Here is my P-51B Mustang in 1/32 and Yes it is Revell’s old kit. It is also the only kit in existence that I know of in this scale. (However, I think there might be a whole new resin kit available now). I spent more than six months working on it and now it is the newest addition to my collection. I would like to share her story.
For starters, let me introduce myself. My name is Ben, I’m 28 years old, I build models everyday, and I am currently active duty in the United States Air Force. This is the first time I have submitted anything on Aircraft Resource Center, which is a wonderful website, by the way…. Keep it up!
I don’t think I really need to go into the history of the P-51 so I’ll get right to the project.
I bought this kit thinking it was a 1/48th and I got home and realized it was not! I got pretty excited since I only paid ten bucks for the thing… that is until I opened the box and saw how poorly detailed it was. It sat on my shelf for three years until I decided it was time to build it. Originally I was just going to build it OOB but the plane was quite big and I wanted it to show detail. One note on details…. I traditionally like to build models OOB, whether they are crappy in detail or exceed the detailing limits. I don’t build big planes all of the time, I mostly do 1/48 and don’t bother spending the money on all the fancy AM parts and PE accessories and then spending forever building the model. If that were the case, I would probably build one kit per year! Besides, I really enjoy building models the way I did when I was a kid growing up… Get one, open it, fantasize about how it’s going to look when done, and build it! Then go out and get another one! I’m just a kid in an adult’s body doing the craft that I love, as a hobby… not as a job. This model however was different. It was big, and had a lot of opportunities for super detailing. If I was going to build it, I was going to use whatever I could get to make it look good. This project was just a nightmare from day one. The kit is incredibly inaccurate and had a ton of shortcomings that I had to try to overcome. So I looked at what aftermarket stuff was available, needless to say, there was not that much. :(
Here’s what I used in addition to some first time scratchbuilding….
Most of the Eduard parts went into the cockpit and I must say, they made it look soooo much better than what Revell had as far as details go. It was the first time I had ever used a PE set before, by the way. :) I also tried to add more little details, such as a hand-held cockpit light, a manual gunsight, glass for the reflector gunsight, seatbelts made out of tinfoil…. Wow, it’s amazing what you can do with that tinfoil stuff! The little headrest was made out of it as well. On the real aircraft, the headrest was actually a small bag pouch, used to store things. Must have been gentle on the pilot’s head as well…. Maybe it was a personal preference anyways. The radio comp was detailed with wires and little black boxes. You can’t see them very well in the pictures, but they’re there.
I couldn’t find any AM canopies so I had to use what the kit offered…. It sucked, it really did. I mean it didn’t even sit straight on the fuselage. I had a heck of a time getting the front piece to settle, but eventually did.
The landing gear struts were horrible, but I managed to use them with the help of superglue. I did have struts from Hasegawa, but they were used and the ends were broken off so I didn’t think they would have good support. I added brake lines made from solder wire. The kit tailwheel was awful, so I used one from Hasegawa. One of the only areas that I did not pay a lot of attention to was the wheel wells. They are way to shallow and inaccurate, but by the time I got to them, I didn’t want to deal with ‘em. Oh well.
The .50 Cal gun holes were really wide and open so I just used plastic glue tips cut down to size so it would fill the void and resemble the ends of the gunbarrels. I added beefed up plates around the shell ejector holes for the guns.
I scratchbuilt the landing light assembly out of clear plastic and curved it to the shape of the wing.
I made some actuator struts out of stretched sprue for the landing gear doors.
I didn’t add any antenna wires on the plane. Usually the first thing to get broken off anyways. :)
I decided that I wanted the flaps and horizontal stabs to be in the down position so I cut them out and repositioned them. The flaps were open on the inside end, so I used Q-tip sticks, putty and tin foil to fill the gaps.
The plane had a lot of raised rivets needless to say. So I sanded them down and tried a poor attempt at a rescribe job. I have to admit I really don’t like rescribing. But I did a little here and there and got rid of some of the raised rivets. Although it lost a lot of surface detail, I am quite pleased with the result.
