by Floyd Werner, Jr.
Do you remember growing up and
seeing John Wayne in "The Flying Tigers"? I do. I
remember a cheesy movie with airplanes with shark mouths. Ever
since then I remember the P-40 as being THE airplane of World
War II. I know you were thinking 109s, but even that great airplane
is pale in the eyes of an eight year old. When you're young,
shark teeth are cool. Come to think of it shark teeth are cool.
It was cool enough to put on my Cobra in Desert Storm. The P-40B,
in particular the Flying Tigers, was the things of my youth.
I've always wanted to build one that looked like what my mind's
eye saw. Feeling that my skills had advanced enough to tackle
the job I just needed a good kit.
I've been waiting for years
for a modern tooled accurate P-40B/C. For years the Monogram
kit was the only thing available, but I didn't like the raised
panel lines or the basic nature of the kit. I did go as far
as to partially scribe a Monogram kit. There was a glimmer of
hope when Hobbycraft released their P-40, I liked the inaccurate
recessed panel lines but the shallow lower wing bulge and the
wrong wing angle of incidence made it a disappointment for me.
In my opinion, the Monogram kit was still the kit to have. When
Trumpeter announced that they would be releasing a new tooled
P-40B I was ecstatic. I even stated that I would drop whatever
I was in the middle of and start this kit. Heck I was so sure
that it would be nice that I ordered two to build. Soon after
that the Internet chatter started. The pundits complained bitterly
that it has rivets all over the place, the radio access panel
and panel under the tail are raised, the prop is in a course
pitch, the cockpit is too shallow, the horizontal tail is too
small, the fabric surfaces were overdone, the kit was a step
backwards and may not even be buildable let alone presentable.
Well I'm not one to shy away from controversy, so when my kits
arrived at the Region II Convention, I just happen to be finished
with a kit. I promptly looked the kit over and fell in love.
True the cockpit is way too shallow and the seat is funny looking,
but armed with the Cutting Edge cockpit (designed for the Hobbycraft
kit) I was ready to go hunting sharks.
I don't like to start a project
without knowing what the end result is supposed to be. So the
first step was deciding which markings I wanted. This proved
to be difficult as there are a lot of neat P-40Bs. Initially
I was going to do an AVG and a desert air force bird, but the
more research I did the more I thought I would do two AVG birds.
I always wanted one with a Flying Tiger emblem and it had to
have the Hell's Angel emblem. I settled on Chuck Older's 68.
I know, I know
.Every modeler that ever modeled the P-40B
built this aircraft, but I didn't have one in my collection.
The other bird would be from another squadron, but which one.
My friend, Rafe Morrissey has always liked Pappy Boyington and
as I'm a big fan of Rafe's work and Pappy Boyington (Remember
"Baa Baa Black Sheep"?). I thought Pappy's bird would
be a neat addition as we plan on a group build with Pappy's
Corsairs. Besides I hadn't seen Pappy's P-40 done. So armed
with photos, decals and kits it was off to the work bench.
The cover art for the Trumpeter
kit is a pretty rendition of a desert air force Tomahawk with
an almost invisible pilot on the cover. Upon opening the kit,
you have two large light grey plastic sprues that have a noticeable
mold release agent on them making them feel greasy. A small
fret of photo etch is included with a gun sight, oil cooler
and some rectangular pieces. A sprue of clear plastic, which
is noticeably thin, is also included. The decal sheet has markings
for two aircraft, the desert air force and a boring US Army
Olive Drab over Neutral Grey prewar paint scheme. The decals
are nice but there was nothing on it that I was going to use.
The instructions were printed on eight big and very useful pages.
Heck the pictures are almost 1:1 scale. First step: WASH THE
MODEL IN WARM SOAPY WATER! There is a noticeable film of mold
release that you will definitely want to get rid of.
