Battle of Kasserine Pass GB, Amtech 1/48 scale P-40 L-5 CU, long tail version, “Lighthouse Louie” 325th Fighter Group “Checkertail Clan”, North Africa
Here is another one of the planes I built for the Kasserine Pass Group Build.
Again I wish to thank David Thomas for starting and hosting the Kasserine Pass Group Build. His untiring efforts have helped this GB become the success it is. Not only has Dave been coaching all of us along during our building process, but he too has completed a fine example of an AMT 1/48 scale A-20 Havoc.
If you haven’t looked at what is happening over in the Kasserine Pass GB, I strongly urge you to do so. You don’t know what you are missing if you don’t, as there have been some fine builds happening over there…
My plane is the Amtech version of the AMT P-40 “long tail” kit, which came with a replacement resin nose, and an outstanding set of decals. I picked this kit up many years ago when it was first released. Right around this same time I found a set of decals for “Lighthouse Louie” and eventually planned on building that plane, since we share the same name… kind of. 🙂
The 325th Fighter Group became known as the “checker tail clan” for obvious reasons. One look at the tail with the black and yellow checkers and it becomes apparent. However in the early days the unit didn’t have these markings. Once the checkers were used on the P-40’s, they continued to be painted on replacement aircraft, as they received new P-47 Thunderbolt’s and eventually P-51 Mustangs.
I was really pleased when I found this picture below, which shows the Unit Commander Lt. Col. Gordon H. Austin sitting in the cockpit of his plane. This particular P-40 was serial number 42-10664, indicating it is in fact a long tail P-40.
According to Dana Bell, these planes were delivered to the 325th wearing the US Equivalent paints to the RAF colors of Dark Earth, Middle Stone over Azure Blue. It is a striking color combination, and is one of my favorites.
I have been told the plane was named “Lighthouse Louie” after shooting up a lighthouse. In this photo you will see the original plane had a checkered tire pattern. The kit provided me with a smooth tread version. I located an aftermarket resin replacement set of weighted wheels to make it look more accurate.
I used this photo which I took from a similar angle as the original picture was, to use as a comparison…
Here’s the same picture when I converted it to black and white…
I think it came pretty close to the real P-40.
This Amtech kit is basically an AMT kit that has a replacement resin nose and a superb set of decals that have been accurately researched. The resin nose is intended to replace the kit nose, which is inaccurate to a degree. Some have stated the outline is incorrect, but I know for certain the main flaw is the twin air intakes located in the nose just below the spinner. These planes had a single air intake located in this position for the carburetor for the Packard built Merlin engine. The Curtiss “L” model P-40 was built as a light weight version of the “F”. As such, it had two wing guns instead of the usual three in each wing.
The F and the L versions look very similar in appearance. The both have the “fish tail” style exhaust. The “L” version also had reduced armor plating, and a reduced fuel capacity. The long tail “F” version looks almost identical to the long tail “L” version. The primary difference that is most visible is the wing gun arrangement. The “F’ model has a total of six .050 caliber MG’s, while the “L” model has four.
Ironically, in the field these outer two machine guns were often re installed, making it even harder to distinguish the two types apart. When this happens, it is best to refer to the serial number if you have it available. The kit supplied cockpit looks OK to me, but it would definitely be worthwhile to replace the kit seat with a resin one… The clear parts look rather nice too.
The resin nose is rather heavy. In fact it is so heavy that initially I was concerned that this plane would be a “Nose” sitter and that I may have to add weight to the tail ! I mocked everything up, and to my relief it worked out just fine. It does seem to strain the main landing gear legs though.
Speaking of the landing gear, I used Bare Metal Foil on the oleo shock portion of the landing gear. This part was chrome plated on the real plane to keep the seals from being damaged. the chrome was an ultra smooth surface and id not wear into the seals. I also used clear stretched plastic to make the antennae lead in cable.
I built this plane at the same time as I was building another P-40, using my assembly line method of building. Here is a picture below of the two P-40’s sitting side by side.
Followed by a link to the build log:
Rather than use the decals for the checkers on the tail, I opted to try something new for me. I masked off the checkers and sprayed them on. I think it turned out OK, probably better than using the decals, which often do not cover the edges of the tail surfaces.
Once the plane was painted and decaled , I sealed the finish using Testor’s Dull Coat from a rattle can. Then I proceeded to weather it and add some dust and dirt using the Tamiya weathering decks.
The exhaust was done using ground up black chalk and a cotton tipped swab. The gun powder residue was done using the same method.
If I had the opportunity to build this kit over again I would do something different with the resin nose. There was a problem with how the sides of the fuselage lined up to the resin nose. There was a noticeable step where the plastic meets the resin.
What I would do differently is this: I would test fit the nose and add plastic card shims of varying thickness to the fitment plugs cast into the resin nose. This would push the outer sides of the fuselage farther, and the resin would fit much better. Since I did not do this, it took me quite some time to fill in the stepped areas, and then re scribe the panel lines.
Overall I was very pleased with how this one turned out. Other than using filler to blend in the areas surrounding the resin nose, no filler was needed. I alleviated any possibilities of a wing root to fuselage gap by gluing the upper wing surface to the fuselage assembly first. Once this dried, I installed the lower half of the wing. This method ensured there were no gaps which can occasionally happen during a build.
I painted the area behind the rear side glass in a lighter shade of tan. I did this, as in many pictures you see of P-40’s this area appears to be a different shade than the surrounding colors. This could be caused by several reasons. First it could be due to the light reflecting through the plexi glass and giving it an optical illusion of being a different color. The other reason is the glass may have intensifies the sun’s rays, thereby fading the paint faster than the surrounding areas. It could be a combination of both … Here in this picture below, you can see what I am talking about. Notice the difference between the tan colors next the and behind the rear side glass.
Going back to the history of the 325th, the 317th Squadron flew it’s first mission on May 19th, 1943. This was an escort mission as they protected B-26 bombers over the Decimonannu Airfield in Sardinia. The unit claimed six kills and lost one P-40.
It was on this first mission that a pilot (who was to become famous later), claimed his first kill. Captain Herschel H. Green claimed a Bf-109 destroyed. It was his first kill of many more that would follow.
The 317th Fighter Squadron also pioneered the use of carrying a single 1,000 pound bomb located on the center line fuselage rack that can be seen in this photo below. You also get a good look at the Azure Blue color in this picture.
The 325th continued to fly P-40’s until they received P-47’s and started the transition into the newer type. They flew their last mission in P-40’s on September 22nd, 1943.
Overall I enjoyed this build, and thanks again go out to David Thomas. If not for his ambition to start this GB, I probably wouldn’t have decided to build this kit.
Now I am glad that I did…
Comments are encouraged.