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Trumpeter's 1/32 scale Lightning

Kit: No. 02227
Scale: 1/32
Manufacturer: Trumpeter, imported by Stevens International, P.O. Box 126, Magnolia, NJ 08049, 856-435-1555
Price: $119.95
Comments: Injection-molded, 422 parts (57 photoetched metal, 8 hard vinyl, 7 soft vinyl), decals
Pros: Good detail; separate flaps and control surfaces; fine engine- and gun-bay detail; excellent decals and clear parts
Cons: With no openable panels, engines are hidden; hinge mechanisms don't work well; undersize instruments; some fit problems; prop blades misshapen
Trumpeter's P-38 is a welcome arrival. The only previous 1/32 scale P-38 was the 1960s Revell kit.

The new jumbo P-38 features 16 sprues of gray plastic parts. Panel lines and rivets are recessed. Trumpeter provides hinged control surfaces, and deployable flaps - a first in any plastic P-38. Soft vinyl tires, fuel lines, and hydraulic lines are included. The gun bay in the nose is detailed with a cannon, machine guns, and ammo drums.

Two 31-piece Allison engines are provided, but unless you cut the nacelles to open panels, you'll never see 'em. I decided not to install them, using the space instead for weights to hold the model's nose down. The propeller blades are narrow and lack the proper airfoil shape.

The main landing gear and gear bay assemblies are sturdy, but I had to shorten the bay mounting brackets by 1/8" to keep the bays from bulging the boom halves.

The nose-gear-and-cockpit assembly fits fine, but the cockpit is a bit shallow and the instruments are too small for the scale. I don't know why the instrument panel is molded in clear plastic since it has to be painted.

The photoetched engine controls and seat-harness buckles are well done, but you have to provide the belts. I used lead foil from an antiquated toothpaste tube. My sample's seat had a few prominent ejector-pin marks.

The flaps can be posed down and are mounted on photoetched-metal actuator arms. The instructions have you install the flaps halfway through assembly, but I left them off until final assembly. The ailerons, rudders, and elevator have metal pin-and-hinge arrangements, but it's tricky to get them to work smoothly.

The booms don't fit well on the wings, leaving nearly 1/16" gaps on either side, and 1/32" at the top front. I filled them with styrene strips - putty would crack here due to the overly-flexible wings. I installed the photoetched "compressibility flaps" in the open position on the undersides of the wings.

Trumpeter provides a choice of good underwing fuel tanks, bombs, or caps for the main pylons. Rockets for "Christmas tree" pylons are included, but I didn't use them.

Cutting the tiny formation lights from the clear sprue and cleaning them for installation was tricky. I found that the mounting holes in the wings and fins were too small.

The radiator fairings on the sides of the booms are molded separately and feature photoetched screens inside. The top seams of each fairing left gaps that I had to fill. To keep from sanding away detail, I used Micro Krystal Kleer, allowed it to dry, then wiped off the excess with a damp cloth.

Trumpeter's markings are not colorful, but I chose the more interesting of the two, George Laven's "Itsy Bitsy II," which features a lot of black trim. I painted the entire model gloss black first, then used several shades of Alclad II over that for the natural-metal areas. The Cartograf decals went on without problems.

Final assembly involved the tricky installation of the gun-bay assembly and bay doors. The instructions call for painting everything except the guns interior green, but photos suggest the interior and mounting platform should be chromate yellow with aluminum ammo cans.

Both gun-bay doors feature clever hinges made with plastic and hard vinyl. Be careful cutting the vinyl parts; I accidentally shaved off too much from a couple of them. If you choose to glue the gun-bay doors closed, you'll find they won't fit well. I closed the right-side door, and hinged the left, but there is no brace to hold the door open.

Trumpeter recommends installing 60 grams (2.1 ozs.) of weight in the nosepiece, but it would take considerably more than 60 grams to balance the model, and the nosepiece isn't big enough to hold 60 grams of lead. I also added auto-body lead solder in the nacelles and 1/16" diameter steel discs in all the ammo drums in the nose.

The finished model looks much better than the old Revell kit. I spent 35 hours on this complicated model. I want to build another, and with the fit and balance lessons I learned, the next one will be easier. I'm looking forward to more colorful aftermarket decals and perhaps a cockpit dress-up kit.

- Larry Schramm

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