The Cutting Edge Cockpit-
Construction starts in the cockpit,
especially since I was going to have to modify the Cutting Edge
set for the new kit. The Cutting Edge set is a gem with great
detail everywhere. The difference in the kit cockpit size and
the Cutting Edge set is readily apparent, especially in the
I thought the whole process
was going to be painful, but thankfully it was relatively easy.
The side walls, front panel, floor and seat require no modification.
Only the rear and front bulkheads require modification. The
back of the cockpit area is unique on the Trumpeter kit in that
it includes the area behind the glass. What I ended up doing
was cutting the top of the kit aft bulkhead off and mating this
with the Cutting Edge lower part. This was easy but if I had
to do it again I might leave the kit part or modify it slightly
at the bottom to fit the Cutting Edge set. Any of the three
ways will produce a good result. The fit of the aftermarket
set was fabulous. The front bulkhead had to be sanded slightly
to fit but not a lot. Don't forget to offset the stick for the
dropped elevators and ailerons. One thing that will become apparent
is that the upper guns will interfere with the cockpit set so
you have to decide whether you want to keep them, modify them
or replace them. I eventually replaced them with tubing as they
are not visible.
With the cockpit built up I
painted the interior Gunze Sanyo Interior Green and Model Master
Interior black. My research showed that the cockpit areas were
painted an interior green and other areas not in the cockpit
were Yellow Zinc Chromate. The cockpit was washed with Burnt
umber artist oils and dry brushed with Tamiya Yellow Green XF-4.
Some silver pencil and some acrylic colors and the cockpit was
ready to go into the fuselage. The whole process with both cockpits
took less than two hours. The cockpit was superglued in place
and it was time to bring the fuselage halves together.
Before joining the halves paint
the interior of the tail wheel area with Tamiya Yellow Green.
Fuselage fit was exceptional. I always fill all of my seams
whether they need it or not with superglue and accelerator and
this time was no different. It is important that you do not
cement the back decking to the top of the fuselage. This area
is fine with the little gap that exists. It is suppose to be
Don't forget to add the tail wheel strut which I painted Floquil
Old Silver. I left the tire off until later. If you follow the
instructions you can assemble the exhausts. I praise Trumpeter
here. The exhausts are split in half and when put together there
is a seam as there should be but more importantly the opening
is open. Very nice touch. I painted my exhausts with Model Master
Burnt Metal and highlighted with pastels to get the discoloration
I was after. I added my exhausts after the camo painting.
Now you have to add the front
two parts of the fuselage. Another very nice touch as the panels
are cut on the panel line. It is just a matter of gluing in
place. If you elect to keep the guns you have to put them in
at this time. To save time you only have to clean up the tips
of the guns as this is all that would be seen.
The Wings and Tail Assembly
The tail unit is really neat
in that the horizontal stabilizer is a two piece affair as is
the elevator. This is nice because Trumpeter has molded in the
ability to lower the elevator. I recommend that you leave the
elevator off at this time to facilitate attaching the horizontal
stabilizer. My right one required a bead of Mr Surfacer 1000
to fill a small gap. With both sides built, I moved onto the
The first problem I encountered
was some mold release marks in the flap area of the wing and
the flaps themselves. They were easily filled with putty and
sanded smooth. Once that was done the wings were started. You
start with the wheel well area. This is a nice affair with the
wheel well built up from four parts. As you are gluing make
sure the side that faces the outside is aligned with the opening
as it is possible to have the parts off center and this will
create a problem. A quick coat of Tamiya Yellow Green and a
quick wash and it was off to the guns. The wing guns have to
be installed now as there is no way to attach them later. Thinking
back on it, I might have sliced the barrels off of the breaches.
Then attach the breaches in the wings. Adding the gun barrels
later, after cleanup and painting. This way you do not have
to worry about the gun barrels. As it was I did not have a problem
with the gun barrels and fortunately they did not break or bend.
The wings are glued up and again no fit problems anywhere.
