Kit: TAMIYA P-51D "MUSTANG"
Kit No.: 61044
Price: $27.95 MSRP (shop for bargains)
Media: injected plastic
Decals: two diferent versions (not used with this model)
Date of Review: 7 August 1997
Reviewer: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver aka "The Aeronut"
Overall: It's Tamiya! (See review)
This kit has been out three years, and was one of the first to show how intent Tamiya was on cornering the market for accuracy-out-of-the-box in 1/48 aircraft. I think we can all agree they have achieved their goal.
Like all Tamiya kits, this is well-engineered and logically thought-out in both production of the kit and construction of the model. Its one sore spot is that the cockpit could use some more detail. I built this model of "Tangerine," a well-known P-51D-15NA of the 363rd Fighter Squadron, 367th Fighter Group, for my friend Hank Pfeiffer, the original pilot, and told him I was going to give him a "miniature airplane," not a model. I therefore sprang for the True Details cockpit, which gives all the detail one could want in this scale. After painting it interior green and doing the various side panels, I shot a black wash over everything to bring out detail, then shot it with matt varnish to keep it looking good. This after-market item goes a long way toward creating that "miniature airplane" look, and is worth the expense. I have yet to discover a True Details cockpit I didn't like.
As I said earlier, the kit goes together logically. I particularly like the fact the upper cowling panels are a separate piece, and that the wing is very solid when construction is complete. It's easy to get it together with all the different concave and convex curves of the real thing. Tamiya really won my heart with this kit because they dropped the flaps, something no other kit manufacturer has done, and an item of some real importance in doing a realistic representation of this aircraft. The Mustang had a weak hydraulic system, and if the flaps were left up for any extended period while on the ground, they would eventually droop. Lowering them reduced strain on the system, and was SOP for just about everyone who ever flew one. That's another item to consider when you set the main wheel cover doors: they were raised at all times unless cycling the landing gear when the engine was on,. to prevent blockage of the radiator; they were either dropped completely when the pilot switched off, or eventually drooped. I like letting them droop at different angles, because in my experience of being around the real thing, they never look as neat as we modellers make them out to be.
A friend of mine jokes that if you take a Tamiya kit out of the box and throw it in the air, you can catch an assembled model on the way down. It's not quite that easy, but with a little care to line things up, you won't find yourself using much if any putty on this kit.
So far as finishing this particular airplane was concerned, there has long been controversy over camouflaged 367thFG P-51Ds, as to whether they were olive drab/neutral grey, or green and some lighter shade of grey. What it comes down to is, some were one way, some the other, and check your research. The P-51Ds all arrived from the factory in natural metal. Since there was a likelihood they would serve in Europe during the invasion, 8th AF suggested the groups tone them down. The 367th went further than anyone else, with a full camouflage paint scheme. When the airplane went into the paint shop, it depended on whether USAAF paints or RAF paints were lying around open that day as to how it came out looking. The "green" birds are (most likely) RAF Dark Green with Ocean Grey lowers; the OD birds are self-explanatory. Hank remembered his as being green, so I used Gunze's H337 blue-grey (a good close approximation to Ocean Grey) for the lowers, and H73 RAF Dark Green on the uppers. In July, 1944, they removed the D-Day Invasion Stripes from the upper surfaces, but often the repaint left the white stripes visible beneath, which is how I finished "Tangerine." In line with my previous comment about real airplanes never looking as neat as we make them, Hank told me that on D-Day the stripes were put on overnight with brushes, brooms, mops, rags, whatever, and did not look neat or uniform at all. It was only in the weeks following that the original stripes were washed off and repainted the way they look when we do them. (I know, I know, a ragged paint job, no matter how well-documented, will never survive the Penlight Police or the Pothunters. Screw 'em.)
I used Testors decals to finish the model. Several years ago, they released their P-51 with "Tangerine" as an option. I didn't have the sheet when I took this commission, but when I wrote Customer Service and asked for one, I got back an envelope with ten! I then destroyed several before realizing I would have to shoot the sheet with clear laquer to save it to where I could use it. The sheet gives two "Tangerine" decals, but Hank is firm that the name was only on the "pilot's side," i.e., the left. He remembers his crew chief had something on the other side, but not what it was, and there are no photographs to help. So, if you want to do "Tangerine," just put the name on the left side.
In conclusion, the Tamiya P-51D is to my mind the best bubble-top Mustang
in any scale so far as outline accuracy is concerned (I have the privilege
of hanging out around a fair number of the survivors, and this looks like
they do.) It is easy to construct, and leaves you with lots of energy to
do any one of the many myriads of markings this most-popular of all warbirds
wore during 20 years' service with air forces around the world.
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