In-Box Review
Fiat CR.42 Falco
  • CR42_box

by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

But times had changed; as one reference states "... though outstandingly manoeuvrable, the Falco lacked almost all other fighter qualities." Despite this, the CR.42 was mass produced for the Regia Aeronautica and also found ready buyers on the export market - Belgium (34), Hungary (at least 40) and Sweden (72), while 12 CR.42s were bought through a public subscription in Finland, but were sent back to Sweden.

The Falco fought in the closing stages of the Battle of Britain with a conspicuous lack of success and it was clear that its replacement by more modern types was an urgent necessity. Nevertheless, the CR.42 soldiered on through the North African campaign and throughout the Mediterranean in both fighter and ground attack roles.

The Falco ended it's days in Luftwaffe hands, flying night ground attack and anti-partisan sorties. One aircraft was fitted with a 1,010hp BD 601A inline engine as the CR.42B. With a top speed of 323 mph, this was the fastest biplane fighter ever built, but no production followed.

The Kit
The CR.42 is the latest in Classic Airframes' welcome policy of completely re-tooling some of their early kits. Short-run technology has advanced considerably since these kits went out of production some years ago and the modern re-tools are a huge improvement over the originals.

The new kit consists of:

37 grey plastic parts
30 Resin parts
39 Etched metal parts
1 Clear (injected) windscreen

The main parts have what I call the "MPM" look; that is, a satin finish with finely scribed panel lines and a beautifully subtle representation of fabric surfaces. Most of the parts are very cleanly moulded, but some flash creeps in around the propeller hub, which is otherwise nicely detailed. The sprue attachment points are quite thin, but care will still be needed removing smaller parts like the wing struts. There are a few heavy ejector-pin marks, but these are kept clear of the cockpit area; only a couple inside the cowling and tail will need dealing with.

The wings are moulded as one-piece, full-span items and are perfectly straight with commendably thin trailing edges. Strut and rigging points are marked, but it'll probably be wise to drill out the locating holes a bit deeper.

The smaller parts are quite well detailed; the landing-gear is neatly done, with separate legs if you chose to model an aircraft without wheel spats. The wheels themselves have nicely detailed hubs, but the tyres do look excessively "weighted".

The cowl is split horizontally and is sharply detailed with thin cooling gills. The small bulges over the cylinder heads are perhaps rather too pronounced and those on the curve of the cowling are slightly flattened to allow extraction from the mould.

Test Fit
As you'd expect on a short-run kit, there are no locating pins on the main parts. A quick swipe with a sanding stick made sure the mating surfaces were even and then I test-fitted the fuselage halves. The result was excellent - a perfect fit, with all the panel lines matching up and an impressively thin fin and rudder. The separate top decking slots in without a hitch. The one-piece lower wing will provide a stable platform for the rest of the model and the fuselage fits neatly with the chord matching the wing roots correctly.

Resin Parts
In my sample all the resin parts are perfectly cast. The cockpit parts consists of a resin floor and firewall, seat-back, side console and control column, plus several bottles and a neat gunsight. The engine is really a kit in it's own right, with separate and cylinders. This sounds complicated, but a test-fit shows the cylinders fit perfectly. I've built several Classic Airframes' engines like this before, and the results have been very good - it's almost a shame to have to hide the resulting engine inside the cowling. Rounding things off are a pair of exhausts with hollowed out ends.

Etched Parts
The kit includes two etched frets by Eduard. The first includes a complex framework for the cockpit structure. Other parts include a seat-base, plus rudder pedals and a mount for the gunsight. Many of these parts need to be folded carefully, but the result should look very impressive when combined with the resin parts. Of course, purists will rightly say that etched parts are really too 2-dimensional for items like the cockpit structure but, if you're feeling ambitious, you could always use the etched frames as patterns for scratch built replacements.

Other items on the first fret include switches and levers, ignition harness, plus external items such as torque links and rudder actuators.

The second fret is something of a surprise; it's the first time I've seen one of Eduard's pre-painted sets in a Classic Airframes kit. This fret includes an elaborate Italian seat-harness, complete with miniature chains and multi-part instrument panels. Rather than supplying the instrument faces as a film, Eduard have printed them on etched backing plates. The printing is incredibly fine, so it'll be interesting to see the finished results.

Instructions and Decals
The assembly instructions are neatly drawn in 13 stages and include a number of scrap views to help locate some of the smaller parts. The position of some the external etched parts is a little vague, so a few reference photos won't go amiss. The cockpit assembly is quite complicated, so Classic Airframes have included a very useful B&W photo of the assembled unpainted parts.

The decals are custom printed by Microscale, so the quality is excellent, as you would expect. The decals are in perfect register and are very thin with minimal backing film. Markings are included for no less than 5 aircraft:

1. Foligno Fighter School, circa 1942, in dark olive green and light blue grey camouflage.
2. 367 Squadriglia, 151 Gruppo, 53 Stormo, cica 1939, with sand plus red-brown and green mottled uppers
3. A Post-War training aircraft, aluminium overall
4. The CR.42 prototype, again aluminium overall.
5. 95 Squadriglia, 18 Gruppo, 56 Stormo which took part in the Battle of Britain, October 1940. Like scheme 2., this aircraft features a complex mottle pattern.

The camouflage diagrams are printed in B&W, which makes it rather hard to discern the mottling in scheme 2. Classic Airframes have helpfully included full-colour scans on their website.

This is a very neat little kit and a big improvement over Classic Airframes' original CR.42. Construction should be reasonably straightforward for experienced models and the combination of good basic plastic parts with excellent resin and etched detail items should make this a popular addition to the Classic Airframes range. Recommended
The Fiat CR.42 Falco (Falcon) represented the end of the line in biplane development. Along with its contemporaries, such as the Gloster Gladiator, the CR.42 was really obsolescent from the moment it left the drawing board. At the very time all major air forces were switching to all-metal, stressed-skin monoplanes with retractable landing-gear, Fiat clung to the belief that a lightly armed biplane could still hold its own in modern warfare.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: 474
  Suggested Retail: 21.99
  PUBLISHED: Apr 10, 2005

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright 2021 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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