Special Hobby 1/48 Fiat G.55 Serie I
Centauro (Centaur)
by David Walker

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The reason for building my first ever Italian WW2 Fighter was that the Fiat G.55 is one of those aircraft that you just like the first time you see it.  This is a very good-looking aircraft with graceful wings, pointed nose and slim fuselage.  Only one Fiat G.55 survives today, beautifully preserved at the Italian Aviation Museum near Rome.

The Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (ANR) adopted new tactical formations and radar vectoring with improved air-to-air gunnery training. The ANR structured its Gruppi Caccia (Fighter Groups) along the lines of the Luftwaffe’s Gruppen containing three Squadriglie (Squadrons) and a staff squadron. The number of aircraft in a Squadriglia was increased to correspond with the German Staffel, 15 to 20 aircraft versus an average of 10 to 12 in the Regia Aeronautica. Torpedo-bomber and transport units were similarly re-organized, dependent upon aircraft availability.

Many Regia Aeronautica pilots perceived the Armistice as a betrayal of those who had died fighting their former enemy.  A large number of Italian pilots, while they might otherwise agree with the armistice, could not accept the way the surrender had been carried out, while others simply chose to oppose the Allied fighters and bombers which bombed Italian cities.

On 23 September the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI) was established. This was followed on 10 October by the formation of an Army, Navy, and Air Force (Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana).

The choice of Tenente Colonnello Ernesto Botto, a famous fighter pilot and hero of the Spanish Civil War, as Under-Secretary of Aeronautics contributed heavily toward attracting Regia Aeronautica personnel to the Aeronautica NazionaleRepubblicana (ANR), many of whom had dispersed after the Armistice, especially men belonging to fighter units. The ANR was the only RSI armed force which operated regularly and with success against the Anglo-American forces, gaining the respect not only from their German allies, but even from the Resistance.

The Resistance, recognizing the ANR’s value in protecting the Italian population from heavy American bomber raids, often concluded local mutual non-aggression pacts with individual ANR units.


The Kit
This series is a popular line of aircraft kits produced using “Short Run” moulds and supplemented with photo-etched and resin parts. Special Hobby is part of the MPM Model Company (started in 1992) in the Czech Republic.  If you want to see what they produce ->https://www.cmkkits.com/en/ The quality of the kit plastic, upon opening the box is as good as anything produced by Hasegawa or Tamiya in my opinion.
Special Hobby's Centauro arrives in a sturdy and attractive conventional box with the clear parts bagged separately from the other sprues. The kit comprises: 73 x mid grey styrene parts, 3 x clear parts, 42 x photo etched steel parts [ produced by Edaurd ], clear film for the instrument faces & 1 x Resin Part ( Gunsight ) + Decals .

The moulding is very good and Surface detail consists of nicely scribed panel lines and a few raised access panels, plus subtly depicted fabric control surfaces.  This is clearly the best Fiat G.55 kit produced in 1/48 scale to date. It comes with two fuselage sets, as the fin and rudder are different between the type Series 0 and 1 aircraft and the whole aircraft is highly accurate.

[ the easy way to identify the Series 1 is that the trim tab reaches to the very bottom of the rudder, the other doesn’t ]

I recommend avoiding the 1/48 Classic Airframes G.55 kit since it has many flaws, fit problems, and inaccuracies.   The brass finish has been burnished as part of the manufacturing process.  This gives the parts the very convincing appearance of burnt iron. Super Glue or Two-Part Epoxy should be used to secure these parts.

Another essential modification is opening up the very front of Kit Parts C4 & C5 which are the front exhaust cowlings, and make sure you do not fit part A18, since this is the part designed for the Serie 0 plane, whereas the correct alternative part is the underside cowling which is part A5 (This is the one with no gun troughs moulded into it ).

The Build
The aftermarket additions added to the Model were the following:
1/48 Moskit Exhausts

Just use any ones which are made for DB 605 engined aircraft Air Master:

Supermarine Spitfire C wing Hispano 20mm cannons in fairings ( Ref AM-48-004 ) to replace kit wing cannon which are pretty undetailed.
Air Master Me 109 Machine Guns ( Ref AM-48-009 )
Eduard 49288
Macchi C.202 set

(used as there is no Fiat G.55 photo-etch set ever made by Eduard to my certain knowledge)

Sky Models Decals:

#48-013 for the Fiat G.55

(Markings are included for 15 DIFFERENT aircraft including Italian and Allied-Italian versions with 4-page guide.)

Vac-Form Canopy for Fiat G.55
Rudder Kill Markings taken from aftermarket decal sheet

Metal 1/48 WWII German Pitot Tube # EB48006
ID Block by Amtec Industries of Scotland
Homemade Diorama base with Green-line Grass

The most important alteration you must make with this model is that you have to open up the front exhaust fairings as the real aircraft had this feature. This was found by careful research.   Brake lines were added and the 2 Eduard etch pieces ( MC.202 # 11 & 12 ) were added to replace the resin part for the reflector gunsight , with 2 ring and bead alignment sights added to the fuselage front nose ( # 40 & 41 ).  The etch Canopy Support Strut was added to the Cockpit ( MC 202 # 68 ) with 2 canopy handles added ( MC202 # 86 & 87 ) - I also made by myself 2 Copper Wire Handles for the front of the Canopy Windscreen which the real aircraft had fitted and which Special Hobby does not provide.  I also added copper wire for electrical cabling to both sides of the fuselage , and added quite a few very fine metal rods for the control cables which the actual cockpit had fitted inside.

