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Built Review
P-47D Thunderbolt “Bubbletop”

by: Nigel Julian [ LAMPIE ]

Originally published on:

"A flash of lightning accompanied by thunder” is the dictionary definition of Thunderbolt and it aptly describes the P-47.

Designed by Republics Alexander Kartvelli the P-47 first flew on May 6th 1941. The P-47D was powered by a Pratt and Whitney Double Wasp radial engine developing around 2,300HP giving the aircraft a top speed of around 433 mph.

Early combat sorties, first flown in April 1943, revealed that the Thunderbolt could out-dive all opposing fighters -a definite advantage in aerial combat. The P-47 could also absorb tremendous battle damage and continue to fly, and the eight .50 calibre machine guns that Kartvelli installed gave it the greatest projectile throw-weight of any U. S. fighter that served in World War II, except for the Northrop P-61 Black Widow night fighter.

However, initial operational experience revealed problems with the engine, radio, landing gear, range and rate of climb. The first three difficulties were soon sorted out, but rate of climb was not dramatically improved until December when new broad-chord "paddle-blade" propellers were fitted.

The “JUG” soon gained a reputation as a fine escort fighter and later as a fighter-bomber. Combined with its ability to take punishment and still get back to base it was well loved by the men that flew it. Statistically it had the lowest loss ratio of any American fighter of WW2 and is remembered as one of the finest aircraft of the era. P-47's flew more than 546,000 combat sorties between March 1943 and August 1945.

What’s in the box?
Opening the sturdy and well illustrated box reveals 5 sprues of grey parts, 1 of transparent parts and a decal sheet. All are protected by a plastic bag.

Various ordnance is included, comprising 500lb bombs. rocket launchers and 2 different size drop tanks, enabling the modeller to produce a variety of versions from the same kit.

The instructions consist of an 8 page booklet with clear assembly instructions and painting diagrams for the 2 versions of the P47D depicted:

The first is a “checkerboard” version depicting the mount of Lt.Col Benjamin Mayo 84FS, 78th FG Duxford Uk 1944.

The second version offered, and the one I chose to build, is "Kokomo". The personal run-around of Maj Gen William Kepner, Commanding General of VIII Fighter Command, and later of 2nd Bomb Division. This P47 was used as Kepner's personal transport and was based at Hethel in Norfolk, close to Kepners HQ. The nature of "Kokomo’s" use meant I would be able to depict build a gleaming NMF and not a war weary subject. That will come later.

Assembly begins with the cockpit tub, and this in itself is a beautiful piece of work. The detail is superb, as good as aftermarket resin products straight out of the box. The sprues are arranged in such a way as to make it easy to paint smaller parts before removal, and this is particularly useful for the cockpit tub. Detailed painting instructions are included in the assembly sub section. The instrument panel and seatbelts are included on the decal sheet, and blend in very well when the whole cockpit is dry brushed and washed. Displaying the finished model with the cockpit open will enable most of this detail to still be seen.

Assembly section 2 deals with attaching the fuselage halves and the rear fuselage section. As with everything, dry fitting is recommended but it all fitted together neatly with no need for filler and only minimal sanding. The rear fuselage section fits along the panel lines and this is a very nice touch.

Next we move onto the engine and cowling assembly. The engine comes in 4 parts and is very well detailed. The only thing missing is a wiring harness, which I declined to scratch build at this time. Maybe in the future when my skills have improved, although I suspect when I reach that level of experience the eyesight will be long gone.

Section 4 is the wing assembly which is very straightforward and Section 5 deals with attaching the wings, rudder and horizontal stabilisers. The inclusion of a main spar in the fuselage assembly ensures the correct alignment of the wings and again no filler was required.

Sections 6 through 8 are the assembly of the undercarriage, propeller, canopy and external stores. The only heads up I would give here would be with the propeller assembly. There are 8 manufacturers decals for this, and applying the decals before the final assembly of the prop makes it easy to ensure the correct spacing across all 4 blades. Everything else is straightforward and as usual was left to the final assembly stage to prevent damage.

