Seversky P-35

in 1:33 scale
from Modelik

by William H. Geoghegan

Model photographs by the author




Click on a thumbnail for a larger image

P-35 Picture 3   P-35 Picture 1   P-35 Picture 2   P-35 Picture 4

Model: Seversky P-35
Kit: Modelik 5/98
Scale: 1/33
Price: US$ 5.95 plus S&H from PMI
Difficulty: Medium (3 out of 5)
Number of parts:  Approximately 120
Instructions: Poor. Only a quarter page (half of one column) in Polish
Diagrams: Fair. Drawings were sometimes inaccurate: e.g., the fuselage tail cone (part #7) was not shown on any drawing. A photo or two of the completed model would help.
Fit: Good
Coloring: Very good.
Resources: A series of excellent closeup photos of the sole surviving P-35 (a P-35A variant sold to Sweden before the War), housed in the Swedish Air Force Museum at Linköping, can be found on the IPMS Stockholm Web site at: http://ipmsstockholm.org/magazine/1998/04/stuff_eng_detail_p35.htm. There are also some excellent photos, specs and background information on the US Air Force Museum site at http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/research/p35.htm. Rick Kent's Fauconberg Aerographics profile site has a drawing of a P-35A that shows the antenna rigging detail to advantage. Unfortunately, at the time of this update his Web site was not accessible at any of the addresses I could find in my records or through online search.


Background:

The Seversky P-35 was the USAAC's first all-metal fighter with an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear. Introduced in 1937, it was a direct ancestor of the Republic P-47, whose evolution can easily be seen by comparing the P-35, XP-41, P-43, and P-47 (photos available on the USAF Museum site). The company was renamed "Republic Aviation" when Seversky left in 1939. The USAAC ordered 76 of the original P-35's, all but one of which were assigned to the 1st Pursuit Group in Selfidge, Michigan. The Modelik P-35 is based on one of these. The Japanese Navy received 20 P-35's in a two-seat version in 1938; and as a consequence the P-35 enjoyed the dubious distinction of being the only American built warplane to see operational service with the Japanese during World War II. A slightly improved version (designated P-35A by the Army) was provided to Sweden just before the War. An initial shipment of 60 was delivered, one of which now survives in near mint condition in the Swedish Air Force museum. A second shipment of 60 was embargoed and seized by the U.S. in 1940. Most of these were sent to the Philippines, where all were lost in action early in the Pacific war.

The Modelik kit:

Modelik's P-35 is printed on good quality card stock, using a semi-metallic ink for the unpainted metal surfaces. This ink is almost impossible to reproduce with any standard model paints, and attempts to fix anything but very small blemishes will be obvious. The sheet of bulkheads, formers, etc., needs to be backed with cardboard or cardstock to a thickness of 1 mm. I used several layers of thick posterboard, which worked adequately. There are lots of parts whose unprinted sides will show in the finished model, and these need to be colored before assembly. This is especially true if you choose to use a transparent or open cockpit. The inside surfaces of the cowling should be colored a dirty black (dark grey); inside surfaces of the cockpit framing need to be given a zinc chromate coloring; the deck aft of the pilot's seat also needs coloring (it's white, as printed, instead of zinc chromate); and all landing gear housings and fairings need to be colored where visible. I used Testor's zinc chromate for small sections. For the large area of white behind the pilot's seat, I used Paint Shop Pro to print a large zinc chromate rectangle. I cut pieces of this to be used as needed. This gives a smoother finish than one can get by using model paints on large paper surfaces.

Fuselage:

The kit uses the butt-joined cylinder method of construction. Fit is generally good, but it is important to dryfit and adjust everything before gluing. Adjoining bulkheads have to be matched for shape, and adjusted to make sure the covering skins fit perfectly. Mistakes can cascade, so each section has to be made in conjunction with its neighbor to avoid problems. Note: the tail cone (part #7) is shown on none of the drawings; it should be formed and glued to the aft end of cylinder #6. 3M removable "Scotch" tape was a godsend for dryfitting.

Cockpit assembly is straightforward, though the pilot's seat is a little too high and needs to be shortened slightly. I used brass wire and paper to make the control stick. I took scrap pieces from the backed (1 mm) sheet and made a cushion and headrest (painted brown) to glue on the seat. I did not install the canopy until much later in construction, when less handling of the fuselage would be needed. There's a good cockpit interior photo on the USAF Museum site.

