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  • Writer's picture@PlaneThought41

Fork Tail Devil: 1/48th Academy P-38J Lightning

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Academy's P-38 Lightning is a reasonable depiction of the type with a few fit and detail issues but nothing a model builder with a few kits behind them (and some patience) can't manage. With some extra work you can add some detail to this kit to make it a nice showpiece.

Notable Kit Features:

  • Decent cockpit detail

  • Finely engraved panel lines

  • Additional parts included in the box to build other variants

  • Bombs, rockets and tube launchers are included as weapons

Build Inspiration:

I found some decals for a shark-mouth P-38 Lightning at my local hobby shop and as that was the theme for a while, I picked them up for this P-38J project.

Heads-Up Report:

  • Take care removing the parts from the sprues as the runners are in visible locations and the plastic is hard so you can create damage that you'll have to clean up later

  • Careful dry fitting and adjustment of parts will eliminate or at least reduce the amount of sanding & filler requirements for this build

  • There was a step in the nose join on the side as well as a gap at the rear that needed work to smooth out and then do some re-scribing work

  • There are also gaps in the two wing half joins that will have to be filled and sanded

  • Wheel wells lack detail (nice aftermarket parts are available for the P-38)

  • There are a lot of things happening with the coming together of parts on twin-boom aircraft therefore lining it all up properly will take some patience

  • Turbo-charger intakes are molded into the boom and could use a bit of attention (Drill out and shaping) Other vents on the kit could use similar attention to bring out detail

  • The radiator vents are molded into the piece (separating them could add nice detail)

  • Canopy is multi-part and a bit fiddly to construct

  • Props are provided as separate blades to be glued and aligned as desired

  • Don't underestimate the nose weight, as the aircraft sits nose high when finished (Add at least 25g)

Kit Additions / Modifications:

  • Added seatbelts to the cockpit

  • Used aftermarket decals (Superscale 48-1018)

End Result:

This was another Natural Metal Finish attempt that I try on occasion to see how different aluminum paints finish up. My interest in this build waned a bit during the process so I didn't spend the time necessary to get out of the kit what I could, however it is still not a bad example to have on the shelf. I realized afterwards that I forgot to paint the spinners blue and should return this one to the paint shop to correct this... but you know how that goes sometimes :)

The After-Build Report:

The unique shape of the P-38 has typically made for a more complex build for model makers, with higher than normal parts count for a single-seat fighter. Due to this I would recommend P-38 (and similar twin boom) builds follow some basic builds. Prepare to have a bit more patience with this construction type. Academy's P-38 is still a nice kit but will take some extra time and patience to get a proper build together. (Nothing a veteran model maker can't handle ;) Eduard's kit is based on the Academy (with Eduard extras). Italeri's kit is a rebox of the Minicraft P-38 (which I have not built). I would rank the Academy behind Hasegawa's and give the clear edge to the new Tamiya, so choose according to affordability and availability.

Completed build #113 - August 2009 using the 1/48th scale Academy #2126 kit.

Feel free to comment or ask any questions - Keep on building, gain experience, challenge yourself if you like, but try not to stress yourself out over the build - it is suppose to be an enjoyable hobby after all - Cheers

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