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KIT REVIEW


Special Hobby # SH72337 Kittyhawk Mk. 1A
1:72 Scale



One of the great fighter designs of the late 1930s was the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.  It was not only one of the most prolific designs of WWII, but was also one of the most widely employed aircraft of the conflict, seeing action in every theater.  One of the first export customers of the P-40 was the United Kingdom, and was known as the Kittyhawk in British service.  In this recent release, Special Hobby has added to their growing 1:72 scale P-40 family with a Kittyhawk Mk. 1.  Let’s take a look.

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The Curtiss P-40 was designed to meet the requirements of a pursuit aircraft for the U.S. Army Air Corps in the mid-1930s.  It was an evolution of the Curtis P-36, and among other new features did away with a radial engine and replaced it with a liquid-cooled, supercharged Allison V-1710 V-12 powerplant.  The prototype XP-40 first flew in October 1938 out of the Curtiss facility in Buffalo, New York.  The airplane was designed to be relatively inexpensive, adaptable to harsh operating conditions, able to soak up significant battle damage, easy to repair, and to be highly agile at low and medium altitudes.  In that part of the envelope, a P-40 could out-turn almost any opponent, but its single-stage supercharger meant that the P-40 would always be a plagued by poor performance at higher altitudes.

P-40s first saw combat with the British squadrons of the Desert Air Force in the Middle East and North African campaigns in mid-1941.  It was with the RAF that the shark-mouth logo, rather inseparable from the identity of the P-40, was first applied.  Between 1941 and 1944, the P-40 played key roles with Allied air forces in North Africa, the Pacific, and China along with other noted contributions in Eastern Europe, Italy, and Alaska.  None may have been more famous than the Flying Tigers, the American Volunteer Group operating the P-40B in the early years of the war as a volunteer unit within the Chinese Air Force.  The Warhawk performed quite well as an air superiority fighter, bomber escort, and fighter-bomber.  Some 200 Allied fighter pilots achieved ace status in the airplane.  Production ceased by late November 1944 with the P-40 being produced in greater numbers than any U. S. WWII fighter with the exception of the P-51 and P-47.

The Kittyhawk Mk. 1 was the export version of the P-40D/E that featured the deeper engine cowling producing that definitive P-40 appearance.  It also had a more powerful engine and improved armor around the pilot, six .50 caliber machine guns, and improved performance, but Great Britain realized that its poor high altitude performance persisted, making it ill-suited for the conflict over Europe.  The Kittyhawk was operated by the British, Australian, Canadian, South African, and other Commonwealth nations.  Most of Great Britain’s airplanes were sent to the north African front to fight the Germans and Italians.  There, the Kittyhawk proved effective against Axis aircraft and helped shift the momentum of the air war over north Africa to the Allies.  The Kittyhawk helped accelerate the replacement of the Bf 109E and was deadly to Luftwaffe bombers.  It generally outperformed Italian fighters such as the Fiat G.50 and the Macchi C.200 and was more or less on par with the Macchi C.202 Folgore.  A total of 46 British Commonwealth pilots became aces in P-40s, including seven double aces. 

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Special Hobby’s 1:72 scale Kittyhawk Mk. 1 kit contains two light gray injection molded polystyrene sprues containing 75 parts, and 12 of those are not used in this kit.  Panel lines, rivets, and fasteners are all represented by engraved, recessed details.  Six clear parts are present on a single sprue.  The full-color instruction booklet organizes the build over 12 steps.  Decals and the markings guide cover three Kittyhawk Mk. 1s:

Strengths: The Special Kittyhawk Mk. 1 is a very promising kit, and it reflects the increasing quality of Special Hobby kits over the last several years.  Previously, we looked at their P-40N (see our review HERE).  I can only reiterate all the good things that can be said about the kit here.  Parts breakdown and engineering are both simple and straightforward.  The exterior of the kit is very nicely molded revealing very smooth and flawlessly produced surfaces, panel lines, and a sparing number of rivet/fastener details.  The cockpit is very nicely done, with separately molded sidewalls, a nice instrument panel and a decent seat.  The left and right wings are molded as a continuous part (for both upper and lower wing halves) so that getting an equal dihedral won’t be a problem.  Also, the rudder is a separate part and it can be positioned as the builder wishes.

The injection-molded part for the carburetor intake screen faces is almost as nice as a photetched metal part.  There are alternative parts for closed and opened cowl flaps.  The main gear well walls each come as a separate four-sided part that drops into the space between the wing halves, and just like that, you’ve got a very nice and complete gear well.  Detail on the landing gear and wheels look quite nice, and the kit also includes a pair of bombs and two styles of underwing drop tanks.  I also like how the complete gun barrels are molded over to the bottom of the upper wing half.  This makes the fit with the bottom wing half and any necessary cleanup a lot easier and virtually trouble-free. 

The paint scheme options are really well-chosen to include a diverse set of options spanning just three airplanes (RAF, RAAF, and RCAF).  The decals themselves look awesome.  They were printed by Cartograf and appear flawless in every respect.  

Weaknesses:  There’s not a lot that I can critique regarding this kit.  I see no obvious flaws in shape, detail, or other elements.  The only observation I might have is that for some scale modelers, the panel lines on the fuselage and wings might be a little overscaled – a little too wide and a little too deep.  Personally, I think that once a few coats of paint are on and a panel line wash or a pencil treatment is applied, they should look a little less pronounced.  And while not a critique per se and more reflective of my own preferences, I do love separate control surfaces.

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Special Hobby has done a solid with their 1:72 scale Kittyhawk Mk.1A, and it has a lot to recommend to it, from the very impressive level of detail to the markings options.  Special Hobby’s sister company CMK, released a slew of resin detail sets, from cockpit parts (new sidewalls, control column), four different wheel sets with differing tread patterns, four different styles of pilot’s seat, and separate control surfaces for scale modelers like me.  Overall, the level of detail that can be put into this kit at the end of the day is quite impressive, but even without any aftermarket enhancements, this kit should build into a very nice model of the Kittyhawk.    

Sincere thanks are owed to Special Hobby for the review sample.  You 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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