Eye of the Tiger
I know…here we go again, here comes another stinking P-40, and a “Flying Tiger” one at that.
But…Please bear with me.
When I was a kid in the 1950’s, the “Flying Tigers”…the pilots of Claire Chennaults’s American Volunteer Group (AVG) were my HEROES. They were one of the main reasons that I loved airplanes from a very early age and wanted to be a Fighter Pilot when I grew up. I realized that dream and flew fighters in the USAF for twenty years. I flew the F-111 for eight years (101 combat missions during the Vietnam War) and the A-10 for twelve years. As a matter of fact, my last assignment was flying the shark mouthed A-10’s of the 76th Tactical Fighter Squadron (direct descendants of the 3rd Squadron, “Hell’s Angels”) of the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing (ex-AVG).
When I came back to modeling a few years ago, I built various planes, but shied away from the P-40 because the subject seemed trite and overdone. In the end however, I had to pay tribute to the airplane and the pilots that kindled my dreams so many years ago.
The kit I chose was the new tool Airfix 1/48 P-40B…but the build is actually of a Curtiss Hawk 81-A2 (or A3 depending on what source you find). The history of this airplane and unit have been covered in depth elsewhere by Tom Cleaver and others so I will just say that it is the personal aircraft of AVG pilot R. T. Smith, a flight leader with the “Hell’s Angels” after his first aircraft, “White 77” was damaged.
The build was straight forward with no real issues (if you follow Tom Cleaver’s hints on his build on Modeling Madness). No filler was really needed, but I did use some CA to neaten up the main fuselage seam. I used the Eduard P/E set for the cockpit and various external bits. I tried to use the Eduard Landing Flaps but was unsure as to exactly where to cut the upper wing and didn’t want to make a bigger mess so I left them off (I did include a photo of the flaps to show how nice they are, though).
I painted the plane with Vallejo Air acrylics and did some initial weathering and streaking using AK weathering pencils (I love these). This was followed by a coat of Alclad Aquagloss and application of the kit decals. Being a bit thick, they needed several coats of Solvaset to make them play nice and settle into the panel lines. A final sealing coat of Alclad was followed by an oil panel line wash and some more weathering.
I hope I didn’t overdo the weathering, but these airplanes were put through some rough times and got pretty beat up before the AVG was disbanded on 4 July 1942 and incorporated into the USAAF as the 23rd Fighter Group.
19 additional images. Click to enlarge.