About 15 years ago I was fresh back in the country after years abroad, and, trying to get settled in, I wanted to get my family a dog. I saw a Scotty pup someplace, thought he was great, and within the week found one through breeder. After a month or so I decided to do some research on the critter because, well, he was turning out a beast. I quickly read something to the effect that popular sentiment notwithstanding, a Scottish Terrier is bred to be as much high-octane dog in as small a package as possible. Hhmmm. Loved him, great dog, but he soon found a new home with a friend of mine who ran a Beagle ranch in Kentucky horse country.
There is a modeling point to this tale. As I neared completion on my Tamiya P-51B (http://imodeler.com/2017/06/tamiya-148-p-51b-of-the-486th-fs-352nd-fg/), I thought a project to sharpen my surface skills would be good for me. I weighed my options, pulled an Academy P-38M Night Lightning (1:48) from my modest stash and, after looking it over, figured that if I did it wheels up it would be fairly straightforward (I already have an Academy stand for it). Besides, I am more a fool for the P-38 than I am for Scotty pups. I built the Monogram one (cough) 40 (cough) years ago, and in spite of the grief it gave me I simply love the plane. I visited Glacier Girl in Middlesboro, Kentucky as she was being restored about 20 years ago, and it was really something walking in between her booms and look into her landing gear bays as the techs tooled minute parts out around me. I had dreamed about doing the Night Lightning version way back when, but never got to. So I thought now was my chance.
Turns out I just bought a beast. As with my pup, I did some digging after starting in. My research, ironically, led me to IModeler as I stumbled across Chuck Villanueva’s bird (http://imodeler.com/2017/02/academy-148-lockheed-p-38m-night-lightning-usaaf/), which he posted a few months ago. Other research has led me to conclude that while the P-51, and P-47, and Bf 109 and others have all gotten more than their fair shake through various manufacturers, the P-38 has yet to be graced with a scale model iteration worthy of her legend, at least in my preferred scale. Some say Hasegawa is better than Academy, others say Monogram/Revell is as good any anyone else’s. In truth, someone needs to convince an independently wealthy tycoon to fund a really good Lightning model and relieve the general frustration I have perceived over the issue. In any case, the bottom line is I am fairly committed to the project and I realize that Tamiya she is not. Tom Cleaver called his Hasegawa P-40 “comfort food for modelers” (http://imodeler.com/2017/07/hasegawa-148-raaf-p-40e-1-kittyhawk-i/). Well, I have a kale salad here, with low cal vinaigrette and pine nuts. On the side.
I have become philosophical about the whole thing. Modeling is a kind of recreational discipline, and that means pressing on. But thanks to IModeler I can get some feedback as I go. So I am posting this article as an “in progress” thingy, and hope for some counsel as I go. This first installation will detail what I have done and why so far, along with current challenges and victories such as there are. I admit the risk. Doing it this way means I am committed to glory or shame, with little room for middle ground. I only do one bird at a time, meaning this is it until she’s done. So here goes.
What you see here above (and below) is how far I have gotten so far. Since I am going to paint the entire thing gloss black, and I am going to skip the drop tanks and rockets and stick with the minimalism of the P-38’s already stunning silhouette, I realize that the cockpit will be a focal point. Since I am not featuring landing gear either, I figured I’d better include crew members. Problem: Academy’s kit doesn’t come with crew figurines. So I pirated these guys from another kit in my stash that I plan on doing with no crew. To make these figures work I had to grind down his backside and cut the legs off the pilot below the knees and reposition them. I filed and filled with Perfect Plastic Putty and repainted. The radar man had to have his legs amputated entirely below the knees to get him to fit, and I am counting on the illusion that they would have been crammed in the recesses underneath his radar unit, rendering them unseeable anyway. I had to use a Dremel to remove the seat of the radar guy as well, so he would fit. Additionally, while the interior walls of the pilots cockpit are assembled from separate piece, the interior of the radar man’s space is actually in the upper wing/pod piece. To had to paint the inside with chromate green (hence a bit of overspray onto the wings that will be covered by primer anyway), and I added some structural sprues for interest’s sake, again taking some artistic license.
[By the way, apparently only one of these Night Lightnings is still around with the rear radar seat still intact, and I think it’s in Arizona; I had read it was here in Seattle, but that bird has been reconverted to the P-38L (http://www.museumofflight.org/aircraft/lockheed-p-38l-lightning.%5D
The entire cockpit assembly turned into a royal pain when it came to making it fit and having the top wing/pod unit join properly with tits lower half counterpart. I don’t know if it’s just my kit (there is no doubt it is a bit warped), or the nature of Academy’s manufacturing (likely a combo of both), but I had to do lots of grinding and sanding to clear the way for assembly.
As of these photos I have not glued the upper to the lower.
As you can see from the boom assemblies, I had to do a fair amount of putty and sanding work. Again, some of this is the nature of the kit I am working with, and some was required by my own missteps because I was fresh off and Tamiya, and I assumed. And we all know where that leads us.
So there we are so far. Next I will rev myself up and glue the top assembly to the bottom, and clamp the daylights out of it. Once that is done I will be able to proceed with the booms, nose, and tail. From that point on it will be all about filling, sanding, and priming until the paint phase comes.
I am more than open to tips and critiques.