Friday, April 14

Build guide Pt.IV: Gary finishes & takes flight in his 48th scale Meng P-51D

Gary Wickham has already given us his first impressions in a review,  a first part, second & then third part of his build guide of the 48th scale Meng P-51D kit. Today we see the build all finished and weathered with an added "in-flight" base to bring life to the aircraft. See what Gary thought about this model when he wraps it all up in Part IV.
Build Guide Pt. IV:
North American P-51D Mustang
From MENG Models
Product No# LS-006
Scale: 1/48th
Product Link
Price: ¥3,840/ USD $34.06/ €32.19 from Hobbylink Japan
Started: November 2016
Finished: April 2017
In Box Review
Build Guide Pt. I
Build Guide Pt. II 
Build Guide Pt. III

Today - Finishing & Weathering the kit
I had settled on Richard E Turners mount 'Short Fuse Sallee". Turner was one of the leading ETO Aces with 20 kills by the end of the war. Short Fuse Sallee is not the most colourful bird around but it did get a workout which meant I could go to town with the weathering.
As I started to prepare my approach to the aircraft markings and colours I compared the Meng instructions with period photos of Turners assorted P-51's he flew. Try as hard as I might I could not find any period photos that matched the configuration provided by Meng. Did they have access to reference material not available on the web? The kill markings, in particular, had me stumped and then I noticed the invasion stripes were missing white stripes on the fuselage, recognition bands in the wrong place on the wings and so the list went on.
It was not until my web searching led me to several photos of a restored P-51 painted in Short Fuse Sallee markings that the penny finally dropped. Meng had based their paint scheme not on the wartime configuration of Turner's actual aircraft but rather on this restored aircraft ... arghhh it all made sense now.
At this point I pretty much disregarded entirely the Meng painting instructions, turning instead to period photos of Turner's aircraft just before he had it renamed to "Short Fuse" when he received a "Dear John" letter from Sallee. Each photo I found gave me another small piece of the puzzle, code locations on the fuselage, invasion stripe position and width, kill marking style and location and so it went on.
Meng's location of the lower wing invasion stripes is incorrect, they should start further outboard. Meng completely left the black recognition stripes on the upper wing and tail off (even though the restored aircraft has these !!!).
Useful things to note in this photo are the position of the invasion stripes on the main wheel covers (note how the white stripe starts 1/3 up the cover). Also, have a close look at the orientation of the white stars on the nose band. They are not aligned to the fuselage or ground but rather to the aft edge of the blue band, Meng got this wrong as well. Notice the number, style and location of the 20 kill markings under the cockpit sill. You can clearly see that the un-shrouded exhaust stubs were used (Meng tells you to use the shrouded exhausts found on the restored bird).
This very grainy period photo of Turner's flight returning after a sortie clearly shows the invasion stripe location and confirms that the tail had the single black recognition band applied. I find it a bit frustrating that too often model companies fail so badly in their research when an amateur like me can invest 30 mins googling to find everything needed to make a proper job of accurately representing the aircraft. For this aspect of their P-51 kit, I would score Meng a disappointing 1 out of 10.
Now that I was armed with some proper reference material it was time to get back to the model. Why trying to layout masking the must align closely with decals I often find it useful to make a scanned copy of the decal sheet and print it out on paper. Here I have trimmed the 'star and bar' on the fuselage side and then taped it in place so that I can use it to properly align the masking tape below and around it. The invasion stripes come up very snuggly to the bottom of the star and bars.
Once I have the masking edges properly aligned I backfill the tape to protect from overspray. I saw a question recently on a forum where the poster asked if it's ok to paint acrylics over Alcad. My experience is that you can pretty much paint anything over Alclad.
Masking inside the radiator outlet took a bit of patience but was necessary to protect the interior from the invasion black and white colours.
Now that I was confident on the location and size of the wing invasion stripes tape could be applied. I normally use thin strips of tape to position the paint edges and then backfill with larger tape as shown here.
The wing leading is a bit tricky to mask. One tip is to not try and get the tape to curve around the wing curve, but rather stick the demarcation edge down and then backfill the top with liquid mask. In this way, you are not trying to curve the tape onto the fuselage top causing it to come away from the demarcation edge.
