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1/48 scale photo recon escort
P-51D Mustang

by Ian Robertson


P-51D Mustang


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




Decal manufacturers have had a field day producing striking and elaborate nose art for P-51 Mustangs. One need only survey the extensive galleries on Hyperscale to get a taste for the diversity of attractive markings available. However, these examples may lead one to conclude that all mustangs were adorned with elaborate artwork. In fact, many were rather plain. Here I present a P-51D with a simple scheme that caught my eye. I found it in a color profile in Roger Freeman’s “American Eagles: P-51 Units of the Eighth Air Force”.


The aircraft I chose to model belonged to the 7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group stationed in Chalgrove, spring 1945. This aircraft, along with a handful of others, was assigned as fighter escort for the group’s unarmed, camera-equipped F-5 Lightnings. Other than the serial numbers on its tail, no identification markings were carried. Aircraft in the group had a red panel under each exhaust, a dark blue spinner, and a dark green rudder. In other reconnaissance groups the color on the rudder was different.





Tamiya’s P-51D Mustang is arguably the best bubbletop Mustang available in 1/48 scale, although Hasegawa produces a very nice product as well.

One advantage of the Tamiya kit over the Hasegawa offering is the option for dropped flaps. Surface detail on the kit is excellent, and the cockpit is adequately detailed, although replacement resin cockpits are available for those inclined.

A weakness/annoyance of the Tamiya kit, for me at least, is that the lower canopy frame is not molded as part of the bubble canopy as it is in the Hasegawa kit. As a result, the modeler is forced to make a long and awkward join between the two parts, usually with a less than perfect result. Moreover, the attachment of the clear parts to the sprue tend to leave scars on the canopy that are problematic to clean up. Vacuform canopy replacements are available, but they too can be difficult to work with. I opted to make do with the kit’s canopy, although I spent considerable time cleaning it up.


I added resin exhausts and propeller blades from Ultracast, and etched metal seatbelts from Eduard. I scavenged the white and black serial numbers from an Aeromaster P-51 decal sheet. The remainder of the decals used were from the kit.

Rivet detailing was added to the fuselage but not to the wings since the rivets on the wings would have been filled and primed on the real aircraft. I used “Rosie the Riveter”, a rivet making tool marketed by Petr Dousek in the Czech Republic. A review of Petr’s line of pounce wheels can be found at http://www.largescaleplanes.com in the reviews section. The particular tool I used had 0.7 mm spacing between the teeth.



Painting and Markings


The cockpit was painted interior green with a woodgrain decal for the floor panel. The radio equipment behind the pilot’s seat was painted flat black as per the instructions.

Shifting to the exterior, the model was sprayed with Mr. Surfacer 1000 as a primer for the Alclad II metalizer, and then buffed lightly with micromesh sanding cloths. It is essential to have a smooth primer coat for metalizers since they show off any scratches or imperfections on the surface. Various shades of Alclad II were used for the natural metal finish, including duraluminum, aluminum, semi-matte aluminum, dark aluminum, and polished aluminum. Once the Alclad finish was complete, I masked and sprayed Tamiya red (X-7) on the cowl side panels, Tamiya olive drab (XF-62) for the anti-glare panel, and Tamiya olive green (XF-58) with a touch of black on the rudder. The spinner was painted with Tamiya Royal Blue (X-3).


To tone down the shiny natural metal finish to a more realistic wartime appearance, I applied several washes of Tamiya black acrylic, particularly on the lower nose and around the wing roots. These washes dulled the metal finish and darkened the panel lines to match my reference photos. On the underside I sprayed a much heavier application of the black wash in the direction of airflow, particularly behind the radiator.

As a final step, the non-control surfaces of the wings were sprayed with a clear dull coat. The wings of mustangs were primed and painted silver, and thus were not as reflective as the natural metal on the fuselage.

The wheel wells were painted aluminum with the rear spar painted yellow chromate.





The P-51D Mustang is a fine looking aircraft no matter how it’s dressed up.


Images were taken outdoors with a Nikon Coolpix 5400 digital camera. The “unsharp mask” tool of Adobe Photoshop was used to restore some of the clarity and crispness lost during image compression, and a blur tool was used to diffuse the rear edge of the base with the background.


Additional Images


Click on 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 Ian Robertson
Page Created 20 April, 2005
Last Updated 20 April, 2005

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