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Academy's 1/48 Scale
P-47D Thunderbolt

by Floyd S. Werner Jr.

 

P-47D Thunderbolt

 


Academy's 1/48 scale P-47D Thunderbolt is available online from Squadron.com

 

Background

 

The P-47 was designed as an evolution of the Seversky P-35 and then the P-43 Lancer. Originally conceived in 1939, the new plane was to incorporate the new Pratt & Whitney R-2800 and the new turbosupercharger that had been built for the B-17. This and the eight .50 cal machine guns caused the Thunderbolt to become the heaviest fighter in the world. Even though it was heavy, it still was one of the first aircraft to exceed 400 mph straight and level flight. The initial flight was made on May 6, 1941. With WWII looming, the Army Air Corps placed an order even before all the bugs were worked out of the airframe.

The first unit to receive the new fighter was the 56th Fighter Group. They worked most of the bugs out before being sent to Europe. Even though the 56th was the first unit with the P-47 it was not the first in combat with the new fighter. That honor went to the 4th Fighter Group by two weeks. Where the 56th loved the Thunderbolt the 4th despised it. The 4th was lamented to say that the aircraft had better be able to dive because it sure couldn't climb.

 



Because of the design changes to the airframe the P-47 was often called the Jug because of its resemblance to a milk jug of the time. One of the benefits of the airframe designs and engine selection was the ability to take enormous amounts of damage. A drawback of the P-47 was its lack of range. This was helped by the addition of a keel to the bottom of the airframe and eventually drop tanks for the belly and the wing shackles.

The P-47 was designed as a fighter interceptor, however, it really came into itís own as a ground attack airplane. The P-51 took over the escort duties and the Thunderbolt was relegated to ground attack. The big radial engine could take the damage and bring the pilot home. Nowhere is this more evident than in the MTO where the P-47s destroyed ground targets in Italy as part of Operation Stranglehold. The P-47 could carry a variety of armament, including bombs, rockets, and napalm. The P-47 proved itself again in the Normandy operations where the 9th Air Force took out every type of enemy equipment and transportation system that it met.

The P-47 was still being used by the 56th until the end of hostilities in Europe. The 56th accumulated the most air-to-air victories by any unit in the Army Air Corps using the P-47 exclusively.

The P-47 soldiered on in the Pacific until the end of hostilities. After WWII the Thunderbolt was quickly relegated to the National Guard. Finally being taken off the active Air Force roles in 1949.

Next to the B-24, the P-47 Thunderbolt was the most numerous built aircraft for the US during WWII.

 

 

Academy's 1/48 Scale P-47D

 

Upon opening the box you are greeted with five sprues of light gray plastic that includes two sprues with just about every type of ordnance that the P-47 ever carried.

There is a clear sprue and a well-printed decal sheet.

The instructions are nicely set up with plenty of assembly illustrations. Panel lines are nicely engraved and are very delicate.

Letís get started:

 

Cockpit

As usual the construction starts in the cockpit. The cockpit consists of ten parts. Initially, I was going to use the Black Box interior, but it was designed for the Hasegawa kit and it really would have been a lot of work to fit properly. So I opted for the kit cockpit, which really was nice. I did use the seat from the Black Box set as it had molded on seatbelts. I did have to add some supports to the bottom of the Black Box seat but nothing that was too drastic and the improvement in the looks was well worth the time spent there.

The kit seat was nice but didnít include the seatbelts.

The sidewalls are adequately detailed and when painted look very good.

I chose to paint my cockpit Tamiya Yellow Zinc Chromate. This was weathered with Burnt Umber Artist Oils and dry brushed with white and silver. The details were painted in a semi-gloss black. Details on the instrument panel were picked out with white. When everything was dry I applied Krystal Clear to all the gauges. With the addition of the Black Box seat the interior looked very convincing. You could paint the cockpit Bronze Green but I liked the look of the Yellow Zinc Chromate because it just weathers real well.



