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Sebastian Jr. in 1/48 scale
P-51D Mustang

by Brett Green

 

North American P-51D Mustang

 


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

 

Introduction

 

My four-year-old son's name is Sebastian, so when I saw these markings on a recent Eagle Strike decal release (IP4805, Part Four of 357th Fighter Group in Profile), I knew that I would have to use them. After I showed him the decals, Sebastian asked me repeatedly - in that way that four-year-olds are so adept - "Hey Dad, have you started Sebastian Jr. yet?"

I did not have to wait too long to find an excuse to commence the project. Bill Freeman commissioned me to build his immaculate P-51D warbird, "Su Su", and I thought it would be a good opportunity to build a second 1/48 scale Tamiya Mustang in parallel. My theory was that, while I had all the reference out for one model, and the airbrush loaded with the right colours at various stages, it might be quicker to built two Mustangs at the same time rather than finishing them in sequence.

 

 

I used the most recent boxing of Tamiya's Mustang for this project - Kit No. 61089, P-51D 8th Air Force Aces. This kit included the 108 gallon compressed paper drop tanks seen in reference photos on this aircraft. I had also heard that the clear parts had been improved in this version.

 

 

Construction

 

"Sebastian Jr" was a very early P-51D. The main distinguishing feature of these early Mustangs was the absence of the prominent fillet in front of the fin. This fin was added quite early in production to compensate for loss of stability that resulted from the cut-down rear fuselage.

Several options are available to covert Tamiya's kit to the early filletless version. The first option would be to cut off the fillet moulded to the fuselage halves, reinforce and fill the gap in the fuselage and fin, and sand to shape. Ultracast has a simpler solution with their resin P-51D Filletless Conversion. This conversion features the subtly different shape of the fin tip, and is supplied almost ready to use. A simple cut along a panel line on each fuselage is the only kit modification required. Ultracast's conversion also includes a separate rudder with superior fabric detail compared to the kit part.


 

The Best Laid Plans

As usual, I took lots of photos during construction, with special attention to the cutting of the fuselage and the fitting of the Ultracast resin tail; plus the detailing and painting of the cockpit.

At the time I was building this model, the hard disk of my computer was filling up fast. I deleted a large number of old or redundant files, freeing up some space until I could implement a more permanent solution. I still do not exactly know how I did it, but during this process I deleted around 50 construction and painting photos of both Sebastian Jr. and Su Su. I tried recovering the files, I bought Norton Rollback, I swore profusely, but all to no avail. The photos were gone forever.

The only silver lining was that I had sent several emails to friends with progress photos, so it was possible to salvage these images from my "Sent Mail" folder. These are the construction photos that you see in tonight's article.

The moral of this story?

Back up your data, early and often!

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The seat included with True Details resin cockpit has the harness cast in place, It is a big improvement over the kit part

A photoetched instrument panel was used. Other additions included UV cockpit lights and a more prominent canopy release handle.


The first job was to cut off the rear fuselage. This section was removed from each fuselage half using a razor saw. Test fitting suggested that the Ultracast resin tail would be close to perfect match for the kit fuselage.

I replaced the Tamiya cockpit with the 1/48 scale True Details resin set. This low-price offering is considerably better detailed than the kit parts. I especially like the seat with its cast-on harness straps. The sidewall detail and woodgrain-textured floor are also noteworthy.

I added ultraviolet instrument lamps, made from plastic rod and fuse wire, to the top of each fuselage sidewall. I also made a new canopy release handle to replace the undersized casting on the starboard sidewall (although mine is actually too big!)

The rear of the instrument panel was also sanded off, leaving an empty resin frame. This void was filled with a photo-etched instrument panel from the Eduard "Zoom" set.

As is my usual practice, I glued the sidewalls to the fuselage halves before painting the cockpit. It is important to note that the top of the sidewalls actually protrude above the kit fuselage sides, creating the forward canopy rails. The cockpit was then painted and remaining components installed.

