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Curtiss P-40N

by Fred Hocker


Curtiss P-40N



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The last and most numerous production variant of a venerable airframe that began as the radial-engined P-36, the P-40N featured a lengthened fuselage/tail to correct swing on takeoff, a lighter structure, uprated engine with revised shuttering over the cooling air intakes, a revised canopy and fuselage spine, and increased armour protection. Over 5,000 were produced, and the variant saw service on several fronts with the USAAF, the RAF (as the Kittyhawk IV), RAAF, RCAF, RNZAF, and others, often in the ground attack/support role. Not bad for a design considered already dated when the US entered WWII.



Eduard's 1/48 Scale P-40N "Profi-Pack"


This kit, unusually for Eduard, is essentially a reboxing of someone else's product. The basic injection-moulded components are Mauve's well-reviewed P-40N, supplemented with resin cockpit and wheels by Aires, etched nickel-plated brass by Eduard, and decals by Aeromaster. With this combination of manufacturers involved, it is hard to see how this kit could go wrong.

Kit Details

  • Manufacturer: Eduard

  • Subject: Curtiss P40N

  • Scale: 1:48

  • Cost: 238 kr.

  • Format: Multimedia

The Mauve contribution comes on four sprues of very dark green (almost black), soft plastic. The quality of moulding is very high, with small sprue gates, crisp detail, good mould alignment, and sound, simple engineering. Locating pins and recesses abound, so there is no question where any of the parts go. This plastic is consistently reviewed as the best P-40 in 1:48, with the only negative remarks concerning the cost and the need for additional detail in the cockpit and wheel wells. Accuracy is pretty high, with only a few quibbles. I note that the contours of the undercarriage fairings are slightly off and that a few notable openings at various places are missing, such as the intakes in the wing roots and the gun camera port in the starboard gear fairing. Hardly worth mentioning.

The Aires resin and Eduard brass address the lack of detail quite effectively. Nine resin pieces include two wheels (bulged and flattened, with block tread of apparently appropriate pattern), a finely detailed cockpit floor, two sidewalls with lots of relief, a back wall, a very thin seat, a revised set of radiators, and a bomb. These are up to Aires's usual standards and the mould blocks are easily removed on each. The etched fret includes belts, detailed inner and outer surfaces for the radiator flaps, numerous levers and knobs for the cockpit, shutters for the radiator intakes, fins for the bomb, etc. There are three different instrument panels with the appropriate sheets of film instruments, to accommodate three different sub-variants in the “N” series.

The Aeromaster decals provide markings for four aircraft: "49/Joanne" of the 89th FS/80th FG, USAAF at Karachi, India in 1943 (nose art features a large white skull on the cowl); 74th Squadron, USAAF, at Kweilin, China in 1944 (with the traditional shark's mouth on the lower cowl); "Gloria" of the 18th Squadron, RNZAF, in the Solomon Islands 1944; and "PN" of the 132nd Squadron, RCAF, on home defense at Boundary Bay, British Columbia in 1944-45. The decals are clear, opaque, and in register, with a million tiny stencils. Comparison to photographs of the subject aircraft suggests that some of the markings are incorrectly sized.

Instructions are in Eduard's standard five-colour, pictorial format with clear indications of where everything goes and four views for each marking option. Painting information is reasonably detailed, and keyed to Tamiya, Humbrol, Testors, Revell and Aeromaster paints.





Because the Mauve kit has been extensively reviewed elsewhere, it needs little comment from me except to say how well it goes together. A small amount of cleanup is needed here and there (the landing gear fairings at the leading edge of the wing are a bit fiddly) but nothing serious. The fuselage needs to be spread rather a lot to meet the edges of the upper wings, but this is engineered in, with the cockpit floor acting as the spreader. My fuselage had a slight warp in it, which tended to give the fin a little too much left trim, but this was easily removed by careful clamping while cementing the fuselage halves together.

