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Book Review
Modelling the P-40

by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

Originally published on:

The book contains 9 chapters and breaks down into 3 main areas:

An introduction and walkaround
The modelling projects

introduction and walkaround
Things kick off with an overview of the P-40, with a history of the aircraft and the basic development of the type. The text clearly explains the differences between the variants and is backed up by a neat table which cross-relates the US and RAF designations along with their distinguishing features.

Following this is a look at the P-40 in kit form, with a run down of the various models which have appeared over the years along with brief descriptions of the best kits available in each scale. It's important to mention that the book was prepared last year, so the new crop of 1/48 models from Trumpeter and Hasegawa aren't covered. The section concludes with a useful table of the kits and accessories. This is very handy for seeing what's available (not all items are necessarily in production), but would have been improved if the manufacturers' item codes had been included too.

Rounding off is a 6 page walkaround of a preserved P-40N in Australia. The 24 excellent colour photos are well-chosen to include plenty of detail which will be a real help to modellers. Areas such as the guns and exhausts are neatly illustrated, while the undercarriage and cockpit are covered in depth. The photos are backed up by informative captions.

modelling projects
The bulk of the book is devoted to 6 modelling projects - each rated for complexity.

1. P-40B “Flying Tiger” in 1/32 scale - Master Level
The subject is the recent Trumpeter kit built by Steve Pallfy, but Steve takes it way beyond the stock model and has piled masses of scratch-built detail into the engine and radio compartment. The article is an excellent guide to tackling Trumpeter's model and draws attention to some of the kits shortcomings - particularly the cockpit. Perhaps surprisingly, in view of the amount of work he did elsewhere, Steve elected to build the cockpit as supplied but, nevertheless, this is a truly beautiful model. This chapter is well worth reading by anyone building the new 1/48 scale kit, which is scaled down from its big brother - problems and all.

I was particularly interested by the painting technique Steve has used for weathering his model. Without describing it in detail, suffice to say he has developed a very effective method of simulating patchy and stained paintwork. It's a new technique to me and I'll certainly give it a try in the future. As a bonus, the chapter doesn't stop there - Steve also shows briefly how he converted figures and Tamiya's Jeep for this model.

2. “Kiwi” Kittyhawk Mk 1a in 1/48 scale - Advanced Level
This is a joint project between Brett Green and Chris Wauchop and Promodeller's P-40E gets the expert treatment and shows just good this model can look. This is an excellent article on making the most of kit-supplied items - the only aftermarket extras used were an Ultracast resin seat to replace the crude and inaccurate kit part and a Squadron vacuform canopy. Otherwise, it's all down to basic improvements to the kit parts and careful painting.

The model is finished in a really eye-catching RNZAF scheme. The authors admit to a little educated guesswork in this, but the use of Sea Blue Grey in place of Dark Earth certainly looks great and the model also features some very effective weathering.

3. RAAF Kittyhawk Mk.IV “Black Magic” in 1/48 scale - Advanced Level
The next build is based on the AMT (AMtech) P-40N.This time the kit does get some serious aftermarket enhancement, courtesy of True Details' excellent resin cockpit plus Eduard photo-etched parts and replacement exhausts from the spares box. Once again the kit also benefits from some simple improvements - guns and sway braces - and the result is very effective. Again, the weathering is excellent, with a combination of pre- and post-shading - all explained step-by-step to allow readers to try the techniques shown.

4. French P-40F, North Africa in 1/48 scale - Advanced Level
AMtech stay in the frame with this build. This time it's their P-40F, complete with the excellent resin replacement nose for this Merlin-engined variant. I'm actually just gearing up to start AMtech's 'L with the same nose, so I was obviously interested to read another modeller's experiences with the “conversion”. Brett describes the installation really clearly and adds a few tips to help potential builders avoid pitfalls.

Apart from the nose-job, this article really focuses on a very attractive paint scheme for one of the aircraft handed over to the French after the invasion of North Africa. The aircraft has it's US markings painted over with French roundels and Lafayette Escadrille insignia and the result is a real temptation for anyone looking for “something different”

5. TP-40N trainer in 1/48 scale - Master Level
Now for the “big one”... a conversion of the Mauve / Eduard P-40N to produce a TP-40N 2-seat trainer. With a combination of scratch-building, plus some aftermarket extras, Brett builds a real show-stopper. Needless to say, the bulk of the work involves careful modification of the fuselage to install the instructor's cockpit and this is covered in plenty of detail. Nevertheless, some simple 1/48 scale diagrams with cut marks shown would have been a great help for anyone considering trying this build for themselves.

Other improvements to the kit include Moskit exhausts a Red Roo rudder and True Details wheels. Once again the paint job is superb, with an Olive Drab / Neutral Gray scheme enhanced by large areas of Medium Green (including some unusual mottling) and brought to life with very nice weathering.

6. RAF Kittyhawk Mk. 1a in 1/72 scale - Advanced Level
Modellers of 1/72 scale have been left out so far, so they'll welcome the final build - Glen Porter builds a very nice example of Academy's P-40E dressed up with a True Details resin cockpit and a Hasegawa canopy from the spares box. The painting is a little different on this one, in that an acrylic wash thinned with methylated spirits is used over enamel paints. Thinning with meths is a new one on me and the result looks very effective. Also worth noting is the use of grey paint to represent paint chips - this gives a very subtle look, unlike silver which can often appear too bright in small scales.

What I really like is the author's refreshing, “warts 'n all” approach to each of the builds. Brett doesn't pretend every model is perfect - just the opposite; he points out problems such as a poorly fitting canopy which he didn't pick up on 'till the model was almost finished, runaway cement and the age old frustration of finding new references just after you've finished painting and applied the decals. This honesty means the book doesn't fall into the trap of being a sterile showcase and relates much more to modellers' everyday experiences.

If a have a criticism, it's of the difficulty rating system. All the builds are rated Advanced or Master, which makes them sound more complex than they really are. This is particularly true of the Advanced projects, because I think most modellers with some experience of simple modifications and resin accessories will have no difficulty following them. True, we might not be able to achieve quite such spectacular results as the authors, but it would be a pity if people let the perceived complexity put them off.

The book ends with a very comprehensive list of references and some useful websites, followed by a colour reference chart. This shows typical combinations of national markings and camouflage schemes. By its nature, it can't hope to cover all the permutations and printing limitations mean the colours should only be treated as a guide, but it's a handy quick reference and is accompanied by useful notes describing each scheme.

Overall, this is a very welcome book which should be a great help in building any P-40 model. It's a shame that it doesn't include the latest Trumpeter and Hasegawa models; maybe these will appear in a future volume. I'm always impressed by the work of Brett and the other authors and these builds should provide plenty of inspiration for other modellers of all abilities. The painting and weathering techniques illustrated have applications far beyond the specific subjects. Recommended.

Contact details

Osprey Direct
PO Box 140
Northants, NN8 2FA
United Kingdom

(01933) 443 863

Thank you to Osprey Publishing for kindly supplying the review sample.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on ARMORAMA
2005 really seems to be turning into the year the Curtiss P-40 gets back in the limelight, and the trend continues with Volume #15 in Osprey's Modelling series being devoted to the aircraft. The book follows the style of previous volumes and is softbound with 80 pages. Written by Brett Green, the book features a series of projects in different scales, with a combination of his own models plus contributions from Steve Pallfy, Glen Porter and Chris Wauchop, each described in detail and backed up with some excellent colour photographs of the construction and finishing.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: 1841768235
  Suggested Retail: £10.99 / $
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Mar 20, 2005
  NATIONALITY: United States

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright ©2021 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. 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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