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Tamiya P-38F/G Lightning

This 1/48 scale aircraft kit is a fork-tailed delight!
I have been a fan of the Lockheed Lightning since my dad bought me the Aurora kit more than 50 years ago. So I was surprised when Tamiya announced a new-tool 1/48 scale P-38F/G lightning and happy to score one of the pre-production white-box kits at the 2019 IPMS/USA National Convention.

All the part trees were individually bagged and protected from scuffing. Tamiya’s state of the art surface detail consists of delicate recessed panel lines and rivets.

I found the 20-page, 54-step instructions easy to follow, but you need to pay attention to keep up with building as there are some small differences between the two marking options, one an F, the other Miss Virginia, a P-38G that took part in the interception and shooting down of Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto’s plane in April 1943. The kit includes both 140- and 300-gallon drop tanks and notes that Miss Virginia carried one of each on the Yamamoto mission. Two separate, double-sided marking sheets give multiview diagrams for each option. The three large steel ball bearings that were provided fit into the nose and forward nacelles, so the model sits on its landing gear.

Construction was straightforward but be forewarned: Follow the steps as indicated in the instructions or you will find you cannot assemble your model.

Tamiya eliminated alignment issues for the booms and wings and the entire airframe is perfectly set up.

I did not need to use filler on the model. As long as you clean up sprue attachments, you will be rewarded with an almost invisible seam. In addition, the joins fall along actual panel lines. I used Tamiya Extra Thin Fast Drying cement, which really helped make the seams disappear.

Tamiya’s attention to detail is on full display. The main wheel wells include structural elements and plumbing; the same can be said for the main gear. But what really impressed me was the engineering of the main gear doors; a large tab molded onto each door slides into a recessed slot on the side of each bay. This has been a weak spot on other 1/48 scale P-38s, but Tamiya has eliminated the issue altogether. The part number is molded on each tab to avoid confusion about the location of each door at final assembly.

Cockpit detail comprises a finely molded seat, side consoles, floor, and a full rack of radios aft. Decals detail the instrument panel and provide a harness.

To paint the Lightning, I used Tamiya’s recommended spray-can colors — olive drab (AS-6), neutral gray (AS-7), and bare-metal silver (AS-12) — decanting them and applying them with an airbrush.

The decals went down without problems over a layer of Tamiya clear with a little Microscale Micro Sol to settle them into panel lines. Tamiya even included chrome decals for the three landing gear oleo, the rearview mirror, and the two polished metal spots on the inboard faces of the engine nacelles so the pilot can tell if the main landing gear is down.

Obvious clues, such as wing leading-edge inserts and separate parts for the chin intakes, point to other versions on the horizon.

This is one of the best model kits I have ever had the pleasure of assembling. The combination of clever engineering, outstanding surface, wheel well, and cockpit detail, and perfectly fitting clear parts made it a blast to build. If you have Hasegawa, Academy, or Monogram P-38s in your stash, I would find a good home for them and replace them with this gem from Tamiya. You will not be disappointed — yes, it’s that good!

I recommend this kit to a builder with a little experience as there are some extremely delicate parts.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the January 2020 issue.
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