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Lockheed P-38J-5-LO Lightning “Haleakala”

by Igor Svetlov


Lockheed P-38J-5-LO Lightning “Haleakala”
s/n 42- 67291,459th FS, 80th FG, Lt. H.H. Sealy,Chittagong, India, 1944

1/72 model (partially scratchbuilt) based on Hasegawa and Dragon kits

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The P-38 was always one of my favourite airplanes. So, when I picked up the 1/72 scale Dragon kit (then still relatively new), I just couldn’t resist starting working on it as the parts. The model looked just great in the box.

Kits 1/72 P-38J/L
  • Hasegawa
  • Dragon
  • Frog/Novo
Aftermarket Sets
  • Aires P-38J/L cockpit set,
  • Eduard P-38J/L detail set,
  • Squadron P-38 F vacuformed canopy
  • Hobby Plus navigation lights, landing light, wire
  • Aeromaster # 72-027 „Lightnings in battle olive dress”
  • Travers P-38 Lightning
  • Hasegawa and DML kit decals as well as from Revell P-51B

Well, as the work was in progress, I gradually realized, that the kit is unfortunately not such a pleasure to build as one could think looking at the nicely packaged plastic parts.

Although rather well detailed, it is poorly engineered and really a great trouble in assambling. OK, it could still have been done, if I have not finally ended up with the fuselage asymmetrical in the frontal view. Since all my desperate efforts to fix this problem weren’t succesful, I was forced to abandon that project , although a lot of detail work was already done.

However, it should be noted, that the DML fuselage and canopy are too narrow anyway, even if I maybe did make a mistake while assembling. So, this unlucky chapter was closed and a new project phase (actually an entirely new project) was started.

So, a kit-bashing would be the only solution now and the only choice was the Hasegawa kit – surely not the state of the art, but still reasonable as a basis. Here is an attempt to describe, how it was done.


Corrections, Modifications and Improvements



The fuselage of the Hasegawa kit was not very accurate in plan view. Namely, an area just in front of the cockpit should be slightly wider than the widest cockpit cross section, i.e. there should be a little bulge. In fact the widest place of the kit fuselage was just on the instrument panel level.

In addition, the entire rear area of the upper fuselage part was much wider than it should be as well as that of the lower fuselage half. So, the fuselage was extensively reshaped to get the correct outline.

The nose cone was improved as well, since it was too blunt and matched poorly the rest fuselage. The gun ports were filled in and then new ones were made, correct shaped and on the right place. The empty shell ejection ports were also proceeded this way.

The nose wheel well from the DML kit was cut out and inserted into the Hasegawa fuselage to be used as a basis. After that following improvements were made: different sections of the wheel well were made of different height as it should be ( first of all the front section had to be made much deeper) , a bulge for the nose wheel was deepened and widened too, some detail as well as canvas simulation on the rear wall were added and the nose landing gear leg mounting was modified how it should look like on the real aircraft.




The Aires detail set was used for the cockpit with some minor modifications, mostly regarding the radio equipment. The armour panel was thinned down to scale and some small details were added to the cockpit as well.

The gunsight had to be scratchbuilt, since this particular aircraft had still an earlier N-3 type not provided by Aires.


Beeing a J-5 subversion, the „Haleakala” had a curved windscreen instead of more common one with integrated bulletproof glass used on later J models. Although Hasegawa did provide both canopy versions, the kit part is slightly less rounded in frontal view than it should be and its base is a bit too narrow. Not too much, but just enough to get a wrong appearence. In addition it is too thick for the opened canopy anyway. So, this part was replaced by one cut out from the Squadron vacuformed canopy for P-38F. Thereby I sanded off the raised framing as it was not only a bit crude and totally needless , but also wrong, since the framing lines should be parallel on the real thing and it just wasn‘t the case. However, I still believe, Falcon/Squadron vacu-canopies are probably the best products available, but they would be just perfect, if they had no framing at all... After it was done, the entire piece was polished and mounted to the fuselage. Well, I made it with Superglue as I needed a strong bond at that place, though it could have been dangerous...

