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Curtiss P-40E Warhawk

by Brett Green


Curtiss P-40E-1
1/Lt Dallas A. Clinger, 16th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group
Kweilin China, October 1942


AMtech's 1/48 scale P-40E may be ordered online from Squadron.com




The Curtiss P-40 was a dependable warhorse that served in many theatres from the steamy South Pacific to the primitive airfields of North Africa and even the frozen winters of northern Russia. The P-40E was a re-engined and up-gunned development of the earlier P-40B/C Tomahawk.

The P-40 was produced in far greater numbers than any other USAAF fighter during 1941 and 1942.

It might be argued that the P-40E was the most important of all the Warhawk variants. It bore the brunt of the desperate fighting during 1942 against Japan in the Far East, South Pacific and Australia/New Guinea; and was the backbone of the Commonwealth Desert Air Force in the Middle East.



Nevertheless, the P-40E was overshadowed at the time, and sometimes ignored in aviation history, due to the more powerful and glamorous fighters in service such as the Spitfire, the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and the A6M Zero.

In some ways, AMT's profile in the 1990s parallels the story of the P-40. AMT released some terrific kits in the mid 1990s, including A-20 Boston/Havocs, the entire Tigercat family and several P-40 variants. All of these kits were high quality, with accurate outlines, fine recessed surface features and reasonable detail. Even so, these very respectable kits were largely overshadowed at the time by more glamorous releases from Japan.

Despite the significance of the P-40E, this version was never kitted in 1/48 scale by AMT. Fortunately, in 2002, the new model company AMtech has come to the rescue.



AMtech's 1/48 Scale P-40E In the Box


  • Accurate depiction of an important subject.
  • Good overall fit.
  • Sharp and consistent engraved surface detail.
  • Useful options including drop tanks, bombs and alternate exhausts.
  • Simple engineering.
  • Four-piece, positionable canopy.
  • Excellent decal sheet with options for four subjects (1 x RAF, 1 x RAAF and 2 x USAAF)..
Nit Picks
  • Care required for a good fit around wing root and engine cowl panels.
  • Large, empty engine bay in front of open cowl flaps.
  • Canopy rides high in the open position.
  • Some smaller details not supplied (eg mirror, ring and bead gunsight)
  • Minor blemishes on fuselage require removal

AMtech has licensed the use of AMT's original P-40 moulds for their new 1/48 scale P-40E kit.

Most of the parts in the new AMtech 1/48 scale P-40E are therefore common with the AMT kits, including a number of redundant parts for later variants. The important exception is the new fuselage. The combination of the short, standard tail with the Allison powerplant was never released by AMT.

AMtech's 1/48 scale P-40E comprises 68 parts in pale grey styrene and 4 parts in clear. The plastic is slightly harder than the very soft styrene used for the AMT boxings. I found the plastic in AMtech's P-40E was very pleasant to work with.

The fuselage halves on all of my samples displayed raised blemishes in a few spots and a small step where the new short tail is not perfectly aligned with the rear fuselage. One of the elevators (yes, only one) is also quite thick at the trailing edge. These problems were easily eliminated with a few minutes' sanding and polishing.

Surface detail is crisply engraved and the cockpit detail is not bad straight from the box. Options include a drop tank, wing-mounted bombs, and late "fishtail" exhausts that were retrofitted to some P-40Es.

The clear parts are impressively thin and free of distortion, but the canopy will ride high when in the "open" position.


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The decal sheet is excellent, with four fascinating options. Two are USAAF, one RAF and the last is RAAF. The American subjects are both finished in Tan and Medium Green over Sky Gray, while the British and Australian Kittyhawks are both in Desert colours. One of the options feature shark's teeth, and all have unique artwork on the airframes. The instructions are quite comprehensive, with four-view diagrams for all subjects, Federal Standard Number equivalents and additional notes.






I was fortunate to receive an early test-shot of AMtech's 1/48 scale P-40E.

Since building this model I have received a production version of the sprues, and one of the problems I encountered (the poor fit at the wing root) has now been addressed by AMtech. This is described in more detail below.

Otherwise, the kit I built was essentially the same as the production version.


Getting Started

AMtech's fuselage halves feature separate parts for the engine cowling panels. This is to permit a choice of panels to be fitted for different variants. I decided to tackle these panels first - even before the fuselage halves had been cut from the sprue.

