Answer ModelArt 1/33 FIAT CR.42
Italian Ace - Franco Bordoni Bisleri
by Pablo Martín Fernández

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This was Italy's last combat biplane and the best of its kind. Among the various aircraft that Italy had tested in the Spanish Civil War, was another biplane fighter, the Fiat CR.32, a highly maneuverable airplane that was fairly fast and well armed, which had been designed in the early 1930s. Because of the operational, technical, and military success of this airplane, Italian authorities developed a successor to this plane as the Italian monoplanes were readied. Celestino Rosatelli, who was responsible for the CR.32, outdid himself in producing the CR.42. The prototype of the 'Falco' (Falcon) first took to the air on May 23, 1938.

It had the same general form as its predecessor. It was a single-seat biplane with an all-metal skeleton and a composite skin of duralumin and fabric. A sesquiplane structure with W-shape struts and steel cables, it was sturdy and aerodynamically clean. The fixed under-carriage was faired, and the cockpit was open. The armament consisted of a pair of 12.7 mm Safat machine guns mounted on the hood of the engine and synchronized to fire through the propeller disc. Each gun had 400 rounds. The CR.42 had a different engine from its predecessor. Instead of the 600 hp Fiat A.30 RA in-line engine of the CR.32, the new airplane was powered by an 840 hp Fiat A.74 RC 38 14-cylinder radial, which drove a three-blade metal propeller with variable pitch. A radial engine was chosen for reasons of safety in combat. It was simpler, and because it was free of radiators, tubes, and cooling tanks, it was less vulnerable than a liquid-cooled engine.

The prototype's test flights were successful, and it attracted attention in Italy and abroad. The Italian Air Force placed a first order for 200 aircraft, Hungary ordered 50 airplanes, Belgium ordered 34, and Sweden ordered 72. The first Italian unit to receive the CR.42s was the 53rd 'Stormo', which was equipped with the airplane in May 1939. When Italy entered the war, 300 airplanes had already been built, but the first CR.42s to see military service were those which had been sold to Belgium.

The Belgian airplanes went into combat on May 10, 1940, when the Germans attacked. The Belgians shot down three enemy airplanes.

One month later the Italian CR.42s went into combat. They took part in the French campaign and then in the campaign over the English Channel. They also saw service in Greece, the Mediterranean, and in Africa. The airplane was used most intensively in Africa. The last air duels between biplanes took place there before the arrival of the Macchis and Fiat G.50s and the English Hurricanes and Spitfires. The CR.42s faced Gloster Gladiators, which were also the last of a generation.

As the Italian monoplane fighters appeared, the CR.42 was gradually reassigned to other roles, including reconnaissance and observation, ground attack, and night fighting. The ground attack version was slightly modified by the addition of two wing racks for a pair of 220 pound (99 kg) bombs. More extensive alterations were made for night fighting: a radio was installed, along with two photoelectric cells under the wings, and exhausts with fireproof shrouds to hide their glow at night. It did not have an extensive career in this role, although night-fighter CR.42 units were based in several Italian cities.

Of the 113 airplanes that were in service in September 1943, some were turned into two-seat trainers and continued in service until the 1950s. Other alterations were considered during production: A seaplane version was considered, along with a model with retractable under-carriage and one with a 1,000 hp Daimler Benz in-line engine, but none of these were built.


The Kit
The Polish card model publisher Answer ModelArt published in March 2006 an 1/33 scale model of a Fiat CR.42. The model comes in an A4+  format with 4 colour sheets with pieces and 1 b/w 2 sided sheet with assembly diagrams.

The kit depicts an 18º Gruppo, 3º Stormo, 95ª squadriglia’s Falco, and more precisely the one belonging to Franco Bordoni Bisleri; although there are three minor issues to be corrected: fascist roundels lack the white background, the propeller spin is red instead of white and the pilot’s motto is missing from the cockpits headrest. All these design bugs can be easily corrected during assembly.

The Assembly
I began the kit by assembling its engine; the Fiat A74 engine comes in great detail with eleven pieces per cylinder. Also the exhaust ring comes complete but the admission has to be scraped from extra paper as it is missing from the model. The valve’s levies were made from metal pins.

The next step was the cockpit, also greatly detailed in the kit. Its assembly begins with the pilot’s enclosure, lower part of the seat, pedals and lever; with the instrument’s panel, backseat and sight to be assembled after lining the fuselage over the cockpit.

Finishing the fuselage and assembling the lower wings, rudder and stabilizers is the easiest part of the model. Shape is guaranteed by placing card bulkwards in the fuselage and ribs and spars in the wings.

The assembly of the upper wing is the most challenging part of the model, and modellers must be aware of a major bug in the kit design at this point: pieces numeration disagrees from the plates and assembly diagram, struts labelled as “a” in the assembly diagram have been labelled as “b” in the plates,  also the strut pair #68 has to be swapped, the board pair going starboard and vice versa. Apart from this, the assembly diagrams can be followed faithfully.

All wires were made with black 0,15mm fishing line. Propeller blades were bent to shape with the help of an inner toothpick and wheels were sanded to shape. The model was brushed with satin varnish and white backgrounded fascist roundels added from printed adhesive paper.

Overall impression
A great kit with minor design bugs that can be easily overcome, anyway, not a model for beginners. The final result is stunning, the mottled camouflage fits so well  from piece to piece that the jointures are nearly undistinguishable. Also the struts fit very accurately so the upper wing sits levelled and balanced giving the completed model a very unpaper appearance.

Technical Data

Aircraft: Fiat CR.42
Manufacturer: FIAT S.A.
Type: Fighter
Year: 1939
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
Crew: 1

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July, 2012
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