On November 27, 1944 a 21-year-old Captain named Leonard “Kit” Carson was leading a flight of Mustangs on a mission to strafe oil reserve stores at Leipzig. As they approached the area of Magdeburg, Germany a large group of 50-75 Fw190s was spotted. The squadron dropped their long-range tanks and turned to attack the Focke Wulfs head on. In a series of turning, diving and climbing dogfights Carson managed to down five of them. By wars end, then Major Carson would fly 115 combat missions and score 18 ½ aerial kills with an overall score of 23 with ground kills included. Carson flew four different Mustangs called “Nooky Booky” including P-51K 411622 depicted in this review. I don’t think anymore of an introduction is needed for this legendary aircraft.
Continuing to build on their earlier P-51D, Dragon has released the “K” version of the Mustang with the addition of a few more sprues holding the parts needed to depict this variant. The P-51K designation indicates that the aircraft was built in Dallas Texas. The Texas birds were distinguished by an un-cuffed Aero products propeller and a bulge in the canopy just behind the windscreen. The big selling point for this kit is the inclusion of 4.5 inch M10 rocket or Bazooka tubes. All of these items have been provided and the quality is very good. As for the rest of the kit, the parts are molded in light grey plastic. There is a slightly rough texture on the airframe parts that will cause an issue if you’re going for a competition quality metal finish. I’ve read some comments elsewhere about the rivets. This seems to be a common method employed on a lot of the kits coming out of China. Granted, the real thing (and I see them pretty regularly where live) don’t have visible rivets. I find once the kit is together, it all blends in. Some cool features include, separate control surfaces, clear cowl panels to see the engine, vinyl tires with a weighted bulge on the main wheels, full machine guns, some of the nicest ammo strips I’ve seen and two photoeched frets with seat harness and bazooka tubes details. I couldn't find any evidence that Major Carson had ever used the bazooka tubes so the 75-gallon metal drop tanks and 110-gallon paper tanks were a nice bonus. You’ll also have six rockets for the spares box. There’s some small wire pieces used for hinges and two small springs that appear to be for the main landing gear struts if you wanted them to compress. There’s no reference to them in the instructions. A single sheet of instructions shows the assembly in 13 steps. A well printed decal sheet includes markings for Major Carson’s last mount “Nooky Booky IV” and “Iron Ass” Lt. Col Jack Oberhansley (5 aerial and 4 ground kills) of the forth fighter group, 334 fighter squadron.
This built starts with the engine. There’s a good representation of the infamous Rolls Royce Merlin complete with engine mount, firewall oil tank and basic plumbing. Depending on the level of engine exposure you want, you can leave it as is or busy it up. The upper cowling parts are molded in clear plastic so you can leave them clear or paint them or leave them off. Contrary to the instructions, I would not recommend mounting the exhaust manifolds if you’re going to close the cowlings for reasons I’ll explain later. Next up is the cockpit. There are plenty of small parts to fill the cockpit. A PE seat harness is included. Some of the cockpit parts are soft in detail or not there at all. The throttle quadrant and control stick are examples example of the first and the bomb release handles and placards the second. Oil and coolant radiators are included that mount in a duct tunnel. Dragon has provided PE screens for these parts but I did not use them because they did not fit well and are not that visible. Missing are the actuator for the coolant exit ramp door and a part that allows on open oil cooler door. That’s a problem since that door would open if the aircraft was parked. You will need good color reference photos because the color call outs are few and far between in the instructions. Filtered air screen intakes are molded on the lower cowlings or you can use the PE parts. I did not see the point to the PE parts since they are not drilled out. I drilled out the plastic part and left it at that. The fuselage halves went together without much trouble. The wings and things were up next. The movable control surfaces are a nice touch and I was impressed by the precision of the fit. The hinges involve some wire and PE parts but nothing to difficult. The purest will want to fix some of the hinge details to match the real thing. The machine guns posed a dilemma for me. You get six nice 50 cals and the ammo trays and ammo for them. The problem is, the gun doors are molded into the wing tops and have to be cut out if you want them open. There’s no detail inside the doors. A gun camera is included. Gear wells are scale depth but the rear side is flush with the opening, which is not per the real thing. Don’t forget to fill or drill the mounting holes for whatever under wing stores you choose. The kit comes with zero rail rocket mount holes open so you have some filling to do if the drop tanks or tubes are used. Landing gear is assembled next. As I said before, small springs are included to make the oleo struts compress. I tried to install one and the gluing process promptly froze it solid. The bazooka tubes are also built at this time. I only did one so you can see what you get. They have PE straps for the tubes and look nice when they’re done. Propeller assembly is the last step in the instructions. Don’t forget the reinforcing arch in the canopy (part #44). The instruction shaded it as a part not used but my reference photos clearly show it installed.
