1/48 Hobby Craft Boeing P-26A

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Grant Barr

Senior Airman
I am yet to finish the Tamiya Corsair (thread in this forum) but cold weather and an impatience to get this particular kit underway means I have already made a start on this.

Firstly - some details on the kit. It's a pretty old kit (early 1990's) and the quality of the moldings is reasonable, but the alignment of the molds is slightly out which has created a lip on most of the parts. Annoying but ultimately fixable. Compared to the newer kits the plastic is quite hard and brittle - which causes issues that I will detail later.
1_P-26A Box.jpg

The kit decals are pretty basic and the colour schemes are a bit bland - which prompted me to look at other sources for inspiration. I really wanted to do a blue/yellow scheme so it was time to hit the interweb for other options.
2_P-26A Decals - Kit.jpg
Much surfing of the interweb led me to Starfighter Decals where I was able to source some really cool paint scheme options for the P-26. As I mentioned earlier, I really wanted to do a blue/yellow paint scheme as they make such a interesting variation to the usual camouflage or low visibility schemes for the majority of military aircraft.

I ultimately decided to go ahead with the scheme that was possibly(?) used by the 94th Pursuit Squadron; painted up as a special Air Race scheme. As the research by Marks Models suggests - there is quite a deal of conjecture here, but I am going forward with the blue/yellow option as shown below. I wanted something bright and this one certainly delivers.
3_P-26A Paint Scheme - Starfighter.JPG

The decal sheet is really nicely done, the film looks quite thin and the colours are crisp and clear. I am very impressed with the quality.
4_P-26A Decals - Starfighter.jpg

So having finally decided on the final look, I made a start on the kit. As you would expect the cockpit came first. The first thing I noticed with the kit was the presence of a lot of reasonable deep ejector pin marks. I filled all those that I thought would be visible through the open cockpit and cleaned up all the parts to remove mold seams and small bits of flash. Surprisingly, the kit has only minor flash; more the issue that I had to resolve was the poor alignment of the mold halves. In most instances the seams could be scraped back with a hobby knife, but some of the really small parts I found too hard to resolve without either scraping through the part or breaking it as I held it.
5_P-26A Cockpit Unpainted.JPG

The cockpit is pretty basic, given the original aircraft was pretty basic I guess I should expect that! Similarly the details molded into the fuselage sides was basic but I think it is enough to provide interest if you peer into the cockpit once done. So I started with a gloss black undercoat (a new one from Vallejo that I have been keen to try) and then lightly sprayed some silver over the top - trying really hard to keep it light so some variation in the colour occurred around the frame sections. To bolster that a bit I then mopped in a bit of dark wash to make the details pop just that little bit more. It's not perfect but I am quite happy with the result I got.
6_P-26A Cockpit Sides Painted.JPG
I finally got the detailing done with the cockpit. I got a hold of a whole bunch of photos of restored aircraft, and keeping in mind that they may not be faithful representations of aircraft back in the day, wanted to add a bit more. I had some PE levers that were left over from another kit, so I decided that I could use them (suitably cut down) as throttle levers and the other lever just aft of that (sorry - cant work out what it controls). I also noticed that the panel above the throttle had a placard on it, so I re-purposed a decal from a third party set I bought for another kit (one I don't need for that kit). Pretty chuffed with how it turned out.
7_P-26A Cockpit LH Side Detailed.JPG

Similarly, with the cockpit itself, I tried to bling it up a bit and create a bit more interest by attempting things like shadow and light on the leather backrest and map holder. I added an additional lever on the starboard cockpit wall, which I just realised you can't see in the photo below because the joystick is exactly in front of it - #-o.
8_P-26A Cockpit Detailed.JPG

It's not until you look at your own photos that you realise how brutal silver is as a colour. All the little imperfections in the underlying surface show through and seem to be amplified - and here I thought I had done a good job on surface finishing before painting :facepalm:.
I must say I am pretty happy with the backrest. My first efforts at shading a "soft" item didn't result in a complete disaster. Although its a bit hard to tell from these photos, I elected to represent the armament options as the 0.5 cal on the RHS and .303 cal on the LHS as was an option at the time. Hopefully you can see that the black gun breech against the RHS cockpit wall is just that bit bigger than that in the forefront on the floor.
9_P-26A Cockpit Detailed.JPG

I used the photos of the restored aircraft as guidance for the IP, but am wary that they may not be truly representative. I have discovered that actual photos of P-26 cockpits while in service are almost non-existent. The same issue goes for the radio(?) box in the centre, I've got no references here so I just guessed as to how it would look. You wont really see too much of it once the fuselage is buttoned up so it'll do.
10_P-26A Cockpit Detailed.JPG

Final shot of the finished cockpit, a closer look at the leather backrest pad.
11_P-26A Cockpit Detailed.JPG

I've got a bit more to post on this one to bring it up to date, but it's late here in chilly Melbourne tonight so I might call it a night and put the rest up tomorrow if I get some spare time.

