Classic Airframes 

P-51H Mustang

kit no. 426

By Bradley D. Chun IPMS #33945

Copyrighted 1999

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Scale: 1/48th

Price: $ 29.98

Manufacturer: Classic Airframes

Address: P.O. Box 577580

Chicago, IL 60657-7580

The P-51H was the end result of a program at North American to cut weight off of the Mustang to make it more competitive, in rate of climb, against the Spitfire and Bf109. A lightweight fighter study was conducted, combining combat reports indicating problems that P-51 pilots were encountering and test results from three different Mustangs – XP-51F, XP-51G, and XP-51J – this eventually evolved into the production P-51H. The test weight of the XP-51F was to be kept below 5,700 lbs, down 1,300 lbs from the P-51D. This was accomplished through the use of a much thinner cross section wing, a redesigned bubbletop canopy, a smaller landing gear strut and wheels, and an Aeroproducts prop of lighter weight and three blades. The engine was the proven Packard V-1650-3 as used in the P-51B. The XP-51F weighed 5,365 lbs and test flights resulted in a top speed of 466 mph at 29,000 ft and a rate of climb of 4,000 ft per second.

The XP-51G was an XP-51F airframe fitted with an experimental Rolls Royce RM-14SM engine that featured a very touchy fuel control-metering device in place of a carburetor. When the device was working, it would develop over 2,000 hp at 20,000 ft. Top speed of the XP-51G climbed to 495 mph and a rate of climb of 5,000 ft per minute was attained. Due to the fact that the cockpit wasn’t pressurized, the service ceiling was limited to 46,000 ft. The XP-51J was a stretched lightweight airframe built around the new Allison V-1710-119, which was supposed to be equal to the special Merlin SM-14SM. Tests were flawed by many problems with the new engine. Eventually the problems would be ironed out and the engine would soon find its place as the engine in the F-82 models beyond the E variant.

The P-51H was basically a XP-51F with a 13" stretch to the fuselage using the Packard V-1650-9 engine that delivered 1,380 hp at 3,000 rpm and 2,270 hp in War Emergency Low Blower setting with water injection. The 13" stretch was added to correct directional stability problems that had arisen in the other lightweight airframes. A taller vertical fin was fitted to all of the production P-51Hs after the 33rd production airframe. The P-51H also featured a 4-bladed, cuffless Aeroproducts propeller, a smaller chin scoop and a larger deeper radiator housing.

When the P-51H first took to the air in February 1945, development of the Mustang was brought to its peak. Referred to by some as the "tall-tail" Mustang, the first production batch actually had the short vertical fin like the "D" variant. The distinctive "tall-tail" was added during the H-5 production series. There were a total of 555 P-51Hs produced.

The P-51H arrived too late to see service in World War II, and like its predecessors, it was designed to carry a variety of external stores (such as rockets, bombs, or fuel tanks). The P-51H was not exported; however, one example from the initial production batch was shipped to the RAF for evaluation. The US serial number was 464181, and the British serial number was KN987.

After World War II ended, the very popular P-51H remained in service with the USAF, and continued to serve until the jet age slowly phased it out. The P-51H was passed on to the Air National Guard and served in less than 29 squadrons.

With much anticipation, I recently received Classic Airframes 1/48th scale P-51H Mustang limited-run, multi-media kit from a fellow modeler in the mid-west. This is the first time that I know of that two different manufacturers had released two kits of a particular subject at the same time. The other recently released injection molded 1/48th scale P-51H is produced by HiPM. And until recently, the only other 1/48th scale P-51H that I know of was the very expensive resin model by Collect-Aire.

Upon opening the box, (which shows a P-51H, #464591, from the Wisconsin Air National Guard, on the box top), the modeler will find an instruction sheet, a bag containing two sprues of grey, injection-molded parts, two vacuformed canopies, a bag containing resin detail parts, a painting and marking guide, and a decal sheet.

