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North American P-51D Mustang
Dragon (32001)

Started: Dec 2010
Finished: Sep 2011
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The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II and the Korean War, among other conflicts. The Mustang was designed in April 1940 by a team headed by James H. Kindelberger of North American Aviation (NAA) in response to a requirement of the British Purchasing Commission.

The P-51 Mustang was a solution to the need for an effective bomber escort. It used a common, reliable engine and had internal space for a larger-than-average fuel load. With external fuel tanks, it could accompany the bombers from England to Germany and back.

The Luftwaffe's twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighters brought up to deal with the bombers proved to be easy prey for the Mustangs, and had to be quickly withdrawn from combat.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 109 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 antifighter combat, allowed it to overcome these single-engined opponents.

The numerical superiority of the USAAF fighters, superb flying characteristics of the P-51, and pilot proficiency helped cripple the Luftwaffe's fighter force. As a result, the fighter threat to the US, and later British, bombers was greatly diminished by July 1944. The RAF, long proponents of night bombing for protection, were able to reopen daylight bombing in 1944 as a result of the crippling of the Luftwaffe fighter arm. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, commander of the German Luftwaffe during the war, was quoted as saying, "When I saw Mustangs over Berlin, I knew the jig was up."

KIT OVERVIEW - Dragon 1:32 P-51D Mustang (32001)

The Mustang is one of those iconic machines with whom everyone who has a love of aviation has some familiarity. Instantly recognisable, many Mustangs, both original and restored, can be found today in museums and in the hands of private collectors. This is a somewhat unique situation for any WWII aircraft and offers the modeler access to invaluable reference material and photos on which to base a model project.

I don't pretend to be a Mustang expert but I want to build one in 1/32 scale and once I decide to do something (set my self a challenge if you will), I like to do my best. "Do it once, do it well" (as my Mum always says).

Having therefore decided it was time to add a Mustang to my collection, I had to settle on which kit to build. Speaking with several fellow modelers who had "been there and done that" and searching the internet for peoples thoughts and valuable comments on the merits of the various offerings in 1/32, with some resevations, I settled on the Dragon kit.

Why ? Well from most things I have seen and read, the other offerings (Hasegawa and Trumpeter) have major shape issues. These sorts of core problems are typically very time consuming and difficult to fix. The main issue it seemed with the Dragon kit was with the surface detail, being grossly excessive in both panel line and rivet detail. Despite (or perhaps in spite of) some scathing reviews, I choose the Dragon kit to set myself a challenge.

As of the time of writing, there is not much in the way of aftermarket sets available specifically for the Dragon kit. Aires has released quite a bit fo stuff for the Trumpeter kit and I will endeavour to make it fit as best I can, where appropriate.

So, what now follows is the journey this kit and I took in an effort to build the best Mustang I could. You'll notice from the photo sequencing that I won't follow the normal (logical ?) build order (at least not at the start) because to be honest, I am not at all convinced that this kit can be saved. I will therefore look at all the significant flaws I want to fix and will tackle them first, figuring that if I run into an unsolvable problem early, I'll cut my losses and move onto something else.

BUILD - Dragon 1:32 P-51D Mustang (32001)

The most obvious issue upon first inspection of the kit main parts is the rough surface finish and over stated detail. As this photo shows, there are 3 problems that I need to attend to.

  1. Over scale panel lines
  2. Excessive and over sized rivet detail
  3. Rough surface finish (like an orange skin)

Another view of the kit wing. From my research, the panel lines are generally in the correct position. The rivet detail on the wings is a subject for much debate. I have decided that all the Dragon provided rivets on both top and bottom will be removed (sanded and filled). Selected rivets will be re-created.

The Mustang employs what is called a "laminar flow wing". To improve the flow of the air over the wing, at the factory, all Mustangs had putty applied to the wing surfaces and sanded smooth. This resulted in even the flush rivets being rendered virtually invisible. Several excellent restored Mustangs (eg Duxford) clearly show the smooth finish of the wing. Once puttied, the wing was primed and painted silver. It was not natural metal like the fuselage and tail. Here we see the outer starboard wing with the myriad of rivets. Mustangs employed flush rivets so even if they were not covered with putty, they would never be as pronounced as shown here.

The kit fuselage suffers the same panel line problems (too wide, too deep) as the wing. Looking closely you can see the rough surface finish which seems to becoming more common on kits these days. I have noticed this mainly from the Chinese kit manufacturers.

The panel lines on the rear fuselage seem to be more to scale and access panels etc seem to be accurate. As I get closer to working on this area I will consult more photos and drawings to see what else needs attention.

Preparing to tackle the panel lines, I have decided to use some stretched sprue. I intend to rescribe the panel lines exactly where they are now, so need the best material into which to scribe. Rather than some sort of filler or super glue, I think that the actual kit plastic (from the surplus sprues) will be the best bet. A simple naked flame works best for heating and softening the sprue in readiness for stretching.

Here we see the stretched sprue being laid into the panel lines. Tamiya Thin Liquid glue is generously applied along the sprue and once it softens I use a toothpick or knife blade to work it further down into the panel line.

After a few minutes, the panel lines on the wing are complete. I plan to leave this dry for at least several days to ensure it is hard enough for scribing.