Fuselage

Once the cockpit is glued together it fits nicely in the fuselage halves. I did flat sand the one fuselage side to get a perfect fit. I was amazed at how well the fuselage halves fit together. There was really no need for filler, but as a practice I always run a bead of super glue around the fuselage seam. I thought that would be especially important on this aircraft as this would be my first natural metal paint scheme.

 

 

After the superglue had some accelerator applied I sanded and polished everything down. Again the fit was perfect to begin with. Now it was easy to see the milk jug look that gave the P-47 itís name. The one area that is annoying is the turbosupercharger exhaust, which had a 1/8-inch gap. This was taken care of with a .005 sheet styrene patch. Once installed no problem.



Wings

Before assembling the wings you have to decide what you want for underwing ordnance. You will have to open up the appropriate holes. Donít forget to put the clear parts into the bottom wing panels before you attach the top wing surface. I used Tamiya Clear Green, Red and Amber for the identification lights. The landing light got a coat of chrome on the inside. Another thing you will have to decide on is if you want to have the gun bays open. I chose to open only one side. I cemented the gun bay cover on the other side. The guns themselves are simplistic but they do look nice. I ended up painting the guns Model Master Gun Metal then the gun trays Aluminum with the bullets Tamiya brass. While they looked good the gun trays end abruptly at the end of the bay instead of continuing into the adjacent bay as on the real thing. See the photos for how I took care of this. The wing halves themselves fit perfectly again. They required no filler but again I run a bead of superglue as a matter of practice. The seams are cleaned up and the gun tube panel is added. Make sure you grab the correct ones from the sprue. The sprue also has the P-47N gun panel, which does not fit well. I tried to drill out the gun barrel that is included on the gun panel and I muffed it up. So I ended up having to remove the gun barrel and eventually replacing it with tubing. I added these after the aircraft was painted and weathered.



Tail

The horizontal tail surfaces represented no big deal. The halves were joined and sanded and the fit was perfect.



Bring it all together

Joining the wings to the fuselage proved to be the biggest problem with the whole kit. The fit was not good and required some filling, but nothing that any model builder with the basic skills couldnít take care of. I still felt a little sick to my stomach at this point, after all this is a natural metal airplane and the filler would be difficult to work with. On top of that the seam went through the wheel well too. I flat sanded the wings and fuselage to get the best angle and fit that I could. Once satisfied with that I then glued the wings on with liquid glue and let them set for a day. After that I filled the resulting gaps with 3M Acryl-Blue Glazing Putty. This was initially smoothed out with acetone I sanded and polished the area. I was quite happy with the finish, but would wait until I applied a primer coat before claiming success.

The wheel wells have molded in detail that once sanded with a sanding stick removes this detail. Now that the detail from the wheel well floor is gone it is time to put it back in. I used Evergreen .010 by .020 sheet styrene strips. The key to this method is to make sure the first one is straight. After that I used a scrap piece of the .010 by .020 to ensure the spacing between each strip was uniform. You will have to cut pieces to take into account the vertical stiffeners and the shape of wheel well. I was happy with the way the wheel wells turned out. I then painted the area with Tamiya Yellow Zinc Chromate and weathered.

The tail surfaces were added with liquid glue. You have to decide if you want the intercooler exhausts open or closed and attach them.



The Engine

Academy provides you with a nice looking engine right out of the box. A coat of Model Master Magnesium for the cylinder heads and Tamiya Neutral Grey for the crankcase made the engine look very convincing. The pushrods can be black but I opted not to do them.

The engine cowling is a three-piece affair. I elected to fill the inside seams with the Acryl-Blue. Some minor clean up with sand paper and a quick coat of green zinc chromate. Then the air scoop, which I painted neutral gray, was added. The wole cowling is attached by a small area on the bottom so make sure you let it dry completely.

