Hasegawa 1/48 P-38J Lightning


JT 162




See Review


Michael Wolf


Verlinden update set used`


In February of 1937, the US Army Air Corps asked the American aircraft industry to submit designs for an experimental pursuit (fighter) having what was described as "the tactical mission of interception and attack of hostile aircraft at high altitude." The specifications called for a minimum airspeed of 360 mph (579 km/h) at altitude and the ability to climb to 20,000 feet (6,096 m) within only six minutes. The problem with that was that, at the time, no single engine existed which could provide such performance. At least 1,600 hp would be required and the only power plant available was the Allison V-1710-C8, not yet tested to even 1,000 hp.

Lockheed’s solution to the specifications was to build a pursuit aircraft around two of the Allison engines. Several possible layouts were proposed, with a twin-boomed design finally winning out. Under the supervision of (the now legendary) Kelly Johnson, the Model 22 (later, the XP-38) was in competition with Bell Aircraft’s radical XP-39. The twin-engine design incorporated large propeller discs to take advantage of the horsepower generated and the large wingspan provided better high altitude performance. When the P-38, now christened the "Lightning" entered production, it was 17 months before a scale model of the airframe was submitted for wind tunnel testing. This testing confirmed reports that, at certain airspeeds (Mach .67), the airflow over the wing approached supersonic, leaving the aircraft uncontrollable. The solution was the addition of dive brakes underneath the outboard wing panels. But this was not incorporated until the last 210 of the P-38J models were built, and all of the subsequent marks.

Once again, I found myself in the position of building a model for someone else, this time a former associate, whom I knew had a passion for the P-38. When I made the promise, I knew that I was going to want to build him the best P-38 that I could, with as much "bells and whistles" that I could add. In lieu of ordering a kit off the Internet, I stopped in the "local" hobby shop (more than 90 miles from my domicile) and found the Hasegawa kit. Actually, there were two, the "D-Day Invader" and "Satan’s Angels". I also ordered the Verlinden Update Set.


The kit is molded in the now familiar light gray plastic with finely recessed panel lines. As memory serves, the sprues were all individually bagged. The clear parts were thin and quite clear. At first glance, the engineering of the kit looked exemplary with enough detail and "fiddly bits" to build a respectable model out of the box. Test fitting of the major components showed that there "should" be a minimum of filling. That word is quoted for a reason, to be explained below.

The Verlinden Update Set consists of a sheet of etched brass and a large number of resin pieces for an exposed Allison engine, one half of the gun bay and a replacement cockpit. The instructions are generic Verlinden. They show what parts go where, but not exactly enough to prevent some major FUBARs … more on that later as well.


Construction began with careful examination of the instructions for both the kit and the update set. I decided to open the port (left) engine for display. While pondering which side of the gun bay to open (there is provided but one door, so the builder has to decide), I made a leap of faith and decided to open BOTH sides, scratch building the door and framing as required. After all, I already had a pattern, right? After the port engine access panels were cut away, the kit parts were thinned by Dremel and scraping. While I was at it, I went ahead and thinned all of the scoops that were molded open and drilled out the ones that weren’t. The cockpit sidewalls were scraped away at this time as well. The gun bays were opened up and the sidewalls thinned. In two fairly short sessions, I had all of the major surgery completed.

The first actual construction was the resin Allison engine. After cleaning the parts, they were removed from the casting blocks. Most of the parts separated cleanly; a few were a little more stubborn. Actually using a mask this time <cough-cough> I sanded all of the parts to size and began test fitting. Here’s where the assembly instructions are lacking: there is no positive locating points for the cylinder heads on the block. I looked at my rather paltry documentation sources and did manage to find several pictures of Allison engines, but they were not close or clear enough. The "Great Book of WW2 Airplanes" contained a good drawing of an Allison, so I used that. The results are acceptable, but not as good as I would have preferred. The engine was painted using ModelMaster metallic enamels of various shades. Solder, aluminum tubing and the provided copper wire and rod were used for various hoses, tubes and wiring.

