F*CKING IRENE!: Building Kitty Hawk’s 1/35 UH-60L “Super 64 – Venom”: Part 2 – Engine.

As seems to be typical with Kitty Hawk kits, this came with a rendition of the two GE T-700 turbo-shaft engines. The T-700 is the workhorse of the United States military helicopter fleet being found in everything from the Blackhawk, to the Viper, Apache and others. As such, I thought it would be an interesting challenge to see what I could do with the kit engines. And, as my vision for this project was for her to be displayed as she would have been early in the morning of 3 October 1993, an open engine compartment is a reasonable configuration as the crew could have been pre-flighting the bird to prepare for any potential mission of the day.

The engine is essentially two rather ill fitting halves with plugs that go on both ends for the compressor face or exhaust detail, and some plumbing. It fits securely into a very complicated engine nacelle assembly that requires a great deal of test fitting and patience to get aligned properly (this is not including the insane assembly for the transmissions, rotor hub and intakes that will be addressed later). When together, it’s a pretty impressive sub assembly straight out of the box. But, to do this right was going to take a great deal of plumbing to get anywhere close to satisfying an inspection on the judges’ table. So, I scoured my references and the internet for pictures of the number 1 engine in situ.

One of the better references was actually this video of a pre-flight inspection on a Blackhawk.

Pausing that at key points will allow you to see about any of the wiring and plumbing that you could want to add for whatever of realism you are wanting to build to.

Once I had a enough references and a plan in mind, I broke out my collection of lead wire, plastic rod, mini-drill set, and got to work. After several sessions at the bench I had something that I felt was a decent representation of the engine and plumbing.

I masked off the surrounding area and primed the engine and compartment with Mr. Finishing Surfacer 1500 black. I sprayed the engine with several shades of alclad including steel, dark aluminum, anodized aluminum, and white aluminum. Then, I sprayed the engine compartment with Gunze stainless steel.

Next it was time to pick out the wires and other details, beginning with Mig Silver applied with a fine brush and continuing on with a citadel brass type color and Vallejo Model Color’s light rubber, red, yellow, white and custom mixed combinations of the same with Tamiya’s green and blue. Then, I cleared with Alclad’s Aquagloss in preparation for some decals and weathering.

With the color mostly down it became apparent that some detail was lacking and that some placards on the engine would add a touch of needed realism. I dug out my sets of Aeroscale cockpit placards and tried to replicate a few of the more noticeable markings that exist on the engine and plumbing.

Now it was time for some light weathering including a simple dark enamel wash on the engine and compartment to add some depth and a tiny bit of grime. I opted for light weathering on the engine and compartment as these aircraft from the 160th SOAR were famously well maintained. In fact, in Durant’s book “In the Company of Heroes” he commented how his crew treated his aircraft like a hot rod, including putting armor all on the tires between missions. I put his book in the upper echelon of aviation related books. It is probably not as good to me as Robin Olds’ “Fighter Pilot” or Dan Hampton’s “Lords of the Sky”, but it is a good read.

In any event, after a light coat of Testor’s dullcote, the engine is complete and ready for installation when the fuselage catches up to it.

FINISHED – Tamiya’s “White Box” 1/48 P-38F/G – First Thoughts, Part 4, The finale.

Before we get started, see part 1, part 2, and part 3 to get caught up.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

P-38G-13-LO “Nulli Secundus” of the 80th FS, 8th FG, as flown out of New Guinea, winter 1943.

You can see my build album with a smattering of reference photographs here.

Tamiya’s “White Box” 1/48 P-38F/G – First Thoughts, Part 2.

Last week I began the build of Tamiya’s new tool P-38 (see: Part 1). With only a few hours invested I had gotten the build to the point that it was time to start assembly of the twin booms, a place in the construction that makes most who have ever cracked the box of a P-38 model at least a bit anxious. But, this is Tamiya, and Tamiya doesn’t allow for antiquated ideas of fit and engineering.

Since my return to the hobby, I have built two 1/48 P-38 kits, both Academy plastic and generally regarded (until now) as the best in this scale. Much has been written about the difficulty of alignment of the booms to the wing, to the tail, and each other. Otherwise well regarded builders have found these kits to be tricky. In fact, Paul Budzik’s alignment jig instructions were a necessity. Needless to say, getting an above average result of the complicated alignment has been a tricky process, until now.

Tamiya’s fit and design is so spectacular as to be unspectacular. Everything fits, and there are no alignment issues. Those who have never built a P-38 in 1/48 before will wonder why people had so many problems. This is a game changer for P-38s and I hope it portends a 1/32 kit in the near future.