Here we see the closest wing has had the first round of sanding done. The stretched sprue seems to have worked as I hoped and now the surface is level. To address the surface roughness and significantly reduce the depth of the rivets, I have started sanding with a very coarse grade of wet n dry (280). Successive sanding with finer grades of paper will hopefully deliver a final surface that once primed will be ready for application of Alclad paints.

All surfaces that have panel lines and rivets will get the sprue and sanding treatment. Here we see the two horizontal tail parts (minus elevators). One sanded level, the other yet to be done.

Wishing to determine the best solution for filling all those rivet holes, I took both wings and used two different fillers on each ones inner panel. On this one, I used super glue and on the other Tamiya Basic putty. I have not yet decided which method I will use for the remainder of the wings.

Dragon provides the engine covers as clear parts. I have no desire to display this model with see-thru panels. The panel lines here also need to be dealy with and have been filled with the same stretched sprue and roughly sanded down.

Having satisfied myself that the surface detail problems were manageable, I decided to switch to the interior. A quick dry fit of the kits tub and rear radiator assembly gave me a clear idea of how things needed to be situated. The cockpit provided by Dragon is not bad, its just not as good as any of the resin offerings. Following some research, I decided that the best option was the Aires cockpit set which is designed for the Trumpeter kit ( as mentioned previously, the Dragon kit has been mostly neglected by the aftermarket companies in favour of the Trumpeter kit).

I ordered the Aires cockpit from Hannants (Aires 2091 P-51D Mustang Cockpit), not really knowing how much effort would be involved to get it to fit the Dragon kit. I was pleasantly surprised that with a minimum of fuss, it dropped into the cockpit support mounts.

Of course you don't get something for nothing in this hobby, and when I tried to close up the fusleage halves, the cockpit was too wide. Some investigation was needed.

I determined that the culprit was the resin block at the rear of the tub (under the aux fuel tank and radio stack). Out came the Dremel tool and despite the mess created, it made short work of the offending lower edge.

With the tub sorted, I test fitted the side walls. These required a bit of trimming to fit, but as you can see here, a good result can be achieved.

The final result (minus the instrument panel) can be seen here. So far so good.

One main issue that had come up time and time again as I surfed the web was the incorrect position of the interior walls of main wheel wells. All kits manufacturers (including Tamiya in 1/48) have incorrectly placed the rear of the main wheel well along the edge of the door openings. In fact the rear of the wells is along the wing main spar which sits some way aft of the door openings.

Again, Aires has come to the rescue with a resin replacement (for the Trumpeter kit). Adding to my growing order with Hannants (Aires 2092 P-5D Mustang Wheel Well & Doors), I knew some surgery was going to be required to get this one to fit. The Aires set also comes with replacement main gear doors, which was a bonus as the Dragon kit has problems in this area to (more on that later).

Unlike the cockpit, the wheel well required a lot of trimming, sanding, correcting and forcing to get a reasonable fit. In some places I removed so much resin in an effort to thin it down that it became translucent and incredibly fragile.

The final result was worth the extra effort and cost. You can see here what I mean about the correct location of the rear wall of the well. More work will be required once I get to the main landing gear struts as the Trumpeter mounting method (see the square holes) is completely different to the Dragon method.

Next up was the wing mounted machine guns. Dragon provides detailed guns and ammo bays, should you wish to open the wing panels. I'm not doing that on this model and I wanted a solution for the guns that allowed me to add them at the end of the build (after painting etc) and also position them at the right depth in the wing (so as to correct errors with the kit ones).

Last time I was in Singapore I stocked up on some nice brass tubing (1.0 and 1.5mm) which will now come in handy. Here we see the "guns" being fashioned from that brass tube. To support the tube in the right place (and angle) I glued some plasticard supports inside the wing and when dry, drilled holes through the front. Dragon provides holes on the wing underside for the gun shell ejection chutes, but they lacked depth so I boxed them in using some 20 x 60" card.

A good view of what the end result will look like for the guns. the guns on the Mustang are offset in the wing (to allow the ammunition feed belts to overlap each other) and as such they do not all protrude from the wing the same amount. This photo shows that the inboard most gun (left) does not extend at all outside the wing, and what we see is only the blast tube

Another item needing obvious correction is the rudder. On the real Mustangs, it was the only component that was still wood and cloth. Dragon have made quite a balls up of the rudder in this kit. Not only have Dragon made no real attempt to simulate the ribbing (which is quite distinctive on the real aircraft) but they have added fictious hinges which must be removed.

First step is to fill the hinges and like every other control surface on this model, the trim tab fit is very poor. Here we see I have used the stretched sprue technique to once again fill overscale gaps. I'm yet to decide on the best method to reproduce the ribbing effect. Got some ideas I wanna test out first.

Turning now to the front, as mentioned earlier I have no desire to display the engine. Having said that, I need to assemble just enough if (including support) to give me something onto which the exhaust stubs and propeller spinner can be mounted. As a general comment, the fit of these parts is not all that great so make sure you test fit.

On the real aircraft the engine cowling is sheet metal (and hence quite thin). Where the exhausts extend thru the cowling, the wall of the cowling can be seen and its quite obviously overscale. Rather than use the Dremel here (which I was concerned may get away from me an make a mess), I slowly scraped the inside of around the opening for the exhausts till an appropriate thickness was achieved.

