I didn’t get back into the hobby of modeling until February 2006. I’d last built a model in the mid-80s. I’ve since found that in the intervening time, I missed out on some great kits. One group of kits in particular I (almost) missed was AMT’s fine line of P-40s.
Thankfully, there’s Ebay. 🙂
I’d already built AMT’s P-40N and thoroughly enjoyed that kit. And I’d picked up most of the rest of AMT’s P-40 line since then. Since I can’t let too much time elapse between my Spitfire and P-40 builds before I get twitchy, I grabbed my AMT P-40K off of the shelf.
The P-40K was an interesting version of the P-40 line. While most people associate it with the “big tail” version, only the first P-40Ks had that feature. Later K models had the extended tail that is more familiar to M and N models (and the late F and L models with the Merlin engine). AMT shipped the kit with an E fuselage, which had the shorter tail. A resin tail from Black Box was included, with a diagram on where to cut the fuselage to add on the larger K tail.
The AMT P-40s all had a reasonably detailed fuselage- good looking OOB, but certainly able to stand a little extra detail. I added a few punched out disks for the trim wheels, and a throttle quadrant. Before closing the fuselage up, I needed to cut off the smaller tail and make room for the resin tail.
The instructions provide a diagram that you can simply lay the fuselage half down on, make a mark where to cut, and saw away. Or that is the theory. The kit had two sets of fuselage halves- whether that was intentional or not I don’t know. But I’m thankful it did. After making the cuts, I taped the fuselage halves together, dry-fitted the resin tail, and realized it was cut waaay to short.
Now, I’d accounted for possible sanding and and such by adding an extra 1/8th inch to the cut line. I figured that would be plenty. Yet I realized even with that, the cut was almost 1/16th to far forward. I eyeballed the parts, and thunk ’till my thunker was thunked out. I decided I’d take advantage of the spare fuselage. This time I did some measuring. and checking.
It turned out that the fuselage and the diagram did not match exactly in proportion. I’d lined it up just right. But when I started measuring where to make the cut based on the height of the tail-piece where it joined the fuselage, I realized that the line was actually nearly 1/4th of an inch aft of where simply lining up the parts on the diagram indicated.
So this time I cut the fuselage so far aft that I had to sand for quite a while to get it all lined up. But line up it did, mostly. I realized it was still a bit crooked, cranked a degree or so to the left. But at this point I figured it was just a big-tail P-40 with a big, crooked tail.
I picked a paint and marking scheme that was actually a bit unusual. it turns out that some of the last P-40Es off the line had the “big tail” added on. Most of these, according to my research, ended up in training units. The easy way to distinguish them is the serial number. If it is a 41- series, meaning built in 1941, it’s an E. All of the Ks were built in 42. So I figured it would be kinda neat to have a big-tailed E. Drives the rivet counters crazy. (Ah, a P-40K?” “HA-HA! Not so fast my friend! Mwuhahahaha!”)
The markings are for a traning bird based at Randolph Field in San Antonio Texas. You’ve probably seen the picture- a nice color one. Great to have a color reference! I didn’t try to match things exactly…. I just sorta looked at it on the computer screen once or twice and went from there. The finish is Pollyscale Neutral gray and OD, with US Mid Tactical Green for the disruptive pattern. (Is that accurate? I dunno…. 🙂 )
Close to completion of the model, one of our cats, who goes by the name “Annabelle” but her real name is Captain Destructo, decided to see how well the P-40 flew. Turns out not so well. In fact, it hit the ground in such a way as to snap off the resin tail. Sticking it back on, it was even more crooked than before. I considered trying to correct it, but then I thought “Who am I kidding?” and super-glued it back on.
Except for it’s brief encounter with Captain Destructo, and the fuselage cutting adventure, this was a wonderful kit to build. If you can get your hands on any of the AMT P-40s, I’d highly recommend them. They build up well without too much fuss, have nice detail, and the markings are very nice and go on well.
If you build the resin-tailed P-40K, though, remember: measure twice, cut once. And watch out for a fast-moving fuzzball going by the name “Captain Destructo”!