On The Bench

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North American P-51D Mustang - Build Review
MENG (LS-006)
Scale: 1:48
Started: November 2016
Finished: March 2017
Gallery: Finished Model Photos
The North American P-51D Mustang
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II, the Korean War and other conflicts. The Mustang was designed in 1940 by North American Aviation (NAA) in response to a requirement of the British Purchasing Commission. The definitive version, the P-51D, was powered by the Packard V-1650-7, a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 two-stage two-speed supercharged engine, and was armed with six .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2/AN Browning machine guns.

From late 1943, P-51s were used by the USAAF's Eighth Air Force to escort bombers in raids over Germany, while the RAF's Second Tactical Air Force and the USAAF's Ninth Air Force used the Merlin-powered Mustangs as fighter-bombers, roles in which the Mustang helped ensure Allied air superiority in 1944. The P-51 was also used by Allied air forces in the North African, Mediterranean, Italian and Pacific theaters. During World War II, Mustang pilots claimed to have destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft.
Chief Naval Test Pilot and C.O. Captured Enemy Aircraft Flight Capt. Eric Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC, RN, tested the Mustang at RAE Farnborough in March 1944, and noted, "The Mustang was a good fighter and the best escort due to its incredible range, make no mistake about it. It was also the best American dogfighter. But the laminar flow wing fitted to the Mustang could be a little tricky. It could not by any means out-turn a Spitfire. No way. It had a good rate-of-roll, better than the Spitfire, so I would say the plusses to the Spitfire and the Mustang just about equate. If I were in a dogfight, I'd prefer to be flying the Spitfire. The problem was I wouldn't like to be in a dogfight near Berlin, because I could never get home to Britain in a Spitfire!"

The Luftwaffe's twin-engine heavy fighters brought up to deal with the bombers proved to be easy prey for the Mustangs and had to be quickly withdrawn from combat. The Focke-Wulf Fw 190A, already suffering from poor high-altitude performance, was outperformed by the Mustang at the B-17's altitude, and when laden with heavy bomber-hunting weapons as a replacement for the more vulnerable twin-engined Zerstörer heavy fighters, it suffered heavy losses. The Messerschmitt Bf 109G had comparable performance at high altitudes, but its lightweight airframe was even more greatly affected by increases in armament. The Mustang's much lighter armament, tuned for anti-fighter combat, allowed it to overcome these single-engined opponents. [source: wikipedia]
The MENG 1:48 P-51D Mustang
There has been quite a buzz around this release for one simple reason. Its a "Snap Tite" kit. Ok, so MENG refer to it as "Cement-Free Assembly" but whatever you call it, you are meant to assemble it without the need for glue. Normally this type of engineering is reserved for the basic, beginner style kits to make it easier for novices to construct their first model without making a mess with all that pesky glue. We have come to expect such kits to be very basic, often lacking detail with low part counts, to suite beginners.

Here is what MENG said on their Facebook page: "During our discussions with modelers, MENG's team has discovered that many modelers are discouraged about aircraft subjects. We have heard the complaints like "more sanding work than AFVs" and "too many colors to paint" about building aircraft models. How can we improve the build experience and also replicate the excellent details at the same time? The LS-006 North American P-51D Mustang Fighter kit is our first try. We applied a different design concept than o ther 1/48 scale aircraft models. For many beginners, they can build this kit without glue. We don't forget the senior modelers who are used to using glue. After gluing and painting of this kit, they will find a detailed Mustang model."
Going into this build I was not quite sure what to expect from a kit like this. I have a few other MENG aircraft kits in the stash (the very well regarded 1:32 Me-163 for example) so I had an idea of what they could produce. The notion of a snap-tite kit was not really appealing but I figured it could be a bit of fun. As I now sit here and write this I have pretty much completed work on the fuselage interior build and my impresssion is "WOW". The fit of the parts is superb, which I guess is to be expected if Meng really expect you to be able to assemble a model of this complexity without the need for any glue.

My "WOW" assessment is not just about the fit, it applies to the level of detail Meng have put into the kit, which holds up very well even when compared to say a 1:32 kit of the P-51. The surface detail also looks to be excellent (more on that once I get to painting) and the overall shape looks every bit a Mustang.

