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Zoukei-Mura 1/32 scale P-51D Mustang

Kit:SWS04 // Scale:1/32 // Price:$95
Manufacturer:
Zoukei-Mura, from Volks USA, 310-782-8324
Pros:
Fine engineering, execution, and detail; parts options to display the engine and gun bays; extensive instructions and diagrams
Cons:
Assemblies/construction sometimes difficult
Comments:
Injection-molded, 277 parts, decals
FSM-NP1012_07
FSM-WB1212_500
FSM-WB1212_501
FSM-WB1212_502
FSM-WB1212_503
FSM-WB1212_504
FSM-WB1212_51
FSM-WB1212_52
FSM-WB1212_53
FSM-WB1212_54
FSM-WB1212_55
FSM-WB1212_56
FSM-WB1212_57
FSM-WB1212_58

The P-51D Mustang was the ultimate U.S. fighter of World War II. Often considered the best all-around fighter aircraft of its time, it went on to serve in the Korean War.


As with its other releases, Zoukei-Mura provides a unique presentation by including extensive internal detail, giving you additional insights to the aircraft’s construction.


What caught my attention when starting this kit was the extensive instruction manual — it’s a book! I loved that it was printed like a WWII Army Air Forces manual. It’s an impressive effort, sparing nothing to give clear, precise drawings, photos, and tips. I studied it carefully before beginning the build.


The kit features a complete engine compartment with all the associated plumbing along with oil and coolant radiators. Additional features include: three canopy versions; full wing-gun detail; drop tanks; open or closed cowling; and posable flaps and flying surfaces. 


The Packard-Merlin engine is almost a kit by itself. It even has the pistons and rods! Parts are provided for standard factory exhaust covers. I needed to enlarge the openings for the exhaust pipes, and even after that they were a tight fit. Take care in positioning the exhaust stacks properly, especially if you take the closed-cowling option. If you use the exhaust covers, they must fit perfectly through the cowl opening. (The uncovered-exhaust option should not have this issue.)


Bringing the engine together with the engine bearers and attaching this to the firewall must be a precise operation. Otherwise the engine thrust line will be off, causing all kinds of problems later on. This also applies to attaching the engine/firewall assembly to the cockpit module. Some of the parts had poorly placed attachment points, either on the sprue or the part itself. 


The cockpit assembly is well detailed from front to back, with a faithfully reproduced wood floor construction. Other features include oxygen bottles, fuel tank, and radio equipment. This module is completed with the oil and coolant radiators and their outlet tunnel. 


The wings assemble easily and mimic the actual construction by representing the full-span top surface. The control stick mounts to this, just like the real deal. Wheel-well framing is provided, with the bay going back to the wing spar (a detail missed on most previous P-51 kits).


After bringing the fuselage together with the wing, I found that my fuselage construction was a bit problematic. I had an issue with the right side wing fillet mating to the fuselage; there was a large gap. I also found the windscreen, Part K2, would not fit flush at the bottom edge. I used putty to address the gaps. I had to conclude something I did within the fuselage structure was out of alignment. 


The tail assembly is built up as a separate module and mates to the back of the fuselage, where pins in one bulkhead fit into its counterpart. I was not too happy with the result, which needed filler to close the gaps. From my experience, it is key to get both bulkheads (parts C5 and C6) properly installed for a good fit.


If I were to build this kit again, I would deviate from the instructions’ construction sequence and assemble all of the exterior fuselage parts first, building up the fuselage halves. This would ensure a smooth fit at all of the joints. Then, I would install the interior parts.


The kit includes the original teardrop-shaped drop tanks. External plumbing for these tanks is a nice touch.


I painted my Mustang with both Tamiya spray and acrylic colors. For Old Crow, I used Tamiya RAF dark green
(XF-81) for the top color. Documentation for the 357th Fighter Group indicates field-applied camo would be done with more readily available RAF stocks. 


Extensive decals are given for three colorful schemes, with a large portion given to stenciling. I found that the checkerboard and D-Day stripes worked best if they are cut into smaller sections. All the decals applied well with the use of decal solution.


My main reference was the book, Building the P-51 Mustang: The Story of Manufacturing North American’s Legendary World War II Fighter in Original Photos, by Michael O’Leary (Specialty Press, ISBN 978-1-58007-152-9). I also found useful North American P-51D Mustang, by Robert Peczkowski (Mushroom, ISBN 978-83-89450-60-9), and American Fighters Over Europe (Kalmbach, ISBN 978-0-89024-711-2 ) was helpful.


The completed model matches the references. With all the changes in details between the various production blocks, the Zoukei-Mura model looks to have characteristics of the later D airframes (the straight dorsal fin fillet, for example). 


I completed my Mustang in 41 hours and was pleased with the result, which captures the look of the P-51. The multiple panel construction of the fuselage is challenging, making this kit more suited to modelers with intermediate or better skills. However, I firmly believe that you cannot have enough P-51 Mustangs in your collection. So, I highly recommend this kit to all WWII modelers who enjoy building in large scales.


A version of this review appeared in the December 2012 FineScale Modeler.

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