Italeri
1/72 Fiat CR-42 LW
Kit Number: 1276
Reviewed by  Brian R. Baker, IPMS# 43146

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MSRP: $22.00
Kit supplied by MRC Academy - Web Site: www.modelrec.com

History

The CR 42 was the last in a long line of biplane fighters designed by Celistino Rosatelli, and was preceded by the popular CR.32 fighter, which was still in service at the outbreak of World War II. The CR.32 was succeeded by several prototypes, which used some components from the CR.32 married to larger engines. The CR.40, Cr.40bis and Cr. 41 were stepping stones to a complete redesign, which emerged in 1938 as the prototype Cr.42. All of these aircraft used the "warren truss" strut arrangement instead of the traditional strut and wire bracing method.

The CR.42 was a single seat open cockpit biplane, powered by an 846 hp. Fiat A.74 14 cylinder radial engine turning a three bladed Fiat-Hamilton propeller. The aircraft was all metal with mostly fabric covering. Armament consisted of a pair of 12.7 mm Breda SAFAT machine guns firing through the propeller arc. These could be replaced by lighter 7.7 mm guns to save weight. The design was the result of staff thinking that the ideal fighter should be a light, fast, maneuverable biplane, with maneuverability taking precedence over speed. The Japanese took the same approach, and it didn't work for them either. Although obsolete by modern standards when it was introduced, the CR.42 remained in production until 1944, although, by then, it was being manufactured as a night interdiction and harassment airplane, not as a fighter. It was better than all of the biplanes it encountered, but was hopelessly outclassed by the more modern monoplanes, such as the Hurricane and Tomahawk. A maximum speed of 267 mph at 16,000 feet just wouldn't cut it in 1940 and 1941.

The CR.42 was active in all areas where the Regia Aeronautica was active, and served as a day fighter until replaced by more modern types. It was then used for close support against ground targets, and as a night fighter defending Italian cities. Developments included the ICR.42 floatplane, the CR.42DB with a Daimler Benz DB-601E, and the CR.42B two seat trainer, which was used by the Italians until about 1950. CR.42's were exported to Sweden, Belgium, Hungary, and Germany.

The last production models were designated CR.42LW, and were ordered by the Luftwaffe as night attack aircraft. A total of 200 was ordered, but Allied bombing interrupted production, and out of 150 completed, the Luftwaffe accepted only 112. These were used in Italy for night harassment and anti-partisan missions by single staffeln of NSGr. 9 and NSGr. 7, although a few were operated in France by NSGr. 20 and with various training units. The kit under review today represents one of of the NSGr. 9 aircraft.

The Kit

This is the third issue of this kit. The first two depicted Italian aircraft, with the first issue including an excellent color booklet giving the basic history of the type. The CR.42LW kit consists of 62 light grey plastic parts, one clear plastic windshield, a set of instructions, and decals for three aircraft, all of which are from the same unit.

In-box reviews that I have read on-line led me to believe that this was probably one of the best kits to appear under the Italeri label, and to a great extent, I agree. However, after having actually built the kit to OTB standard, I find that there are some issues that should be addressed. The kit can be built into an excellent replica of the actual aircraft, and it is much better and more accurate than the old Revell offering that came out in the late sixties.

Instructions

The instructions consist of ten pages of material in one large fold-out sheet. First is a history of the type in 6 languages, followed by a good sprue chart and a painting color identification guide. Colors are listed by common name and as an ITA number, which is presumably an Italian paint supplier. Eight exploded drawings show how to assemble the model, and these are basically self explanatory. At the end are three 4-view drawings showing camouflage and marking details. These are all from the same unit and all have basically the same paint scheme. I used material from a new publication, #1, Ali E. Colori, Fiat CR.42, which is basically in Italian, but with English translations. There is a lot of color here, and one of the aircraft for which decals are provided is illustrated in color, although the details conflict somewhat with information provided in the kit. I had hoped that the kit would have provided the completely exposed landing gear used on the Luftwaffe examples of NSGr. 20 in France, and illustrated by photographs in the Squadron-Signal In-Action series, but these were not included, although I understand that one of the earlier issues included this landing gear type.

