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.

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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.

Putting the “special” back in Special Hobby: Building the 1/32 “Hi-Tech” Yak-3.

spe-cial

adjective

  1. better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual (emphasis mine).

By now, I am pretty confident with what I am going to get from a Special Hobby kit. In this case, as with their Tempest V, “special” means short run. Short run means an interesting and often under represented subject, with engineering that goes from as good as can be expected to sloppy, with detail to match.

Their kits are relatively simple in execution, which is great when one is looking for an escape from Tamiya or more complicated and ambitious builds, as I was.  But, while there should be a time cost savings in parts simplicity, there is a time penalty when some things need significantly more attention.

There were three significant issues with this build.

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The first is that the kit came with multiple broken parts including, astoundingly, parts of the wing.  To compound this issue, I either had to wait on the U.S. distributor of the kit to get replacement parts from the manufacturer, or buy a new kit.   I opted to buy a replacement kit and was going to use the replacement parts from the manufacturer to refill the parts in the kit, and then re-sell the unused kit. I’m still waiting on the replacement parts.

The second is the wheel wells.  Like the aforementioned Tempest V, Special Hobby has an almost singular ability to make construction of the wheel well as frustrating as possible.  It’s the worst combination of bad design and poor parts fit.  My solution, after ruining one set of wheel bay inserts, was to simply leave the parts that run along the leading edge of the wing out until the wing was closed, and then trim, sand, file those to fit.  Good luck. Also like the Tempest V, this seems like it could be easily remedied with resin replacement wheel bay inserts.  Note that the issues with the wheel bay parts also throw off the construction of the little intakes on the leading edge of the wing.  Be prepared to play some jazz here.

Third are the instructions.  Special Hobby’s instructions are beautiful, but sometimes utter and complete nonsense. There is no guidance I can give here except to read the instructions enough to commit them to memory so you understand what they want you to do, and then disregard all of that using your experience and constant dry fitting to determine the build sequence.

I wish I could say those were all of the problems, but they aren’t.  Those are just the problems that are unusually difficult for a build of this scope.

All of that said, this model was a fun and worthwhile departure from the meandering and ambitious P-61A I’ve been building for almost 8 months.  And, one of the weaknesses mentioned above, that of the wheel well and landing gear, turns into one of the best aspects of the build (after you’ve pulled all of your hair out getting it together).

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Similarly, the cockpit was well detailed out of the box and fun to build, paint and weather.  I hand painted the whole thing except for the individual cockpit dial decals. I knew that would be good enough given that I intended on closing the cockpit and a close inspection would be almost impossible. Note here that there is very few in the way of positive location features and good fit/alignment comes from lots of test fitting and patience.

20190406_130147-COLLAGE.jpgThis kit took significantly less time than other builds I have done in this scale, a mere 40 days from start to finish, even with some extra time being spent to work with the problem areas.  It’s a good kit of an important subject that builds into an impressive addition to my World War 2 fighter collection.

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Tamiya’s 1/32 Spitfire Mk IX: Build it.

20181224_144439Almost two years ago I traded in 1/48 in favor of the larger scale.  My introduction to “man scale” was Tamiya’s 1/32 Corsair, and the following shift from 1/48 was tectonic and total.   Tamiya’s Corsair was so good, in fact, that it took several 1/32 kits from manufacturers such as Hasegawa, Trumpeter and Special Hobby to illustrate just how far Tamiya had knocked the Corsair out of the park.  It was Mark McGuire on steroids good.

The Tamiya experience was a paradigm shift in my perception of the build experience. It was like methamphetamine.  I knew I would always be chasing that high so I had to be judicious with building Tamiya.  For that reason, I have been hesitant to revisit any big Tamiya kits for an irrational fear that they really were that good. As such, I would get caught in a loop of only building Tamiya kits, letting the skills honed at the anvil of the likes of Special Hobby atrophy beyond recognition.  Well, having built Special Hobby’s 1/32 Tempest Mk V in the livery of Pierre Clostermann’s famous mount, I wanted to have one of his Spitfires as well.  Enter the Tamiya 1/32 Spitfire Mk IX.

The bottom line for everything I write below, is that like the second hit of meth, the Spitfire falls marginally but noticeably short of the Corsair.  It leaves you satisfied but wanting more.  Most notably, between the Corsair and the Spitfire, Tamiya has thrown down the gauntlet to every other manufacturer and will leave you asking why can’t [insert every other manufacturer] mold plastic this cleanly, with so few fit issues.

That said, unlike the Corsair, the Spitfire does have some rather infamous fit issues.  The fit of the multi part cowlings around the engine, and the engine sub assembly to the fuselage, leaves something to be desired.  This part of the build left me frustrated enough to hit pause on the Spitfire for a few months to let my froth subside and contemplate alternatives. Ultimately I decided to permanently affix three of the four cowlings, hiding a great deal of the work I had invested in Tamiya’s beautifully designed Merlin. The fit of the wing assembly to the bottom of the fuselage needed some relatively minor work to smooth out the transition between the parts. This sort of fit issue is pretty typical when compared to most other kits I’ve built, but stands out against a kit where very little filler was otherwise needed. Beyond that, follow the lengthy instructions and everything essentially falls together.

Of note, there are only a few places where I believe the aftermarket has provided quality additions to this model. 

1) As per usual I added HGW fabric belts.  The kit belts are photo etch, but the HGW offerings are truly a must have for any build. While the fabric belts take several hours to assemble, I think it’s worth the effort.

2) Tamiya’s tires are molded in rubber.  I have never liked this option and opted for a set of resin weighted wheels and tires as provided by Aires.  These were flawless, as I have come to expect using them on several other large scale builds. 

3) Don’t use Tamiya decals.  I’ve learned this lesson over the years and let my experience be your guide.  For most of the markings on this kit I used pre-cut masks from various manufacturers.  The end result with painting roundels is that even though it takes significantly more time than throwing down decals,  it is worth the effort. 

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The kit plastic, Eduard placards, and Aires control column and floor are shown here. 

4) I used parts from the Aires full cockpit but in hindsight believe this isn’t worth the effort. The Aires cockpit floor required too much effort to fit and was ultimately jettisoned in favor of the kit parts. Tamiya’s cockpit is good enough with the addition of some Eduard photo etch and some placard decals.

5) The Quickboost resin exhausts were a welcome and relatively cheap addition that didn’t require buggering up the weld lines on the kit plastic.  

6) I used AM decals to get Clostermann’s LO-D specific markings.  These were acquired on a decal sheet from, surprisingly, a French firm with markings specific to Free French Spitfires in 1/32.  I highly recommend these decals, if Clostermann or other Free French are your preferred markings for Spitfires.  Just plan well ahead as shipping to the US took a couple weeks. 

In sum, its a kit worth the money and time.  If you don’t have as much of either of those as you’d like, I still say you can get close with the new tool Revell offerings. 

Check out the completed build here.