To acheive their goal of "cement free assembly", Meng needs all the parts to go together with a tight fit, leaving little or no wiggle room. Every part I have cut out and test fitted so far has just clicked (and stayed) in place. This actually brings me to possibly my one "issue" with the kit. If you are a compulsive dry fitter like me, having parts that fit very snuggly and don't want to come apart again becomes an annoyance pretty quickly. Trying to separate parts without damaging them after test fitting can be a real challenge as they are literally designed to stay together without glue and you have to fight them.
Building the MENG 1:48 P-51D Mustang (LS-006)
Assembly of the kit follows a pretty standard sequence, beginning with the cockpit. All the major interior components you would expect to see in a 1:48 model of the P-51D are present. I really like how each part is provided separately as this makes it so much easier to paint first and then assemble. I expect this was done in the spirit of appealing to beginners, but it also works just great for crusty old builders like me :)
My plans for this model called for a pilot. The kit comes with no pilot so I scavenged one from the spares box. He did not quite fit the cockpit so a little surgery was needed to get his leg to sit right and while I was cutting I lengthened his neck and turned his head. The shoulder straps were added from lead foil. To repair the surgical cuts I used Milliput epoxy filler.
Another view of the pilot and seat. As per the instructions, the seat and armoured backrest comes in six pieces, including the seat pan and leather headrest cushion. I really had no intention of building this model "glue free" and its safe to assume that any assembled items you see throughout this article have been glued with Tamiya Extra Thin glue or pure MEK.
I have applied a coat of grey primer, mainly to prepare the pilot figure for hand painting, but I also did the seat parts as well. My preferred primer is the Alclad Grey Primer which I find adheres very well to all sorts of plastic and putty.
The pilot figure is finished in Vallejo acrylic paints. I certainly don't consider myself a figure painter but I muddle through well enough and when he is mostly buried inside the cockpit with the canopy closed, he will do the job.
With the pilot out the way, next up is the main instrument panel. MENG provides a decal designed to cover the entire panel, including the center console. The only part of the decal that I intend to use is the top section containing the main instruments. This area of the panel is mostly flat (except of course for the instrument bezels) and I expect that with the liberal use of softening solution it will settle down nicely. It will require the decal to be trimmed closely around the main instruments using a new blade. Decals should always be applied to a gloss surface and so I have hand brushed a coat of Future on the panel.
Using a metal ruler and a new blade I lightly cut thru the decal as closly to the main instruments as possible. One tip when trimming decals is that you only need to cut thru the decal and not the paper, this means you can use a much lighter cut with a much lower chance of damaging the decal. This photo was taken after I had dipped the decal in water and then used some tweezers to move the scrap pieces to the side.
The decal is now gently lifted off the backing paper using tweezers and placed onto the model. The decal in the photo has not yet softened and is why it appears to be sitting flat on top of the raised detail. I like to apply a generous amount of Microscale Micro Sol Softening solution with a brush and then use a pointed cotton bud to coax the decal down into the raised detail.
The decal has now dried and settled down into the raised detail. It can be quite tricky to get everything aligned properly when you first place the decal as the detail underneath is obscured buy with patience and experience it all comes together. A flat clear coat has also been applied and the reamining switches and button painted by hand.
The finished product has now been lightly washed and drybrushed to make the detail standout. A small dab of Future has been placed in each dial to simulate the glass. All up this looks pretty good for a 1:48 IP and will be more than adequate once the cockpit is closed up and the glare shield and gunsight attached.
Directly behind the pilot is the fuselage fuel tank and placed on top is the radio equipment. All these parts (including the framework on the tank) has been painted separately and then assembled. I added some cabling using EZ Line which is normall used for aerial wires etc but the thicker version is also useful for cabling like this. Thankfully it comes in white which saved me having to paint it.
Time to do a quick test fit of the cockpit components before committing glue and moving onto the rest of interior.
The cockpit consists of these four major sub-assemblies that I am now ready to bring together.
