Tamiya 1/48 P-51D '8th Air Force'

KIT #: 61088
PRICE: $23.00 SRP
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Dave Cummings
NOTES: Decals: Eagle Strike ď4th fighter Group in WWIIĒ EP48274

HISTORY

On induction into the USAAF in September, 1942, 71 Eagle Squadron, RAF, became the 334th Fighter Squadron, 121 Eagle Sqn was re-designated the 335th FS and 133 Sqn became the 336th FS. These formed the new 4th Fighter Group which remained at the Eagle Squadronís RAF home station at Debden Aerodrome. They would also retain the established RAF Mess, cooks, and club. It was a cushy existence compared to new USAAF units swarming into England to be greeted by hastily constructed airstrips, tents, and outhouses. They flew their beloved Spitfires into 1943 when they were mandated to begin equipping with the USAAFís new wonder fighter, the P-47. The pilots had an immediate dislike for the ďJugĒ as it was nicknamed. They were used to their light highly maneuverable Spits. They viewed the difference as giving up great handling British sports cars for a big, heavy, though powerful Buick. The P-47 was nearly twice the weight of a Spit. Eventually they learned to make good use of the Thunderboltís strengths of good high altitude performance, ruggedness, and devastating firepower. In April the few remaining Spitfires made their last mission and the first kills were scored with the P-47. The P-47 shared one drawback with the Spitfire, relatively short range. Even with drop tanks it could not escort the bombers into Germany and bomber losses mounted. Later the new P-51 began to enter the scene and the 4th looked enviously at the Mustang squadrons which did have the needed long range. The 4th began receiving Mustangs in February 1944. In addition to long range the new plane was smaller and lighter than the Thunderbolt, having the same Merlin engine as the Spitfire. With the P-51 the 4th wreaked havoc over the continent becoming the highest scoring Fighter Group in the European Theater with a claimed 1,000 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air and on the ground.

By 1945 the 335th FS C.O., Major Pierce McKennon, was one of the few original Eagle Squadron members still remaining in the 4th FG. Among his new pilots was CPT George Green whom he found to be a bit troublesome. He was a bit of a hotshot and prone to breaking regulations and the C.O. threatened to ground him several times. He would be glad he changed his mind. On March 8, 1945, McKennon led his squadron deep into Germany. While strafing an airfield his P-51 was hit by AA fire and he was forced to bail out. The squadron circled over him as he came down in a farm field. Disregarding strict regulations (as usual), Green landed his Mustang, WD-M ďSuzon,Ē in the field which was really too small to safely do so. As German Soldiers approached Green radioed the Squadron to keep them off him. The Mustangs came down and made short work of the German patrol. The two men shed parachutes and life preservers in order to cram into the tiny cockpit. With Green sitting in McKennonís lap he got the Mustang into the air in half the distance normally required. 2 Ĺ hrs later they were safely back at Debden. Photo: McKennon (L) and Green (R).

THE KIT

Itís the Tamiya Mustang, `nuff said. Though 20 something years old now itís still one of the best model airplane kits I have built. If you are building for a contest you may want to spruce it up with some aftermarket stuff. But if, like me, you are just going to park it in the display case the Tamiya kit is just fine out of the box.

CONSTRUCTION

Remove parts from sprue trees. Squirt glue in box and replace lid. Shake gently for ten seconds. Remove finished model. Ok, so itís not really that easy, but if you follow the well laid out instructions and apply rudimentary modelling skills and patience it would be hard to screw this kit up. However, If you are doing a NMF finish you will have to take extra care with those fuselage and wing join seams. Silver paint will highlight every seam and sanding scratch. My collection of WWII aircraft is all camo finishes and I had a hankering to try something different and brighten things up a bit with a Natural Metal Finish. I also had the Eagle Strike decals with Greenís Mustang which had caught my eye.

COLORS & MARKINGS

Now the truth is, much as you want to build a shiny polished aluminum Mustang, those only exist in post war warbirds and racers. The wings of wartime P-51Ds were actually coated in aluminum paint. You just donít find many highly polished NMF WWII warplanes. Still, I was itching to try the AlClad II Polished Aluminum that had been sitting in my drawer too long because of that fact. Also, as the 4th FG continued to operate from England in 1945 these planes were very well maintained. With the hardest part of the war behind them pilots and crews began to give more attention to the looks of their personal mounts. At Debden, fancy highly polished paint jobs became more the norm. All young men take pride in their hot rods. I figured a coat of matt clear would tone it down some. So there, I had just justified an alternate reality to myself. Just the excuse I needed to try one of those shiny NMF schemes with contrasting panels. In addition to the AlClad, I selected the ever popular Testorís non-buffing aluminum. To get the promised mirror finish from the AlClad you must first give the model a base coat of gloss black. Before doing so I painted the rudder white and masked when thoroughly dry. Then the anti-glare panel on the nose was painted Testorís Model Master OD and masked. Then I painted the airframe with a rattle can of Testorís Gloss Black. Donít forget the landing gear doors and stuff. Take care to protect the finish as it dries from the dust and hair floating in the room. The AlClad lacquer sprays like a dream and dries quickly. I masked various panels with Tamiya tape and sprayed the Testorís aluminum. The curvy red nose area was outlined with a soft pencil to guide the masking tape. Narrow width Tamiya tape worked well for following the lines then wider tapes to cover. I sprayed the nose and spinner with Model Master Insignia Red. The cockpit frame is also red. Painting is made easier here as Tamiya makes this a separate part from the canopy. The most challenging part was that tricky red outlining of the white rudder. Some thin decal stripes worked for the interior part on the hinge line but would not be suitable for the outer edges. I just ran the flat sides of a brush with red paint around the outer edges of the ridder and thankfully that worked for me.

The Eagle Strike decals are very nicely printed, opaque, and easy to use. Once the decals were on I settled them down with some Micro-Sol. I applied a little black acrylic wash here and there on panel lines but kept things mostly clean. Then I used a nail to scrape paint off cowling fasteners around the nose area. I scuffed up a few places and dinged the prop blades some. I kept the weathering understated but, still, it doesnít look like it just rolled out of the paint shop either. Lastly, and hesitantly I might add, I dulled up that brilliant shine with a coat of Testorís flat acrylic.

The exhausts were painted Testorís Steel enamel and when dry painted over with a thinned rust that allowed the metal sheen to show through. All the final bits were assembled; prop, landing gear, drop tanks, etc. I drilled a hole in the canopy with a pin vise to pass a fishing line antenna wire through.

CONCLUSIONS

The Tamiya Mustang is a fun build, free of surprises, and looks great out of the box. Not sure just how historically accurate my paint job is but it allowed me to try my hand at the AlClad NMF I have been wanting to do. It came out pretty good, but were I to do it again I would give it a couple more coats of AlClad which spays very thin. I was happy with all of it, kit, paints, and decals.

REFERENCES

 1,000 Destroyed, The Life and Times of the 4th Fighter Group by Grover Hall; 4th Fighter Group in WWII by Larry Davis, Squadron/Signal #6181.

Dave Cummings

29 September 2017

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