Both decal options are overall silver/metal color. If you pick the 4th FG aircraft you will be masking and painting the red nose, rudder and the black recognition stripes since no decals are provided for that. The Nooky Booky IV version only requires a red spinner over which goes a yellow decal. For paint I used Alclad aluminum. I had to relearn a hard lesson about following the Alclad instructions as far as air pressure (15psi). The first round of paint with excessive pressure resulted in my airbrush spitting globs of paint on the model! I tried to fix the worst of it but with a deadline approaching it’s not perfect. I masked and airbrushed the olive drab anti-glare panel. I also undercoated the nose behind the prop with white where the checkerboard decal goes. The spinner was a custom mix with brush application. The decals are well-printed and easy to work with. The one exception being the kill markings. The kill marks are those symbols that cannot be named or represented whole in an internationally marketed kit. Dragons’ solution was to build each mark with three decals. The end result works but is an exercise in tedium. A few downers on the decals, the yellow stripe for the spinner is too short if you position it where it’s supposed to be. I filled the gap with testors yellow and over painted the whole stripe to ensure it matched. The other decal issue is missing stencils and placards for the airframe and cockpit. A kit in this scale should have all of those markings present. Final assembly started with the mounting of the main gear. Alignment of these parts was complicated by a strange mounting system that provided no positive positioning for the main gear. I fixed them in place with thick superglue and adjusted them until they set. The vinyl tires painted up well and have great tread detail. The best part was they have no seams on them so the finished gear looks really good. There are no actuators on the main wheel doors. You can get away with that because the gear doors were normally closed while the aircraft ran. They would bleed down as the system lost pressure. The K-14 gun sight is a very nice copy of the original. The canopy is slide molded but has a slight ridge down the middle. My windscreen part did not fit well. Also, there’s no pitot tube provided. The 110-gallon paper tanks were hung from the wings. The disappointment here is a lack of plumbing that the 75-gallon tanks have in the kit. As for the exhaust stacks, they should protrude more at the front then the rear and you have to shim them out to make them look right.
This is first of the new generation 1/32 Mustangs I’ve built since I did the Revell P-51B many years ago. As one of the most kitted airplanes of all time the bar is set very high for any release of it these days. I think Dragon hit the mark for the most part. There’s enough detail here to build an interesting model right from the box. With the exception of the wing guns that require a lot of work to display open, the rest of the detail is put in places it can be seen. That also reveals some of the places that fall a bit short. In the cockpit, a soft throttle quadrant and a seat that appears too narrow for the space and no placards are some of downsides. The moving control surfaces are pretty cool, but can be difficult to work around. The landing gear and gear doors seem a big chunky for the scale but blend into the build when complete. The decals work and are of good quality. On the plus side, slide molding has given us hollow guns barrel ends and exhaust stacks. The instrument panel is a clear part, PE and decal sandwich that look really good built up. The overall shape and dimensions capture the essence of the Mustang. The exception to me is the canopy bulge that looks a bit overdone. I really liked the vinyl tires. This is a vast improvement over the 1/32 Mustangs of old. I would give this kit an eight out of ten. The price point is about half of what the competition costs. I’ll leave it up you to decide if the extra money is worth it. While Dragon has clearly raised the bar on precision, the aforementioned missing details leave room for the crown to be claimed. I want to thank Dragon for providing a sample of my all time favorite airplane and IPMS USA for sending it my way to bring to life for you.