The gunsight is provided in clear plastic and I have hand painted the body, frame and leather cushion whilsty leaving the refelctor glass clear. In 1:48 this is a perfectly acceptable way to respresent a gunsight. The Mustang has a separate bullet proof glass plate position under the front wind screen. Meng have kindly provided that as a separate part which simply clicks sunggly into place on the base of the glare shield.
Notice that light (subtle) wear has been applied using silver drybrushing to the glare shield, seat back armoured headrest and radios. Simple detailing like this can easily be applied and help complete the illusion of a weathered warplane. The painted pilot looks ok, and once the canopy is on will be adeqeuate for the job.
Cockpit sidewalls are next on the assembly sequence. Meng have once again kindly provided some of the port sidewall raised detail as a separate part (D10). This is very welcome as it makes painting so much easier.
Mr Color C351 FS34151 Zinc Chromate Green Type I has been applied over a black primer for the cockpit interior base. Details have been picked out by hand with Vallejo Acrylics.
The kit is designed with a separate tailwheel sub-assembly. This is built and they sandwiched between the two fuselage halves. The joins beween the sub-assemblies are along natural panel lines. We also need to paint and install the rear face of the radiator (part B21) prior to closing up the fuselage.
Just like the port sidewall I have painted the Interior Green using Mr Color C351 and the consoles and oxygen hose in Vallejo. I did not attend to any of the ejection pin marks seen here because once assembled they are allo hidden by the cockpit (lets not make work for ourselves).
The tailwheel assembly has been painted unsing Mr Color C352 FS33481 Chromate Yellow Primer as I imagined this area may have been repaired at some point at left only in primer. The tailwheel strut hase so far only been finished with Alclad 101 Aluminium and will later recieve a dark wash to bring out all that nice detail.
Sandwiched between the fuselage halves is the rear face of the radiator assembly. I painted this Tamiya Rubber Black and then lightly dry brushed with silver to highlight the radiator grill pattern.
With all the interior sub-assemblies now complete its time to close it up. I will be ignoring the Meng assembly sequence here with regard to the propellor unit and leave that off till the end of the build (likewise with the exhaust stubs).
Everyting slides into position with the precision of a Swiss watch. No glue has been applied at this point and no serious gaps are evident.
The assembled fuselage seen from underneath. Note the large circular mounting posts inside the fuselage, these are what hold the whole thing together so very firmly. I will be applying liquid glue to the fuselage join but only because I am a cautious sort of guy !! I have pre-painted the interior of the radiator outlet area in silver as this won't be easily accessible once the lower ramp door is installed.
The tail wheel unfortunately needs to be installed in the fuselage at this time. I say unfortunately because this makes it much more prone to damage during the rest of the build as well as requiring more masking effort. I usually find some way to detach undercarriage parts for later assembly but in this case I could find an acceptable solution and so here it sits :)
With the main fuselage joined its time to add the cowlings.
Whilst the fit of the cowling parts looked ok when loosely dry fitting them, I found that when it came time to bring them all together for glue they did not really want to co-operate. Because the two plastic parts were giving me so much grief and kept pushing each other out the way I wondered if they would interfere with the clear windscreen part F4 later on down the track. Sure enough if I attached B30 and B31 in place and then tried to fit the clear windscreen part it would not slide in and would have required trimming. I therefore decided to do all three parts as a package now and ended up needing a clamp to make them all stay put while the glue dried. I really don't know how you would get this lot to work if you tried to assemble without glue ??
The end result looked fairly good. There were still some slight gaps between the parts but I would be able to fix that with Milliput later on. As this point I offered up the wings to the fuselage for a test fit. As you can see here this presented no issues.
Moving now onto the main undercarriage and wheel well. It was about now that I started to seriously consider whether I wanted to build this model wheels up or wheels down. In the end I decided on somewhere in between !!
As I was doing my research for this build I watched several YouTube videos of restored Mustangs taking off and landing. It occured to me that capturing that moment just after becoming airborne when the gear was retracting would make for an interesting display. This picture shows best the sort of thing I am aiming for.
Of course nothing is ever easy in modeling (right?) and as I took a closer look at the retraction sequence and precisely what happens to the main undercarriage struts as the aircraft leaves the ground I realised that some minor modifications to the kit struts would be needed. In this picture the aircraft is still not quite airborne and as you can see the oleo struts are still fully compressed. This is how the kit struts were engineered, as if the aircraft was stationary on the ground. Perfectly accurate but not what I needed for my model. I also noted several other items I needed to address for a proper take off configuration such as the flap position and rear radiator door.