The rear canopy section from Squadron could not be used, since it was made to fit to the Hasegawa kit . So, it was just too wide and therefore didn’t fit to the corrected fuselage any more. In addition, it would again require sanding off the framing, as the rear canopy section of the J-5 block was the same as on the P-38H, i.e. there was neither a thin transparent stripe along the canopy inside (as on the erlier models) nor a wider metal one thereon (as on J-10 and later). The outer framing of this section was like on the earlier models too and differed hence slightly from later models as well. So, the only choice here was a kit part from Hasegawa. Of course, firstly it had to be made a bit narrower, reshaped to fit to the fuselage and then polished. Finally the thickness of that piece was just to scale, since the rear framing was rather thick on the real a/c.


The next problem was a top central section of the canopy. The Squadron piece was at least less than perfect because of poor representation of the rear view mirror fairing and incorrect shape as well. The Dragon kit part was too narrow and the one from Hasegawa was just as inaccurate as the Squadron replacement item ( the sides bulged in plan view insted of being straight as it should be) and also too thick for the opened canopy. So, the appropriate piece was cut out from the Hasegawa canopy, reshaped to get the right form, sanded and polished to be used as a template for thermoforming. After it was done this way, I made a template for the rear view mirror fairing and the same procedure was repeated one more time. One more thing to be totally scratchbuilt was the armor glass mounted inside the cockpit. Despite the extensive detailed cockpit, I decided still to represent the canopy in the closed position as an opened one would somewhat ruine (of course just in my subjective opinion) the sleek appearence of the Lightning. Instead I let the side windows totally open (in down-position). They were just cut out from thin transparent styrene and inserted into the thin slits made specially for this in the cockpit walls.


Hasegawa provides wings and fuselage as an entire part and I find it much better than the way it Dragon done, splitting them in several pieces (especially regarding their usual poor fit). The wing ( at least of my sample) had a bit wrong dihedral and looked somewhat „broken” in frontal view. It was however easy to correct by adding strengthening stripes inside. Wing tips were rather poorly moulded and a bit undersized in plan view, so some superglue was applied onto their edges to enlarge them. After that they were correctly shaped and sanded.


The throats of the wing fuel tanks are pretty well done by Dragon, so I cut them out and inserted in the corresponding holes drilled in the Hasegawa wing. Some P-38J-5 had already additional fuel tanks in their outer wing leading edges and some still didn’t. It is stated that those one with additional tanks should have a cross in the fuselage data block. So, as this data block is clearly seen on the photo and there are no cross, I decided to make the wing without additional tanks and therefore without two more throats there.

Booms & Engine Nacelles

Here I had to extensively combine parts from different kits.

As by the time of my fiasco with building the Dragon kit the main wheel wells were already done and the radiator fairings were corrected too, it would be ( to say the least) a shame to abandon them and scratchbuild new ones, so it was really a must to use the central boom sections from Dragon. In addition, their joint with the wing is more correct, although there were some troubles with the adjusting to the Hasegawa wing.

The engine nacelles were retained from Dragon as well, because despite of being a bit crude ( it was then fixed anyway), they are much better detailed and have even something remaining interior of the cooler area. Well, some additional detail was still required. The top parts of the engine cowlings were replaced by ones cut out from Hasegawa, as they had better shape than Dragon ones ( mainly because of the somewhat wrong cross section in that area caused partially by poor fit and therefore much sanding, they got just too flat atop ). On the other hand, I had nearly no problems with putting these replacement pieces together with the Hasegawa wing.

The tail boom sections (upwards from the radiator fairings) were replaced by the corresponding Hasegawa parts as well, in the first place because of a too short distance between Dragon booms an hence too short elevator and stabilizer as well, while Hasegawa got it right.

The vertical tails had a bit wrong outline and totally wrong cross-section and were also too thick, so they had to be corrected (or the new ones made?). The joint between the stabilizer &elevator and the vertical tails was really poorly engineered by Hasegawa, so a lot of filling, (re)shaping and sanding was required at this place.

