Kit: Republic P-47D Thunderbolt Razorback
Kit Number: JT57
Media: Injection-molded styrene
Decals: Two aircraft, both Olive Drab over Neutral Gray: "Little Chief" 56 FG, Boxted, England 1994; "Miss Mary Lou" 318 FG, Saipan 1944;
Review by: Lee Kolosna
Date of review: September 10, 1998
"If you wanted to have your picture taken so you could send it home to your girl, you sat in the cockpit of a P-51 Mustang. If you wanted to survive in combat, you climbed into the cockpit of a P-47 Thunderbolt." - Hub Zemke, Commander, 56th Fighter Group
The P-47 Thunderbolt was the most numerous fighter produced by the US in World War II and it served in nearly every theater. Like the B-24, it never captured the glamour that was garnished upon the sexy P-51 Mustang, but it established itself as a formidable aerial opponent and an excellent ground-attack platform that could take a tremendous amount of punishment and still return home in one piece.
The P-47 has been a subject of many model kits over the years. In this scale, the thirty-year-old Monogram kit and the twenty-year-old Otaki (ARII) version have best represented the Razorback variant. With this new release from Hasegawa, we now have the finest execution of the subject by a model company. The kit is molded in medium gray plastic, with exquisitely molded clear parts. Panel detail is finely engraved, although it is somewhat simplistic when compared to the breathtaking detail seen in the contemporary engravings of the Revell-Monogram SB2C-4 Helldiver, Tamiya F4U-1/2 Corsair, or Accurate Miniatures TBF-1c Avenger . Not that it's incorrect; it's just not quite as impressive.
Hasegawa makes some of the same molding errors that have been perpetuated on P-47 models since the first kits were made. Fortunately, they can be easily corrected. First, the aileron on the right wing should not have a trim tab. Take out a piece of sandpaper and sand out the engraving for it. Now cut out a tiny rectangle of plastic card and glue it so that it hangs off the inside corner of the right aileron as a balance. Lastly, the propeller stands too far away from the front of the engine. Cut off one of the two concentric rings that act as spacers on the propeller shaft and file it smooth. You now have an accurate P-47.
The early pointed Curtiss Electric propeller is provided. Individual blades are also present for the symmetrical paddle-bladed propeller as well. After-market Hamilton Standard propellers are available from Kendall Model Company if the subject you are doing requires it. The usual warning about checking your references applies here for propellers on Thunderbolts. Four different kinds were used, although the early Razorbacks generally only used either the non-paddle-bladed Curtiss or the wide-chord Hamilton Standard prop. The propeller assembly consists of the four blades, the propeller boss, the shaft, and a two-piece propeller hub. In the old days, we would have gotten a one-piece molding of the entire propeller. Progress, I guess, but it requires more careful alignment to get it to look right. Two 500 LB bombs are included, as is a 200 gallon external fuel tank. This flat variety of tank was almost exclusively used in the European Theater of Operations, so don't put it on a Pacific bird unless you have a specific picture of it being used on the model that you're doing. I've only seen one picture of a P-47 in the Pacific with this kind of tank attached, so it had to be a pretty rare occurrence.
Detail in the cockpit is adequate, but like most Hasegawa kits, not as thorough when compared with the current state of the art. The instrument panel is quite nice, and a decal is provided. Sidewall detail is somewhat sparse, and the seat is too thick for the scale. No seat harnesses are included. Since I'm a Thunderbolt fanatic, I had some Kendall Model Company resin cockpits (Kit builder series 48-6011) lying around, so I made use of it in this model. The detailing of the seat and the side panels is superb, and it looks great when painted and installed. Since this resin cockpit is made for the bubbletop Thunderbolts I had to do some surgery and remove the back armor plate panel and graft on the one from the Hasegawa kit. It took some modeling skills to do this, so I don't feel as much of a slug as I usually do when using an after-market resin cockpit set. Note that Kendall has just announced a specific set for the Razorback, so this surgery will not be necessary if you order it.