Construction of the cockpit was straightforward. The rear shelf from the kit part is used, attached to the rear of the floor. I tried several approaches in dealing with the instrument panel. I was rather disappointed that an etched panel with acetate sheet was not provided; rather, the panel is resin with recessed details. I ended up removing all layers of paint that I had applied in a vain effort for acceptable results and applied the kit decal. After Solvaset was applied, Future was added to each dial to simulate the glass dials. All interior cockpit surfaces were painted Interior Green with all electrical boxes being black. After a wash of grimy black to add a little depth and a dry brushing of lightened Interior Green and silver, the cockpit was assembled into the upper fuselage. The fuselage top and bottom halves were joined. The fit was acceptable.

The next area of interest was the gun bay. With the exception of the weapons, the entire area is executed in etched brass. Since the set included only half of the parts that I would need (door, frame and other parts along the edge of the bay) I duplicated what was provided in thin card stock. Cutting out the framing was tedious, but a new blade helped. After most of the brass parts were assembled, I realized that I had better be adding some weight to the nose or else she’d be a tail-sitter for sure. I packed the area in front of the instrument panel and below the M2 .50 cal machine guns with split shot. I figure the area measured out to be about ¾" square by about 3/8" deep. Just in case, I added about ¾ " of larger split shot in the front of the starboard engine nacelle. After all of the brass parts were added to the bay, the entire area was shot with Zinc Chromate. I went ahead and fitted the guns at this time. Here was a major problem area. Even though I had trimmed the kit and bent the brass per instructions, the guns actually ended up pointing downward. Careful sanding and shimming corrected the worst of the problem. I also added some additional bits and pieces, specifically to the 20mm cannon and brake reservoirs to the area behind the cannon magazine. Adding the .50 cal ammunition magazines showed me that I really should have paid much more attention before I super glued them in place. I followed the Verlinden instructions, by the book. But that was wrong, because they’re upside down … and too wide to fit the space provided.

Skipping ahead here … I added the wheel wells after the nacelles were built. I left out the gear legs and plumbing until after the finishing touches were made. The instructions would have you glue the engine nacelles to the upper wing then add the lower fuselage and the outer wing panels. Being a modeler (not to mention a male of the species) I didn’t follow those directions. I did end up with a couple of small gaps, most of which were filled nicely by Mr. Surfacer (500) while the really offending ones received super glue and micro balloons, my preferred accelerator. I ended up with, what I thought, were pretty good seams. One caveat here, however: the rear of the wings did not fit well with the engine nacelles. I test fitted everything before assembly, but, I realize now, that was before I added the landing gear wells. As far as I can tell, there was some interference there; interference that I thought that I had corrected. But much sanding and filling and sanding later … well, that shows me what I know … Ready for paint !!


I knew from the outset that this Lightning was going to be finished natural metal … that most feared of finishes! No finish will so quickly humble the builder nor point out how totally flawed your approach to seam finishing and cleaning of such things as fingerprints. I did ask around about suggested methods of acquiring good NMF finishes. Tom Cleaver suggested SnJ. I did have a couple of bottles of the aluminum paint and the polishing powder. So I thought that I’d give it a go. The model was scrubbed with a toothbrush and a dilute solution of dishwashing soap. When it was dry, several light coats of the paint was followed by a light dusting of the powder. Buffing with a cotton ball brought the finish to a sheen … not highly polished, but pretty close to what I was after. I masked off the fuel cells, both between the engines and outboard of them. That area was painted ModelMaster magnesium, to provide a good contrast. Actually, it was too much of a contrast, but a slight application of the SnJ powder toned down the finish. I picked out the control surfaces and shot them with non-buffing MM steel, again to get a difference in shades. The wingtips, propeller covers and the vertical tails were shot with MM Insignia red, leaving an area natural metal for the aircraft numbers.

A small note on the markings: this aircraft is not modeled after a specific aircraft that flew in the Pacific, European or any other theater; the aircraft number is the first three of my social security number; the blazons on the intercooler scoops and at the very front of the fuselage come from the "Satan’s Angels" decal sheet because I like the way they look.

