By: Jeff Brundt – November 2019
If there was any subject that was crying out for a new tool injection molded model it was the P-38 Lightning. Prior to today the choices the modeler had for a Lightning were limited to the ancient Monogram kit, the newer Hasegawa, Academy versions that where then followed by Hobby Boss. While the Hasegawa and Academy kits are both are quite serviceable they still have a reputation for difficult alignment and poor fit. The Hobby Boss kit really has too many inaccuracies to even consider. Tamiya’s recent release however, leaves all those previous kits in the dust, in terms of engineering, fit, detail and ease of assembly. From start to finish it’s a joy.
Tamiya engineering has overcome many of the issues that have plagued other P-38 kits. Firstly the fit between the booms and wing has parts joined along natural panel lines. Parts interlock and fit without the need for glue to hold them together. Tamiya’s ingenious use of ball bearings and how they mount solve the ever present issue of tail sitting on this aircraft.
There are 207 parts, molded in Tamiya’s typical grey plastic, 18 clear parts with self-adhesive masks included, three chrome ball bearings for weight to prevent tail sitting and a decal sheet with markings for two aircraft. Surface texture is very nice with finely recessed panel lines and no pebbly finish. There are no gimmicks, open doors, moveable parts or photo etch to worry about. There are some inserts to allow future variants but these inserts fit beautifully due to Tamiya’s excellent engineering.
You have options for building either the F or G variant. The instructions are clearly marked for so you do have to worry about a mix up when building. There are two canopy options depending on which version you choose. You can display either the opened canopy or closed canopy. You have the option of a boarding ladder to be displayed opened or closed, but will need to decide which you want early in the build, so plan accordingly. A seated pilot is also included. There are two full size color sheets that printed on both sides; one for each version with painting and markings.
The cockpit and wheel wells are very detailed for a kit straight from the box. There are decals for the instrument panel, one for each depending on which version you build. The doors for the main landing gear are cleverly designed so they can be installed later, after you paint. They simply slot into the booms. The doors fit into the slots well enough you don’t even have to glue them. The door parts are marked and keyed so you don’t have the risk of installing them incorrectly. The decal sheet includes small chrome pieces to simulate the chromed cylinders on the gear struts. That is a first.
Masking clear parts with lots of glazing frames is never fun but Tamiya’s masks make the job very easy. Just use a sharp knife to cut them out and place per the instructions. Each mask is labeled with an ID and orientation arrow. The fit of the clear parts was well enough I was able to use the closed canopy and temporarily glue it in place with white glue to use as a mask instead of having to mask the cockpit opening. Tamiya has also correctly depicted the counter rotating propellers. The propellers mount using nylon bushings in the hub and have the ability to turn. Just make sure to put the correct prop on the correct side of the plane.
With all the good that’s not to say there aren’t some issues. For some reason Tamiya chose not to depict the cooling holes in the nose mounted .50’s. They opted to use decals to represent the gun barrels. I can honestly say this is a first that I have seen this in all my years of modeling. I opted to use the Master Barrels P-38 early brass gun barrel set to replace the kit offering. Another minor issue is the tread pattern on the tires. Early Lightnings had a block tread on the nose and main wheels but the kit wheels have a diamond tread. I thought this was odd but after doing some Google searching and seeing the exact plane that Tamiya used for reference during their design I can see why they did the tread the way they did.
Tamiya is always faithful to the research subject they use. Lastly, Tamiya chose to use decals to depict the seat belts. I can see why they do this. It’s easy and to be frank, nicer than molded in belts (which would not easily allow a seated pilot which is included). Some modelers will want to replace the belt decals with either photo etch or fabric belts for added realism. These issues are minor and in no way lessen the enjoyment of this kit.
Both depicted versions in the kit are in the early version of OD on the topside with neutral grey underside. I chose the P-38F, White 33, 39th FS, 35th FG, 5th Air Force, Port Moresby, late 1942. This aircraft features sharks mouths and eyes on the engine nacelles. The other included markings are for a P-38G Lightning – White 147 of 339th FS, 347th FG, 13th Air Force, Operation Vengeance (attack on Admiral Yamamoto’s aircraft based on Guadacanal in April 1943).
