1/32 P-40 B/C Conversion (kit number 97002)
Text and photos Rogerio "Rato" Marczak
Actual aircraft photos by Scott Murphy
DO YOU WANT BUILD AN EARLY
Until some years
ago, there was no preserved early model of the P-40 in the world.
Now a few of them have emerged from several restoration projects.
The same thing happened to the P-40B/C Tomahawk in 1/32. Now
we have at least two choices, one of them is the subject of
Scratchbuilders has been recognized
for their good quality resin kits focusing on subjects that
will most likely never be released in injected form by a major
manufacturer. Contrary to their other offerings, which are complete
models, this one is a conversion to be used along with the venerable
Revell P-40E kit. Basically, the set provides a new fuselage
and nose designed to be matched with the Revell wings and tail.
Since the Revell P-40E is still around for less than 15.00 USD,
it won't be a problem.
The box art (Image: Scratchbuilders)
| OPENING THE BOX
The kit comes in
a sturdy box filled with peanut foams to avoid damage to the
parts (nice idea!) and they come in sealed bags. The conversion
consists of a hollow resin fuselage and nose, spinner, cooling
duct, armor plating, and instrument panel on which you glue
a printed instrument panel. White metal parts include the early
exhaust stacks, gun barrels and revised landing gear struts.
The clear parts are vacuum formed. Decals are by Scale-Master.
Here is the complete listing:
Instructions are in the form of a descriptive text guiding the
modeler through the major steps. Read it carefully before starting,
as this is the better way to know precisely which Revell parts
will be replaced. General directions about the position of some
pieces are also given, and they will help you fit them properly.
Scratchbuilders' instructions also include two pages of drawings.
The first shows assembly sketches to assist the modeler with
the cockpit, tail and the bullet proof glass inside the windscreen.
It also helps to position the new wing panel lines and the guns.
The other drawing is a decal placement instruction for one of
the versions provided with the kit (you have to use the box
top art as a guide for second decal version).
This is what you get once you open the box
The resin parts
are well molded, and virtually free of bubbles. The cream colored
resin is of a very soft type, allowing easy sanding/scribing/scrapping.
Scratchbuilders (I mean the company) did a good job on their
fuselage and nose molds, because the thickness of these parts
are very small considering the size of them. In my sample, a
couple of areas on the fuselage sides are translucent because
they are so thin. I suggest that you inspect your kit and reinforce
the inner side of these potentially dangerous areas with some
epoxy glue before starting. This will avoid the risk of cracking
them during handling. On the other side, the quality of the
metal parts is not that good. More on that later. Now, let's
take a close look at the parts.
The resin fuselage
is cleverly engineered, and fits relatively well to the Revell
wings. There are very few spots to sand or remove resin excess.
I found no visible bubbles on my sample, but after sanding/scrapping
the flash, some of them may appear (it happened to me). The
panel lines are recessed but not very consistent, and some of
them disappear in certain areas.
An area of major
concern is the joint between the resin fuselage and the Revell
wing root. You need to sand and test fit the parts several times
to achieve an acceptable gap and minimize filling/sanding, but
this is understandable in view of the curved root of Revell
wing. The curved fairing on the leading edge of the wing root
will need a lot of putty, but this is an easy area to sand using
a flexible sanding pad. Leave this job to be done after the
nose is installed because more putty will be necessary around
the nose joint too. The gap in the lower wing/fuselage joint
is wider though.
The Revell tail
must be cut off and attached to the new fuselage, this is not
beyond the skills of an average modeler.
Detail shot of the fuselage area - Front cockpit and wing
Detail shot of the fuselage area - Rear cockpit
Detail shot of the fuselage area - Inside cockpit area
Wing root to fuselage joint
As for the accuracy,
the lines of the P-40B/C rear fuselage are the same of the P-40D/E,
except for the cockpit area, and the shape/dimensions are very
well captured there (I've used the drawings from the Detail
& Scale book, by Bert Kinzey). The recessed areas of the
rear windows are also correct, but there is no representation
of the fuel filler caps. These are very noticeable on the actual
aircraft. The first aid/radio compartment door on the port side
is there, but you should consider deepening it a bit with a
gentle rescribing for good effect. Some panel lines are missing
and you can scribe them very easily provided you have good drawings.