The shape of the radiator cooler fairings had to be extensively corrected in outline as well as in cross-section. The outlet flaps were used from the Eduard detail set, but the Eduard inserts representing the radiators were too small and intended to be located in the wrong place, so I replaced them by plates of mesh.

The propellers of the Dragon kit are OK just with one exception: both are identical as they would rotate in the same direction, but in fact they were counter–rotating. Hasegawa did it correctly, so I had to attache the separate blades and glue them into the holes of the Dragon spinners.

Landing Gear

As already mentioned above, the main wheel wells were totally scratchbuilt. The only thing I managed to use from the Dragon parts were small pieces cut out from their top panels, also modified though. The inner surfaces of the main and nose landing gear doors were newly made too.

The undercarriage legs were used from the Dragon kit with some detail added. Their mounting in the wheel wells was however totally redesigned as it was on the actual plane.

Despite the rather wide variety of wheels available, the only reasonable choice was using the Dragon ones, since the Hasegawa wheels have oversized diameter of the wheel hubs, True Details is just a flattened (too much) copy of Hasegawa and Hi Tech is very nicely done, but a bit undersized. The Dragon wheels have nearly perfect dimensions and well represented thread. I flattened them slightly on the electric stove and added hub coverings cut out from (not too thin) foil, as the kit parts had no covers (like it was on later models) and the “Haleakala” still had them.



Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


The supercharger covering panels, better made by Dragon, were cut out and inserted into the corresponding places atop of the booms on the Hasegawa model. The Dragon superchargers were slightly widened, shortened, corrected in shape and some more details were added.



Their exhaust pipes were replaced by metal ones from a large syringe needle of the appropriate diameter.

Drop Tanks

Neither Dragon nor Hasegawa got the shape of these parts right, but the ones from the ancient Novo kit were surprisingly correct ( probably the only usable parts of this kit).



The pylons (Dragon) had to be extended by a thin piece of plastic.


Hypodermic needles wrapped by Eduard perforated plates were used to represent the gun barrels.

Panel Lines

Of course, the model had to be totally new rescribed. Where required, overlapping and some more details were added to complete the constraction: navigation lights, different outlets and intakes, tubes, wire etc.

Photo: P_38_LARGE _4.jpg


Painting and Markings


The model was painted with Testors/Model Master enamel paints. Firstly, bright green as a mix of green, blue and a couple drops of some other colors (just to match the desired color) was airbrushed on the places where the dragons should be painted on. Then the dragon motifs were cut out from the Tamiya masking tape and applied onto the model surface following by the airbrushing with Neutral Grey and further with Olive Drab. Firstly the entire upper surface of the model got a regular OD FS 34087 coat from the Model Master range. After that I sprayed randomly some mixes of OD and Model Master 2 Faded Olive Drab on the upper surfaces to simulate weathering. A few drops of grey were added in some of the mixes while the others were applied without that addition . This was followed by irregular spraying the upper surfaces with a light coat of pure Faded Olive Drab.


I used Testor's Metalizer Sealer as a gloss base for decals. however, I still trimmed excessive clear film of most decals to achieve better results.

The Error... (pardon) Aeromaster markings for this particular aircraft are unfortunately not very accurate. So, the dragons‘ tongues have totally wrong shape and the mouths are too small and wrong shaped as well. I had to replace them by custom decals cut out from some spare sheets. The yellow outline of the dragon tails was slightly adjusted to their actual shape. Further inaccuracies are rather strange as this area of the real aircraft is clearly seen on the photo in the „In Action” monography listed by the way in the decal references as well. Anyway, the aircraft was named by Aeromaster for some reason „Haleakala II” (probably, because Lt. Sealy did fly a P-38H named „Haleakala” as well) and 11 kill markings are provided while it should be just „Haleakala” and only 10 victories (at least what one can see on the known photo). Well, as the general size of those decal parts was luckily correct, I just cut off the unnecessary pieces. Only „H” from „Haleakala” wasn’t very acurate, so it was modified how it should look like.