Here we see the two engine covers, one has been thinned down the other has not. This was slow work but worth the extra effort (hopefully)

With the engine mount and cowling complete, it was time for a test fit. I decided to attach both left and right cowls to their respective fuselage halves at this point rather then when the fuselage was together.

Again from my research I had discovered that most model manufacturers have struggled to achieve the right shape of the Hamilton Standard Cuffed propeller as fitted to most earlier P-51 variants (including the D). My order to Hannants therefore also included the (Quickboost 32057 P-51D Mustang Propellor). This photo shows a direct comparison of the size and shape of the Dragon, Trumpeter and Quickboost items.

Not only is the Dragon propeller oversize, but the shape is wrong. Here we see all three props again, this time from the top. Note how the Dragon prop curves the opposite way to the other two.

With some quick modifications to the spinner to allow me to attach the props post-painting, a dry fit shows the final result. Even if you are on a very tight budget, the QB props are a must have..

Still having major doubts about the viability of this project, I needed to convince myself one way or the other that all this filling and sanding was worth it. I decided to select one surface of the model and follow all the steps I would need to do just to see what it ended up like. Here we see the port horizontal tail section (minus elevator) and I am filling some of the rivets with super glue.

Once the glue was dry (5 mins), I sanded in flush and here am creating new rivets (with different spacing) along the leading edge panel line. I am using one of the Hasegawa TriTools and a compass point to mark the spacing for the new rivets.The tape holds the template in place.

Now under a coat of primer, we see the modified part next to the orginal Dragon part. Learning a bunch of stuff here about how deep the rivets should be etc which should prove very useful once I go onto tackle the bigger pieces.

Last step in the process is a coat of Alclad Airframe Aluminium to see what it will come out like. I'm content and so the project survives to live another day.

And so onto the monstrous (thanks Dave) amount of work required to fill and sand the rivets on all model surfaces. Here I have bulk filled part of the wing lower surface with Tamiya Basic Putty

The fuselage has only had selected rivets filled (there are just too many for a 1/32 model imho) and here I have started the sanding with wet n dry paper. Notice the sanding sludge on the left part of this photo.

As you can imagine, you get sick of filling and sanding pretty darn quick. Needing a break I turned to the rudder for which I still had not figured out how to best re-create the doped cloth over wooden frame affect. After considering my options (and doing some testing which ended up failing but taught me some things) I decided to re-produce the wooden ribbing using 10x20" strip plastic. I used reference photos (and the Tamiya 1/48 model) to determine the layout.

Once dry, some 600 wet n dry was used to further thin down the ribbing to the point of almost disapearing (in some spots you can see I have in fact rubbed right through)

A thinned mixture of Mr Surfacer 1000 was lightly sprayed onto the tail (the trim tab was masked first). Building up several layers gave me the desired affect of cloth stretched over the ribbing. Overall I'm quite happy, with room for improvement next time.

A shot of the Tamiya 1/48 tail to allow you to compare my end result.

The rear radiator outlet is a very distinctive feature of the Mustang airframe. In an effort to allow the door to open and close, Dragon has created a hinge point in each fuselage half. This needs to be removed and filled using plastic card.

The radiator and housing is dry fitted to ensure a good shape. Note the white plastic card used to blank off the hole left by Dragon for the "hinge"

The door as supplied by Dragon is way over scale as the real door is nothing but sheet metal and hence very thin.

Initially I was going to scratchbuild a new door from sheet brass or copper, but when I looked at the kit part I thought it could be salvaged by careful thinning with a blade and sanding. Here we see the end result of that activity. I will need to add the actuating arm etc but that can wait for now.

I intend to attach the metal (teardrop) drop tanks to the wing and would have lived with the shape of the pylons if I had not found that Quickboost did a far more accurate set. North American P-51D Mustang pylons

Turning my attention to the cockpit, I had initially decided to use the Aires instrument panel and photo-etch instruments. Here we see the 3 parts needed to make up the whole panel. I have to confess that I have gone completely off PE for raised detail like the instrument panel bezels as I find it too shallow.

Recently CMK have started to release a series of cockpit parts for the Dragon kit. As I also do not like photo-etch seatbelts, I purchased the CMK seat (and backplate) as they had the seatbelts molded on. Of course the Aires cockpit comes with seat already and backing plate. This picture is interesting in that it shows much two after market manufacturers can differ. I choose the CMK backplate as I think it looks more accurate than the Aires one.

The CMK seat and backing plate ready for a coat of primer. Note the small details added from brass rod and strip on the seat.

With a coat of grey primer, the detail of the CMK resin seat begins to show thru. With detail painting and washing I think this seat will look superior to the Aires one with PE belts.

After a re-think on how I would tackle the instrument panel, I decdided that I liked the kit panel and the Aires Resin stack underneath. Using a new blade I carefully cut the resin and kit parts and re-married the bits I wanted as shown here. The Dragon kit provides Cartograph decals for the instrument dials so they should look fine.

A quick dry fit into the resin tub. Here we can also see the kit support frame for the gunsight.

