The first North American Mustang to see action in World War II was the Allison-engined A-36A, named the Apache and unofficially known as the Invader. It entered combat in 1943 and fought in the Mediterranean and the China/Burma/India theater. The Apaches served well and helped pave the way for the Merlin-engined Mustang P-51.
Hobbycraft's new A-36 is the first-ever 1/32 plastic model of the Allison Mustang. Additionally, Hobbycraft has released three other versions of early Mustangs. The part breakdown and details of the Hobbycraft kit resemble Accurate Miniatures 1/48 scale Apache.
The kit parts are molded in a hard, light gray plastic that has a slight texture to it. Options include full and flattened tires, open and closed canopies, and two types of props.
The cockpit is a multipart assembly at-tached to one fuselage side. Watch how you install the seat - it can angle too far back if you are not careful. The culprit is the linkage tube from the control stick, Part D3.
After assembling the fuselage halves, I checked the fit of the other subcomponents. I found the fuselage width at the cockpit opening to be slightly wider than the closed canopy part, F2. I couldn't fix this after assembly, so I used the open canopy parts. Also, the fuselage alignment pins will create a small lateral misalignment you'll notice when you attach the cowling assembly. I suggest cutting off the pins for better alignment.
I found the radio-rack instructions confusing and inaccurate. I sorted them out by consulting an Accurate Miniatures A-36 instruction sheet. Essentially, parts D14/D4 are installed behind the scanning windows, not over parts D15/13 as in the Hobbycraft instructions.
The wings went together without a problem but need some remediation. The dive brake slots were not evenly molded in my kit. I spent some time cleaning them up and making the slot openings uniform. The wing gun ports are roughly molded and improperly shaped. I cleaned them up with sanding and filing. (If I build this kit again, I will fill the openings, drill new holes, and line them with plastic tubing.)
Lastly, the Hobbycraft kit suffers the same problem of every plastic Mustang kit. The wheel wells are not deep enough as they follow the outline of the opening. They should be open back to the wing spar.
The wing-to-fuselage fit was very tight. I needed to file and sand the fuselage wing root around the landing flap for a good fit.
The wing landing-light cover is large and clear, exposing a void behind it. I cut two sections from the clear sprue runner, polished the ends, and installed them to simulate lights behind the covers.
I assembled the wheel-well doors (parts E1/2) in the up position, consistent with photo references. This helped disguise a fault with the doors, which are molded with the representation of a reinforcing plate mostly seen on later Mustangs.
I painted my A-36A with Hobby Color World War II USAAF colors. Decals are provided for three U.S. and two Royal Air Force aircraft. They applied well on a gloss undercoat with some decal solution. Note: If you are using the shark mouth scheme as I did, the shark mouth decal will not apply properly without modification. I needed to take a 1/8" section out of the middle. (I found this out the hard way during application!)
My main reference was Squadron/Signal's Allison Engined Mustangs Walk Around Number 13. Also very useful was Eagle Edition's 86th Fighter Group in WWII. It has some very good photos of Priscilla/Mavonne. (I also learned that the right-side nose gun had a blast tube attached to it.)
I completed my A-36A in 18 hours. The kit builds into a nice replica, but it does need special attention to its weak areas. I would not hesitate to build another, and I'm happy to finally have an early Mustang available in 1/32 scale.
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