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P-40B

Vintage Fighter Series 1/24 P-40B AVG Flying Tigers Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review June 2005 Manufacturer Vintage Fighter Series
Subject Curtiss P-40B AVG Flying Tigers Scale 1/24
Kit Number VF2401 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Lots of detailing, 'working' features Cons Shallow cockpit, 'working' features
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $129.95

First Look

P-40B
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P-40B

The P-40 was an evolutionary development from the Curtiss drawing boards which started with the Model 75. Curtiss' Model 75 created the basic wing and fuselage that would distinguish this unique family, but equipped with a radial engine, this prototype would lead to the earlier P-36 Hawk. As engine technology continued, an Allison V1710 liquid-cooled engine was mounted on the firewall, and the resulting streamlined cowling led to the now-familiar P-40 silhouette.

The P-40B was armed with two 50 caliber machine guns in the nose and four 30 caliber machine guns in the wing (the previous P-40 versions were armed with two 50s and two 30s). The P-40B also featured improved radio equipment over its predecessors.

A number of P-40Bs were deployed around the world by the time the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the war. Two of these aircraft managed to get airborne in the midst of that attack and were credited with four kills. 110 P-40Bs were delivered to the RAF as Tomahawk IIAs. The major deficiency in this aircraft was the lack of self-sealing fuel tanks which would be corrected in the P-40C/Tomahawk IIB. It would be these later versions that would ultimately equip the American Volunteer Group, better known as the Flying Tigers.

I remember seeing ads for a 1/24th scale P-40B coming from a new manufacturer, Vintage Fighter Series, and was a bit amazed at the magnitude of the project they were undertaking for a first release! This kit is quite large and comes in a 20" x 14.5" x 4" box. On opening the box, the first thought is "I'm going to need a larger shelf!"

The kit is molded in light grey styrene and is presented on 10 parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts, a single fret of photo-etched parts, rubber tires, and an acetate piece that has the instrument panel faces printed on it.

The absolute gem of this kit is the detailed Allison V1710 engine. The exhaust stacks alone are 24 parts! Before you're finished assembling and painting this engine, you'll be trying to figure out how to display it separately and still get the rest of the kit together. The top of the cowling can be removed to reveal the engine and some of the details will be visible from the open belly cowl flaps.

Speaking of the removable top of the cowl, one will need to recognize that this kit is a compromise between an accurate scale model and a detailed display model. The distinction here is that some accuracy was exchanged to accommodate working features. On the real aircraft, the top of the cowl was removed in sections, not as one piece. No biggie. The fuselage sides have a track molded into the sides aft of the cockpit to allow the canopy to open and close. The flight controls and landing flaps are movable, and the main landing gear can be retracted and extended.

This is one of the first kits I've seen that have got the open cowl flaps right!

The windscreen has provisions for a bullet-proof armored glass panel to be installed (included).

The details on the fabric-covered flight control surfaces look good. The panel lines are a bit deep.

Two seated pilots figures are included in the kit. One in AVG/early USAAC flight gear, the other in RAF flight kit.

Six machine guns are provided, two with barrel extensions for the top of the cowl installation, and four in the wings. The detail on these machine guns is not bad, but they won't be seen after installation.

I do have two nits to pick with the kit. First, the drop tank has HUGE rivet details on it and plugs into the underside of the wing toy-like. The good news here is that the P-40B wasn't plumbed for external fuel tanks, so you can simply discard the tank, plug the holes and all will be well.

The other nit is with the cockpit. The cockpit floor of the P-40 (as it was with many fighters of this era) was literally the upper surface of the wing where it passes under the cockpit. On the actual aircraft, the control stick mounting and other parts were bolted to the top of the wing.

The common mistake that many P-40 model companies make (and this one is no exception) is that they provide a flat cockpit floor that is suspended above where the top of the wing would be, resulting in a too-shallow cockpit.

In this kit, the pilot's seat is literally attached to the floor and appears a bit short. On the real aircraft, the seat doesn't sit on the floor (unless the pilot was a 6'4" type) and slid up and down a pair of rails on the rear cockpit bulkhead. The good news is that in this scale, a good modeler can easily lower the floor, deepen the cockpit walls, and make the other revisions needed to set the cockpit right.

Which brings me back to the pilot figures - when a pilot is seated in the cockpit, his/her feet normally rest on the rudder pedals (it is usually more comfortable). The feet on these figures are resting on the floor. This is not a bad thing in this case! You can use these figures to adjust seat height and the rest of the cockpit layout once you've adjusted the cockpit depth.

A HUGE decal sheet is included with four AVG 'Flying Tiger' options. Thanks to Tom Gaj for pointing out that the British roundels are for the tops of AVG Hawk #75 as these were pre-painted on the wings that were shipped with the crated aircraft.

Straight out of the box, this kit will build into a nice-looking model that can be moved and posed like some of the Airfix 1/24 kits still on the market. The detail-oriented modeler will want to do something to expose that beautiful engine and will be able to set the cockpit right with a little work. A modeler with scratch-building skills will have a field day with this beauty.

If you're looking for a 1/24 P-40B that you can fiddle with after completion, this is the kit you're looking for. If you're looking for a P-40B to pose next to your Trumpeter 1/24 A6M2 Zero or Airfix 1/24 Spitfire, Vintage Fighter Series has answered the call.

Note: This kit has an MSRP of $119.98 and will be available from Squadron Mail Order for $107.96.

My sincere thanks to Squadron Mail Order for this review sample!

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