I used MRP paint for my model for the main airframe colors but the instructions call out all the required Tamiya colors. There are a lot of stencil data decals to apply (over 100) so be prepared. Don’t worry though, the marking guide shows where they all go. It is just very time consuming to put them all on if that’s what you choose to do. I used Solvaset sparingly as Mark Fit Strong didn’t seem to affect them. The shark mouth decals fit very well with little fuss.
Assembly of the kit is straightforward. The cockpit is first. I was able to do most of the part painting while they were still on the sprue trees. For the supercharger exhausts I did not glue those in early as the instructions would have. That was so I could paint them their rusty color separate and install later once the airframe was painted. If you keep the pieces separate you can fit them later and they will drop right in. There are some holes that need to be drilled for the aux fuel tank mounts and these are different depending on which tanks you decide to use. The larger tanks have additional sway brace mounting holes and if you forget those, it will be harder to figure out where they need to be drilled once the wing halves are joined.
I also left off the landing gear and gear doors until after the main colors were painted. You will have some gear door link rods that are thin and fragile to deal with so try not to set the plane down on them during the build and painting process. Care is also required when masking the main gear bays with these rods because they can be easily damaged. The only real tricky part was the armored glass behind the wind screen. The instructions were a bit unclear to me at least, on how to go about the installation. I did some Google image searching and was able to see how the real thing looked and that helped a lot. Since these parts have to be glued to the clear windscreen piece I used Micro Krystal Klear for these parts. It helps that the IP coaming cover is part of this and helps hold things together but anytime clear parts and plastic cement meet anxiety levels increase.
So there you have the high points. I cannot state enough how well engineered this kit is. Tamiya seems to out do themselves with each new release lately. If you love the P-38, World War II warbirds or are just a fan of great kits then this one is for you. The phrase ‘highly recommended’ is greatly overused in the model review world but in this case it is justly deserved.
Many thanks to Kevin and Mark Twain Hobby for the kit.
The Tamiya M4A3E8 Sherman tank model assembles very easily and the parts fit together very well, typical of Tamiya Armor Kits. The lower hull is made up of individual parts, but they go together very well.
The suspension and road wheels are very nicely detailed. I had to do a little extra sanding on half of the road wheels, almost seemed like the mold was slightly offset when produced. It was not very noticeable and was very easily cleaned up. The turret is molded in two separate parts, and after gluing together, it leaves a seam line around the lower rear of the turret that should not be there to be accurate. I carefully sanded this line down and used Mr. Surfacer 500 Primer stippled with a large brush to reproduce the cast look the turret should have.
For painting, I used Tamiya Acrylics sprayed through a Paasche airbrush. I added several thin layers of different shades to get the final look. Weathering was done with Tamiya Weathering Master sets. Washes and filters were completed with oil paints. This was my first attempt at using oil paints, which I think turned out very well.
All parts and supplies used to built this kit can be purchased at Mark Twain Hobby (except for the oil paints at this time).
Overall a very nice kit with excellent detail, very good fit but not overly complicated. I built this kit straight from the box, but it would definitely benefit from some additional details such as photo-etch straps on the tools and a set of individual piece tracks.
I want to thank Kevin Thompson for letting me build this kit, Brett Avants for the tips and advice during the build and John Welther for being a bad influence by getting me back into building armor models.
Written and pictures by Rick Hopkins.
Thanks again Rick!
Our friend Rick Hopkins contributed a great review of the Tamiya kit #35338!
“I started building my first model kits when I was about five years old. Over the next 45 years I developed my skills and found ways to make the models I was building more and more realistic all the time.
In the beginning I was only doing car models but in later years I began working with tanks, ships and aircraft, and sci-fi stuff like star trek, starwars ect. About 25 years ago a friend talked me into entering a model contest and to my surprise I took a third place ! well that inspired me even more so I began to enter every contest I could find and then I realized that people was interested in buying my work.
That opened a whole new world for me, at first I only sold items at model show and the like……then I found the internet ! Ebay let me sell models and custom builds of all sorts of models for people all around the world!
I’m 50 years old now and I’ve been buying and seeking advice from the great people at Mark Twain Hobby for many years. Now they are allowing me to build new released kits and then writing reviews on each one I do. Its a rough life but I guess somebody has to do it?
I was very expressed with this new offering from Tamiya. After opening the box I noticed the very crisp and super detailed parts on three parts trees one clear and two moulded in light gray with a decal sheet, poly caps for the wheels and a easy to read and follow instruction booklet.