The biggest trouble was however the logo „pilot LT.H.H.SEALY” written above the victory markings ,since it was too small. As it would be clearly visible compared with the Japanese flags, I replaced this peace or, more exactly, just painted a new one. The small dragons painted on the wheel hubs are really very beautiful, but the „Haleakala” just haven’t them! They seem to be applied on another Lightning from the 459th FS. So, the correct, though not as nice motif was painted on the wheel hubs using again the templates cut out the Tamiya masking tape.


The national insignia, white tail tactical numbers as well as the manufacturer data block on the fuselage were pretty good , but no more stencil markings were provided. I got them from the Travers decal sheet. It seems, all service data are represented there, and I’d rather say more than it actually should be, at least on the camouflaged machines, so I used wartime photos as a reference material. Some markings were taken from Hasegawa and Dragon kit decals as well, in case they were more accurate than Travers pieces or if a needed item just didn’t exist anywhere else. So, I had an opportunity to select always the best markings from 2 or 3 sheets.

The only marking which wasn‘t represented by any of 4 P-38 decal sheets I’ve got, was a lettering of the wing fuel tanks. On OD/NG P-38s it should be white, but all available decals represent them in black. In addition, the text layout was wrong too. I used the appropriate substitutional markings ( of course, trimmed as needed ) from the P-51B by Revell.

After decaling had been done, the model received one more coat of the Metalizer Sealer. Then the usual weathering job was made. Although I did partially use acrylic black and brown washing (mainly for the seams between the engine acces panels) , the most of panel lines were emphasized with a mechanical pencil lead as it gives more subtle effect. A small amount of rubbed pencil lead was used also for modest shading of the lower plane surfaces. The weathering on the upper surfaces was completed by some gray and brown pastel chalks of slightly different shades and the chipped paint was represented with partially a silver pencil and partially by drybrushing. After it was done, the entire model was sealed in with Model Master flat clear coat.

The canopy framing was made of the stripes cut out from the clear decal film sprayed firstly with Interior Green and then with the OD mixes, together with the entire model to ensure the 100% color matching. For this purpose the same clear coats as on the rest model were applied on the decal film to be used as a framing.





What can I say about this “project of the century”?

Well, it was really challenging and a lot of work was required. Certainly not an average model and I believe, my next projects will be somewhat easier and faster.



However, when the model was completed, I was happy to possess somewhat really looking like Lightning, a decent kit of which is still to be released. I would like to be wrong, but I don’t think, that the announced 1/72 Academy model will be much more accurate than Hasegawa, as their previous releases (F4U-1, P-40N etc.) were just updated (and to be honest, not always improved!) Hasegawa kits.



References and Acknowledgements


1. Modelpres P-38 Lightning ISBN 80-91328-8-X

2. P-38 Lightning in action, by Gene Stafford, , Squadron Signal Publications, 1976

3. P-38 Lightning in action by Larry Davis, Squadron Signal Publications, 1990

4. P-38 Detail&Scale Pt.1, by Bert Kinzey, Squadron Signal Publications, 1998

5. P-38 Detail&Scale Pt.2, by Bert Kinzey, Squadron Signal Publications, 1998

6. FAOW # 30 P-38 Lightning by Bunrin Do

7. Osprey Aircraft of the Aces # 14 P-38 Lightning Aces of Pacific and CBI

8. Aeroteam P-38

9. Martin Caidin „The Fork-tailed Devil”, Ballantine Books, 1971

10. Magazines: Replic, Modelarz

11. Internet resources

Special thanks to fellow modellers from HyperScale forum as well as from other message boards, who answered some of my questions regarding this project and helped me with their kind assistance to reproduce this particular aircraft as accurate as possible.


Additional Images


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2004 by Igor Svetlov
Page Created 03 February, 2004
Last Updated 17 March, 2004

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