The aircraft featured an air scoop under the engine while the carburetor scoops were mounted at top. In an interesting design feature, a long shaft was developed to properly reach and drive the propeller system. The resulting aircraft proved to be faster than the P-36A but it also faced cooling issues for the engine, serious vibration problems inherent in the propeller shaft system and the XP-42 would never prove faster than the P-40. As a result, the XP-42 gave way to the P-40 Warhawk series of aircraft, which would nab the available Army production orders and become one of America's classic warfighters of its time.
Only a single P-36A was modified as an XP-42. The system was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial series engine generating an impressive 1,050 horsepower. The system was crewed by one personnel and the entire project was officially ended by 1947, to which the aircraft was scrapped for parts.
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