P-40N Warhawk 7th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group
Rarely have I warmed to building anything in 1/72 scale WWII aircraft. They have been too small to be molded with an acceptable degree of detail. There aren’t many parts to such a scale kit (almost reminds me of those God-awful Aurora kits of prehistoric days, . . . but I date myself!). If kit makers introduce a number of parts, they tend to be far too small to handle without aid of tweezers, have molding “flash”, and are too darned fragile to handle more than a few times – or else they’ll break in pieces, with surgical remediation required, including magnifying glass.
The above said, I was pleasantly surprised with this kit made by Special Hobby, a Czech kit maker, not well known compared to the established ones, especially from Japan. The last sentence of the previous paragraph certainly applied to this kit, but: the parts were amazingly free of flash, and only the attachment points on the sprues needed scraping or filing. A bigger pleasant surprise was the near perfect fit of mating parts, with almost no filler putty being needed. Another reason for trying my hand at a small scale WWII kit was the availability of after market sets for this previously ignored scale. That, plus the drive by kit makers to add more detailed parts into the parts mix.
The instruction booklet was the real gem: A multi-page/step booklet . . . on glossy paper, . . . and in color! The steps include when optional parts are to be considered.
Plus I always had a weakness for the little appreciated P-40. The P-40 was a state of the art fighter at the outbreak of WWII, but it quickly became obsolete when Axis aircraft designers came up with faster and more nimble models. Still, the P-40 made history as the aircraft used by “The Flying Tigers,” under Col. Clare Chennault, fighting the Japanese in China before America entered the war due to the Pearl Harbor attack. The P-40 was the primary fighter in the New Guinea land campaign throughout 1942 and 1943, which was fought by the USAAF, not the US Navy. It gave as good as it got against the Japanese Zero, but it soon fell by the wayside when America came up with later immortal aircraft like the P-38 Lightning, P-48 Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang (staying with USAAF aircraft).
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The kit builds into a P-40N, which was the last major production model made. The P-40 went through the alphabet incorporating US Army changes to enhance speed, maneuverability and range, but its design by Curtiss had expansion limitations: it just couldn’t get the range needed in the SW Pacific to loiter longer over long distances covered with ocean and engage the enemy, even with an external fuel tank.
I built the kit with basically the parts in the kit; I made seat and harness straps from masking tape cut to scale size. I then concentrated on weathering the model, as this had to simulate the look of the actual aircraft serving in the relentless, baking sun and ocean salt-saturated air of the Southwest Pacific Theater, where paint faded and spalled off in no time. Repainting by service techs was common on these aircraft. At the same time, though, I didn’t want to make my model look like a smudge pot, which is what many aircraft appeared to be after a period of time in action.
I used my trusty Ammo/Mig black wash, then followed with airbrushing of the surface colors. I used enough black pastel to simulate the carbon stains around the engine and gun mounts in the wing. I drybrushed silver paint to show scuffing of the aft side of the port wing, where the pilot climbed on and walked to the cockpit.
Finally, I used human hair to rig the antenna wire. It had the right scale diameter, but it also is hard to discern unless there’s proper background. Look closely at my submitted photos of this model to see it; it’s there.