Revell | 4664: Curtiss P-40E Warhawk - Part 1

Reviewed by Rato Marczak

A PIONEER 1/32 MODEL

Ahhhhhh...the Revell P-40. If you are old enough you'll remember when this one first appeared on the shelves. It has been around for more than thirty years. Back in late '60s the Revell P-40 formed - along with the Spitfire and the Bf 109 - the backbone of a new line of plastic models made popular by Revell: the 1/32 scale models. These three models shared many features in common: surface detail, movable control surfaces, detailed engine, cockpit, sliding canopies and ... guess what ... retractable landing gear. And boy, they were big enough to make us youngsters happy for many weeks. I'm sure the P-40 was the main item of many Christmas and birthday lists for years. Now let's put nostalgia aside for a moment and examine this beauty with other eyes.

The box art of the 1996 release.

The Revell P-40 kit stood well against time. It was reissued many times in the last 35 years, and it remains the only 1/32 injected kit on the market. As we will see later, shape and dimensions are very good, except for a few modifications included to allow movable parts. The surface detail is raised, but the petite rivets and the overlapping panels are good even for today standards.

The original issue came in those sturdy cardboard boxes with a terrific "Flying Tiger" artwork. Remember that? See the picture below. And please, don't cry... The latest release is a 1996 version easily found in most hobby shops.

Some of the many incarnations of the Revell P-40E in 1/32 scale. The original release is on the top (then kit#H-283) - sorry for the battered box. The last two are the Smithsonian release and the promotional kit issued with the "1941" movie (featuring John Belushi).

OPENING THE BOX

Our sample came with an artwork depicting the P-40E "Arizona" flown by Lt. Sidney Woods, the only decal option of the kit. The instructions come as a eight pages booklet covering the 19 assembly steps and cammouflage/decal application. Color specs are given as generic names with numbers referring ProModeler paints.

The kit comprises 90 gray styrene pieces arranged in six sprues, plus 4 clear pieces for the canopy and spine windows. Strangely, the sprues were not bagged and scuffing occurred on larger parts due to the friction. The plastic of our sample is a bit more brittle than typical of Revell, but won't pose any problems to rescribing. There are some minimal flash here and there and a few ejection pin marks (mostly hidden), but the surface details are quite consistent, proving that these molds stood well all these years.

This is what you get once you open the box.

The finished model measures 30 cm / 35.5 cm. This is smaller than many recent 1/48 kits. Here are the sprues:

Sprue 1

Sprue 2

Sprue 3

Sprue 4

Sprue 5

Sprue 6

MAIN PARTS

The airframe is broken in the classical way: two fuselage halves, two top and one bottom wing parts, plus the stabilizers. Because the nose area on the fuselage halves are open to accept the engine access panels (both sides), these parts are always severely warped, as they cool differently while still in the mold. Nothing a few inches of tape won't solve, but I'm still to see a 1/32 Revell P-40 without signs of this problem. The lower wing also showed some warping, but it disappear once attached to the top wing halves. After assembling the wing, it will look like having a null or very low dihedral. This is because the center wing section of the bottom wing is too flimsy to keep the correct dihedral before matting the wing to the fuselage. However, after cleaning the wing root area and fitting the wing subassembly to the fuselage the P-40's characteristic high dihedral will show out. Remember to install the engine firewall inside the fuselage even if you are not going to show the engine, as this adds strength and helps to minimize the wing root gaps by keeping the correct forward fuselage width.

All panel lines, maintenance hatches and rivets are raised, but very subtle. In fact, Revell's representation of the rivets and the overlapping panels is quite convincing. This is not optics illusion: they are really stepped, just like the real thing. I don't have any idea of how they have cut these molds so finely with the '60s technology, but it is impressive. Unfortunately, most of them will disappear in case you are going to sand off the surface details and rescribe the panel lines.

The only prominent details missing on the fuselage parts are the blue formation light on the left side (at about the station of the gun sight ring) and the identification light located on the fillet between the fuselage and the trailing edge of the right wing. However, I didn't find the formation light in all wartime photos (non-standard? painted over, maybe?). Also, the right wing root leading edge fairing had a small hole to provide fresh air to the cockpit. This is not represented in the kit parts and is just a matter of drilling. On the dash-E, this hole went on the right wing only (on both wings for the P-40F and on).

The rivets and overlapping panel lines at a glance (aft right fuselage).

The rivets and overlapping panel lines at a glance (vertical fin).

Wartime photo showing the cockpit venting hole.

The aft fuselage compartment door is drawn as a recessed detail. I have no doubt that some of you would like to open it. It's a nice idea, but be prepared to include all the radio gear and some structural details, cables and stuff there inside...

Also worth to note are the hinge lines for the ammunition boxes (upper wings) and gun access doors (lower wings), they are only a bit exaggerated but give a nice touch to those areas. I'm convinced it is possible to preserve them all during the preparation for rescribing. The gun access door is flat, but it should have a bulge in the aft end to provide clearance for the guns inside. This can be easily fixed by gluing a piece of plastic in the correct shape just behind the chutes and smoothing the contour with putty. For your references, Detail & Scale book on the P-40D and on (vol.2) brings a good photo of the door on page 29. We included a photo of the P-40E preserved at British Columbia Aviation Museum, Sidney, Australia, showing that the bulge is too visible to be overlooked.

