P-40B Tiger Shark
Of all the American aircraft of World War II, the P-40 is one of the most recognizeable, and yet one of the most downplayed. Serving in numerous air forces, it served through most of the war, from Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific Theatres.
Developed initially from the P-36 Hawk-75, the P-40 was supposed to take advantage of the "superior" aerodynamics afforded by an inline engine. Unfortunately, the inline engines didn't develop as much power as the radials they replaced, and the Allison engine used in the early p-40s wasn't a stellar performer over 15,000 feet. Below that, as the Russians and British learned, it could give the vaunted ME-109 a run for its money. Above that, it was slow.
The P-40 is probably best known for its use by the American Voulenteer Group (AVG,) also known as the "Flying Tigers." Made of temporarily-resigned service pilots and crew, they fought for Chiang Kai-Chek's Nationalist China against the Japanese invasion. Claire Chennault, their leader, knew the strengths of the IJA and IJN fighters, particularly the Zero, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the P-40. He drilled into his men the idea that you do NOT dogfight the Zero, but use the superior strength and diving characteristics of the P-40 to slash at Japanese formations. The Flying Tigers made themselves famous for the high kill to loss ratios they obtained with these tactics, as well as the "shark's mouth" markings adopted after seeing RAF machines in Africa with them. (You have to admit, they just look "right" on P-40.) Despite an inability to get regular spares and supplies, and never having a full complement of fighters, they gave American morale a needed boost in the months following Pearl Harbor.
In box review:
The Monogram P-40B is the most accurate early P-40 in 1/48 scale. This isn't really saying much - the only other P-40B is from Hobbycraft (sometimes reboxed,) and is wrong in outline (either the wing is too high or the keel is too deep.) The Monogram kit is quite workable, but it is also a good several decades old. (Also misnamed as a "Tiger Shark" - where they got this, I don't know.) This shows in the sparse interior detail, the raised panel lines and rivets, the "working" landing gear and lack of wheel well detail - for starters. On the other hand, it does give you lowered flaps. It's not hard to correct, however - though a new, "modern" P-40B would be welcome. The kit provides three markings options - a USAAC P-40 in olive drab over neutral grey, a British aircraft in desert camo, and the Flying TIgers P-40. Other USAAC P-40s would not be hard to make from this kit.
Opening the box, you notice there's really not much here. The dark olive plastic is molded cleanly - there's very little flash. The canopy is clear, and is provided as an "open" or "closed" version.
There are a few things, as mentioned, that need correcting. Starting with the cockpit, the instrument panel is wrong. It should be an inverted - "T" shape. The detail on the instrument panel is facetious for an early P-40 as well - it looks like it's there just to have some detail. As it's not raised very high, it should be easy to correct. (I should probably mention at this point that resin update sets are available for this kit - I might try one later.) The rudder pedals and wing gun charging "tree" should actually be hainging down from the instrument panel as well. This will take a very little bit of scratchbuilding to accomplish, as the shapes are very simple. If you want to correct all this, though, expect about an hour's work.
The floor is sparse - the floor on the actual aircraft was similar to early P-51 Mustangs, as it was comprised of the upper surface of the wing itself. A small gauge is here (easy to add) that showed fuel in the wing centerline tank. The sidewalls have some, somewat vague detail - it's usable, but can be improved reasonably easily. Finally, the seat itself is wrong - it's too square, and there's more supporting tube structure behind it. You can either replace the seat (easy to do with plastic or photoetch,) or use the pilot figure (which will also take care of the rudder pedal problem.) If you replace the seat, fill in the "hole" directly behind the cockpit - the seat hides this.
Jumping ahead some, Monogram made a common error with the front windscreen. It shows framing detail - there was none, but there WAS armored glass inside the windscreen, and the supports for this are commonly mistaken for windscreen framing. Add it, and paint the inside.
The final "big" problem is the wing wheel wells. The problem is that the wheel wells are nothing but open "holes" in the wing. This is easy to fix - plain sheet styrene will provide a "roof" for the gear leg well, and many early P-40s had canvas "covers" inside the main wheel well. Just use some white glue soaked tissue paper and you can recreate this easily, without having to try to match the contours of the wheel well or create stringers on the wheel well "roof." (If you really WANT to, there are 8.)
There are other, minor niggles - lack of retraction struts on the tail gear, for one - but nothing that really holds back this model. Even fixing the minor problems with it, you could finish this in a weekend of on and off building.