The Aires cockpit (which is available separately) competes directly with a True Details cockpit that most reviews of the original Mauve kit recommended, so a little comparison here might be in order. Both sets take the same basic assembly approach aft of the instrument panel - separate floor, sidewalls, back, and seat - but build the front differently. True Details uses a large front block, which effectively blanks off the space forward of the cockpit, has the rudder pedals moulded in, and provides a mounting point for a detailed resin instrument panel. Eduard/Aires do without a front piece of any kind (so a blanking plate is needed), and use etched pedals and panel, with the pedals mounted to the floor and the panel directly to the fuselage halves. Eduard keep the injected gunsight, control column and that other stick on the floor (what is that? auxiliary hydraulic pump?). The two sets disagree on the type of seat and some of the sidewall detail. Generally speaking, the Aires set has more fine detail (every rivet and panel line in the cockpit floor, all the stamped reinforcement and rivets in the seat, for example), but leaves out some rather obvious bits (no throttle linkage). The Aires/Eduard cockpit also uses lots of little etched bits for levers, handles, and linkages. The Aires cockpit does not include a gunsight, you have to use the injected part, which is not only very crude but not very accurate (it does not project above the "dashboard"). If you prefer all of your detail moulded onto solid blocks and don't like the "flat look" of etched details, True Details is for you. If you like etched panels with film instruments and abundant microscopic surface detail, Aires should be your choice.

I like the mixed resin and etch approach, if the materials are used wisely, and this cockpit is reasonably well engineered. The bits all fit with little work and the breakdown makes painting easy. There are only two real flaws. First, the cockpit floor, as the kit is engineered, also forms the inner sides of the wheel wells, but this was not taken into account when making the resin replacement for the kit part. It is too shallow and devoid of detail, and so will need its sides extended to finish boxing in the wells. I did this by sanding off a little bit of the sides and gluing on pieces of styrene sheet. This also gave me the chance to adjust the fuselage-to-wing fit a little, since the floor acts as a spreader. Second, there is no front to the cockpit and you can actually see into the dark void, with or without a penlight. I solved this with a simple sheet of styrene painted in a darkened shade of the cockpit interior green. While I was at it, I also made the throttle linkage out of three pieces of 0.3mm wire and a small rectangle of styrene, drilled to act as the guide piece. I replaced the seat mounting rails, which are supposed to be tubes but are supplied as flat etched pieces. I used the injected rudder pedals, as they look much more like the real thing than the etched ones. These have to be separated and little holes drilled for them in the floor, as the injected parts have the pedals too close together.


The instrument panel lacks the extension below the lower part that appears in most of the cockpit photos I can find. This panel has the heater controls, etc, and sat between the pilot's knees. It would go a long way toward hiding the gaping hole ahead of the panel. I scratch-built this from sheet styrene and bits of rod for knobs.

The instructions indicate that the cockpit floor should be glued to one side of the fuselage early in the construction process, but test fitting revealed that it can be inserted after the fuselage is assembled. I chose this route, as it was much easier to get the fuselage halves aligned and cemented without the stress added by the spreading action of the cockpit floor. This approach also made it easier to get a good fit at the wing root, by adjusting the width of the cockpit. The wing-fuselage fit is nicely engineered, and if you get the cockpit floor sized properly, it drops right in. I had very little filling to do except at the complex join at the leading edge, where the undercarriage fairing is also involved.

The replacement radiator intake plate in resin is rather difficult to fit into the nose, as there is little in the way of positive locating points for it and the contour as moulded does not really match the fuselage interior. It is also difficult to get it to stay put in one half while test fitting. Once it was close, I decided to live with it. A little filling was necessary just under the spinner. Of course, after it was in place, one of the clever two-piece etched shutter assemblies fell off, and it is nigh on impossible to get it back into place through the small opening!

Despite the resin and etched additions, this kit could still benefit from some detailing in a few places. The improvements I chose to make were:

  • The machine gun fairings do not line up very well when the wing is assembled, so I replaced them with styrene rod drilled to take gun barrels, which were drilled out (slightly over scale, as a .50 cal bore at 1:48 is smaller than a no. 80 drill bit, the smallest I have).

  • I drilled out the vent holes in the perforated plate forward of the exhaust, the intakes in the wing roots and the gun camera port in the right undercarriage fairing.

  • I made new main undercarriage doors, as the kit items were too plain. I built up the doors in the same manner as the real thing, inner and outer skins on small bulkheads, with a small lug for the retraction linkage. Can’t see’em, but I know they are there.

  • The lower ends of the main oleo legs are incorrect and the torque links are not at all like the real thing, so I clipped off the bottom ends of the legs and made new ones of styrene rod, and built new torque links.

