Curtiss P-40N-20 Kittyhawk
by Werner Scheibling
In 1999 I came across a kit of MAUVE's P-40 N in a Sussex model shop. Judging from the dust on the lid it must have been sitting there for years. I bought it happily, knowing it was out of production. Of course I became a victim of modeler's law - reading shortly afterwards that EDUARD now sells the same kit under his label including resin and PE parts for just a fraction of what I had paid...
Nevertheless, I wanted to have fun with this kit and decided to spend even more money on a TRUE DETAILS cockpit set, Eduard's PE-Set and Aeromaster decals.
After I had read Brett (the honourable master of this website) Green's feature on his Australian Kittyhawk I also knew how my model should look.
Quite a few detailed reviews have been written on this generally nice kit. I don't want to repeat everything, so I'll stick to a few (often not so nice) revelations that crept up on me during the construction process:
This kit seemed to be a strange compromise, because it sported Hasegawa-style surface detail and retail-price combined with rather 'rustic' accessories (especially the landing gear legs looked like parts from a Soviet T-34 tank). The more I studied my references, the paler I became, realising that I would end up with an enormous amount of scratch-building.
The kit's decals looked as if they were mistakenly printed without the white base colour. Everything was very pale and translucent. Broke my heart - but the whole sheet had to go in the dustbin.
Brett hadn't promised too much when he praised the TRUE DETAILS cockpit set. I also think it's one of nicest in their whole range, much better than the one they did for the P-38. After airbrushing with various greens, washes with very thin matt black enamel and a lot of meticulous detail painting the parts looked nearly too nice to disappear in the fuselage. The instrument panel came from EDUARDS excellent PE set (they even give you the choice of the main three different panels that were used in the various N-models).
I decided to build a completely new undercarriage after studying lots of pictures and taking measures from scale plans. I don't want to be prissy - but the 'N' had a very distinct look on the ground that is not transported by Mauve's engineering: wheels of slightly smaller diameter on magnesium alloy hubs (for weight-reasons) made the whole undercarriage look more spindly and fragile. I used styrene and brass tubing of varying diameters, cut to the right length. These sections of tube went over a core of 0,8 mm brass wire and everything was connected with superglue. A tiny bit of sanding and the legs could be painted.
I removed the tail-wheel from its moulded attachment and bent a new, slightly longer leg from brass-wire.
The fuselage area around the radiator outlet had to be heavily reworked, too. I removed two fat sections of plastic, filled the voids with resin plugs and reshaped the fuselage contours, before the gills themselves could be represented half open by items made from thin styrene sheet.
Then the wheel-wells got a proper 'roof' with ribs from styrene sheet, as MAUVE decided to represent something rib-like only on the insides of the top wing halves, stopping at the (visible) fuselage seam. Not a very nice look-if you bother to view your model from below.
After that I noticed the gun ports. Far too delicate (roughly cal .223) and with a nasty seam-line along the middle. What you see on the real plane is not the barrel of the gun anyway, but a blast-tube that was of even wider diameter.
So I removed the moulded stubs, drilled appropriate holes and filled these with very short lengths of styrene tubing. After a bit of blending in with the wing leading edge the blast tubes were cut from 1mm diameter syringes and inserted. And I don't want to remember the time before superglue any more.
The centreline and wing-racks were made from styrene sheet and glued into slots that had to be cut. The sway-braces on the wing-racks came from an old 'Mustang' kit (which might not be totally accurate). The centreline-braces are from Eduard's PE-set. They turn out very convincing once on the model, but you should brew yourself a big pot of valerian-tea to cope with the mental strain getting them on...
I didn't like the single exhaust stubs, either. They look lovely in the box, but seemed to me to be rather oversized once on the model. Luckily I found a set of Allison-Mustang exhausts in my spares box.
As I couldn't find any resin wheels from aftermarket suppliers (all offerings are to my knowing 'E-K' wheels, which are too big in diameter), I modified the original parts. Turning them inside out, I plugged the axle hole to achieve a covered hub. Then the spokes on the other side were drilled out and the openings filled with a hub section from the Yak-1 kit (that will be built with the skis anyway). Re-cutting of the diamond tread and flattening with sandpaper finished that job.
The front and rear canopy parts came out of the box, only the sliding hood was crash-moulded from clear plastic (the lid of my favourite cheese).
The paints are all Aeromaster acrylics. I approached the weathered olive drab finish by preshading the panel lines with very dark brown and then filling the panels with OD in varying density. After a few hours of drying the paintwork was rubbed down with a piece of really old and hard towel (doesn't work if you use softeners in your washing machine). This material is just hard enough to polish the paint down to a completely smooth finish without leaving scratches. I prefer that method to polishing with more aggressive media.
A final coat of Aeromaster's 'Faded OD' was applied, also in varying density, highlighting certain panels.
Aeromaster's decals went straight onto the polished surface with the help of Aeromaster Set and Sol. No silvering at all, as always with AM. Before that, I had to reduce the width of the fuselage codes by roughly 1 mm (new scalpel blade!), as pictures of 'A29-607' show narrow letters that partly overlapped the fuselage roundel. The 'U' was also noticeably shorter than the 'B'. (I'll tell you later why I know all these things, so please read on).
Everything was sealed with a coat of Aeromaster 'flat clear'.
Then the panel lines were slightly accentuated with strongly diluted matt black enamel. Weathering was completed with pastel dust.
This was my first model in RAAF finish. Preparing this project, I came across various questions that were impossible for me to answer. That's why I want to thank the following modellers explicitly for their friendly and un-bureaucratic help via the Internet:
Model, Text and Images Copyright © 2000 by Werner