Once this is done, you have
to add the first pieces of photo etch. The two rectangular pieces
fit over a piece that forms a part of the flaps and this is
attached to the lower wing. I did notice that the detail on
the lowered flap was a little light and inconsistent. I sanded
the molded detail off, except for the fore-aft bumps, and added
lengths of stretched sprue to replace the detail I sanded off.
The fix looked better than new. A coat of Tamiya Yellow Green
in the flap area added some nice color. I thought I would like
to do a flap up to see if it could be done. All you have to
do is bend the little mounting tab and glue the flap in place.
It is now time to join everything
together. The wing to fuselage fit was nearly perfect. A small
bead of Mr Surfacer and the wings to fuselage was done. Adding
the oil cooler intake is next but before you do that a HINT:
Add a blanking plate to the back of the oil cooler panel to
prevent see through. It is easier to do it now as opposed to
when I did it after the kit was together and I discovered the
see through. So the construction should go photo-etch oil cooler
and blanking plate behind it. The coolers were painted Model
Master Magnesium and the blanking plate flat black. The oil
cooler exhaust flap are molded closed and is added next. I would
have preferred these flaps to be opened but that would have
required some kind of detail in the engine area. It doesn't
look bad but it could have been even nicer. Aftermarket guys
are you listening?
The ailerons are like the elevators
in that they are two pieces each. The mounting tabs would have
you attached with both ailerons down. This is incorrect. You
must either align them with the wings or do like I did and slightly
bend the one set of mounting lugs. It sounds bad but it really
was a non-issue.
Flying Tiger P-40s were originally ordered by the British so
the offset pitot tube was different than the one provided in
the kit. Funny but the desert air force should have had this
tube as well. I thought of raiding my old Monogram kit but that
pitot tube is very big and out of round. Building the British
one was a simple scratch building exercise of two pieces of
tubing and a .010x .030 styrene strip. Add super glue and attach
to the wing. You will have to fill a little bit because the
original hole in the wing is oval shaped and the tubing is round,
The wings are finished off with
the bulges added to the leading edge of the wing. Fit here was
good with just a hint of putty. I think this had more to do
with my technique than the fit of the part.
The wheels, landing gear can
be built up any time. The wheels have been criticized for being
too complicated, but when built up they look great. Each wheel
is a five piece affair. Pay attention to the sequence and you
won't have a problem. Remember the back part of the tire has
three pieces and the front two. I added some brake lines to
the gear from wire.
The much maligned propeller
was a simple to clean up and the mounting of it was very easy
and quite convincing, much better than the Monogram or Hobbycraft.
Yes I thought of putting those props on, but the course pitch
is not a big issue on the finished kit.
Build up the five piece rudder
and attach to the model. I could not think of a way to offset
the rudder because of the limitations of the cockpit set and
the control horn at the top of the rudder. My rudder is inline
with the fuselage and it looks great.
Another bath and it was time
The models were primed with
a spray can of Tamiya white primer (Fine). Once everything was
cleaned up which delightfully wasn't much. I did have to put
some rivets back on. This was easily done with a #80 drill bit
which was just twisted once or twice. They looked just like
the kit provided rivets.
It was time to preshade the
model. I used Model Master RLM 66 because I needed to paint
something German on another model. I then had the hardest decision
to make. What was the underside color? There is compelling data
that states the bottom color should be a sky color and still
others that contested it should be a light grey. I finally decided
not to decide. I used a color that was unique in its properties
and went with it. I did not look back and I'm very happy with
the results: Tamiya Deck Tan (XF-55). This color is not quite
sky but is a very warm color. When it was dried I oversprayed
the bottom with a very thinned coat of Model Master Light Grey.
