AMT's 1/48 P-40K Warhawk

Photos and Text by: Tony Bell

 

Introduction

Although not exactly the most advanced or capable fighter when compared to its contemporaries, the P-40 was nonetheless one of the more significant aircraft in the first half of the second world war. Produced in large numbers and supplied to almost every Allied nation, it saw service in every theatre of war and was Americaís front line fighter at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Introduced in 1942, the P-40K was fitted with the Allison V-1710-73 engine. The P-40K-1 and -K-5 had the same short fuselage as the P-40E. With the extra power of the V-1710-73 there was a tendency of the P-40K to swing during takeoff, so a dorsal fin fillet was added to alleviate this problem. This was addressed in the P-40K-10s and subsequent production blocks with the longer fuselage that was introduced on the P-40F-5-CU.

Reference Material

The only reference I used was the Squadron/Signal No. 26 Curtiss P-40 In Action. There are not many pictures of the P-40K in this book, and the few that are there are not very useful. I used this reference mainly for general P-40 characteristics such as weathering patterns and features common to multiple variants such as landing gear and canopies. Since I was intending to do an IPMS-rules OOB build, I didnít spend any more time or money on research materials.

In the Box

The only available model of a short tailed P-40K in 1:48 scale is the now out of production AMT kit. Moulded in soft, light grey styrene with nicely engraved surface detail, my example was marred large by amounts of thick flash on many of the parts and suffered from a slightly short-shot left hand rudder. The canopy is moulded in four parts (windscreen, sliding hood and two rear quarter panels) which are nice and clear, albeit a bit thick. The sliding portion was slightly odd in that the right half was about a quarter the thickness of the left, although when the canopy is closed this is not noticeable.

Only one set of markings are provided with the kit, a colourful shark mouthed aircraft camouflaged in green and brown over grey as flown by Maj. Ed Hollmeyer of the 23rd Fighter Group over China in 1943. The decals appear well printed and in register, but that is as much as I can say about them since I opted to use Superscale set number 48-711 for the P-40K.

Another online review of the AMT P-40K can be found on the Aircraft Resource Center.

Construction

I decided to break with tradition and start with something other than the cockpit, so I tackled the fuselage first. In order to squeeze as many variants as possible out of the same tooling, AMT provides two long-tailed fuselage halves (à la P-40L) along with the short -K tail as two separate pieces. The modeller is required to amputate the long tail and replace it with the short one, which was just as well because there was an ugly misalignment between the fuselage and the long tail.

I decided to remove the tail and replace it with the short one before gluing the fuselage halves together, figuring that it would be easier to fill any gaps on the top and bottom than it would be to correct any step in the side of the fuselage. For each fuselage half I used a razor saw to carefully remove the long tail and cleaned up the edges with a home-made sanding stick fabricated from 600 grit wet Ďn dry glued to a tongue depressor with contact cement. I removed the locating tabs from the -K tail and cleaned the mating edges up with the sanding stick. The tail was glued to the fuselage by laying the pieces on a flat surface and running some liquid cement into the join. AMTís plastic is quite soft and reacted strongly to the cement, so care was taken to use it sparingly.

In another attempt to get the most mileage possible out of their moulds, AMT has separately moulded the engine access panels surrounding the exhaust stubs. The fit of the left side is OK, but the right side is about 0.015" short, requiring some shimming with sheet plastic for a correct fit. Both sides were attached with liquid cement working in ½" sections at a time. In order to keep the cement from running too far along the join, I stuck a scrap of aluminium foil in the join at the point where I wanted the glue to stop. Once the glue was dry I removed the foil, reinserted it ½" farther along and applied more glue. I repeated this process until the access panels were completely attached.

