Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Airfix 1/72 Tomahawk IIA - Part 1

Time to get started with my Curtiss Tomahawk (at last). I've been looking forward to this, particularly as my initial look at the sprues really impressed me. The last time I made a Airfix aircraft kit was about 37 years ago - their old Me 110 I think - and things have certainly improved since then with hardly any flash and very crisp and well defined detail.

The panel detail on the Airfix P-40 is rather deep, but it's crisp and consistent  so
I can live with it (advanced modellers might not appreciate it so much though).
The kit - one of the newer Airfix toolings - has a been met with some very positive reviews and although the line and panel detail is generally considered to be a little heavy handed it seems a very handsome rendition of the P-40. The bold detailing can be put down to it being a 'starter' (skill level 1) Airfix kit, the deeply inscribed line detail an advantage to those who have not yet mastered panel line painting techniques.

There is some cockpit wall detail, I'm happy enough with it but if it's a
little too basic you can buy third-party upgrade kits which add extra detail.
The first stage of the construction is the painting of the cockpit interior and then the mating of the two fuselage halves. I began by priming the interior with Humbrol's grey primer and then base coating the cockpit area with Hataka's Interior Grey-Green (from their RAF painting set).

Now, as usual with anything to do with scale modelling, there may be a bit of disagreement about exactly what colour to paint the cockpit interior. I have gone with Hataka's interior green because - simply put - I wanted to try out that paint. In actuality I *think* the Tomahawk's cockpit colour was probably the Curtiss factory default interior colour, RAF 'Interior Grey-Green' being for WW2 British manufactured aircraft.

"Unlike some other manufacturers (like Boeing), Curtiss painted their aircraft directly at the factory. The cockpit of the P-40 was Curtiss Cockpit Green, which was the Berry Brothers' (a local paint vendor) approximation of Interior Green. Reportedly it was a little browner than Interior Green." [Source: "Camouflage & Markings: Interior Colours of US Aircraft, 1941-45 (Part II)"
© Copyright 1997-2006 by IPMS Stockholm]

See a wonderful 3-D Curtiss P-40 cockpit at the following link:

The original Curtiss cockpit green is a lot more green than the RAF colour - my opinion is that the RAF would have simply painted the exteriors to RAF spec and not bothered with interiors (feel free to correct me). But, as I say, I really want to give the Hataka colour a go, to see how well it goes through my airbrush and see how much it needs to be thinned.

Hataka's RAF Cockpit Grey-Green, a more subdued green than the American
equivalent. But this test of this new make of paints went well, as they went
through my airbrush very nicely, coverage was good and smooth and it mixed
well with Vallejo's airbrush thinners.

I was lucky enough to find a nice YouTube cockpit tour of an RAAF P-40N. Now P-40 cockpits change through the variants, of course, but this does give you a general indication of the colours of the different types of equipment.

Of course, the Airfix kit's cockpit is simplified so it's only going to be an impression of the P-40's instrument panels and controls. I played around with some colour modulation and washes and did a few blocks of colour to represent some of the controls, but my take on the cockpit is only a sketchy facsimile of the real thing...

At this point the Airfix instructions direct you to glue the two halves of the fuselage together. However, the version of the Tomahawk I am making will be the RAF IIA version of No. 26 Squadron in 1941. These aircraft had photo-reconnaissance cameras fitted just behind the cockpit on the left side of the fuselage...

Tomahawk IIA AH791, RAF 26 Sqdn., Gatwick, 1941. Source: Wings Palette
The camera lens can be seen through a hole situated at the top of a side hatch, over which the left hand roundel is painted. The camera equipment can be clearly seen in a photo available from the Imperial War Museum collection...

Royal Air Force Army Cooperation Command. © IWM (CH 17187)
So, I will have to drill a hole through the hatch on this side of the kit fuselage. A fairly simple job, but I will want to create the look of a glass lens, perhaps with a piece of transparent plastic, recessed within the aperture...

I drilled through the panel then glued a piece of plastic to the inside of the fuselage, then the recess was painted with black Humbrol enamel. To make a lens-like effect I think I will handle this like I would one of the fake headlamps I have made for my truck models and fill the recess with some Pacer Forumula '560' Canopy Glue. If all goes well this should produce a clear 'lens'- but I will do this part after I have painted the model and added the decals (so we will have to wait and see how that works out).

And finally...

This post deals with the first two panels of the Airfix P-40 instructions. Obviously the main construction is the fuselage but the other little job is the assembly of the lovely propeller.

The Airfix P-40 prop assembly - three parts; prop blades, spinner boss and
end cap. All nicely moulded and a decent fit.
Again Airfix have done a nice job with these parts, the only criticism you can make is that they have overlooked the line that should mark where the top half of the spinner joins the bottom half. Ironic as everywhere else on the kit they have been keen to (over-)emphasise panel lines.

I put this line back in by running a craft knife around the spinner. Otherwise it's a nicely formed prop with no flash...

Prop assembled, but only for this photo as I will be painting the parts separately.
Here you can clearly see the line I drew around the spinner with my craft knife.
Next: It's onto the cockpit floor and the wing assembly.

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