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Airfix 1/48 P-40B – some background notes in review

November 22, 2016 in Reviews

It’s likely everyone will be doing this kit soon, so here are some notes on construction and some detail information on AVG airplanes.

As the four assembly photos demonstrate, if you take care in assembly, you will not use any filler or putty. That’s a first for me with an Airfix kit and an indication of just how good the kit is. Follow the instructions and all is well.

AVG airplanes were British Tomahawk IIs. They were painted in Dupont “Equivalent colors.” I am using Tamiya Flat Earth XF-52 mixed with Tamiya XF-68 NATO Brown (to match the FHC restoration) for Dark Earth, Tamiya NATO Green XF-67 for the Dark Green (a good match for US Medium Green, which is what Curtiss used), and Tamiya Light Grey XF-66 for the lower surfaces. If you are going to sun-fade (and these airplanes were in the sun and boy did they fade), the Dark earth went towards a grey/yellow hue (I am adding in Tamiya Desert Yellow XF-59), while the green faded into a bluish hue.

I am putting up some copies of the photos taken by Claire Boothe Luce when she visited the AVG in May 1942, which have been color-corrected. If you happen to have Air Enthusiast 2, the article there about the AVG has beautiful prints of these photos done from negatives. You can see the camouflage is “hard edge,” and what the fading looked like toward the end of their service. The photographs of the P-40C now at FHC show the paint in its original, unfaded colors, which gives a good starting place for the “sun-fading” match the Luce photos.

I am also including six air-to-air shots I took in April 1998 of the first early P-40 to be restored to flight. Erik Shilling said at the time it was a P-40C because it had the fuel lines for the drop tank. This airplane crashed in a forest outside Murmansk in April 1943 and was recovered in 1993, then brought to Fighter Rebuilders at Chino for restoration. When they started taking the paint off, they realized the olive drab was a coat painted over the original markings – that of a P-40C of the 77th Pursuit Squadron of the 20th Fighter Group! At that time, no one could understand how a USAAC P-40C ended up in a Russian forest outside Murmansk. My later research revealed how it must have happened (there was no paperwork for this). In April 1941, the US passed Lend-Lease, which the US military did not like because they saw their supply of equipment threatened and they delayed and resisted. FDR signed a secret Executive Order in May 1941 that whenever a US unit re-equipped with newer items, the old equipment was to be returned to the manufacturer, where it would be reconditioned for Lend-Lease. In June 1941, the 20th Pursuit Group re-equipped with P-40D Kittyhawks. The P-40Cs would have been flown to Curtiss in Buffalo. Curtiss most likely just repainted them OD/Grey over their markings, disassembled and crated them for Lend-Lease to the UK. Following the German invasion of the USSR, Churchill directed that 200 Tomahaks from Lend-Lease be diverted to the USSR as a symbol of British committment to the new alliance. These 48 P-40Cs were in that shipment, which arrived in Murmansk in September 1941. There have been other shots of early P-40s in Soviet markings in OD/Grey US camo, which confirms this as the likely explanation. This airplane today is in the Flying Heritage Collection, in AVG markings as Bob Neale’s airplane.

This kit is being done as my friend the late Erik Shilling’s photo plane, which is why there is a hole in the lower fuselage for the camera port. The next will be a OD/Grey P-40C in Red Air Force markings.

Cutting Edge did a series of three AVG decal sheets (which includes Erik’s airplane). Also Aeromaster did an AVG Special decal set, which has a lot of good information on markings and paint jobs. You can find these up on eBay (or you could before this kit came out). Xtradecal has two sheets out now that have British, USAAC and other AF markings (Turkish on one sheet IIRC).

As regards the light blue and dark blue Chinese markings, the light blue is what the Chinese paint they used faded to. You would find that on the upper surfaces, with the lower surfaces not faded so much. On an airplane during the first month of so of service, the upper insignia would still be dark.

Erik told me he drew each sharkmouth on the airplanes of the 3rd Hells Angels – each other squadron did their own later. All the mouths are different, so be sure you know which airplane your are doing with what decals.

AVG P-40s all had lap belts only, no shoulder harness until they got P-40Es.

The kit is a dream. Don’t listen to the OCD’s over at The Other Place who are always making The Perfect the enemy of The Good. Hume Bates says it works. It’s miles and miles better than anything else in any scale.

26 additional images. Click to enlarge

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27 responses to Airfix 1/48 P-40B – some background notes in review

  1. Great article Tom, I find things over at “The other” place amusing at times. I honestly read through all the hub bub and just can’t see what they are upset about. Maybe I am dumb, looks like a sweet kit to me, thanks for sharing the build photos and the AVG photos.