A few seconds later and the aircraft has just left the ground. Notice how the oleo struts are now full extended and because the wheels have fallen away from the wing the main gear doors no longer cover them like they did in the previous photo. I now understood that I would at the very minimum need to modify the main gear struts by extending the oleo to this configuration. It was time for the razor saw ...
With a total of four cuts I was able to affect the needed modifications. Here you can see on the bottom strut that I have used brass rod (for rigidity) to represent the extended strut. The scissor link rods have also been repositioned to show how they have extended to take the weight of the wheel.
To make sure the length of the new extended strut was accurate (or at least close) I fitted the doors to see where they now sat in relation to the main wheels. The top unit now looks just like the above photo when the aircraft is off the ground whilst the lower (unmodified) unit looks like it should when the aircraft is on the ground.
So far so good, the main gear had the right "sit" for my desired display, but what about having them attached at an angle half way through the retraction sequence. For this I needed to modify the attachment point to the wheel well and replace the Meng plastic with a brass pin which allowed me to pivot the gear to any desired angle, just like the real P-51.
With all the modification work now complete it was time for some paint on the main wheel well. Interior green (same as the cockpit) was used with a very light wash to bring out some of the detailing. I don't get carried away with super detailing wheel wells much anymore.
Next up was assembling the wings with flaps, ailerons and gun muzzles.
The leading edge gun parts B9 and B10 were not a very good fit. There was not way known I could have kept them in place without glue. Even with glue the fit was not great and I was left with gaps that needed to be dealt with (thanks again Milliput).
It's worth noting that the Meng kit flaps are designed to be display in only one position, full down (as if the aircraft is at rest on the ground). You don't get alternate parts and as I found simply cutting off the locating lugs and trying to rotate the flap to the closed position did not work. At first I thought it was just this little notch on the inboard edge that was stopping the flap retracting, but even after I quickly cut that flush the flap would not sit properly in the retracted position.
To overcome this flap issue I had to agressively trim down and reshape the flap leading edge so it would properly fit into the wing at my desired angle. This was unexpected but in the end not that much of a drama.
The reworked flap was now glued slightly extended so that it matched the photo of the real aircraft we saw above in the take off configuration. Note the use again of Milliput (the creamy colored filler) in the flap to wing join.
The reworked flap as seen from below. As I re-profiled the flap leading edge to get it to fit into the wing cavity much of the rivet detail was lost. This was added back using a needle tip once sanding was complete.
Next step was to marry the wing and fuselage. Repeated test fittings showed that this would present few problems with virtually no gaps visible. The radiator assembly is installed after the wing and helps to lock it into place (assuming you don't use glue). The lower engine cowling (part A17) is also installed after the wing and completes the inboard leading edge assembly. One error in the Meng instructions is that you in fact need to leave the radiator rear shutter door attached when displaying it open. You would remove it and instead use part B22 if you wanted the door closed.
One of the more visible features of the Mustangs nose is the carburettor intakes on each side. Meng provides you with the grill parts but with the holes blanked up. Its a easy enough job to drill each one out (if you are so inclined).
A good view of the wing to fuselage join. No filler will be needed here.
With the wing firmly in place, the radiator housing is now ready to be slotted into place.
This is one of the few joins that I would have felt comfortable not using glue, it was very firm. I did need to do a little trimming to get it all lined up.
Likewise the lower nose section was a very neat fit. One of the join lines needed to be removed with filler as it was not on a natural panel line. For this task I used Tamiya Basic Putty. Notice the small spots where I used Milliput to close up any gaps on the panel lines. Milliput is great for this type of panel line work as it dries hard enough to be scribed without cracking (unlike normal styrene fillers).
A final view of the radiator housing and slightly deployed landing flap. As you can see I opted to leave the radiator door open.
A little more Tamiya putty was used on the port side wing leading edge and cowlingseam to eradicate those pesky gaps.