Speaking of gunsights, notice the major difference between the Aires and Dragon K-14A gunsights. I think I will be using the kit one.

Another distinctive feature of the P-51 was the use of plywood for the cockpit floor (presumably as a weight saving measure ?). Most photos I have seen of war weary mustangs show a black painted floor with wood showing through the abraded paint. I have attempted to re-produce this effect by applying a coat of XF-57 Buff, then a clear coat of Future and finally a very light coat of black. As the black paint was drying I used a cotton bud with some thinners and gently wiped it over the black to remove it. I believe that once the other weathering etc is done, this should look about right.

Turning back to the wing, I needed to finish off the brass tube replacement 0.50cal gun barrels. Only four of the barrels show out of the front of the mustang wing, with the two inner guns hidden completely within the wing. For these inboard guns, only the blast tubes are visible.

Test fitting of the barrels to the wing. My plan is fit the barrels at the end of the build so I need to ensure they cannot be inserted too far, hence the stop fences.

The base colours have been applied to the cockpit components. Detail painting will follow.

The left (port) fuselage interior has had base painting completed. Base color is Mr Color Interior Green and panels have been hand painted using Vallejo Grey Black.

Likewise the right (starboard) fuselage has been painted. Next step will be a raw umber oil wash, flat coat, drybrushing and final detail painting

I have been re-reading some old Verlinden books lately, I was inspired to use some shading techniques within the wheel wells. Here I have applied the base Interior Green (Mr Color 351 - Zinc Chromate FS34151) coat, followed by darkened shade in the corners and lightened shades in the center of larger panels. I hope it will add some visual depth and interest to the area.

Detail painting and oil washes (Raw Umber) have been applied to the wheel well. Next step is to glue this guy into the wing.

The main cockpit tub has received its detailed painting. The masking tape hase been removed from the "plywood" floor. The cabling was picked out using lite gray Valejo acrylic paint.

The very nice CMK seat has also been hand painted with Vallejo paints. Note that the belt buckles have intentionally not been painted at this point. Reason for this is I want to flat coat the whole seat prior to an oil wash and experience has shown that the metalic paints (Alclad and others) do not look as realistic under a coat of flat clear. I will therefore leave the buckles to the very end.

The kit instrument panel has been gloss coated (hand brushed Future in my case) in preparation for the Dragon supplied (Cartograph) decals.

As expected the Cartograph decals perfomed faultlessly when applied with Microset and Microsol. This simply is the best way to make a realistic instrument panel in my opinion.

The P-51 cockpit is absolutely covered with warning placards and Eduard have created a pre-painted PE set to cover these items. As you can see, this parts are VERY tiny (even in 1/32) and I had a bit of a head scratch on how to stick them on. Normally I would use Super Glue, but these extra small parts were very hard to pick up and position accurately using CA glue. Not sure where I have heard it said that Future can act as an adhesive, but anyway I thought it would be ideal for this situation. So I applied a fairly wet coat of future to the instrument panel and then carefully placed the placards on and moved them into position and overcoated with more Future. Once dry, this gave a fairly strong bond and so far (crosses fingers) has held firm

As the Future method of attaching the PE to the instrument panel seemed to work so well, I decided to use it again on the sidewalls, As you can see, you really don't need very much Future to get it to adhere the PE. Later on I was even able to lightly mask over the PE parts without drama.

The whole panel has received a flat coat. Next up will be some oil washes and dry brushing followed by detail painting (switches etc). Last step will be to lighly gloss up the glass faces of the instruments themselves. No need to go to hard with the gloss when doing this as we need to achieve a scale effect.

Here we see the almost completed panel and seat. The buckles on the seat have now been painted metalic and I believe leaving them to the end (after flat coating etc) was the right decision. Much of the hand painted silver metal on this model has been done with something new I discovered recently. "Artist Ink" comes in many interesting colors (including silver) and can be brush painted and washed out in water (at least the acrylic version).

The radio stack behind the seat will be quite visible thru the canopy on the finished model so its well worth the effort in detailing and weathering this section. A light wash of Raw Sienna oil paint on black items helps to highlight the very nice detail on the Aires resin. Final subtle drybrushing with Model Master Silver enamel gives the whole thing a feeling of war weariness

The CMK seat has now been attached (using super glue).

The instrument panel now attached to the cockpit floor, with the control stick (Aires resin). Its finally starrting to the feel like a P-51 :)

Of course the sidewalls haven been worked on as well as the tub. The P-51 cockpit is not overly colorful, but careful detail painting (and good reference) helps to bring out the excellent detail provided by Aires.

I'm very happy with how the PE placards have blended with the sidewalls. Not really sure how much of this work will be seen or appreciated once I join the fuselage. Just as well I took all these photos now :) I'm quite pleased with Raw Umber as the base wash for Interior Green cockpits. It seems to help lift the detail without overly affecting the color tint.

While the instrument panel glue was drying, the whole assembly was placed in the fuselage to ensure the alignment was correct. As you can see, much of the detail is hidden, but then we all know that's going to happen with most models. Its part of the hobby to get it right anyway.

I'm generally happy with the level of weathering I have achieved for this cockpit. I wanted tired, not worn out. It looks like a cockpit that is lived in. Also the choice of plastic instrument panel over PE was the right one.

