Monogram 1/48 P-40B Warhawk

KIT #: 5209
PRICE: €5 in 2002
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Spiros Pendedekas


Conceived as a pursuit aircraft, the P-40B was agile at low and medium altitudes but suffered from a lack of power at higher altitudes. At medium and high speeds it was one of the tightest-turning early monoplane designs of the war and it could out turn most opponents it faced in North Africa and the Russian Front. In the Pacific Theater it was out-turned at lower speeds by the lightweight Oscars and Zeros (which lacked, though, the P-40's structural strength for high-speed hard turns). Clive Caldwell (RAAF), the highest scoring P-40 ace, said that the P-40 had "almost no vices", although "it was a little difficult to control in terminal velocity".

The First American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Republic of China Air Force, nicknamed “The Flying Tigers”, was formed to help oppose the Japanese invasion of China. Operating in 1941–1942 and commanded by Claire Lee Chennault, it was composed of pilots from the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC), Navy (USN), and Marine Corps (USMC). Their Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk aircraft, marked with Chinese colors, flew under American control.

The Flying Tigers began to arrive in China in April 1941, with the group seeing combat on 20 December 1941, 12 days after the Pearl Harbor Attack. Chennault received crated Model P-40Bs which his airmen assembled in Burma at the end of 1941, adding self-sealing fuel tanks and a second pair of wing guns, such that the aircraft became a hybrid of B and C models. Since they had no radios, the AVG improvised by installing a fragile radio transceiver that was originally fitted to the Piper Cub.

Compared to opposing Japanese fighters, the P-40B's strengths were that it was sturdy, well armed, faster in a dive and possessed an excellent rate of roll. Whereas in slow, turning dogfights it could not match the maneuverability of the Ki-27 and Ki-43, let alone the Zero, at higher speeds it was more than a match, with Chennault training his pilots to use its performance advantages to their benefit (like, for example the famous "boom-and-zoom" tactics).

Able to tolerate harsh environmental conditions and with its semi-modular design deeming it easy to maintain in the field, the plane’s most critical problem was the lack of spare parts, the only source being from damaged aircraft. Whereas P-40Bs were viewed as cast-offs that no one else wanted, dangerous and difficult to fly, the AVG pilots did appreciate the type's features and took the most out of the plane.

The AVG was highly successful, and its feats were widely publicized by an active cadre of international journalists to boost sagging public morale at home. According to its official records, in just 6+1⁄2 months, the Flying Tigers destroyed 297 enemy aircraft for the loss of just four of its own in air-to-air combat.


Yes, this is the venerable (and beloved through the years) Monogram kit that too many modelers have built through the years, It was first issued in 1964 and has been reboxed in total 19 times ever since (also by Revell, Hasegawa, Bandai, the last reissue taking place in 2010 by Revell) with the molds totally unchanged! The specific kit was the 1991 Monogram version, coming in a small flimsy (typical for Monogram back then) box. The attractive box art portrays “Johnny” Farrell’s machine (carrying a drop tank, which is wrong for this version).

Upon opening the box, I was greeted with a bag containing 55 dark drab styrene pieces, arranged in three sprues. Surface detailing is, understandably, raised but satisfactory (if not tad heavy). A number of ejector pin marks are evident, with many of them not only visible after construction, but also difficult to remove without compromising the surrounding details.  Molding presents quite a bit of flash, meaning that, already from 1991, the molds had showed their age (our Editor previewed the 
1973 boxing, which he found relatively flash free, whereas Tom Cleaver was lucky enough in 2003 to get his hands on an initial release molding, finding the parts absolutely crisp - and making a fantastic Charles Older's Flying Tiger out of it). As a note, plastic is quite thinner from the norm, meaning it can easily deform, also raising worries regarding the assembled model’s structural integrity once handled during building by not so delicate hands, like yours truly ones!