 

 

Painting and Markings



Getting Ready for Paint

About this time I had to deviate from the instructions and added the sway braces to the belly. Next to the wings this was the only other problem area I had. It required filling, which wouldnít be a problem except that the sway braces prevent sanding. Using the Acryl-Blue I did the best I could with acetone and sand paper. Once happy with the results it was time to prime.

If you have not tried Tamiya Fine Surface Primer (L) it is the cats meow. It is only available in a spray can form. I know you are saying you didnít spray the airplane with a spray can. I did. The primer is wonderful. It lies down like an acrylic but it bites the plastic and superglue real well. It sticks real well to fingers too. The benefit of this primer is that it provides a uniform finish to the kit. Typically in the past Iíve had a problem with the superglue or filler showing up when paint is applied. The Tamiya Surface Primer takes care of this problem. After it dried for a day, I sanded the finish with 3200 sandpaper to get a smoother finish. I wasnít after a factory fresh finish so I didnít sand it totally smooth, but just enough to knock off any rough spots. I did have to clean up a little bit on the top of the fuselage. This required another coat of primer but it feathered in perfectly.



Paint

I try to learn something new on every model and for this airplane it was using Alclad paints. I had never painted a natural metal airplane before. I have done some panels but not a whole airplane so I was a little nervous about it. One of the benefits of belonging to IPMS is the meetings and classes taught by pros. Dave Powell from the IPMS DC chapter had just taught a class on using Alclad II. So I contacted him for some one on one instruction. Dave has some of the best-looking NMF aircraft I have ever seen. So who better to learn from?

With a natural metal finish surface prep is essential. Dave suggests either Future or Tamiya Surface Primer. The Future will provide a smoother ďjetĒ finish. Even though Alclad does not recommend spraying directly on the plastic it can be done.

Spraying Alclad is not the same as painting flats paint. It is more exacting and requires more finesse. Dave recommends spraying at a 90-degree angle and in the direction of airflow. First shoot a misting coat and then a slightly heavier coat and finally a heavy coat. Ensure that you overlap your coats.

 

 

Another difference is the speed of spraying, spray a little bit slower. What I mean by this is donít move your hand as fast over the surface. You want full coverage so slow down. Dave recommends rubbing the whole aircraft with cotton balls. This takes care of any slight overspray and smoothes everything down. Dave also pointed out that if the overspray is more than the cotton balls can handle then use a polishing stick. Use the white sanding stick and the buffer to smooth things out. I thought this would create marks but it doesnít. Dry sand and then buff again with cotton balls. You can then repaint whatever needs it. I ended up having to spray my Jugís wings about five or six times. I ended up getting the fuselage perfect on the first pass but the wings eluded me for quite some time.

I finally got what to me looked good. Perfect? No, but for me it was what I was after.

After spraying the whole aircraft Alclad Aluminum it was time to add some variations in the panels. Next time I will try to prepaint some panels to see how that works out. This time I masked off certain panels and painted them with an overspray of Dark Aluminum. This was also done to all the control surface front sides. The key is not to build it up too much just to get a difference. If you do spray too much of the dark color then just go back with the Aluminum and overspray the offending panel. I did spray the turbosupercharger with Model Master Burnt Metal. Once done with the metal colored paints it was time to mask the Olive Drab panel.

Using Tamiya masking tape, I painted the OD panel with Tamiya Olive Drab. While the paint was still in my paint cup I added one or two drops of white. I then carefully sprayed the center of the panels. I followed this up by adding one more drop of white and two drops of red to the paint cup along with more thinner. This was randomly sprayed on the panels. The effect is very nice and is the first time I have painted OD to my liking.

The red areas were masked off in a manner similar to the OD. I used Tamiya Flat Red for my identification bands and cowling covers. The Tamiya is normally able to take a decal without silvering. Of course, whenever I spray a primary color I inevitably get overspray somewhere. In this case it was on the tail and by the canopy area. I tried to sand it off with the polishing stick but it didnít come off. I then sprayed another coat of Aluminum to the affected areas and marveled at the way the Alclad blended perfectly.