As I am getting close to being able to join the fuselage, some other interior items needed attention. The main intake and radiator outlet have been painted interior green and yellow respectively.

A clear shot of the starboard fuselage interior. Note that the radiator has been attached already and the interior areas painted in there appropriate colors.

Much to my annoyance, Dragon have designed the tail wheel to be attached prior to closing the fuselage. This means it will be protruding during the entire build and I am confident that I will manage to break it off at least once.

The engine and mounting chassis will be glued in at this point. This item is only needed to give me something to attach the exhausts and prop spinner to.

So after double and triple checking everything, its time for some glue. The fit is actually very good and the tape if really only there to be sure.

A view from the bottom. Some interesting seam sanding challenges lie ahead here I am sure.

With the fuselage drying, its time to get those wings stuck together as well. The fit was definitely affected by the use of the Aires resin wheel well and here you can see I had to use to clamps to "convince" everyone to place nicely.

A shot of the wheel bay (coated in black to hide the fact that in sections it has sanded so thin so as to be translucent)

Signalling lights were fitted to the wing tip of all Mustangs. Tamiya clear paints were used to provide the three colors prior to gluing into the wing interior

The spinner has an "empty" back and not knowing for sure how snug a fit this will be to the fuselage, I opt for filling in the rear with plasticard, just in case.

Once dry, the excess card is trimmed away with a knife, then sanded down flush. The spinner has a panel line which needs to be re-scribed. For this I will use my favourite Pactra tape as a scribing guide

In between the main intake and radiator outlet is the oil radiator outlet door and chute. This photo of a real P-51 shows the area in question quite clearly.

Of course, Dragons effort to reproduce this area is fairly average and I now decided to see if I can improve on it. The first thing to go is the ramp and this is easily removed with a sharp blade.

Some Evergreen plasticard is used to box in the sides of the outlet ramp. The bottom of the ramp is a bit trickier due to the curved shape. I used some "French Curves" drawing templates as a cutting guide to get the right shape for the ramp floor.

The ramp construction is complete with some minor work to be done to the door sides. This is a great improvement over the kit and worth the extra effort.

Before commencing the scribing work on the wing, I checked (and corrected) the fit of the fuselage to wing join. Several braces were used within the fuselage to spread it to meet up with the wings to minimise the gap.

Time had come to begin re-scribing the wing panel lines. I used a mixture of Pactra 1/16" flexible tape and metal rules as scribing guides. Here we see a copper rule held in place with tape along which the scribing blade will be guided. It's very important that whatever you use as the guide or template for scribing and riveting is held firmly to ensure a consistent result. Nothing worse than a crooked line of rivets.

For the access hatches etc the use of commercially available scribing templates is best. For the actual scribing I like to use a simple pin vise with a very fine needle. This results in a bit of a mess (as it tears the plastic rather than cutting it) so sanding and cleanup is required.

The bulk of the work has been completed on the wing. Here you can see that I plan to show the gun and ammo covers as natural metal and have therefore added back the rivets. In several areas the stretched sprue in the panel line did not scribe cleanly and some repairs with super glue in these spots was needed.

The panels covering the fuel tanks on the bottom of the wing (just behind the main wheel wells) are quite distinctive in that they are bordered by several hundred raised screw heads. Dragon do no provide us with this detail and I felt something needed to be done to address this.

Whilst trying to figure out how to create about 200 scale screw heads I stumbled upon this site A quick order and I had myself several packets of 40, 50 and 80 thou scale rivets. Of course holes had to be marked out, drilled and brass rivets glued in by hand. Fun !!

The desired rivet details have been re-added and a coat of primer applied to check for blemishes. The original riveting from Dragon was quite resistant to super glue filling, so here I have smeared some Tamiya Basic putty where needed.

Time to glue all those brass rivets in. I tried to use super glue, but as each rivet was a fairly tight fit, the glue would set before I could silde it into place. What I needed was something that could hold the brass tightly when dry, whilst giving me working time and easy cleanup. Elmers Glue-All (a PVA based glue) was the answer. It's not the strongest bond for brass to plastic, but given these rivets are not load bearing I'm betting they will hold. Just in case, a coat of Future was hand brushed over the top of each rivet head to give some extra strength.

Here we see the finished riveting on the port side. A time consuming job for sure, but a fairly simple one. Next up, rinse and repeat for the starboard side

With the top of the wing complete, its time to re-create some details I removed prior to all that sanding. Not exactly sure of the purpose of these small raised vanes in front of the ailerons, but some 10x40 thou strip plastic allowed me get the basic shape.

Once the glue was dry they could be gently sanded down to a more accurate and aerodynamic shape

Turning my attention next to the fuselage, re-scribing was a bit more challenging than the wings due to the curves. Again, I made extensive use of 1/16" Pactra flexible tape. I love this stuff as it conforms to most tricky surfaces and gives a nice edge for the Tamiya scribing tool to follow.

From my scale drawings and photo references, the majority of the work needed to be added was on and around the engine cowling. The fit of the clear parts was not great and much detail was lost during sanding and shaping. This now had to be re-created by scribing, riveting and drilling.