  • The addition of brake lines, usually an easy detail, is complicated in this case by the peculiar nature of the P-40 undercarriage. Because the main leg rotates 90 degrees before folding back, there has to be some play in the brake line. There are two little rods on the leg, one at the top and one about halfway down, to keep the line clear and to keep the extra length from flopping around. I considered adding the rotation gears at the head of the main undercarriage leg, but this seemed like overkill.

  • I replaced the tailwheel doors, which are far too thick and do not open at the right angle, and added the door retraction linkage.The radiator flaps are very nicely done by Eduard and make up into a convincing assembly. The outer surfaces are a single piece with the aligning slides connecting them, while the inner surfaces are four separate pieces. I added actuating rods from fine wire. The only problem is that there is nothing in the radiator housing, so the open flaps reveal a void, which I failed to anticipate. If you want to model the flaps closed, the plastic part fits just fine.

  • The sway braces for the bomb/drop tanks as supplied are far too heavy. The originals look almost fragile. I replaced the kit parts with fine rod and tiny discs.

  • The aircraft I chose to model is shown in a period photo with the drop tank mounted backwards. This appears to be a semi-permanent mount, based on the staining, and required an extended filler neck. I chose to replicate this, as well as some extra detail on the tank itself.



Paint and Markings


The basic paint scheme for late production P-40s should be very simple, olive drab (with green splotches on horizontal surfaces as they came form the Curtiss plant) over neutral gray, but the N series spans the transition from the early-war shade of o.d. (41) to the darker late-war shade (ANA 613). The scheme I chose from those supplied in the kit, the 80th Fighter Group machine (no. 49) flying ground support in the CBI theater, is an early production airframe (P-40N-5) dated to 1943 and should be the earlier shade (I used Aeromaster acrylic). Photographs of this aircraft suggest heavy weathering with the upper surfaces sun-faded, and partial respray of the fuselage from the windscreen back to the tail. I chose to try to replicate this appearance. Various shades of lighter and darker olive were used to create the contrasting tones, applied as washes or drybrushed as appropriate (darker tones, representing unfaded paint or respray, should go down into the cracks, while lighter tones, represented faded, scuffed paint should not).

With the basic fading and patching of the principal finish complete, the decals were applied over a coat of "Selvblankende Gulvpolish," the Danish equivalent of Future. I began with the major markings, and it was readily apparent that someone at Aeromaster is not doing their homework. The national insignia were too small by at least 20%, and the locations given in the instructions do not match up with photographs of the original aircraft. The large skulls are in fact too large by just enough that the upper edges run up onto the intake scoop on top of the cowl, which is too far. In addition, this large decal will not conform to the changing contours of the nose without cutting several slits around the edge and infilling some gaps thus created. Very frustrating. Even with softener, the decals did not sink down into the surface detail, so all the panel lines that go under them have to be rescribed. They were also prone to silvering, even over Future and with plenty of setting solution. A light scalpel cut and a little Future desilvers them quite nicely (Future really is the wonder drug of modelling).

Looking at the photograph from which I am working, it appears that all of the stenciling was not reapplied in the resprayed areas. Thus I have left off many of the stencils in this area, and toned down (faded) those in the areas still in original paint. The manufacturer's logos on the prop blades seem to disappear almost instantly in the field, although the stenciling near the hub seems to last longer. so I omitted the logos but kept the stencils.

With the decals on and "de-silvered," a coat of flat varnish (Humbrol) was applied to even things out. This was followed by an oil paint wash (various combinations of black and burnt umber) to simulate oil leaks and stains as well as accumulated dirt in the crevices and some drybrushing of brown tones on the lower fuselage, drop tank and landing gear to mimic the dirt thrown onto these areas by prop wash.

Finally, the last little bits could be added, such as the gear doors, pitot probe, antennae, and the drop tank. The last act was to add a gun sight from Cutting Edge.





It is hard to convey how much I enjoyed this project. I have always liked the look of the later P-40, with the deep chin radiator and long tail, and the kit was a good start toward an entertaining exercise in detailing and weathering. I don't know that I would build another, as I rarely do multiples of the same kit, but I would cheerfully recommend it to others.



Additional Images

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Text, Images and Model Copyright © 2001 by Fred Hocker
Page Created 05 December, 2001
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

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