Thursday, April 17

Finally got round to the roundels - Review of Zoukei-Mura’s new P-51K/Mustang IV in 32nd scale

In the race to market one of the most popular WWII fighters ever the British version of the Mustang – the MK IV (P-51K) has been overlooked in 32nd scale – until now that is -  as Zoukei Mura takes the mantle with their latest Mustang that can well wear stars and bars or roundels. We are building it but we thought we would give you a look at what is inside the box before we do…


P-51K/Mustang IV
Scale  1/32nd
Kit No: 32009 / SWS09
Styrene Parts: 292
Decals for four different aircraft  (Mustang IV x 2 types, P-51 D Early Type x 1, P-51 K x 1)
Around $99(USD)/ 9,500yen - directly from Zoukei Mura’s Website or their distributors

I think it is rather fitting for Zoukei-Mura to so prominently promote the RAF aircraft on the front  this kit of the P-51K/ Mustang IV with dynamic boxart complete with British roundels and sharkmouth gnashing as she climbs skywards. The British and her commonwealth allies did use the Mustang during the war in great numbers (the RF being the first user of the Mustang) and I suppose it was the use  of the British Merlin engine combined with the laminar flow wings and  streamlined fuselage designed in the US that made the Mustang into arguably the best fighter of the war.
It makes complete sense as well to kit this model – essentially an early mustang – in 32nd scale. In the wholly grail of modelling subjects it would be in a close tie with the Bf-109 and Spitfire. Everything else comes in a distant fourth after these three in popularity stakes, so it was more bad luck than anything else that the “Ultimate Mustang” in 32nd scale came out last year from two different suppliers. Tamiya beat Zoukei Mura to the punch in release dates but there are things that this kit offers that the Tamiya kit just does not.

This model reflects and early P-51D from the Dallas plant in Texas. The assembly line in Dallas was set up when the production in Inglewood California became overstretched. Rightfully so everyone was screaming out for this new long range fighter so more lines were opened up and we have the main difference in the P-51D and the K version – where it was made.
The Dallas plant P-51K‘s were called the Mustang IVA in RAF and Commonwealth service (the P-51D being the Mustang IV) and the other difference that is apparent is the use of an un cuffed Aero–products propeller after the shortage of the Hamilton Standard propellers came to light. The other main difference being the inclusion of the bulged “Dallas” blown hood. (Both canopies came from the same manufacturer and were interchanged in the field all the time so check your references)
So this is what we have to review today. Basically the early bubble canopy Mustang made in Dallas and used in fair amounts by the RAF and her commonwealth allies. Sure to be popular with a lot of modellers this kit is supplied with the earlier mustang options of a runner (sprue) of the earlier un-filleted tail as well as the later tail with a fillet. There are the choices of two different gunsights and three canopy shapes as well as two propeller choices, also there are three different choices of chin vent panel to cover nearly every mustang you could think of. So that is what is in the kit – pretty comprehensive really you could build just about any P-51D/K/ IV you want from this box – it all sounds promising. Let’s look a little closer to see what lies in the details of this kit.

What’s inside..
On opening the kit you find a full box of sprues and notably a large packet with  1940’s vintage style instructions, three full sheets of decals and a canopy mask. Let’s look at them in turn in more depth..


Zoukei Mura do make very good instructions. In following with what I perceive to be their philosophy of making the aircraft just like the real thing they have replicated the cover of the Mustang’s pilot’s manual. All the way through the instructions there are plainly laid out sections showing you how to build each section of the aircraft. This modular way of building the kit is just like pictures of the real thing on the assembly line and it so fits in with the feel that modellers crave for. I mean that is why we all build models – to remember our childhood fantasies.
The instructions are a mix of the earlier guide of the “D” model and an addendum booklet concerning the fitting of Propellers, canopies, air filter placement and tail on the Mustangs chosen in this boxing. At first thumbing through I thought I was getting the “D” boxing markings as well, but this is just the instructions. The Mustang K/IV markings are at the back of the small booklet.

The plastic
I own the second SWS kit the Ta-152 from Zoukei-Mura. It was a little soft in some detail and there were the black/silver and grey sprues which I can say has been rectified with this release. All grey sprues and some sharper detail could quell some of the “toy-like” comparisons hung on ZM in the past. I see a marked improvement in the quality of the moulding from the first kit of theirs i owned.