The wheel bays are well detailed, but the linkages for the main gear will be difficult to protect from breakage during painting and handling.

That said, there is always room for improvement. I am not a fan of kits that require building up parts that dangle outside of the wheel bays throughout construction. Tamiya has done that here. If I had another one to build I would experiment to see if you could wait until after paint to get the linkage arms and other bits into the wheel bays. I think you can. The wheel bays are beautifully detailed and have pre made weights that fit into cups in what would be the engine compartment. Based on my unscientific balance tests, I think it’s safe to assume this will not be a tail setter.

Further, to pose the canopy open on the G (if you build the F, the canopy has a particularly interesting and easy to build option) to show off all of the exquisite interior detail (as long as you use some good seat-belts and not the kit decals) requires installing the headrest with a part that protrudes outside of the cockpit and canopy. This is the attachment point for the open canopy on the G but complicates masking during paint. I elected to cut that piece off and for masking will temporarily use the closed canopy option to cover and protect the exposed cockpit. I will manufacture a hinge from some spare photo-etch later. It goes without saying the clear parts are beautiful, distortion free, and fit perfectly with no effort.

The clear parts are beautiful, and I highly recommend HGW fabric belts for WW2 American fighters.

The most difficult part of the construction, to date, has been fitting the armored glass to the gun-sight and that assembly to the wind screen in a way that is a strong bond but doesn’t mar the crystal clear plastic. I used super thin CA a glue looper, and prayer.

It feels weird complaining about these issues, given the substantial ease of construction of the rest of the kit. The perfection of the boom to wing and tail fit is enough to make up for any of the other minor flaws I’ve noted here.

In less than two weeks linear time, and only a handful of hours invested (I’ve spent significantly more time painting and weathering the cockpit and wheel bays than I have for construction of the entirety of the model), I have a P-38. In other builds, at this point, I’d still be building jigs, arguing with boom alignment, and getting ready for significant filling and sanding. Here, I’m looking at a bit of Mr. Surfacer 500 on a few spots, and some primer.

Note: test fitting of the nose/gun assembly shows a typical clean fit, but I am trying to determine if I want to replace the barrels or move forward with the kit barrels and decals.

Unless there are some unforeseen issues, update 3 will be beginning paint and the multi-step process to heavily weather the whole thing.

As always, I keep the photo build log updated in real time.

Tamiya’s “White Box” 1/48 P-38F/G – First Thoughts, Part 1

Last weekend at the IPMS Nationals held in Chattanooga, I was able to get my hands on a pre-release boxing of Tamiya’s new tool P-38. As a lover of all things P-38, I enthusiastically shoved everything on my workbench onto the floor and dove right in.

Having been on this a week, there is already so much to discuss (beyond my unbridled enthusiasm from being one of the first in the world to build a kit).

  1. The cockpit detail out of the box, is fantastic.
  2. The fit and finish is typical Tamiya, if not even better. There are no flaws in the plastic, and the typical issues with building a twin boom fighter appear to have been addressed by some clever engineering.
  3. As great as everything is, at least so far, there are some head-scratching issues. Tamiya has decided, and this might be a pre-production issue that will change in the production kit, to rely too heavily on decals for details. The instrument panel decal is fantastic, and not unusual in this scale, so I’m not complaining about that (although I would have liked Tamiya to do the clear plastic IP with decals for the dial faces that go on the back, like their big kits). But, the decision to use decals for the radiator grill faces that sit on both sides of the booms and to create the holes in the cooling jacket of the prominent gun barrels protruding in the nose, is disappointing, at best. Don’t get me started on decal seat-belts (I already ordered HGW fabric belts to replace them). I’m certain that the aftermarket will quickly fill this space, so I suppose none of this is a huge issue.
  4. Everything has gone together in a way that is mind blowing and easy easy. Even with multiple panel inserts, leading edge inserts, and other pieces that have obviously been created in a way to release several different variants of the Lightning, it just falls together with no issue. I’ve been working on this sporadically for only a few days this week and already have the fuselage and wings together.
  5. Tamiya appears to have engineered a brilliant solution for a notorious tail sitter. They have provided three metallic spheres that sit on cups built and hidden in the model; one in the nose, and one in the engine compartment of both nacelles. I’m sure they’ve made and checked their calculations, but I still can’t help but be a little concerned that the end result will fall back on its tail.

Hopefully mid-week I will have an update with the boom assembly which is where the trouble begins with most other P-38 kits. If you have any other specific things you would like me to focus on, or discuss, let me know.

Until then, I keep the in-progress album updated.