 

 

With the fuselage halves joined it was time to install the Ultracast tail. The resin part has a lip cast at the front that will help establish a strong bond and good alignment with the kit fuselage. I applied a bead of superglue to the lip at the leading edge of the resin tail, and secured the part to the rear fuselage.

No problems.

The rudder did require a little trimming and fiddling to obtain a perfect fit. Following installation, I brushed a few coats of Mr Surfacer 1000 between the rudder and the fin as insurance against gaps and microscopic misalignment. I also had to trim a millimetre or two from the front of the locating tab on the port-side horizontal stabiliser (part no. B5) to line up exactly with the empennage.

Remaining basic construction probably took another couple of hours, but it felt like 15 minutes. This really is a sweet kit!

The kit supplied drop tanks were a bit of a disappointment. Detail was adequate but both tanks displayed a deep seam line along the port side. Removing this seam meant eliminating much of the detail on the side of the tanks , and some of these fine features would be difficult to restore. I therefore exchanged the kit tanks for resin 108 gallon tanks from Teknics. In addition to avoiding the seam line problem, these resin parts had better strap, mount and filler/vent details.

 

 

 

The clear parts had, indeed, been improved in this version of the kit, but not substantially. In earlier boxings, the sprue connection to the windscreen and bubble canopy was attached to the side of the clear parts, resulting in a blemish that needed to be cleaned up when the parts were cut from the sprue. In this kit, the sprue connects to the bottom lip of each part, reducing the risk of damaging the part and making cleanup easier.

However, the improvements do not address the the engineering of the sliding canopy section. The clear "bubble" and the canopy base are supplied as separate parts. It is almost impossible to join the parts without glue marks and/or an obvious seam. I replaced this section of the canopy with a vacform part from Squadron.

The arch-shaped brace was cut from the kit canopy base using a pair of side cutters and trimmed to fit inside the vacform canopy. This brace was later glued to the rear cockpit deck as a mounting aid for the thin vacform part. I also cut two small pieces of styrene strip, which were glued to the inside of the canopy frame near the front as additional mounting points.

After posting my article on P-51D Su Su last week, a HyperScale regular helpfully pointed out that Mustang canopies do not slide straight back, suspended over the rear fuselage deck; but that they actually slide back and drop over the rear spine.

I made sure that this canopy was not suffering from suspended animation!

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Prior to painting I cut the tailwheel doors from the discarded rear fuselage halves and glued them to either side of the tail wheel well.

I also sanded the raised rivets moulded off the top of the wings. These were not a feature of wartime Mustangs.

 

 

Painting and Markings

 

Decisions ,Decisions...

Aeromaster's instructions and most reference sources suggest that the top surfaces of Sebastian Jr. was painted Olive Drab. It does seem that other early P-51Ds were painted in this fashion with identical demarcation between the painted topside and natural metal lower surfaces, suggesting the possibility of a factory finish. However, I thought that it was also possible that these aircraft were delivered in overall natural metal and repainted in the field. In this case, Sebastian Jr. might have worn RAF colours.

I chose this option, assuming that the upper wings, top of the fuselage and wings were painted in RAF Dark Green.

Another interesting element of the paint job is the overpainted invasion stripes. A noticeably darker shade covers the white invasion stripes on the top of the wings, and all the stripes on top of the fuselage. The photos in my references are not clear as to the exact demarcation between the fresh overpainting and the invasion stripes on the fuselage, so I made an educated guess.


 

Painting

The lower wings and entire fuselage were sprayed with Tamiya AS-12 Airframe Silver. The paint was first sprayed from the can - this colour is only available in a spray can - into a container. To prevent excessive vapours and to avoid losing half the paint to the atmosphere, I always cover the top of the container with cling wrap and spray though a small hole that I cut in the top. The pool of paint was then poured directly into the paint cup of my Aztek A470 airbrush and applied to the model. It is certainly possible to spray the model straight from the can but I find that I have better control and less risk of "orange peel" texture if I decant the paint and use it in my airbrush.

