by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
One of the things about our hobby which always surprises me is how often it happens that you wait years for a decent model of a particular aircraft, only for two manufacturers to bring out kits almost simultaneously! So it was with the CR.42, with both Classic Airframes and Italeri releasing new 1/48 scale kits last year. Needless to say, the kits are rather different, the former being a short-run kit with resin and etched details, the latter a mainstream injected model. Each has its pros and cons, but both build into attractive models.
One surprise was Italeri's choice of the CR. 42 LW Luftwaffe Nachtschlacht version for their first release. Now, a year of so on, they have released a follow-up in the form of the more common Regia Aeronautica CR.42 AS Falco. The kit arrives in a sturdy top-opening box and the sprues are largely the same as the earlier kit - the difference being that the night exhausts and half-spatted undercarriage are replaced by bombs and fully-uncovered gear legs. The kit comprises:
88 x pale grey styrene parts on 2 sprues
1 x clear windscreen
Decals for 4 x colour schemes
A reference book
The parts are quite cleanly moulded with just a hint of flash evident on some of the smaller items. On my example of the 'LW there were a number of small sink marks, but the new kit doesn't suffer from this problem and is, generally, better moulded. I don't know if that's just a question of pot luck, or whether Italeri have tightened up their quality control, but preparing the new kit will be very quick and painless.
The surface has a slightly "textured" feel and detail consists of engraved panel lines (some a little heavy), plus a mixture of raised and embossed rivets/fasteners. Fabric surfaces are a little strange in that the wings are treated completely differently from the fuselage and tail - and even the ailerons (!?)... The wings have over-prominent raised ribs, while the other areas have a more subtle "scooped-out" look - although the effect on the fuselage isn't particularly convincing. (It's probably no surprise that the CA kit has a much better fabric effect - the MPM stable of companies have always done a good job in this respect.)
Test Fit and ComparisonConstructing Italeri's kit should be a cinch. The fuselage halves snap together very precisely and panel lines match up neatly for the most part - the exception being a small triangular panel on the top of the fuselage that you may want to rescribe anyway. The wings and tail have thin trailing edges, while the lower wings are a loose fit, but match the wing-roots perfectly in terms of aerfoil and chord.
Comparing the parts with the Classic Airframes kit is interesting. The fuselages generally match up in length and the fin and rudder agree. The Italeri kit is slightly "chunkier" in the rear fuselage, with a more prominent headrest and tailwheel fairings.
The tailplane is longer span on the CA kit, while the wingspan and chord are pretty much identical. But that's not the end of the story - CA's kit has much more dihedral on the upper wing, with a corresponding difference in the length of all the struts. Without any reliable plans, I can't say which kit is more accurate.
One point where Italeri do have an edge over CA - the wing root oil-cooler inlets and vents are included (something shown in CA's instructions, but missing on the actual kit parts).
ConstructionItaleri break the build down into 10 clearly illustrated stages, spread over a large fold-out sheet. Painting refs are keyed to each stage for Model Master enamels and acrylics, which Italeri distribute in Europe. There's no mention of rigging - but the Falco had very little and the wires on the outboard struts are shown on the boxtop illustration.
Stages 1 & 2 - deal with the fuselage and provide a simple, but effective cockpit. The sidewalls and front bulkhead have neatly represented framework, while the side consoles and instrument panel are provided with alternative moulded or decal faces. The throttle quadrant and other details are a bit clumsy, but the accompanying reference book provides excellent info for anyone wanting to add or replace the moulded details. The seat is provided with a rather basic decal harness.
Stages 3,4 & 6 - see the wings and tail attached to complete the basic airframe. The distinctive interplane struts are attached to the top wing and the locating holes look a bit on the large side, so be careful they don't show after the struts are fitted.
Stage 5 - taking a step backwards, Italeri provide a nicely detailed engine, with two banks of cylinders, pushrods, crankcase and exhausts. Italeri are obviously quite proud of the engine as they give the option of building the kit with the cowlings removed, although some extra plumbing and an ignition harness is really needed if you want to go that route.
Stages 7 & 8 - are dedicated to the undercarriage and propeller. There's a choice of spatted or uncovered gear legs and two styles of spinner are provided. The wheels are "weighted" and have decent hub detail.
Stages 9 & 10 - see the final details added. There's a pair of bombs (which it would have been nice to see in the Nachtschlacht version too). The windscreen is a bit odd, in that it seems to have the gunsight reflector moulded on the inside - not what I'd have done, but it remains to be seen how convincing it will look when finished.
Colour schemesDecals are provided for 4 attractive Regia Aeronautica aircraft:
1. Scuola Caccia assalto, Ravenna, April 1942 - in a classic "smoke-ring" scheme with an unspatted u/c.
2. 20° Squadriglia. 46° Gruppo, 15° Stormo d'Assalto, El Adem, North Africa, October 1942 with large patches of sand on green uppersurfaces.
3. 15° Stormo d'Assalto, Barce, North Africa, October 1942. Camouflage as 2.
4. 387° Squadriglia. 158° Gruppo, 50° Stormo d'Assalto, Lybia, October 1942. Camouflage as 2.
The decals are well printed by Zanchetti Buccinasco and are in perfect register with quite a matt finish. Carrier film is kept to a minimum on most items.
The reference bookThe real ace up Italeri's sleeve comes in the form of a 47-page A5 booklet. I must admit I thought this would be something of a marketing gimmick when I saw it advertised, but I couldn't have been more wrong - it's excellent! A short history of the CR.42 is followed by 12 pages of original manufacturer's drawings reproduced from the "Catalogo Nomenclatore" (spares catalogue). These give an excellent insight into the structure and systems.
After that, there's a 20-page walkaround of the aircraft displayed at the Museo Storico dell'Aeronautica Militare near Rome. The 55 photos are well chosen to give plenty of useful info for detailers (although, sadly, they contradict the colour of the instrument faces provided on the decal sheet). Lastly, there's a set of 9 colour profiles, which include the subjects featured in the kit. All in all, it's an excellent reference which you'll want to keep after you've completed the model.
ConclusionItaleri's CR.42 may lack some of the finesse of the CA kit, but it has a lot going for it in other areas. It's obviously aimed at a different market and is probably a better choice for modellers with limited experience. The inclusion of such a detailed reference booklet is an excellent move - and something I can only hope other manufacturers will follow. The original kit was good value, but this new release, complete with the book for the same price represents something of a bargain. Recommended.