Curtiss P-40E Warhawk (kit 4664) - part 1
Text and photos Rogerio "Rato" Marczak
A PIONEER 1/32 MODEL
Ahhhhhh... the Revell P-40.
If you are old enough you'll remember when this one first appeared
on the shelves. It has been around for more than thirty years.
Back in late 60's the Revell P-40 formed - along with the Spitfire
and the Me-109 - the backbone of a new line of plastic models
made popular by Revell: the 1/32 scale models. These three models
shared many features in common: surface detail, movable control
surfaces, detailed engine, cockpit, sliding canopies and ...
guess what ... retractable landing gear. And boy, they were
big enough to make us youngsters happy for many weeks. I'm sure
the P-40 was the main item of many Christmas and birthday lists
for years. Now let's put nostalgia aside for a moment and examine
this beauty with other eyes.
The box art of the 1996 release.
|The Revell P-40 kit stood well
against time. It was reissued many times in the last 35 years,
and it remains the only 1/32 injected kit on the market. As we
will see later, shape and dimensions are very good, except for
a few modifications included to allow movable parts. The surface
detail is raised, but the petite rivets and the overlapping panels
are good even for today standards.
The original issue came in those
sturdy cardboard boxes with a terrific "Flying Tiger" artwork.
Remember that? See the picture below. And please, don't cry...
The latest release is a 1996 version easily found in most hobby
Some of the many incarnations of the Revell P-40E
in 1/32 scale. The original release is on the top (then
kit#H-283) - sorry for the battered box. The last two are the
Smithsonian release and the promotional kit issued with the
"1941" movie (featuring John Beluschi).
|OPENING THE BOX
Our sample came with an artwork
depicting the P-40E "Arizona" flown by Lt. Sidney Woods, the
only decal option of the kit. The instructions come as a eight
pages booklet covering the 19 assembly steps and cammouflage/decal
application. Color specs are given as generic names with numbers
referring ProModeler paints.
The kit comprises 90 gray styrene
pieces arranged in six sprues, plus 4 clear pieces for the canopy
and spine windows. Strangely, the sprues were not bagged and
scuffing occurred on larger parts due to the friction. The plastic
of our sample is a bit more brittle than typical of Revell,
but won't pose any problems to rescribing. There are some minimal
flash here and there and a few ejection pin marks (mostly hidden),
but the surface details are quite consistent, proving that these
molds stood well all these years.
This is what you get once you open the box.
| The finished model measures
30 cm / 35.5 cm. This is smaller than many recent 1/48 kits. Here
are the sprues:
The airframe is broken in the
classical way: two fuselage halves, two top and one bottom wing
parts, plus the stabilizers. Because the nose area on the fuselage
halves are open to accept the engine access panels (both sides),
these parts are always severely warped, as they cool differently
while still in the mold. Nothing a few inches of tape won't
solve, but I'm still to see a 1/32 Revell P-40 without signs
of this problem. The lower wing also showed some warping, but
it disappear once attached to the top wing halves. After assembling
the wing, it will look like having a null or very low dihedral.
This is because the center wing section of the bottom wing is
too flimsy to keep the correct dihedral before matting the wing
to the fuselage. However, after cleaning the wing root area
and fitting the wing subassembly to the fuselage the P-40's
characteristic high dihedral will show out. Remember to install
the engine firewall inside the fuselage even if you are not
going to show the engine, as this adds strength and helps to
minimize the wing root gaps by keeping the correct forward fuselage
All panel lines, maintenance
hatches and rivets are raised, but very subtle. In fact, Revell's
representation of the rivets and the overlapping panels is quite
convincing. This is not optics illusion: they are really stepped,
just like the real thing. I don't have any idea of how they
have cut these molds so finely with the 60's technology, but
it is impressive. Unfortunately, most of them will disappear
in case you are going to sand off the surface details and rescribe
the panel lines.
The only prominent details missing
on the fuselage parts are the blue formation light on the left
side (at about the station of the gun sight ring) and the identification
light located on the fillet between the fuselage and the trailing
edge of the right wing. However, I didn't find the formation
light in all wartime photos (non-standard? painted over,
maybe?). Also, the right wing root leading edge fairing had
a small hole to provide fresh air to the cockpit. This is not
represented in the kit parts and is just a matter of drilling.
On the dash-E, this hole went on the right wing only (on both
wings for the P-40F and on).
The rivets and overlapping panel lines at a glance
(aft right fuselage).
The rivets and overlapping panel lines at a glance (vertical
Wartime photo showing the cockpit venting hole.
| The aft fuselage compartment
door is drawn as a recessed detail. I have no doubt that some
of you would like to open it. It's a nice idea, but be prepared
to include all the radio gear and some structural details, cables
and stuff there inside...
Also worth to note are the hinge
lines for the ammunition boxes (upper wings) and gun access
doors (lower wings), they are only a bit exaggerated but give
a nice touch to those areas. I'm convinced it is possible to
preserve them all during the preparation for rescribing. The
gun access door is flat, but it should have a bulge in the aft
end to provide clearance for the guns inside. This can be easily
fixed by gluing a piece of plastic in the correct shape just
behind the chutes and smoothing the contour with putty. For
your references, Detail & Scale book on the P-40D and on
(vol.2) brings a good photo of the door on page 29. We included
a photo of the P-40E preserved at British Columbia Aviation
Museum, Sidney, Australia, showing that the bulge is too visible
to be overlooked.
