When I started driving, I noticed that my parents always had insurance with a particular agent with the State Farm Insurance Company. So it was natural that when I insured my first automobile, I went to that same agent. The first time that I was in his office, I noticed photographs of a very distinctive aircraft. When I asked him about it, he told me that he had flown the P-400 in the Solomon's Campaign. For those that do not recognize the designation of this fighter, the P-400 was the export version of the P-39 Airacobra. The P-39 was one of the first examples of an airframe built around a weapon system. Just as the A-10 Warthog was built around a 30mm Gatling Gun, so to was the P-39 built around a large cannon.

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In 1935 the Bell designers saw a demonstration of the 37mm Oldsmobile cannon. Overwhelmed by the power of the weapons system, they designed an airframe to carry the system. Powered by the same Allison inline engine as the P-38, the USAAC immediately screwed up the aircraft by deleting the supercharger carried by the P-38 engines. As a result the Airacobra "Iron Dog" had no performance at altitude. The design had a tricycle landing gear, which allowed unobstructed forward vision. However, this arrangement and the large Oldsmobile cannon firing through the propeller centerline came at a price. The engine was mounted behind the pilot with the propeller shaft running between the pilotís legs. This feature alone made pilots think twice about the design. The P-39D replaced the 37mm gun with a 20mm cannon and 675 were sold to the RAF. The British saw the lack of performance and sent 250 to Russia and palmed off another back to the US, where it was designated the P-400. The Russians loved the aircraft, as it made an outstanding "tank buster" and the Russian pilots were very efficient in the use of the aircraft in the ground attack role on the Eastern Front.

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In the Solomons the Japanese did not have many tanks but they did have armored barges, which shuttled troops at night from island to island. One of the primary tasks of USN PT boats in the campaign was to attack those armored barges. However, the barges were too small with too shallow of a draft for torpedoes and the .50 machine guns had a hard time of stopping them. What was needed was a cannon with armor piercing capabilities that could be mounted on a PT boat. Why not use the Oldsmobile 37mm cannon from the P-39? This field modification worked and PTs equipped with the aircraft cannon were truly capable vessels in their barge buster mission, the naval equivalent of the Soviet P-39s tank destroyer mission.

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Now, thanks to White Ensign Models you can tart up your venerable Revell 1:72 scale PT boats to demolish those troop barges. WEM has produced a white metal and brass model of the naval version of the Oldsmobile 37mm cannon. Actually, there are two versions of the gun mount included. One has a solid conical base mount and the other is mounted on a tripod. As usual all parts, white metal and brass are outstanding. With brass ammunition belts curving around the cannon, your barge busting PT will certainly have a muscle car look.

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This is not your fatherís Oldsmobile, unless he flew a P-39 or had conned a muscled-up PT up the slot. With the White Ensign Models 1:72 scale Oldsmobile 37mm cannon, your Revell PT boat can now be an iron sea dog and go barge hunting with confidence and panache.

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