I have heard some say there is no flash at all on this kit – well they must need glasses, as there is indeed some flash on the kit. Nothing horrific that can’t be removed with a scrape from a curved blade. Some of the piping from the engine in particular will need a trim as it looks a third thicker “au natural”. There are some small sink marks and ejector push pin marks but they are thankfully not on the “Show” side where people will see them which is a real relief. Another facet of modern injection moulding is plenty of injection nodes on some parts, though this isn’t more than a minor inconvenience.

It’s pretty hard to do a good job on a kit that has as one of its options a "skeletal" frame - to show the aircraft without skin. To be honest you will not get a kit with framework so thin using injection moulding in complete accuracy. Maybe it is achievable with photo etch – but that I think is a whole different market. Most aircraft modellers do not like too much P/E so I get the feeling from a lot of people out there that this is considered a bit of a gimmick. HOWEVER it would be a great option with a clear skinned aircraft which could sell a few for them.  I think ZM do a pretty god job of trying to bring their "inside-out" version of this model kit to life.

Another feature of this kit is the  fine rivet work on the skin surface. Rivets are of a varying depth and shallow in places and deeper in others - the wings are represented as puttied and painted factory fresh wings sanded smooth which should please some and dismay others - more on that later.

Canopies/ clear parts
There are three canopies included in this release.  The canopies are very clear and as thin as they could be. There is a thin seam line down the centre of the canopy which will require some gentle sanding off. It must be impossible to get rid of – as other companies seem to not have this problem. Both this and the Tamiya kit have the same seam line in the same place.
A line drawing of the difference between the two plant's canopies
And the helpful ZM instructions below make selection (almost) foolproof
The Inglewood early canopy
…and later (only slightly changed) well as  the blown “Dallas” hood..
You can see that the two Inglewood canopies are very similar – only an unintentional shape change occurred somewhere in the construction process in the Inglewood hoods. The Dallas hood however was slightly wider in the top and had a lip on the rear which made it look a little bulged. This was actually appreciated by pilots for a slightly improved all round vision. Check your references or the instruction sheet included to work out exactly which bird you have and which canopy applies.

There are other parts on the clear sprue – the instrument panel for you to stick the decals behind and paint the bezels (that old trick) and the K-14 and N-9 gunsights, along with formation lights for the underside wing are provided.

Canopy Mask
It is great to have a ready to go vinyl canopy mask in this set – a shame there are three slightly different canopies to mask with different shapes!
Do not fret though brave modeller – get your  tape, Maskol or some such masking agent out and fill in that small gap!

The bonus runner
The sprue – called runner by ZM has the extra parts (along with the Dallas hood and radio antennas on the tail) to truly make this a “K” or Mustang IV. Included in this are the Aero Products hollow metal props and spinner hub along with the early type tail with no fillet on the spine. 
Also included are the partially shrouded air filter covers for the front panels of the engine.
We have the Aero prop joined to the runner at the prop blade rather than the root of the spinner which I suppose helped them mould it but made the removal undamaged easier.
This picture shows the early tail with no fillet – the fuselage part that it joins to is included as well
A close up of the Aero Products spinner. Notice the lightening holes represented here in the spinner bottom – nothing is left out!

Sprue A
Sprue A contains the .50 calibre machine guns, the fuel tanks (wing and auxiliary and the radio stand) and the Hamilton Standard propeller.
The auxiliary tank features gently sloping sides that slightly widen on the vertical edges and the wingtip tanks are here in full as well – meaning you can (of course) expose them in a workshop or the “skeletal” dio
And the real things.
The AN M2 .50 calibre guns – six in all/ three in each wing - are represented very nicely here with slightly perforated barrel jackets as well as a recessed muzzle hole. The inner gun on each also has a flash suppressor.
The ammo for the machine guns is included here as well - thankfully it is not floppy rubber like the Dragon versions were – eesh! Again this and the full guns along with the skeletal wings provide you a full re-armament dio if that is what you like.
You can see that the folded ammo poking out in the bullet ends – it will look great under some brass paint and a wash.