The main gear and clamshell inner doors are prepared next. An optional part B28 is provided to allow you have the clamshell doors closed. This would happen whenever the engine is runing and hydraulic pressure is present (eg taxiing etc). The only time these doors are open is during the gear retraction sequence or when the aircraft is powered down and hydraulic pressure bleeds off. Note once again the error in the Meng instructions where they say to use part B22 to display the radiator flap in the open position. Part B22 would be used if you wanted the door closed.
The main undercarriage components have been mostly completed. I quite like how the clamshell doors are molded integrally with the wheel bay sidewall. This will make installing them at the end of the build so much easier. The modified struts look good and only require some minor extra painting (chrome on the oleo) before the wheels can be attached.
The clamshell doors are a very neat fit. The main gear doors had some noticeable sink holes which I easily fixed with some Tamiya putty. I haven't test fitted yet with the wheels attached so I hope they don't stick out too far and hit the clamshell doors.
Meng provides a choice of the two common types of drop tanks carried by the P-51. The longer 108 gallon tank was made from compressed paper and was used for one flight only. Interestingly they could not fill up these tanks too soon before flight otherwise they would soak up the fuel and become weakened. The all metal 75 gallon tank had no such limitation and could be bought back if the pilot had no need to jettison them for combat.
I opted for the all metal tanks and have painted them with Mr Color Silver. Notice the slightly rough surface on the tanks which is not caused by the paint but is present on the plastic surface. I need to triple check the rest of the model for similar roughness as NMF's are very unforgiving to such surface blemishes.
Once you have selected you prefered stores you attach them to the wing using pylon parts B11 and B12.
This is one place where I think the snap fit nature of this kit will come in handy. The pylons are a solid fit to the mounting holes in the wing but I'll still use glue in any case. Notice once again that rough texture of the drop tank. I think these guys might just get stripped and sanded back a bit.
Approaching the end of the assembly, next up is the canopy and windshield. Remember that I opted to install the windshield (part F4) back with the engine cowlings to ensure those parts all fitted correctly. You will have to deal with the seam line running down the middle of the canopy as well. Finally I did not install the canopy before the rear fusleage top section as suggested here by Meng, that was way to dangerous to the health of the canopy in my opinion.
The mating up of the clear parts was near perfect. I think I would be struggling to slide a piece of paper between the canopy and windshield. The canopy itself was dipped in Future (after sanding to remove the mold seam) and then glued to the fuselage with several drops of CA (super glue).
Before attaching the canopy I drilled a small hole in the top through which the antenna cable passed (from the seat headrest to the tail). For this I used a product called EZ Line which is used mainly by railroad modelers for things like power cables etc. Its very stretchy (so very forgiving) and I find it ideal for antennae wires for most scales. I plan to gather it up and hide it under the masking tape on the canopy during painting.
Our very last assembly step is to attach the tail and rear fuselage top section. This top section (part C5) is designed to join the main fuselage along the natural panel lines and hence avoid a seam which needs removing by sanding. Tamiya did exactly the same thing in their 1/32 P-51 kits.
After an initial dry fit test early on I decided that I did not want the canopy on the model when I installed this part. It's no problem to make a small cut on the canopy guide strut to allow it to drop fit at the end. I'm glad I made this choice as the fit of the rear fuselage part was not perfect and needed some TLC.
The empennage assembly was trouble free and the horizontal stabilizers self aligned and locked into place. The rudder was secured with a couple of drops of liquid glue.
With assembly now complete, its time to prepare for painting. Check back soon to find out which scheme I select.
With the major construction out of the way it's now time to start on everyones favourite modeling task. masking. I'm not a fan of pre-cut masks and so usually use loads of small Tamiya tape shapes to mask off my models. I've had a packet of Mr Hobby pre-cut stips for a while and for some reason I dug them out when it came time to mask off the Mustangs canopy. This particular sheet had precision cut 1mm and 2mm strips which work very nicely for the canlopy frames here.
During this whole build I have been arguing with myself over rivet detail on the wing. I've talked about the laminar flow wing on the P-51 before and up until now had pretty much decided to leave the rivets alone on this model. Well for some reason or another I changed my mind and decided the rivets (or the majority of them) had to go. I used a combination of thinned Tamiya Basic Grey and White putty.