The instruction sheet is a simple 8 "x14" tri-fold sheet that contains a brief history and specifications of the P-51H Mustang, universal instruction assembly symbols, paint reference guide, injection molded plastic and resin parts layout diagram, and nine step assembly process. The instruction sheet is very well laid out and there are a few assembly notes included to aid the modeler in making the assembly easier and for added detailing.

Two sprues of injection molded grey parts contain the major airframe and some detailing parts. The 45 injection molded parts comprise of the fuselage halves, tail wheel doors, tail surfaces, lower wing section, upper wing halves, individual propeller blades, spinner halves, exhausts, landing gear struts and doors, main wheels, and underwing fuel tank halves. The aileron bulges are missing, but only the most expert of P-51 experts will notice this. The bulges can be added from scratch. There is even a civilian antenna to be added under the wing, if the modeler so chooses. Surface detail is recessed, and nicely scribed. As with most limited run kits, there is some flash to be found on most of the parts. The flash is not beyond the scope of some modelers to remove. This might be due to the fact that most of the injection gates are smaller than most limited run injection kits I’ve seen as the molds are resin based and not metal. The injection-molded parts are sensibly engineered, just like one would find on a RevellHaseTamiyogram kit.

Two vacuformed canopies are included in this kit. This has become a standard that this modeler likes. One does not always have a steady hand while removing vacuform canopies. Some modelers like to have their canopies in the open position to show off the detail in the cockpit and having two canopies simplifies this. One vacuform canopy can be used for the windscreen, and the other for the sliding section. The frame detail is really nice on the canopies and the canopy frames should pose no problem for masking when it comes time to paint. The canopies can definitely benefit from a dip in Future, or some polishing, as the ones in the kit I have, have a few scratches.

As with most limited-run injection kits today, the inclusion of resin detail parts has now become the norm. Classic Airframes is no exception to this rule either. Included in a small bag are 15 resin detail parts produced by CMK. These resin parts include the cockpit details, instrument panel, seat, and wing pylon racks. I could find no air bubbles in any of the resin parts, however, the instrument panel is for a P-51D, and not the P-51H. CMKs quality, casting, and level of detail appears to be improving. Unfortunately, for those who like photo-etch instrument panels, you’ll have to wait for an aftermarket set.

Two very nicely printed painting and marking guides are included. One sheet is printed in color, and the other is in black and white. The painting and marking guides show the four different decal choices in four views and also state the colors and FS numbers required for the version shown. The color painting and marking guide shows the views for the "tall-tail" P-51Hs for the 56th Fighter Group, Selfridge Field, MI, 1946, and CPT Paul Poberezny, Wisconsin Air National Guard. The black and white painting and markings guide shows the "short-tail" version for the NAA prototype, 1945, and the RAF evaluation aircraft, KN987, 1945.

The decal included in this kit appears to be printed by Aeromaster. Even though there isn’t a "printed by" stencil on the decal sheet, the decal sheet has the Aeromaster "look". As stated, there are four versions the modeler has a choice of building, two "tall-tails", or two "short-tails". The stenciling is sharp and can be read without any magnification, the NAA symbol rivals any of the aftermarket decals, and I could not find any registration problems on my decal sheet. The red bars for the U.S. national insignia are also separate decals.

Overall, there are 45 injection-molded parts, two vacuformed canopies, and 15 resin parts in this limited-run kit. Jules Bringuier and Classic Airframes can be complemented on producing another really nice limited-run, multi-media, injection molded kit of the lightweight P-51H Mustang. Of course, those modelers suffering from AMS will no doubt add some of the missing details from scratch, but P-51 fans can now add a reasonably priced P-51H to their 1/48th scale collections. I highly recommend this kit to any P-51 Mustang fan, and this should be an easy kit to build for any modeler who has any experience with building limited run kits. (I guess I won’t have to hack up my Modelcraft P-82 kit anymore!)

Brad