Hello, fellow modelers and readers!
This time Iíll show you my Republic P-47D-25 Thunderbolt from Academy in 1/72 scale. The kit was originally tooled in 1998, with recessed panel lines and a very good level of detail. It was reissued in 2001 with two different finishing options: the "Eileen" camouflaged aircraft flown by Frank Oiler within the 78th Fighter Group, and a NMF aircraft featuring a rabbit that looks like Bugs Bunny on the port side of the nose. This kit belongs to my son and he preferred the "Eileen" option.
The building of this kit was trouble-free, because the fit is very good. I researched the subject on the Internet and found several mistakes in the painting instructions. In first place, Thunderbolt cockpits were painted with Dull Dark Green (which is equivalent to FS34092 Euro I Dark Green) instead of the Interior Green indicated by the instructions, so I used Humbrol Hu149 Dark Green II, a very good match.
The instructions indicate standard USAAF late WWII land camouflage colors (olive drab and neutral grey,) but some airplanes that flew with the 78th Fighter Group were painted using RAF colors. "Eileen" was painted RAF Dark Green on the top surfaces and RAF Sky on the undersides. For the Dark Green I used two mixes of Hu163, Hu102 and white, one for the base color and a lighter one for subtle fading; for the Sky I used Hu90. For the ordnance (bombs and rocket launchers) the instructions indicate using "Olive Drab" without any specification. As FS34087 Olive Drab didnít exist by WWII years, I used Model Master ANA613 Olive Drab. Another detail thatís missing in the kit instructions is that the rudder of "Eileen" was painted black, so I painted it this way.
I decided to paint with white the portion of the cowling that would receive the checkerboard decals to get a uniform finish, because I feared that the decals were translucent. I first primed the area with a pale grey and then painted two coats of flat white.
Once the model was painted (including the fading) I applied a gloss coat before decal application, as always. As I had problems with some of the decals of the P-40E Academy model that I finished in 2020, I began decal application with the decals that I supposed would be the most problematic: the cowling checkerboard decals. In fact the port side decal refused to conform to the curved cowling surface, even after several coats of Solvaset.
Therefore, I removed the decal and decided to make my own checkerboard later (buying aftermarket decals or making my own decals are not options for me.) At this point I also decided to paint the invasion bands to avoid problems with these decals, and also the white band on the fin, to get the same white hue on these areas.
The application of the other decals was the next step. The port fuselage national insignia didnít conform over the raised exhaust of the internal refrigeration system, so I had to cut it in some places. In the case of the starboard national insignia, I cut the rectangle that covers the raised exhaust from the decal before decal application, and I managed the insignia as two separate decals, with better results. Later I painted the portion of the exhausts that werenít covered by the decals with a mix of white and Flanker Pale Blue (the palest blue that I have) to match the bluish "white" of the decals.
The application of the other decals was almost trouble free, although I had to carefully cut them over the panel lines to make them visible. Some of the tiny stencil decals showed silvering that I partially covered with paint. I confirmed that the decals are translucent: the white of the national insignia stars looks lighter on the portions that cover the white invasion bands, and darker on the portions that cover the black invasion bands. It means that if one uses the decals for the invasion bands, their white portions would look darker where the decals cover dark green paint.
Iíve seen videos on the Internet showing how to airbrush a checker board on an airplane. Nevertheless, the method shown there works well on flat or almost flat surfaces, where the squares are truly squares, but not for the cowling of any airplane, where the "squares" in fact arenít squares, because their "horizontal" outlines follow soft curves toward the front of the cowling. Therefore I had to develop my own method for the making of the checkerboard on the cowling, and it was a very complicated process.
The first thing that I did was to measure the length of the oval that corresponds to the rear of the checkerboard pattern. It was done by placing a strip of flexible masking tape along the edge, and cutting it exactly where it completed a loop. I measured this strip and it was 72 mm long, so I decided that the bigger squares would have 3 mm sides, so each oval would have 24 equal divisions, six divisions per quadrant.
Then I cut another strip of flexible masking tape, and placed dots at one of the edges; the separation between adjacent dots started as 3 mm and was reduced for points near the opening of the cowling. Then I placed this masking-tape template over several places on the cowling, with the long side perpendicular to the rear edge of the white portion of the cowling, in order to have several sequences of points that would be used as guides to draw ovals that were parallel to each other. With another strip of masking tape I joined the points and draw the ovals with an "F" drawing pencil, these ovals were parallel straight lines when viewed from a side.
To draw the "horizontal" lines that intersect the ovals, I first measured the perimeter of each oval with the method I described above. In the case of the outer oval, it was easy to mark the 24 divisions because each measured exactly 3 mm. For the other ovals, I used the technique that I described in my previous ARC article (featuring a TA-4J Skyhawk) to divide their length in 24 equal segments. Once each oval had its own sequence of points, I used another strip of masking tape as a flexible ruler to join the points and draw the lines.
My first approach to paint the black squares was to place a strip of masking tape along each oval, one by one, draw the vertical edges with a 0.2 mm rapidograph filled with black china ink, then draw the "horizontal" edges in a similar fashion, and finally fill the center of the "squares" with black paint. On the first oval I realized that the china ink seeped under the masking tape, proving that this method doesnít work, and I had to quickly remove the china ink with alcohol.
Then I decided to brush paint the squares with slightly diluted flat black enamel. I used a 3/0 soft brush along with another fine brush that I converted to an "extra fine" brush, in fact thinner than a 10/0 brush. It was a long and difficult process in which I took my brush painting skills to the limit (Iím including a photograph I took to the cowling when less than half of the squares were already painted; this photograph also show the outlines of the unpainted squares.)
After the checkerboard was done, I sprayed a coat of flat clear over the cowling to get an even finish on the whole aircraft. I then painted some chips on the front edge of the cowling, glued the cowling to the fuselage and the propeller on the tip of its shaft, and the model was finished.
I dedicate the finished model to my beloved son David in his 32nd birthday.
Thanks for your watching and patient reading. Best regards!
Orlando Sucre Rosales
Photos and text © by Orlando Sucre Rosales