I liked the results. It depends on the lighting as to which
color is predominant. Once that was done it was time to mask
it off and paint the upper surfaces. Just like the bottom there
is a lot of discussion on the top colors, what were the Dupont
equivalent colors to the RAF stock? Again I made a decision
and selected Model Master Enamel Dark Earth (ANA 617) (Stock
# 2054). It looked great but it needed something else. I added
a lot of yellow and white to tone it down and give it a weathered
look. Once I was satisfied with what I had it was time to mask
Cutting Edge Black Magic
P-40 Camouflage Masks CEBM48556
These masks are very easy to
use but make sure you follow the instructions and remove a large
amount to the stickiness by using your hands. Put them in your
hand and peal them off a few times. Every piece has a special
alignment point, it may be the wing root or the trailing edge
of the elevator. If you are careful they fit perfectly. If not
the remaining sheet can work as a mask cutter for the opposite
color. For touch ups I use Tamiya Tape and cut it out. Place
it over the darker color and touch up. These masks are great.
The one thing that painting a camouflage scheme, especially
one as intricate as the British P-40 pattern, is the time it
takes to get everything cut and then there comes the inevitable
touch up. That whole process could take hours but the Black
Magic makes it easy, quick and, more importantly, accurate.
Once the masks are in place, I painted the Dupont Dark Green
with Gunze Sangyo Aqueous (H73) Dark Green. This was lightened
up with white and resprayed. I did this a few times to get the
wear and the splotchy colors I was after. "68" had
a darker area on the nose so a few drops of black and I touched
up this area. Boyington's "21" had a repainted area
under the cockpit and on the tail that I painted with straight
color after applying additional masks to replicate the pattern.
These are not included as they are non-standard, but are easily
fabricated with the extra Black Magic. Once everything was in
order it was time to remove the masks. Of course there were
some touch up required but again the whole process was expedited
with the masks. The tail bands were masked with Tamiya tape
and sprayed the correct colors. A coat from a can of Tamiya
Clear and the models were ready for the decals.
About this time I noticed that
the two aircraft I wanted to model were on the rear cover of
the Eagle Editions book on the AVG so I had large drawings to
work with. The actual aircraft numbers and shark mouths were
from two different sheets. "68" came from the Aeromaster
sheet (SP 48-07) on the AVG that I bought years ago. "21"
was from the 1st Pursuit Squadron sheet (EC#30) from Eagle Editions.
At this stage in modeling most decals react well with setting
solutions and all the decals that I used were no exception.
I used the Chinese Nationalist emblem on the top of the wings
from the Cutting Edge P-40 sheet (CED48117) which looked like
they had the correct amount of fading that I was after and the
lower emblems were from the EagleCal sheet. The Aeromaster sheet
has very large national emblems, check your aircraft.
aircraft, which may be the most photographed AVG P-40, is only
available on the Aeromaster sheet as far as I know. I used the
shark mouth from the sheet because it had a slightly different
mouth interior. It fit well but was a little small. It worked
but I had to cut the decal to form it around the oil cooler
intake. It isn't perfect as far as teeth lining up but it is
very convincing and I'm happy with the results. This sheet was
designed for the Monogram kit so that may explain the smaller
size. If you were to ask me can you use this sheet, I would
say you bet but be careful. If the shark mouth didn't have a
colored interior then I don't see any problems. Prior to applying
the actual flying tiger decal I brush painted some Tamiya Smoke
where the decal would go. Because it is a gloss color it isn't
a problem. Remember the flying tigers were actually lacquered
onto the airframe and when they tore off they were replaced
with a brand new one. I did not like the flying tiger from the
Aeromaster sheet as I thought it was too yellow and ended up
using the emblem from the Cutting Edge sheet which is more orange.
The serial number is from the EagleCal sheet. I cobbled it together
from various aircraft. The Aeromaster numbers were too big and
too bold, not to mention the wrong font.
is available on the EagleCal sheet. The shark mouth is open
so I did not have the problem I did with the Aeromaster teeth.
The color of the 21 is open to speculation, it may have been
gray, or faded white. EagleCal gives you both. I chose the grey
and I liked the results a lot. For some reason EagleCal has
the wrong tail number on the decal sheet. In Tom Tullis' book
the serial number is clearly seen and reproduced. Judy Crandall
stated that it was just overlooked and will be corrected if
they reproduce the sheets. As it stands you can make the correct
number from the aircraft on the sheet.