The top part of the chin radiator was glued to one fuselage half and the fuselage halves joined together with liquid cement (the cockpit is inserted from below through the wing opening). Anticipating some difficulties with the wing root fit, I decided not to glue the bottom half of the fuselage together a this point (this was to prove to be a wise decision.) The fit of the fuselage halves was fair, requiring some superglue to fill in the seam. The top part of the chin radiator required some filling with epoxy putty to get a good fit. The radiator splitter was thinned down with a file and glued to the radiator piece. This assembly was painted Interior Green and the radiators painted silver with a black wash to accentuate the nice mesh texture. The radiators were then inserted through the wing opening and superglued in place. The exhaust stubs were likewise inserted and attached with liquid cement.

The cockpit consists of nine separate pieces with nicely moulded detail, although the instrument panel suffered from a great deal of flash that had to be cleaned up. True Details make a nice resin replacement cockpit, but I decided to stick with the kit parts since I was planning to model the canopy closed anyway. The seat comes with moulded on belts which I scraped off, preferring to add my own from tape. The entire cockpit was painted Interior Green with "scale black" (i.e. dark grey) instrument panel and console boxes. I then dry brushed the interior with light grey and picked out the small details with silver, white and red. I then applied a "wash" to deepen the shadows and highlight details. Instead of the traditional thinner/paint wash I used a mixture of Poly Scale clear flat mixed with black ink which I find works better on details with a lot of relief. Reheat instrument decals were punched out and applied to the instrument panel and each dial received a touch of Future floor wax to represent the glass. The seat belts were made from simple strips of white artistís masking tape painted Tamiya buff and stuck to the seat. Paint chips and scuff marks were applied to the seat and floor using Humbrol silver (No. 11) and a 0000 brush. The assembled cockpit was inserted into the fuselage from below and superglued in place. I only applied glue to the upper portion of the cockpit/fuselage interface so that I could spread open the wing opening, if necessary. I cut the headrest off to allow me to fill and sand the gap between the rear bulkhead and the fuselage, whereupon I reattached the headrest.

Next up were the wings. The wheel wells were first sprayed Interior Green and then the top halves were glued to the full span bottom and the seams cleaned up with file and sandpaper. The fit of these parts was very good, however when I test fitted the completed wing wit the fuselage I was somewhat dismayed to see a gap of about 1/8th of an inch at the wing root. I cut two spreader bars from sprue and, after repeated trimming and test fitting, glued one at the front and one at the rear of the wing opening. Because I had not glued the bottom of the fuselage together there was enough flexibility to do this without popping any seams. The fit at the wing root was now perfect, so I applied liberal amounts of liquid cement to ensure a strong bond. The rest of the fuselage was now glued together with the lower rear wing join requiring a bit of filling with sheet styrene and superglue. Sanding the join eradicated some surface detail which was rescribed with a No. 24 Xacto blade guided with electrical tape. The horizontal tail surfaces fit perfectly and were attached with liquid cement so that they could be adjusted before setting up. The Future dipped windscreen was attached with superglue (the Future prevents fogging somehow) and masked with 3M Scotch magic tape cut in situ with a new No. 24 blade. The seams were filled with Gunze Mr. Surfacer 500 and gently sanded. The rear transparencies were attached in a similar fashion except that they were sanded and polished to blend them in with the fuselage before masking.

Painting, Weathering and Decals

Prior to painting the propeller spinner was dry assembled and attached to the nose with a small blob of 3M Blue Tack. The cockpit and wheel wells were stuffed with damp tissue paper and the entire model was primed with Gunze Mr. Surfacer 1000 thinned with lacquer thinner. If thinned properly, Mr. Surfacer sprays beautifully, but if it isnít thinned enough then a fascinating candy floss effect is the result. Fortunately I discovered this on a piece of scrap before adding more thinner and priming the model. I examined the model closely and fixed a few minor surface flaws before rubbing it down with 1500 grit wet Ďn dry for a nice even surface. The model received a thorough scrubbing with dish detergent and water and was left to dry overnight.