I decided to leave a great deal of the toned down Dragon rivet detail on the fuselage side as most photos of real mustangs show these to be quite visible (especially on dirty and weathered airframes). Extensive use of DZUS fasteners was made on the real P-51 and I have attempted to recreate these using a suitably (#77) sized drill. I know that the real thing is flush, but I could not come up with a suitable scale solution, so drilled holes will have to suffice for this model.

The rear fuselage riveting and panel lines under construction. I would have to say that the streched sprue technique for filling the panel lines was a fairly big failure on the fuselage as I did not use the correct sizes to fit the panel lines and when scribed, most shattered or came out leaving a bigger mess. Lesson learned for next time.

Not all Dragon rivets were retained (I felt these needed to be toned down) and here you can clearly see the rows of rivets that have been filled and sanded flush. Additional panel lines have also been added in this area as Dragon left a few out.

With the fuselage work coming along, I wanted to see how well the windshield fitted. I had been pre warned by others who have built this kit that this was a potential trouble spot. Initial test fitting showed a very poor fit, but with a patient attitude and some poking and prodding I realised that the main fault was that the clear part needed to be spread slightly wider than molded to get a snug fit with the fuselage. To accommodate this, I use some 40 thou plastic strip to create several "spacers" on each side. Now when the windshield is attached, the "spacers" force it apart that small bit and it fits almost perfectly. Other modellers were not so lucky it seems.

Last task tackled in this update was the control surfaces. On the P-51D model, all control surfaces (other than the rudder) were metal skinned. Here you see work being done to the flaps, again removing unwanted rivet detail using super glue as a filler.

Another of the glaring inaccuracies of the Dragon kit is the cutouts on the inboard edge of the flaps. Not sure why they did this as the kit can be modified to be correct. If I can do it, then surely they could have done it. Basically the P-51 flaps are solid, without this cutout. Interestingly, the new Tamiya kit is much better, but even they have a small cutout section that needs to be filled (with a part they provide) if the flaps are displayed down.

First step is to fill the gap with appropriate sized plastic card. What you see here is very rough and will be trimmed, filed and sanded to shape. I used super glue here as the fit was not very good and I wanted the glue to act as a filler.

After much trimming, sanding and cutting, the plasticard is shaped in line with the rest of the flap. All that remains is to add the rivet detail and apply a coat of primer to check the finish.

Just as the inboard section of the flap was wrong, so was the wing root on the fuselage. All of the plastic behind the flap jinge point must be removed to allow the flap itself to retract into.

Some careful work with a new knife blade and this area is together looking much better and much worse. Plastic sheet will now be used to "skin" the side and top of this cutout section under the wing fillet.

A useful view of the shaped plasticard piece that will be slotted into the fuselage to form the top of the flap cutout. This white part will slide in to the fuselage, be glued and then trimmed to shape.

Here we see the same part in place. Taking a few minutes to work out the most effective way to solve a problem can save you hours of time in the long run.

Here was see a good shot of the finished modifcation. The wing root has been reshaped to accomodate the restracted flap and the flap itself built up to its correct shape as well. I can see no reason why Dragon could not have gotten this right in the first place.

A shot from above clearly showing the corrected flap and the much improved lip of the wing root fillet.

Turning my attention next to all the control surfaces. After re-scribing of the panel lines and re-riveting, it was time to add in some simple details like the trim tab actuators, Here we see the starboard elevator trim tab with a scratchbuilt actuator. 30 x 60 thou stip was used as the basis for the part of the actuator. The actual rod was made from stretched sprue.

Just like the elevator, the ailerons on each wing have a trim tab. Again actuators have been added from strip and stretched sprue.

Last, but not least is the rudder trim tab actuator. This one is noticeably bigger than the others. Notice that I have lightly sanded away the primer paint to ensure a solid bond with the liquid styrene glue.

With the surface and seam work complete on fuselage, its time to apply a coat of primer to check for fixup areas. The windshield has not been added yet, so a rough masking of the cockpit is needed to keep excess primer out.

The wing to fuselage join proved to by more trouble than I had hoped. Despite my pre-work with plastic card, in the end I filled the join with super glue, sanded it back and rescribed the join line. In the process, some wing and fuselage fillet detail was lost and this was fairly tricky to replace once the wing was on (scribers don't like corners much)

Another area of Dragon "fictional" panel and fastener details is around the lower nose area. Dragon would have use the seam line as a panel line, which is just plain wrong. Here we see the seam and incorrect rivet/fastener details being filled and sanded.

Once the seams have been sanded and removed, new panel lines and DSUS fasteners must be added. Any half decent line drawing of a P-51 can be used as a reference for this work. Again more sloppy work from Dragon.

The final result under a coat of primer. This is not hard work, just attention to detail really.

The starboard wing root has been sanded back and the join panel line rescribed. The use of super glue for a filler is advised here as you need something that will dry very hard and can be scribed over.

As elsewhere, grey primer is used to check the result. A couple of minor glitches visible here that need to be cleaned up.

With the wing joined up, I temporarily turned my attention to the main undercarriage. Dragon has done a "reasonable" effort in re-producing the P-51 main struts. As I have a collection of good reference photos, I decided that several items could benefit from extra work.