Needless to say the shark mouths
either made or broke these kits. I think they made the models.
A coat of Tamiya clear and a subsequent coat of Model Master
Flat Clear and the aircraft was ready for weathering.
The initial step was a heavily
thinned and light coat of Tamiya Buff over the entire model
but only straight down so that the spine and the wing tips received
the lightening treatment, artificial sunlight bleaching. Next
came chipping the paint with a silver pencil and a worn out
brush with Model Master Aluminum. I thought I had over done
it, but that proved to be wrong after the flat coats. Following
the chipping, a wash of Burnt Umber artist oils was applied
to the panel lines and yes even the rivets. Guess what? The
rivets really added to the look of the model. If they weren't
there the model would still look nice but I did like the rivets.
I wouldn't go out of my way to put them all over a model but
if they were there no big deal. Flying Tigers operated out of
muddy strips so I dabbed a little Floquil mud on the sidewalls
and then airbrushed mud stains on the wheels and airframe. Next
I used pastels on the exhausts and gun tubes. Everything was
sealed with another coat of flat clear. The final bit of weathering
was the fuel spill on the side of 68. It is quite noticeable
on the photos. I scraped some white and light grey pastels into
a cup and mixed in some water. Using a broad brush I "flowed"
the streaks down the side. I was very happy with the results.
This wasn't sealed for fear of loosing the effect.
Finishing the little things
Masking the canopy is no big
problem, except the clear parts are thin and VERY fragile. You
can not slice them off and sawing them will be tricky. I use
a heated blade and still managed to fracture an armored glass
panel. While masking I even cracked a rear window. Thankfully
a friend came to my rescue and I was able to replace them. Cutting
Edge has a set of masks available now that should work well.
I used Tamiya tape to mask mine. They turned out fine except
that I have an issue with the way the armored glass is attached.
When viewed from the front after painting the panel looks fine
but from the side there is a noticeable difference in the refraction
of light. I know of no way to prevent this other than not painting
the support structure on the inside.
The prop was painted with Model
Master RLM04 and Flat Black. However, on doing my research not
all of the tiger's airplanes had yellow tips. 68 happens to
be one of them. There is a color photo of the airplane in the
background with the pilots seated off to the side and it is
apparent that the yellow is not there and it wasn't worn off.
I couldn't tell on Boyington's so I add it.
Don't forget the hypodermic
needle gun barrels over the engine and painting the position
Now it becomes apparent why
you don't glue the interior to the top of the fuselage. The
rear windows fit very nicely in the opening. I used some Tamiya
tape with most of the tackiness removed on the aft side of the
rear windows to hold it even with the fuselage. Then using a
thin paint brush, take some Future and let capillary action
seal the windows. The front canopy and the sliding section were
attached with Elmer's White Glue. The photo-etch gun sight and
bead sight are added in front of the cockpit. Add the little
painted clear blue lenses under the cockpit opening and the
antennas and you're done.
Many people ask about the figures
in my dioramas so I'll include a section on them. The pilot
with the glasses is a Verlinden figure from the USAAF pilot
set. Assembly was very easy and the finished result is great.
I realy love Verlinden's figures. The pilot with his hands in
his pockets and the pilot walking are from Warrior (now Wingz)
Flying Tigers pilot set. There is no assembly required, just
some cleanup. They are nice but a little on the fat side. I
would have liked more definition in the face but they painted
up nicely. The figure pointing is from the Monogram kits of
the 1970s, B-17 and/or B-26. The mechanic on his knees is from
an unknown source, but it may be Renwal. That figure was supplied
by Rafe Morrissey.
The leather jackets were painted
semi-gloss black and then highlighted with Burnt Sienna artist
oils. The lighter colored jacket was painted Model Master Acrylic
Leather and then shadowed with Burnt Umber. Both resulted in
very realistic jackets. The pants and coveralls were painted
with Tamiya Buff and detail painted with a little Burnt Umber
mixed with the Tamiya.