The four bladed constant speed propeller – more on this later in the review when we compare the two on offer – but you will notice that ZM moulded the connections to the sprue at the propeller root so as to not have the removal run the hub like some other kits have.

Included in this kit are two choices of propeller – both of which suit the P-51D/K and Mustang IV in service life as both were commonly interchanged in the field.  The real change between D and K version is that the Dallas produced aircraft used the four bladed Aero-products four bladed propeller and the Inglewood plant used the Hamilton Standard prop. This was used as there was a marked shortage of the four bladed Hamilton Standard, four-blade,
The Aero Products prop was not cuffed at the root and it was tapered toward the end and it was narrower in the chord. – You can see the three props used by mustangs in these line drawings…

And side profiles of both – the Hamilton Standard is on top with the spinner on it.
Aero Products spinner & props
Hamilton standard cuffed

Sprue B
The Packard Merlin V-1650 piston inline engine and supercharger dominates this sprue, also included are the main and tail wheel tyres and the piping and plumbing for the engine. Over thirty parts just for the block and supercharger without all the extras make this a pretty detailed powerplant. 
The diamond tread pattern was fairly common as was the thick and heavily detailed read landing wheel pictures here - I might thin the detail just a little on the rear tyre a little. These tyres sure beat the rubber Dragon and Tamiya Tyres!
The plumbing for the engine could do with being a little thinner – I will definitely run the knife along the edge of these to make them a bit more scale realistic.
The block of the engine Is shown here along with the supercharger on the right. You can see the piston rods hanging out from the bottom of the block?
That is because there are pistons (and rings) moulded into the inside of the block – very nice but it is a shame you can’t see them once it is together – a shame we don’t have a clear engine.

Sprue C
Sprue C contains the pilot’s seat – cockpit enclosure and instrument panel along with the landing gear and wheels, the radiator and middle assembly, CO2 bottles and the exhaust shrouds and the hollow pipes themselves. Several other parts including the firewall, wing root spar and other little detail populate this sheet
Left and right cockpit walls – these could do with some wires maybe but not much more. Maybe some Barracuda placards and a nice paint job and your work is made easy. You can see what I mean here about plenty of injection nodes on some parts.

Left cockpit wall.
 Right side
The instrument panel is next – it is here in a rather thickly moulded plastic part that I suppose will hold a fair bit of glazing with something like future and it will capture the paint off a dry brush pretty easily.
The IP..
I like the replication of this panel – although the detail is a little deep this works in this cockpit. You can very faintly make out the ANA barge on the rudder pedals and the switches on the bomb release panel (part 33).
It is nice to see at the back the exposed dials and some wiring as well if you want to somehow expose this.

The opened out exhaust holes are pretty nicely done. There is a welded seam just like the original here as well – I like a kit that gets this right as it is always somewhere people look at.
The 10-spoked steel wheels for the Mustang are portrayed pretty well for injection moulded plastic.
Each side is hollowed out to give the correct feel to each wheel – combined with the nice tyres these are pretty nice.
The wing spar holds the wings at the right dihedral and stiffens the airframe once attached – it does more than just pay lip service like some other kits – it actually looks like the real thing.
The main landing gear is seen here in the weighted position the same as they would be on the deck. There is a slight gap too much maybe 1 mm or so in the oleo but I can live with that.
The seats have a choice of simply padded backrest or with moulded in seat harnesses. The moulded on versions are normally a nightmare but they do save you on sourcing your own seatbelts. This version isn’t that bad. The rear of the seat has the same framing as well.
Sprue D 
Mainly the structure under the skin of the aircraft – this sprue holds the skeletal wing frame and the front underside of the nose along with the engine bearers and oil tank, horseshoe shaped coolant tank, radiator and internal carburetor air induction structure. This sprue also houses the tail-wheel.
Firstly the wide wing structure – this skeleton frame encompasses not only the fuel tanks but the six fifty cals and their ammo. Although some might scoff at this ultra-realism I suppose it means you can model in a different way. I am sure that you could model this with all the internals exposed – or you could show just some panels, fuel tanks or you could close it all up. 
At least with this kit you get every option. That is one significant leg up on any other Mustang kit on the market except for maybe the clear “Phantom Mustang” released by Revell USA all those years ago that people still talk about. I would not be surprised if that kit was an inspiration for ZM’s ethos.
A bit of flash on these forward underside panels of the engine. Once removed it will surround the air carburetor structure which is also on this sprue.

