by: Peter Ganchev [ ]
The P‐38 was a twin‐engine long range US fighter, designed before WWII. Introduced in service in 1941, it was produced by the end of hostilities with over 10,000 airframes delivered. Nicknamed “Lightning”, the brainchild of Lockheed’s Kelly Johnson served as a trainer, fighter, bomber/inderdictor, target marker and a night fighter throughout the war.
Other plastic kits
The only other plastic P‐38 kit readily available in the scale for quite a while has been the Crown mold, which has been repacked numerous times under different labels. It has been around since the late 1960s, and depicts (rather rudimentary, and depending on the decals enclosed usually in a Minicraft box) a G‐model or later aircraft.
Admittedly the box Fujimi provides appears too big, but that’s until you open it. It actually holds 3 (three) kits instead of one:
‐ 2 x 1/144 scale P‐38G (or later) aircraft,
‐ 1 x P‐38 egg‐plane of an unknown, much smaller scale.
That certainly is welcome as the modeler can build multiple aircraft out of the same box.Parts for the 144th kits are molded on 3 dark green sprues and a transparent for the canopy. The egg‐plane has 2 green sprues and a transparent one with canopy and 2 optional transparent parts to simulate spinning props.
Fujimi supplies styrene weights to help prevent your models from sitting on their tails – one for each nacelle and the nose of the 144th scale kits. They are shaped to conform to the inside of the fuselage/boom halves so you do not have to improvise, which is a big plus when building wheels down.
Parts are well molded, with glossy finish and consistent, recessed surface detail. There is a presentable cockpit, and Fujimi has also made an effort to represent the radiator faces, the underwing dive flaps and the turbochargers properly. There are 2x165 US gallon drop tanks provided per 1/144 kit.
Decals for 2 versions are provided:
‐ A natural metal aircraft of 485 Squadron, 370 Fighter Group with D‐Day stripes as featured on the box top. Same aircraft is depicted by the egg plane.
‐ “Thoughts of midnite”, an olive drab over neutral grey machine of 431 Squadron, 375 Fighter Group.
Notably both decal versions are based on airworthy examples; however “Thoughts of midnite” was actually a P‐38H‐5 with the earlier boom/radiator configuration.
As you can imagine there are not too many parts, so the 8‐step build process is rather quick. Another positive impression – the instructions show explicitly the locating pins. My only problem during the build was the very dark plastic which makes gaps and issues hard to observe.
First, I assembled the booms, slid the horizontal stabilator between them, and attached them to the upper wing/fuselage (part A1). From there I was able to adjust part position to get them as “square” as possible early on: parallel booms, vertical stabilators perpendicular to the horizontal one. I then added the center lower wing (part A11) and finally – the outer wing panels (B6 and B7).
I filled the gaps between the booms and outer panels, and closed up the nose. The two nose halves (A2 and A3) form a realistic panel line, but I had to sand down the top join. I then added the nose cap (part A10) and the radiator faces (parts C2).
Carefully observe part numbers for gear doors, since as easy as they are placed – they only fit one way. While the main gear legs are an easy fit I had trouble gluing the nose one properly. On the image where you can see it primed – it actually has the proper nose‐up P‐38 stance.
Since I had 2 kits I decided to build one of them wheels up and tanks dropped, so I cut off the locating tabs on the gear doors and glued them shut trouble‐free. I also separated the pylons from the drop tanks and glued the racks onto the wing. The spare nose gear leg was later used when I lost the piece on the other kit.
Painting and finishing
The wheels‐down P‐38 was selected to depict the OD over NG aircraft, and some serious masking (for the scale anyway) ensued to try and get the wavy demarcation line between the 2 colors.
The wheels up kit and the egg plane were treated to gloss black and then couple of Alclad II metal shades. The stars and bars provided for the NMF kit have grey dots printed over the white areas of the insignia. Apparently 485th Squadron did overpaint those to dull them down. As I did not like the scale effect I cobbled together my own stars and bars. The D‐Day stripes did not conform at all on neither kit despite applied decal softeners. While I applied the stripe decals at least partially to the egg plane – I used various leftovers to create a fictional aircraft out of the wheels‐up model.
The 1/144 transparencies were masked and finished separately to be added at the end. The frames are really thin and I am far from happy with my effort. After painting the cockpits and gluing the control stick (A8), I added the canopies with white glue – they are a snuggle fit.
The supplied “prop blur” parts were used on the egg plane. The OD/NG P‐38 received the props as supplied: they are very delicate, and despite the clever sprue gate placement you need to be careful when separating and cleaning them up to prevent breaking or shearing.
I used a compass cutter to create transparent discs to simulate rotating props on the NMF Lightning. After masking the centers I sprayed the edges yellow, then using transparent grey and a paper template sprayed the “prop blades”. The disks were then attached in place and the blade‐less spinner fronts were glued on.
I enjoyed building this tiny, beautiful 3‐in‐1 Fujimi offering. Should you invest the patience and effort you would in the Minicraft boxing – you will end up with a gem of a model (actually 3). There are a number of decal sheets in 1/144 that are the perfect accessory for this kit.
Highly recommended to 1/144 builders and anyone with a modeler’s block.
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