After painting, I applied a layer of Testor’s Glosscoat to protect the paint and provide a nice, smooth surface for decaling. The kit decals provide the markings for Major James Howard’s “Ding Hao!” which was high on my list for subjects. I left the broom markings and crew name decals off to depict an earlier version of his aircraft. The decals performed flawlessly. The kit’s stencils and national insignia were used for all twelve builds, the wing insignia needed a little extra Micro Set & Sol to pull down over the raised details but that was it.
Here is part of the P-51B/C decal stash. Remember the good ol’ days when Squadron would send out their monthly fliers and actually mark down prices on things? This is where the trouble began. The Eagle Strike and AeroMaster sheets were likely picked up for just a couple of Dollars and thrown in with the rest of the order, and I’ve been waiting ever since to use them.
Props-Are-Us was also having a sale! Props are a lot of work, I did the blades early in the build and painted the spinners along the way.
All the models got the dangly bits under the wings. There is no positive attachment point for any of the options, so they were all pinned in place using bronze rod. The drop tanks will also need the plumbing as this was external, here represented by beading wire and solder.
Late in the build I discovered the vinyl masks had bit me again. This time, one of the transparent vinyl masks had popped off one of the quarter panels unnoticed. The transparent part had received the brunt of all the airbrushed layers from primer to gloss. Gently stripping it fogged the plastic, so it was sanded back, buffed out, and re-painted. If there is any doubt remaining, I hate vinyl masks!
What’s better for the modeling mojo than finishing a model? Finishing twelve! It’s very efficient to build in batches, the major downside is it delays the gratification of seeing your project completed.
For reasons which defy logic, 1/72 scale modelers have never had an accurate P-51B/C Mustang until now. All previous releases have had one fatal shape error or another which was impossible to un-see and difficult to correct. Arma has hit this one out of the park, and it should be a license for them to print money well into the future without any of the inflationary consequences when the U.S. Government does it. The kits are accurate, well-detailed, and provide all the optional parts the average modeler could ever want. The engineering is superb, the only fit issue I encountered was a step at the forward edge of the windscreen which needed sanding.
My boxings were the “Expert Set”, which include a fret of photoetch and a set of masks, and here is where I will pick a nit. The PE fret adds little, I used the radiator parts but they are impossible to see without flipping the model over and using a flashlight. I used the PE seatbelts too, but nothing else from the fret.
The vinyl masks were a disaster. I understand there were supply chain issues when Arma released this kit and they were a victim of the global Kabuki tape shortage, but the vinyl masks tried their best to ruin an otherwise excellent modeling experience. They (mostly) stuck fine to the flat panels, but pulled off of anything with a curve. In the end the PE and vinyl masks were a mixed bag and significantly raised the price of the kit. Masks ARE a good idea however, I sincerely hope Arma includes a set in future boxings – this time using Kabuki tape, including inner and outer masks for the open panels, and (here’s a thought) making the seatbelts out of Kabuki tape instead of PE.
I understand Arma’s Ki-84 kit is currently selling even better than their P-51B/C Mustang. I have a batch on pre-order, and am looking forward to building those as well!
Build posts Part I here:
Painting has begun! Many of the Mustangs in this batch will be in an overall Natural Metal Finish (NMF) or a variant. This is a misnomer in the case of the Mustang, as the wings were painted in an Aluminum lacquer to help preserve laminar flow over the wings after the panel lines had been puttied. I didn’t fill the panel lines, but the Aluminum lacquer was simulated by adding a bit of Alclad white primer to their aluminum. The fuselage, tail surfaces, ailerons, and flaps were Aluminum. The panels behind the exhausts were sprayed with Stainless Steel, cut with a few drops of Aluminum.
This is why I hate vinyl masks. The vinyl doesn’t like curved surfaces, here they have pulled up allowing the Interior Green paint underneath. Fortunately the kits provide both this type of canopy and the Malcolm hood, so there were spares to replace the worst of these. I used the vinyl masks as templates to lay out masking tape replacements, cleaned up the parts, and tried again. Hopefully Arma replaces these masks with Kabuki tape in future releases.
Loads of masking tape was used on these builds. First the camo, then the stripes, then antiglare panels and/or unit markings. Most of the models wound up getting three applications of tape before all the colors were on.
One aircraft wore a field-applied scheme using RAF Dark Green over Medium Sea Gray. The Dark Green is a mix of Mr. Color 340 Field Green and 123 RLM Dark Green, the Medium Sea Gray is 306. Something a little different from the rest of the herd!
