P-38 Build Notes
347th Fighter Group, 339th Fighter Squadron
Guadalcanal, April 18, 1943
“Miss Virginia” 147, Tail #32264
Technically, this is the Eduard limited-edition kit, “Early Lightnings,” #1174. In reality, it’s Academy’s P-38E, kit #2144 with AM resin, PE parts, and AM decals from Eduard. The kit itself was produced in 1994 and so far the fit of the parts shows it. The kit also follows Academy’s tendency to be soft on details in general and too often incorrect with them (more on that later!). Another problem that I may encounter is the fact that this kit is infamous for having the vertical stabilizer/rudders significantly angled off vertical the way they’re supposed to be (yeah…much more on that later…). Most of the builds I’ve found online show the builders assembling the booms and then cutting off the stabilizer/rudders and positioning them so that they’re vertical the way they’re supposed to be.
Eduard sold their limited-edition kit, “Early Lightings”, in 2012, a full eighteen years after Academy released their flawed kit. The Eduard limited-edition kits are snapped up by collectors, certainly before I find out another one has been released. When I try to find one of them on eBay, I often find price tags in the $250-$350 range and higher. No. I’m not a collector and I’m definitely not going to pay collector prices for any kit.
My favorite WWII warbird is the P-38 and I’ve wanted one on my shelf for decades. I’d gotten my hands on one of the ancient Monogram kits and that’s exactly what they are. Ancient. Raised panel lines, absence of details (accurate or not), there would be many hours of work necessary to bring that ancient kit into modern times. I have read too many horror stories about trying to build Hasegawa’s kit to want to try it. All that essentially meant I was going to start with the Academy kit as my base and then use AM and scratch-building to build something I would be comfortable putting on display. I figured I’d get the kit and then go to Eduard and see what resin and PE goodies they have available. (Yes, I could have also checked out True Details but I’m almost always disappointed with their product line…particularly the over-bulged way they do their resin tires.) While looking for P-38 aftermarket parts on eBay, I found one of Eduard’s 1174 kits that had been opened (and thereby ruining it for the collectors). The price was $124 which, though far in excess of the original $74.95 Eduard wanted for this kit, was A LOT less than the $250-$350 range usually seen for this kit.
[Sidebar: The day this kit arrived at my doorstep, Tamiya released their P-38 F/G kit, #61120. So I bought that kit, as well. I’m thinking of doing Gerry McDonald’s bird because that boy was crazy!]
My intent is to build the famous aircraft that Lt. Rex Barber was flying when he, not Lanphier, accomplished the Yamamoto shoot-down (regardless of how the fornicating Air Farce refuses to accept the proofs that Barber shot down Yamamato, not Lanphier).
I opened the box and laid out the resin parts and received my first disappointment with this kit. The control yoke (or steering wheel, for those of you who don’t fly) in the resin parts is the wrong version. The early yoke was the bottom two-thirds of a steering wheel. The late yoke was two joystick grips at the ends of a figure eight laid on its side. I checked the Tamiya kit and they got the early yoke correct. I cut it off, took a mold of it, and cast a resin copy.
My next disappointment came when, after painting, adding wear and dirt, to all the cockpit parts, I discovered that the seat doesn’t fit the mounting frame. Well, it fits, it’s just that the locating tabs on the frame don’t like up correctly with the slots on the back of the pilot’s seat. Since these parts are obviously molded from high-quality 3D prints as well as being from the same manufacturer, this is utterly and completely unacceptable. Computer graphics are necessary for 3D printers to make physical copies. The lousy fit of something as sodding simple as alignment of tabs and slots is just unacceptable and massively disappointing. (If I wanted this kind of garbage, I could have just purchased True Detail parts.) I’d made a basic error in assuming that Eduard would make their own damned parts fit each other. (Silly me.)
During the construction phase of the cockpit, none of the major parts fit with other major parts. The separate side panels of the cockpit did not align with the floor. With the exception of the radios (which were also incorrect for an early Lighting but were instead intended for a later variant) I did not find ONE PART that fit where it was (theoretically) supposed to go without having to be modified to do so.
So since this is the first construction of a subassembly for this build, I think it’s already off to a disappointing start. For what this kit cost before collectors inflated its value, $74.95, this is to be blunt, just bullshit.