When it came time to apply the decals, I ran in to another problem. The decals themselves were thin, opaque and printed in register. Tony wanted this P-38 marked as "Daddy’s Little Girl" … and I searched and searched for references, finding nothing. I ended up designing the nose art on my computer using MicroGraphix Designer and printed it on my HP 973c ink-jet printer. The decal paper is compatible with that kind of ink, as long as the decal is sealed before being immersed in water. The problem I had was not with the decals I printed, for they applied well and settled down nicely. The problem came when I tried to use the etched brass surrounding the windscreen. Try as I might, I could not get it to fit. By the time I’d come to that conclusion, the model was essentially painted and decaled. After several vain attempts to get the super glue to hold the brass in place, I’d totally messed up that piece of clear styrene. So, I raided the other P-38 kit for the windscreen and attached it to the model using Krystal Klear. Then, it was decision time about how to cover the gaff. Well, the gun bay doors already had an olive drab anti-glare panel on them, so I decided to extend that aft, all the way to the trailing edge of the wing. In masking off the SnJ finish (remember, I’d already applied the decals, including the red circles around the fuel filler caps and sealed the entire aircraft with MM Metalizer Sealer), I used liquid mask along the fuselage sides with low tack tape covering that. The un-faded olive drab went down first, with faded OD following, keeping to the center of the panels. When I pulled up the masking, off came the decals. I was more than just a little frustrated … So, I had to raid the other P-38 decal sheet … again. I knew that since a P-38 would have been exposed to the brutal Pacific sun and the salt air, a NMF would dull quickly. Therefore, to cover all bets, the entire aircraft was covered with MM clear flat. The different shades used to paint the panels still shows through, as does the shading on the OD. Lesson learned. I think that either I’ll stick with metalizer finishes, or I’ll continue to use Future between finishes and before and after the decals go on. Just in case …


The ammunition trays between the ammo canisters and the guns are plastic channel with etched brass ammunition from a Luftwaffe set. Any remaining areas of interest that needed to be opened up, such as the pitot tube, were drilled out. The intercooler doors were attached in the open position. The wheels were painted MM steel, and while not listed as a buffable metalizer finish, I found that buffing with a Dremel MiniMite really improves the appearance. The tires were painted a grimy black, dry rushed with neutral gray. The areas of the wings exposed by the open engine compartment were filled with plastic card. A basic engine mount was added for the Allison to sit on. This was actually just to keep the engine held at the correct height, but you can see it, so adding it didn’t hurt anything anyway. The brass access doors were shaped and painted, making sure that some were NMF and others were olive drab. The framing members are zinc chromate, weathered with a grimy black wash. The port "window" was cut off just below the "No Step" sign and added with white glue; the starboard "window" was essentially cut so that it is only halfway up … or is that halfway down?


All in all, I think that this is a pretty good kit. The engineering is, for the most part, well done. I must say, however, that the one part of construction that gave me fits was the addition of the gear doors. There are no positive locators and the doors, being curved in both dimensions, did not want to sit still. Or maybe, it’s just that I am the only person in the country, much less the world, that has trouble with super glue … the jury’s still out on that one.

But seriously, I think that the other Hasegawa Lightning that I have will build much better, now that I know what to look out for. I’ll make sure that the wheel wells are inserted in sequence and that the edges thereof do not interfere with the trailing edge of the wing. One other thing of note: the prop blades are molded separately. I know that this may be a trend among kit manufacturers, but I, for one, do not much care for the idea. I would much rather have to file and sand around prop covers, between the blades that are already turning in the correct direction (I think mine are backwards) than have to futz with getting the angle of incidence, pitch and orientation dead on, for all six blades. A minor nit-pick, perhaps …

Still, I can recommend this kit to any builder. The more experienced will have no problems turning out a good looking kit of one of World War Two’s more interesting and sophisticated propeller driven fighters.

Michael Wolf

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