The rear edge of the panels were "tacked" to the fuselage halves using a spot of superglue. I then held each panel flush against the fuselage while I ran a line of Testor's Liquid Glue around the inside of the join. The result was a gap-free fit, but a slight step was evident at the top and the bottom of the panels. Also, the front of the panel did not quite meet the front of the nose. I decided to deal with these issues when the fuselage halves were assembled.



After-Market Accessories
  • True Details resin cockpit
  • Eduard "Basic" instrument panel
  • Cutting Edge USAAF N-3 gunsight
  • Squadron vacuum formed canopy
  • True Details resin wheels
  • Black Magic camouflage masks and canopy masks
Additional Modifications
  • Drilled out gun barrels and exhaust stacks
  • Drilled out holes in wing leading edge for cockpit fresh-air intakes and gun camera
  • Scratchbuilt new headrest from styrene
  • Scratchbuilt rear-vision mirror from styrene
  • Added aerial wires from monofilament and isolators from white glue.
  • I also should have added brake lines from fusewire!

AMtech's cockpit is quite nice straight from the box. However, I wanted more detail in my Warhawk's front office.

True Details released a resin replacement cockpit for Mauve's 1/48 scale P-40N in the 1990s. This is a well-detailed and inexpensive accessory. I discovered that modifying the True Details cockpit to fit the AMtech fuselage just needed a different assembly sequence, some serious trimming and a little patience.

The main dilemma is that the floor is far too wide for the AMtech fuselage. I sawed off the edges of the floor close to the locating slots for the sidewalls.

The rear bulkhead and pilot's armour in the True Details set is for the late canopy variants. The armour on the late variants slants forward, whereas the earlier versions sloped backwards. The plastic kit part was therefore glued to the resin floor

I sliced off the headrest because (a) it was a bit small, but mainly (b) I wanted to fill and sand a gap at the top of the pilot’s armour. I scratchbuilt another larger, longer headrest from plasticard and Mr Surfacer.

I glued the sidewalls direct to the fuselage interior after test fitting against the cockpit floor and bulkheads. Test fitting revealed a narrow triangular gap between the rear of each firewall and the rear bulkhead. I used a thin wedge of plasticard to bridge this gap on each side. The resin front firewall fitted perfectly without modification.

The True Details instrument panel was not appropriate for the P-40E, so I used the Eduard P-40E “Basic” set. This inexpensive photoetched fret supplies the instrument panel and acetate backing. It only cost me around USD$1 a few years ago. I assume that this is designed for the old Revell or Otaki kit, as it was a bit wide. I trimmed the edges and top corners until it eventually fitted.

The True Details seat looks good but it rides very low in the cockpit. It also glues straight to the rear bulkhead, which looks odd to me. I added vertical rails from strip styrene to the back of the seat to space it from the bulkhead, and aligned the top of the seat so that it peeked above the canopy sill line.

Although it was a fair amount of work, I was very happy with the way the True Details cockpit looked in the assembled fuselage. Unfortunately, it seems that this set is currently out of production, but it is only a matter of time until somebody comes to the rescue with a custom-designed cockpit for this kit.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

True Details' 1/48 scale Warhawk cockpit was designed for the Mauve P-40N kit, but it will fit AMtech's P-40E after some modifications

Eduard's "Basic" instrument panel is another inexpensive improvement.

The sides of the resin floor must be cut off close to the locating slots for the sidewalls.

The sidewalls fit quite well. A narrow wedge of styrene has been used to fill a small gap between the sidewalls and the rear bulkhead

The bulkhead and pilot's armour are a different shape on the earlier P-40E, so the plastic kit part has been adapted to the resin floor.


General Construction

The remaining construction was generally straightforward.

I hollowed out the tubular exhausts by first marking the centre of each pipe with the point of a scriber, then drilling a shallow hole with a pin vise.

The composite oil cooler/radiator assembly inside the distinctive chin was added. There was a gap between the front of the ceiling of this assembly (part A5) and the front of the fuselage. This was quickly dealt with using a strip of styrene glued in place and trimmed to fit when dry.