My inital thought was to thin down and hollow out the kit parts for the oleo scissors, but in the end a better result was obtained by building them from scratch using 60x30 thou strip

Like the Tojo, I intend to put this model on a small base with some figures. Looking for some new methods to weather up the wheels I decided to try painting the resin wheels in a muddy (Tamiya Flat Earth) color and then dry brush the black over the top. This way I hope the mud will look more realistic and stay in the tyre tread etc. Not finished yet, but here you can see the idea and progress.

Prior to securing all the undercarriage parts together with glue, I wanted to check the sit of the aircraft and alignment of the wings etc. Glad I did as few minor adjustments resulted.

Inching closer to painting, it was now time to attach the windshield. Before I could do that, the interior framing had to be painted. As usual I hand masked up the interior, airbrushed a coat of Tamiya Nato Black.

The very last item in the cockpit that needed fitting prior to the windshield was the K-14a gyro gunsight and its mount. I had earlier decided to use the kit gunsight, however after more research realised it was considerably overscale. During the duration of this build I have obtained some AMS Resin 1/32 K-14 gunsights and these looked very nice. The gunsight was painted up, the reflector glass added from clear sheet plastic and the "No Hand" decal scavenged from the spares box (I noticed that Tamiya give you this decal in their kit. Nice one)

Whilst working around the cockpit, another task on the list was to add the antenna wire access hole and guide in the top of the canopy. This required a delicate touch as it involved drilling two 12 thou holes in the top of the canopy. I was going to leave it at that, but decided it looked odd without the guide rails that border the hole. These were crafted from 10x30 thou card and glued on with PVA glue.

I have not previously been a user of pre-cut canopy masks and decided to give the Eduard one a try for this model. Well I don't know what the problem was, but as you can see here the mask did not even go close to fitting the model. I thought I must have purchased the wrong mask, but after double checking decided I had the mask designed for the Dragon 1/32 P-51D. What gives, I don't know... Maybe they designed the mask based on a test shot of the kit ??

Another shot of how poorly the Eduard mask fitted the Dragon kit. After this experience, I am not likely to fork out money for these masks in the future.

I was able to get the windshield to fit the kit fairly well. This is one area that other modelers who have tackled this kit have had major problems with. As I did not want to have to sand, polish and buff the join here, I opted to fill the small visible gaps between the fuselage and glass using Milliput (a two part expoxy putty that does not attack styrene plastic). This photo shows how I have roughly applied the Milliput to the area to be filled.

After careful smoothing using cotton buds dipped in water, the Milliput is removed with no residue left on the clear parts. Now, the end result here is not perfect, but adequate and a lot less effort than proper sanding etc.

A useful shot of the P-51D exhaust stubs and shroud. Notice how a lot more of the shroud is visible towards the nose. This is because the cowling curves inwards at this point, whereas the exhaust stubs run parallel to the enigine block (ie the engine block is straight while the cowling curves inward).

The kit exhaust stubs and shrouds do not look too bad imo. What does need some adjusting is the position they sit in relation to the cowling. Plasticard placed behind the exhaust help me get the right angle and depth in relation to the cowling and engine block.

A before and after shot of the canopy interior brace. The kit part just looked too thick and poorly defined for my taste. Some thinning with a file and enlarging/sharpening of the lightening holes results in a much better result.

After much deliberation and searching through decal options, I finally decided on a blue nose Mustang, flown by the WWII Ace John Myers. This is Col Myers 3rd Mustang (hence the name Petie 3rd). I was drawn to the color on the nose and tail as well as the invasion stripes on the fuselage.

These scans are taken from the Kagero Topcolor #13 book, "Opertaion Bodenplatte" which covers the very late war era in Europe. I really like this series of books and have obtained most of them. They each cover a theme (eg Battle of Britain etc) and include decals and masks allowing the modeler to depict most of the aircraft in the book.

With the cockpit masked and the primer sanded smooth with micro mesh, it was time for painting to commence. Alclad have recently released a new range of clear coats (one acrylic and five solvent based). The "Aqua Gloss" clear is the acrylic one and is said to be a suitable alternative to Future floor polish (which I have used successfully in the past). One recommended use of the Aqua Gloss is as a base coat for Alclads. I already had my primer applied, but I figured and extra layer of protection would not hurt. The clear is pre-thinned in the bottle ready for spraying. As you can see it is milky (unlike Future) and I found that it tended to pool up too easily, even when sprayed at the suggested pressure of 15psi. I left it overnight to dry.

Next day I was ready for the first layer of Alclad. I very much like the "bright" range of Alclads and in particular my favourite is "Airframe Aluminium" ALC119. Most of the original Alclad range can be directly masked over with no adverse affects. However, the "bright" range are not as durable and I found learnt to treat them with respect. To this end, my first step after leaving the paint to dry was a thin coat of Future.

With the Future dry, I was confident to begin the masking of selected panels to allow me to break up the NMF finish with other shades. Here you can see I have selected two panels on the spine to get a coat of Dark Aluminium (a less bright shade). Other panels on the tail received the same treatment.

