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My P-51 Mustang Project

The idea for this project was born in 2012. As I orginally conceived it, the goal was to build — in 1:48 scale — an example of each variant of the P-51 Mustang flown by the US in World War II. The Mustang became my favorite plane when I was a kid. I built a copy of Monogram’s P-51B right out of the box with no paint (I was a kid with no allowance, so I couldn’t afford both the kit and paint). Later, a Monogram P-51B became the first model that I ever painted with an airbrush. It was decorated as James Howard’s Ding Hao. I don’t know what happened to that model, but I ended up becoming primarily a model railroader, so my hobby time and resources went to my model railroad. In the late 1990’s, though, I decided that I wanted a model of a Mustang, so I took a break from model railroading and built another Mongram P-51B. I found a set of SuperScale decals for Nicholas Megura’s Ill Wind? and used those instead of the kit decals. When I first built it, I just glued the clear canopy parts on; I had never painted canopy frames before because masking them seemed to require finer skills than I posessed. Sometime later I found a set of True Details Fast Frames and used those to do the canopy frames. I thought that the canopy frames looked a bit clunky, but generally the model came out pretty well. Fast forward to 2012. I decided that I wanted another model of Ding Hao. I picked up another Monogram kit, a set of SuperScale decals, and a Legend resin cockpit. I made a few other modifications to the kit as well: I replaced the cast on nav lights with MV Products parts and I painted clear decal film and cut it into strips for the canopy framing (I couldn’t find a Fast Frames set). Almost from the time that I finished it, I wasn’t happy with that model. The canopy frames didn’t look quite right (especially in photos) and I had learned that the prototype’s nav lights were actually teardrop shaped, not round as included in the kit (and the MV Products lenses that I used). In addition, the words Ding Hao were outlined in red. That might have been correct at some point in the plane’s existence, but the only color photos I had ever seen of Ding Hao showed yellow outlines. Then I subscribed to Finescale Modeler magazine and began to see what well-done aircraft models looked like and how to produce them. I looked at my Mustangs and they didn’t stand up to the scrutiny.

The desire to replace those models grew into a desire to build a series of Mustangs. At that point, I knew that there were P-51B’s; I had built several models of them. I also knew that there were P-51D’s. Trying to think logically, I concluded that there must have been P-51A’s (the Allison-powered Mustangs that I had read about in the kit notes) and, most probably, P-51C’s. I figured that I’d have to build at most four or five models: an A, two B’s (to replace my substandard ones), possibly a C, and a D. I started doing research on the Mustang, and the project began to grow. I learned that there were, indeed, P-51A’s, but also P-51’s (no letter) and A-36’s, all Allison powered. Thinking that I now knew about all the different variants, I started looking for kits and aftermarket accessories. In terms of available kits, there weren’t a whole lot of choices for the early Allison-powered variants, but I’d heard good things about the Accurate Miniatures kits, so I went with those for the A-36, the P-51, the P-51A, and one P-51B (remember, I’m building two of those because I want to replace the two Monogram kits). I opted for a Tamiya kit for the other B. You’ll note that I haven’t included a P-51C. Technically, there were P-51C’s, but the only difference between the B and C was that P-51B’s were built at North American’s Inglewood, California plant and the C’s were built in Dallas, Texas. I went with Tamiya kits for my two D’s (I found two sets of aftermarket decals for P-51D’s and couldn’t decide between them). I ordered the kits and bunches of aftermarket detail parts and started building.

As I was doing research for the P-51 build, though, I discovered that the USAAC installed cameras in 35 of the 55 P-51’s that it acquired. Those aircraft — intended for reconnaissance service — were given the designation F-6A. OK, I thought, I’ll build one of those, too. As I looked for information on the F-6’s, though, I discovered that there were photo recon versions of every other version of the Mustang. At that point, I decided that enough was enough. I decided to build an F-6A and then call the collection complete. Yeah, right. At that point, it hit me that many of the razor-back Mustangs (all the variants before the D) were fitted with Malcolm hoods to improve visibility and none of my planned models included a Malcolm hood. I had managed to acquire one of Accurate Miniatures’ F-6B kits (don’t ask), and I found decals for an F-6B with a Malcolm hood. Then I picked up a book on the “bubbletop” Mustangs and discovered that there was a P-51K flown by the US in WWII. At first, I though the K’s were just D’s built in Dallas (similar to the B’s and C’s), but it turns out that the K variant had a different prop and a canopy with a slightly different profile. I originally decided on a Hasegawa kit for a P-51K. Shortly after that purchase, I picked up an ICM P-51D that I found on sale, simply to get the pilot and crew figures that came with it. I didn’t intend to build the plane. But I got an email notice from Kits-World about a new set of decals for an F-6D. I really liked the way they looked and I had a spare D sitting around that I could convert, so the list grew again. When I built my first Tamiya D, I was struck by how nice a kit it was and I found that it included the K variant canopy. Since the Hasegawa kit included fixed flaps, I decided to replace it with a Tamiya. At the same time, I went ahead and bought s second Tamiya D to replace the ICM kit.

Below are links to each build.

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