Click on images below to see larger images
Now, the powerplant area. The biggest issue with this build was the engine. From the nacelle all the way to the propeller came problems. This is what took the majority of the time. First of all, I hated the kit prop. It looked really Mickey-mouse. The blades I thought were too skinny and the spinner looked small and didn’t have the correct shape. So, I decided to use a different prop. I could’ve used the stock engine, but I wanted one with a lot of detail so I picked up a resin Merlin engine from Engines and Things. Pretty detailed, however it was not designed to fit into the Revell Mustang. It was too big so I had to cut and trim alot of details off so it could fit in the engine compartment. Then I had to figure out how to mount it and make it sit perfectly straight. This also raised another issue… The engine had no moving parts to allow a propeller to spin. I just used the old heat and flare method to fix that. But my biggest concern was making sure the engine and Hasegawa propeller would be properly aligned. The other issue I ran into was I had to cut most of the front fuselage away (where the propeller meets the cowling) in order to accept the front of the engine. This meant I had to try and scratch build the air intake and rebuild the top portion. That took a couple weeks…. And it ended up being a waste of time and effort. By then I received some spare parts from Larry Hawkins. I was planning on using only the prop spinner, but it was much too big for my rebuilt nacelle. So naturally, I was irritated and I decided to cut off the rebuilt nose section and start over. This worked out well though since Mr. Hawkins also sent me the back end of the spinner assembly, which housed the correct looking intake and upper cowl. (I did have to scratch build a duct out of tinfoil for the intake, otherwise the engine would be visible through the hole).
This part was a little wider than the Revell Fuselage, but It was better than nothing and it looked good so I used it anyways. I had to do more plastic surgery by cutting and grafting the Hasegawa nose section onto the Revell kit. After many hours of puttying, filing and sanding it had a natural look. Looking at the final finish, I couldn’t tell there had been any surgery at all! A proud moment for me indeed. I dressed up the engine with some wires and hoses and piping. The real thing has a lot more than mine actually shows, but I think it looks good as is… Especially with the Moskit exhausts. These really make the engine stand out. They are superthin and are very realistic looking. You can’t go wrong with Moskit! I did drill out some holes where the top cowing attaches to the nacelle to spice up the framework. I found a photograph of a Merlin engine that had Rolls-Royce printed in Red on it. I don’t know if Mustang Merlins of WW2 had it or not, I just thought it looked cool. :)
The last major issue on the engine was the top cowling. When attached to the nacelle, the horizontal exhaust ports were way too big. I made them more narrow by cutting thin cardboard and matchsticks and grafting them to the cowling. A little superglue, sanding and puttying and they were blended into the cowling. Now they look better and have enough room to allow the exhaust pipes to stick out.
Last but not least are the fuel tanks. Revell didn’t even supply them with the kit. They did have the pylons though…. But nowhere on the instructions were they to be used. I had to figure out exactly where they were to be mounted, since there were no locating holes. The standard tanks came from Hasegawa. I added fuel lines made from solderwire and masking tape.
Finally, painting and markings. One thing that makes this aircraft unique is it’s camo scheme. It was rare to see a camouflaged Mustang in the European Theatre during the war. I used neutral gray, olive drab and dark green. I used Model Master Metallizer for the primer coat hoping to get a “chipped paint” effect. That didn’t work that well and added extra work anyways. I’ll just stick with primer gray next time. The markings of this plane belonged to Maj. Duane Beeson, one of the highest ranking Aces of the 334th Fighter Squadron, who scored over twenty victories in Spitfires, Thunderbolts, and his North American P-51B. He was shot down in this Mustang on April 5, 1944 by anti-aircraft fire. He was captured and spent the rest of the war as a POW. He was freed by the Russians in 1945. After returning to the states, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and unfortunately, died in 1947. He was only 26 years old.
The only decals from the kit that I used were the identification letters and the BEE emblem. The rest came off of an excellent set from Eagle Strike Decals. Some of them silvered on me, but not too bad. The kill markings were each put on one at a time. They came from different decal sheets.
In summary, this old kit is an oldie, but a possible goodie… depends on how good one wants it to look. I have been building models since I was seven and this has to be the worst kit I have ever built in the last twenty years. There were a lot of other setbacks that I didn’t mention. As a matter of fact, I almost quit the project because I was so frustrated with the endless problems. It was probably the most awful model to build, but this awful model ended up looking fantastic IMHO. I am very proud of this kit. I finished it up right before deploying to the Middle East and it was wonderful to come back home and seeing her sitting on the shelf lookin’ all sexy. :)
This is the first in my “WW2 Fighter Aces” Series in 1/32 scale. Other models that I’m looking forward to are some of the not-so-common aces such as –
Herman Graf’s Bf-109G, Joseph Priller’s Me-109E, Hans-Ulrich Rudel’s JU-87G Stuka, John D. Landers’ P-51D Big Beautiful Doll, Robert Scott’s P-40E, Hans Dortenman’s FW-190, Francis Gabresky’s P-47 just to name a few.
Special Thanks to Larry Hawkins, this model couldn’t have been completed without his help.
I Hope you enjoy my P-51.
Click on images below to see larger images
Photos and text © by Benjamin Z. Nielsen