Thursday, June 15

Build Guide Pt I: 48th scale Bronco Models Curtiss Mk.IIB Tomahawk (P-40C) - Construction.

We have seen one build of Bruce's "Flying Tigers" P-40 from Bronco here on TMN already - now Gary Wickham has taken on the 48th scale Curtiss Mk.IIB Tomahawk in a desert scheme for his latest challenge in a multi-part build. See how he went and what you could maybe apply to your own model in his great build guide...

Build Review: Curtiss Mk.IIB Tomahawk (P-40C)
From Bronco Models
Kit No# FB-4007
Scale: 1:48th
Started: April 2017
Finished: June 2017
Product Link on the Bronco Model Website
Retail Price:¥3,250/ $30.17 USD/ €26.93 at Hobbylink Japan

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk is an American single-engined, single-seat, all-metal fighter and ground-attack aircraft that first flew in 1938. The Warhawk was used by most Allied powers during World War II and remained in front line service until the end of the war. It was the third most-produced American fighter, after the P-51 and P-47; by November 1944, when production of the P-40 ceased, 13,738 had been built, all at Curtiss-Wright Corporation's main production facilities at Buffalo, New York.

P-40 Warhawk was the name the United States Army Air Corps and after June 1941, USAAF-adopted name for all models, making it the official name in the U.S. for all P-40s. The British Commonwealth and Soviet air forces used the name Tomahawk for models equivalent to the P-40B and P-40C, and the name Kittyhawk for models equivalent to the P-40D and all later variants. P-40s first saw combat with the British Commonwealth squadrons of the Desert Air Force in the Middle East and North African campaigns, during June 1941. No. 112 Squadron Royal Air Force, was among the first to operate Tomahawks in North Africa and the unit was the first Allied military aviation unit to feature the "shark mouth" logo, copying similar markings on some Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine fighters [source: wikipedia]
The P-40 tolerated harsh conditions and a variety of climates. Its semi-modular design was easy to maintain in the field. It lacked innovations such as boosted ailerons or automatic leading edge slats, but its strong structure included a five-spar wing, which enabled P-40s to pull high-G turns and survive some midair collisions. Intentional ramming attacks against enemy aircraft were occasionally recorded as victories by the Desert Air Force and Soviet Air Forces. Clive Caldwell said P-40s "would take a tremendous amount of punishment, violent aerobatics as well as enemy action." Operational range was good by early war standards and was almost double that of the Supermarine Spitfire or Messerschmitt Bf 109, although inferior to the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, Nakajima Ki-43 and Lockheed P-38 Lightning.

Caldwell found the P-40C Tomahawk's armament of two .50 in (12.7 mm) Browning AN/M2 "light-barrel" dorsal nose-mount synchronised machine guns and two .303 Browning machine guns in each wing to be inadequate. This was improved with the P-40D (Kittyhawk I) which abandoned the synchronised gun mounts and instead had two .50 in (12.7 mm) guns in each wing, although Caldwell still preferred the earlier Tomahawk in other respects. [source: wikipedia]
Thoughts about the Bronco 1:48 P-40B/C Tomahawk
I went into this build without any real expectations either way. I had never built a Bronco kit before and as they focus mainly on armour I've had no real reason to keep abreast of their work. The first decent review I saw of this new tooled early model P-40 was by Bruce David on The Modelling News. Bruce found a number of shortcomings with the kit (most of which had been repeated in this boxing) and so I decided early on to make this one a 'pole sitter' mainly so I did not have to deal with the really obvious cockpit depth issue. I figured having a pilot in there would hide this problem.

