I’ve been hoping for a new state-of-the-art kit of an early Lightning for decades. The ancient Airfix and Revell kits have had to do until now, but RS Models’ new P-38F, G, and H look promising. Possessing fine exterior detail and accurate shapes, the main shortcoming of these kits is fit.
The kit’s cockpit interior looks good, but you’re advised by the instructions to make your own seat bracket from wire. Yet no dimensions or template are given. I decided to skip it.
The cockpit tub fits into the upper fuselage/wing half, while the nose gear well fits into the fuselage bottom. And that’s where the trouble begins. The bottom of the tub collides with the top of the well, preventing the fuselage parts from closing together — not even close. So the time I spent on the interior assembly was doubled by hacking away the “roof” of the rear portion of the nose-gear bay and monkeying with the fit a few times. Oh, and I had to work a lot of lead bird shot into the little space that was left in the nose to balance the model on its tricycle gear.
Cleaning up the mating surfaces complicated matters all along as I shaved flash and leveled several ejector-pin markings. But once I won those battles, I was surprised that the usually tricky alignment of the Lightning’s twin booms, long horizontal stabilizer, and main fuselage/wing assemblies came out great!
Some other areas require careful fit: Each propeller blade is separate, so you’ll need to establish the right angle as well as pitch relative to the spinner. (And don’t forget the props spun in opposite directions!) There are no positively locking points for installing the main gear struts; test-fit before committing parts to cement.
I advise anyone building these limited-run kits to study the instructions and dry-fit everything. The kit instructions aren’t too complicated, but they become confusing when the part numbers don’t jibe with the locator numbers shown in the parts map (and there are no numbers at all on the sprues). This was also a problem with the numbers printed on the decal sheet; they don’t agree with those shown on the instructions and the paint/markings guide on the box bottom.
Another curious failure of the printed matter: The kit comes with a single resin 330-gallon drop tank along with a plastic pair of the usual 165-gallon tanks (or optional bombs). The big tank is shown on the parts map, but is never explained or shown being attached to the model.
There’s no mention of the significance of the marking choices — those of the P-38Gs flown by Lt. Rex Barber and Capt. Thomas Lanphier, who are credited with shooting down the Japanese Betty bomber carrying Admiral Yamamoto over Bougainville in April 1943 (shown in the terrific box art). The extra-large tank was needed on this intercept mission flown from Guadalcanal.
I chose Lanphier’s aircraft, as it carried niftier nose art and a serial number on the tail. The decals were well-printed and went down fine, although they were thin and tricky to handle. Markings for another USAAF P-38, a German-captured Lightning, and a Portuguese P-38 are also provided on the small, crowded decal sheet.
I spent 37 hours on my new early Lightning, much of it struggling with the fit and cleaning up small parts. I recommend RS’s kit to experienced modelers; the poor fits would give beginners fits!
Note: A version of this review appeared in the April 2013 FineScale Modeler.