 

 

The fast-drying silver finish was masked, and the panels surrounding the exhaust were sprayed with Testor Metalizer Aluminum darkened with a few spots of Manganese Metallic.

More masking followed for the invasion stripes. While the stripes were still covered, the main upper surface colour was applied. Polly Scale RAF Dark Green was my choice. This base colour was sprayed first, followed by an application of fine streaks and mottles using a lightened version of the colour. Around 10-15% Polly Scale Middle Stone was added to the RAF Dark Green to obtain this first weathering coat. Another 10% Middle Stone was added to provide another random layer of streaks and mottles. This lightest colour was also used to paint the fabric covered rudder, which would have faded faster than the metal surfaces of the aircraft.

When the camouflage colour dried, the masks were removed from the invasion stripes. Now the model was masked again in preparation for the oversprayed stripes. 100% Polly Scale RAF Dark Green was used for this task. This colour was noticeably darker than the faded version on the remainder of the aircraft, creating a noticeable demarcation between the new and weathered shades.

With the paint job complete, a thin wash of raw Umber oil paint was brushed onto the model. The stark appearance of the wet wash settled down considerably after drying overnight.

 

 

At this late stage I checked the reference photos again and noticed that the white wing ID stripes appeared to be present on the top of Sebastian Jrs wing even after the invasion stripes were overpainted. I therefore masked and sprayed the white ID stripes on top of the wings and horizontal stabilisers; and added black stripes to the bottom of the stabs.


 

Decals

The decals worked superbly, even the potentially tricky checks on the nose and the yellow spinner stripe. I tackled these two tasks first. First the spinner was painted a shade of red to match the checks, then the yellow decal stripe was applied. This settled down nicely after a couple of generous applications of Micro Sol. The nose checks were similarly trouble free.

The other decals sat down beautifully over the silver and green paint. Decal film almost disappeared with the application of Micro Sol, even before a final flat coat.

 

 

The model received a final coat of Polly Scale Flat before the odds and ends (undercarriage, drop tanks, flaps, gunsight, canopy and antenna mast) were added to the airframe.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Would I build two similar models in parallel again?

Probably.

It was marginally faster to build the two kits this way, especially as they shared some colours and markings. It was especially useful to tackle the distinctive 357th FG nose checks and stripes as a batch job.

 

 

One thing is for sure though. I will be building more of Tamiya's 1/48 scale P-51 Mustang kits in the future!


 

Photography

The two composite images were created in Photoshop CS using photos of the model and of airfield buildings taken at the Imperial War Museum Duxford in late 2003.

The model was photographed on a base of artificial grass and dirt against a plain grey background.

The photo of the airfield was modified, removing present-day additions such as lighting and signage, then the model and the strip of grass were dropped into the Duxford scene.

Returning to the Mustang photo, the model and part of the grass base were masked using the Magic Wand and Lasso tools, then cut from the original image. The model was then pasted as a new layer onto the modified Duxford scene. Extra work was done merging the model photo with the background, especially around the canopy (through which the background was visible) and around the edges of the aircraft. Where the outline of the model was stark against the background image, the Blur and Blur More tools were used to blend it in.

 

 

The imported grass was highlighted using the Magic Wand and Lasso tools. The colour, hue, saturation and brightness was then modified to match the real Duxford turf. The Clone Stamp and Healing Brush tools were used in a few places to blend the real and the artificial grass.

Finally, the composite images were cropped, resized to 700 pixels in width, and saved as a .jpg file for posting on HyperScale.

The second image was further treated with a plug-in filter called "Old Movie". This software allows dust, scratches, fat, hair and other imperfections to be added in varying degrees, creating the impression of an authentic old photograph. I purchased this plug-in (only available for Windows) online for less than USD$20 from the VanDerLee website.

All the photos were taken with my Nikon Coolpix 5700 digital camera.

 

 

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
Shop cart
Buy it from Osprey Publishing

Model, Text & Images Copyright 2004 by Brett Green
Page Created 11 July, 2004
Last Updated 14 July, 2004

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