The putty was sanded flush using some 1200 wet n dry and then any surplus removed from the panel lines. I was ok with some of the rivets not being perfectly removed as I assume over time even the real aircraft had putty flake off due to wear. I really just wanted to tone them down a lot.
More masking was now required. As the laminar flow wing surfaces were painted silver on the real aircraft (ie not natural metal) I wanted to use a nuetral grey primer under these sections. This means the NMF panels needed to be masked so they could be primed in another colour (semi gloss black) later on. Using different primer colours like this can impact the final result with metalics way more than you might think.
The wings have now been sprayed with Alclad Grey Primer and Microfiller. I like this primer as it offers a very smooth finish in a perfect neutral grey. Spraying any of the Alclad metalic shades over this primer will result in a subdued finish, compared to a bright finish with a black primer.
Under closer inspection you can see that most of the rivet detail has gone now. I intentially left the gun bay and ammunition access panels with rivets. The white tape on the wing root is the new Tamiya Vinyl flexible tape. It seems to work ok when you need to twist the tape around tricky curves.
The bottom with the masking now removed. The next masking step will be to now cover the grey and spray the black primer on the rest of the model.
Meng provides some very nice surface detail but as I really like washes I almost always go over the rivets and panel lines to sharpen then up. Here I have sprayed some primer over the rear fusleage to ensure the detail is adequate for panel washes later on. Now is the time check this sort of thing as often its too late once you stay applying colour coats.
Yes, that tailwheel final broke off after one too many knocks with my fat fingers. I deciced to leave it off until the very end. The blue liquid mask fluid I have used here is by Vallejo and has now become my favourite liquid mask.
More masking now as I need to protect the grey primer for the wings from the next primer coat. This is fairly simple masking with lots of straight edges so it goes very quickly.
One trick I picked up while reviewing J.M.Villalba's USF DVD recently was to use heavily thinned PVA glue to lightly coat any masking that will be on the model for the whole painting process (like the canopy and wheel wells). This helps protect this masking and stops it from lifting half way thru the build. I can report this worked a treat and I'll be adding to my toolbox for future builds.
A coat of Tamiya X-18 Semi Gloss Black was applied to the model now. This a base primer coat for any sections that will be NMF in the end. I did notice at this point that the paint was drying quite flat (more so than usual) but did not think too much of it (something I would regret later on).
I like the X-18 paint as it dries very reliably to a consitent smooth finish. I can only assume it dried with such a flat finish this time due to the thinning. Perhaps I over thinned it.
With the primer base coat dry I loaded up my Iwata Revolution with Alclad Airframe Aluminium ALC-119. This shade of Alclad is part of the 'high shine' range and is a little bit trickier to work with than their standard range. I really like both Airframe Aluminium and Stainless Steel because they give the most realistic NMF of all the Alclad shades I find. When I say trickier what I mean is they are more fragile and need to be treated carefully when masked etc than the other more robust Alclad shades.
After applying several coats of Airframe Aluminium I was completely underwhelmed by the finish. It was very dull and lifeless, not what was after at all. I put this down to the overly slat black primer. I debated whether I could like with the finish and in the end decided ....
... that it needed to dealt with. Out came my micro mesh polishing clothes and off came the top coats of Alclad. I used very high grades of micro mesh (6000 and above) as my main objective here was to polish the surface to a much smoother sheen. Some of the Airframe Aluminium came off of course but I was not worried about that.
The whole fuselage was buffed with the micro mesh to ensure that no areas were left with the dull finish. Whilst this seems drastic it was not that big a deal and only took 10 mins from start to finish. The micro mesh was used wet, very wet.
On the lower fuselage I noticed some nastier blemishes (only visible once the NMF paint went on). These were sanded out and them buffed with micro mesh.
With all the buffing complete I re-applied the ALC-119 Ariframe Aluminium and this time was much happier with the result. To protect the delicate NMF finish I applied a super thin layer of gloss clear (Future thinned with Tamiya X-20A). I have learnt that this is needed with Alclad High Shine series especially when you have lots of subsequent masking to be done.
The effort spent on extra sanding and buffing of the undersides was rewarded by a much better overall finish. Now onto the wings.
