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Lightning Strikes Twice! F-35 and P-38 Double Build

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The last few years I’ve been on a bit of a WWII Pacific modelling spree and I felt it was time for a change. Why not build one Lightning when you can get two at twice the effort? As it turned out, both kits would require more effort than I had anticipated.




RS Models P-38F


This kit is part of my ‘Hellcats over the Pacific’-themed collection. Hellcats was a Macintosh flight sim from the early 90s, at the time a very realistic game. I racked up 100s of hours in it. My goal for this theme is to build all the planes in the game in 1/72 in color schemes related to the Guadalcanal and Leyte campaigns around which the game is centered. I picked the F-model for this theme because I think the early variants of the P-38 are the best-looking ones.




On opening the box first impressions are favorable. Nicely detailed parts, subtle engraving. However, on putting it together it appears almost none of the parts fit without serious sanding or fettling. Not a single seam escapes the filler/sanding/filler/sanding treatment and this obliterates much of the detail, requiring re-scribing. Getting the tail booms aligned is a major challenge and I never got it quite right. It doesn’t help there are no locating tabs to strengthen the joins, I really should have used some plasticard here. The boom to wing joins must have split at least a dozen times during this build. Landing gear bays are a lousy fit and require much filler to blend in with the rest of the plane. Also pay attention to the parts numbering on the tail booms as they are handed which is not entirely obvious anymore after you’ve removed them from the sprue.




What else? Canopy requires blending in with filler, oil coolers need drilling out, cockpit tub needs thinning on the underside, prop spinner diameter is a smaller than the nacelle, main gear attachment points are spurious, cannon and machine gun holes need drilling out, gear doors are a bad fit… I found out some of these things after painting which caused a lot of grief. Final assembly off the small parts took me five nights.




Painting was straightforward, I used Gunze acrylics, and some water colors to do a panel line wash. Added a mix of light grey and Tamiya smoke to dirty up the radiators and exhausts.




RS have squeezed in five very attractive decal options on a tiny sheet. The decals are nice and thin but they settle down very quickly and then refuse to move, even with decal solutions. Get them as close as you can to the right place when sliding them off the sheet.




Not a world beater but altogether I’m happy with the result. It took me two years from start to finish to get it done, a considerable time of which it spent on the shelf of doom because it was so much work to get the airframe together in an acceptable fashion. Not an easy kit but with patience still a worthy addition to the collection and as far as I know still the best F available in this scale.





Hasegawa F-35 Lightning II


The perfect companion to the original Lightning! I was actually slightly disappointed when opening the rather massive box, at first glance I thought this was a quick-build kit. Rest assured it is not – Hasegawa has struck a superb balance between detail and ease of build. The cost of this is of course that the weapons bays are closed and cannot be opened.




Building up the main airframe is a single short evening of work. A few small dabs of Mr. Surfacer are required to hide some small seams but that’s it. So how did it take me two years to finish such a simple kit? Hear my story of woe…




From the start I struggled, as many others have, with the Have Glass coating. I thought my problems were solved when I read about Hataka’s Have Glass paint. I got a bottle at ESM2018 and proceeded in good spirits with the painting. The Hataka paint and I did not get along very well; no matter what thinner I used, it clogged up my airbrush. After spending an entire evening on it I got a good coat on it. I took a step back, looked at the finish and immediately had my doubts. The paint looked to me far too metallic. Looking at some photos of the real thing you can find pretty much anything between flat grey and shiny metallic so I decided to push on, against better judgement.




The second hurdle was the RAM coating. Hasegawa provides some of the RAM paneling as decals but it has you spray the larger areas yourself. I tried to find a grey paint in my stash as close as I could to the decal grey and then spent two nights masking. I sprayed the grey, took off the masking and I was utterly dismayed. The colors clashed horribly. I left the kit for a few days to see if I could convince myself it was acceptable but I couldn’t. I removed the paint with thinner and the kit moved to the shelf of doom while I considered the next step.




