Tamiya’s P-51D has to be one of the most anticipated aircraft models in recent times. With the growing popularity of 1/32 scale, a new, up-to-date P-51D is sure to be in high demand.
On opening the box, my first reaction was wow! They pulled out all the stops on this one! Cleanly molded in gray plastic, Tamiya’s all-new Mustang is at the highest standard for engineering, molding, and fidelity of detail. Exemplary of the deluxe nature of this big kit is a data book/modeler’s reference with color pictures, a synopsis of Mustang development, and profile drawings that illustrate the placement of markings for the three aircraft covered by the decal sheet.
The list of construction options is lengthy: two pilot figures; two tails; three canopy styles; two exhausts; wing-gun details; complete Packard Merlin engine; removable engine panels; and multiple cockpit configurations. And that’s a short list. Whew! The model can be depicted on the ground or on the provided stand for an inflight pose.
I started by carefully reviewing the instructions. It appears that Tamiya has put serious consideration into the sequence of events, so deviate from the directions at your own risk. I found that constructing the subassemblies and painting these as the build progressed worked well for me.
Magnets are used throughout the construction to support the numerous removable panels; there are 17 magnets dispersed about the model.
Construction began with the engine. Having built the Tamiya 1/32 scale Spitfire, I found that most parts were familiar. The engine went together easily with no problems. Decide which exhaust you are going to use to be sure to install the proper back plate for the pipes.
Of the two tail sections provided in the kit, one is for the original D model without the tail fillet; the second has the fillet. Note that the kit features the later-production straight-profile fillet. The early version of the tail fillet had a slight curve in its profile. The tail’s attachment to the main fuselage was excellent, with almost all the separate panels and modules fitting perfectly.
The tail-wheel area is modular to allow posing the gear up or down. This is where I found the only gap that need filling.
With this kit we finally get an accurately portrayed P-51 landing gear bay; the bay is open back to the wing spar.
Even if you plan to close up the gun bays, you should still install the wing guns’ mounts; they provide detail that can be seen through to the shell-ejection ports.
The wing fit to the fuselage was superb; the root needed no filler or adjustment.
All of the flying surfaces are movable, with photoetched-metal hinges and metal rods for the pivot points. Check the fit prior to gluing the surface together. I had fit problems when inserting the photoetched-metal hinge into the slots in half the cases (one wing and one elevator). There are two types of elevator parts — fabric- and metal-covered — so make sure you don’t mix the two.
The landing-gear assembly is well thought out and attaches strongly to the wing. It is screwed in place, which allows it to be removed for a gear-up display. The vinyl tires do have a visible seam.
Tamiya provides a different canopy for each set of markings in the kit. I believe this may be the first kit to accurately present the initial version that was associated with the first D series planes produced. If you plan to make the canopy movable, note that Part Q2 should be added as late as possible (unless you mask the canopy in place during painting). If you add it too soon and glue it into position, you won’t be able to insert the slide guide into the fuselage slot.
Painting masks are provided for the clear parts, but you will need to cut these out of the sheet yourself.
I painted my Mustang with both Tamiya spray and acrylic colors. For my plane, Glengary Guy, the instructions called for olive drab as the top color. I deviated by using Tamiya XF-81 Royal Air Force dark green because I believe field-applied camouflage would have been done with more readily available RAF stocks.
The decals are for three P-51s of the Eighth Air Force. These applied well over a gloss undercoat. But take care — they are a bit fragile.
My main reference was Building the P-51 Mustang, by Michael O’Leary (Specialty Press, ISBN 978-1-58007-152-9). Also useful was 20th Fighter Group, by Ron MacKay (Squadron, ISBN 978-0-89747-368-2), which has photos of Glengary Guy.
I completed my Mustang in 54 hours. To say I was pleased with the result is an understatement. When I was finished I took half an hour and just stared at it. The engineering and execution in plastic is just brilliant! While it’s not for beginners, I do not hesitate to highly recommend Tamiya’s new Mustang to experienced builders. They won’t be disappointed.