The myriad of oil and fluid plumbing to the engine is a site to behold and most impressively moulded

The Co2 tanks and radiator are finely moulded here - no need for mesh replacements on this radiator!
The carby and the oil tank are here, and the detail on the oil tank is maybe a little thick for some people’s tastes – so just sand it down a little. All of this detail will look great with a weathering wash.
Here is the real thing being assembled onto the firewall back in the 40’s – you cn see the thick detail on these tanks is there in real life.

And the rear tail wheel in plastic complete with many injection nodes and a plan from the manual of the real thing...

Sprue E
75 gallon drop tanks and the fuselage side panels are included on this sprue with the perforated or closed air intakes for the carburetor. 
Now I have been greatly upset before by ZM’s non- inclusion of any ordinance on their kits or little of it. Especially on the Skyraider which really baffled me that a bomber kit has no bombs! You had to buy them separately which seemed like a cash grab to me. We have sense here with a pair of 75 gallon drop tanks of this mustang so all is forgiven – just keep it up!
Perforated and closed intakes which we go along with the partially shrouded intakes we looked at on the extra runner.

The air filter intake covers (x3)
This boxing gives you the option of using closed intakes for aircraft operating in colder climates.
 Open or perforated panels for hotter climes – these will need a little cleaning out with a pin.
…And the other, not often seen half shrouded intakes that I can only suppose were for muddy fields or mild weather – the polish and commonwealth Mustangs serving in places like Italy certainly used them.

Sprue F
This sprue contains the two halves of a filleted “late” tail, the fuselage structure to mount them onto and the AN/APS-13 tail warning antenna along with the skin covering the gun barrels on the front of the wing.
These two fuselage parts of the tail are for the later tail only – the early non filleted supports are on the spare runner.
The fillet “late” tail – the other side houses the tail warning antenna.
The skin around the leading edge of the wing which can be left off to expose the skeletal wing structure. Note gun camera port hole on the port wing,

Sprue G
This is another large sprue with some pretty important parts. The cowling of the merlin engine, horizontal and vertical tails, radiator intake and exhaust, wheel well covers and the Hamilton Standard spinner are all here. Some pretty important shapes are here on this sprue.
The vertical and horizontal tail surfaces are here – all of them poseable which is great and all have trip activators moulded on.. The surface detail on the horizontal tail is not to overdone which is often a pitfall of many manufacturers.
The nicely curved radiator intake and the Hamilton standard spinner here – again the spinner has lightening holes in the base.
The landing gear covers – lightly riveted on the outside and scalloped on the inside. – very nice.
The one part wingtip pieces here that eliminate any hot glue and deforming problems which can happen – these just secure to the wingtips. Another good feature is the wing root covers that sit on top of the wing which conceals any gap you might make up!
Cowling covers are on this sprue – and although not as thin as the lovely covers from Tamiya they aren’t as delicate either. There are some large screw holes that could do with a filling just a little which I suppose will happen with undercoat and paint.

Sprue H
The skins of the laminar wings on sprue H go along with the movable control surfaces – this is where it gets interesting…
The wing surfaces are largely rivet free. There was fierce debate with Tamiya’s riveted wings on their kit – it has since come to light that the P-51’s were puttied over and painted on their wings. Some later had stripped wings with bare metal showing and if you want this effect you will have to look elsewhere.
Riveted surfaces of the control surfaces were the norm – these were not puttied over at all.
Some nice wiring detail on the inside of the wings it – with all the rest of the structure a great feature of this kit once it all comes together.

Sprue I
The I sprue has the two undersides of the cowling and the radiator housing part of the under fuselage.

Sprue J
The top of the fuselage and canopy housing is on sprue J – along with the instrument panel shroud these are both lightly riveted.