Cockpit detail is good (again, taking into account the kit’s origins), but wheel wells are nonexistent. The landing gear not only is simplified, but the main legs retraction linkages are wrongly molded facing backwards (they should face towards the centerline). A drop tank is provided, but it is wrong for the P-40B version, which did not feature the necessary plumbing (drop tanks were worn from P-40C onwards). Flaps are designed to be moveable and wheels to rotate, but I doubt most modelers will go for these (toy-like) options. Finally, the radiator/oil cooler triple intake has the correct shape but lacks in depth.

Clear parts look average with a lot of flash, their biggest issue being the sprue gates that are too thick and too close to the actual parts themselves: detaching them has little chances to be uneventful! Single-piece “closed” or four-piece “open” options are provided. As Tom mentioned in his review, Monogram has molded the main canopy lower frame onto the fuselage in “closed”  position, meaning you have to shave it off if you opt for an open canopy.  Instructions come in the form of a pamphlet and are typical Monogram, nice and clear, with a small history at the front, followed by the construction sequence spread in 23 very simple steps . Color callouts are given in generic names throughout.

Three schemes are provided, for  a U.S. ARMY, a RAF and an AVG bird. The painting guide is provided as a means of a few b/w pics of various sides of completed models. While these pics include color callouts, not only do they not depict all angles of the color patterns, but also do not indicate which decals go where: honestly, they are not very helpful! However, thanks (as of 2021) to living in the Net days, the modeler can easily download the newer Revell instructions which contain fully detailed painting and decal placing instructions for the specific schemes. Decals themselves look well printed, and with good base material, but their glue on the backing paper has badly yellowed due to aging, raising fears regarding its behavior.

Instructions want you to first assemble the cockpit and trap it between the fuselage halves, then mount the nose and fuselage guns, continuing by attaching the tail planes, assembling and attaching the main wing and landing gear and finally attaching the transparencies, for what seems to be a straightforward, uncomplicated build.

This kit was given to me in 2002 by a friend who stopped building models. Residing in my shelf of doom for a good 20 years, begging to be built, it finally found its way to my bench, aimed to be given as a surprise present to my above friend during his name day!


Since the exhaust stacks cannot be attached from the outside, construction started by cleaning them, drilling out their exhaust tubes, then attaching them from the inside of the fuselage halves. I proceeded by attaching the instrument panel, cockpit floor and its rear bulkhead to the starboard fuselage half, followed by joining the fuselage halves.

The nose section was then to be attached, where instructions wanted you to secure the prop shaft by attaching the spinner base at the front so the rest of the prop could be attached at later stages, whilst maintaining its ability to rotate. This way, though, the inevitable seam between the spinner and its base would be difficult to be taken care of at those late stages. My approach was to insert the prop shaft from the back of the nose section and secure it with a styrene piece glued to the nose section inner walls. Consequently, I was left with a rotating shaft, without having to secure it in place by attaching the spinner base on it.

It was then wings time: having beforehand ruled out the moveable flaps option, I attached the top wing halves to the bottom half, then attached the flaps underneath, followed by the leading edge landing gear bulged housings. The whole subassembly was then attached to the fuselage, followed by the tail planes and top cowling gun housings. Fit was so-so, with the elderly mouldings not helping, presenting at places gaps and mismatches (worst were the wing roots and flaps area), but I somehow managed to put everything together.

The gaps were initially filled with liquefied styrene, which double acted as bonding/fortifying agent, something the thin-plastic and flimsy-ish construction cried for. Upon curing, the whole model was coarse sanded, then filled and sanded smooth, with the process repeated a couple of times, as to come up with a reasonably smooth result.
In order to have a mini break after those filling and sanding loops, I performed the very pleasing (for a number of us) modeling act of subassembly-ing. This included assembling the tires (which I flattened with  file for “weighted” looks), attaching the prop spinner base to the prop and putting together the drop tank (by that time I still thought that drop tank was carried by AVG Tomahawks, with instructions, box art and finished models pics giving a boost towards that direction, but more on that later…).