I skipped around a bit with this kit. There are plenty of opportunities to do so.
Construction started with the cockpit. There's not much to it, so you may want to use the pilot figure (especially with the big hole in the seat.) There's not a lot of detail, but there are enough hints (such as the side panels) that you can get away with the kit's included parts if you leave the cockpit closed. The exhausts are also added almost right away. I spent a little time here and hollowed out the exhaust stack ends - this helps make it look alittle more realistic. Don't forget to add them, despite the fact they'll be harder to paint later - you can't reach them afterward. You could, alternately, trim them severely and put in a plastic card backing, to paint and add after the main assembly is done.
The instrument panel given is actually incorrect, it's correct for a later model P-40 (E, I think.) Still, you can't really see it with the cockpit closed. If you must fix it, check for aftermarket items - I don't know who, if anyone, makes them for this kit, though. I painted mine black, and used silver artists' pencil to bring out the dials.
At this point, you put the cockpit in the fuselage, and glue the fuselage halves together. While this dries (watch your alignment,) you might as well skip ahead to the wings.Add the pitot tube in, as there's a small "hook" which helps align it. There are four pivot retainers for the flaps - go ahead and fit the outer ones (the inners really aren't needed.) The wing is close and tight enough that you only need two of the four. If they seem to be a fit problem (you ARE dry-fitting, right?) use the inner ones instead.
You're also in a prime position now to do a simple "fix" to the model. As I've mentioned, the landing gear wells aren't really boxed in. Get a small piece of plastic card and fit it over the front halves of the wells, on the inside. This will be enough to replicate the inside edge. The main wells will be easier... but we'll get to that in a minute. The thing to note with the card is that (a) you need to test fit it, so it doesn't interfere with upper wing fit, and (b) you should only glue one edge. If you glue both sides, it can interfere with the wing fit to the fuselage (some flexibility is required there.) Paint the inside of the top wings, and the bottom of the wheel wells, interior green. (Don't forget the back edge, there's flaps there.) Glue the wings together, and let dry.
OK, once all that dries, go back to the fuselage. The next challenge is fitting the nose. They'd have you put the propeller shaft in, and glue the spinner back to it, trapping the nose section. This can work, but makes masking the spinner (and filling any gaps - which there are!) a pain. You can tackle this a few ways - tape the shaft in place (but be careful you don't knock it through.... which I did,) break the back off the shaft and glue the result to the spinner, to fit it through the hole in the nose later (probably best) or, last ditch, just glue the spinner to the nose later.
When you fit the nose to the fuselage, you'll notice there is definately a mis-fit there. Fit it as best you can. Unfortunately, they molded the machine gun barrels and fairing ends to the nose. This is going to make sanding a real - uh, female dog. Fit it as best you can, let the glue set. When it's dry, set to puttying and sanding. You'll want a needle file, or failing that, a sanding stick (worst comes to worst, sandpaper on a popsicle stick) to sand between the air intake and machine gun barrels. Keep it handy - you'll need it to smooth out the area when you add the fairings in the next step, as they leave a gap between the fairing end and the nose.
You're pretty well in the home stretch by this point. Fit the flaps at this time - if you want to trim off the little tab by the edge of the (non moving) wing by the flaps, you can. It wasn't on the real airplane, it's just there to lock the flap up on the model. You can fit the tailplane at any point, as well - they go in easily and reinforce each other, but I'd wait until after the wing was in. Don't forget to trim off or sand off the molding ejector pads - the round circles on each. They're easy to get to with a sharp knife.
I'd prepaint the tailwheel and well, but leave it off the aircraft. The next major step is fitting the wing to the fuselage - and the fit isn't bad, except near the front. You COULD, of course, have left the wing top off the bottom, and fit them to the fuselage seperately, then fit the bottom. This would eliminate gaps at the wing root, but may induce fit problems with the lower wing. Either way, the fit isn't bad, except (on mine) near the front. I used suprisingly little filler here. Go ahead and fit the strut housings (41 and 42) on at this point - they're at the front of the wing. I left the landing gear itself off until after the bottom was painted.
I also fit the closed canopy, and gunsight pieces to the fuselage at this point. One thing you may want to try is either putting a card backing underneath the gunsight mounting holes, or filling the holes with putty and pressing the ring and bead into them. It's possible for the bead, at least, to fall through (no, it didn't happen to me.) You may also want to mask the windscreen BEFORE doing this.... though, in true "do what I say, not what I do" fashion, I didn't. There's enough of a gap there to mask the canopy, if you're careful.
