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Tamiya's 1/48 scale
P-51C Mustang
Part Two - Painting and Completion

by Tony Bell


North American P-51C Mustang


Tamiya's 1/48 scale P-51B/C Mustang is available online from Squadron.com


Painting and Markings


Part One of Tony's article, covering construction and detailing, may be seen by following this link.

Natural Metal Finish

NMF: three letters to strike terror into the heart of even the most experienced modeller. And yet with the availability of two particular products, getting a decent natural metal finish has never been easier. These two products are of course Mr. Surfacer and Alclad II.

The first step in achieving a good NMF is surface preparation. Because metallic paints are very thin and very smooth, they tend to show all the flaws; sanding and filing marks, scratches, filler, hairline cracks, etc. This is where Mr. Surfacer is most useful. Thinned with lacquer thinner and sprayed through the airbrush, this primer fills in most minor surface defects. Spot applications will take care of bigger issues such as scribing mishaps. Once dry, a good rub down with increasingly fine grits of polishing cloths, finishing up with 3600 grit, brings the surface to a smoothness that is acceptable for NMF. Note that it is not necessary to polish the surface to a mirror like shine. In fact, doing so reduces the adhesion of the paint, making for a more delicate finish.


The next step is the paint itself. Alclad II requires an acrylic primer, but if Mr. Surfacer has been used for surface prep, then the primer can be skipped (unless of course one is using the special shades which require specific primer colours). The Alclad is best applied with a siphon feed airbrush so that any pigment that settles to the bottom of the airbrush jar can be re-suspended with a quick swirl. It is not so easy to do this with a gravity feed due to the fact that the funnel shape of the paint cup concentrates the settled pigment in a small volume.

I sprayed at low pressure, applying light mist coats to avoid any build up that would obscure the rivet detail. Putting it on in thin coats also keeps the lacquer based Alclad from attacking any bare plastic that may have been exposed as the primer was rubbed smooth.

The primary shade was Duraluminum, with various panels masked off and sprayed with Aluminum and White Aluminum. Unlike other metallic paints, Alcald II is very durable and can be masked with low tack tape such as Tamiya after it is dry to the touch. The anti-glare panel was masked and sprayed using Tamiya Olive Drab lightened with Tamiya Buff. Four different shades of OD were mixed up and sprayed heavily thinned (nine parts rubbing alcohol to one part paint) in a patchy manner to break up the monotony.

Stars & Bars

Because decal carrier film is hard to hide on natural metal finishes, I elected to paint on the national insignia.

It’s not as daunting as it may seem at first. Digging through the stash, I pulled out some old and thick, but properly sized and proportioned, insignia decals which I applied to a piece of sheet styrene that had been primed with Future. After the decals had dried, I stuck a piece of low-tack frisket masking film over the decals and cut the masks using an Olfa circle cutter, X-acto and ruler.


I cut rough outline masks from tracing paper sprayed with 3M Remount adhesive (the same stuff on Post-It notes). These rough masks were about 1mm smaller than the final outline and were used to prevent paint build up around the edges. I masked the outlines of the insignia, applied the rough masks and airbrushed the white. The rough mask was removed and the star and bars masks were carefully applied, taking care to align them correctly. I then sprayed the faded Insignia Blue (Testors enamel, mixed with white), removed the star mask and then applied a circular mask the same diameter of the star. Finally I sprayed the darker Insignia Blue around the outline of the insignia.

Other Markings

The markings specific to “Gladys” came from Aeromaster’s sheet number 48-211, “Fighting Mustangs P-51B Part 1”. Because the Alclad is already smooth enough and because I didn’t want to add unnecessary layers of paint, I simply buffed the anti-glare panel with an old tee shirt to shine it up a bit. The Aeromaster decals went down without any problems, settling into the details with Microsol setting solution and spot applications of Solvaset. The shark mouth required a few judicious slices here and there to get it to conform to the compound curves of the nose. Aeromaster provides some spare scraps of red decal to fill in any little gaps that remain.

For the stencils I decided to try rub down dry transfers, a relatively new product by a Japanese outfit called Hobbydecal. They are simply terrific. The stencilling is extremely fine, with even the tiniest lettering easily legible under magnification. Each stencil is cut from the sheet and taped to the model in position. Hobbydecal supplies a burnishing tool (which looks suspiciously like a crochet hook) which is used to rub the stencil down and transfer it to the model. One thing to be careful of is to make sure that the correct side is down, as some of the markings are so small that it is hard to tell the correct orientation. Rubbing the wrong side of a marking will wreck it, and there are no spares on the sheet. And another hint: do the rub down transfers before applying any water slide decals. The reason for this is that the transfers need to be held in position with tape and the presence of regular decals on the model limits the options for doing this, making for some head scratching while you try to figure out how to keep the stencil in position and yet avoid pulling up your nose art with the tape.

To hide the decal carrier film I freehand airbrushed the individual decals with Polly Scale satin heavily thinned with distilled water, taking care to spray only the decal and a small portion of the surrounding finish. Finally I went over the shark mouth with Polly Scale flat in a similar fashion to dull it down a bit, and while I had the airbrush loaded, I also sprayed the fabric covered rudder and elevators to give them a look distinct from the metal airframe.

