Classic Airframes 1/48 Fiat CR.42 CN
The last of the great biplane fighters to enter service in 1938, the Fiat CR.42 “Falco” (Falcon) became the single most-produced Italian fighter. Agile, light, and regarded by Regia Aeronautica pilots as a wonderful aircraft to fly, the Falco was ironically too little, too late. Designed for combat aeronautics rapidly becoming surpassed by low-slung monoplane fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and even the Fiat G.50 Freccia, the CR.42 was still produced through 1943. Exported to numerous countries including Belgium, Hungary, Sweden, and Germany, the Falco also fulfilled roles as a fighter, attack aircraft, and even as an early-war night-fighter. One note of interest is that this nimble fighter fought with the Luftwaffe, against the Luftwaffe, and as a Co-belligerent of the Luftwaffe. Despite it's low speed and light armament, the CR.42 CN (“Caccia Notturna”, or “Night Fighter”) was fitted with exhaust flame dampers, radio, and small, experimental under-wing searchlights.
Classic Airframes has released 3 previous versions of the “Falco”; The CR.42 Falco in Italian markings, one in Export markings, and the CR.42AS. This version features all-new tooling, markings for 5 different aircraft, resin parts for the Night-Fighting version, and Eduard Zoom colored photo-etched parts. The gray styrene plastic parts appear to have been molded in the form(s) of a familiar Czech manufacturer, and bear the resemblance of a limited-run kit in the form of flash afflicting many parts. The details are nicely done, but the parts seem a bit thick. Heavy sprue gates abound, and care will be required separating them from the trees.
The extra Caccia Notturna parts include the aforementioned searchlights, clear lenses for each, a generator to run them, and two different lengths of extended exhausts. The parts come in their own bag, and the rest of the resin parts (engine, cockpit, etc.) are in another bag. The bags themselves are free to sail around inside the box, and I'm pleasantly surprised none of the resin parts were broken.
The parts break down as follows:
36 styrene pieces molded in gray
40 cream colored resin parts
2 clear searchlight lenses
1 clear windscreen
2 PE frets
A supplemental sheet of instructions are included for the “CN” version, along with a copied photo (B & W) of the completed cockpit. A painting/color guide is included for each of the versions. The decals, printed by MicroScale, are very well-done and in perfect register. The instruction sheet does contain one notable error, and I had a brief conversation with the Classic Airframes crew in Atlanta regarding this. In Step 11, the inner cabane struts are illustrated upside-down; use care when installing these, or further problems will be generated! They were nice enough to show me on a built-up Falco they had on display, so forewarned is forearmed!
Construction begins in the cockpit, and this is the heart of the multi-media experience… other than a resin floor, seat, and a couple gas bottles, this entire structure is photo-etch nirvana. An elaborate cage of pressed metal, with delicate instruments suspended where a typical instrument panel would be, is a test of patience and mettle.
I spent about 12 hours over 3 days completing the cockpit to what you see in the photos. Afterwards, I painted it overall XF-25 Light Sea Gray, and picked out some details in Testor's Metallizer Burnt Metal and Burnt Iron.
And here's where the trouble began. While test fitting the completed office in the fuselage halves, I managed to crush both sides of the “cage”. Apparently, the directions would have you incorrectly place them on the floor sides, as opposed to where they would fit better.
Additionally, the resin floor needs some grinding down so as to fit, as well as a bit of the fuselage walls. After several attempts to dry-fit the cockpit into the fuselage, and several more crushings/rebuilds, the aircraft was finally buttoned up. I literally had to thin the walls of the fuselage with my rotary tool to the point of translucence when held up to indirect light. The resin floor of the cockpit was also altered to a dangerously thin strip to which the PE parts remaining were re-cemented to (several small pieces, including a console, are permanently lost… and my workshop doesn't even have carpet!). I was able to get everything to fit after several weeks of very brief sessions; let's be honest, my level of frustration at this point was extremely high.
Once all of this drama was behind me, construction proceeded fairly easily. (Or maybe it seemed that way… it couldn't have been much more difficult!) The instruction sheet incorrectly shows the inner most cabane struts (B5 & B6) being placed upside down. They are drawn as an “upside-down V”, when in fact they should go on as a “V” proper. Failing to catch this will result in many problems. The next two sets of struts went on without difficulty, but the outer most pairs each have a strut (B9 & B16) that is at least an 1/8” too long. Careful trimming will align them properly. As an aside, all of the mounting holes on the underside of the top wing are off in position, and I simply filled mine in and snipped off the pins from each strut. You could drill new ones, but the Tenax sticks just as well this way. The 3 piece main gear assembles easily, but the holes are too small and need boring out with care.
The resin engine features 14 delicately molded cylinder heads, all of which fit perfectly into the corresponding crankshaft holes. A PE ignition harness is included and add a nice touch. The one piece propeller blade assembly all had flash and heavy molding seams on all three blades, and this must be cleaned up with extra care.
The model received two light coats of Mr. Surfacer 500 primer, which was sanded smooth with Micromesh polishing cloths. Pre-shading of panel lines was accomplished with Tamiya XF-69 NATO Black. I chose to paint the model as a machine with 300o Squadron, 167o Gruppo Autonomo Caccia Notturna, Rome-Ciampino, circa 1942. I liked that this was a Night Fighter, but wasn't totally blacked-out like most that I've seen photos of. The underside of the top wing, the struts, and a large panel of the cowling were all that were black… the rest was standard mottling and pale blue-grey. XF-59 Sand Yellow was used as the base color, and the mottling so familiar to Reggia Aeronautica fans was achieved with XF-58 Olive Green and XF-64 Red Brown. The NATO Black was used for the above-mentioned areas of “night”, and the undersides' Blue-Grey was a mixed concoction off of the bench.
A coat of Future prepared the surfaces for the gorgeous Microscale decals, which were then sealed in with another coat of the modeler's liquid gold which also waxes floors. No washes here though… I directly finished the machine off with a custom-mixed semi-matte coat (Tamiya X-21 Flat Base and Future mixed 3:7). I then lightly post-shaded the model's panel lines with a mix of XF-1 Flat Black and XF-64 Red Brown thinned 95% with 92% Isopropyl alcohol. I added the simple rigging with 4# fishing line.
This was not an easy build by any means… a lot of trial and many errors to complete a theoretically simple process of installing a cockpit, lots of pieces seemingly molded for some other kit, and more than a couple weeks of inactivity due to not even wanting to deal with the beast. This kit tested my patience on a regular basis, and pushed my skills to the limit, but I love a challenge! And, I'd do it again, as strange as that sounds.