trying to decide, without any real knowledge or evidence to base my decision on, was how much time was spent on the real artwork on the real aircraft. The nicely graduated flesh tones on the PYN-Up Decals would have been time consuming to paint on the real aircraft. Mixing a few highlight and shadow flesh tones and applying them as seen on the original Cutting Edge version would be simpler.

Here is where I made a trip to Meteor Productions (for some shopping) and talked about the "Air-A-Cutie" decals with Dave Klaus. While I did not get a chance to see the reference images Dave has on this aircraft, he was able to confirm the artworks had graduated flesh tones. On the real aircraft they are much more crude than the PYN-Up Decals make them, but Dave explained that making the decals accurate to the real artwork would have made them look like they were really poorly printed decals. They chose on designing the artwork for the decals to err on the side of being too nicely rendered so that modelers would not complain of poorly printed decals.

I could live with that answer, and I decide to use the PYN-Up Decals for the model.


Model Image


Just to be safe, I coated the PYN-Up Decals with SuperFilm to make sure they would not explode when I used them. I had a friend use PYN-Up Decals that exploded on him. Only having one set of these decals, I did not want to risk it. With SuperFilm on them, the PYN-Up Decals behaved very well and even conformed over the edges of the cockpit doors with no real issues.

All the rest of the markings on the model come from the Hasegawa decal sheet. The Hasegawa decals are Cartograf printed, so they worked really well with Solv-a-set. The white of the national insignia is a different intensity from the painted areas, but I could live with it.

For weathering, I used my typical style of thinned down enamel paint washes and air brush shading. I finished the weathering with some dry brushing to further distress the painted finish and pop out some surface details. For a more complete discussion of what I do to weather my models, see my posting on "Weathering Aircraft".



Finishing Touches


After painting and decals, all that remained were the seemingly thousands of little things to finish up so that the model can be completed. The landing gear came first. It assembled without a hitch and plugged into the locating holes in the wheel wells without problems.

Hasegawa provides clear lights for the navigation lights in the kit, but I think they were an afterthought of the kit designers. All the lights are molded in place on the airframe. The instructions tell you to cut off these molded bumps that are the lights. Then, they say to glue in place the clear parts. Well, I considered that to be too much trouble, so I just left the solid lights in place and painted them in maroon (Humbrol #20), Beret Green (Testors "little bottles"), and silver.

According to Hasegawa, "Air-A-Cutie" was actually two aircraft. I don't really buy this story, but they claim the version without the white tail is a Airacobra P-400 while the version with the white tail is a P-39D Airacobra. I think they base this on the engine exhaust stacks. According to the Detail&Scale book, engine changes were a common practice on the P-39Ds and P-400s. Hence the engine exhaust stacks could be different without being a different airframe. I believe that the engine was changed much more readily than having all the nose body panels and doors being switched between two airframes in order to preserve the elaborate artworks.


Model Image


Either way, one of the last things I did on the model was paint up the engine exhausts and attach them. Since I like the look of the six-stack exhausts better, and Hasegawa said it was right on the white-tailed aircraft, I used those on the model.






Sorry, Lee. It is definitely a cliché in modeling, but I am still happy to have it sitting on model shelves.

Having yet to ever build any of the Eduard Airacobra kits, I can not comment on the ease of building this kit verses those. I can say that this kit built pretty easy with only the few issues I mentioned in the text above.


Additional Images


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2007 by David W. Aungst
Page Created 06 November, 2007
Last Updated 24 December, 2007

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