The first colour to be applied is Tamiya White Primer (decanted from a rattle can). I really like this paint as it covers fantastically and does not require loads of coats to cover any base colour (even black).
Two light coats (thinned with Tamiya Lacquer Thinners) are all that is needed to provide a solid coverage of the white.
Once the white is dry masking continues to layout the black stripes. Once again I use thin strips of tape for the actual edges and then backfill with larger tape straight off the roll.
The black applied here is Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black, my all time favourite black shade. I have also painted the blue band on the nose with Mr Color C65 Bright Blue.
I was not happy with my first attempt at masking the anti-glare panel on the nose so it got stripped and sanding back. Here I have masked up to allow me to re-apply the Alclad Airframe Aluminium before having another go at the Olive Drab.
Painting is pretty much completed at this point. The anti-glare panel is finished with Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab (lightened with white).
Meng does not provide the red 'No Step' warning zone on the flap near the wing root so this was masked and painted. Be sure to remember the little things like masking off the hinge join on the flap so that the black from the recognition stripe does go inside.
The Meng decals are printed by Cartograph so I was fairly confident they would perform well. As mentioned earlier I completely ignored the kit instructions on decal placement, especially the fuselage codes (AJ-T). The kill markings came from a spare Cutting Edge sheet I had. Did you notice the spelling mistake that Meng made to Capt Turner's name ??
The Cartograph decals whilst very nice were printed with way too much carrier film for the fuselage insignia and codes. This came as a one piece decal with mountains of clear film between the letters. I used a sharp blade to cut out each letter separately, removing virtually all the carrier film and then laying down each letter and insignia individually. This results in a much more 'painted on' look im my opinion.
The stars on the nose band are thankfully provided separately and you just need to ignore the orientation suggested by Meng and lay them our instead as I have done with the bottom (two points) of each star aligned with the rear most band edge. She was finally starting to look like a P-51 but something had to be done about that clean shiny finish !!!
The first step in making her look war-weary was to apply a panel/rivet wash. Many modellers believe that panel line washes look unrealistic and yes, if overdone, that can be true. Experimenting and finding the right shade of wash for different subjects is essential. For the P-51 I once again used several tones from the MiG Ammo range of pre-mixed panel line washes. Next up was to dull down the shine of the Alclad. To do this and not kill the metallic look that we have worked so hard to achieve I like to use Alclads own range of flat clears. They provide a set of clear finishes across of spectrum of dullness ratings with the least flat being "Low Sheen", this was the one that I used for the Mustang.
More weathering was now applied with the airbrush by heavily thinning Tamiya paints with isopropyl alcohol. This is another trick I picked up from JM Villalba in his instructional DVD. It seems that by using pure alcohol and dialling the pressure of you compressor way down allows the Tamiya paint to be applied in extremely thin coats. Using this technique I was able to apply the exhaust & gun staining, the earth coloured grime on the wing root and general fuel stains over the airframe.
All that remained was to attach the drop tanks and landing gear in an appropriate position to indicate the gear being retracted. The base was made with several shades of static grass.
Conclusion
Overall impression? I think it is a great little kit, possibly the most detailed 1:48 P-51 kit yet released. The surface detail is just right, the overall accuracy seems good to me (they got the main wheel well right) with the only thing that let the whole package down was the research (or lack thereof) for the painting/markings scheme. Is this really a glue-free kit, no I don't believe so. Many of the parts would not have stayed in place properly had I not used some glue but frankly I don't see this as an issue, especially to serious modellers who would not buy this kit because of that "feature". I can certainly see myself building another one (or two) of this kit in the future.
Gary Wickham
Thanks to Meng Models for sending this kit to Gary to review and then build. It is available now thru Meng's Distributors Worldwide.
Check out Gary's own website - Scalespot.com for more of his wonderful builds...