Kit: P-51B Mustang

Scale: 1/48

Kit No.: 61042

Manufacturer: Tamiya

Kit Price: MSRP: $27.95 (shop for mail-order bargains)

Media: injection-molded plastic

Decals: Two different aircraft. "Shangri-La" has two different scoreboards.

Accuracy: See review.

Overall: It's Tamiya!

Review By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver (THE AERONUT)

The Tamiya P-51B has been out since 1995, and I've built several of them. My overall compliments and complaints are similar to those expressed in my review of the Tamiya P-51D. The overall engineering and fit of the kit is superb; I particularly like the dropped flaps; the cockpit could use more detail.

With the Accurate Miniatures P-51B/C out now, how does the Tamiya P-51B stack up? I have not built the A-M kit, but a detailed review I read in Military Model Preview stated the cockpit was more accurate: Merlin Mustangs dropped the cockpit floor so it wasn't curved atop the wing, as were the cockpits of Allison-powered Mustangs; the A-M kit reflects this and the Tamiya doesn't. There is also supposed to be some question of whether the wing guns are too far outboard on the Tamiya. Personally, if you want to argue how many demons can stand on the head of a pin, have at it. I'll go build a model.

I like the way the Tamiya canopy is either open or closed; the only way to open the canopy of the A-M kit is either to buy the Squadron vac-form canopy (P-51A/A-36 - not the earlier one which only fits the Monogram kit) or with a razor saw, and if you do that it's thick enough to not look right at all. The Tamiya canopy is thicker than the vac-form (it should be) and thinner than the A-M kit.

The Tamiya D only has the metal 75-gallon drop tanks, while the B has the 108-gallon paper tanks. Both used both, though the 108-gallon tank was only used in England and the ETO. If you're doing a Mediterranean Theatre P-51B, you need the large metal tanks; the only place I know to find them is the Monogram F-80 kit, which includes them as underwing ordnance. (Fortunately, I never used them on my F-80s and I keep everything for the spares box, so my two MTO P-51s carry them.)

The kit decals are very useable. There is one thing to note if you are doing Don Gentile's "Shangri-La," however: the instructions say to paint the forward part of the spinner white, while the rest is 4th Fighter Group red; this is wrong. Fact: the 4th FG began painting their noses red (instead of the official white ID) shortly after Big Week in late February, 1944. Gentile kept the forward part of his spinner white, as individual identification between he and Johnny Godfrey. Don Blakeslee didn't like that, and ordered Gentile and Godfrey to conform their paint jobs. The famous picture of the two of them taken in front of "Shangri-La" was taken March 3, 1944, before the abortive Berlin raid on the 4th. That night, both planes' spinners were painted red. (Trust me on this, I have researched the 4th thoroughly, interviewing both pilots and ground crew.). The point of all this is to say that, whichever scoreboard you use - early (circa March 15, 1944) or late (circa April 5, 1944) - by that time the spinner was all red.

On the subject of decals, there are a hundred sheets of after-market decals for the P-51B. You could spend the rest of your modelling career doing nothing else and still not have done them all by the time you died of old age. SuperScale's recent (1995 and later) decals are great. The earlier ones (Micro-Scale) are so-so. Fortunately, Aeromaster has re-done many of the early Micro-Scale aircraft, and done them well. Your best source of research for the look of P-51s of any variety is the Osprey Aces book series - they have one for the 8th AF and one for the 9th, 15th and RAF. I highly recommend both.

The P-51B illustrated here is "Ding Hao!", the mount of MAJ James O. Howard, CO, 356th Fighter Squadron, 354th "Pioneer Mustang" Fighter Group, as it appeared January 12, 1944. The 354th was the first Fighter Group to take the Merlin-powered P-51B into action. On that date, Howard (who was a 6-kill ace with the American Volunteer Group in China) single-handedly defended a bomber group against repeated attack by rocket-firing Bf-110s, shooting down six and breaking up the attacks of the others. For so doing, he became the only fighter pilot in the ETO to win the Medal of Honor. The decals are a SuperScale sheet in the 400 series (I forget which and don't have it now). This sheet also includes decals for "Shangri-La."

A note for those who "age" their airplane models: In the ETO, the airplanes regularly flew at high altitudes (25,000 ft. or higher) for extended periods, and were exposed to higher UV radiation. This had the effect of giving Shade-43 Olive Drab a purplish tinge (which looks darker than the original shade) over time. At lower altitudes, Shade-43 OD fades lighter.

My overall grade for this kit is A. It's Tamiya. To me, the wonderful thing about the products of this company is that modellers who gave up the hobby during their teenage years and are now returning to it in their 30s and 40s can, with average modelling skills, make an outstanding model.

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