Paint the cockpit interior Dull Dark Green (approximately FS34092). I used Polly Scale's RAAF Foliage Green. Republic-built P-47s used Chromate Yellow in the wheel well interior. For this I used the new Testors Model Master Acryl paint, and found it to be a very nice paint to airbrush. It was very slightly thinned with Windex (Testors thinner was sold out at my local hobby store). It covered very well and was easy to clean up. The interior of the engine cowling appears in color photos to be a medium gray, so I used Polly Scale US Neutral Gray. The R-2800 engine is made up of several parts, including one and a half rows of cylinders, the gear reduction housing and wiring housing, and the magnetos. A tiny Pratt and Whitney decal is included too. When properly painted and washed, the engine looks fine. Super-detailers may wish to add a photo-etched wiring harness to spruce up things a little more.
The engineering of the wheel wells is particularly nice. Separate boxes are glued from the inside, giving a detailed and seamless appearance. The wing is made up of three pieces. The two tops halves attach to a one-piece lower wing. Included are knockout holes for the pylons and the center fuel tank. Don't forget to drill these out like I did. Doh! When attaching the wing pylons, you need to sand off strakes that are molded on the bottom of the wing. The wings also have minuscule clear pieces for the navigation lights, signal lights, and the landing light. The signal light pieces are so small and difficult to work with that I tossed them and elected to drop a dab of paint (from front to back: red, blue, amber) and followed it with a drop of five-minute epoxy to simulate the glass. Attaching the wing to the fuselage introduced the first problem with fit. There is quite a large gap (an 1/8th of an inch) between the leading edge of the belly and the aft end of the cowling. I filled it with multiple applications of gap-filling CA glue and sanded it out. Unfortunately this also destroyed the engraved panel lines, so out came the scriber. I really stink at scribing, especially in areas as complex as the ellipses of the Thunderbolt's belly. I did the best I could, cursing the Hasegawa designers.
Problem number two arose only after I finished all my careful seam work on the bottom of the airplane and finally got around to checking the dihedral of the wing. The right wing was fine, but the left wasn't even close (too flat). I caution others to watch this very carefully during assembly. I guess that I was paying so much attention during construction to the gaping seam on the bottom that I let the dihedral go unchecked while the glue was drying. Anyway, I was able to fix it by taking a razor saw to the top of the wing root and regluing it back in the proper position. The machine gun positions are molded parallel to the ground, which is correct. The alignment here is slightly off, with the line of the guns rising ever so slightly towards the fuselage. It's not enough to worry about. The guns themselves look a little too long, so cut them down a bit.
The rest of the kit went together very well, with excellent fit of horizontal stabilizers, landing gear, and cowling. The canvas cover is molded into the tail wheel assembly. Each main wheel is one piece with an insert for the wheel cover, making painting easier. Since the tread pattern is the traditional crosshatch, some restoration is required when the mold seam is fixed. I used a sharp X-acto knife blade to rescribe this.
I chose to finish my P-47 as "Miss Mary Lou" from the 318th Fighter Group. I was planning to use the AeroMaster markings for this aircraft from their Thunderbolts Galore sheet 48-033. This is where I noticed that the colors of the markings on the AeroMaster sheet differed from the ones provided by Hasegawa in the kit. "Miss Mary Lou" happens to be an extremely well-photographed airplane, with pictures and color drawings appearing in the Squadron P-47 Thunderbolt In Action and the Walk Around P-47 Thunderbolt books. Warren Bodie has it in Republic's P-47 Thunderbolt: From Seversky to Victory, as does Dana Bell in Air Force Colors Volume 3.
Unfortunately, all these references disagree with each other in several ways. I asked my color expert buddy John Clement for help in determining what the proper paint scheme should be. He pored over the photographs and gave his best guess. We did a lot of bantering over whether an anti-glare panel was present, what the color of the cowl flaps were, and whether the horizontal stabilizers were natural metal or Olive Drab. My friends in my IPMS chapter were also consulted and Rick DeNatale forwarded my questions onto Dana Bell himself, renowned expert on US Air Force colors. He very kindly printed out a listing of all the pictures of "Miss Mary Lou" in the National Air and Space Museum's archives and sent them to me. With his help, I was able to determine which paints and decals to use.