Sprue L
Contains several tubes for the cockpit’s life support systems
Decals are printed by Cartograf. There are three large sheets of shiny and thick decals including national marking for US and RAF/Commonwealth birds plus individual aircraft markings including black and white invasion stripes.
The one thing I did notice was that the red and blues on the markings were a bit too dark. With scale effect as well these should be slightly lighter so this is a small concern.

There are some remarkably small stencils all over this bird – and they are printed in perfect register. I could find nothing out of place no matter how small the printing got.Take this bore sighting instructions for the MG panels - incredibly small and well detailed.

Marking choices
Colours are given in Vallejo paints which are a good thing – until a point. I have still (yet) to see someone successfully recreates the metal effect of aluminium convincingly using acrylics (and this is something Vallejo has admitted themselves). I would very much have liked to have a map of which shade of metal should be darker/middle /lighter etc. That would be a massive help. Our friend Gary did such a map of colours of the aluminium panels on his build of the “unbuildable” Dragon P-51D on his site Scalespot - this is what we really need to see.

Stencilling is shown, so no guesswork as to where to place your small label decals on this kite..

I have gone through all of these markings with some pictures of the original birds so you can see for yourself the decal research has been done pretty well.

P-51D – “Lou IV” SN: 44-13410
This Mustang from the 361th FG, 375th FS - called "Lou IV" is one of the most talked about Mustangs of the war. Simply for the reason that the well-known picture was colorized by experts in their field – as a sky blue upper surfaced bird.
Well it turns out hat it might have just been olive drab over NMF – and here we have this scheme replicated in the new kit by ZM.

Some colorized pictures from the war showing the olive colour as apposed to blue which was long supposed as the uppersides colour

“Lou IV” was shot down by ground fire during a ground attack on the 12th of August 1944.  Pilot KIA. 

Mustang Mk.IVa, 112 Sqn RAF, GA-S, KH774, Italy, 1945.
“GA-S” #KH774 was a P51K-5NT /Mustang IVA and well known Mustang because of it’s large shark mouth decorated nose. We have an official RAF photograph of this bird here…
This aircraft featured the 'Firewall' camouflage pattern using the ANA colours of 613 Olive Drab & 603 Sea Grey upper surfaces with 602 Light Grey lower surfaces. 
KH774 does not appear in 112 records after May 194. IT is known that after a period in Northern Italy on occupation duty after the war's end the 112 Squadron was disbanded at Treviso on 30th December 1946.

P-51K-10-NT -  44-12073 - "Sunshine" 348th FG, 5th AF, USAAF
SN: Serial: 44-12073 “Sunshine”” was flown by the C.O. of the 348th FG, Sub.Col.William Banks. Circa 1945.
The 348th Fighter Group had 4 Squadrons: 340th FS were noted with yellow spinners; the341st FS - red, 342nd FS - blue, 460th FS - black. This – the CO’s kite sports all three of the squadron’s colours on his spinner so this, combined with the NMF and the black bands and nose art make this a colorful and probably a choice…

P-51 Mustang Mustang Mk.IVA (P-51K-5-NT) KH716 “CV-P”
This Mustang from the Aussie 3rd Sqn, RAAF was based in Fano, Italy in 1945. Primarily engaged in ground attack missions it featured an all-natural metal finish with Olive Drab anti-glare panel. Forward part of spinner red, codes in Black. 'Southern Cross' marking of white stars on blue rudder.
This famous mustang was flown by squadron leader Murray Nash of the RAAF. Here is this famous kite in Italy late in the war.
...and here is the painted up version from ZM's site
Well that is it – This kit add the bits it should in markings that should please everyone and details of plastic that can be tripped back literally to bare bones or closed up in slick mode – this plane has it pretty much all. I know there are several add-ons (figures, armament, diorama scenery) on the ZM site that compliment this kit but these do not come in the box so I am not going to fluff the review by talking about these. I suppose it is an approach of as much as you can fit into the kit for a specific price. With such strong competition I think that this is a sensible option.

Although no model ever is perfect - this kit competes with one of their strongest kits on the market and it more than holds it’s own,  in a few ways is the “ultimate “ Mustang in this scale. It has several features not found on other kits of the same type and scale and it is an inspirational model just looking at the possibilities it invites you to ponder.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Zoukei Mura who sent this kit to us to examine..