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Build Report: Academy’s 1/48 P-40C with Iliad Design decals

Aside from the Spitfire, the P-40 is an aircraft I just can’t seem to build enough of. Of all the aircraft used in WWII, the P-40 was flown by so many countries, in so many paint schemes, the variety of of modeling possibilities is almost endless.

The early “long nose” P-40s seem to hold a special place for many modelers. Perhaps it is the fame of the Flying Tigers of the American Volunteer group. Or maybe it’s simply the one kit that so many are still looking for the “definitive” boxing. (Whatever that means…) In any event, folks love building the P-40B/C.

And I’m one of them.

It’s been a few years since I last built Academy’s P-40C, building it in the markings of Tex Hill’s #48 AVG bird. When I saw these kits on sale at Squadron a few months ago for $9.99, I picked up two of them. (I wish now I’d picked up three. :))

In anticipation of the kit’s arrival by mail, I stopped by my very favorite hobby shop in the whole world, Hayes Hobby House in Fayetteville, NC, and looked for some after-market decals. I found a very nice set from Iliad Designs, “Early P-40s & Tomahawks“. I decided to build an pre-war American bird, a P-40CU.

The P-40CU was basically the first production version of the P-40. It’s main distinguishing characteristic from the later B and C models was the presence of only one wing gun on each side, versus the two of the later models. I also found some great black and white  & color photos of the airframe represented by the decals, as well as some of it’s squadron mates.

While this kit takes a lot of criticism for shape and accuracy, it is a great kit to build. And despite the pundits who pooh-pooh it’s shape, when built, no one fails to recognize it for what it is. So I continue to follow my motto, “build it like a kid”, and I had a great time with it.

The cockpit detail is simplified. If you’re wanting to really build something special, an aftermarket set or some scratch building is certainly called for. I decided to simply build it out-of-the-box though. Floor, seat, stick and IP are all there, as is some minimal sidewall detail. The most glaring omission is the lack of the two .5o caliber gun butts protruding just above the IP on either side. The kit simply has a small shelf with two “stubs” set back a bit. Still, I painted them black and moved on.

Overall, the assembly is simple enough, with no problems of fit. The only modifications I made was removing one wing gun per side, and adding some styrene rod for the longer nose gun barrels as that were present in the photo reference I had.

I used Vallejo model air for the neutral gray undersides, and Tamiya Khaki Drab for the uppers. Tamiya Deck Tan was thinned highly and used to add some fading, and then a mix of Tamiya NATO Black and Smoke were used to post-shade the panel lines. (Which I overdid, I think…) The decals went down very nicely. The only oddity was the rudder stripes. The decal sheet only had one set- and both were for the left side! I used the rudder stripes from an Academy P-36 to complete the build. I did contact Iliad to let them know (though I was sure they already did). They responded very quickly to let me know that I had apparently purchased an early release of the sheet, and later ones had been corrected. They also sent me a new set of rudder stripes, so hats off to Iliad for their great customer service. If you have that sheet, do check it, and if it is one of the older ones, contact Iliad and I’m sure they fix things right up for you.

These early P-40 schemes were rather plain, but it’s nice to have one sitting on the shelf. The kit certainly builds up into a good looking representation of the real thing. And until the “definitive” kit comes along (whatever that means), I’ll happily build these Academy kits- especially if I can find them for under $10!