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Trumpeter's 1/32 scale
Curtiss P-40B

by Jeffrey Oliveira


Curtiss P-40B


Trumpeter's 1/32 scale Curtiss P-40B is available online from Squadron.com




The Curtiss P-40 series is legendary and needs no introduction so I wonít repeat the history here. I did choose this subject and color scheme however due to it being both attractive and a turning point in US aviation history.

The aircraft represents an early prewar P-40 which shows the colorful squadron nose color, red and white rudder stripes, the large squadron insignia on the fuselage and the bold and dramatic US ARMY under the wings.

With the gathering war clouds in 1941, the airplane also has the future standard Olive Drab upper surfaces and Neutral Grey paint on the lower.





Cockpit and Cowl

The Trumpeter 1/32 kit is overall excellent but with a few problems already discussed on HyperScale. The cockpit is WAY too shallow. A Jerry Rutman resin cockpit from a P-40E was modified and installed instead. It worked well. I had to cut the cockpit seat in half at the bottom of the vertical back and add sheet styrene to make it work. There are now other aftermarket items available to correct this problem which is the worst aspect of the kit.


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The kit also has fit problems at the wing root on the left hand side. The wing assembly is actually super with an ingenious interlocking series of internal tabs that give alignment and strength but some careful filling will be required.

I also didnít like the gaps and seams so visible around the nose lip and the upper cowling. The upper cowling is designed to be removable to view the superbly detailed engine but I was looking for smooth contours on the wonderfully aggressive look to the nose design so I filled and sanded away. This improved the look of the finished kit a lot.

The engine is a kit in itself and also very accurate but to fully view it the modeler will have to also cut open some side access panels. I only built up the engine enough to look fine from the exterior of the airplane. There is much more detail than is shown in the photos that I left off since it wouldnít be seen.


I built the wings pretty much out of the box and did not make main wheel well or tail wheel dust covers so the detail would be visible. The flaps can be built up or dropped. Note that the flaps had a lot of ejector pin marks that had to be tediously and carefully filled. I had to do a bit of tab shaving on the ailerons to get one up and one down as per the real airplane.

The kit provides nice machine guns but you will have to do some cutting and scratch building to show them in open gun bays. I used the kitís landing gear doors which are accurate and thin enough. I detailed them with stretched sprue actuator rods to complete the kitís parts. I detailed the landing gear main struts with wire brake lines, foil line clamps, drilled out the tiny hold down lugs, and added strut info decals from the scrap box.


For the wheels, I used the kit parts, not resin. The kit parts are fine and are plastic, not rubber thankfully, but be careful gluing the tires so they sit straight. I also did the usual tire flattening. Donít overdo this. Remember the tires DID have air in them! I also scribed a new ring on the wheel cover disc to conform to the real parts so you can see the rim as well as the rim cover. The rim cover was detailed with four tiny screw heads made of dots of white glue and painted the yellow squadron color. The white glue method applied with a tooth pick can be used anywhere you need a few rivets. If it doesnít look right simply wipe it off and try again. It lasts for many years on models and will take enamel paint with no problem.

All yellow on the model was applied after flat white prime coats to brighten the yellow.

I always enjoy doing running lights now that they are clear plastic. Some modelers like to use transparent paint but I drill very small holes in the back of the lenses and add a tiny dot of red or green paint which fill the drill starts and look just like a bulb. For the landing light I glued a bit of the high gloss side of some aluminum foil to the back of the lens with Future and then glued the lamp in place on the wing. Try this. It looks very convincing!


I have noted the problems but otherwise the buildup was pretty straightforward. I used the kit control panel which is very nice with instrument faces on acetate and a nice control panel face to go over them. The tail wheel assembly is nice and solid when built as well. The tail wheel strut could vary in height according to reference photos but the kit stance is accurate. The rudder is not like the kitís other control surface attachments, it is the dreaded pin and photo etch hinge type. The rudder doesnít sit correctly with this and also flops around so I glued it in place and had to trim the rudder forward face to do it. It does fit very well now.

Before assembling the fuselage, the engine assembly and accessory section must be completed since it goes into the fuselage as an assembly. I did find serious fit problems with the left hand exhaust stack halves. Oddly the right side parts were OK. You will be doing some awkward sanding and filling on the small stacks. Otherwise the fit is very good.


During construction handling, I damaged the right hand rudder decal stripes which I had put on before assembly to better align them. I put out a distress call on the HyperScale Plane Talking forum and was quickly answered by a very gracious Mr. Keith Sherwood of High Wycombe, England. He had extra rudder stripes from the Cutting Edge sheet CED 32052 I was using and kindly mailed them to me. He sent them all the way from England to me in California and shows the wonderful spirit of the modeling community. Thank you again Mr. Sherwood.

