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Foil Wrapped
Republic P-47D-30 Thunderbolt "Bubbletop"

by Bucky Sheftall


Republic P-47D Thunderbolt "Bubbletop"
Glenn Eagleston’s P-47 D-30 s/n 420473


Tamiya's 1/48 scale P-47D Bubbletop is available online from Squadron




Fine bomber escort and fighter sweep service with Gabreski, Schilling & Co. notwithstanding, the Bubbletop Jug seems to my sensibilities to be most in its element down and dirty, breaking the back of the German Army in France with the other tactical mud movers of the Ninth Air Force – a unit whose vast contribution to Allied victory in Western Europe, unfortunately, tends to be overlooked in the history books in favor of the exploits of the more “glamorous” Mighty Eighth.

VERDICT: Gotta build a mud mover, it’s gotta be NMF, and for those of you familiar with my insistence on being able to combine my modeling and baking needs, you know that means there’s some foiling in our future (incidentally, there’s also some Future on our foil, but that’s for later).



So, now that we know we’re going 9AF, which mud mover to model? Personally, I think there are few 9AF Thunderbolt schemes as impressive as the 353FS/354FG skull and crossbones motif of MAJ Glenn Eagleston’s P-47 D-30 s/n 420473, which also carries the same Eagle Rampant and black cross-on-white ball score mark familiar to millions of fans of this officer’s even better-known P-51 mount. While I don’t know if I’d go so far as to echo Tamiya Modeling Magazine’s youthfully exuberant kudos of “coolest plane of all time” (I think that honor must go to Pussy Galore’s nerve gas Beechcraft in “Goldfinger”, actually), you must admit, this really is one ba-a-a-ad mother of a plane – even if MAJ Eagleston didn’t score any of his kills in it. In any case, you can be sure it was the last thing many a hapless 20mm Flak gunner or Sdfz.251 driver ever saw…





I built this model pretty much OOB, with the exception of pre-painted Eduard lap belts, True Details bulged wheels, and replacing the funhouse mirror/shotglass rear canopy with the far superior item available in the older Hasegawa Jug (I tried the beautiful Squadron clear vac, but it was way too big, created as it was for the old Monogram kit, I suppose). The engine was spiced up with some fine solder wire for ignition lines, and the blast tubes were replaced with real aluminum tubes I found at the local hobby shop that just happen to be a perfect match – both inside and outer diameter – to the kit parts. Leftover photoetched 500lb bomb fins from an old Monogram Jug re-issue were also put to use.



The Tamiya kit itself, I assume, needs no introduction by this point. It fits together so well that I was able to indulge myself in something that makes foiling far, far easier a task than it might have been on a less well-fitting kit – i.e., I was able to foil the wings, fuselage and horizontal stabs as separate “prefabricated” units. If you have ever tried foiling an airplane model, the advantages of this will be immediately obvious – i.e., no unwieldy joints to deal with. This really pays off in an area like wing fillets, which on the Thunderbolt are big, involved compound curves. Not having to worry about how to pull the foil down to meet the main wing surfaces AFTER negotiating these dangerous curves was an ENORMOUS help.



Decals and Paint


Cockpit was done in the de rigeur Dull Dark Green (a color of which, I admit, I had no knowledge until a few months ago! Oh, how much we can learn on HyperScale!). Tamiya’s detailing is good enough straight from the box to forgo the need for anything fancier than adding a couple of solder wires behind the instrument panel, as this area is fairly conspicuous through the windscreen “glass.”

Anti-glare OD and D-Day striping were sprayed right on top of the Future-coated foil. Make sure you give the Future plenty of time to cure before attempting ANY masking over foil. The foil is basically “tape” itself, so remember the old rule that “what’s underneath had better be stickier than what you mask with”.
The foil was flatted down considerably with homemade Future/Tamiya Flat Base/Tamiya Neutral Gray overspray.
For reasons of convenience (and sanity), I chose to go the Alclad route with the rear canopy frame and the 75-gallon belly tank.

Areas of the model close to the “ground” were given a final overspray of heavily thinned Tamiya Flat Earth (Tamiya folks never heard of Columbus, evidently – ha-ha-ha).

Some Musings on “Patchwork” Panel Tone Differences in NMF

Until recently, I have been an adherent to the (apparently) commonly held belief among modelers that the “patchwork” effect evident in the appearance of actual NMF warbirds is due to differences in alloys – and thus metal colors – in different airframe panels. This is undoubtedly true for NMF jet aircraft, in the case where special heat-resistant alloys are necessary near areas such as engine, etc., but I do not believe this was necessarily true for WW2 birds, where I tend to believe that Duralmin was Duralmin, and not a whole lot of metallurgical tinkering was going on within the construction of a single airframe. Recently, I have begun to wonder if perhaps the patchwork effect is actually due to some optical illusion, perhaps in the stressing or different directions of the “grain” of adjacent panels reflecting sunlight differently.



Doing the foil work on my Jug, I decided to try an experiment to test this hypothesis: instead of my usual technique of staining panels with varying oil paint shades, etc., after laying the foil, I instead masked off panels (always keeping symmetry between port and starboard sides of airframe) with artist’s clear plastic masking material and scratched the surface of the panels in different directions with steel wool. Removing the masking and holding the results up to daylight – voila! – something that looks like it just rolled off the line at Evansville!





Photography for this project was done with a fairly cheapo (about $200US) Casio QV-2100 digital camera, shooting the model on what I call my “Wauchop base” – a meter-square plywood board covered with model railroad grass “carpeting” and bordered on the far end with little OO scale railroad trees. “Distance” fading of the treeline/horizon was done with the Blur tool from Photoshop, and this software was also used on occasion to fill in sky where the light blue cardboard backdrop I use couldn’t cover all of the background. Lighting was done with good old low angle February sunlight streaming through my workshop window.





  • Republic's P-47 Thunderbolt/From Seversky to Victory by Warren M. Bodie

  • Fighter Command by Jeffrey L. Ethell and Robert T. Sand

  • Detail and Scale Vol. 54 P-47 Thunderbolt by Bert Kinzey

  • Squadron Walk Around #11 P-47 Thunderbolt

  • Thunderbolt Republic P-47 by Dan Patterson and Paul Perkins

  • Aero Detail 14 Republic P-47 Thunderbolt by Shigeru Nohara (English text by Scott T. Hards)

  • P-47 Thunderbolt Aces of the Ninth and Fifteenth Air Forces by Jerry Scutts (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 30)

  • Bunrin Famous Airplanes of the World No. 37

Modelling the P-47 Thunderbolt
Osprey Modelling 11

Author: Brett Green
US Price:
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


Additional Images


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Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2004 by Bucky Sheftall
Page Created 10 March, 2004
Last Updated 03 October, 2004

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