  2. That “Other Place” has been recently inundated with the usual whiners and complainers and rivet counters constantly undermining the accuracy of this kit. I’m sick of it.
    Airfix has “stepped it up” of late and I’ve yet to decide which kit I’ll get.

    • Get this one. Follow the instructions and follow the paint scheme (cut masks from drafting tape, available from your local art supplies store) and it will be impossible to not have a total winner.

  3. Tom, thanks for the review, great reference info and photos, and for being the voice of reason. ‘Nuff said.

  4. Hi Tom. Thanks for all the information & photos. I, for one, am now a confirmed Airfix aficionado & will probably build anything they produce in 1/48 (Sea Fury, Walrus & Mustang next year!). I’ll look forward to seeing your completed model.

    • Back in 1958, 14 year old me took the bus to the Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver, and went to Anderson’s Toy Store and went downstairs to the plastic kits, and there, on the wall opposite the stairs was all the airfix 1/72 bagged kits! All the airplanes I wanted to do that no one in America did, all to the same scale. In retrospect, not great kits, but at the time, the greatest kits in the world for a budding “serious modeler.” And now Airfix are doing kits that ARE what we thought they were then. A childhood dream come true – what could be better? I LOVE AIRFIX.

  5. This is a kit that I would eventually like to try. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the “New” Airfix kits. Hopefully I can get one of these soon. This one looks great to me. Your build is coming along nicely. Thanks for sharing the photos of the originals and your build.

  6. Tom thanks for the very informative article and especially the awesome photos. I must concur with your assessment on Airfix. Will definitely get this one as it is far superior to the Academy kit.

  7. Nice article Tom, look forward to getting one of these in the future. Never did an Airfix kit, none of the Hardware or Ben Franklin stores in my community carried them. Just got to view them in catalogues and wow did they do some models that really looked neat. Thanks for sharing I learn more about modeling on this site than the “Other Place”.

  8. Thanks for a great article Tom, and thanks for the photo’s, now I’ve got some more inspiration for the three kits I have in my sweaty palms!

  9. In looking at the photos of some of the P-40s…some have multiple colored wheel covers. Did these represent the squadron colors and which squadron had them painted on? I’ve also, noticed that that some of the props …the paint either faded or it faded or whore off and is bare metal on the back half. Considering that Airfix used some digital technology to measure a real P-40 based in the U.K. … the OCD types are using drawings to find the fatal flaw …one has to draw upon their expert personal experience to find the truth. Mean while back at the farm the modelers will being buying these things like hot cakes. The drama can be entertaining… this kit is a slam dunk.

    • The pinwheels on the wheel covers came later in March when they all moved up into china from Burma. Not all had them, most that did were in the Hell’s Angels squadron. The props were unpainted on the front and maroon on the back, and the metal cot corroded enough to get a “grayish” look by the time the Luce photos were taken in May, just before the Monsoon shut everything down. Some of the maroon paint wore off the back also. You can see how sun-faded Erik’s photo bird is in the last two photos.

  10. Apparently just as well I don’t know where the “other place” is being referred to! I for one just enjoy the process of building a model and ending up with a decent representation of the real thing – flaws and all! Creativity counts for more than accuracy in any artistic endeavor, which I consider modeling to be!

  11. LOL That site that shall not be named is generally a good enough place, I frequent it though I stopped for awhile after a huge negativity wave took over concerning Eduards 109. I now find the debates and anger high entertainment 🙂

    • The 109 and then the good folks started to go at the new Airfix B-17 based on the photographic evidence of one built model. Considering that the kits pedigree …researched by Lynn R and Inc., I was put off by the comments.

  12. I think I’d soak a little tissue in 50/50 water/white glue to replicate the canvas linings of the wells, but otherwise all looks tickety-boo.

    • Having seen those boots first hand out at Chino, what’s molded there is good. Apply a thin wash of brown and then black to simulate dirt and oil, and it will look just fine. BTW – they were either YZC or, if there was a later repaint, underside color. For AVG I am going with YZC per Erik’s descriptions. (It was great to have a resource like Erik, who paid attention to the details of the airplanes at the time and had a steel-trap memory).

  13. I had the opportunity to look into the box of this kit at Telford, and I remember wondering how the fit would be coniudering that the cowling is a multi-part assembly. Getting a no-filler fit is great news and witnessing of the smartness of Airfix egnineering.

  14. Great review Tom. Airfix are turnng out great kits.

  15. I’d like to build their new B-17, I have the new-ish Revell kit and the panel lines are just too heavy.

  16. I just ordered one of these. I’m looking forward to it arriving at my door…… Airfix has been doing a great job with the new releases. Thanks again for the posting. Now if we could just get the new Stuka soon here in the US. That one is on my bucket list too.

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