The standard USAAF finish for the first few years of the war was Olive Drab over Neutral Gray. Sounds simple, but Olive Drab faded to a wide range of shades, and didn’t start out as a uniform color anyway. I filled the airbrush cup with mixes as I went down the line. In extreme cases the O.D. could fade to a shade close to the tan I used here but I didn’t go past a 50/50 mix.
Only rarely should something be truly black in scale, most black paint looks better if it’s lightened a little. The black on this model is a mix of Mr. Color Black and Tire Black. The base color here is Alclad Aluminum, with a lightened mix on the wings to simulate the Aluminum Lacquer. Stainless Steel was used for the exhaust panels, and the Bright Silver Candy Base was applied to the leading edges of the flaps.
Part V here:
This is a test fit of the major components with the cockpit assembly in place, no glue used at this stage. Arma did a great job with the engineering. Tolerances are tight but show no need for trimming to get a good fit. The one area where you could get into trouble here is if the cockpit components do not seat properly and spread the fuselage, the wing joints are a tight fit so there is no margin for error.
Everything is glued in place here using MEK from the hardware store. The thin glue works great if the fit is good, and careful alignment of the parts means there will be no wing root seem to fill later.
Arma’s wheel wells extend all the way back to the main spar, just like they’re supposed to. The panel with all the rivets directly aft of the well displays a subtle “oil canning” effect, as do the flaps. I have not seen this attempted before in 1/72 scale, it is difficult to see but a nice touch! I went ahead and mounted the landing gear legs in order to support the model while the paint dries. The legs will need masked and care must be taken in handling to prevent breakage, but I thought the trade-off was worth it.
The flaps and inner wheel well doors on the Mustang were held in place by hydraulic pressure, and drooped down when the engine was not running as the pressure bled off. When parked, the flaps on Mustangs are normally down, Arma has molded them as separate pieces with tabs to show them dropped. If you want to show them raised, just cut off the tabs and they’ll fit just fine. Here I have sprayed the leading edge of the flaps with Alclad Bright Candy Apple Base to represent the polished Aluminum surface and taped them to a card for further painting.
Here the transparencies are in place with the vinyl masks applied. These worked fine on the relatively flat panels, but the compound curves on the top of the windscreens and the landing lights were hopeless so they were replaced with masking tape. The windscreen sits a little proud of the fuselage and sanding the base of the part did not remedy this, so there will be a step to fill and reduce at the forward edge.
A problem with mounting the gear legs early is masking can be difficult to remove without damaging the delicate legs. I have tried to keep the tape loose around the legs while still shielding them from overspray.
A general view of the workbench. All the kits have been given a coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000 to check for flaws. Small parts are taped to cards for painting. The landing gear leg covers showed some sink marks, these were filled, sanded smooth, and re-primed. There is also a small sink on starboard side of the fuselage which needs filled.
Part IV here:
The first fourteen steps in the instructions are building the cockpit and other interior features. That’s half the steps! The radiator under the fuselage is well represented, but I seriously doubt the photoetch parts will be visible on the finished model. The bottom part of the assembly (part A30) has two ejection pin towers which almost look like they might belong there, but they must be removed for the part to fit.
The fuselage sides have a lot of detail right out of the box. There are several decals for each side to enhance the look, which is great because the sidewalls are more visible than the instrument panels on most aircraft. Kudos to Arma for including all the placards!
The kit provides a choice of seats, the Schick-Johnson seat is on the left and the Warren McArthur type is on the right. I had to look them up, the Schick-Johnson was introduced first, but either type could be used as they were installed as they arrived at the factories. Some sources indicate they could also be swapped out in the field during maintenance. Honestly, I’ll be guessing in many cases as to which seat will go into which model. Seatbelts are from the kit PE fret, and look the part after paint and a wash.
Arma provides parts to build three different configurations for the equipment behind the seats. According to Detail & Scale Vol. 50, the 85-gallon fuel tank was fitted on the production lines beginning with P-51B-10-NA and P-51C-5-NT but could also be refitted to earlier Mustangs. The tanks adversely affected the aircraft’s center of gravity, and so were only filled to 65 gallons in service. At some point a “+” sign was added near the data block to remind everyone of the fuselage tank, but I couldn’t pin down just when that happened.
All twelve cockpit assemblies together. Whew! One thing to watch out for is the instructions in step 1 show the brace behind the seat to be mounted in the holes seen here in front of the seat. The brace should actually mount to the step in the cockpit floor.
The instrument panel takes four decals and a piece of PE. I left the PE off as it really didn’t add anything other than texture under one of the decals which would be almost impossible to see even if you knew to look for it.