Decals

The kit decals are slightly off register with the white but it is only slight and barely noticeable. The decals are thin and have good opacity. The only place that I noticed the decals being ever so slightly transparent was over the red nose.

As this kit is advertised as ďNose ArtĒ, the two choices are quite colorful. The first aircraft is Big Ass Bird II from the 513th FS, 406th FG. While this aircraft is colorful I didnít think the decals would lay down well and totally cover the nose. I didnít think they would be able to conform to the complex curves of the kit. So I chose the second aircraft which is Chief Ski-U-Mah II of the 509th FS, 405FG. This aircraft with its big Indian chief head on the cowling was quite colorful.

 



I did trim the Indian head decal on the front to minimize the possibility of silvering on the flat red. I did have to apply a few coats of decal setting solution to get the decal to settle down. I started out with MicroSol and then switched to Solvaset. It wasnít perfect but once touched up it looks pretty good. The rest of the decals didnít cause any problems and were thin enough to be convincing. See the photos. I did forget how many servicing stencils were on American planes though.



Final Details

While the decals were drying I cleaned up and painted the landing gear, tires, props and canopy frames. I masked the canopy frames with Bare Metal foil. When I removed the foil there was plenty of adhesive residue left. I cleaned it up with Goo-Gone on a cotton swab. Everything was added and the model was finished except for underwing stores. Iíve always liked the 75-gallon drop tank so I added one of these to the centerline and two 500 lbs bombs to the wings. The final touch was using hypodermic tubing for the gun barrels. It took some time to get them straight and to stagger them properly but the end result is worth the effort.



Weathering

I like to weather my aircraft. I think that a model looks real when it is dirty and used. I was a little nervous about weathering a natural metal airplane. I started the weathering by using Payneís Grey artist oils for all panel lines. This gray has a blue tint and just adds to the Alclad finish. Once that was dry I used Lamp Black for the control surfaces and vents. There is a picture in Bodieís book on page 357 that shows a dirty underside and that was my model for the underside weathering. I used Burnt Umber artist oils and various pastels to get the exhaust and oil streaking I was after. I like the final results a lot. With that the model was finished.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Academy provides the basis for an accurate P-47D. It is not a shake and bake kit. There are some modeling skills required. If you are an assembler then this kit isnít for you. If you are a model builder then this kit is well worth the money. Ultimately, it looks real when built. Iíve built the Otaki and the Hasegawa offerings. I would rate this kit very well in comparison. For the MSRP of $25.00 it is a good value, costing half of the Tamiya kit and a third less than the Hasegawa one. The Nose Art is interesting but tricky to play with. It can be done though. The wing to fuselage join could have been better and the slight bit of work for the wheel wells require some skills but again nothing that a model builder with moderate skill canít do. I would build this kit again and that is one of the highest praises I can give a kit.

The kit is available through most hobby shops. I would like to thank Academy for the review sample.

 

 

References

 

  • Aero Detail 14: Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, Dai Nippon Kaiga Co., Ltd, 1995, ISBN 4-499-22648-1

  • Republicís Thunderbolt: From Seversky to Victory, Warren M. Bodie, Widewing Publications, 1994, ISBN 0-9629359-1-3

  • P-47 Thunderbolt in action, Larry Davis, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1984, ISBN 0-89747-161-X

  • Walk Around- P-47 Thunderbolt, Lou Drendal, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1997, ISBN 0-89747-375-2

 

 

Additional Images

 

Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

 

Modelling the P-47 Thunderbolt
Osprey Modelling 11

Author: Brett Green
US Price:
$17.95
UK Price: £12.99
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
Publish Date:
 July 25, 2004
Details: 80 pages; ISBN: 1841767956
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Buy it from Osprey Publishing

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2004 by Floyd S. Werner Jr. 
Page Created 20 March, 2004
Last Updated 03 October, 2004

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