As I begin the build I see that there are eight separate door handles (four inside and four for the outside) there are also separate brake, gas and clutch peddles along with the parking and shifting levers.
The kit offers several options one being 2 roofs an up version and a down style boot. You can also choose military or civilian use. The civilian version has pinstripe decals for the body along with the Toyota logos for the hubcaps and hood medallion. As normal Tamiya also supplies a nicely detailed driver figure.
Really the only thing that I see that Tamiya could have done better is to add a second figure for the rear seat and an opening hood and full engine detail instead of just the oil-pan only seen from the underside.
In conclusion. I found this new kit to be really enjoyable and I think” that Tamiya has hit another homerun with this one!”
Peter Go’s 1/16-scale 1908 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost features incredibly delicate wire wheels and many other fine details.
If you’re a male of a certain age, chances are you built at least one model car kit in your younger days . . . maybe several. You got a kit from AMT, Monogram, or Revell and some paint and glue from Testors, put down some newspaper on the dining room table, and did your best. Maybe your finished product turned out good enough to occupy a spot of honor on your bedroom shelf, or maybe it ended up being fodder for firecrackers in your driveway.
Today, there are passionate groups of adult model-car builders who have taken a hobby that started as a 1960s fad and elevated it into a true art form. And the place to see the best of these miniature wonders in person is the GSL International Model Car Championship—a prestigious contest that was created back in 1979 for the upper echelon of automotive-modeling artisans. It’s essentially the Academy Awards of hand-built scale vehicles. GSL stands for “Greater Salt Lake” (the contest is held biannually in Salt Lake City, Utah), and this year’s running was the 24th edition. More than 300 models from 80 or so builders were on display in the Salt Lake Sheraton Hotel this past weekend.
Though the competition is intense and judging is taken very seriously (a trio of expert judges spends over eight hours painstakingly analyzing the entries), the atmosphere is wonderfully congenial and welcoming. Builders happily share techniques and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. The contest is the main event, but there are plenty of other attractions over the course of the four-day show. Master modelers explain their building techniques in instructive seminars (this year’s show included demonstrations of 3-D printing, metal shaping, and cobalt plating), and shuttle buses ferry attendees to the nearby National Model Car Builder’s Museum for tours (both GSL and the NMCBM are brainchildren of Salt Lake City-area attorney Mark Gustavson).
The best of the models on display at GSL reach a level of craftsmanship and precision that rivals that of the premier full-size car restorers and fabricators. Here’s a sampling of the amazing works of art that were on display. For more information, check out http://www.gslchampionship.org.
The big winner at GSL this year was Greg Nichols’ “Backdraft”—a completely scratch-built, T-bucket-inspired hot rod chock-full of hand-machined metal parts. It took home the coveted “Best in Show” award, along with several other honors. The “Backdraft” name is inspired by the model’s rear-mounted radiator, which is positioned just behind the driver’s seat.
Mike English brought several amazing motorcycle models, including a 1/9-scale Bianchi 350CC (background) and a 1/9 one-off custom bike. Note the leather riding gloves on the saddle.
Advanced modelers use ultra-thin “photo-etched” metal parts for extra-fine detailing. Gary Kulchock crammed several projects’ worth of his own custom-made pieces onto this jam-packed sheet, which measures roughly 11 inches by 17 inches. It’s a work of art in and of itself. A Jeep grille, a manhole cover, various gaskets and brackets, speaker grilles, and a myriad of tiny bolt heads are just a few of the precision-crafted bits.
Master modelers utilize advanced painting techniques to make simple plastic-kit parts look like weather-beaten old steel. “Hollywood” Jim Fernandez built this 1/25-scale 1950 Oldsmobile 88 drag car to look as if it had spent the last 40 years decaying in a junkyard. Did you notice the robin’s nest (with egg) in the rear carburetor’s velocity stack?
Jimmie Harris’s wondrously weathered 1923 Ford Model T “peddler’s truck” looks like something out of “The Grapes of Wrath.” It’s complete with pots and pans, a bulb horn, and a rooftop chimney.
“Hollywood” Jim Fernandez’s heartwarming 1/25-scale diorama “Making Memories” makes fantastic use of color: The under-construction pedal car and ’32 Ford coupe are finished in full color, while the cluttered garage backdrop is rendered in muted black-and-white-photo tones. The level of detail here is breathtaking.