Everything has a groove, slot, and/or pin to fit into and aligns well. Don’t forget the tailwheel! As you can see here, much of the equipment behind the seat will be invisible once the fuselage is closed up. By this point you have to open up the two indicated recesses if you are modeling one of the F-6 photo-reconnaissance aircraft, or the recess for the HF/DF loop if you’re modeling one of the CBI birds. The instructions don’t mention opening the HF/DF loop hole but show the base going into it later so plan ahead if your subject needs the loop!
In step fifteen of the instructions you finally close up the fuselage. Fit is great. I was a little worried about getting all the cockpit assemblies to line up right, pay particular attention that the cockpit floor fits into the slots on both sides and that the instrument panel sits right. Other than that, flexing the fuselage sides a bit while gluing seemed to seat everything correctly.
Part III here:
An inexplicable gap in the line-up of 1/72 scale kits was the high-backed Mustang. Sure, there were kits, but all had fatal shape issues of the “once it has been seen, it cannot be unseen” variety which required heroic efforts to correct. Modelers have been bemoaning the lack of an accurate P-51B/C on the forums ever since there have been forums. Arma Hobbies from Poland has finally answered the call. Having agitated for an accurate B/C myself, I ordered enough through the LHS for a long-anticipated batch build.
The main parts are on sprue “B”. The kit is molded in a hard, gray plastic and features finely engraved panel lines and a satin finish. My examples had a little flash around the canopy rails, but otherwise the molding is crisp and clean. Sprue attachment points are heavy on the large parts and require care to separate. The kit offers the choice of tails with or without the fillet, a nice touch.
Sprue “A” has the smaller parts common to most of the Mustang family. Flaps are intended to be assembled in their typical “drooped” position when the aircraft is on the ground, but can be mounted up by cutting off the mounting tabs. Three types of ordinance are included, 250 pound bombs plus 75-gallon metal and 108-gallon paper drop tanks. The modeler has the choice of two types of seats and three radio configurations for the cockpit. For the nose one can choose between three different vent panels and two types of exhausts. With the expert set a small PE fret and vinyl masks are included.
The decal sheet provides markings for seven schemes (Evalina is represented twice, in both US and captured Japanese markings). You are provided enough stencils to build two models. Where Arma has gone the extra mile here is with the cockpit markings, which represent every dial and information placard. Depending on the particular equipment configuration, approximately 30 decals will be needed to dress up the interior. The one criticism I would offer here is the seatbelt decals are printed in yellow, not tan.
Here is a close up showing the finely recessed detail on the upper wing panel. While this is spectacular, it is also incorrect. The Mustang featured laminar-flow wings, to keep the airflow smooth the wing joints were filled with putty and the surfaces were painted with Aluminum dope. The gun and ammo bays should be represented, but almost all the other panel lines should not be seen. This is overlooked by almost every Mustang kit in any scale, but is incorrect. Having said all that, I have decided to leave the wings in my kits as they are rather than bother to fill them.
While the end-opening boxes will be of no help on the workbench, Arma’s sprues have a neat pin-and-socket feature molded in which allows for easy stacking. This helps keep things organized and saves room on the bench.
On a recent Plastic Model Mojo podcast Mike and Dave discussed the virtues of finishing the ordinance at the beginning of a build to avoid burn-out or being distracted by the next shiny new kit. I extended that concept to a variety of smaller assemblies and “bust offables” which normally come after major assembly. This is the general chaos on the bench with many smaller parts cleaned up and taped to cards for painting. Plastic Model Mojo here: https://www.plasticmodelmojo.com/
I thought the kit’s 250-pound bombs looked a little anemic so I replaced them with spare 500-pounders from a Monogram B-29 kit. The standard underwing shackles on the P-51 were rated at 550 pounds, although there are photos of Mustangs carrying 1,000-pounders. The rest of the builds will get drop tanks. The bar stock is inserted into holes drilled at the fuel line positions, the tanks will need to be fitted with the external plumbing when they are mounted.
The mask set provides masks for the main wheels. Reportedly the supply of the expected yellow Kabuki tape was interrupted by Covid supply chain issues, so Arma used the translucent green vinyl masks for their Expert Set. I always have problems with the vinyl masks, some of these wheels will need to be repainted. We’ll see if I can get them to work on the canopies!
Painting propellers is a chore so it was good to knock these out early. Each prop had to have the tips painted and masked and was provided with eight decals. I cheated a little by showing the paint of the backs of the blades worn off which was a common occurrence.
