Aircobra P-39N

  Main >> Reviews >> Aircobra P-39N

   Type: Aircobra P-39N
Scale: 1:72
   Manuracturer: Academy
   Ilya Grinberg

Flying Snake from Buffalo


This airplane is described in many known publications therefore I would not discuss it here. Lets move to the making of the model. I would recommend The Bells of the Kremlin that could be found at 


I was pleasantly surprised by the Academy kit. Clean mold, crisp recessed panel lines, excellent thin and clear canopies, and well-done wheel wells generate an urge to build it right out of the box. Well, not bad at all. However, there are some deficiencies. The door is opened from the port side while it was typically unused on the ground. The reason for that was the throttle control that sticks in the doorway and makes an entrance to the cockpit a challenge.

By some unknown reason this unit is shown right on the middle of the door. The same unit is also shown on the opposite door. Other problem areas would be discussed later.

Well, its time to start the model.


First of all I decided to superdetail the cockpit and to open the door from the correct side. Just at that time a wonderful resin set from Neomega became available. Prior to that I was planning to use Eduard photoetched set. When I received the Neomega masterpiece I checked for the fit of the cockpit tub and nose gear wheel well. The set was originally designed for Heller kit, consequently some adjustment are necessary due to the different plastic thickness of these kits. The plastic of Academy offering is thicker. It took me a little while to find the correct positioning of the resin details for this subassembly.

After that I opened the air intakes on the front sides of the fuselage halves. These scoops were used deflecting gasses from the gun. Then I took care of the doors. I removed the ridiculous throttle control from the left door using the Dremel tool. After thorough dry fitting the door was glued to the fuselage halve. From the starboard I cut the opening for the new door, which is supplied in the Neomega set.

During this stage I visited the local Aviation Museum, which has a beautiful P-39Q on display. I was kindly allowed to get inside the cockpit. This experience greatly assisted me on the further work on the model.

Looking at the photos from various publications and seeing the engine in the museum, I decided to open engine access panel on the starboard and put an engine there.

P-39 (59 Kb)

, .

Said done. It was not a problem to cut the access panel. I also made the edges around the engine compartment thinner and framed them with thin stripes of a plastic card. I made an engine from a piece of plastic and painted it appropriately. At that time I was able to buy Moskit hollow exhaust pipes for this kit. I had to drill and scribe pretty deep trench in the engine block to accommodate the exhaust stack on the starboard. On the port side removing the wall on the fuselage behind the stack opening solved the problem.

OK, the engine is installed. I placed the pilots seat from the Neomega set and painted the cockpit in interior green. The instrument panel and the side panels were painted black. There are many different opinions how the Cobras interior was painted. There are museum photographs showing the entire cockpit in interior green or Bell green, the photographs from the US Air Force museum show the cockpit painted in black, some photographs display bronze green livery.

P-39 Right side (45 Kb)Analyzing available photographs and the machine in the local museum, I decided on the following scheme: the walls, the floor, and the pilots seat being interior green, the instrument panel and the side panels black, and the doors olive drab from both sides. The black and white photographs on which one can clearly see the difference between black stencil plates and the color of the door itself support this fact.

I added machine guns recharging handles from the Eduard PE set on the instrument panel. The handles were painted red.

After that I put plenty of led balls into the nose part of the fuselage. Here the rule The more the better should be followed.

26 KbThe kit features early variant of the nose machine guns openings, typical to P-400 and P-39-D1. Later versions were equipped with brows. I used thin brass tubing to cut appropriate details and superglued them to the fuselage. Even thinner tubes were installed inside to replicate barrels.

The fuselage halves were glued together. The fit here was pretty good, only few places were touched with the superglue used as putty. The air separator was installed inside the carburator air scoop on the upper part of the fuselage behind the cockpit.


I experienced no problems with wings. I thinned the plastic of the radiators and cut the intakes in the wing roots. The N-version should feature wing machine guns positioned so that the outward barrels are higher than inward. The kit offering shows the on the same line.

I glued the lower wing to the fuselage and than attached the upper wings. This sequence assures better fit. All seams were treated with superglue. Since the Neomegas nose wheel well resin detail was initially designed for the Heller kit, an unavoidable gap between this part and the fuselage was treated with putty.

Then the horizontal stabilizer was attached and the seams were covered with the superglue.

Detailing and Painting

The next step was to install the canopy glazing. Prior to this operation I cut the side window from the right side of the canopy to make room for the door in the open position (on the starboard side!). Care should be taken here since the canopy is thin and delicate. Clear parts received a bath of Future.

Despite rather good fit of the canopy details to the fuselage, I applied a bit of putty to eliminate the seam at the windscreen. (I hate seams!)

Now the model was ready for painting. Usually I clean plastic with the isopropyl alcohol. The model was painted by Polyscale acrylics: Neutral Gray underneath and Olive Drab elsewhere. Olive drab straight from the jar appeared to be too dark and I added about 30% of white to achieve the satisfactory color. The wheel wells and landing gear were painted in Bell Green color. The closest match for it appears to be Green Zinc Chromate from the Model Master acrylic line. 

 You could check this color on the photographs of the meticulously restored Airacobras of the Finnish museum in Tikkakoski.

Then I installed the wheel well doors from the Eduards PE set, as well as the elements of the landing gear from the same set.

The model was covered by several thin layers of Future. When everything was completely dry, I applied wash to all recessed lines. This operation was repeated to insure uniform feeling in the lines. After this operation the model was sealed with additional layer of Future.

Decals, superdetailing, and final assembly

I decided on the Aircobra flown by the third top-ranking allied ace Nikolay Dmitrievich Gulaev. I used Aeromaster decal set Stalins Cobras. Gulaevs machine sported white numeral 2 on the fin along with red stars, three kill marks on the nose part of the fuselage, fifty kill marks on the port side door, and the inscription 53 Victories on the nose from the starboard. On the port side the slogan Za rodinu (For Motherland) was placed aft the cockpit.


The decals adhered very well. The only problem was with the stars on both sides of the fin. The problem here is in the little bulges that replicate navigation lights. The decals refused to conform to these elements without extra help. Solvaset saved the situation with flying colors!

Then I placed the rows of kill marks on the door. To avoid silvering, I cut and applied each row separately. The inscription Za rodinu, that has to be on the port side of the fuselage, was not included in the decal sheet. It was custom-made for me on the ALPS printer by Erik Pilavskii.

The model was covered by flat finish (I used Model Master acrylic). The canopy framing was made from the stripes of decal paper painted in Olive Drab.


The landing gear was installed. I modified the nose gear by drilling and cutting plastic right above the wheel thus making the fork more convincing. The resin door was installed in the opened position on the correct side of the fuselage.

The inner side of the door with a wonderfully represented map holder was dry-brushed prior to installation.

The spinner was assembled with the propeller. I removed plastic imitation of the protruding cannon and substituted it with brass tubing. I used two tubes, one representing a cover, and the second one, of smaller diameter, the barrel itself.

After that I imitated chipped paint on the wing roots along the path to the cockpit. The wire antenna was installed. And finally, the door handles from the Eduards PE set (really small ones!) were installed.



28 Kb26 Kb29 Kb

34 Kb26 Kb

Ilya Grinberg