1/48 Tamiya P-51D Mustang

By Joe McFeely

Here is Tamiya's superb P-51 D Mustang in 1/48th scale from the recent "8th AF Aces" release which I built in tribute to the 60th anniversary of the D-day invasion. The plane is an example of "Betty Lee III", a P-51D-15-NA, flown by Lt. William T. Kemp out of the 375th FS/ 361st FG in England, September 1944. I don't know too much about Lt. Kemp, however, according to the 361st web site, he shot down six in combat (unknown if all were in this plane or another). The bird was built for a friend who had to have a yellow-nosed Mustang with invasion stripes. (note: The Pearl Harbor P-40 C on this site was built for this same friend).

This was my first Tamiya kit.  Its a true "Shake and Bake" kit as with most Tamiya offerings (I'm told).  Presumably you can shake the box, open it and you have an airplane.  I will have trouble going back to anything else at this point since this kit spoiled me in accuracy and detail.  I had no trouble with seems or fit anywhere.  I used the excellent Aeromaster "Yellow Nose Mustangs 48-655" sheet and a set of True Details "under load" wheels (This should be a given).

The cockpit was the starting point. It was found to be very detailed and needed little improvement other than scratch built seat harnesses out of masking tape and fuse wire. I added some wires to the radio compartment also. I painted the cockpit MM (Model Master) interior green mixed with a little yellow since this seems to be the most common. The landing gear bays were sprayed with the same. Both were then given a sludge wash to bring out the detail. The landing gear itself was painted in MM Aluminum and brake lines were added by means of fine fuse wire. The exhaust ports were improved by drilling out the holes. I was having trouble drilling out the wing guns due to their small size and I didn't have a bit small enough. During this agony, a new technique hit me. I inserted a sewing needle into my pin vise and heated it momentarily over a candle. I pressed the heated needle into the tip of the gun where the hole should be. After a few repeat presses, wal ahhh.....realistic gun barrels. No more hypodermic needles. The trick is to not let the needle get too hot where it melts the plastic, just enough to made an indentation on the tip.

Betty Lee III was my first attempt at a NMF (Natural Metal finish). I took all of the ideas and suggestions learned for either books or ARC and I kind of combined them in an experimental manner. I opted to try Tamiya's AS-12 in the spray can for the base silver color since its known for a realistic hue and durability unlike other NMF colors which tend to be quite fragile. After assembly and checking the seams, I first sprayed the plane with Gloss black automotive paint as a primer. Since I have trouble with control on spray cans, I decanted some of the AS-12 lacquer into a paint jar with a straw. This went without a hitch and is a highly recommended technique. It was then ready sprayed down with my airbrush in light coats. Once cured a couple of days, I picked out individual panels on the wings and fuselage with shades of MM aluminum, aluminum plate, and magnesium. This was a pleasing effect providing a non uniform, used look. Betty Lee III had invasion stripes on the lower fuselage and lower wings. I opted to paint the lower stripes and use the kit decal for the fuselage one. I measured off each stripe at 3/8th of an inch and spaced accordingly putting down the flat white. I measured again and taped off the white stripes. I then sprayed down flat black mixed with a little blue for the black stripes. I was pleased with the results. The yellow nose was then taped off and sprayed with Insignia yellow mixed with a little white for scale. The rudder and canopy bottom were then painted Insignia Blue mixed neutral gray (about 70/30 ratio) to depict the pale blue that the Aeromaster reference sheet calls for. I kept mixing till it looked about right. The anti glare panel was then painted flat black.

The decals snuggled down without a hitch. I did have some trouble with the invasion stripe decal on the lower fuselage. I used tons of Micro Sol where it meets the wing root where a wrinkle would not disappear. The panel lines were then washed with the sludge wash and a sealer coat was put down over the plane. After some weathering with Tamiya Smoke, and dark gray pastel chalk for the machine gun streaks, it was finished. The diorama base was made from the usual tarmac notebook board on top of ;wood. This time, I used fine saw dust to simulate grass. It was airbrushed green and yellow mix to show grass in England. I get better with each one I build.

This bird was a pleasure to build and I will be building my own eventually. I will try the Alcalad II method next time. I've just started my Tamiya A6M2 Zero which will be in a Pearl Harbor scheme. Photos to follow...........

Enjoy the Photos,
Joe