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KIT REVIEW


Special Hobby # SH48182
Fiat CR.32 Freccia/Chiri -- 1:48 Scale



Beginning with the Wright Flyer, biplane evolution was a story of continuous technological development and innovation that continued to refine biplane design and performance to its maximum potential.  The apex of combat biplane engineering in the 1930s was seen in several designs around the world including the Fiat CR.32.  In this review, we take a look at Special Hobby’s 1:48 scale CR.32 kit, which is a reboxing of the Classic Airframes plastic kit packaged with an impressive quantity of cast resin and photoetched metal detail parts.

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The origins of Italy’s Fiat CR.32 were rooted in the preceding Fiat CR.30 and represented an all-around improved version of its smaller biplane ancestor.  The design of the CR. 32 featured an aluminum and steel tube fuselage frame varyingly covered by metal and fabric skin segments, while the metal spars of the wing structure were covered entirely by fabric.  The lower wings were shorter than the upper wings, thus making the Freccia technically not a biplane, but a sesquiplane.  Armament initially included two 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns atop the engine cowling.  These were later upgraded to a pair of 12.7 mm machine guns sporting 350 rounds each.  The engine was a water-cooled Fiat A.30 R.A. that was fueled by a unique blend of standard aviation fuel mixed with a significant proportion of alcohol and benzol for extra kick.

The prototype CR.32 flew in 1933 and production began in 1934.  The CR.32 was an instant hit, with pilots extolling the airplane’s aerobatic capabilities and ruggedness.  Italy’s Regia Aeronautica was naturally the first operator of the type, but soon, Spain began to procure CR.32s under license as the HA-132-L Chirri.  These were used extensively in the Spanish Civil War operated by the Fascists, and they proved generally superior to the Polikarpov I-15, I-16 monoplane, and the Tupolev bombers that were the core of the Spanish Republican Air Force.  The CR.32 was an ace-maker and overall, the type claimed at least 542 confirmed kills in the Spanish Civil war with another 100 unconfirmed victories for the loss of 99 Freccias.

In the early days of WWII, Italy had based nearly 300 CR.32s in Italian East Africa, and had initial success in shooting down around 20 Bristol Blenheims and Hawker Hurricanes along with kills of South African AF Junkers Ju 86 bombers.  The front-line days of the Freccia were limited however and they were replaced by 1941 with newer monoplane fighters.  CR.32s flew on for years with their many export customers, including the Nationalist Chinese, Venezuela, and Paraguay, with the last CR.32 retired in 1953 with the Spanish Air Force.

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Special Hobby’s 1:48 scale Fiat CR.32 is a reboxing of the Classic Airframes kit of the Freccia/Chirri with a solid generous helping of Special Hobby/CMK resin and photoetched metal detail parts.  The kit consists of 41 injection-molded plastic parts on two sprues (with six parts unused), one clear part on one sprue, 29 cast resin parts, 23 unpainted photoetched metal parts on one fret, and 12 pre-painted photoetched metal parts on another fret.  The high-quality, full color instruction booklet guides the build over 11 steps.  The decal sheet contains markings for four aircraft:

Strengths:  This kit is not a shake-and-bake kit, as there’s a good deal of ornery Classic Airframes plastic parts and some major resin and PE metal components.  However, if you are comfortable with limited run multimedia kits, this Special Hobby’s CR.32 is quite inviting.  There’s a lot of opportunity here.

That opportunity begins with the plastic parts themselves, and if I am not mistaken, I strongly suspect that the parts on Sprue A (fuselage, wheel spats, wheels, etc.) looks like its from the 2005 retooled version by Classic Airframes, since the quality of the parts on Sprue B (Wings) are quite different and not as good (likely from their original 1990s-era molds).  The parts on Sprue A also feature both delicately recessed panel lines and raised surface details.  It’s quite nice.

The resin and PE parts truly elevate this kit several levels of quality.  You get a complete and highly detailed resin cockpit, from the floor, sidewalls, seat, instrument panel, telescopic gunsight, and everything else in between.  The complex Italian pilot harnesses and seat pads are also very nice done as photoetched parts.  The cockpit is a one of the several genuine highlights of this kit.

On the exterior, resin and etch combine again for the optional telescopic gunsight, while the separate and positionable elevators and the rudder are provided as resin parts.  They are designed to replace the kit parts that need to be cut from the tail and horizontal stabilizers if the builder chooses to use the resin parts.  There are also very nicely made photoetched metal control actuators for the ailerons.  The kit contains a very nice pair of small resin bombs and a radiator face for the lower fuselage.

The largest of all the resin parts is a hefty piece that represents the entire nose and engine cowling.  All the resin parts are quite good here, but this resin nose is outstanding.  The quality of the recessed detail is great, and the delicate cooling fins on the radiators are eye-popping.  

The decals look beautiful, and all technical aspects of the decal production are perfect.  The four paint schemes are also quite appealing, and will give scale modelers a bit of a challenge as to decide which one they will do on their CR.32.   

Weaknesses:  As the Classic Airframes plastic in the kit is of the limited run variety, there are no locating pins or tabs.  The parts on Sprue B will need some extra work to prep them and clean them up.  On my sample, there were a few surface scratches and other little surface irregularities that some fine sanding should take care of (say, something in the 3,000-grit range).  Also, and especially for the parts on Sprue B, many other plastic parts will need some extra cleanup regarding flash and sprue gates that attach to the parts (such as the wingtips) in a small blob of plastic that will need some attention.  

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Special Hobby has done a great job elevating the quality and potential of the Classic Airframes Fiat CR.32.  The excellent resin parts, photoetched metal details, and decals in the Special Hobby kit make this a really attractive project for scale modelers who are comfortable with limited run multimedia kits. 

Sincere thanks are owed to Special Hobby/CMK for the review sample.  You can visit them on the web at http://www.specialhobby.info/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/specialhobby

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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