One of the hardest part of this review was to find reliable
scale drawings for the subject...and I'll tell you, they are
Checking fuselage accuracy
The blue position
light just above the wing fairing is represented as a recessed
circle, although not all early P-40's had it - check references
for the bird you are going to model. The photo below shows the
AVG veteran Erik Shilling in the cockpit of a fully restored
P-40B adorned with his markings.
AVG veteran Erik shilling remembering old times
onboard a restored Curtiss H81-A2 (photo:unknown)
The nose is the
most easy recognition point of the P-40B/C. Scratchbuilders
made a good job on the nose moldings, too.
For some reason,
not all break lines coincide with the panel lines, but you can
take advantage of this by not worrying in preserving the grooves.
Just fill the joint completely and sand. All the fasteners are
well represented in a countersunk fashion.
Checking nose accuracy
The circular carburetor
air scoop even has a visible screen inside. The 0.50" machine
guns fairing are well done and all you will need is to install
the gun blast tubes made of plastic tubing a few scale inches
out. There is a very thin resin skin over the stacks opening.
Remove it and sand smooth to accept the exhaust stacks. Turning
the part upside down, we find a well molded chin scoop for the
engine coolant and oil cooler (another characteristic of early
P-40's). However, comparing it to drawings and photos, it seems
that the chin is excessively deep (consequence of the bottom
nose area being too flat). That is the only fault in shape I
noted. Scratchbuilders included an air duct to be installed
from the inside, replacing Revell's part #11. Stick with Scratchbuilders'
instructions during this step. The air duct encloses the oil
cooler opening but not the radiator cooler ones. I guess that
a thin curved plastic card can do the job. We included a picture
of the P-40C on loan to the National Museum of Naval Aviation
in Pensacola, FL (USA), showing the arrangement when viewed
from the front - see below.
The Revell engine is to be used
replacing the crankcase with the resin one. This is enough to
account for the visual differences between the Allison V1710-33
of the P-40B/C and the V1710-39 of the P-40D/E. No removable
access panels here so you may be wondering why to use the Revell
engine. I suspect that this is to eliminate the see-through
effect when looking from the engine air intake or cooling flaps.
Also, it helps to align the crankcase shaft onto which the propeller
will be inserted. The Revell engine is then aligned by the crankcase
and the exhaust collars, so it won't be loose inside the cowling.
Detail shot of the nose - Carburetor air
scoop and 0.50" MG fairing
Detail shot of the nose - Radiators chin scoop. Compare
to the photo below to see that the openings are too high
NMNA P-40C - Front view of the radiators chin scoop. Courtesy
In the detail, the arrangement of the coolers from the P-40N
under restoration at Week's Air Museum (photo:unknown)
Moving aft, we
have the major point of deception of the kit, in my opinion.
The engine cooling flaps. After the "Pilot's Flight Operating
Instructions" (see references) the pilot must open these shutters
during the landing, and no mention is made to close them after
the engine shutdown. That's why so many wartime photos show
them open. Our problem is that this is a huge opening... you
can see the radiators backside, lots of plumbing and even the
engine block from there, as shown in the NMNA P-40C photo below.
In short, the area is screaming for detail if you want so. Unfortunately
the Scratchbuilders representation of the cooling flaps is very
crude. I would recommend you to cut off the flaps from the nose
and scratchbuilt new ones. Any attempt will give better looking
results than the kit part. Another option is to use the Eduard's
detailing set for the Revell P-40E, which comes with photoetched
- Eduard Accessories
- Product #32017 P-40E Warhawk (for Revell kit).
A hint of the contents
of this set can be found at ARC's
instructions sheet library.
Detail shot of the nose - Radiator flaps
NMNA P-40C - Aft view of the radiators shutters. Courtesy of
The other parts
to be used here are the reshaped resin spinner and its back
plate. They will be installed along with the Revell propeller
later in the assembly. The white metal exhaust stacks are very
crude and most of you probably won't like it. The kit instructions
claim that you can use the later exhaust style which comes with
the Revell kit, but assert this with your references because
only the a few P-40C's used it.
