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Feb 28, 2015, 11:14 PM
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Turbocharger Mod for the Legend Models P-38 Lightning

This is for those of you who own the Legend Models (used to be the VQ) 83" P-38 Lightning, or for those of you who simply enjoy reading about scale modifications to RC model warbirds.

When I purchased the LM P-38, I was like a kid in a candy store unveiling such a beautiful model. I've flown every foam P-38 on the market (I LOVE me some P-38!) and while they were all fun and nice in their own way, it was time to move into the bigger arena and class. I don't have the space nor the funds for a Yellow Aircraft or Ziroli P-38 unfortunately, maybe someday.

Until then, this 83" wing P-38 was the next best thing. Recently, the model was modified for electric conversion. This is the model I purchased. It comes in both silver (Putt Putt Maru) and OD (Skidoo). I went with the silver as it gives me many options to explore different liveries with a silver base.

Since I was stepping up into the next class level, I wanted to make sure she looked the part as much as possible. While this model is pretty scale looking overall (comes with full fowler flaps!), there are some serious deficits in regards to attention to detail. The cockpit and turbochargers are the main offenders.

The mold of the turbochargers was like an afterthought. Void of any true scale detail. Flat, uninspiring and resembled a "blob". That was not going to cut it. The turbochargers on the P-38 Lightning are such a cool and unique aspect of the plane, it made no sense to me to ignore that scale detail. So I decided to do something about it.

My research took me to a website called They manufacture all kinds of scale accessories for various kinds of RC airplanes using 3D printer technology. I sent them an email and they responded back that they in fact had a 3D model of the P-38 turbocharger. He sent me an image of the rendering, and sure enough, there it was! Not totally detailed out, but a million times better than what the stock mold had to offer.

They warned me that the actual product was not "as smooth" as the rendering, and I was soon to find out what they meant.

I ordered two, sent the dimensions to them and within a week I had two P-38 turbochargers at my doorstep. Now, they were very rough looking. Extra plastic was still part of the turbos that would need to be removed. The 3D print process, while uber cool, is far from a perfect printing source. It leaves tons of concentric lines as part of the molding process. Ugh. I had my work cut out for me.

I was able to break off most of the extra plastic pieces with my fingers. The rest I used a dremel (ah yes, the dremel, the primary tool used in this mod). Once I removed the excess plastic, it was time to dremel the bottom of the turbos to be much shorter since the plastic housing parts are not very thick, and when you place them on top of the wing, there's maybe an inch, inch-and-a-half of thickness to work with.

(Dremel, dremel, dremel, dremel)...

Once I got them down to as flat as I could so they would fit in their housing, it was time to start priming and sanding, priming and sanding, priming and...Well, you get the picture. Speaking of getting the picture, all of the photos are at the bottom of this post so you can see what the heck I am talking about.

I was able to get them smoother than what they appeared out of the box, and that was going to have to be good enough. Museum scale is not what I was after. Maybe just above sport scale was going to have to do. Now it was time to add detail to the turbos.

I searched and found several different photos of various P-38 turbochargers and discovered there were various versions. So I simply decided to choose elements I liked the most. I went out to my garage and scavenged through my RC Junk Drawer (you know what I'm talking about) to find odds and ends, all kinds of things that could emulate tubing, added structure, bolts, etc, etc.

I was pretty proud of myself for the resourcefulness I discovered within me. Parts I would have never used for anything became useful again. I glued them in place, and by golly, it was starting to look like a P-38 turbo!

The key is to take your time. Patience is not my strong suit so I had to force myself to slow down and be patient. Dealing with small, no scratch that, tiny pieces forces you to be patient. Once I had all the parts and pieces added/glued in place. It was time to shoot them with more primer.

Once dried, it was time to give them the real paint job.

I choose Testor's Copper and Testor's Flat Black. Spray the black in a bowl first and start slowly adding the copper to it. Keep stirring with your paint brush of choice until you are happy with the consistency. The key is not too much copper (too bright and brassy looking...Not very scale) but a good mix of both. The flat black dulls the copper to a very nice realistic tone.

Then, simply brush it on. I chose to mix Testor's Silver with the copper/black mix to highlight certain structural elements to further illustrate realism and depth (again, based off of photos of the real ones).

Finally, it was time to glue them in their homes. I used CA to seal the areas the turbo touched the cutout sections and Gorilla Tape to seal other areas. Finally, I cut out black cloth and taped it on the bottom of the turbos to create a sense of depth once installed.

Again, I never shot for museum scale as that wasn't realistic for my current skill level nor interest. Now a Ziroli, 120" P-38? Yeah man, I'm going museum scale.

The turbos sit up a bit higher than the real ones but that was unavoidable based on how much thickness I had to work with. Shaving them down too much would have destroyed part of the 3D turbo's integrity.

Well, that's all folks! I hope you enjoyed the mod, and if you find it helpful, and use this guide, please let me know! Even if one person finds it helpful that will motivate me to continue other mods in the future.

Happy Landings!
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Mar 06, 2015, 01:35 PM
Plane crazy!
howinn's Avatar
That's one sweet looking 38!
Mar 06, 2015, 01:50 PM
Shameless Warbirdaholic.
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Yeah she's a looker!
Mar 07, 2015, 08:29 AM
Burning & Turning
justy g's Avatar
Lovely work..
Mar 07, 2015, 11:21 AM
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Mar 11, 2015, 06:51 PM
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Kurt's Avatar
Excellent job!!! What a difference!

And people complain about the SCs on the J-Power lol

How much did the 3D printing cost you?

Can't wait to hear about how she flies
Mar 11, 2015, 07:17 PM
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Thank you...The turbos cost me $40 for the pair. Not too bad...Wish I could find some nicer finished ones in the 1:7.5 size as this model, but they will do!

Yeah excited myself to hear some maiden reports, including mine!
Mar 11, 2015, 08:37 PM
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Kurt's Avatar
You should shoot a couple molds and crank em out for $50/pair!

Someone should FPV with this bad boy BTW
First things first though, get em flying!
Think I'll bring my P-38 to the field this weekend. Always a joy to let her off her chain.
Mar 11, 2015, 10:43 PM
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Looking at that F-82 in the photo reminds me...I always thought it would have looked so much better if they would have extended an outboard horizontal stab/elevator. Never did understand that...Looks like the outer tips are cut off.
Mar 12, 2015, 05:56 AM
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Would like to bring the all... but my carrier for 1.5m planes only holds 2 (a triple-decker would be a bit too much to lug the ~150' from the parking lot to the pit area) so it's either 262&P-38 or 262&F-82

When I was putting the F-82 together I think I did cut out some cardboard just to see what outboard stabs would look like. Guessing North American followed the BF-109z's lead leaving them off. Probably simply unnecessary.
The whole plane looks a bit weird though with the stretched fuses (4" on mine) and double canopies, yet somehow "right".

What do you have to transport the big P-38? Did I read in the main thread that you have a Ford Flex? Always thought those were cool and would probably have one instead of the minivan but I like sliding doors, like Huey's have
Mar 12, 2015, 10:15 AM
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I have the Ford Flex...Definitely an upgrade in space from the Ford Escape. With the Flex I can fold all four back seats down flat plus the front passenger seat. Lots of room.

Yeah, minivans work great in this hobby too!

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