Airfix 1/48 P-40B/C Tomahawk
KIT #: A05130
PRICE: Including shipping; $34.00
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: New tool kit (2016)


In the late 1930s, Curtiss was the main supplier of fighter aircraft to the USAAC. Looking for a way to increase the speed of its planes, they went with a rather simple conversion of its P-36 radial engine fighter into the liquid cooled V-12 powered P-40. Of course there was more to it that simply plugging in a new engine, but the basic airframe harkened to the earlier P-36. The result was a plane that, while not a world beater, was better than what came before it and with the seeming inevitability of the US being involved in conflict, it was put into production.

The early P-40 had several things going for it. It was fast, it was rugged and it was fairly well armed for the time. The type first saw combat with the British in North Africa and later with the Flying Tigers in Burma and China. It was quickly supplanted by the even more heavily armed and heavier P-40D/E, but kept on fighting until it was obviously obsolete.


Over the decades, those who like P-40s have been quite vocal on needing a replacement for the old Monogram 1/48 kit, which harkens to the late 1960s. Several others have tried and the pickers of nits have pointed out the usual long list of errors in the kits. The most recent kit from Bronco took care of most of those concerns, save that the canopy was too rounded and the control surface detail just wasn't right. Neither really detracts from the finished product all that much as you can see from my build of the Bronco kit.

Nevertheless, modelers were waiting for this one from Airfix. Besides brand loyalty, the less detailed Airfix version promised to be less expensive. After a delay caused by CAD drawings that showed some major issues, we now have the kit that most have been awaiting.

The general detail level of the kit is quite good, but parts of that detailing are marred by ejector pin marks. These can be found on the interior sidewall pieces, the fuselage interior itself, the inside of the gear doors, the forward bulkhead, and the inside of the gear wells. None of these will be easy to remove. The pilot figure has a huge sink area in his abdomen.

Interior is nicely done with a proper curved floor. There are separate sidewall pieces with decals to perhaps cover some of those ejector pin marks. The kit provides a separate fuel tank facade to fit behind the rear bulkhead, which is nice. You are also provided with two different seats depending on which decal option you will be using. No belts are included. There is a decal for the instrument panel, this piece also including the rudder pedals.

Up front we have a nicely done intake section that provides radiator detail. Like the Bronco kit, there are a lot of separate bits used to make up the nose, so one will need to be cautious during assembly in this part. I'm not sure why there are separate upper cowling inserts for the nose guns, but there are. The guns in their fairings fit into grooves in these inserts. The kit also has separate wing roots which is also a bit different.

Wheel wells are a separate piece that fit into the lower wings. Also separate are the landing gear 'knuckles' that fit on the forward wing once the two halves are glued together. There are no separate ailerons or flaps with this one. Fabric detailing is nicely done. On the tail section, there is a separate rudder and elevators. The separate C shaped rudder hinge is not included. Both open and closed cowl flaps are part of the kit, though there is no actuating rod as on the Bronco kit. Landing gear is nicely done and one can build it either extended or retracted with separate bits provided for both options.

The prop assembly is six pieces and can be fit into the airframe to allow it to spin once all has been painted. You get both styles of pitot tube, again, dependent on which markings option you choose. The armored windscreen piece is included as you get a canopy for the open and one for the closed position. Two windscreens are provided with one having a rear view mirror. There is no external gun sight.

Instructions are typical Airfix with only Humbrol paint numbers provided. Actual paint names are given in the color camo and markings scheme. First is the box art plane with the 47th PS based in Hawaii during the Pearl Harbor attack. The other is a Flying Tiger aircraft of RT Smith in June 1942 just before the disbanding of the unit. There are lots of aftermarket decals out there including the new one from Starfighter Decals if you wish something different. Kit decals are nicely printed and you should have no issues with them.


To start this one, I followed the advice given by Tom Cleaver's build and first installed the upper cowling inserts. What Tom did not say is that the sprue attachment points on the bottom of these pieces will require some extra attention as one cannot simply sand them away. I had to use my motor tool to take care of them.

I also assembled most of the interior pieces using the rounded top seat as I am not doing a Flying Tiger plane. The horizontal stabs were also glued together and I later painted all the interior bits with a green chromate, later detail painting these pieces after some rather tedious work scraping away the ejector marks. Eventually the cockpit was completed. I added tape belts to it and need to caution builders that the way the side panels attach is not intuitive, but once assembled, the cockpit is very sturdy and looks great. Fitting the instrument panel is probably the only area where one needs to be cautious as it needs to be attached on the side of the small nubs closest to the seat, otherwise it will be too far back.