With the cockpit sidewalls, exhausts and cowl panels in place, the fuselage halves were joined. The fit was excellent. I offered the instrument panel up through the empty cockpit and glued it in place under the instrument coaming after test-fitting the cockpit. Finally, a bead of superglue was run along the edges of the cockpit to secure it to the fuselage.

P-40 wheel well sidewalls were fitted with canvas covers, but I did not add this feature. Instead, the wing halves were glued together and the holes for the bomb racks were filled with fine styrene rod. When the wings and fuselage halves had set, I test fitted both assemblies. My pre-production sample demonstrated a close fit at both wing roots, but there was a big step on the upper port-side. There was also a gap at the bottom trailing edge. I glued the wings to the fuselage and, when dry, I took to the step with some coarse grade sandpaper until it was eliminated.

I also took this opportunity to sand back the small steps between the engine cowl panels and the fuselage; and the minor blemishes on the fuselage. The total time invested in all this sanding was about ten minutes.

Liquid Paper was used to fill the gaps at the trailing lower wing join and (as an insurance policy) on the upper wing roots. A number of panel lines were lost during filling and sanding. These were restored by rescribing. Self-adhesive Dymo tape was used as a scribing guide for the straight lines.

To fix the short cowl panels I tried sanding the nose, but in retrospect I should have filled the gap with putty or a strip of styrene.

Although it is not my custom to undercoat my models, I decided to spray a coat of grey primer to ensure that I had caught all the gaps and restored all the panel lines. This primer buffed up to an impressive gloss after polishing.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The fit of the kit was generally good, but there was a sizeable step at the port-side wing root, some fit problems on each engine cowl insert...

...and a further gap at the trailing edge of the wing where it meets the bottom of the fuselage.

Sanding and filling solved all these problems.

The model after re-scribing, polishing and a coat of grey primer.

The remaining smaller parts including the drop tank, undercarriage and pitot tube were assembled per the instructions. The fuselage antenna mast was not required for my aircraft choice. The wheels were also left off at this stage.



Painting and Decals



I am a long time user of Gunze Acrylics, but with Testor's recent sponsorship of HyperScale I thought I would revisit some of my old Polly Scale and Aeromaster Acrylics for this model.

I loved the huge range of colours in the various Testor paint ranges, but I had terrible trouble with thinning and spraying when I first used them some years ago. Any fine line work would result in the nozzle of my Aztek A470 airbrush quickly clogging; or spraying semi-dried "spiderwebs".

I did not have access to Testor's "new formula" acrylics, but a local hobby store did have a bottle of Model Master Acryl Thinner. This is a new product (stock #50496) and I decided to experiment with my old paints.

To my delight, the results were very good indeed.

I added 20-30% Acryl thinner to Polly Scale and Aeromaster paints to achieve smooth flow and an impressive finish. The paint was dry in minutes and was safe to touch as soon as it was dry. One of my frustrations with Gunze Acrylics is its susceptibility to fingerprints even days after the paint has been sprayed.


The Spray Job

Other than the brand of paints, my approach was the same as with my earlier models.

I started with a rough "preshading" of panel lines in black. This was followed by a coat of Aeromaster Acrylic Neutral Gray on the lower surfaces, which seemed to be a good match for the pale Sky Gray specified in the marking instructions. Upper surfaces received a patchy application of Polly Scale Olive Drab.



This dark colour was oversprayed with Polly Scale tan, resulting in an uneven medium brown on the upper surfaces.

Contemporary photographs show that these early Warhawks wore a hard-edged camouflage demarcation. Black Magic has a camouflage masking set for Hobbycraft's 1/48 scale P-40B. Fortunately, these masks fitted the later variant very well. I only needed to slightly trim some sections, and add a few strips of masking tape in other areas.

There is no doubt that camouflage masks save an enormous amount of time and effort. They also mimic the method of applying the pattern to the full-sized aircraft.

Black Magic masks were also used for the canopy.


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Black Magic masks from Cutting Edge Modelworks were used to paint the hard-edged camouflage pattern and to mask the canopy.

Although this masking set was designed for the Hobbycraft P-40B kit, it was 90% approppriate for AMtech's P-40E.

The masks are carefully removed to reveal the camouflage pattern. See text for more detail about techniques.