Assembly of the gun ports on the cowling is incorrect in the instructions, which show the shape of the cowl opening reversed from what is actually printed on the model. I took two pieces of stock, painted aluminum and formed into half cylinders, and glued them into place below the gun cutouts on the inside of cylinder 1. Don't try the arrangement shown in the drawings. It won't work.

Empennage:

Empennage assembly was straightforward. Just like the main wings, the stabilizer and rudder each have trailing edge formers cut from 1 mm reinforced stock. I sanded these down along the trailing edge and glued them into place with an offset of about .5 mm (this required some additional shaping of the former). This gave a better taper to the trailing edges, and it allowed me to smooth and round the printed skin around the tapered former and then glue it shut. This gives a much more finished look to the edge, especially where edge coloring is impractical (aluminum surfaces, red and white striping on the tail, etc.).

Wing:

The port and starboard wings are constructed of two parts each, with all dihedral in the outer portion. The outer wing section is formed around a single inboard rib, a tapered box with interior spar, and outer tip and trailing edge former. Positioning is not all that clear from the diagrams, so common sense (and lots of dry fitting) should be the guide. The rib seemed too short as drawn, and I had to use some extra material to make it fit more snugly with the skin. I treated the former and skin as described above.

The inboard section of the wing is a problem. The ribs are a little too small and need some build-up. But the biggest problem is a serious mismatch between the length of the wing roots where they join on the bottom and the space marked for them on the fuselage, which is about 1/4" to 3/8" (.8cm to 1cm) too long. I got it fitted after a while, but had to paint a large section of the underside of the fuselage to eliminate the white area exposed by the mismatch. The wing root fairings went into place without a problem, and helped to hide some of the other problems.

Be sure to put some styrofoam inside the forward compartment of the wing root section before gluing. It's shown in the drawings, but I didn't realize what was going on until I tried to assemble and install the landing gear, and found that I had nothing in the wing to stabilize and brace it. I ended up pumping a blob of tacky glue into the wing and hoping it would stabilize the end of the L.G. wire.

Landing gear:

Landing gear assembly is straightforward. I used .035" piano wire for the main struts, formed using the templates provided. The wire was almost completely covered by the strut cylinder, braces, and spats. Tires were built up to the width shown, sanded to an appropriate cross section and then painted with Floquil grimy black. I included small retaining discs to allow the wheels to turn. The hard work is in shaping and gluing the landing gear fairings. Lots of curves.... Be careful and use a burnishing tool (and a little paint) to smooth the seams.

Propeller assembly:

Taking a lesson from the PMI models, I cut the propeller blades apart, formed a slight airfoil into the front and back, rounded the bases to half cylinders, and glued them together. The result was a blade with an airfoil and a cylindrical base. I formed the pitch motor cylinders (#47, not shown in the instructions) and glued them to the blades. The prop hub was formed from three layers of 1 mm card (as shown in the instructions). Since I wanted a free-wheeling prop, I used a short length of .020" i.d. brass tube as a prop shaft, with a straight pin pushed through it and into the prop hub. The prop blades were mounted at 120 degree separation on the hub, and the entire assembly was glued into the cowling. Works beautifully.

The Canopy:

I decided to build the model with the canopy open and retracted. I thought it would look good, but it also happened that the movable canopy section was too short to join the windscreen and the aft ("razorback") section. For the glazing I used thin acetate left over from a PMI model, and tacked it at one or two stress points, leaving the natural resistance of the material to hold it in place. This works very well, since the pressure from the acetate is not enough to distort the canopy framing.

Miscellaneous:

Aerial rigging was determined from the USAF Museum photos and the Fauconberg drawing. "Wire" was .005" nylon thread painted gunmetal grey. Insulators were formed from small drops of tacky glue, painted white when dry. The effect is very realistic. I built my own pitot tube assembly, based on the Swedish and USAF museum photos.

Summary:

Despite the problems, this was a rewarding kit to build. The P-35 is a transitional stage between the elegant between-the-wars racers and the utilitarian fighters of WWII. It's a fighter with art deco class.... And with a little patience, and admiration for those who created these models without the benefit of a computer, it's a wonderful model to build.