I’d built this kit years ago, when it was under the Monogram label. I don’t recall much about it, but I do know I thought the teeth on the bird were the coolest, and it looked like what John Wayne flew in “Flying Tigers”.
So a few months back when I saw this kit in Walmart- with a price tag under $8, I figured “why not?” It can’t be that tough, right? Right?
When I dug into the kit, I saw imprinted on the interior of the wing “Copyright 1966”. This kit’s mold is older than I am. Wow. And it’s typical of kits from that period. Raised panel lines, huge rivet detail, minimal detailing- and as I was to find out, not the best fit.
As always, I started by building the cockpit. The detail in the kit was simple but plain. The shape of the seat was incorrect, and had a huge hole in it for a tab in the pilot’s back, and the cockpit lacked a back wall. The instrument panel was just wrong. The P-40B had the butts of it’s two nose mounted machine guns projecting into the pilots space- the IP provided in the kit looked more like that of a P-40E, which had no fuselage guns. And the cockpit floor was just flat- nothing to break up the monotony.
While I didn’t want to go overboard with trying to super detail the kit, I thought I could make some fairly simply scratch build parts to liven things up a bit.
I started off painting the interior, using a “pre-shading” technique I’d read in a magazine. I airbrushed the interior black, then went back over it with zinc chromate. The idea was to let some of the black shine through in the crevices and so forth, to give the sidewalls a bit of depth to their detail. When you apply the ZC green, you have to shoot it in layers from a slight angle. I think overall it turned out OK, the effect being more dramatic than these photos show. I do plan to use the same technique in future builds, to see if I can make improvements in the technique. I think with a little more patience in applying the ZC, it can really produce some sharp detailing after taking a few other steps like dry-brushing highlights and some additional sludge wash.
Next I started on scratch building some detail. First up was the instrument panel. I had some reference pics guiding me, and decided to simply cut out the areas that the gun butts should protrude from. I mounted a piece of styrene to the back of the IP, with a small gap between the two. Next up were two small “butts” with a button on the end. I finished it off with some scratch built rudder pedals, and called the IP done.
The seat needed work. In reference pics, I saw that the seat was rounded on the top, with a metal framework that attached to a backwall. The kit seat was squared, attached to the floor- and had a huge slot in the back for a tab on the pilots back. I started by correcting the seats shape, simply by sanding off the upper edges. I also cut of the molded in seat rails, as they were ligned along the seats sides. I then used some spare plastic to build a back wall, stretched some sprue and formed the seat rails, and glued the whole shebang on.
I finished the office by adding some heel skids under the rudder pedals, and a single strip of plastic on the floor to break up the monotony. I completed it all with some drybrushing of silver, then a wash of black acrylic. To try and simulate dirt from the pilots boots, I also dry brushed some brown on the skid plates.
I’m usually fairly critical of my work, but I gotta say that I was very happy with how the cockpit turned out. It’s not perfect, but for once I actually ended up exceeding my expectations. Unfortunately, as good as the cockpit turned out, the next few steps in the construction would take a turn for the worse.
Once I had the office finished, I glued the fuselage halves together. Then I glued the wings on. In testing fitting the wings, I saw there was a considerable gap between the wings and the fuselage. Still, I thought I could make it work. My mistakes started with how I glued the wings on.
Most kits are built assuming that you’ll glue the wing tops to the wing bottom, then glue the entire assembly on to the fuselage. Doing this often leaves a gap, but usually it’s small enough, and can be filled with gap filler. In the case of this bird, the gap was huge- almost 1/4″ on one side.
I had read how some modelers would glue the upper wings to the fuselage, then when that set, glue the lower wings on. And fit problems would be on the lower wing tips- much easier to correct than at the wing roots. Yet I drove on, using the traditional method.
Once the wings were in place, I filled the gaps with gap filler, and sprayed the undersides gray, and applied the first coat of camo, Dark Earth. I then started masking off the upper surfaces to apply the RAF Dark Green. That’s when the disaster struck.
My strategy for applying the camo was to lightly put a piece of blue masking tape in the area to be masked, then use a marker to draw off the camo pattern. I’d then remove the tape, cut it with an x-acto, and re-apply. Worked good on the wings, so I draped a piece of tape that stretched from one wing, across the fuselage to the other wing. I drew the pattern, and then started to pull the tape off.
I heard a loud POP! POP!
The join between the upper wing surfaces and the fuselage had completely snapped. The soft plastic of the lower wings could not hold it up, and the wings drooped at a sad angle.
My first thought was to put it away and just move on- I was frustrated. But I really wanted to see this kit through. I started strategizing on how to fix it.
I realized what I needed to do was add some plastic shims in the gaps to fill the space, and to make a strong join point for the wing and fuselage surfaces. After cutting some styrene to shape, I glued it along the fuselage, then went through a process of test fitting and sanding until the wings had something resembling the correct dihedral angle. I glued them on (with lots of glue) and filled the gaps. Once the filler dried, I re-sanded and got back to work.
The camo went on nicely, and for being the first masked camo I’ve done with an airbrush, I thought it wasn’t too bad. Next came a coat of Future, and then the decals. I used an EagleCal set to model Gregory Boyington’s AVG bird, #21. The colors were great, and they went on pretty well- but they were THICK. It took several coats of PollyS decal softener to get them to settle down, and there was still a place or two that didn’t quite “sit down” right.
After the decals, I used Tamiya Smoke and airbrushed on exhaust and gun stains. This stuff works great- I highly recommend it. I attempted to do some paint chipping, but I think in the end it looks like a fat, 40-ish guy with silver paint and a brush dabbed splotches on a plastic kit- not the effect I was going for. I finished off the kit with a coat of dull coat to flatten it all down.
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how the bird turned out. Given the problems I had with the wings, it’s a wonder it didn’t end up a mass of plastic on the floor after hitting the wall at incredible speed. Maybe in my old age I’m learning patience.
I can’t say I’d recommend this kit to someone not willing to spend extra time making it look good. It takes patience. If you’re an out of the box builder who isn’t to worried about things, it will build up nice without too much extra effort- just lots of gaps. For an experienced modeler, it can be a satisfying build if you like overcoming obstacles.
I guess the real value is the nostalgia factor. If you’re over 30, then this was probably the same kit you built as a kid. The trip down memory lane is worth it.