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Pavla 1/72 scale Curtiss Hawk 81A

Manufacturer: Pavla, Kubelikova 9, 709 00 Ostrava, Czech Republic,
Kit: No. 72033
Scale: 1/72
Price: n/a
Comments: Injection-molded, 76 parts (37 resin, 1 vacuum-formed plastic), decals
Pros: Fine recessed panel lines, good resin interior and under-nose intakes
Cons: Fit needs to be refined, individual exhaust stacks difficult to install, small parts need to be scratchbuilt, decals translucent, and rudder stripes too short
Of all World War II-era U.S. Army Air Corps fighters, the early P-40 has been the most neglected in 1/72 scale. The old Frog kit was crude, and the Academy kit wasn't much of an improvement. Into the fray steps the Czech Republic's Pavla with its iteration of the Hawk 81A, better known by its American designation, the P-40, and the British name, Tomahawk.

Pavla's P-40 is typical of Czech kits: injection-molded parts with fine recessed panel lines but with rough edges, excellent resin details, a clear vacuum-formed canopy, and beautiful decals (while they are still on the sheet, that is). Options include alternate exhaust stacks, opened or closed cowl flaps, wing guns, an under-fuselage fuel tank, and markings for USAAC, Royal Air Force, Flying Tigers, and Soviet Tomahawks.

The interior detail is a mixed bag of excellent resin side panels and a seat, and a plastic floor, instrument panel, and stick. Trial and error is the best method for installing all of this in the fuselage. It fits pretty well, but a little trimming helps keep the bulkhead, floor, and cockpit sides in line. Before closing the fuselage, you must insert strips of styrene to back the individually installed resin exhaust stacks - 12 of them - grrr!

One of the neatest parts is the resin under-nose intake, which has the proper scoop indents for the intakes and screens for the oil coolers. The separate plastic nose gun fairings are too thin, and nearly impossible to drill out for mounting the barrels you must make yourself. I used stainless steel tubing for the guns.

Closing the fuselage and adding the wings will require cleanup of all the seams. The gear bays are nicely boxed in so there are no see-through problems there. The propeller is an interesting combination of resin blades that fit well into the cutouts of the plastic spinner.

Because I chose the early Air Corps P-40 (no suffix) that wasn't equipped to carry underwing stores, I didn't use the provided fuel tank. Wire or stretched sprue is needed to make the landing gear retracting rods. The tail wheel mount fits awkwardly into the opening in the fuselage, and as a result, the assembly is fragile.

The rearview windows behind the canopy have to be cut from the provided clear sheet. This was annoying, particularly because the templates printed in the instructions were too short (fore and aft). My second try was successful, though, and there's plenty of clear sheet to work from. Not shown in the instructions is the fact that the windscreen is one piece, with an interior armored glass center piece that looks like framing from the outside. The vacuum-formed canopy fit well.

I liked the multicolored spinner and nose of the 8th Pursuit Group option on the decal sheet. The printing is perfect, but the stiff decals are translucent once transferred to the model. No decal solvent seemed to have any effect. One major problem here: The rudder-stripe decals weren't wide enough to fit the rudder. After poring over references, it appeared the kit's rudder was too wide. I shaved the rudder's trailing edge back to meet the decal, but then it looked too short. It turns out that somewhere in between would have been right - frustrating.

Not counting the rudder error, the dimensions are right on the money with the information in my primary source, P-40 in Detail & Scale, Part I. I spent 35 hours on my model. While not a kit for beginners, Pavla's early P-40 will satisfy most experienced modelers and, for now, provide them with an almost properly proportioned Tomahawk.

Paul Boyer


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