1/72 Matchbox Fiat G-91Y (OOB)

The Fiat G-91 was the result of the 1953 competition for a new light weight strike fighter. Designed to be simple to operate from dispersed locations, the original, single-engined G-91 was ordered by the Italian and German air forces, as well as the Portuguese later on. It was a moderately successful design that bore a strong resemblance to the F-86D/K, although it was completely different.

The Italian Air Force, however, wanted to take the design further, and in 1966 flew the new G-91Y. This was a twin-engined development of the -91, and used J-85s instead of the single Orpheus of the earlier versions. It also carried two 30mm cannons, an improvement over the original armament of  four 12.7mm guns found on the “R”. The Italians were the only ones to operate this faster, better-armed version of the “Gina” and it saw quite long service, finally being replaced by the AMX in the early/mid 1990s.

Because the G-91 did not end up as the standard of European air arms as was intended, it isn’t that well known outside of the countries that operated it. As a result, there aren’t many kits of either the G-91R or G-91Y. In fact, until Meng announced its G-91R, there was only the Tamiya 1/100 and Italeri 1/48 and 1/72 kits of the “R” variant. Of course, the new Meng kit eclipses those releases handily!

However, there is one thing Meng’s new jewel can’t eclipse, and that is the even more scarcely kitted “Y”, which only was offered in 1/72 by Matchbox, of all companies!

The Box:

Typical of Matchbox airplanes, the G-91Y comes in a side-opening box that has a nice illustration on the front and colour painting instructions on the back. The art is typically Matchbox, in that it is very ‘gritty’. Sure, it looks dated, but very good nonetheless. There’s a certain visceral appeal to the way Matchbox did its box art, and the G-91Y is no exception. The sense of action and excitement is palpable, even if the kit itself may not always convey that. I also love the oh-so-Street Van “sunset” stripe of yellow, orange and red.  Very stylin’!

This is a slightly later release (early '80s) of the G-91Y kit that first hit the shelves in 1979.   The box art is nice, but the striping really gives the age away!

This is a slightly later release (early ’80s) of the G-91Y kit that first hit the shelves in 1979. The box art is nice, but the striping really gives the age away!

The Kit:

One of the big selling points of Matchbox kits was, of course, the fact that they came in multiple colours. Given that the G-91 is a small plane, it only comes in two colours; grey and green. Like all multi-coloured Matchbox kits, the colours are not good enough that you don’t have to paint the model, but if you were a kid, it would be better than nothing, I suppose.

It's not exactly cammo, but the kit does come in green and grey. This may add some visual excitement for new modellers, but really doesn't serve any other useful purpose.

It’s not exactly cammo, but the kit does come in green and grey. This may add some visual excitement for new modellers, but really doesn’t serve any other useful purpose.

The model itself does not come bagged in any way; the racks are loose in the box, as is the canopy. This is worrisome, since it allows the canopy to rattle around and theoretically get scratched. However, this doesn’t seem to have really happened, so I guess it’s not that big a deal.  The decals come inside the folded instructions, and have the mandatory piece of tissue on them. I never cease to be amazed at how well this works! I got this kit second hand, and from source that may not have used excessive care in storage, but the decals still look to be in pretty good shape. Like all Matchbox decals, I’m sure they’ll work well.

This is the decal sheet, with two options on it, including the shark's mouth carried by 32nd Stormo aircraft. Even though they're old, my bet is they'll work just dandy.

This is the decal sheet, with two options on it, including the shark’s mouth carried by 32nd Stormo aircraft. Even though they’re old, my bet is they’ll work just dandy.

Like my Matchbox Mirage III B, the G-91Y has a mix of raised and recessed panel lines. The raised lines are fairly fine, but the recessed ones are extremely large but shallow; they’re more like contours than actual lines. However, it makes them easy to re-etch, so it won’t take long to fix this up if you’ve got a scriber and some Dymo Tape.  Cockpit detail looks sparse, as expected, as is the detail in the wheel bays.

Still, the kit looks fine overall as far as dimensions go. I didn’t pull out the micrometer or anything, but there’s nothing that jumps out as being wrong. Also, there are some weapons (two bombs, two tanks, two rocket pods) for the kit, they’re not particularly detailed. Aftermarket weapons would definitely dress this kit up, but even with what you’re given, you can make your G-91Y a convincingly violent-looking aircraft.

The instructions are very simple, typical of Matchbox kits, and anyone will be able to follow them. There’s a tonne of opportunity for superdetailing on this kit, too, since there’s little detail anywhere inside the plane. You will have to watch for “hollow intake” syndrome on this one, too. Bust out the plastic card, or you’ll be looking at the airplanes hollow insides if you stare into the intake!

That doesn't look too hard, does it?  As with most Matchboxes, the instructions are clear and simple, pefect for little hands or a weekend build!

That doesn’t look too hard, does it? As with most Matchboxes, the instructions are clear and simple, pefect for little hands or a weekend build!

Conclusions:

Sure, Meng’s new G-91 kit is light years ahead of this old Matchbox; that’s a given. To compare the two is like trying to have a drag race between a 1975 Ford and a Ferrari F-40. However, the Matchbox is awesome for being a G-91Y, something the Meng can’t do, at least not without A LOT of work, so it’s not a fair comparison. Think about it; you can’t put the kids in the back of the F-40 and go on a roadtrip, either…

This kit is simple and that is both a good thing and a bad thing. It lacks internal details and needs rescribing to look good, but at the same time, it’s a pretty easy kit for a beginner or child to work on, and a great “parent/child”-type group activity. It’s a nice enough kit of a plane you can’t otherwise find a mainstream representation of, and it should fit pretty well, given what I’ve seen with Matchboxes.

I am ecstatic to have this in my collection, since it’s the only way to get a mainstream replica of this plane. Despite its age and deficiencies, I would definitely recommend this kit to anyone who is a fan of the slightly odd, or to those building up a collection of European aircraft. 

2 comments

  1. I have fond memories of this one from when I was a kid.

    Matchbox’s biggest sin with this kit is that they got the cockpit canopy horribly wrong. It’s very flat across the top in profile, not rounded as it should be. The shallow appearance that results is very visible.

    Sadly, the aftermarket has done nothing to fix this. You also can’t just drop a standard G.91 canopy on it as the G.91Y had no parts commonality with the G.91.

    1. I thought the canopy looked off when I was looking at it, so that explains it. It’s hard to see when it’s just parts, but yeah, you’re right; that’ll show BADLY when it is fully assembled.

      That having been said, though, when it comes to things like this (old kits and their inaccuracies), I just build what I’ve got the best I can. 🙂

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