I finally decided to lessen the plain looks of the nonexistent wheel bays, and affixed a piece of suitable looking mesh at each bay inner top wall. I was too lazy to fabricate side walls, so the approaching viewer will see (among others) light coming from one bay to the other! Anyways, it was time to take the Tiger to the paint shop!


AVG Tomahawks were painted with “US equivalent” colors of dark green/dark brown over sky, for which many discussions and equal interpretations have taken place. Choosing what looked “right to my eye”, I started by applying Hu28 Camouflage Gray at all undersides, including gear doors, the uncovered wheel bay area, the exposed part of the main landing gear leg, the wheel rims and the (sadly, soon-to-be-tossed-away) drop tank. After drying, some more surface imperfections became evident, so yet another (localized this time) filling and sanding session took place, followed by repainting. After masking the undersides, I applied Hu110 Wood on top, which, again, to my eye, came close to the “US equivalent” RAF dark brown witnessed in pics, followed by freehanding the camo pattern with Humbrol 30 Dark Green and my airbrush at “fine “ settings. A coat of Future prepared the Flying Tiger for decaling.

I used the kit decals, in order to represent “Johnny” Farrell's #14 machine. While the decals themselves were in good condition, easily detaching and equally easily applied, their gluing agent had become badly yellowed and literally dissolved to a sludgy residue that was trapped between the decal and the model surface, ruining the looks of the decals' transparent areas. To counter it, I performed the hair-raising act of literally rubbing the already soaked decals onto their backing paper, allowing the yellowish remainder to bleed away by frequently rinsing them. At the point where the decal looked “clean'' (and practically left without glue), I carefully detached it from the backing paper and affixed it onto the model, where a droplet of Future had beforehand been applied, to provide a means of adhering agent. The operation ended up as a success only because the decal base material was strong enough to withstand the above torture.

The decals proved flexible enough to successfully follow complex contours, as in the case of the shark mouth. A coat of Future sealed them, relievingly ending the above spine-chilling decal session.


The cockpit was finalized by attaching the two sidewall boxes, the stick, the flap lever and, finally, the seat. Basic cockpit color was Hu226 Interior Green, with black instrument panel, side boxes grips and headrest (the latter received streaks of leather paint, for “used black leather” looks). The various raised panel details were dry brushed with silver, with red, yellow and white “knobs“ painted with a fine brush. Finally, the cockpit received a light black wash, mainly to bring out the sidewalls “ribbing”, whereas some silver dry brushing was applied at edges where paint would likely rub-off.

Instructions stated to paint the aft-view anti-glare areas with interior color, but I elected to leave them in fuselage color, which had more likely been the case. The port side filler caps were painted red and silver.

Moving to the landing gear, I first attached the tri-color decals onto the main wheel caps, then assembled the wheels. The wrongly molded retraction links were deleted and correctly pointing ones were fabricated from stretched sprue and attached. Brake lines also from thin stretched sprue were finally added and routed by consulting net pics.

The main legs were then attached, followed by the main wheels, doors and the one piece tail wheel which contained the rear doors. Two tiny pieces of stretched sprue were used to represent the connecting rods of the smaller main doors to the gear leg (their absence is notable head-on).

Gear legs and all retraction rods were painted steel (except the lower part of the leg that remained exposed upon retraction, which was painted under-fuselage color). Brake lines and tires were black. All doors' innards and main bays' front parts were painted yellow zinc chromate, whereas the main bays' rear parts were painted under-fuselage color, as was the case soon after the personnel very quickly removed the factory fitted canvas boots (which caused more trouble than help).

The tail wheel is molded in such a way that its housing has unrealistic zero depth. To kind of compensate for this oversimplification, I assumed that the canvas boot had not been removed and painted the area at an uneven khaki green shade.

The prop had its spinner filled, then sanded smooth and finally painted red, with black blades and yellow tips, then affixed in position. The exhausts and all guns barrels were carefully painted Testors Burned Metal, whereas the radiators and oil cooler front faces were painted black and dry brushed with silver.