Over the next few months I looked at a lot of photos of the plane and other peoples’ models and read about paint mixes to mimic the Have Glass coating. I also found out the newer F-35s rolling of the production line had significantly toned down RAM strips, which made for a vast improvement in its appearance in my eyes. So back to the workbench it was. I had decided my way of doing the Have Glass would be to take FS36118 and add some silver into the mix. I prepped the kit for spraying. Before my first attempt I had sprayed the wheel wells in white and stuffed them with blu-tac. However due to the cleaning the white paint had been damaged and I had to remove the blu-tac before respraying.




Disaster struck. The blu-tac had hardened and was almost impossible to get out. As a result, the back of the gear well came loose and disappeared into the kit’s innards. I tried to get it out but it was impossible to fit back in place without opening up the fuselage. I tried to open it wide enough to at least get the part out and the whole kit exploded into a dozen pieces – and not along any of the original mating surfaces… One of the top wings got torn clean in half, as did the stabilizer. The right intake was in smithereens and all the mating surfaces where a shambles. I don’t think such an easy-fitting kit has ever been subjected to so much violence, despair and tears by anybody over the age of 8 as this poor F-35.




I spent 10 minutes being very angry and sad with myself, then took out the glue and started over. I got all the bits together apart from a tiny piece near the stabilizer, which I filled with card. Lots of gluing, filling and sanding later and the kit, minus some lost engraved detail, went back to the spray table. I applied my metallized 36118 and again took a step back. And again, I didn’t like what I saw. By mixing in silver with the grey, you put metallic parts into the paint but it doesn’t recreate the sheen you see in some photos. You just add glitters to what is otherwise a non-metallic surface.




I spent another evening looking at photos (like the one below) and came to a realization that the sheen only appears in sunny conditions and even then it’s not always visible. As such, I argued, it is not dissimilar to the shine you get from sunny reflections on a polished or gloss surface, which you don’t try to mimic in paint either. I figured I could do without any of the metallic effect completely and still get a convincing model.




I resprayed the kit in straight 36118. I decided not to use any of the RAM decals as they were the wrong color compared to the lighter shades of grey visible on some areas of the newer paint scheme and masked the lot. I added some white to the 36118 to paint these areas. On removing the masking I found the difference to be too subtle so remasked most of the areas, added more white and resprayed. I finally got a finish I liked.




Decaling was quick and easy. I used FlevoDecals promotional sheet for F-001, the first test model of the Dutch Airforce, but changed the 1 and 0 around to make it into the recently delivered F-010, which of course sports the muted RAM taping. I used the Hasegawa decals sheet to source the stencils.




All the other parts went on very quickly. The gear is nicely detailed and sufficiently complex to look convincing but still easy to put together. On mounting the canopy I found the sil part interfered with it getting a good fit with the fuselage. I could probably have avoided this by test fitting earlier in the build process but I solved it by just getting rid of it entirely. It’s not visible anyway with the canopy closed.




So there we are. Two years of on and off building, filling, sanding, masking, spraying, stripping and cursing ends with a double Lightning strike.  




Edited by sroubos
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Both models look wonderful. Just looking at them one would never guess the trials and tribulations that were endured to get them finished. You have more patience than you give yourself credit for.

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Nice idea, but one Lightning is still missing... 😀

Interesting to see both types in one scale side by side. I am surprised that the F-35 isn't much larger than Lockheed's twin tail-fighter.

Both models look really good. I can imagine that the P-38 was a hard fight. Judging from what I have read so far, it must be one of the most challenging kits around.

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Very very nice pair of Lightnings, both in their own way are revolutionary Lockheed aircraft, ahead of their time, beset by technical issues but incredibly capable and unmatched if handled and applied correctly. 


Great tribute and the results are worth the work you put in. 



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15 minutes ago, Alan P said:

Very very nice pair of Lightnings, both in their own way are revolutionary Lockheed aircraft, ahead of their time, beset by technical issues but incredibly capable and unmatched if handled and applied correctly. 


Great tribute and the results are worth the work you put in. 



Absolutely what all the others have said about your models. Great pair 


Alan is spot on in his comments too. The top two scoring US fighter pilots in WW2 both flew the P-38, Richard Bong and Thomas Maguire with Charles MacDonald at number 6. Not bad when we tend to think of the P-38 as inferior to the Mustang and Thunderbolt. 

Lovely modelling though. Bravo 👏 



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