Other parts for the nose area
The white metal early style exhaust stacks
Now that we are
talking about the propeller, it is worth it to note that many
early WWII American aircraft had the propellers painted in black
on the back face of the blades only. The front faces were generally
left in natural metal. Seems insignificant, but this will determine
the color of the propeller stencils to be applied. Most stateside
early P-40s used that scheme as a factory finish. The black
was not applied on the entire blade, but some inches from the
blade root outwards, as shown in many photos. On the other hand,
it doesn't seem to be the case of British Tomahawks and, in
addition, there was field repainting, propeller substitution
for newer parts etc. The USN photo below shows a typical P-40C
in factory standard, while the AVG picture illustrates many
interesting details found in a front line machine.
A factory fresh P-40C (photo: National Archives)
A Flying Tiger wartime photo showing many interesting details
The cockpit is
basically an adaptation of the Revell cockpit. For the detailers
this sounds like a too simplistic solution, because the cockpits
of B/C models had visible differences from the one of the E
model. A new resin bulkhead is provided to match the resin fuselage,
and the fit is good enough (clean it carefully). The characteristic
"inverted T" control panel is also given. You have to cut the
printed B&W control panel provided and glue it on the resin
part. This is a questionable approach for an open canopy. A
simple solution is to cut a thin plastic card using the resin
control panel as a guide and punch out the holes for the dials.
Paint this new front black and glue it on top of the printed
panel. There is no representation of the aft ends of the two
machine guns mounted in the cowling. Find something in your
spare parts box...
The major problems
of the cockpit are the Revell parts themselves, since the conversion
uses most of them, and they are very crude. The sidewalls, seat,
pedals, floor...everything is typical of a late 60's vintage
kit: the floor is flat and should be curved (the cockpit floor
of the P-40 was the wing upper surface), the seat is useless
and the sidewalls are wrong even for the E-model.. Jerry Rutman's
detail parts are handy here. Although they are intended for
the dash-E, some parts can be used/adapted for a dash-B/C. Check
it out in our J
Rutman accessories page or in a full
review by Brett Green, from Hyperscale. The seat for
the B/C model was the same that the one in the E-model, but
verify your references about the slight differences in the sidewall
consoles. Also, many PE parts of the Eduard set cited above
can be used.
Well, if you are
thinking of a detailed model, you have to do something here.
Besides the control panel, you will need at least a more convincing
seat as well as sidewalls with the proper modifications. I'll
leave you with some pics of the NMNA P-40C cockpit in case you
need a starting point. I also scanned a few pertinent details
from the "Pilot's Flight Operating Instructions".
Resin control panel and bulkhead
The printed control panel
Control panel of the NMNA P-40C. Courtesy of Scott
Left sidewall of the NMNA P-40C. Courtesy of Scott
Right sidewall of the NMNA P-40C. Courtesy of Scott
Some cockpit details from the "Pilot's Flight Operating Instructions"
One of the high
points of the conversion, the wing mounted gun muzzles are provided
as white metal parts and they are exquisitely molded. Take care
during handling/cleaning because the metal is quite soft, some
of them were bent in my sample. Just roll each one on a flat
smooth surface to make them straight.
sheet include a 1/32 drawing of the bottom wings showing the
correct positions of the wing guns and the spent casing chutes,
a bit crude but correct. This drawing makes the task much easier
in case you don't have your own plans in 1/32 scale (the P-40B/C
had two 0.30" guns per wing, instead of the three 0.50" found
in later versions).
The white metal wing mounted gun muzzles
The white metal
main landing gear legs are one of the poorest parts of the conversion.
The instructions claim that they have the correct length. This
is because the Revell landing gear is designed to be retracted.
Had the legs had the correct dimension the wheels wouldn't fit
into the wells. However, the white metal legs provided are just
lengthened metal copies of the Revell parts. Considering the
somewhat crude casting of our sample, it seems better to lengthen
the Revell legs.
The actual P-40
landing gear was an engineer's dream, full of mechanisms and
hinges to rotate the wheels in order to fit them into the bays.
An expert modeler will test his skills to scratchbuild a landing
gear of that complexity, as Revell representation is very symbolic.