Part II here:
The newest Kingfisher on the shelf is this 2019 offering from AZmodel from the Czech Republic. The Kingfisher was the most common shipboard observation aircraft fielded by the U.S. Navy during the Second World War and has been well-represented in 1/72 scale.
The main sprue displays both raised and engraved surface detail. Fabric areas are perhaps a little exaggerated but look the part under a coat of paint. Beaching gear is included which is a welcome addition.
Parts are included to model the Kingfisher on either floats or wheels, which is appropriate as the actual aircraft could be converted easily as the need arose. A choice of single or twin guns is given for the observer’s position, and there is a set of bomb racks and 100-pound bombs for underwing stores.
Basic cockpit detail is provided. The mounts for the observer’s machine gun need to be trimmed back for the gun to fit properly.
Here the interior has been painted and weathered up a bit. I used the kit engine and added ignition wires. I was not clear on the position of the forward portion of the observer’s “shelf” and mounted mine too far forward.
Major assembly is complete in this photo. By this time I had realized my mistake with the cockpit part. I made adjustments to the kit with an exacto knife and made adjustments to my attitude with some modeling fluid from a little brown bottle. The seams were also smoothed out with some Perfect Plastic Putty.
More filling work was needed on the underside. The cockpit parts had spread the fuselage which left a gap on the underside. This was filled with superglue, and more PPP was needed along the wingroots.
Fit of the clear parts was not great, and I didn’t help matters by trying a new technique I had read about online and using Gorilla glue. The advantage to using Gorilla glue is that it does not fog and excess can be wiped away with a wet swab. The problem I encountered is the setting time is long and the bond is initially quite weak, which resulted in the canopy shifting slightly overnight. My next Kingfisher will feature vacuformed canopy sections. Here the canopy is in the process of being masked with little rectangles of masking tape.
The floats got some extra detail. Circular access ports were added to the top, there is no way they could have been molded on due to the mold release angle. Test fitting revealed there would be a gap at the rear support so this was built up with plastic card. The front of the float has an open cleat, while the underside has the hook for the towing sled and catapult attachment point added. The rudder linkage was added to the rear support, and the wing floats got wire handholds.
The beaching gear was missing several small details, but these were easily added with Evergreen and wire. The propeller hub looked odd, but then I noticed that it was just missing the counterweight assemblies and that was soon fixed.
Part II here:
This is the underside of the float version after checking seams with a coat of Mr. Surfacer 1500. The lower wing part is thick near the fuselage. This one had some sink marks, but the other one didn’t.
Here is the float resting on the cart. I have added several circular inspection covers which were missing from the mold. The kit parts include a flat raised portion along the upper surface of the float which actually had a corrugated appearance. I filed off the flat surface and replaced if with lengths of 0.030” Evergreen rod to better represent the actual appearance.
This is what “negative modeling” looks like. I attempted to paint the section markings on the upper wing, but the red paint infiltrated under my masking. Either the masking was not burnished down well enough or the thinner reacted with the adhesive, or maybe a little of both. In any case, I sanded off the offending red, repainted the Orange Yellow, and used decals instead.
The floatplane will be in the Blue Gray over Light Gray scheme, seen here under a layer of Glosscoat ready for decals.
Decals are from Starfighter sheet 72-135 USN at Midway and went on without any problems. These are the major components ready for assembly. The paint is still glossy at this point, I will apply the final flat finish after the rigging is done.
These are the major components for the wheeled version. Decals are from Yellow Wing Decals with the green tail stripes painted on. The red on the cowling was darkened a bit to match the red on the decals.
Rigging was done with 0.005” Nitinol wire, measured with dividers and secured in place with Micro Liquitape. The Liquitape never totally dries out but remains tacky which allows any wires which come loose to be simply re-applied. The radio antenna wires are 0.004” Nitinol.
The finished models. They need some extra added details but build up reasonably well for 53-year-old kits. They will have to do as they are the only 1/72 scale SOCs in town and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
List of improvements:
Landing light drilled out.
Elevator hinges replaced.
Molded-on streamed antenna on port side replaced.
Aileron linkages replaced with Evergreen rod.
Gun trough drilled out, gun from tubing.
Float access ports added, top surfaces replaced.
Hand grabs added on wingtip floats.
Cockpits replaced with Starfighter resin.
Engines replaced with RE&W resin, engine wired.
Pilot’s grab holes cut into upper wing.
Rigged with Nitinol wire.
Cart built for floatplane.
Mass balances added for ailerons.
Exhausts drilled out.
Propeller shaft is off center, replaced with rod. Steps added on float struts.
More finished photographs here: