Agape Models reader Ken Judt sent in this detailed build report on Airfix’s 1/72 P-40B. Thanks Ken!
This kit is one of the series of newly tooled Airfix kits released recently. This kit was released in 2011 and is one of many that Airfix has released after their purchase by Hornby. The kit includes three sprues. Two are molded in soft grayish-blue plastic and one is molded in clear plastic. The soft plastic of this mold allows for quick cleanup of parts. but care should be used on the type of liquid plastic cement you use. I recommend Tamiya Extra Thin Cement. I have found out from experience that Tenax and Weld-on will be too hot.
Separate parts are provided for landing gear up and down options. Panel lines are somewhat deeply recessed but after primer, paint and clear coats they should look nice. The clear parts are very clear with very little distortion. Decals in my kit were for an aircraft flying in North Africa with 112 Squadron RAF. The decals are printed in register with film that is not very thick. The control panel for the cockpit are provided in decals with no relief detail on the actual parts.
The only down side to the molding of the kit is that the sprue gates on the parts can be rather large. Great care must be taken to remove and clean up some of the small parts of the kit. As the build progressed I found fit to be excellent with minimal filling and sanding required.
I have to say, Airfix and their newly tooled kits are providing excellent quality for the money and I hope they continue.
For this build I wanted to do an American Volunteer Group (AKA Flying Tigers) subject that was flown by Major Gregory (Pappy) Boyington. I am currently working on a long-term project of the Top 20 US Aces from WWII and Boyington is one of them. I found a set of AML decals in 1/72 that had an aircraft flown by Boyington as well as 5 other subjects.
Once the sprues were washed in warm soapy water and dried I was ready to get going. Building is strait forward, starting with putting together the two halves of the fuselage. Before joining the two halves I painted the cockpit area US cockpit green and picked out some of the side wall details. One of the engineering choices I really like on this kit is that the cockpit floor mounts to the piece that covers the bottom of both wings and the bottom of the fuselage. Once the cockpit floor, control stick, control panel and seat are mounted to the bottom wing they are inserted into the fuselage.
The cockpit was painted with the same green and various details picked out. I used decal seatbelts from another source and the kit supplied decal for the control panel. Fit was very nice with most joins requiring no filler or just some Tamiya Liquid Primer brushed over the join and then left to dry. Once dry I remove the excess with a Q-Tip dipped in finger nail polish remover. I did have to take care with the previously mentioned small parts. The combination of soft plastic with large sprue gates on the small parts required very ginger care when removing them and cleaning them up.
I elected to do this build with the landing gear down, so the parts for landing gear up option were discarded. The exhaust stacks are separate parts, which is nice because you can add them after all the main painting is done. I elected to add the small landing gear doors for the main landing gear before primer and paint. The prop, hub, and landing gear were also left off until final paint was done.
Care was also needed on the clean up of the wing mounted machine guns, because they were molded into upper wing parts. The antenna mast on the top of the fuselage was removed for the AVG subject I wanted to do. My only complaint for fit on the kit is where the front of the landing gear bulges reside. The pieces did not fit well in that area and time had to be taken filling the join area and sanding to shape.
The clear parts were attached to the fuselage with Tamiya Extra Thin Cement and the Eduard masking set was applied. The masking set fit well with only a few areas requiring trimming once they were put on. Masks were provided for both the canopy and the main landing gear wheels. Once everything was washed up I was left with a build that was ready for primer and paint.
Before primer I went over the exposed canopy frame with the same US cockpit green and allowed to fully cure for a couple days. For primer I used Mr Finishing Surfacer 1500 Black from the rattle can. This goes on like a dream and fills small scratches or slightly rough areas.
Once primer had cured I found a few areas that needed further attention on seam cleanup. These were fixed and the area re-primed with Mr Finishing Surfacer 1500 Black liquid thinned 50/50 primer to Mr Color Leveling Thinner and applied through my Badger Patriot 105 airbrush.
I did some research on what colors were used on the AVG P-40s. There was much “discussion” on what paint and colors were actually used on the aircraft. The aircraft were to use RAF colors when ordered but Curtiss used Dupont equivalents of those colors. One build I found used Tamiya XF-20 for the gray, Tamiya XF-52 for the dark earth and Gunze Aqueous H302 for the dark green. I thought that looks about right and decided on those colors.
The Tamiya and Gunze paints were thinned with Mr Color Leveling Thinner and applied with an airbrush. I took time to slowly build up color in small random patterns to allow from some of the black primer to show through. This keeps each color from being monotone and adds interest to the colors.
Masking was done the blue poster tack rolled into sausages and masking tape. The sausages were used where the shape was irregular, and the tape was used to fill in and anywhere else.
Once the three main colors were on the build was given an overall coat of Tamiya X-22 clear gloss. This was again thinned two parts paint to three parts Mr Color Leveling Thinner. This went on beautifully leaving a nice gloss smooth surface for decals, washes and weathering.