Because the aircraft I chose to do was painted solid Olive Drab over neutral Grey, I wanted to add interest to an otherwise monotonous scheme. I opted to employ the method known to most as pre-shading. Although there has been quite a bit of controversy over this technique in the modelling community, I feel that if done properly (i.e. subtly) it adds visual interest without yelling "Hey look! Panel lines!"

I took Tamiya gloss black thinned 50% with rubbing alcohol and sprayed it along all the panel lines. I then took Aeromaster Acrylic U.S. Olive Drab 41 thinned 50% with distilled water and sprayed the upper surfaces in light coats until the black panel lines were almost, but not quite, obliterated. I then took Aeromaster Acrylic Faded U.S. Olive Drab 41 thinned 70% with distilled water and sprayed random patches on the wings and top portion of the fuselage to simulate sun fading. The undersides were painted with Neutral Grey mixed from Tamiya acrylic white and black (2 to 1 ratio) and thinned with rubbing alcohol.

After letting the paint dry for a couple of days, I shot a coat of Future over the entire model in preparation for the decals. Superscaleís decal sheet 48-711 provides a three different options for CBI theatre P-40Kís. I chose to do Maj. Grant Mahoneyís aircraft of the 76th FS/23rd FG (Flying Tigers) based out of China in April 1943.

The decals were very thin and well printed with all the colours in perfect register. The Aircraft Resource Center has an online review of this decal sheet with an image of the different markings.

As can be expected from Superscale, the decals went on with no problems whatsoever. The sharkmouth decals needed a few applications of Microsol to get them to fit the compound curves of the nose, but in the end they conformed beautifully. After all the decals had been applied and allowed to dry thoroughly I wiped the model down with a damp lint free cloth to remove any leftover decal residue and sprayed another thin coat of Future.

To bring out the panel lines a bit more I applied a light wash of Windsor and Newton Burnt Umber oil paint thinned with mineral spirits. I also applied some paint chipping around the wing walks, access panels, leading edges, cockpit sills, etc. with Humbrol silver and a fine brush. I find it easy to over do paint chipping, so I try to stop just before I think Iíve done enough. Once I was satisfied with the washes and the chipping, I sprayed a coat of Poly Scale acrylic flat finish. To blend the decals in and create an overall consistently weathered effect I misted Tamiya buff thinned 90% with rubbing alcohol over the entire upper portion of the model. The exhaust stacks were hand painted flat black and various shades of brown and orange powdered chalk pastels were rubbed on to give the stubs a rusted and burnt metal look. Exhaust stains were airbrushed on with a brown/black colour mixed from Tamiya paints and thinned 90% with rubbing alcohol. At this point I removed the canopy masking and cleaned up the edges with a toothpick.

As a final weathering touch, I duplicated streaks of oil in the general area of the engine by applying a small dab of Burnt Umber oil paint and smearing it in the direction of the airflow with a soft, dry, clean paint brush.

Finishing

The landing gear was painted Neutral Grey and silver, "washed" with the ink/Poly Scale mixture and attached with liquid cement. The tow ring on the gear legs were drilled out and painted red. I filed a flat spot on each tire and painted them Aeromaster tire black and Neutral Grey. The gear doors were thinned with file and sandpaper to a more scale thickness and attached with superglue. The drop tank was added at this point as well.

The prop was painted yellow, the tips masked, painted black, sprayed with Future, decalled, chipped and finally sprayed with flat. The prop and spinner were assembled and then attached to the airframe with white glue, as was the canopy sliding hood. The pitot probe was painted O.D. and silver and attached with liquid cement.

The wingtip lights were painted first with silver and then with Gunze clear red for left and green for right. The underside landing light recess was lined with a disc of kitchen foil topped by a drop of five minute epoxy for the lens.

Conclusion

While not exactly a shake & bake build, the AMT nonetheless provides a sound basis for the P-40K. None of the problems encountered while building this kit would be beyond the skills of the average modeller given a bit of planning and patience.

Copyright © 2001 by Tony Bell