The wing roots on most mustangs I have seen are quite shiny, for this I wanted to use Alclad Highly Polished Aluminium. Masking was applied and rather than apply a black undercoat (which is normal for this color), I simply sprayed over top of the Airframe Aluminium. As a result there is only a very subtle difference between the two (so subtle in fact it was probably not worth the effort).

One thing I had learnt whilst masking and painting the Hasegawa Ki-44 Tojo, was that even Tamiya tape can be too tacky for Alclad. Having had a bad experience on the Tojo with paint lifting very late in the build, I wanted to do everything I could to avoid this on the Mustang. One easy way to make the Tamiya tape "less tacky" is to stick to your hand a few times. The oils in your skin etc remove some of the glue from the tape. This means the tape still does it job for masking, but holds on the paint just that little bit less.

With the fuselage NMF painting complete, it was time to mask up and paint the wings. As discussed before, the laminar flow wings of the Mustang were not NMF as they left the factory. In fact the wings were puttied, primed and finally painted silver. To simulate this I wanted to find a paint that did not look like NMF, but rather painted on silver. I tested and evaluated many paints (including decanting some Tamiya spray colors) and in the end settled for an Alclad color "Duralium". This shade had the right dullness and lustre for what I was after. To start it was a bit shiny, but in the end it received a coat of the new Alclad "Light Sheen" clear.

The following diagrams show the exact shades of Alclad Metalisers I used when painting this model.

To assist me in determining the correct location for the fuselage black and white invasion stripes, I photocopied the decal and temporarily attached it to the fuselage so as to get the spacing correct.

Next on the painting list was the blue nose, spinner and rudder. A fairly simple masking job here. I was tempted to chip and heavily weather the cowling, but in the end decided on a more subdued approach. I experimented with different mixes of blue to find a close match, but in the end followed Dragons instructions by using Gunze H15 Bright Blue out of the bottle. Also in this picture you can see the Duralium finish now applied to the wings and how it clearly contrasts with the shiny NMF of the wing root.

To save time and expensive tape, I used some wet paper towel as a mask on the wings. This is very easy to do and incredibly effective.

Having previously masked off the invasion stripes and applied the white coat, it was time to complete the process with the black bands. The masking may seem straight forward, however the curves around the fuselage led to some tricky challenges.

This Mustang also has black ID stripes on the wing and tail upper/lower surfaces. Here we see the masking being applied. The wing has by this stage also been sealed with Future (for decal and panel washing).

So at this point, painting is pretty much finished. Due to my preparation and care with masking, I did not have any issues with paint lifting (thankfully)

Here we see the completed underside. Again the different shades of Alclad are quite distinctive.

One area of construction I had not completed was the main undercarriage legs. The Dragon kit items a generally ok in shape and size, but lack much detail which I believed would benefit the finished model greatly as the P-51 undercarriage is very visble.

A closer shot of the lower half of the main landing strut. The use of commonly found items like solder wire help us provide an extra level of detail to lift the model.

Following some minor detail painting (fuel filler caps etc), we are ready for decals. As the Kagero decal sheet does not provide any national insignia (stars and bars in this case), these were taken from the kit decals sheet. Luckily Dragon did this one thing correctly by having the decal sheet printed by Cartograph.

The specific markings for Petie 3rd (kill markings, sqn badge etc) came from the Kagero sheet. I wil say that these decals are perhaps the thinnest I have ever used and went on beautifully. I even cut out the ID codes on the fuselage (removing all excess carrier film in and between the letters "HO") and they still responded well to Microset and Microsol.

Another light coat of Future over the decals to seal them, and it was time for a panel wash. I started with my usual Testors Model Master Burnt Umber, but decided halfway through that I wanted it darker. I added some Interior Black and liberally applied to the wash to the surface of the model. Left overnight, the excess was removed with a soft cloth dipped in white spirit and where the wash had not taken correctly, repairs and touch ups were handled.

And so, this build comes to an end. Weathering details like gun stains, exhaust stains were added with the airbrush and final assembly of undercarriage, drop tanks etc took place.

I had also been working on the side on a couple of figures and an Miltary Police bike. These items come from assorted Tamiya 1/35 accessories kits. I tried a couple of new techniques for painting the figures and am happy with my progress to date in that respect. All I really want is for the figures to not detract from the aircraft model :)

Of course, it would not be a real world model build without some last minute dramas. When gluing the canopy in place, I held it with some masking tape. When I gently removed the tape, the top of the "O" decal on the right side of the fuselage came away... A simple enough fix was to hand paint it back. Another problem that had occurred during the final days of construction was a crack in the top of the right wing. This crack, as you can see, extended almost the full length of the ammunition cover panel and was caused because of the very thin plastic there and my repeated handling. This problem required a different solution (see below).

Rather than try and glue and sand back the crack in the wing, when I displayed the model at my local IPMS club, a few chaps suggested I just cover it up (literally) with a sheet or tarp. I liked the idea and ran with it. Some lead foil and a couple of 0.50 cal ammo boxes did the trick.

CONCLUSION - Dragon 1:32 P-51D Mustang (32001)

So there you have it. The supposedly unbuildable Dragon P-51. Even before the Tamiya kit came out in 1:32 this attempt by Dragon was woeful. If someone gives you this kit, then throw it away and go buy the Tamiya 1:32 kit. Don't be stubborn like me. Enough said.