Decals

Decals are provided for three aircraft: E8+JK, E8+FK, and E8+AH. All are from NSGr. 9, and operated in Italy in 1944. Decals were of the highest quality, and needed no trimming or decal solutions.

Assembly

This is one model that requires very careful assembly, following the directions closely. It is also one of the best detailed kits I have seen in recent years. The engine is a work of art, and could be left exposed with little added detail. The wheels are well designed, and have enough of a ridge separating the wheel from the tire so that you can paint it with a brush and the paint will run into the crack and not run onto the other surface. The elevators are very detailed, but remember that the trim tab controls are on the bottom side, not the top. This is shown on the drawings, but it is easily missed,

The engine is excellently done, and consists of the two cylinder sections; a front cowl ring, two cowling sides, an exhaust stack assembly that actually fits on the engine, a cowl flap ring, and two long flame suppressing exhaust stacks that run back half the length of the airplane. A little trimming, however, is necessary to get an exact fit. The cockpit is nicely detailed, and is made up of the floor, seat, stick, instrument panel, gun sight, rudder pedals, backrest, and side panels. These also actually fit inside the fuselage without trimming. Some instrument panels are provided by decals, as are the seat belts, and this is the weakest point, as there is no way of telling which way they go, and I couldn't find a photo of the seat on line. The landing gear is made in two sections with the wheel snapping into place.

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One thing I would advise in building this kit is to paint everything before attempting to mount the upper wing, unless you are planning to build an all-black night fighter, which did exist, by the way, but which would be a rather dull model compared to some of the color schemes available for this aircraft. Also, mount the windshield before putting on the top wing.

The major problem I found was the installation of the upper wing. The instructions say to glue all of the struts to the underside of the upper wing, and then attach the wing struts in the proper positions on the fuselage and lower wings. DON'T! It didn't work for me, and I found that during the process I had probably invented a few new four letter words I hadn't heard before. The wing strut assembly is very complicated, and certainly a challenge for even a serious modeler the first time around. I suspect that a wooden or Styrofoam jig for the wing to rest in would be helpful, but I toughed it out and did it the old fashioned way. I attached the outer cabane struts to the wing, and then glued them to the fuselage mounting holes (after enlarging them somewhat with a drill). If I do another one, I'll glue the cabanes onto the fuselage and then set the wing in place. After these were set up and the wing was securely in place, I attached each strut individually using Tenex with a drafting pen applicator. It worked like a charm, and the wing went on straight. By the way, the instructions are very explicit on which strut goes where, so be sure to keep track of which strut is which.

The propeller is well done, but I believe that they got it backwards. I've seen this on other kits. The forward faces of the three bladed prop are flat, while the backs of the blades are curved. On real airplanes, the front of the prop blades are always curved, while the backs are flat, since the prop is really a small rotating wing, or airfoil, and it is this curved portion of the prop that provides the area of low pressure that is translated into thrust. It would be similar to a model where the top of the wing is flat, and the bottom curved. The prop is, however, infinitely better than that of the old Revell kit.

Another problem is that the locations of the wing lights for the night fighter version, on the under surfaces of the lower wings, are marked on the plastic. The purist will want to remove these.

[review image] Painting and Finishing

I began by a coat of RLM 76 on the underside of the model, followed by a combination of RLM 74 and 75, and some sand 79 topsides, along with some Italian medium green for good measure. I used the CR.42 book as a reference. After painting and decal application, I attached the upper wing. The outer struts need rigging wires in an "X" pattern, but no other wires are required.

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Recommendations

Get at least one of these. It is a very good kit of a significant fighter that has only been modestly done in 1/72 scale up to this time. It does have a few issues, but it comes about as close to perfection as a kit can. The photos include a couple of comparison shots with an old Revell kit that I finished as a Swedish J.11 fighter. It isn't hard to tell the differences.

Thanks to IPMS, and MRC Academy for the review sample.

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