If you are going to detail the gun area, it is easier to open the top panel (ammo boxes), as the lower panel (gun bay access) will need a lot of details difficult to scratch, and they won't be really visible unless you turn the model up side down. But don't forget to open the guns holes and install new muzzles from tubing. It will look a lot better than the kit's representation. Note that the guns are not aligned with the wing cord. The BCAM photo below shows the correct configuration.

Surface detail at a glance (upper right wing). Note the hinges around the ammunition bay access panel.

Surface detail at a glance (lower wing). Again, note the hinges on the empty shell chutes panel.

Lower wing of a P-40E preserved at British Columbia Aviation Museum, showing the chutes panel bulge.

The retractable landing light is another feature represented as surface detail. To scratchbuild a new one is not a big deal and will add a lot of realism. As for the flaps, you have to accept them closed, or spend some good hours doing your owns. We added a picture from the E&M manual, just in case you are crazy enough. Only remember that not many wartime P-40 photos show the flaps deployed (the Flight Ops Manual recommend the pilot to raise them before shutting down).

Surface detail at a glance (lower wing). The landing gear light is only symbolic.

Surface detail at a glance (lower wing). The holes are attachment points for the belly fuel tank.

Erection & Maintenance Manual picture showing the inner flap details.

Those of you who have built the first releases of this kit will probably remember that the lower wing part, specially the left side, used to crack easily from the wheel well down to the trailing edge during the handling. This was a weak area of the part and Revell addressed a solution in the latest injections. The molds have been cut to add a bit of thickness, adding strength to the area. As a by product, the lower wing keeps the correct dihedral much better than its old brothers.

The molds have been cut to increase the thickness around the trailing edge on the left side of lower wing.

The control surfaces are all designed to be movable, but it may not sound as a good idea. Some of them have few spurious hinges that shouldn't be there. More on that later. The fabric cover of these parts are well done, typical of Revell... a bit overdone but passable. Again, it will be a pity to sand off the overlapping panels of the stabilizers' fins.

On the real aircraft, the left aileron had a movable trim tab which is not represented on the kit parts. All you need to depict this is to use your scribing tool. And the right aileron had a fixed balance tab - also not depicted in the kit - that can be added with a piece of plastic card.

The fabric representation on the control surfaces (aileron and horizontal stabilizer).

Detail view of the overlapping panels (horizontal stabilizer fin).

GENERAL FIT

For a kit of this vintage, we can't complain that much. The fit is OK overall, a bit loose, however. The wing root is the main concern, but our tests showed that with careful cleaning only a small amount of filler will be needed. The area where the lower wing joints the fuselage will need a bit more, because of the heavy sink marks.

The characteristic landing gear fairing on the leading edge of the wings will need some sanding/filling too. Also, if you are not going to show the engine, glue the corresponding panels (designed to be removable) on the fuselages. You will note that they are both a bit undersized for the openings, leaving quite visible grooves all around. Use your favorite method, glue, putty, plastic shims or whatever to alleviate this.

With careful cleaning a good joint can be achieved. Just a bit of putty will do the job.

Another area that deserves attention...and putty.

SHAPE/DIMENSIONS ACCURACY

Before proceeding with this section, let me tell you that I had a hard time finding good drawings for this bird. Do yourself a favor and forget the Squadron Signal In Action and Detail & Scale books. Besides being printed in a different scale than the claimed, they have some serious deviations. I used a set of Russian (!) drawings sent by a collaborator. After a painful checking, they proved to be the best in my hands (I'm still waiting for a SuperScale drawing set I've recently ordered). Now if you have access to copies of the engineering drawings...

As most Revell 1/32 kits, this one is also very accurate (except for the landing gear, that we will analyze later). There are only a few discrepancies. Most of them can be overlooked. Those that can't are due to the movable parts. Revell had to make some non orthodox modifications to allow the control surfaces to move. The ailerons are roughly 2-3 mm to the inner side. Even this can be ignored without detracting from the overall accuracy, in my opinion.

Checking dimensions and shape (fuselage).

Checking dimensions and shape (wings). Note the small error in the aileron position.

However, the horizontal stabilizers came each with a pair of hinges that should not exist. Just cut them off the fins and fill the corresponding holes on the elevators. Also, the elevators balance are a bit too wide, but nothing serious.

The rudder is good, but the hinge link to be attached at the top of it (part #13) looks too thick. Just sand it to thin it down. Eduard produces a set of photo-etched parts for this kit, it is the product #32017, and this link is one of the parts that can be replaced by the etched item.

Checking dimensions and shape (horizontal stabilizers). These will need some work to be accurate.

Checking dimensions and shape (rudder).

As you can see so far in this review, the Revell P-40 is a very accurate product in what concerns overall shape and dimensions. Now let's take a close look on the smaller details...

Part Two

Rato Marczak 2002

This article created on Saturday, July 02 2011; Last modified on Saturday, August 03 2013