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.
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 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.
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.