|Classic Airframes 1/48 FIAT CR.42
by Vince Tassone
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|Although not formerly part of the "R" Program undertaken by the Regia Aeronautica to update its aircraft in 1939, the FIAT CR.42 was nonetheless ordered into production as a replacement for the ageing CR.32 and as a transition aircraft until tactics and teething problems could be worked out in the new crop of Italian monoplane fighters. Aside from the fairly large orders placed by the Regia Aeronautica, a significant number of foreign orders were also placed by Belgium, Hungary and Sweden.
In Belgium the CR.42 was used in the defense of the country in May 1940 claiming 9 aerial victories for the loss of only two Fiats in combat, including kills registered against Bf.109Es. In Hungary, the FIAT CR.42 achieved some notable successes and was the combat aircraft with the best kill / loss ratio employed by the Hungarians in WWII. In the war against France, on June 13, 1940 FIAT CR.42s shot down three Bloch 152s and five Dewoitine D.520s for the loss of 5 FIATs. FIATs were again successful over more modern types such as the lumbering Hurricane; on July 13, 1940 Capitano G. Bobba of 74a Sq., 23o Gruppo shot down a Hawker Hurricane flown by Plt Off D. Sudgen and downed three more Hurricanes between 13 July and 28 November 1940 using CR.42s. To further reinforce a RA belief in the type (and the importance of maneuverability in aerial combat) stood the successes of the CR.32s in the Spanish Civil War against which modern monoplanes such as the I16s were bested; and this seemed to justify a force at least partially equipped with the type in the Battle of Britain. Indeed CR.42s sustained few losses due to combat in the BoB; most losses were due to its limited range. At the end of 1940 however, the increasing gap in the performance of the CR.42 and the newer monoplanes, together with the relative abundance of the modern Italian monoplanes, ended the CR.42s brief career as a RA frontline fighter. The FIAT CR.42 soldiered on through the rest of the war as a ground attack aircraft; and what many veteran RA pilots would fondly refer to as a "legendary aircraft."
This is the Classic Airframes 1/48 FIAT CR.42 and is the best kit on the market. I began construction as I do all aircraft kits, starting with the cockpit. Please refer to CA FIAT CR.42 Cockpit and Engine Assembly for construction details. The cockpit sidewalls and interiors were painted 'grigio azzurro chiaro' for grigio anti-corrosion typical of Fiat interior colors. I replaced the PE throttles with ones made of stretched sprue and knobs of Elmers white glue painted red. The pneumatic air supply and oxygen bottles were finished in Tamiya blue with metal straps of aluminum. The fire extinguisher was finished in Tamiya red and glossed. The pilot’s seat was finished in Testors lacquer aluminum. Take note, interior work is not lost since the cockpit is fairly open and most of the detailing is visible.
For the camo scheme I used the new Colourcoats Regia Aeronautica paint line: Giallo Mimetico 3, Verde Mimetico 2 and Marrone Mimetico 3. Being this the first time I used the Colourcoats I was surprised how well the paints sprayed on, with virtually no overspray. This is a pleasant surprise since overspray generally occurs over prolonged periods of spraying with most enamels and especially acrylics and particularly when applying complex mottle schemes. However this didn't happen with these paints. I thinned the paints using Testors Enamel thinner to about a ratio of 1:2 (paint : thinner) and gradually increased the pressure to my Badger 150 until paint flowed (about 20-25 psig) using a fine needle. Although I used enamel thinner for this job John Snyder of White Ensign Models pointed out the Colourcoats could be thinned using a 50/50 mix of good quality lacquer and enamel thinner. As can be seen from the photos, not only was overspray not a concern but the color shades were a good match to the CMPR color chips. Overspray is always a concern when it comes to RA mottle schemes, in any scale, and having gone through the entire process of painting the model without traces of overspray made the project a very happy one indeed. One other thing worth mentioning, paint consistencies sometimes vary between different colors, in the same paint line, however the consistency of the Colourcoats used here were the same - this is important since when the correct spraying parameters are found for one color you can continue using them for the others, as opposed to making adjustments for each and every color. Kudos to the WEM people who've designed a wonderful line of paints that I can now use regularly without the worry of overspray, and in which I can happily recommend to all for this kind of complex work.