First of all, the standard Olive Drab over Neutral Gray finish is modified with a natural metal finish on the forward cowling, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, elevators, and rudder. A thin anti-glare panel in Olive Drab is present on the top of the engine cowl. The cowl flaps are blue, as are the very tips of the wings, the propeller boss, and the identification stripes on all the tail surfaces. Note that no reference specifies the blue on the wing tips,
but Dana Bell's research indicates that this was probably present on the aircraft. Dana describes the color as Duck Egg Blue in Air Force Colors Volume 3, but in his correspondences with me admits that this applies to the P-40s flown by the 318th FG before transitioning to P-47s and is probably too light. I elected to use Testors Model Master Acryl French Blue, and faded it with Polly Scale Dust. This was applied over a base of SNJ Spray Metal, which I used to represent the natural aluminum. I have found SNJ to be a good paint to use as long as you don't bother with the polishing powder, which I feel tends to render the finish too bright for an accurate portrayal of bare aluminum on a real airplane. Polly Scale paints were used for the Olive Drab and Neutral Gray, and then again toned down with Dust. I applied a fresh band of Olive Drab around the fuselage to indicate where a blue band had previously been while the group was stationed in Hawaii before deploying to Saipan. The band was sloppily applied. (Gee, how often in modeling are we allowed to do it this way and have it historically accurate, to boot?)
For decals, I decided to mostly use the ones provided by Hasegawa. The words "Miss Mary Lou", printed in blue, are accurate. The AeroMaster words, printed in black, are not. AeroMaster forgets to include the number "29" under the lip of the cowl, and the serial number font is not right either. The Hasegawa serial number looks right with regard to font, but the overall size is too large. I went with the Hasegawa anyway. I did use the AeroMaster letter "C" on the fuselage, as its stencil pattern is correct, even though again this decal is too large in size (as is Hasegawa's). A real fanatic could make a smaller fuselage letter "C" and serial numbers with a computer drawing program and print them on decal paper. The unique stenciling of each digit would make this quite a challenge. The Hasegawa decals are of excellent quality and drew down beautifully with Micro Scale Super Sol. Make certain that a good gloss coat is used (I'm a Future fan), or else the decals will silver. I didn't use the Japanese kill markings on either decal sheet, because they are wrong. They should be pineapples. Why this is, I can't say (and neither could Dana), but they clearly show up in close-up photos of the cockpit. The Fifteenth Air Force was known as the Pineapple Air Force, so that might explain why the fruit was used. Whether each pineapple was a kill marking is unknown. I drew pineapples on a piece of clear decal sheet using yellow paint applied with a toothpick, topped with leaves drawn with a ultra-fine Sharpie pen. It looks good enough. Finally, I represented the Aero Products propeller blades (identified by a very thin yellow stripe just above the end of the yellow tips) by painting the yellow on the tips a tiny bit further up the blade and applying extremely thin strips cut out from a sheet of solid black decal paper.
The canopy was first dipped in Future, then masked with Scotch tape. A coat of Dull Dark Green, Olive Drab, and then Dust finished the job. I applied a wash of Payne's gray and burnt umber artist's oils mixed with Turpenoid to all the panel lines, then used chalk pastels to highlight them a bit more. Subtlety is the watchword here. Don't overdo it or the aircraft will look like a quilt. For the SNJ-painted areas, I used a dark gray wash of acrylic paint. Turpenoid eats right though the SNJ, I have found. A final coat of Testors Dullcote Lacquer was used as the final sealant.
The fiddly bits were applied last. I attached a small mirror on top of the windscreen, the armored cockpit glass, the gunsight and its glass (cut from clear plastic sheet), brake lines made from fine electrical wire, little trapezoids made from Bare-Metal foil for the inner gear doors, an antenna wire made from 2 LB fishing line, and the pitot tube. The last step was to drill out the barrels of the machine guns and apply them one by one to their holes in the wings. Again I cursed the Hasegawa engineers for making me cut out and sand smooth the teeny tiny shafts for each gun. I only managed to drop the smallest of the four guns three times, necessitating a fifteen-minute search mission under my modeling desk each time.
This is a great model kit, and a very welcome addition to the marketplace.
It has a few inaccuracies that can be fixed easily (we're modelers,
after all). Careful attention to the wing dihedral is required during
construction. I thoroughly enjoyed working on it for the forty or so hours
I put into it. I don't usually get so worked up about correct colors, but
when all the decals sheets and references disagreed, I became intrigued.
It illustrates the point that interpretations of black and white (and even
early color) photographs is an art that requires highly refined skills.
Thankfully, Dana Bell was able to set me straight, and I am grateful
to him for researching it for me. Highly recommended!
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