It’s been exactly a month since I posted part 3 of the initial build review. The build was substantially complete then but over the intervening weeks, when life wasn’t getting in the way, time was spent painting and weathering.
As this is a build review of an as yet unreleased kit I won’t focus too much, if at all, on the techniques used to paint and weather the build. The question that must be asked, then, are what are the thoughts on the entire build now that it is complete.
This is a truly stunning kit on par, if not superior to, the best Tamiya has ever released. The parts were well molded, flash free, and the engineering is superb. Before this kit is released the Academy kit has been regarded as generally the best in the scale. I’ve built two of the Academy lightnings and while they weren’t as difficult as some other bloggers would lead you to believe, they have difficulties especially with the wing to boom joint. Tamiya has fixed that, and more. This build is trouble free with little or no filler required. In fact, I probably spent less than an hour on dealing with all seams, a chore that on previous Lightnings took multiple sittings to fill, sand, fill more, then re-scribe.
As good as it is, there is always room for improvement. I won’t discuss accuracy as I’m not a rivet counter, and the detail was close enough to my references to satisfy my needs.
- The cockpit. The cockpit is well detailed out of the box, but I would love to see Eduard release a Brassin cockpit set to step the game up a level. The only real complaint I have, typical with Tamiya kits, is that the seat-belts are decals. I would have liked to have seen some PE belts with the kit. I used some HGW fabric belts and is as per usual, this made a huge difference. The other critique of the cockpit is the extremely tricky way that the armored glass and gun-sight are connected to the windscreen and each other. This is one of the few times I’ve ever thought the Tamiya engineering was less than perfection. There really is not any way to help you out with this except to say to take a deep breath and go slowly.
- The guns. Tamiya made a head scratching decision to mold the barrels as smooth (likely correct for later versions of the -38) but then wants you to use decals to simulate the holes in the cooling jacket. I opted to use the Master Model brass barrels and cooling jacket. This upped the difficulty level considerably, but was worth the effort.
- Prop/Spinners. These build beautifully but are overly complicated. The prop is one piece with the spinner being four pieces plus a nylon bushing. This wasn’t really an issue as they fit together perfectly, but it seems overly complicated and wholly unnecessary.
- Turbo-Superchargers. Multiple options are included in the kit and I think they are as well done as the Eduard resin that I used in the previous Academy builds. That said, Tamiya decided to mold part of the skin of the lightning in with the superchargers themselves. I didn’t particularly like this as it made painting and weathering everything in a unified way more difficult. All things considered, this is not a big deal but is surprising given how well almost everything else is designed.
- Radiators. The fact that Tamiya wanted to rely on decals for the radiator faces felt like a bit like they gave up, even if you can’t see them at all. The construction of the radiators is an interesting solution that produced the only place on the kit where I had to use a bit of filler. No big deal at all but certainly a unique if imperfect approach.
- Wheels. I’ve never had a great deal of luck with getting wheel halves with tread assembled in a way that doesn’t end up affecting the look of the tread and the wheel itself. For this reason, I opted for Eduard wheels intended for the Academy kit. It just required a slight bit of drilling out the hubs to match the size of the Tamiya parts.
- Decals. Typical Tamiya and I avoided using them whenever I could. Tamiya included chrome decals to use for the oleos on the landing gear, the rear view mirror, and the polished areas on the interior of the nacelle. As a test I tried to use them on the landing gear and was horrified at the results. It was easier and provided a better result to just use my go-to Testor’s enamel chrome for the oleos and bare metal foil for the reflector ovals on the nacelles. The Kagero decals of “Nulli Secundus” were fantastic in all regards.
- Weight. Believe it or not Tamiya provided just enough weight in the box to allow the finished model to sit on its nose wheel, barely. If you slightly tilt the model it will rock back onto it’s tail. I would recommend putting just a bit more weight in the very tip of the nose in front of the gun assembly just to make it sit a bit more firmly.
There really isn’t much I can say about this build beyond the fact that it was the most fun I have ever had building a P-38. It’s a paradigm shift in what was once a subject avoided by some due to the rumored difficulty of the kits on the market. Even better is that I am certain given the parts breakdown that Tamiya plans to release the later versions of this iconic aircraft, and I can’t wait. Heaven help my wallet if they decide to do a 1/32 version (don’t make me beg, because I will).
I highly recommend this kit without reservation.
You can see my build album with a smattering of reference photographs here.