I masked the ailerons off (I hadn’t yet attached the flaps at this point) and sprayed the wing with a 50/50 mix of Polly Scale flat and satin to give it a more lacquered look.



Fiddly Bits


As I mentioned before, the spinner is from Ultracast. At first I was doubtful of the value added, as I never thought there was anything wrong with the kit spinner. However, looking at the two side by side and comparing them to photographs of the real thing, I have to admit that the kit spinner is a bit too fat looking. Whereas the kit spinner features circular shaped blade openings, the resin part features less incorrect oval shaped openings (they should actually be kidney shaped).

The Ultracast prop blades feature more accurate cuffs than the kit ones. The kit cuffs are distinctly flared at the base whereas they should be straight. Again, this was something I hadn’t noticed until I compared the kit parts to photographs of the real ones. Unfortunately the rear sides of the resin blades were slightly flawed, and due to their thinness and delicacy I opted instead to file and sand the kit blade cuffs to the correct shape and thickness. This occupied less time than anticipated, taking only about 20 minutes for all four. After painting and decaling the blades, the mounting stubs were trimmed to fit the resin spinner and the blades glued in place with five minute epoxy, taking care to get them square and to set the pitch to a consistent angle.

The vast majority of photographs of parked Merlin powered Mustangs depict the flaps and inner gear doors in the fully down position. This is due to the fact that the hydraulic system quickly bled off its pressure after the engine was shut down, allowing the flaps and gear doors to droop. Although not as common, there are still plenty of photographs showing the flaps in the full up position along with the gear doors being closed or almost closed. It was this latter configuration that I decided to model, just for something different. Besides which, to be strictly accurate if the flaps are to be modelled lowered then the inboard and leading edge cut-outs on the kit flaps would have to be filled in and surface detail restored. Either that or they could have been replaced with Ultracast flaps.

The gear legs were detailed with little bitty discs of 0.010” styrene, tie down rings made from fine copper wire wrapped around a small drill bit and brake lines made from wire. The gear legs and the hubs of the Ultracast wheels were airbrushed with Alclad II Duraluminum and treated to a Future and ink mix to highlight the detail. The tires were brush painted Aeromaster tire black and then dusted with MiG pigments. The treads were blackened by smearing Smoke Black pigment on with my finger. For a bit of visual interest I used a different tread pattern on each side, as can be seen in some wartime photographs.


The 500lb AN-M65 General Purpose bombs came from the Verlinden set of P-51 stores. The resin bombs feature photoetch fins which were a pain in the butt to fold, assemble and square up. For strength I decided to solder the fins together which allowed me to gently tweak them when mating them to the resin body. The fuse safety wire was added from fine copper wire and sway braces were added from stretched sprue and more little bitty discs of 0.010” styrene. The bombs were painted OD with a yellow disc on the nose, and stencil decals from the Tamiya P-47D applied which were completely obscured by subsequent weathering (oh well). To ensure a good solid join, the bombs were pinned to the pylons with brass wire.

The wingtip formation and under-wing IFF lights were brush painted with Gunze clear colours over silver, while the machinegun barrels were replaced with nested steel tubing. They were painted with Humbrol Metalcote steel because real steel didn’t look enough like, well, steel.


To highlight the panel lines I applied a wash of dark brownish grey mixed from burnt umber, black and white Liquitex artist’s acrylics, thinned with distilled water and a good dollop of dish detergent. The detergent is needed to reduce the paint’s ability to adhere properly, allowing the excess wash to be wiped away with a clean, damp paper towel.

To give the model a grubby look I used MiG Pigments. The aircraft of the CBI theatre were very dusty and dirty, so I wasn’t to shy when it came to dirtying up the model. A mixture Gulf War Sand, European Dust, Ashes White and Smoke Black was dusted all over, concentrating on the gear doors, wing roots, access panels and so forth. I poked and prodded at the pigment with a broad, soft paint brush moistened with water to achieve the final appearance. The bombs received extra attention with the pigments, as the real things were often rolled around in the muck of the bomb dump before being loaded onto the aircraft.

The exhaust stain was airbrushed on using Tamiya acrylics thinned 10:1 (thiner:paint) with rubbing alcohol, and some oil streaks were added from black and brown artists oil paints. Some light Yellow Zinc Chromate paint chipping was added to the wing using Citadel paints and a fine brush.

The final touch was to add the radio mast and antenna wire. The wire was “invisible” nylon thread, painted with Citadel “Gunbolt Metal” and superglued into small holes drilled at either end. I tightened it up by zapping it with a hair dryer set on high, being careful not to melt the mast while I was at it.





The P-51B was one of the first of the new generation of Wunderkits released by Tamiya back in the mid-1990’s. In spite of the fact that it is now a decade old it still compares well to any of today’s newer releases. Straight OOB it can be built up into a great looking model, or if you suffer from terminal AMS (not that I’m admitting to anything) there are plenty enough aftermarket details to satisfy even the most hardcore resin and brass junkie.


Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

P-51 Mustang
From the RAF to the Mighty Eighth
Special Editions (Aviation) 1
Author: Michael O'Leary
US Price: $10.95
UK Price: £6.99
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
Publish Date:
 September 15, 1997
Details: 128 pages; ISBN: 1855327147
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Buy it from Osprey Publishing

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2005 by Tony Bell
Page Created 09 May, 2005
Last Updated 09 May, 2005

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