Curtiss P-40C - JD McHardFrom an unpromising start as a 1937 modification to the 1934 radial engined P-36, the Curtiss P-40 went on to become the spearhead of many a fighter arm in World War II, from North Africa with the R.A.F. (as the Tomahawk), to the Far East and China.
Oh the shark has... pearly teeth dear... and, of all the P-40's in action, what are better remembered than the Flying Tigers of the American Volunteer Group in China? The author based his color scheme on one of these aircraft... teeth and all.
Faster than the Hurricane but slower than the Spitfire and Messerschmitt Bf 109E, the P-40 was based upon a proven airframe, and could be produced relatively quickly. In consequence, the decision was made in April 1939 to place a substantial order for 524 machines. The importance of this move can best be gauged by the orders placed at the same time for two more advanced aircraft, the Lockheed YP-38 and the Bell YP-39... thirteen of each!
The P-40 nose provides a good exercise in the art of filling in with sheet balsa! Tail surfaces are typically light to reduce the need for excess balancing weight in the nose.
Delivery of the first production armament consisted of two .50 machine guns over the engine and a .30 machine gun in each wing.
The P-40 was a big aeroplane... particularly when compared with, say the Messerschmitt Me-109, which possessed similar power and armament. Its beard radiator just screamed out for someone to adorn it with a shark's mouth!
Numerous artists availed themselves of the opportunity, but the most famous sharkmouthed P-40's must surely have been those serving with the American Volunteer Group in China, around which so much aviation literature has been written.
Our model is based upon a machine serving with the A.V.G. in China, but there are, of course, numerous other schemes from which to choose if the intricacy of that sharkmouth daunts you a little.
The P-40 is a big model... or at least the fuselage is! The exceptionally long nose assists balance problems, but don't be deceived into thinking that weight-watching around the tail is any less important. You still need a little weight in the nose, so the more you save at the back, the less dead weight you'll need at the front.
Showing off its A.V.G. markings, the author's P-40 is off on another stable flight. Long nose helped in balancing. Right: Landing gear was shortened by 3/16 inch after these photos were taken, when Doug first realized he had made them too long!
Markings on the A.V.G. P-40's were fairly simple, but doing the shark's mouth can be quite a project. Right: The Mattel Vac-U-Form came in handy for making these wing fillets. Neat sheet balsa fill-in work shows clearly in this photo.
The photographs show the model as originally built and, clearly, the landing gear legs are a bit too long. Strangely enough this did not become apparent until the photos were printed. The legs were afterwards shortened by about 3/16 inch and the appearance has been greatly improved.
Profile Publications No. 35 "The Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk". Monogram Plastic Model Kit.