I added some missing features to the cockpit , most noticeably the prominent rudder actuating rod that runs the whole length of the right hand cockpit side.    I also added ( taken from the Macchi 202 etch set ) 2 etch boot straps to the Fiat G.55 rudder bar ( Part C13 - see photos ).   The other essential addition was scratch building a 1/72 scale bomb to create a Compressed Air Bottle which the real aircraft had fitted on the pilot’s right hand side, next to the seat.   This also had extra copper wire fitted by me on the top,  to accurately represent the Fiat G.55 compressed air bottle. This was painted blue, and the real G 55 needed all this compressed air for its pneumatic engine starter and wheel brakes.

Please note that the Special Hobby Italian National Flag decals were used, instead of the Sky Model decals, as they were more accurate - and had the correct sized yellow triangle surround.   The kit pitot tube was replaced by the Edelweiss Brass Pitot tube   Which is much more refined looking and much more detailed ( with a hollow tip at the front end as well).

I was delighted with the out-of-production Moskit Exhausts which I used to replace the Kit exhausts . In my opinion, nothing can beat these rare exhausts for sheer detail (and they are hollow at the ends).  This remarkable product comprises of two, single piece, scale-thickness exhaust stacks in 1/48 scale to suit the engine of the Fiat G.55 ( DB 605 ).  Moskit's backing card proclaims that these are "hollow metal extremely thin exhaust pipes" made using "unique technology". I couldn't agree more! aerodynamic covers for the engine exhaust , these are incorrectly moulded by Special Hobby - they should have a hollow opening at the very front (see the White Arrow showing this in my photos) I first had to alter the Air Master Brass Spitfire Cannon Barrels by removing two rings which are on the outside of the cannon fairing before fitting them to the Fiat G.55, as the Special Hobby Plastic cannon Barrels were pretty dull and unrealistic.

The main reason for taking the trouble to buy and fit these is that the ends of the cannon barrels are drilled out , and represent a luxurious finishing touch for your 1/48 scale cannon-equipped project. The Air Master Barrels were also the right length for the Fiat G.55 and fitted into the wing with a little hole opened for them ,were more sturdy as well, and are the correct shape and thickness.   I used the thinnest available Synthetic Fishing Line to create the wireless aerial wire, as this really looks the part (the other main reason for using this item is that it is also much harder to get broken by accident).

The paint scheme was chosen for the Diavoli Rossi Squadron. The model was painted using the Testor Aztek A470 airbrush.   Camouflage colours were Gunze acrylics (RLM 74 and 75 ). The White RLM 21 Mediterranean band was painted using Gunze Paint ( H11 Flat White ) which I have found to be very accurate.   I never added the Yellow Underbelly Nose Markings which were removed from the ANR aircraft following an order from the Luftwaffe Command, according to the excellent reference book Camouflage and Markings of the ANR.   Tamiya paints were used for weathering the exhaust stains, panel lines and shading.   I used my usual method of post-shading the panel lines for the model. This method comprises airbrushing a very thin mix of brown and black along the panel lines. This is followed by a thin semi-gloss Black heavily thinned with water, applied directly to all panel lines using a 10/0 brush.

The back of the propeller blades were first painted silver, then Tamiya Black was sprayed from the base of the propeller blades, not quite to the tip. This represents the typical wear pattern seen on the back of Bf 109 metal propellers.   I finally used an Eduard Paint Mask to achieve the Black Spiral on a White Background as many ANR Fighters had this Spiral.

The paint chipping effect was entirely achieved with a silver artist's pencil. Even the wear on the wing roots was applied by gradually building up tiny dots from the tip of the silver pencil.   The canopy frames were masked with Tamiya masking tape.

1) Fiat G.55 - Ali D'Italia # 10 (in Italian/English text ) Italy 1998
2) Camouflage and Markings of Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana 1943-1945, F. D'Amico and G. Valentini
3) Centaur - The Final Fling, Air Enthusiast - May 1974

Technical Specifications

Aircraft: Fiat G.55 Serie I
Manufacturer: Fiat S.A.
Type: Fighter
Year: 1943
Engine: Damiler Benz DB 605A-1, 12-cylinder V, liquid-cooled 1,475hp
Wingspan: 38 ft 10 1/2 in (11.85 m)
Length: 30 ft 9 in (9.37 m)
Height: 12 ft 4 in (3.77 m)
Weight: 8,200 lb (3,720 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum Speed: 385 mph (620 km/h) at 24,300 ft (7,400 m)
Ceiling: 41,700 ft (12,700 m)
Range: 1,025 miles (1,650 km)
Armament: 2 x 12.7mm (0.5 in) SAFAT machine guns, 3 x 20 mm cannons
Crew: 1

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October 2012
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