If you are going to detail the
gun area, it is easier to open the top panel (ammo boxes), as
the lower panel (gun bay access) will need a lot of details
difficult to scratch, and they won't be really visible unless
you turn the model up side down. But don't forget to open the
guns holes and install new muzzles from tubing. It will look
a lot better than the kit's representation. Note that the guns
are not aligned with the wing cord. The BCAM photo below shows
the correct configuration
Surface detail at a glance (upper right wing).
Note the hinges around the ammunition bay access panel.
Surface detail at a glance (lower wing). Again, note the hinges
on the empty shell chutes panel.
Lower wing of a P-40E preserved at British Columbia Aviation
Museum, showing the chutes panel bulge.
| The retractable landing light
is another feature represented as surface detail. To scratchbuild
a new one is not a big deal and will add a lot of realism. As
for the flaps, you have to accept them closed, or spend some good
hours doing your owns. We added a picture from the E&M manual,
just in case you are crazy enough. Only remember that not many
wartime P-40 photos show the flaps deployed (the Flight Ops Manual
recommend the pilot to raise them before shutting down).
Surface detail at a glance (lower wing). The
landing gear light is only symbolic.
Surface detail at a glance (lower wing). The holes are attachment
points for the belly fuel tank.
Erection & Maintenance Manual picture showing the inner
| Those of you who have built
the first releases of this kit will probably remember that the
lower wing part, specially the left side, used to crack easily
from the wheel well down to the trailing edge during the handling.
This was a weak area of the part and Revell addressed a solution
in the latest injections. The molds have been cut to add a bit
of thickness, adding strength to the area. As a by product, the
lower wing keeps the correct dihedral much better than its old
The molds have been cut to increase the thickness
around the trailing edge on the left side of lower wing.
| The control surfaces are all
designed to be movable, but it may not sound as a good idea. Some
of them have few spurious hinges that shouldn't be there. More
on that later. The fabric cover of these parts are well done,
typical of Revell... a bit overdone but passable. Again, it will
be a pity to sand off the overlapping panels of the stabilizers'
On the real aircraft, the left
aileron had a movable trim tab which is not represented on the
kit parts. All you need to depict this is to use your scribing
tool. And the right aileron had a fixed balance tab - also not
depicted in the kit - that can be added with a piece of plastic
The fabric representation on the control surfaces
(aileron and horizontal stabilizer).
Detail view of the overlapping panels (horizontal stabilizer
| GENERAL FIT
For a kit of this vintage, we
can't complain that much. The fit is ok overall, a bit loose,
however. The wing root is the main concern, but our tests showed
that with careful cleaning only a small amount of filler will
be needed. The area where the lower wing joints the fuselage
will need a bit more, because of the heavy sink marks.
The characteristic landing gear
fairing on the leading edge of the wings will need some sanding/filling
too. Also, if you are not going to show the engine, glue the
corresponding panels (designed to be removable) on the fuselages.
You will note that they are both a bit undersized for the openings,
leaving quite visible grooves all around. Use your favorite
method, glue, putty, plastic shims or whatever to alleviate
With careful cleaning a good joint can be achieved.
Just a bit of putty will do the job.
Another area that deserves attention... and putty.
| SHAPE/DIMENSIONS ACCURACY
Before proceeding with this
section, let me tell you that I had a hard time finding good
drawings for this bird. Do yourself a favor and forget the Squadron
Signal In Action and Detail & Scale books. Besides being
printed in a different scale than the claimed, they have some
serious deviations. I used a set of Russian (!) drawings sent
by a collaborator. After a painful checking, they proved to
be the best in my hands (I'm still waiting for a SuperScale
drawing set I've recently ordered). Now if you have access to
copies of the engineering drawings...
As most Revell 1/32 kits, this
one is also very accurate (except for the landing gear, that
we will analyze later). There are only a few discrepancies.
Most of them can be overlooked. Those that can't are due to
the movable parts. Revell had to make some non orthodox modifications
to allow the control surfaces to move. The ailerons are roughly
2-3 mm to the inner side. Even this can be ignored without detracting
from the overall accuracy, in my opinion.
Checking dimensions and shape (fuselage).
Checking dimensions and shape (wings). Note the small error
in the aileron position.
| However, the horizontal stabilizers
came each with a pair of hinges that should not exist. Just cut
them off the fins and fill the corresponding holes on the elevators.
Also, the elevators balance are a bit too wide, but nothing serious.
The rudder is good, but the
hinge link to be attached at the top of it (part #13) looks
too thick. Just sand it to thin it down. Eduard produces a set
of photoetched parts for this kit, it is the product #32017,
and this link is one of the parts that can be replaced by the
Checking dimensions and shape (horizontal stabilizers).
These will need some work to be accurate.
Checking dimensions and shape (rudder).
| As you can see so far in this
review, the Revell P-40 is a very accurate product in what concerns
overall shape and dimensions. Now let's take a close look on the