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Build Report: Planet Model’s 1/48 P-64

I guess I’ll keep the theme rolling and finish out the week with another obscure, early World War II aircraft produced by the US. This time it is North American’t P-64 (NA-68 was the North American designation.)

The P-64 was designed to be a cheap. lightweight export fighter. It was derived from North American’s BT-9 trainer, which itself evolved in to the AT-6 Texan. (Thus it was a relative of the A-27 also!) Apparently North American decided to make the most use of their airframes for exports.

Several NA-68s were built for Thailand, but after France’s defeat and Thailand’s alliances with Japan strengthened, the US government stopped their shipment, and took over the airframes, renaming them P-64. They were used as training aircraft for fighter pilots.

OK, the history is a bit simplified there, but you get the point. Six were built for Thailand. It’s an obscure airplane, to say the least. 🙂

I had built Planet Model’s 1/72 Fairey Barracuda TR. Mk. V several years ago, and had a good experience with the kit. While I’ve yet to find an all resin kit that is “shake and bake”, the Barracuda went together without too much difficulty. So I had high hopes when I saw Squadron had the Planet Models 1/48 P-64 on sale. A check at my local LHS showed they could get it for me at the same price, and save the shipping, so I ordered it forthwith. (There’s my $64 word for the day…. forthwith. I hope I used it correctly.)

Virtually all the parts are resin, with only the vacform canopy and a small photo-etch fret being the exceptions. The wings are molded as a single piece. While the casting is very good, the surface detail is a bit simplified. The wheel well are simply recesses with some shallow ribs for detailing. The fuselage comes in two halves, and is nicely cast. The cockpit is actually quite nice, providing a good but simplified set of tubular framework pieces to construct a nice little cockpit. It’s not as detailed as Monogram’s AT-6, but it’s not too bad, especially for a closed cockpit build.

Really, the only bad part of the kit is the instructions. They’re more like construction sequence suggestions for most of the parts… so you’ll want to spend a bit of time with the parts and the instructions and plan your assembly with care.

Assembly itself was really not difficult after some planning and test fitting. The instructions have you placing the assembled cockpit into one fuselage half, and then closing up the fuselage. However, as there are no alignment pins or holes anywhere, I found it much simpler glue the side wall parts to each respective fuselage half (after painting, weathering, etc.) and then close the fuselage up. I then glued the floor “tubes” in from below, and then dropped in the seat, control column and other bits from the top. This greatly aided with alignment. Once all that was done, I just glued the single piece wing in to place. (Don’t forget to paint the wing the interior color!)

The wing fit in place fairly snug. There are a few places that needed attention, but most of the sanding can be done before joining, so it works out good. There is an upper cowling piece which is too large, so some sanding will be in order there. The engine fits OK inside the cowl, with just a bit of sanding on the cylinder heads. (I’ve yet to build a resin engine that did NOT need sanding to fit in the cowling…) The horizontal stabs were a bit tricky to get on, as there is nothing provided for alignment, and they’re a bit to thin to drill in some alignment pins. I just stuck on some CA, got them balanced just right, and let them dry, figuring if it didn’t look right I would snap them off and try again.

Somehow, I got it right the first time.

So far, so good. Nothing too difficult for most experienced modelers. The only other issues were losing the forward gun fairings for the cowling, and also the pitot tube. I decided to not worry about the gun fairings, as my attempts to create them looked awful, and eventually I’ll fashion a pitot tube.

Then we got to my evil arch-nemesis and rival, Mr. Vacform Canopy.

Me and Mr. Vacform Canopy do not get along. It is my assertion they are the spawn of the devil. And to be honest, I’ve rarely seen any modeler at any skill level who can get them fitted to the point that you can’t see issues with the fit. Getting those right is probably the most difficult task I’ve seen of what I’d call basic modeling tasks. Anyway…

I’ve done enough of these evil canopies to have the process of getting them cut out down fairly well. Basically, it requires a lot of slow sanding, shaping and constant test fitting to get things as good as possible. The trouble was, once I had the basic canopy cut out, it was quickly apparent that it would not fit.

it wasn’t my job of cutting it out… that was right on the mark. The trouble was it was too wide. Sometimes you can fudge a vacform canopy… I guess if they have any redeeming quality it is that. You can bend and squeeze and flex them a bit to make up for some problems. But this one was just too wide. And if I squeezed it together to fit the width, it changed the profile of the canopy shape, and messed up the fore and aft fit really bad.

At this point I considered opening the canopy up, so as to divide it in to sections that would hopefully fit better. However, the canopy framing was so thin, a few careful test cuts on the spare canopy showed that I was more likely to ruin the canopy opening it up than anything else. I finally did what I normally do in such situations. I decided it was a hobby and not worth sweating so I glued it on as best I could, and called it good enough. It’s far from perfect, but from 3 feet away it’s not too bad.

Finishing up was fairly routine. I gave it a primer coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000, just to make sure the paint would stick. The undersides received a coat of Tamiya neutral gray, lightened up with a bit of white. The uppers were Vallejo Model Air dark earth, and Tamiya RAF dark green (XF-81). I did a bit of shading and some weathering… not too much though, because the photos I had showed fairly clean birds.

The kit decals worked well enough…. six stars and the US Army under the wings. I added the gear and prop and called it done.

Despite a few issues, I’d have to say I really enjoyed this kit. It’s certainly not an airframe the likes of Tamiya, Eduard or others would ever do. And for a resin kit, the assembly and fit was really pretty good. If nothing else, this kit and the Barracuda will have me keeping my eye open for any more Planet Models kits that are at a good price. (Normally they are a bit steep, so bargains are welcome!) I’d not recommend it for a beginning modeler, but if you’ve done a few builds, and are comfortable with divining your own assembly sequences, solving problems discovered through test fitting, and are willing to do battle with a vacform canopy then this kit would be a good one to start out with for a first resin build.

In the end, you’ll have a pretty good looking model of a very odd, rare bird from the early days of World War II.