This photo shows exactly why I chose to protect the ALC-119 with a clear coat. Applying tape over Alclad like this can be a bit of a risk unless you have protected it properly with a clear coat. As mentioned earlier the wings are to be painted with a shade that best simulates the look of silver paint, not Natural Metal.
For such a small model I seemed to be endlessly masking it off. It was all for a good cause, painting NMF's is time consuming because you can never get away with applying only one shade of metal paint.
My weapon of choice for the silver painted wings was one of Alclads latest shades, ALC-125 RAF High Speed Silver. Now High Speed Silver was actually a silver paint finish applied to late war aircraft (Meteor etc) and is not meant to represent a NM finish. I chose it for the P-51's wings as I figured that whatever silver paint they really used it probably looked very much like High Speed Silver. I think that Alclad have nailed the sheen and was very happy with the result.
Notice how the wings are not shiny like actual metal, they have not refelction etc. Also notice that now we have the silver on you can see some of the previously filled and sanded rivet detail. I was happy enough with how these turned out as I imagine that over time the putty would chip away and rivets become visible again.
I was asked on Facebook several times what specific shades of Alclad I used when painting the Mustang. Whilst it was still fresh in my mind I made this guide so others can try the same shades (and also for me for next time I build a P-51 :)
At this point I had finished the base painting which would apply to any USAAF P-51D. The time had come to decide on a specific aricraft and I settled on Richard E Turners mount 'Short Fuse Sallee". Turner was one of the leading ETO Aces with 20 kills by the end of the war. Short Fuse Sallee is not the most colorful bird around but it did get a workout which meant I could go to town with the weathering.
As I started to prepare my approach to the aircraft markings and colours I compared the Meng instructions with period photos of Turners assorted P-51's he flew. Try as hard as I might I could not find any period photos that matched the configuration provided by Meng. Did they have access to reference material not available on the web ? The kill markings in particular had me stumped and then I noticed the invasion stripes were missing white stripes on the fuselage, recognition bands in the wrong place on the wings and so the list went on.
It was not until my web searching led me to several photos of a restored P-51 painted in Short Fuse Sallee markings that the penny finally dropped. Meng had based their paint scheme not on the wartime configuration of Turners actual aircraft but rather on this restored aircraft ... arghhh it all made sense now.
At this point I pretty much disregarded entirely the Meng painting instructions, turning instead to period photos of Turners aircraft just before he had it renamed to "Short Fuse" when he received a "Dear John" letter from Sallee. Each photo I found gave me another small piece of the puzzle, code locations on the fuselage, invasion stripe position and width, kill marking style and location and so it went on.
Mengs location of the lower wing invasion stripes is incorrect, they shouuld start further outboard. Meng completely left the black recognition stripes on the upper wing and tail off (even though the restored aircraft has these !!!).
Useful things to note in this photo are the position of the invasion stripes on the main wheel covers (note how the white stripe starts 1/3 up the cover). Also have a close look at the orientation of the white stars on the nose band. They are not aligned to the fuselage or ground but rather to the aft edge of the blue band, Meng got this wrong as well. Notice the number, style and location of the 20 kill markings under the cockpit sill. You can clearly see that the un-shrouded exhaust stubs were used (Meng tells you to use the shrouded exhausts found on the restored bird).
This very grainy period photo of Turners flight returning after a sortie clearly shows the invasion stripe location and confirms that the tail had the single black recognition band applied. I find it a bit frustrating that too often model companies fail so badly in their research when an ameteur like me can invest 30 mins googling to find everything needed to make a proper job of accurately representing the aircraft. For this aspect of their P-51 kit I would score Meng a disapointing 1 out of 10.
Now that I was armed with some proper reference material it was time to get back to the model. Why trying to layout masking the must align closely with decals I often find it useful to make a scanned copy of the decal sheet and print it out on paper. Here I have trimmed the 'star and bar' on the fuselage side and then taped it in place so that I can use it to properly align the masking tape below and around it. The invasion stripes come up very snuggly to the bottom of the star and bars.
Once I have the masking edges properly aligned I backfill the tape to protect from overspray. I saw a question recently on a forum where the poster asked if its ok to paint acrylics over Alcad. My experience is that you can pretty much paint anything over Alclad.
