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 I 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 323 Bomb Group had the distinction of being the first Marauder group to see action in the European Theater, flying their first combat mission from Earls Colne, Essex on 16 July 1943. The Group was known as the “White Tails” due to the white stripe on the vertical fin. 41-34955 was named “Mission Belle”.
A close-up of “Mission Belle’s” nose art, showing 95 mission markers.
“Rock Hill Special” was a B-26C assigned to the 323rd BG, 454th Bomb Squadron. Here Serial Number was 41-3485. Most sources include “Lucky Graki” as part of this Marauder’s name, but I have to wonder if that wasn’t the nickname of the bombardier.
Another view of 41-34854 which shows additional details of her nose art.
A series of four photos of the 454 Bomb Squadron’s “Flaming Mamie”, serial number 41-34997. A close examination of the nose camouflage reveals several variations of the tone of the Olive Drab paint.
Canopy details of “Flaming Mamie”. The side panels could be opened for ventilation while to overhead panels hinged to the side to facilitate a quick exit.
Sgt. John Daily poses atop Mamie’s starboard engine. The outboard engine panel has been replaced with an uncamouflaged example. The nacelle and leading edge of the wing offer a good example of paint chipping for modelers wishing to duplicate the effect. 41-31961 in the background was shot down by flak over Caen, France on 06JUN44.
The starboard side of “Flaming Mamie” shows more chipping and her pin-up nose art.
“Little Lulu” shows an impressive tally of 61 mission markers. She was assigned to the 323 BG / 454 BS.
B-26C serial number 41-34969 of the 456 BS being towed by a wrecker, diorama material. Note that the ground crew is well-supplied with sheepskin “bomber jackets.”
Marauder 41-31951 of the 454 Bomb Group carried “Thunderbird” on the port side of her nose and “USO” to starboard.
Officers pose by the nose of “Bingo Buster”, serial number 41-34863. Most modelers, myself included, depict bombs with a fresh coat of paint, and sometimes even the prescribed markings. Many photos show the condition of bombs to be much different, with worn paint due to storage outside in all weather conditions.
The 455 Bomb Squadron’s “Bat-outa-hell” displays 56 bomb and 3 decoy mission markers, along with crew names by each station.
Part I here: