North American P-51D Mustang, Part 3
After 3-1/2 weeks since the “First Look,” this reviewer is pleased to provide this final installment for the out-of-box “build of a lifetime.” Indeed, in my humble opinion, our friends at Tamiya outdid even their standard-setting Spitfire series. All said, 34 hours were invested in the build – 24 on construction, and 10 on painting, decaling, and weathering. I can’t believe fewer than 40 hours were logged…but that’s what all my records indicate -- most likely a testament to how well everything fit, and the fact that there were a couple of uninterrupted “build days” early in the build.
With the majority of subassemblies complete at the time of the previous report, integration was the next major task. Again, as e xpected, all of the “subs” fell together with very little effort. Wings and horizontal stabilizers mated to the fuselage with only a couple spots of putty on the lower forward wing root, just aft of the engine cowling.
Duplicate landing gear door and armament bay cover parts and decals are also included so that that the model can be reconfigured to depict an in-flight state.
Paint prep was a snap. The canopy masks provided in the kit fit to a tee, and the “gear-up” configuration doors provided a quick and easy mask for the wheel wells. A little Mr. Liquid Mask over the exhausts and fairings, and installation of the cowling panels, sealed up the Merlin nicely.
Alclad II was chosen as the medium for the final finish, but application was not without some iteration and angst – due to the reviewer’s poor color choice, not the product.
After applying the Alclad gloss black base coat and touching up a couple seams, the tail area to remain black was masked and Airframe Aluminum was applied to the entire aircraft. After a day of curing, the airframe was masked for Dull Aluminum and painted. Wow – really dull – and a stark contrast to the shiny Airframe Aluminum! There was no way this could stand even a 5 year-old’s scrutiny. Recalling fellow Wright Field Scale Modeler Dave Wrinkle’s P-47 from the club’s meeting the prior Sunday, I decided to follow suit with some Dark Aluminum over the sharply-contrasting natural metal areas. Whew – what a recovery! The Dark Aluminum over the lighter colors darkened the Airframe Aluminum without compromising the smooth finish, and offset some of the coarseness of the Dull Aluminum.
The anti-glare panel was masked a day later, and Model Master Acryl FS 34087 Olive Drab was applied. After drying for several hours, Future was hand-brushed to provide a smooth decal and pin wash base.
Although Tamiya provides some eye-catching marking options in the kit, I’ve been hankering to do a Mustang from one of my active duty alma maters – the 75th Fighter Squadron of the 23rd Fighter Group, which descended from the legendary “Flying Tigers.” Markings chosen depicted the 75th’s China-based operations in 1944.
Fortunately, the kit had 95% of the markings needed, and the unit markings and aircraft numbers were easy to make from online references and a Kodak All-in-One home inkjet printer, Testors clear decal paper, and Microscale Clear Decal Film.
The Tamiya decals went down well and only needed a couple of applications of MicroSol to snuggle down into the recesses. Even on the rougher Dull Aluminum/Dark Aluminum composite areas, decal film was virtually unnoticeable. Once set for about 24 hours, the decals were sealed with Future in preparation for the pin wash.
Although the 14th Air Force aircraft operating in the China-Burma-India Theater of operations were often seen with heavy weathering, most of the available online references of the natural metal Mustangs did not reflect as severe weathering as their Olive Drab counterparts.
A very thin raw umber oil wash was carefully flowed into all panel lines, so as not to eat away the oil-based finish. Once wiped down and dry, a 50/50 mix of Model Master Acryl Flat was airbrushed over the decals and anti-glare panel to eliminate their sheen, and was also applied as a base for the pastel chalk gun muzzle gas residue; exhaust, oil, and fluid stains; and ground-in dirt and scuff marks from airmen’s boots around the wing roots, boarding area under the cockpit and forward of the ammo and gun bays.
What more can be said about this stellar rendition of the legendary P-51D Mustang? It is hands-down the finest P-51 kit produced to date, and slightly edges out its stablemate Spitfires with the inclusion of gun and ammo bay detail.
I highly recommend this kit to experienced modelers with some photo-etch and natural metal finish experience. Would also recommend to an intermediate modeler possessing patience to get through the extensive assembly and with an experienced clubmate or modeling buddy to coach through the PE and natural metal finish portions.
Again, sincere thanks to the good folks at Tamiya USA for providing this sample kit and to the IPMS Reviewer Corps Commandant for entrusting me with the build and review – it was an honor (and a lot of modeling fun).