Masking inside the raidiator outlet took a bit of patience but was necessary to protect the interior from the invasion black and white colors.
Now that I was confident on the location and size of the wing invasion stripes tape could be applied. I normally use thin strips of tape to position the paint edges and then backfill with larger tape as shown here.
The wing leading is a bit tricky to mask. One tip is to not try and get the tape to curve around the wing curve, but rather stick the demarcation edge down and then backfill the top with liquid mask. In this way you are not trying to curve the tape onto the fuselage top causing it to come away from the demarcation edge.
First colour to be applied is Tamiya White Primer (decanted from a rattle can). I really like this paint as it covers fantasically and does not require loads of coats to cover any base colour (even black).
Two light coats (thinned with Tamiya Lacquer Thinners) are all that is needed to provide a solid coverage of the white.
Once the white is dry masking continues to layout the black stripes. Once again I use thin strips of tape for the actual edges and them backfill with larger tape straight off the roll.
The black applied here is Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black, my all time favourite black shade. I have also painted the blue band on the nose with Mr Color C65 Bright Blue.
I was not happy with my first attempt at masking the anti glare panel on the nose so it got stripped and sanding back. Here I have masked up to allow me to re-apply the Alclad Airframe Aluminium before having another go at the Olive Drab.
Painting is pretty much completed at this point. The anti glare panel is finished with Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab (lightened with white).
Meng do not provide the red 'No Step' warning zone on the flap near the wing root so this was masked and painted. Be sure to remember the little things like masking off the hinge join on the flap so that the black from the recognition stripe does go inside.
The Meng decals are printed by Cartograph so I was fairly confident they would perform well. As mentioned earlier I completely ignored the kit instructions on decal placement, especially the fuselage codes (AJ-T). The kill markings came from a spare Cutting Edge sheet I had. Did you notice the spelling mistake that Meng made to Capt Turners name ??
The Cartograph decals whilst very nice were printed with way too much carrier film for the fuselage insignia and codes. This came as a one piece decal with moountains of clear film between the letters. I used a sharp blade to cut out each letter separately, removing virtually all the carrier film and then laying down each letter and insignia indiviually. This results in a much more 'painted on' look im my opinion.
The stars on the nose band are thankfully provided separately and you just need to ignore the orientation suggested by Meng and lay them our instead as I have done with the bottom (two points) of each star aligned with the rear most band edge. She was finally starting to look like a P-51 but something had to be done about that clean shiney finish !!!
First step in making her look war weary was to apply a panel/rivet wash. Many modelers believe that panel line washes look unrealistic and yes, if overdone, that can be true. Experimenting and finding the right shade of wash for different subjects is essential. For the P-51 I once again used several tones from the the MiG Ammo range of pre-mixed panel line washes. Next up was to dull down the shine of the Alclad. To to do this and not kill the metalic look that we have worked so hard to achieve I like to use Alclads own range of flat clears. They provide a set of clear finishes across of spectrum of dullness ratings with the least flat being "Low Sheen", this was the one that I used for the Mustang.
More weathering was now applied with the airbrush by heavily thinning Tamiya paints with isopropyl alcohol. This is another trick I picked up from JM Villalba. It seems that by using pure alchohol and dialling the pressure of you compressor way down allows the Tamiya paint to be applied in extremely thin coats. Using this technique I was able to apply the exhaust & gun staining, the earth coloured grime on the wing root and general fuel stains over the airframe.
All that remained was to attach the drop tanks and landing gear in an appropriate position to indicate the gear being retracted. The base was made with several shades of static grass.
Conclusion
Overall impression ? I think its a great little kit, possibly the most detailed 1:48 P-51 kit yet released. The surface detail is just right, the overall accuracy seems good to me (they got the main wheel well right) with the only thing that let the whole package down was the research (or lack thereof) for the painting/markings scheme. Is this really a glue-free kit, no I don't believe so. Many of the parts would not have stayed in place properly had I not used some glue but frankly I don't see this as an issue, especially to serious modelers who would not buy this kit because of that "feature". I can certainly see myself building another one (or two) of this kit in the future.