Thanks for looking in on my new project.
Thanks gents, your feedback and encouragement are appreciated.

I noted in an earlier post that the styrene in this kit was quite brittle. That fact was brought to light after I dropped the main engine piece on the floor and a piece of the head for one of the cylinders broke off and disappeared into the ether. To resolve I fabricated a replacement piece from the sprue and glued it into place, following up with some milliput filler to make it look more like the rest. The result was a neat-ish fix to the head where indicated by the arrow, where you can see the white filler used.
12_P-26A Engine Repaired Head.JPG

You can also really see issue caused by the misaligned molds in this photo. Each cylinder has a line running down it where the front and back halves don't match. I ended up resolving this by trimming the "seam" back with a sharp new blade and then proceeded to recreate the cylinder coolant fins with a razor saw and knife blade. I didn't take a shot of the piece once fixed but you can see in the finished shots it looks much better.

Two other issues bugged me about the engine details. First up was the coolant plate mounted out front. This piece was much too thick, especially when mounted on the front of the prop gear housing; it sat out just too much and looked really chunky. So I got to work with the trusty Dremel and thinned out the whole piece, but focussed mostly on the centre section where it mated to the gear housing. Hopefully you can see where the piece has really been dished out in the middle to make it about 1/3 thinner than the original molding.
13_P-26A Engine Rework.JPG

An added benefit of this process was to clear out the small slits around the plate. The initial part had quite a bit of flash in these holes, with most of them not even being open at all. Having thinned the piece and cleaning these slits up a bit makes the plate look much better when viewed from the outside.
14_P-26A Engine Rework.JPG

The second issue I had with the engine was around the gear housing and push rods. The kit piece was a single mold of both the housing and some really thick rods with bulbous ends to mate with the heads. It didn't look great and the fit was pretty bad. So I did what anyone else would do and cut the piece up...
15_P-26A Engine Rework 2.JPG

The piece that was molded with the housing is just in front and you can see it was a bit too thick and had that weird bulb on the end. Not sure what the makers were thinking but when combined with the bits that ran back to the lip at the back of this housing it just looked like a half hearted effort. So I proceeded to cut 18 lengths of 0.5mm styrene rod (nearest to the closest scaled size I had), drilled holes where the original rods were and then cut back all that excess plastic to get to a nice clean gear housing.

Having glued the revised housing to the engine block I then got to work placing the connecting rods in the housing and gluing the other ends to the heads. Tedious work but strangely rewarding once I got it finished. I think the revisions I made look much closer to the real thing than the kit part.
16_P-26A Engine Rework.JPG

Once the rods were done, I got to work painting the engine as a whole, starting off with gloss black and then picking out coolant fins with a dry-brushing of silver and leaving the heads as a darker, more burnished silver. I did this as I could find no photographic evidence (outside of restorations) that the heads were painted black or grey for example.

I also added some plug wires only on the front of the engine as you wont see too much of the back once its mounted and the external engine cowl is fitted. The final result is shown below after I "dirty'd up" everything with a oily dark wash. I am keeping my eye out for some small decals that I can use to represent the two badges on the front of the engine that I have seen in a couple of old photos - probably overkill but it should look good!
17_P-26A Engine Painted.JPG

The next task for the engine is to take all the individual exhaust outlets, drill them out and clean them up ready for fitting each one separately. Not looking forward to that job so much...

Once again, thanks to everyone for looking in on my project. Cheers!!
My thanks to you all again for your kind words. I have managed to do a bit more on this kit since Saturday, mostly assembly and seam work.

The misaligned cylinders must have been a real pain.
You're right Andy - the clean up on these took forever. At the end of the day I think it was worth it. The only real issue is that if you look really closely at the width of some of the cylinders, they are about 0.8mm narrower than those that had a lesser alignment issue. Thankfully it is pretty hard to see it, but I know its there!!

