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AMT 1/48 P-40N

My second favorite plane is the P-40. (The Spitfire has the top spot in my airplane heart.) Which I guess fits the P-40 in historical perspective. The P-40 wasn’t the best fighter of World War II. Many would argue it was obsolete the whole war. Still, it was the little plane that could. It fought in some of the worst conditions, relegated for the most part to being the plane that had to shoulder the load in far-flung theaters while Europe received most of the new fighters. It held it’s own against fighters often more advanced than it was. But it was tough, and brought it’s pilots home. And it accounted for more than a few enemy fighters.

I picked up AMT’s now out-of-production P-40N from Ebay for a decent price, and decided to build it in the markings of MAJ Donald Quigley’s mount when he was CO of the 75th FS/23 FG- the Flying Tigers. MAJ Quigley was shot down shortly after he achieved his fifth aerial victory, and spent the rest of the war as a POW. His plane was named “Rene the Queen”, after his wife Irene. I chose to do his bird simply because I thought it would be neat to build one that isn’t the typical pilot we’re used to seeing from WWII.

Building started, of course with the cockpit. Here’s a view of both the left and right sidewalls. I airbrushed them zinc chromate green, then painted the bits and pieces. I followed this with a dry brushing of light gray, then some light weathering with a silver pencil. After that came a coat of Future, decals, an acrylic wash, and topped it all off with a coat of Polly Scale Flat. I scratch built a throttle and mixture control lever, as well as the two little wheel dealies mounted behind them. (OK…. they’re actually called trim tabs.) As a final touch, I pulled some decals out of the spares box to add to the side walls. I think the decals really bring the cockpit to life.

The seat didn’t look to bad, but I figured it could use a little sprucing up. I scratch built the mounting brackets, and added Eduard PE belts. The bar the belts are attached to is scratch built, as is the bolting plate in the seat back. Ultracast makes a really beautiful replacement, but I was trying to not break the bank on aftermarket parts.

AMT’s engineering is not too bad, and once the fuselage was joined together, very little filler was needed. I did have to do a bit of sanding where the rear fuselage window needed to be placed, as the fuselage has the “scalloped’ window cut-out that is typical of previous P-40 versions. AMT provides a recessed line that makes the cut-away simple, but it does require a bit of test fitting and sanding to make sure that the window fits correctly.

After fitting the wings and tailplanes to the fuselage, and cleaning up the joins a little bit, it was time to begin painting. I’ve never been very good using the pre-shading technique, and not much better at the post shading technique. Still, I do like the way it looks. I also wanted to keep the final finish from having to “monotone” a look. The real aircraft had faded area, streaks, spills, paint chips- they did not look to be one solid color after too long in the field. So I decided that it might be time to try a new technique.

The typical pre-shade technique is to paint the panel lines black, then “fill-in” the gaps with the primary color. Post-shade flips it- you paint the primary color, then use a darker shade to paint the panel lines. Another technique I’d seen recently was to paint some panels white and others black, then paint the primary color over them to give light and dark patches.

I figured maybe I’d try to mash all of these techniques together. Since I wasn’t good at filling in the lines, putting down a coat of the primary color would make it simpler later to fill-in, and I could use light “misting coats” to blend the various shadings.

I started with the bottom of the aircraft, painting a coat of Pollyscale neutral gray over the entire under-surface. After that had dried, I loosely sprayed in the panel lines with Pollyscale Grimy black. After that had dried, I masked off several panel areas and painted some white, and some black.

I removed the masking tape, and began the process of filling in areas with another coat of gray. After filling in some areas, I began to lightly mist on a coat to do a final “blending” of the colors.

The result was close to what I wanted. I was a bit too heavy handed in my blending coat, and I realized I should’ve painted the various panels before I did the panel lines. And despite it all- it still didn’t look random enough to me… it looked a bit to neat and deliberate.

No point in giving up on the idea, though. I still thought the technique had merit, so I decided to change it a bit to see if I could make it work a bit better and achieve the result I was looking for.

First, I decided to paint the panel lines after shading the panels. I since the panel lines would cover the panels themselves, there was no need to mask sections. And to really make things look random, I decided to just spray some white and black in various places without much rhyme or reason, though it did make sense to put more white in places likely to get more wear or sun expose.

So I gave the upper surfaces a coat of Pollyscale USAAF olive drab, and then began spraying various panels and patches white. After that had time to dry, I followed up with various patches and panels of black, then a final shading of the panel lines themselves.

Giving that adequate drying time, I started the process of filling in and blending. One of the lessons I’d learned on the underside was that when you got to the point where you think “It’s almost enough”, it’s probably just right, because every time I added a bit more, I ended up covering too much. So on the upper surfaces, I tried to be much more minimal in my blending and shading.

The final result was much closer to what I’d hoped for, with the upper surface looking much more random than the lower surfaces turned out. I was still a bit heavy handed in the final analysis, but I could see that the problem wasn’t the technique itself, just my execution. The areas of light and dark shading popped out much better, and the final result definitely does not have that “monotone” finish that many single color models have.

Once the major painting was done, the rest was all the little details that make it all come together. I started by using a Prisma color silver pencil to simulate paint chipping. It’s always a tough job deciding how much is enough. Even with constant reference to photos, there’s a fine line between “Hey, that’s neat paint chipping” and “Whoa, dude….. who gave you a silver crayon”.

I like to do the paint chipping before putting on a coat of Future, as the pencil works better on the paint directly than on the gloss coat. I applied 3 or 4 coats of Future with my airbrush, and gave that a few hours to cure.

Decals went on next. I’d ordered an Eagle Strike set (EP48077) from the LHS for the plane I was building. They went on very well, settled nicely with Pollyscale Decal Softener, and were just a great looking set of markings. After they dried, I hit them with one more coat of Future.

Next came the panel line wash, exhaust stains (I airbrushed Tamiya Smoke for that) and the addition of the little bits and pieces- landing gear, antennas, etc. I replaced the kit supplied wheels with a set from True Details, and the exhaust set was a gorgeous resin set from Ultracast that I highly recommend. In my reference pics, I noticed that the P-40 had only the front sight post of the iron sights, so I made one up from a small piece of wire, building up the “ball” on the end with a few quick dips in Super Glue and then Super Glue accelerator. The exhausts got a coat of PollyScale Aluminum, followed by a wash of PollyScale Night Black, then finally a wet wash of brown pastels to simulate rust.

One of the little “fun” details I tried to add was dents in the drop tank. I’d seen many photos of the drop tanks used on P-40’s, and often they were dented in one or more places, which I would assume would be from handling and so forth. I figured if I messed up my attempts, I could simply fill in the spot with putty and it would be none the worse for wear. I used my xacto knife to make a few little gouges in the tank, then a sanding stick to smooth it out a bit, but still trying to leave a “creased” look. Before painting the tank the underside color, I painted the “dents” with some aluminum. After the underside color dried, I lightly sanded some of the paint away to leave the effect that some paint had chipped. I was pretty happy with the results.

I finished it all up with a coat of PollyScale Flat, glued on the canopy pieces, and sat back to admire my work. As with most my builds, there are some things I could’ve done better on, and it’s not perfect. But I’m pretty laid back when it comes to my models. I had fun, and it looks pretty decent, if I do say so myself.

I’d recommend this kit to any modeler. Good fit, good detailing, and a lot of fun to build. Which is good to know, as I have three more AMT P-40’s in the stash!

You can see all the photos of this build at my Picasa Web Album-

AMT 1-48 P-40N