I sprayed Polly Scale US Tac Dk Green lightly up to the edges of the masks, then filled in the gaps with the same colour. When the pattern had been sprayed, the masks were removed and Aeromaster US Medium Green was patchily oversprayed freehand



This P-40E of the 23rd Fighter Group in China was heavily faded and had large areas of overspray. I mixed up a dark batch of Olive Drab by adding a little black to the standard Polly Scale colour. This dark shade represented a fresh coat of paint applied to large sections of the rear fuselage, tail and the spinner. The instructions mention that the spinner may have been red, but given the (justifiable) level of anxiety about "friendly fire", the colour red was generally discouraged in the Far East and Pacific theatres. I therefore opted for fresh Olive Drab.

Alan Griffith of AMtech has supplied several photos of this fascinating aircraft, and they appear in a separate Reference Page on HyperScale.



As if the patchy and faded paint job was not interesting enough, this Warhawk also wears a gaudy shark's mouth and an irreverent cartoon on the tail.

The marking instructions are very good and the decals are simply superb. Carrier film is thin and runs right to the edge of most markings. Colours are thoroughly saturated - none of the dark aircraft colour shows through the white of the US stars or the shark's teeth. The shark's mouth decals conformed to the compound curves of the lower cowl after a liberal application of MicroSet setting solution and a few tiny slices with a sharp knife while the decals were in place.



The entire aircraft received a wash of thinned black oil paint, followed by a flat varnish.



Finishing Touches


At this late stage, I noticed that the kit canopy rode high when slid back. I decided to replace the injection moulded kit part with a vacform canopy from Squadron. This was designed for the AMT kit, and fitted the AMtech canopy perfectly.


The vacform canopy is packed with Blu-Tack. This improves the rigidity of the canopy, and the solid background also makes it easier to see the clear part. The canopy is cut free with a clean slice from a new hobby blade.


Other finishing touches included:

  • a ring and bead gunsight. The ring was a photo-etched item from an old Eduard sheet for the Hobbycraft MS 406; and the bead mount was a fine section of brass rod.

  • aerial wires from the top of the tail to each wingtip. Isolators were made from drops of white glue, painted grey; and the "wires" were smoke-coloured monofilament (invisible mending thread).

  • a rear-vision mirror on top of the port side of the windscreen was carved from a small styrene block.

  • ventilation holes were drilled in the leading edges of the wings.

  • machine gun barrels were drilled out.

  • navigation lights were finished by first painting the small bumps light grey, followed by a coat of Clear Red (for the port side) and Clear Green (for the starboard) and finally, when dry, a drop of thinned black oil paint to provide a tidy demarcation from the surface of the aircraft.

  • an exhaust stain was sprayed using a combination of chalky black and light tan paints, and the wing roots were "chipped" with a silver pencil.





At last we have an accurate P-40E in 1/48 scale.

AMtech's P-40E was an enjoyable and straightforward build. The kit offers enormous potential for after-market providers too, with the possibility of superdetailed cockpits, optional ordnance and other details.



The minor fit problems and blemishes were swiftly dealt with, and should not present any difficulty to the vast majority of modellers.

With the enormous variety of potential colour schemes, markings and nationalities, my biggest problem will be limiting myself to building only three or four of AMtech's P-40E!



Thanks to Alan Griffith from AMtech for the review samples; and to Dana Bell for confirming the colour used on the undersurface of 23rd Fighter Group Warhawks.




Additional Images and Resource Summary


Summary of Modelling Resources

The following finishing products were used to complete AMtech's 1/48 scale P-40E:

  • PollyScale Acrylic Paints 
    505388 US Tac Dk Green; 505392 US Tac Tan; 505224 USAAF Olive Drab; 505204 Grimy Black

  • Aeromaster Acrylic Paints
    1053 Neutral Gray; 1061 US Medium Green

  • Testors Metalizer paints:
    Burnt Metal; Gunmetal

  • Cements, Fillers and Finishing Products:
    Testors Liquid Cement; Selleys Super Glue; ZIP Kicker CA Accelerator; Liquid Paper; Gunze Mr Surfacer 500; Gunze Mr Rubbing Compound; Tamiya Masking Tape (6mm and 10mm); Tamiya Abrasive Paper (180-1000 grit); disposable nail files; Squadron Tri-Grit Sanding Stick.

Click the thumbnails below
to view larger images:


Text, Images and Model Copyright © 2002 by Brett Green
Page Created 17 March, 2002
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

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