I must also thank Geo ( fubar57 fubar57 ) for some additional information on the colour schemes used by the 94th PS that I will be representing. It confirmed that this squadron used the blue/yellow combination for some of their general paint schemes, this makes me more comfortable to use it with the special Air Race scheme I am doing.

So, onto the work done to date. Some of you may have noticed that I had already attached the wings to the fuselage sides before closing it up. I did this for two reasons:
(1) The tabs on the wings were quite a bit smaller than the holes in the fuselage. To get them to position anywhere near correctly I had to add some plastic card to either the top or bottom of the tabs to ensure both a snug fit and a reasonable alignment.
(2) I said reasonable alignment because I had some real issues with the wings. When test fitting the two halves (for both wings) I noticed that the edges had gaps. This was more noticeable on the tip and trailing edges. Investigating this revealed that the inside molding of the wing edges was bulged a little on the inside away from the edge and caused the issue with the gaps. Fixing involved much scraping and sanding so that the edges mated without any ugly gaps apparent.

When fitting the wings I also found another issue. The length and profile of the wing root on the fuselage did not match the width and chord of the wing. I'm pretty sure the fixes to the wings in point 2 above contributed some to this, but the difference between the two was about 2mm which I think is way too much to be just caused by my corrections to the inside of the wing panels. Anyway, after much re-profiling I managed to get the wings lined up with the wing roots and keep a reasonable panel seam line that I can be happy with once cleaned up and painted.
19_P-26A LHS Wing Root.JPG

From underneath the biggest issue was the lack of working room next to the undercarriage spat panel. The fuselage piece did not properly match the convex curve of the wing underside so a bit of scraping and sanding was required to make it match up properly.
20_P-26A RHS Wing Root.JPG

From the top side the issue was more about making sure the wing root panel was the right length to properly match the wing width and then cleaning up the chord so that it matched evenly all the way across from front to back. It was quite a bit of work, but to leave it without fixing would have completely ruined the look of the finished product.

These shots also show that I have buttoned up the fuselage and attached the nose panel which immediately backs onto the engine. The fitting of the cockpit to the fuselage and the two halves together went surprisingly well, with no real gaps or misaligned panels/seams to be found. Given the wing issues I was pleasantly surprised.

At this point I had a choice. I could go back to the engine and drill out the individual exhaust pipes (7 teeny weeny single ones and one longer dual port pipe that goes across the top of the engine) or fit the horizontal stabs. Obviously I chose to fit the tail feathers, only because I couldn't think of a good way to hold the exhausts whilst drilling them out (Hobby Craft thoughtfully attached them to the sprues by the ends - means you have to remove them to be able to drill out the ends, grrrrrrrrr......). If anyone has ideas on how I can fasten onto curved exhaust pipes that measure about 3mm long and 1.5mm across I am all ears!!! :scratch:

So - tailfeathers it is...
21_P-26A RHS Elevator.JPG

Of course I couldn't make my life easy and just go with the kit part as-is!! I have some good close up shots of the elevators on the extant P-26's so I thought I would have a go at cutting them in two so I can fit them in the slightly drooped position. I even checked all the period shots I have to make certain that it did happen - some showed a droop and some not. Drooped elevators it is then.
22_P-26A RHS Elevator.JPG

I did the usual job of cutting the elevators off, filing out a convex curve at the back of the stabiliser and gluing a half round piece of styrene to the elevator and making sure it all fit back together in the right dimensions. The biggest challenge here was to make some "hinges" to represent the three found in real life. Some notches and plastic card later we have what you can see in a bit more detail above. I think the only real issue with the job is that the thickness across the hinge tabs is a bit too wide, but I went with the only thickness plastic card I had on hand (1mm) as I was too scared to try to freehand sand the pieces thinner. It looks a bit clunky but I can live with it. RHS done and LHS ready to add the hinges.

That pretty much brings me up to date with progress in the past couple of nights. It's not looking likely that I will be able to do more over the next couple of days as the week long festival that is my beautiful wife's birthday is about to commence!

Once again, thanks to everyone for looking in on my musings.
Nice wrestling match but looks like you are winning. As for the stack drilling, I have a small hobby bench vice to hold such small parts but maybe consider replacing the kit parts with brass tube?

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