Even the doors lack the proper details. Again, the J
Rutman accessories set will save a lot of time here,
as it comes with a complete new landing gear - including the
wheel bays - to fit inside the Revell wing. Our friends from
LSP staff reported that the set fits very well.
I included one
more picture of the P-40C at NMNA along with some drawings to
help on this area. If you are going to the make your own details,
you can save some work by depicting a canvas covered wheel bay
and a tail wheel with canvas boot. The canvas was factory standard
to avoid dirt and dust entering the wing, but they were prone
to tearing under heavy use, so that they were generally removed
by the crewman.
Main landing gear white metal parts
The main wheels retraction mechanism and strut of the NMNA P-40C.
Courtesy of Scott
There are 3 vacuum
formed clear parts for the canopy, incorporating a bit overdone
frame lines. The rear windows are not flat, but curved - as
they should be - following the fuselage cross section. All parts
are very translucent and made of a material called Zivac. The
instructions claim that bonding agents like Tenax-7R will work
with that material. I tested Tenax-7R in a previously trimmed
test stripe and it actually reacted with the material. On the
other hand, Humbrol and Testors liquid cements didn't even stain
the sample. Be warned then...
The sliding part
comes attached to the windscreen, a careful trimming will be
necessary to pose it open. Even if you are not going to cut
them apart, I recommend you to turn the part up side down and
then pour some plaster until the cavity is filled. Wait the
plaster dry and trim the borders. This will give you a more
stiff surface to run the knife. Once done, pop the plaster block
out of the clear part and rinse with water.
The clear parts
Two versions can
be made out of the decal sheet:
- Curtiss H81-A2
s/n P-8173 flown by the AVG ace R. T. Smith. This is the famous
#77 seen in many AVG wartime photos.
- Curtiss Tomahawk
AK498 flown by the 250 Sq. ace Clive "Killer" Caldwell during
the Africa campaign.
There are many
important notes about the correct use the markings. Read the
instructions carefully. For instance, the Disney's Flying Tiger
is included in the sheet, but it was not used on #77. A nice
touch is the pair of Chinese roundels to be used on top of the
wings, which are printed in a slightly toned down blue to simulate
fading (always more aggressive on top surfaces). You must follow
Revell instructions for the stencil locations, although the
numbers don't match (this is clearly noted in the instructions
As for the quality
of the decals, they are very good, but my sample had the red
layer out of register. This is not noticeable except for the
red circles inside the eyes above the shark mouth. It didn't
pass by Scratchbuilders quality control because they kindly
provided a separated pair of eyes to replace those defective.
The decals are
produced by Scale Master with the popular Invisa Clear system.
If properly applied, I don't believe they will reject any setting
solution or present silvering problems.
The decal sheet
A zoom on the decal sheet details
AVG ace R. T. Smith showing his five kills tally. Rangoon, Burma,
| FINAL COMMENTS
Many modelers claim
that the real Flying Tiger was the P-40B/C. Personal tastes
apart, you won't have many choices to make an early hawk in
1/32. And there are many options to choose from for this conversion.
If you don't want to stick with the R. T. Smith bird, you can
choose one among the AVG famous pilots: Dick Rossi, Charlie
Bond, "Tex"Hill, Charles Older, Erik Shilling and even Gregory
"Pappy"Boyington. Although the Disney's Flying Tiger is provided
in the decal sheet, most AVG P-40s used to wear some sort of
artwork. This can be a problem unless you choose a machine from
the first days of the group (initially AVG squadrons flew plain
H81-A2 with just the fuselage numerals ad no elaborate artwork).
Whatever the case, remember that the AVG machines were Curtiss
Hawk H81-A2 (similar to the P-40C) which had been built for
export to Britain. As a consequence the pitot tube must be of
the cranked type and the factory applied colors didn't match
perfectly the usual RAF Dark Green/Dark Earth/Sky cammo.