This is where it got really interesting, as I had never attempted an NMF using Alclad before. I opted to use Alclad Polished Aluminium overall. One option commonly used is to mask individual panels and spray in different shades of Alclad. I opted not to go down this route on a first attempt but it is something I will definitely try on a future build.

After masking the wheel wells and cockpit area with damp tissue paper the whole aircraft was primed using Tamiya gloss black. An NMF is notorious for showing up any blemishes and careful inspection is required after priming to ensure nothing untoward stands out. Now it was time to take a deep breath and loose my Alclad virginity!

First things first...practice! I had also primed the wing from another kit in my stash, which I use as a test bed for untried techniques. The Alclad sprays straight from the bottle and all that is needed is a good shake and its ready to spray. I found the best way was to lower the pressure on the compressor right down to about 8 psi and work further away from the subject than usual. Gradually misting on coats of Alclad worked the best for me personally and it really is wonderful stuff with an undeserved reputation based I now think from unfamiliarity and horror stories about the Alclad black primer having an unwillingness to dry. Tamiya Gloss Black Acrylic worked just fine for me.

One advantage of using black as a primer under the Alclad means that you get a natural preshading effect and the panel lines show up beautifully. I considered adding a pin wash to the panel lines but felt that this would add nothing to the effect already achieved.

The anti glare panel and cowling were masked using Tamiya masking tape and sprayed with Tamiya acrylics. After a couple of coats of Klear everything was ready for the decals

The decals come on one sheet and the register is spot on. My only minor gripe would be that they seem a little on the thick side, but they settle down well using Microset and Microsol. The only area that gave me any trouble was the invasion stripes under the fuselage. I applied all the decals together and once they were lined up correctly gave them a good coating of Microsol and left them alone to do their thing.

I applied all decals straight onto the Alclad with the exception of the “Kokomo” decals on the cowling. This was because these decals overlap onto the green acrylic so I gave the cowling a couple of coats of Klear as I would normally do. Over time the Klear will loose some of its gloss and the anti-glare area will dull down nicely, so no need to remask and matt varnish it.

Final Assembly
Time for it all to come together. The tail wheel assembly was fitted, and the pre assembled main undercarriage was such a good fit on a dry run that its still there - no glue required. The propeller, ariel mast, pitot head and machine guns were cemented into place, followed by the canopy and landing lights.

Finally a couple of coats of Klear to seal everything in and the jobs done.

In my teenage years I had built a lot of Tamiya armour, but this was my first Tamiya subject since returning to the hobby about 8 months ago. I knew I was going to be in for a treat but the quality of this model is amazing. Everything fits together perfectly and only the merest wipe of filler was called for around the machine gun inserts. Any sink marks are in places not visible when the parts are assembled and there wasn’t a trace of flash anywhere. Major parts such as the fuselage insert connect along the panel lines, and the only sanding needed was along the top and bottom of the fuselage.

You're going to pay more for the Tamiya kits but don’t let this put you off. The extra cost is more than made up for by the sheer quality of the mould. If you fancy building a P47 or haven’t tried your hand at a Tamiya kit you are going to love the “Bubbletop”.

I will be building this again as the “Checkerboard” version and I have already added the “Razorback” to my stash.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AeroScale.
Tamiya's 2004 Release of the P-47 Razorback set a new standard in 1/72 P-47 moulds, and was followed soon after by the later P-47D Bubbletop version. A P-47M has been released in 1/48 earlier this year and hopefully we can expect a 1/72 version of this in the future as well
  Scale: 1:72
  Mfg. ID: 60770
  Suggested Retail: £13.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Jul 02, 2006
  NATIONALITY: United States

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About Nigel Julian (lampie)

Restarted modelling in late 2005 after a break of over 20 years.Built a lot of armour as a teenager but now concentrating on WW2 aircraft. Some skills are coming straight back to me and Im learning new ones everytime I log on to this site it seems.

Copyright ©2021 text by Nigel Julian [ LAMPIE ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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