The (ill-fated) drop tank received four braces from stretched sprue pieces and was attached in position, looking very nice! However, something was not “right”: not recalling any pics with P-40Bs carrying drop tanks, I consulted Tom Cleaver, who clarified that AVG P-40Bs did not carry drop tanks. So I removed the good looking tank, then filled, sanded and repainted the affected underside area…

Time for some weathering! A black wash was applied at all moving surfaces’ hinge lines, underside cooling louvers and all landing gear parts, including bay innards. Then some paint chipping and equal “dings” were performed by silver dry brushing at expected areas (blade - and wing - leading edges, wing areas where personnel would frequently walk or drop their tools and so on). Finally, brown/black dry pastels were applied to represent engine soot, grim, mud and general dirtiness that would be found at areas (such as the undersides).

The flap hinge lines had totally disappeared due to the intensive filling and sanding (a big part of which was, likely, my fault). Trying to rescribe the area would result in pieces of putty tending to flake off, the possible outcome promising to be much worse before getting better, so I took the “cheating” decision to draw the hinge lines with a 2B pencil! A final satin coat gave the bird its final finish.

The one piece canopy wouldn’t fit, so I went for the split ones. No matter how careful I was, the sprue gates were too-thick-too-close, resulting in some damage. Since I wanted to depict the filler access holes found at the port rear vision panel, I drilled them out using my micro drills and a lot of patience.
After having their frames hand painted,  all transparencies were attached. Expectedly, the rear panels took some delicacy to be affixed, for which I used tiny amounts of white glue. White glue was also used to fair the emerging gaps between the transparencies and the fuselage.

I decided to attach the aiming ring and bead in front of the windscreen, for which I used the kit parts that I cleaned and painted black. I also chose to replicate the teeny-tiny blue formation lights found bilaterally on the cockpit sidewalls, for which I correspondingly drilled two micro holes that I filled with clear blue paint. The wingtip lights were blobs of red and green clear paints affixed at the molded-on wing tip bulges. The port big underwing light was represented as a bulge and it was painted chrome silver.

An antenna wire made from stretched sprue was run from the fin top to the fuselage aft of the canopy. Some pics (and many profiles) show Tomahawks featuring a second wire from the fin to the port side, but I couldn not notice it at the AVG net pics, so I did not attach it (their radios were nevertheless field improvised, so the one-wire scenario might have “believable” chances). Finally, the port wing distinctive pitot was attached and painted gunmetal, before calling ”Johnny” Farrell’s Flying Tiger done!


If you want a modern, accurate and detailed quarter scale P-40B/C, look no further than the superb Airfix kit: easily built and sensibly priced, it is the definitive way to go for the best (by far) 1/48 rendition of this important fighter.

The now (as of 2021) 60 year old Monogram offering is a classic one: though soft in detail and oversimplified (or even, at places, failing), its general shape is really accurate, deeming it highly respectable in the modeling world. Of course, a significant amount of work is needed in order to overcome the kit’s omissions or shortfalls (like, for example, the simplified landing gear and nonexistent landing gear bays), but, truth is that, since Monogram got the shape right, motivation for working with this oldie never seems to cease: on the contrary, the more I worked with this oldie, the more addicted I got to it and wanted to put more extra work!

Even out of the box, a good looking model can result. If you walk the extra mile(s), true masterpieces can emerge, as Roger Jackson  and Tom Cleaver demonstrated with their builds of Charles Older’s Flying Tiger, their reviews easily found at the ever growing MM archives.

The kit has not been reissued since 2010, presumably due to the molds getting increasingly compromised and, of course, the presence of the superb Airfix offering, but it can still be found at low prices. Tackling this kit will be a very pleasing journey to the past days of modeling, where details might have not been that many, but, still, there were cases, like this one, where the accuracy of the shape and the not complicated construction left the modeler with a deep feeling of satisfaction.

Spiros Pendedekas

19 August 2022

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