Professionally Built Scale Plastic Models

North American P-51D Mustang 8th AF

P51Mustang4

This is a lovely Tamiya kit of the popular Mustang in 1/48th scale. It’s one of a number of Mustangs that Tamiya do (like the Spitfire, the Mustang is heavily represented by all the manufacturers) – so you have plenty of choice if you want to make one.

The Kit

The Tamiya kit is really solid and well thought-out – but somehow they manage to put all that ‘solidness’ inside the model – so when you look at it from the outside it just looks beautifully to scale and finely detailed. The good thing about that is it makes the kit very easy to build – and more importantly to build well. That solid, well thought-out construction really flatters you as a model builder, making it very easy to produce a great result that with many other manufacturers, would be really hard work.

The Build

The actual physical build on this was easy – you really only need to follow the instructions and be careful with the glue. Everything goes together well and the plastic is excellent quality – so if you do need to do any filling or sanding it’s about as easy as it gets.

I used mostly liquid cement for the large parts – it lets you get the fit just right and then flow in the cement for a near-perfect fit. Accessories and details were glued with ordinary cement if ahead of painting or Cyanoacrylate (it’s much easier to say super-glue) after painting and weathering.

Painting & Decals

I built this model a few years ago, so I’m writing this from memory, but there were a couple of options for markings. I went for the classic metal airframe with a striking blue nose.

I love metal airframes like this – there is something beautiful and exotic about them – but they can be a challenge to do at scale. I spent many years frustrated at how to achieve this with silver paint – it always looks opaque and dull compared with the real thing. Thankfully, I then discovered Alclad.

If you haven’t tried it you really should – it uses a black base coat with a silver over the top to give real depth and shine to the effect. Well worth the effort and the bit extra to buy it. The only issue with Alclad is that it is very unforgiving of any surface blemishes – but again the good fit stopped this being a problem.

I used a couple of different types of Alclad (from memory it was Airframe Aluminium, Dull Aluminium and Dark Aluminium) spraying the main airframe in (you guessed it) Airframe Aluminium and then picking out individual panels at random in the other two colours. This just gives the silver a bit of variation and stops the whole aircraft feeling like it has been freshly painted. After that, masking the nose shape for the blue was a bit fiddly, but other than that the paint went on very easily.

Decals are the usual high-quality from Tamiya and applied well to the fine detail. As usual I used Micro-Set as a gentle pre-softener and although I can’t remember if it needed it here, I often follow up with Micro-Sol to make sure the  decal sits completely flat.

Weathering

I didn’t want to weather this model too heavily – I think the US Airforce would have taken pretty good care of (and more than a little pride in) their aircraft – but I did want it to look like a hard-working plane to reflect the scale of its missions. Also, I wanted to make sure that I picked out all the nice detail in the airframe – so I just used a light oil wash of dark sepia black across all the panel lines. I cleaned that off gently (and lightly) with turpentine – which had the added bonus of giving the panels a burnished feel – and combined with the different types of Alclad the end result looks quite natural I think.

I had already applied a dark wash and then dry-brushed a lighter highlight to the undercarriage and cockpit etc, and the polished nature of the airframe meant I didn’t then have to bother with the usual WW2 matt varnish – so the model was complete.

Conclusion

A great kit of a lovely aircraft – easy to build and gives a great result even straight from the box. With a bit of extra effort it gets even better – and whilst I’m sure there’s a lot more a professional could do with it – I was pretty pleased with this result.

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