On a technical note now, the fuselage sides and lower wing were finished in the C1 camo pattern. The top wing however was finished in the C1A variant after having examined a photo of a crashed Hungarian CR.42 in a dense relief type pattern; similar but not the same as the CR.42s in the BoB. After having completed the mottle scheme I thinned out Colourcoats Giallo Mimetico 3 to a ratio of about 1:10 and lightly sprayed the model to tie-in elements of the camo scheme. Undersides were finished in Colourcoats Grigio Mimetico.
The front of the propeller blades were painted Humbrol Polished Aluminum 27002 while the back of the blades were finished in Polly Scale RLM 22 Night Black. The propeller blades were then sprayed with Polly Scale Flat. Wiring was made from stretched sprue and painted with Polly Scale graphite. The guns were made of stretched sprue and sized exactly to the Ali D'Itallia drawings. The guns were then finished in Polly Scale "Oxidized Aluminum" since it was a fairly good match for gunmetal and then a flat applied. The engine cowling and rudder were finished in Polly Scale RLM 04 Yellow Chromate, a flat applied and then weathered with a black enamel wash. Excess wash was carefully wiped off with a clean lint free cloth using enamel thinner. The resin exhaust pipes were first painted flat black and light layers of thinned Polly Scale Rust sprayed over top until the desired effect was achieved.
Overall there were no fit problems, however be sure to tape the fuselage halves together before cementing (for alignment) and thin out the cockpit interior walls near the instrument panels to avoid deforming the delicate PE parts. The canopy is oversized, something I hadn't noticed with the CN, AS and ICR variants of this kit, so I suspect it was an early production problem that was later fixed in subsequent releases or just an outlier. To fix the oversized canopy use a blow dryer with low heat and carefully squeeze the two sides of the canopy until they fit snuggly to the fuselage apertures.
The kit-supplied decals are printed by Microscale and go on beautifully. To apply the decals without shrinkage, tearing or silvering, apply an undercoat of Mr.Softner. Apply the decal over the fluid and let dry for about 20-30mins. Apply a second coat of Mr.Softner over top the decals and let the decal sit for 1-2 hrs. I chose the distinctive and very attractive yellow tail V-234 of 2/4 Fighter Squadron of the Royal Hungarian Airforce used in the attack on the Soviet Union circa 1941.
I really like this kit, its my second build now and I have two more on my list, a Swedish CR.42 and Mario Visintini's machine, so stay tuned.
I'd like to thank John Snyder and WEM for providing review samples of their very fine Colourcoats paint line.
Apostolo, G. and Alegi, G., FIAT CR.42 Ali D'Italia, No. 1, La Bancarella Aeronautica, 1995
Cattaneo, G., The FIAT CR.42, Profile Publications, No. 16, 1965
Postiglioni, U. and Degl'Innocenti, A., Colori e Schemi Mimetici Della Regia Aeronautica, II Edizione, CMPR, GAVS sez Roma, GMT, 2a Ristampa, 1997
Punka, G., FIAT CR.32/CR.42 in Action, No. 172, Squadron/Signal Publications, 2000
Waldis, P. and De Bortoli, M., Regia Aeronautica Caccia & Assalto 1940-1943 Parte I, Fighters & Ground Attack Units, La Bancarella Aeronautica, Torino, 2002
Aircraft: Fiat CR.42
Manufacturer: FIAT S.A.
Engine: FIAT A.74 RC 38, 14-cyclinder radial, air-cooled, 870hp
Wingspan: 31 ft 10 in (9.70 m)
Length: 27 ft 3 in (8.30 m)
Height: 10 ft 10 in (3.30 m)
Weight: 5,060 lb (2,295 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum Speed: 273 mph (440 km/h) at 19,685 ft (6,000 m)
Ceiling: 34,450 ft (10,500 m)
Range: 490 miles (785 km)
Armament: 2 x 12.7mm SAFAT machine guns; 2 x 220.5 lb (100 kg) bombs
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