All additional parts were painted. The exhausts were painted with Tamiya X-10 Gun Metal. Zinc Yellow Chromate was used for the fronts of the landing gear bays, and some hand painting with a fine brush for the rear landing gear. Using the wheel masks from Eduard was a joy. The wheels and landing gear struts were painted with Alclad Aluminum. The Eduard masks were applied to the wheels and then painted with Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black. The prop was painted with Tamiya XF-3 Flat Yellow for the tips and Tamiya XF-69 NATO Black for the blades.
Once everything had cured the build was ready for decaling.
And then the enjoyable build came to a halt.
As I applied the first few AML brand decals I found they separated nicely from the backing paper, applied easily and had very clear film with little overhang. I applied my normal decal setting solution of very sparse Solvaset until I knew more about how the AML decals would react. Once the Solvaset evaporated and the decals fully dried I took a look. The decals were clearly not snuggling down into the recesses and panel lines. Easy enough a full bath in Solvaset slathered on to each decal.
I came back a few hours later to find fully dried decals with no effect of the Solvaset whatsoever. I went on and tried a heavy application of Solvaset multiple times. Still with very little success. I posted on a few forums and groups for advice. I was told that most setting solutions are vinegar thinned to various degrees, so try some vinegar from the kitchen. I did try strait white vinegar on the few decals I had applied. Again, I saw very little effect on these decals.
Now looking at the decals that had not conformed to the surface of the model I went back into thinking mode (I know, scary) and thought of other things to try. These AML decals were the only ones I could find with the Boyington AVG subject I want to build. I went diving onto forums with the subject of stubborn decals. One thread suggested using Tamiya X-20A paint thinner for Academy brand decals that come with their kits to get them to stick and conform.
As steadily as my hand could muster I grabbed the bottle of X-20A and a soft paint brush. I sparingly applied some X-20A to one of the decals in question. I then left the room just in case I would end up watching everything go to pot in slow motion. I came back a few hours later to decals that did not exactly conform to every panel line and nook and cranny. But it looked like they had been partially melted into the X-22 clear gloss with no silvering. The decals did not go into the panel line recesses, but I felt this was about as close as I was ever going to get to success with them.
I then took a new hobby knife blade and cut the decals wherever they were over a panel line and then applied the X-20A. Not perfect decal application but close enough for this build. I continued to apply all the decals to the model using first a coat of Solvaset and then after that dried a coat of X-20A.
The shark mouth was in four pieces and each one was applied and treated and left to fully dry before doing the next. After all four were dry I went back and touched them up with a fine brush and some paint. The white decal that was provided for the fuselage squadron band never softened and therefore never looked anything close to strait when applied. I ended up using small rolls of masking tape and a very fine sanding stick to remove the white band decal.
Once the decal was gone I went back and repainted the areas and gave them a coat of X-22 clear gloss. I then masked off the area and painted the white band with Tamiya XF-2 Flat White airbrushed on. I masked the area first with strips of masking tape cut thin enough to conform to the complex surfaces of the fuselage. Once they were on I applied Parafilm to cover any areas that might get overspray. A few coats of white and the fuselage band was done. Again, a coat of clear gloss was applied and the model was ready for washes and any weathering I wanted to apply.
The landing gear wells were given a wash of very thin black acrylic paint and the overall model was given a wash of Flory Models dark dirt wash. Excess wash was removed and the model was ready for final assembly and a flat coat.
I had already attached the wheels to the landing gear struts for the main landing gear. I do NOT recommend this to anyone who builds this kit. Even though I had thought I got the wheels on the struts strait once I added them to the airframe I found one was slightly out of alignment. Because of the peg to slot join I felt that I would probably brake the landing gear strut if I tried to separate them and try again. I did my best to adjust the landing gear strut and wheel in question to show the misalignment as little as possible. You have to look carefully to see it now. If anyone else builds this kit after reading this, I suggest mounting the struts let them fully cure and then mount the wheels.
The rear landing gear and prop were mounted with little trouble and fanfare. All this being done I gave the model a coat of overall flat. For this I used Tamiya XF-86 thinned with 91% isopropyl alcohol. This gives an almost dead flat coat with almost no frosting. Once the flat was completely cured I added the painted landing lights and removed the canopy masks.
Before primer I had drilled fine holes in the wings and fuselage for the install of antenna wires. I used pva glue to secure pieces of elastic thread to the model. I like pva glue because it shrinks as it dries and it dries flat. Once the pva glue had dried the model was almost done. I use Krystal-Klear from Microscale to create the lens for the landing light on the underside of the wing. With the lens fully dry the model was done.
I really enjoyed the kit and build. Except for the decals this build was easy, laid back and enjoyable. I strongly suggest this kit if you want to build an early Warhawk in 1/72 scale. If anyone knows how to make AML decals behave please let me know.