I used BareMetal Foil to mask the canopy. This stuff is great - burnish it down and you can see every panel line, then trim and remove. The only drawback is that it's rather expensive compared to tape, or even Parefilm. It does an excellent job, however. I used it with a fresh knife blade to mask the canopy. I used the one piece canopy, though the rear of one quarter window doesn't fit all that well. If you use the one piece, you may want to trim these off, then glue them (or their seperate pieces, 50 and 51) seperately. Putty where needed, and be careful trimming- clear plastic is somewhat brittle.
I painted the underside light grey. There's some speculation and argument about this color, and in photos it appears to be a little lighter, but I don't believe it to be the British "sky" color, as US manufacturers often used "close enough" colors. Light grey works for me, and you can use it to prime the rest of the aircraft. As for the rest - ignore the colors for the British and AVG aircraft. Monogram would have you use light tan and olive drab. Close, but no cigar - it makes it look far too light. The AVG aircraft were diverted from a British order, and were in British colors - dark earth and dark green. I had these in stock from Pollyscale, and went to town with them. I started off with overall dark earth - don't forget to get under the tail with this. Once that set, I attacked with British dark green, trying to match the camoflage pattern freehand. To be really picky, I should have masked this, as most British camoflage was hard edged, but I like having a softer edge. It's not like this model's going to a contest anyway! I also assembled the spinner, and painted it red.
I added the landing gear at this point. The main gear has a mold line along it - with a little careful work, you can trim it off. I painted it interior green, and used silver pencil for the oleo strut.
The main gear doors can be a bit suprising - don't forget, the small doors curve "inward" (they don't form a "bump" when closed.) You should also notice that CLOSED gear doors are available, if you choose to depict the airplane in flight. They're just not mentioned in the instructions.
I also fit the tailwheel at this time. It fits right in, no fuss, no muss. The spinner was glued in, and it was ready for decaling. I left the drop tank off - it needs some bracing added to look right to me (I'm getting picky these days, I guess.) It'll be added later. Finally, I painted the exhausts Steel, and scuffed the wing root and highlighted some engine and gun bay panels with silver pencil.
Oh, the tip about the landing gear wells that I nearly forgot - These, like the P-36, often had canvas covers in the actual wheel wells. These can be simulated with tissue paper glued and trimmed to the wells, and painted - grey, tan, off white, it doesn't matter. I'd go with a dirty tan. Saves time boxing in the wells, and is still correct (and the tissue has the right "texture" to it.) Use white glue to do so, if you like.
As mentioned, you have three choices - a US Army AIr Corps aircraft, which has reasonably simple markings, an RAF aircraft with optional shark's mouth (they are what inspired the AVG to put them on their aircraft, after all,) and an AVG aircraft. I chose to do the AVG aircraft, as I've already done an RAF P-40.
You'll notice the markings diagrams aren't spectacular. They leave a bit of guesswork. The larger roundels go on top, the smaller on the bottom of the wing. Place them as best you can - I'm tempted to say the upper roundels are "wrong," but these aircraft weren't exactly painted to a standard in the field. There was a slight registration problem with one upper wing roundel, but strategic placement hid it. I used Solvaset to help these (and several others) snuggle into the detail.
The shark's mouth will need some trimming. There's a lot of clear decal film - put in several 1mm "slit" cuts around the opening, and split the upper lip. Cut the eyes off, too. It makes placement easier. Use decal solvent after placing the shark's mouth - don't worry if it's not 100% symmetrical, these were hand painted. Place the eyes seperately, roughly in front of and slightly below the exhausts.
The rest of the decals snuggle down reasonably well. The rear ID stripe fits nicely. There are several stencilling decals that aren't shown (or aren't visible) on the instructions - I fit the 3 identical yellow blocks to the propeller blades, and one or two stencils to doors and the like (you can't read the decals, anyway.)
With that, I was finished.
This is one of Revell-Monogram's classic models. It's available everywhere, and at around $10, is CHEAP. It's also the only good P-40 available (Hobbycraft's has some serious shape problems, such as the wing being too high.) It's not shake and bake, but it'll take up an evening or two, and is a reasonably fun build. If you don't mind working with putty and sometimes iffy fit, it's still a good kit. Recommended.