Academy P-38F Build Report 2: Main Assembly

The Academy P-38 (and based on the reviews I’ve read, any 1/48 P-38) is a kit you build because you want a Lightning on your shelf, not a Lighting you build because it’s a great kit. It’s a destination model.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad model. Just…not a model I’d pull out of the stash just for the enjoyment of a great build.

In part 1 of the build report I mentioned that this kit’s cockpit has only the slightest of advantages over the Revellogram kit. That non-exceptionalism kind of sums up the build. This has the feeling of a kit that pushes no envelopes, attempts nothing new, and lacks the passion for detail and engineering obvious in kits from other manufacturers.

Stage 1: Wing Assembly

Exactly like the Revellogram kit, main assembly on the Academy P-38 starts with the joining of the upper and lower wing, which also incorporates most of the cockpit pod and the booms where they pass over the wings. There’s nothing particularly complicated here, but it’s an expansive area to cover.

Stage 2: Boom Prep and Assembly

The various intakes along the P-38′s booms all featured mesh screens to keep debris from mucking up the works. I went ahead and replicated this by backing the various intake openings with some fine brass mesh. This included drilling out the intake openings in the lower boom nacelles, which Academy decided to represent with shallow divots rather than anything resembling a intake holes. Weak.

During this stage, some of the ultra-thin CA I used to secure the mesh ran out the back of the intake blister and down the boom all the way to the tail. At the time I was a bit freaked out by it. Then I built the rest of the kit.

The boom assembly actually starts with the landing gear bays, which sandwich between boom halves. Once those were in place, I took the Touch-n-Flow to the points just fore and aft, just enough to hold things together, then fit the booms to the wing.

With things in place, I installed the rear stabilizer between the tails and hit it with Tenax, then ran a piece of tape taut across the stabilizers and let it cure overnight.

The next day I welded the rest of the booms together, and the booms to the wing.

No matter how I tried, there was no way to make everything fit properly, so I focused on the top of the booms. This resulted in some nasty gaps where the booms join up to the wing on the sides. This is one of the cleaner ones…

Stage 3: Cockpit Pod Assembly

The boom gaps make the cockpit pod look fantastic in comparison, but the assembly process was maybe more frustrating up front.

Think of it this way. You have the main cockpit pod. Then you have the gun bay access doors forward. Then, forward of that, the nose with all the mounting holes for the machine gun barrels. Maybe some locator pins, or maybe a keyed locator tab or something to help with proper alignment. Nope. All you get is smooth plastic edge against smooth plastic edge. With the amount of slippage involved, there’s almost no point to taking a test run.

Fortunately I did okay.

But this is just another aspect of this kit that drives me up the wall. The sloppiness, the vagueness of the engineering. The poor fits. Up top, the canopy doesn’t fit well either (SHOCKER). The gap is bad enough that the side windows are useless. I’m planning to cut some styrene to width to represent the windows as rolled down. That leaves the top, which I’m having to scratchbuild a hinge for, since there isn’t one to be had in the Academy kit.

Oh sure, in the end I got most of the kit together alright…and it looks pretty good from a moderate distance…but I won’t be rushing back to Academy’s P-38s, or Academy kits in general, when I’m looking for a fun, challenging build experience.

Coming up in build report 3, once putty is done, it’ll be time for paint!

2 thoughts on “Academy P-38F Build Report 2: Main Assembly

  1. Hi there. Have you ever uploaded the next part(s) of this build. I cannot find them. I have the same kit and was wondering how did your build go. I have discovered your site only recently and I enjoy reading it. Thanks

    • Thanks Milan! Unfortunately, this one got close to the priming stage when it had an unfortunate encounter with our yellow lab (who knocked it off a table while sneaking food, then stepped on it). Though I will be tackling Eduard’s impending release of the P-38J, which uses the Academy plastic.

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