Hobbycraft 1/48 P-40 'AVG Tiger Shark'






2 aircraft


Scott Van Aken




Flying Tigers. That brings to mind brave American volunteers fighting against hopeless odds. It also envisions vicious Japanese pilots, each of them wanting no more than to bomb innocent civilians or shoot a man dangling in a parachute. As always, reality isn't as clean cut as what the movies or war-time propaganda would have you think. 

What is true is that American volunteers did fight against a superior enemy in Burma. Japanese air power in China wasn't really that strong and most of the fighters met in the air were fixed gear Ki-27s, not the more dangerous Ki-43s that were in Burma. The AVG pilots were also pretty well screwed over by the USAAF. A majority refused to join the USAAF in July 1942, part way through their contract period with the Chinese when the US decided to make the AVG the 23rd fighter group. Instead of being thanked for their bravery and courage, they were kicked off the base, abandon in Kunming, and told to find their own way home! 

The aircraft used was an early P-40, very similar to a P-40C. These planes were destined for the British but political influence sent them to China for use by the AVG. These early P-40s were really little more than Allison engined versions of the P-36, sharing most of the airframe aft of the engine. However, they were war ready with self-sealing fuel tanks and armor protection. 


Hobbycraft had already done several very nice kits of various versions of the P-36. It was only a matter of time until the early P-40s were released. Once they were available, they were snapped up by those who tired of building the only other early  P-40 kit available, a very old kit by Monogram. Early reviewers slammed the kit for having the wrong angle of incidence on the wings. I have not seen this kit built so cannot comment on that. I can only say that it has to be a nicer model than the Monogram version. I have built the P-36 kit and found it to be a really nice model with few problem areas at all!

If you have built that P-36 kit, you will immediately notice that one of the sprues is very familiar. That is the center sprue in the image above. Most of those parts are common to both the P-36 and P-40B/C.  The other two sprues and the clear bits are for the Tiger Shark kit. Everything looks well done with nicely engraved panel lines and no flash. The prop has separate blades as sems to be the vogue with kits today. Frankly, I don't like them as it is just one more thing for me to screw up! You get a wider set of wheels with this kit. When I build mine, I won't use them as they are just too wide for my tastes. The P-40 wasn't that much heavier than the P-36!

Decals are for two aircraft, both with the AVG. One is from the 3rd Squadron, Hells Angels, complete with sharkmouth and AVG marking on the fuselage. The other is a very plain version with no markings beyond insignia and aircraft number. You do get two different shades of roundel for the wings. One is light blue and the other dark blue. There is some uncertainty as to which is the most correct though most drawings and paintings one sees shows them to be light blue. The decals look quite usable as Hobbycraft improved their decals considerably by the time this kit was released. Several of the decals are two-piece to prevent problems with them being off register.

Overall it looks like a very nice kit and the price is certainly quite reasonable for the quality of the kit.

Review kit courtesy of me and my wallet!

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly by a site that has over 900 visits a day, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.