The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
The Curtiss P-40 is one of the few aircraft that is simultaneously vaunted and shafted by history.
On the one hand, it was the fighter immortalized by Claire Chennault’s American Volunteer Group – more excitingly known as the “Flying Tigers”.
On the other hand, it’s basically all but ignored for its service beyond China. And it served in every theater of the war before being overshadowed by the arrival of first the P-47 and then the P-51 Mustang. Much like the Hawker Hurricane or the Grumman F4F Wildcat, the Curtiss P-40 is very much the plane that held the line during those critical earlier years of the war.
Pretty much every allied air force flew the P-40 at some point or another, including the Free French, whose famed GC II/5 squadron – the famed Lafayette Escadrille – flew the P-40F in Africa and Italy.
The P-40F differed from the P-40E in one major regard. Instead of the Allison inline engine, it ran the Packard V-1650 Merlin. That’s right, the Merlin of Spitfire and P-51 Mustang fame. Weird that the jump from the Allison to the Merlin turned the P-51 from “meh” to scourge of the Luftwaffe, while the same jump in the P-40 did jack all save for a modest bump in high-altitude performance, but there you have it.
The Hasegawa Kit
The P-40F and P-40L are among that small cadre of aircraft variants that somehow have just fallen right through the cracks of the modeling world – alongside the Spitfire Mk.Vc and a few others. There’s a crappy old AMT kit in 1/48, and, um, that’s it. Seems strange, when one considers how extensively the USAAF used the Merlin-powered P-40s in the Mediterranean.
Fortunately, Gray Matter Figures makes a pretty intensive P-40F/L conversion kit for the 1/32 Hasegawa P-40 range.
Since I’ll be building “Madkot”, the P-40F-5 flown by GC II/5’s commanding officer, Polish-born Frenchman Constantin Rozanoff, I’ve decided to use Hasegawa’s 1/32 P-40M as the donor kit. The -M has the longer tail found on later-block P-40Fs and all P-40Ls.
In the box, the Hasegawa kit looks pretty great. Very solid detail work all around. Maybe not quite as good as what Tamiya’s been doing on their latest 1/32 releases, but close.
Once the kit comes out of the box, however, some problems become apparent. At least with my example, the fuselage is nice and warped up front. Not a big deal considering almost everything forward of the cockpit’s going under the knife.
The other nasty spot that I’ve uncovered thus far is without question the wings. Check out that gap!
Still, I’ve faced worse…