Revell 1/72 P-38J/M Lightning






Two aircraft


Scott Van Aken




The most successful US twin engined fighter of WWII was the P-38. The J version was an improvement over earlier versions as it had increased cooling capacity for the turbocharger intercoolers. This alleviated the problems of overheating and poor engine performance that were rife with the earlier types. It also had improved automatic boost controls to lessen the work of the pilot is preventing turbo overspeed problems that caused the turbo impellers to explode. Not a very nice thing to have happen in the middle of combat! These larger intercoolers were the reason for the bigger 'chin' radiator openings.

The P-38 was also developed into a two seat night fighter at the close of the war. These P-38Ms had an APS-4 radar in a nose pod and the operator, who had to be a short guy to fit, was squeezed into a hunched over position behind the pilot to operate the radar set. Fortunately, this version saw only minimal action in the last weeks of the war and did not, to my knowledge, ever shoot down an enemy plane. Following the end of the war, the P-38 was scrapped in droves and except for a few salvaged for museums or sold to private owners, disappeared from the skies.


  This is the 1976 boxing of this kit and may be the initial one as I don't recall seeing it prior to that. Typical of model kits of the time, it has raised panel line detail. However, there are no rivets anywhere on the kit. It does have several options and nice to have details. For one thing, you get two complete engines with motor mounts and can display the engines if you so wish. Now they are not as detailed as one might like, but at least you don't have to cut any panels off if you so wish to super detail them. Same with the nose section, which has one side free to display the guns and ammo feed chutes. The cockpit is more than adequate for the time, including seat, control, instrument panel and radio or radar set. You even get a pilot and radar operator. The upper hatches of the canopy can also be displayed open or closed.

This is probably the only P-38 kit where main gear door alignment isn't a problem. That is because it and the wheel well are molded as a single piece! Perhaps some of the 1/48 kit makers might want to look into this as a solution to this rather frustrating problem. As to overall accuracy of the kit, it will certainly look like a P-38, but I'd be willing to bet that most will opt for the Hasegawa kit, itself nearly as old, over this one. Other optional parts are rocket rails  for the outer wings, and either bombs or drop tanks for the inner wing areas.

Instructions are quite good showing the needed construction and painting steps. Interestingly, FS 595 numbers are given for the exterior colors. Probably a first as far as kits go. There is a note that you can get your own copy of the standard for only $2.75! It is a bit more expensive nowadays! Decals on the small sheet are well printed though have a lot of clear around them that will need to be trimmed off. The P-38M is in overall gloss black with red serials and markings. The P-38J is in natural metal with D-day stripes. There is no unit information given nor does the plane have any kind of code letters that would normally be seen on a European theater Lightning. Undoubtedly aftermarket decals would be the way to go for this one.



Well you pays your money and takes your choice. This really is not that bad a kit. I have built all three 1/72 P-38s (an F-4A recce version was also done) and found them to be fun kits to assemble. If you don't want the visible engine or guns, the covers fit quite well and really, you need the space in the nose for weight as these are major tail-sitters. Most modelers nowadays will opt for the Hasegawa J or the Dragon M version. For the F-4A, the Revell kit is still the only one available in this scale. These are usually seen at swap meets and such for around $5-7 or so. If so inclined, pick one up and give it a try.

Review kit courtesy of me and my wallet!

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