It is also worth remembering how the internet age has helped us all, sharing information, helpful tips, research websites, online shopping, and making the cottage industry of decal makers, resin pourers, photo etch burners, etc have a viable international market to keep them going. And we can read about it daily on our international internet magazine Hyperscale! Itís hard to believe some people still avoid computers.

The fuselage had a couple of other minor issues. The baggage door and hand holds are way too thick so I shaved and sanded them down for more scale effect. Trumpeter usually has an almost trademark odd ball feature on a number of their kits. This kit has a clear light to be painted blue on each side of the exterior of the cockpit. I couldnít find any photos of this on early P-40s so I filled it in and painted it along with the fuselage. I used my usual Testorís Model Master enamels with the upper NOT being Olive Drab but a more accurate looking Green Drab FS 34086 on the uppers with Neutral Grey FS 36270 for the lower surfaces. Note that the prop is grey, not black or aluminum. It is also per color photos of the time actually a lighter shade than the Neutral Grey so I mixed the prop color myself until it looked very close.



Painting, Markings and Finishing Touches


I used both my Badger 350 airbrush for the larger areas and my Badger 150 for the fine work with a compressor. I sprayed very thinned light grey over the airplane for fading with a bit more on the ailerons and elevators to show they would fade faster. I also did the same light overspray of the decals when they were applied (insignia fades too).

I didnít go crazy with weathering and chipping since there were few airplanes in the prewar Air Corps and they were well taken care of. I did show a bit of oil and fluid leaking from the propeller hub to other areas including the engine area and lower fuselage and wings. I did a lightly applied grey colored exhaust stains around the stacks using photos as a guide. On the wings I also added discoloration from GI boot marks as seen in period color photos. Again, I took it easy with this as these airplanes were not flogged by heavy constant combat operations as later WWII airplanes were.


The interior color is Interior Green but I always dull it with some Raw Umber for a more accurate look. The nose is Testors Insignia Yellow and contrasts nicely with the Green Drab fuselage color.

The canopies are dipped in Future then hand painted with paintersí blue masking tape being used for masking. I donít mask all of the canopies frames for painting. Only the hard to get areas then hand paint the edges. Beware, the clear parts in this kit are VERY brittle and will crack or break on you. Go very carefully when taking them off the sprues.

One thing nice is the canopy can be placed in position and opened and closed as desired. This will allow viewing by your friends who will swoon over your masterpiece (or not) then allow it to be closed to keep dust out.

The kit provides photo etched ring and bead gun sights for the top of the cowl but photos only occasionally showed them in use so I left them off. I reduces the danger of breaking them off which is sure to happen.


The decals are all Cutting Edge sheet CED 32052. They worked and sat down beautifully with a little MicroSol. The register is outstanding and even fine print is readable. I did get a small bit of silvering but I didnít spray the model with Future first. I am still experimenting with that process ( I am mainly at the dipping stage now). The silvering you see in the photos look much worse than in reality since I was blasting the model with 750-1000 watts of flood lights and that brings it out. I highly recommend the decals.

Everything was overcoated with Testor's clear flat applied by airbrush.

I also had to do some minor filling and sanding where the horizontal stabilizers contact the tail but it wasnít too bad. Some people donít like the outline of the stabilizers but I think they are very good.





This is a great kit.

I am glad that Trumpeter and others are really making an effort to supply 1/32 kits which have been too long neglected. The kit has problems that might have been avoided by Trumpeter but nothing is major and the finished kit is great looking.



The test for me is, does this really look like a P-40B? It does. The profile is very close and only a very critical modeler would have a problem with it. It does have plenty of rivets but with paint they look fine.

Also keep those 1/32 aftermarket decals coming!

Now on to my next project - Trumpeterís 1/32 P-38.





I mainly used Detail and Scale P-40 Warhawk Part 1 by Bert Kinsey. This is so complete itís really all you need. Kinsey has done modeling a great service over the years with his many highly informative books. They are required reading if you are building a particular type of airplane accurately. Thanks Bert!!

I did also use Squadronís P-40 Warhawk Walk Around. Also very important were many color P-40 shots from the internet, various books and magazine articles which should always be referred to for really accurate painting. I know the color shade changes with the light, but you can get invaluable decal placement, demarcation lines and chipping and weathering info from these sources.



Additional Images


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Modelling the P-40
Hawk 81, Tomahawk, Warhawk and Kittyhawk
Osprey Modelling 15

Author: Brett Green
US Price:
UK Price: £12.99
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
Publish Date:
 January 10, 2004
Details: 80 pages; ISBN: 1841768235
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Buy it from Osprey Publishing

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2004 by Jeffrey Oliveira
Page Created 28 December, 2004
Last Updated 28 December, 2004

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