I know what you’re thinking, does the world need another P-51 Mustang model? In the case of the ARMA P-51B kit the answer is YES! If you love the Mustang like I do, you must build one of these kits. ARMA has created detail fidelity in this scale that I’ve not seen in scales much larger. The cockpit is a model in itself and includes decals for all the placards. Capping it are standard canopy and Malcom hoods that allow open or closed positions and the rails for Malcolm hood are included, a feature no P-51B model I'm aware of has ever done.
Decals options are provided for four aircraft including “Old Crow” one of Clarence “Bud” Andersons early Mustangs. One additional scheme is provided in the instructions for Captain John Pugh's “Geronimo”, with a checked nose that was later removed. Two frames of grey plastic hold all the parts of the kit.
Don’t be fooled, while it appears simple, the kit is not. Review the instruction sheet a few times before you start. There are so many small details, it's easy to miss things. All the Mustangs in this boxing are early versions without the fillet on the vertical stabilizer. Two seat types are provided in the kit but only one is used in this version. The more I worked on this model the more amazed I was at what ARMA has achieved. It all looks great on the sprues, but how does it build?
Full disclosure before we discuss assembly. My review sample came with a small block of 3D printed parts including a seat, radiator faces for oil and coolant and hollow exhausts both shrouded and un-shrouded. There was also a note from ARMA that those parts are not for review but I did use them. You can build a beautiful model out of the box but you will see those parts in the photos.
It took a bit longer then my usual to build the cockpit as there is a lot of detail packed in there. The wheel wells are the same, consisting of a wing spar in the correct location and very small details to paint if you follow the instructions. A few areas of the build are tricky. First is part B27 that leaves two tiny actuators hanging out of the main gear bay that you have manage not to break for the rest of the build. The next area of concern was the tail assembly. These parts have locating tabs, but they don’t assure alignment. The wing assembly joins the fuselage at the wing roots perfectly but I had a slight step to fix where it met the cowling bottom. The windshield (part T1) sits with a step above the cowling at its front edge. I gently sanded from the bottom to flush it out. I needed a little putty on the seams on the underside near the cooling doors. Flaps are separate and fit perfectly. ARMA has done the radiator area in a way to avoid seam lines in the recessed portions so common to most Mustang kits. Landing gear and doors are very nicely done but a little putty was needed to fill some pin holes on the main landing gear.
The last fit issue is the main landing gear. The legs are peg ends that insert into round holes. Alignment is up to the modeler. Note that the tire tread doesn’t match from one side to the other. You will either have to re-scribe them, sand the tread smooth or replace them. Drop tanks (96 & 110 gallon) and bombs are included with racks. They will need sway braces if you use them.
The panel line on the center of the top cowl is not there so you’ll need to scribe it in. There are panel lines on the wings. I didn’t fill them like historical references would suggest. The painting guide provides cross references for seven brands of paint so you shouldn’t have a problem finding something that works for you. I used Tamiya paints for all external surfaces. The decals come off the backing quickly and need some coaxing to settle into recessed details. I had a little silvering but I blame that on my finish not being smooth enough.
So, I already gave away my impressions at the start. In spite of some of the issues raised above, this is an amazing kit of a subject that’s been needing a refresh for a long time. You will need some skills to pull this kit off well so I wouldn’t put this in the beginner category. Now if we could get a quarter scale B model with this detail….
Thank you to ARMA for providing the sample kit and to IPMS for sharing it with me.
- Dariusz Karnas and Zbigniew Kolacha, 2017, Single No. 23 NAA P-51B-1-NA Mustang, MMP Books, ISBN 978-83-66549-15-9
- Larry Davis, Fighting Colors P-51 Mustang in Color, 1982, Carrollton Texas, Squadron Signal Publications, ISBN 0-89747-135-0
Excellent review Chris. I really appreciate your comments on the tricky parts and the fixes for same. Your review was concise and clear and the detail pictures will be very helpful with the build. I hope others will follow your example. Many thanks. I was a pleasure to read.