Special Hobby 1/72 P-40E Warhawk
KIT #: SH 72338
PRICE: $25.00
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES:  2019  'Claws and Teeth' boxing


The P-40 was a follow-on of the radial engine P-36, itself a modern, all metal fighter with retractable landing gear. The in-line Allison V-1710 engine was installed to bring its performance up to specs with fighter aircraft in Europe. For the most part, Curtiss was successful in that regard. The P-40E was the first of the type that was truly combat ready, though earlier P-40B/C variants did see combat in Burma, China, and North Africa with the AVG, and the RAF.

The addition of the armor and self sealing fuel tanks along with the addition of two more guns in the wings required a more powerful engine. However all this also slightly degraded the aircraft's performance. Probably the biggest failing of the aircraft was its inability to operate much above 15,000 feet as the lack of a high altitude supercharger or turbocharger meant that engine power dropped off quite a bit the higher it went. This was not an issue in the Pacific or North Africa as most combat was at levels below that and the P-40 was able to give a good showing against most of its adversaries.

Though the P-40 was further developed, it was more and more used as a fighter bomber in the ground attack role, letting more modern types handle the air to air bomber escort role in Europe and in the Mediterranean. In the CBI, the P-40 stayed in front line service longer than anywhere else.



After building some Hasegawa P-40s a short while back, it was recommended that I give the Special Hobby kits a try. So it was that ordered two of them from Italy. Thanks to the paucity of airline operations due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, these kits took about 2 months from ordering until they reached my door.

It is quite obvious that Special Hobby is doing multiple variants once one looks at the sprues as there are several parts that are only for later aircraft. Indeed, the sprue layout diagram has these parts marked off as not for use for this boxing. The detail level is quite good, though perhaps a bit overdone for some tastes. I liken the panel lines and parts detailing to be closer to Academy than the petite panel lines of Hasegawa's forty year old kits. Special Hobby did the first of this new tool series, a P-40N, back in 2017.

However, the cockpit details are vastly superior to Hasegawa's offerings. I like that there are belt decals. Decals are also provided for the main instrument panel. An interesting feature is that the cockpit floor is part of the upper wing piece. The kit gives us separate wheel well walls to trap in between the upper and lower wing halves. Ailerons are molded into the upper wing piece to provide a sharp trailing edge.

The kit offers exhaust in three pairs for each side. Rudder is separate. The tailplanes are single piece and slot into the tail sections. If building the early P-40E option, then the builder needs to fabricate the proper pitot. You are provided open or closed cowl flap options, a nice choice. One can pose the canopy open or closed. For things under the fuselage, you get one of two drop tank options, or a bomb. Interestingly, one of the tanks is a design I've not seen before with a pinched and flattened aft end.

The full color instructions are very well done and offer Gunze paint options. You have two SWPA options. One is the box art plane 'Star Dust' with an RAF style camouflage. The other is 'Bob's Robin' in OD/Neutral Grey when based in Darwin during 1942. This one has white stars only without the blue background. The other two are 23 FG planes with one being Dallas Clinger's plane from Sept 1942 with an RAF style camouflage. The other is an ex-AVG  plae as flown by John Petach in July 1942. This OD/Neutral Grey plane still has its Chinese roundels. The decal sheet is very nicely done by Cartograf so you know it is a good one.

Before starting the kit, I gave the instructions a couple of good reads to be sure that I knew what bits were used where. Special Hobby has put quite a bit of detail into this one so I knew the build wasn't going to be a slammer. I also decided to pretty much follow the instructions on this one (He's a witch!).

This meant building the seat, then the fore and aft nose radiator pieces, then installing the cockpit sidewalls. There is a decal for the seat belts and one for the instrument panel. Then one starts to install these bits into the fuselage halves. The instrument panel piece includes the rudder pedals and this is fit into notches on the side panels The seat with the rear bulkhead piece is also trapped between the fuselage halves. Once the halves are together, the little 'light' bumps just below the windscreen are sanded off and a small notch cut in the forward area where the canopy fits. Best to do the notch cutting before installing the side panels.

Next the wing and wheel wells are assembled. The control column and flap handle fit into a piece that goes in between the upper wing. Note that the upper wing halves are a single piece that incorporates the cockpit floor. I like this. Don't forget to install the landing light. I did. The wing is then attached to the fuselage along with the tailplanes and the rudder. The exhaust are three pieces per side. Most other model companies have these as a single piece with the little dividers built in. I left these off until after painting.

Next is a choice of open or closed cowl flaps and I picked the open one as it looks cooler. I also left off the landing gear, prop and pitot tube until after painting. The landing gear is a bit more detailed than on other 1/72 P-40s, however, the wheels are fairly bland and can use replacement. I had a set of True Details resin wheels I used. However, I ran into some issues when I installed them as the axle stubs are rectangular, requiring large holes be drilled into the resin wheels. This made alignment a bit troublesome when it came to assembling the gear later.

I attached the instrument panel anti glare panel, the gunsight and the windscreen. I then masked all the clear bits using Montex mask SM72306, which is designed for this kit. These are vinyl masks and worked just fine.
The reason I bought this and some other P-40Es was to use some of the markings from DK Decals sheet 72053 which has a number of markings for early war planes based in the Philippines, Java, and Australia. The majority of these planes are in OD over neutral grey. For this, I used Mr. Color paints. These lacquer paints work superbly. One thing is that the OD is pretty much the color of recent paint so it is darker than what you might be used to. I had originally painted the upper surface with Model Master OD, but it looked far too light so it was repainted with the Mr. Color. I let the enamel dry for several days before overpainting it and had no issues. I also painted the wheels and gear doors.

Then the airframe was brought back to the bench to have the landing gear and gear doors installed. I should mention that I brush painted all of the Chromate Green parts. On small models like this, I find that the easiest way to do things like this. With the gear installed, I added the drop tank. this was a fairly fiddly procedure as one really needs to add all four of the braces and then get it lined up before all the cement dries. The gloss coat was applied using what now passes for Future.

This aircraft was put in the markings of Lt. R Oestreicher with the 3rd Pursuit Squadron (Provisional), based in Australia during 1942. The markings are really basic and the only distinguishing feature is a small shark mouth. These decals are superb and snuggle down without any need for setting solution. They do take forever to release from the backing using cold water, so one needs to keep that in mind. Once the markings were on, a coat of Tamiya Matte Clear that had been slightly thinned with 100 proof vodka was sprayed on. I find that the ethyl alcohol is a bit more 'wet' than isopropyl and works very well as a paint thinner.

After that, there was the usual addition of the final bits like the rest of the clear bits, the prop, the exhaust, and the pitot tube. A little exhaust staining was added and that was it.

I am glad that I was able to get motivated enough to complete this as it turned out quite well. Typical of many modern kits, it is fiddly, but not enough to cause any real issues if one is used to it. It certainly is the most detailed P-40 in this scale and I do want to build a few more as I basically like P-40s. Those who want a less fiddly kit to build should look to the Academy or even the older Hasegawa kit for their P-40. One thing for sure, the older kits will still look nice on the shelf and be less expensive. Those who want bells and whistles cannot go wrong with this one. Just get some replacement wheels and you'll be happier.

22 January 2021

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