The feature set of this kit...
The thing that appealed to me about this kit was the opportunity to do an RAF desert aircraft from North Africa. I love the colours of the desert campaign and as a rule, the harsh conditions led to extreme weathering of the paint and airframe. I was also inspired by the box art (I intend to eventually build an Eduard Bf 109E-7 to go with this guy) and the opportunity to build an Australian Aces (Clive Caldwell) mount also appealed.
Of course things never (well almost never) work out the way you planned in this hobby and I ended up ditching the kit decals (they are a shocker but more on that later) as I preferred to build an aircraft with the distinctive sharkmouth applied (Caldwell had no sharkmouth on his Tomahawk). One little bonus that Bronco includes with this boxing is a very nice resin figure of a pilot in typical desert uniform.
A couple of firsts for me on this build were the use of the Mr Paint range of acrylic lacquers (very impressed with these) and the use of oil dot filtering on the paint fading and weathering (I was happy with the outcome here but can improve next time). I'm also finding myself using a lot more of the AK Interactive or MiG Ammo washes and filters these days.

I suspect that this kit will be (unfairly) overlooked by a lot of modellers in favour of the new Airfix kit. Having now obtained my own Airfix P-40B I can say that I much prefer the extra surface detail (fully riveted) provided on the Bronco kit. There is no arguing that Bronco stuffed up a few fundamental things on this kit. As has been widely noted the cockpit floor is WAY too shallow, the fabric control surface was way overdone, the shape and thickness of the propellors are off and the decals are mostly unusable. I addressed each of these issues (plus some other smaller glitches) in various ways as you will see in the build.
Building the BRONCO 1:48 Tomahawk Mk.IIB (P-40C)
The Bronco kit is broken down in a pretty standard way. Initially, I intended to display the model in a landing configuration with flaps and gear extended. This idea ended up being discarded somewhere along the way, probably when I changed track towards a dogfight double. Anyway with this in mind, I started work on the kit supplied split landing flaps. The detail was pretty good for 1:48 and all I needed to tend to is the myriad of ejection pin marks.
To properly mount the interior flap detail I needed to also assemble the main wheel wells as these held the upper wing at the correct height. The fit of the parts making up each wheel well was spot on with only a dab of liquid glue needed.
This photo shows nicely the way the wheel well holds the upper wing (and the top of the flap enclosure) suspended. The large visible gap at the rear of the wing in front of the flap is meant to be filled by the lower (moving) portion of the flap itself. You can see I have cleaned up (with a sharp blade) all the easy to get to ejection pin marks.
With everything in place to my satisfaction, it was time for some paint. Mr Color C351 FS34151 Zinc-Chromate Type I was applied over a black primer. I've glued the wing guns (4 x 0.30 cal) into the wing and then cut off the barrels to be inserted and glued back at the end of the build.
I was aware of the fundamental flaw with the kit cockpit going into this build and one of the reasons I wanted to have it in flight was to allow me to use a pilot figure to mainly hide the problem. The figure is from an ICM P-51, which is a nice plastic pilot, who unfortunately was dressed for European weather and needed some adjustment work to suit a desert deployment. I used a knife blade to trim his arms down to look like a short sleeved shirt and had to chop off the bottom of his legs due to the super shallow cockpit floor provided by Bronco.
A quick test fit confirmed that everything lined up and that it was next to impossible to even tell the pilot was 'legless'. So far so good, my plan was working.

With the cockpit more or less sorted, I assembled the main parts of the kit engine, just enough to have something for the exhaust stubs and spinner to attach to. If clear panels are your thing you can see here how Bronco have handled the side engine covers. The fit of the engine cowlings was very good all around. Its worth mentioning that the kit propellers were pretty thick and off shape wise. I initially planned to obtain some Ultracast resin replacements but after some simple sanding and trimming, I was able to get the kit blades looking good.
Assembly moved along quickly now and a coat of Tamiya Grey Primer was used to check for blemishes. I had wanted to try out the new Mr Paint range for some time now and decided to bite the bullet on this model. Mr Paint provided the three primary colours I would need for this RAF desert scheme. Middle Stone, Dark Earth and Azure Blue.
Gary Wickham

This build will be continuing over the next few weeks - Stay tuned for the next instalment here on TMN

You can buy this kit from any of the distributors that can be found on the Bronco Model Website