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The mythical “Thunder Kitty”


(This was originally published in 2008. I decided it was time to bring it back round for another showing. Without a doubt, this is my all time favorite model build I’ve seen anyone do. Thanks again to Steve Arnold for sharing it.)

Most urban legends have their root in some sort of actual event. As the story is told and passed on, it is embellished and exaggerated, until the original story is far removed from what people actually hear. Sometimes, however, we have the chance to hear the original story from the beginning. So if you’ve heard stories of a mythical dual-engined jet that looks mysteriously like a Flying Tiger aircraft, but is reverently referred to as the Thunder Kitty, sit down for a spell and let the creator of the elusive aircraft tell you his story. Without further ado, Steve Arnold…..

The original legal mumbo-jumbo

I herewith, forthwith and forevermore bequeath upon my good friend and fellow modeler in good standing, zipmeister, license to utilize my idea, namely the idea known as a P-262, for the purpose of bashing kits. License will be revoked if pictures aren’t provided for all to see, and revocation of license will result in all manner of ribbing and guffawing. Ribbing and guffawing may still occur even if pictures are provided. Signed this 3rd day of August, 2006.

One night while surfing the Fine Scale Modeler forums, I came across a thread started by user jwb (Jon Bius…. that’s me…. Ed.). He was in the middle of two builds, a Revell P-40 and a Revelle Me 262. In a joking move, he switched the bodies of the two planes and posted pictures on the forum. Everyone seemed to get a kick out of them, but when I first saw the pics of the P-40 body sitting on the Me 262 wings I thought it looked awesome! I had to build it. I instantly asked Jon if I could use his idea and actually build the plane. So Jon and I hammered out all the legal mumbo jumbo (see sidebar to right), and I proceeded to build the P- 262c Thunder Kitty. I just so happened that I had the Revell Me 262 and the Academy P-40c in my stash.

It started like any normal build, with the cockpit. I painted the inside of the fuselage with MM chromate green. I then picked out various details with different colors. With the instrument panel I sprayed flat black. After drying I used the back of my x-acto knife to scrape the paint off most of the details I wanted to highlight. After applying drops of future to each instrument to simulate glass I picked out details with various colors here also.

Next came the custom work. I assembled the propeller and spinner assembly. I then sheared of the props flush with the spinner, saving time by filling with putty. I did the same with the exhaust, installing then cutting off the individual pipes flush with the fuselage.

When I first decided I wanted build this I immediately envisioned the aircraft with tricycle landing gear. I found out that this was a lot harder than I anticipated. I began by cutting out the front landing gear bay from the Me 262. Next I had to locate the new bay in the fuselage of the P-40. This was critical. First it had to look like it belong there and second the finish model had to set correctly. After some careful measuring I cut the new bay opening with a series of scores made with an #11 blade in my x-acto knife. At this point I superglued lead sinkers in the nose for weight.

Before installing the new landing gear bay I thought I should assemble and install the Me 262 wing. The new bay and the wing were so close I knew one would affect the other. This I found out would be the easiest part of the build. After assembling the wings, complete with JETS, I got out my trusty ruler once again to measure the mating of the wing roots. Surprisingly they measure extremely close (width and height). I think this is the reason the finished aircraft looks so much like it was meant to be- know what I mean? The only real work on the mating of the wing was the dreaded wing gap. Believe it or not, I have built models that had more wing gap! I used strips of styrene and gap filling CA glue to remedy this. After a little sanding the I proceeded to installing the new wheel bay.

Installing the wheel bay would be tricky. It had to sit deep enough into the fuselage so it sat at the correct height for the nose gear. I knew I trim the nose gear down if I had to, but very little to keep the look realistic. The next trick was that the bottom of the bay had to be flush with the bottom of the fuselage. This, I found out, was impossible. I could get the front flush with the fuselage but because of the shape of the P-40’s underbelly the rest would hang out. I installed the new wheel bay level and used 1/32” styrene to blend it into to fuselage. I built up the area around the landing gear bay with three layers of styrene and began to feather them out with sanding and putty till I got the look I wanted. This took a total of about twelve hours spread out over four days. I am pleased with the looks. Finally I was seeing the light! Then came the fun part.

When I began planning this build the one thing I wanted to do was to incorporate details for both aircraft. Like I said – the fun part. I painted the wheel bays with MM chromate yellow. I then masked the beast for paint.

Because the fuselage is of the P-40 I wanted to paint it in the colors of the AVG. To add a German aspect to the theme I decided on the splinter/ mottle camo scheme. I used a mixture of 60% MM AMC grey and 40% MM flat white for the underside. For the topside I used MM RAF dark green and MM RAF dark earth. I really like the results. After a couple coats of future had dried and cured, about 24 hours, I was ready to apply the decals.

When deciding what markings this bird would have, I came to the conclusion that there was only one set of markings that seem fitting. The Flying Tigers. The decals were wonderful and came from an old Revelogram kit I had in my stash. After the decals were on, I shot it with two coats of MM clear flat. All that was left at this point was to add the last tiny bits -landing gear, wheels, and wheel bay doors. I couldn’t resist one more thing. I had to install the canopy in the German hinged style.

My friends on the forums came up with the name “Thunder Kitty”. I think it is a wonderfully fitting name. This is the only kit bash I ever built. It will probably be the last. I like to research aircraft and try to build them as close to the real thing as my abilities will let me. This was my one hit wonder if you will. I am not good at making up false history about this aircraft or anything else for that matter. I wish I could. The only thing I could come up with is to imagine being the enemy and not only seeing a squadron of Flying Tigers coming at you, but seeing them coming at you in a squadron of Thunder Kitties!

I hope you enjoyed this build as much as I have. Thanks!

And there you have it- the birth of a legend. Now we just have to convince Steve to build that Me-40 from the leftover parts!

Steve Arnold has been modeling mainly WWII aircraft for almost 45 years now. If he’s not actually building them, he says he’s “researching them, or adding to my stash.”