With that done, the radiator bits were assembled and installed. The fit of all the parts is actually quite good and for those faster than I, the build will go quickly. Fuselage halves fit well, though one does have to take care regarding the forward piece where the prop will fit and the lower cowling bit. This latter piece seemed a tad undersized in width. Though touted by some to be 'filler free', almost no kit I've ever built has met those standards and this one is no exception. Of course, if one is willing to accept some small gaps, then I guess that would be the case. For instance, the joining of the wing with the separate fuselage/wing fairings will leave gaps at the front edge and perhaps some at the rear as well. One simply has to be really fussy about gluing these pieces and doing constant adjustments as the cement sets.

Building the wings is quite simple in this case as none of the holes for tanks and such are opened. For some reason, Airfix neglects to mention anything about the hole for the landing light. The part is certainly there and I'm pretty sure all P-40s had one so I opened this hole and installed the light prior to cementing the wings together. With the wing installed, there are the separate landing gear 'knuckles' to install. Fit here is not perfect, but again, thanks to the soft plastic, once glued they can be smushed more into place to help fill gaps. Just aft of the radiator outlet is another piece that needs attached.

At the back, the horizontal stabs are glued in along with the elevators. It is important that you attach the elevators at this time as it will help with the alignment of the stabs. These are otherwise a bit of a loose fit. The rudder really only looks good in the neutral position though you can droop the elevators should you wish. Period photos show the elevators in a variety of positions, including neutral and up when on the ground.

Back at the cockpit, I masked and painted the clear bits. Unlike the 109, Airfix has a better delineation of the canopy frames with this one. Once these were painted with the interior then exterior color, the armor piece was unmasked and attached. Naturally, I spilled glue on it....The wingscreen was glued on and the canopy simply slid into place. Then it was time for some paint.


I first painted the gear wells with chromate green and filled them with Silly Putty. The underside was painted with Testors neutral grey. Then the stabs were masked off and the upper surfaces painted using Tamiya OD. This was initially far too dark so it was cut 50/50 with lemon yellow and repainted. It is still a dark OD, but not nearly as dark as it was. I went back over the lower surfaces with a finer air brush for the neutral grey then brought it back to the bench.

The Silly Putty was removed from the gear wells and the landing gear attached. I have to say this is a clever way of doing a P-40's gear that includes all the proper struts. These end up being toed in a bit and not straight down. The rear gear door assembly is glued in and later the tail wheel attached. The inside of all the gear wells was painted khaki as shown in the instructions. Apparently this represents the canvas areas in the well that keep the dirt out of the inside of the airframe. The tires and wheel hubs are separate items and so the main gear hubs were attached. I then sprayed the airframe with Future and got ready for decals.

In this case, I decided to use Starfighter Decals' new sheet on the P-40B/C (SFD 48-012). I started with the rudder stripes, but these proved to be a bit small for the kit. Obviously they are sized for another so I removed the one I put on and chose a different scheme without them. This one is for the 57th PG at Mitchell Field in early 1942. It has a yellow nose band. This band does not fit very well either, but with the help of setting solution, can be edged into place. It is also a bit easy to tear while moving it around so be careful. While applying the decals, the prop spinner was assembled and then painted white, followed by red. The tip of my spinner was short shot so I sanded it until it was more pointy. In order to get the assembly to properly fit, I had to trim the prop shaft and cut off the forward portion of the prop hub. I also painted the prop black with yellow blade tips even though the instructions did not say to do so.

Meanwhile, I painted the wheels and attached them. I like that it was so easy to attach the tires on the main wheels. Main gear doors were also attached at this time. After a coat of semi-matte to seal in the decals, the final bits were glued on. The guns and pitot tube are quite loose and one has to be careful not to push the gun barrels too far into the wing. The canopy was attached as were the rear quarter windows after a bit of final detail painting. The masking was removed from the windscreen and canopy and some light exhaust staining was applied.


I am generally pleased with the results of this build. It is not a perfect kit as you can see by reading, but it is nice enough that I plan to build more than one, though not right away. I mentioned in the preview that the kit was not as detailed as the Bronco kit and has its own idiosyncrasies. However, all but the real stickler for detail will be pleased with it. I recommend keeping one of the canopies for the Bronco kit as that should take care of the 'too curved' canopy situation with that kit. I am sure that aftermarket will deal with the other bits and pieces in due time.

Just for comparison, here are the two models together.

16 December 2016

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