Reportedly, Curtiss used DuPont Dark Green 71-013 and Dark Earth
71-009 for upper surfaces and possibly Light Gray 71-021 for
undersurfaces. The question about the best FS matches of these
colors is still open and you are on your own here. Moreover,
AVG aircraft were generally heavily weathered, given the nasty
conditions they operated (see photo below). All I can suggest
you is to read the good discussion on the subject in Bridgewater's
recent book (see references). If you are going to a British
Tomahawk, the same comments apply. As usual with limited run
kits, you won't find aftermarket decals for this bird (that
I'm aware of).
A widely published color photo of AVG flying
A good notice is that the conversion
can be used to make a P-40-CU - the very initial version with
lighter armament or finish it as a pre-war stateside P-40B.
Ok, they were just olive drab 41 and gray, but I think what
will make such a model different is the version. After all,
an aviation aficionado will promptly note the differences from
the original Revell kit.
possibilities are those "Pearl Harbor defenders" stationed at
Bellows and Nichols fields during the attack (some of them actually
engaged the Japanese and downed a few) or the desperate fighters
of the 20th Pursuit Squadron at Clark Field, Philippines during
the first days of the war. Now if you want something very unusual,
there was the P-40B used by the Russians.
Turning back to
the conversion, I think that the only problem with it is the
Revell kit itself. I didn't covere here all the work you have
to do with the cockpit, landing gear, wings and tail to leave
the Revell parts accurate because this will be addressed in
another review. I'm not saying it is a bad kit, but it includes
some toy like features which result in serious inaccuracies.
The Scratchbuilders bits will do their part. I can anticipate,
however, that the raised panel lines in the Revell parts are
not consistent with the recessed ones in the resin fuselage
Curtiss test pilots Herb Fisher (left) and Ed
Elliot prior to test flying several brand new P-40B fighters
(none have guns installed)
Other important details are
the pitot tube, which must be cranked for British and AVG machines
(the boxtop artwork is wrong on this) and straight for the American
ones. Also, there's no gun sight ring or mast, but they can
be stolen from many photoetched sets. Don't forget to install
these items in offset with the fuselage center line.
My references for
this review were:
1.) McDowell, E.
R.: Curtiss P-40 in Action, Squadron Signal Publ., 1976.
2.) Kinzey, B.:
P-40 Warhawk in Detail - Part 1: YP-36 through P-40C, Detail
& Scale Vol.61, Squadron Signal Publ., 1999.
3.) Kinzey, B.:
P-40 Warhawk in Detail - Part 2: P-40D through XP-40Q, Detail
& Scale Vol.62, Squadron Signal Publ., 1999.
4.) Drendel, L.:
P-40 Warhawk Walk Around, Walk Around Number 8, Squadron
Signal Publ., 1996.
5.) Famous Airplanes
of the World, No. 39: Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Burindo, 1993.
H. C.: The Curtiss P-36 and P-40 in USAAC/USAAF Service - 1939
to 1945, Combat Colours Number 3, Guideline Publ., 2001.
H. C. and Scott, P.: Pearl Harbor and Beyond - December 1941
to May 1942, Combat Colours Number 4, Guideline Publ., 2001.
8.) Technical Order
No. 01-25CF-1: Pilot's Flight Operating Instructions - P-40D
and P-40E Airplanes, AAF Headquarters, Air Service Command,
Patterson Field, Fairfield OH, Feb 1943.
9.) P-40 Fighter
Manual, AAF Headquarters, Office of Flying Safety, 1943.
The last two are
more difficult to obtain but the others are easily found
The Tomahawk as delivered by Curtiss to the RAF.
Note the cranked pitot tube and the longer blast tubes
As I mentioned,
the major problem with this conversion is Revell kit. Had Scratchbuilders
provided a complete cockpit I would rank it four stars - no
doubt. For you early hawks fans the only other option is the
Craftworks P-40C, but costs 125 USD!!!
This model is an
excellent choice if you want to try a resin model in 1/32 for
the first time. It is relatively easy to build and the finished
product will fill a huge gap in any collection of American WWII
By adding some
details and correcting the most obvious Revell flaws, I'm convinced
you will have a lot of fun and the result will be a truly unique
This is the result (Photo: Scratchbuilders)
We would like to
thank the support Forrest Cox, owner of Scratchbuilders, for
providing the review sample. Also, our "inspiring master" Scott
Murphy for consenting the use of his NMNA P-40C walkaround