I think my wait was justified
and I absolutely love the end results. These models look exactly
like the vision in my mind's eye. The fit of the kit was very
good, much better than I expected. The cockpit has to be replaced.
Cutting Edge announced a new cockpit designed for this kit so
that should address the few problems I had, but the older one
can be used with some work. The few sink holes and the light
flap details were easily fixed and if you elect to have them
up then they are a non issue. I thought the rivets were nice
and once painted over are really hardly noticeable as was the
fabric control surfaces. In fact, I went back in to try to get
the control surface detail highlighted. As for the raised radio
panel and the panel under the tail, you could sand and rescribe
them but they don't look too bad left alone. I agree Trumpeter
should have made them just as scribed panels, but they don't
detract from the end product. Let's face it boys and girls this
model is very buildable and looks great. I totally enjoyed these
models. The Trumpeter kit is the best available P-40B/C kit
on the market. Let's face it, even the Monogram and the Hobbycraft
kits have to have the cockpits replaced. The detail is nicely
done and the panel lines look correct to me. Definitely more
correct than the other two kits. This kit has lots going for
it, positionable control surfaces and great detail with little
work. I will be buying another one for a 2nd Squadron aircraft,
maybe a desert air force and a Pearl Harbor defender. Oh hell,
you get the idea, I loved this kit.
As for the aftermarket
stuff, the Cutting Edge cockpit is great and can be modified
to fit the kit. I will use the set designed for the Trumpeter
kit next time. The Black Magic Masks are essential as far as
I'm concerned. They are beautiful and simplify the painting
process immensely. All the decals that I used were fabulous.
The EagleCals were very nice and with the accompanying book,
sold separately, are some of the best decals for the Flying
Tigers. Remember the tail number on Boyington's plane though.
The old Aeromaster special sheet was very nice and the book
that came with it offers lots of tips, if you can still find
it. The Cutting Edge decals were beautiful.
Buy this kit and
build it. It builds up quickly and looks great. Don't let the
naysayers on the internet tell you it can't be built or that
it doesn't look right here or there. Here are my two examples
and they look every bit of like the P-40B. I'm about as happy
as I can be with them. But if you take anything from this article-Remember:
"MODELING IS FUN!"
Cutting Edge P-40 Super detailed
Black Magic Camouflage masks-CEBM48556-Highly Recommended
Aeromaster decals-American Volunteer Group SP48-07-Highly Recommended
EagleCal decals-EC#30-Highly Recommended
Cutting Edge decals-P-40s-CED48117-Highly Recommended
American Volunteer Group Colours
and Markings: Osprey Aircraft of the Aces-41, Terrill Clements,
Osprey Publishing, 2001, ISBN 1-84176-224-5
Tigers Over China: The Aircraft
of the A.V.G.- EagleFiles #4, Thomas Tullis, Eagle Editions,
2001, ISBN 0-9660706-7-4
P-40 Warhawk- Detail and Scale
Vol. 61, Bert Kinzey, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1999, ISBN
Warbirds-American Legends of
World War II, Jeffrey Ethell, Lowe & B. Hould Publishers,
2003, ISBN 0-681-19898-2 (Reprint of P-38 in color, P-40 in
color and P-51 in color combined into one book)
Walk Around P-40 Warhawk- Walk
Around Number 8, Lou Drendel, Squadron/Signal Publications,
1996, ISBN 0-89747-361-2
The Pictorial History of the
Flying Tigers, Larry M. Pistole, Publisher's Press, 1981, No
P-40 Warhawk-Wrath of the Warhawk,
Flight Journal Special Issue, Summer 2004
With Chennault in China-A Flying
Tiger's Diary, Robert M. Smith, Schiffer Publishing, 1997, ISBN
Flying Tiger: A Crew Chief's
Story, Frank S. Losonsky & Terry M. Losonsky, Schiffer Publishing,
Werner, Jr. 2004