I’m also already disappointed in that Eduard did nothing to replace the minimally acceptable canopy that Academy provided. All I can do at this point is, a) hope that things get better (without believing that they will), and b) be glad it’s not the Italeri/Testors SR-71 Blackbird.
Fast Forward to the Steamy Cup of Disappointment
The last sentence of the paragraph above started with, “All I can do at this point is, a) hope things get better…” They did not. They did not in a clashingly emphatic manner. Here’s how it went…
As stated in sufficient detail already, I have not been impressed at all with either the basic Academy kit nor Eduard’s AM set, and both for essentially the same reason. Fit…the absence thereof. Both Academy and Eduard are professional organizations, commercial companies, who clearly expect that people will spend money for their goods…which I have done. Had they presented goods that were professionally produced, I would have dealt with the fit situation(s) because in my experience, all AM parts, resin especially, require to be fit to the kit they are intended for. And it’s that last part that has really gotten my back up.
After getting all the parts of Eduard’s resin cockpit set to finally fit and work with each other, it became time to fit this subassembly to its location and get them to work with what Academy produced. Time. Time to fit. Time to have a fit. The reason(s) being that the damned subassembly did not fit. I don’t know what kit Eduard intended this set for but it’s obvious to me (and since it’s my damned build, that’s all that matters to me) that it wasn’t the Academy kit. Yeah, sure…I got the damned cockpit subassembly fitted and glued in place, relatively. To do that was a very long chain of compromises and lowered expectations from “Oh goddamit” to “well, that’ll have to do.”
Before I went any further with this Frankensteinien build, I decided to check the dreaded Academy Twist of the vertical stabilizers/rudders. I cut the parts from their sprues, taped them together, and then taped them to where they mount. With everything snugly taped in position, I stepped back and looked at alignment.
It’s not that the vertical stabilizers/rudders aren’t vertical (which they are not, the tops of them are rotated about 3-5 degrees outward at the tops off vertical and are as obvious as a hooker’s wink), it’s that the whole fornicating boom on both sides was rotated. All of it, from engine cowlings to rudders was rotated off vertical.
Who markets a damned kit that is that wrong?!
Academy does, evidently.
The “fix” I’ve seen is where the builders have cut the vertical stabilizers/rudders off the booms, rotated them so that they are vertical, and then glued and finished them. Sure…that gets the vertical stabilizers/rudders correct. However, the entire boom is rotated! That means that the radiator housings, turbochargers, engine cowlings, landing gear bays and the mounts for the landing gears, are still rotated. To my eyes, the rotation is SO obvious…and utterly unacceptable.
I’d even (VERY briefly) considered cutting both of the booms away from the upper wing surfaces that the mounting points are molded to, rotating them THE WAY ACADEMY SHOULD HAVE. Failing that, Academy should have re-cut the dies involved, fixed the rotated booms, and MADE THE NEW PARTS AVAILABLE at a reduced price to people who had already bought a kit expecting a greater degree of accuracy than Academy produced.
Clearly I expect too much. And I get that. I tend to expect too much. I’ve even been accused of being a perfectionist (which I am not) in that regard. My take on this is that the money I spent on their product was real…I expect their product to be equally real.
HAVING A MAJOR FEATURE OF A KIT BE SO FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG IS NOT EQUALLY REAL.
Well, what to do about all that?
Stop building this thing and simply accept that I wasted my money on a garbage product. Actually, I wasted my money on two garbage products; Academy’s ridiculous kit and Eduard’s inaccurate AM set (it’s probably accurate for a late-production Lightning…not an early-production Lightning the way the box states it is…inaccurately as so much about this kit is).
This build stops here at about 25 hours of work (and I’m not wasting any more time editing photos to post…why fornicating bother?). What I have to do to bring this build to my acceptable levels isn’t worth it. I have Tamiya’s P-38 F/G Lightning on the shelf. I’ll build that.
I will be MOST reluctant to purchase anything else that Academy offers (I already have too many of their armor kits in queue) and I will be most critical and picky about which Eduard products I acquire also.
I don’t mind amateurs. We all have to start somewhere. I DO mind amateurs who masquerade as professionals.