Wednesday, November 30

Gary Takes Off In A Mustang Pt. I: Meng's 48th scale P-51D build

Gary Wickham has already given us his first impressions in a review of the possibly game-changing new Meng Models P-51D Mustang in 48th scale. This kit goes together without glue, & the construction is meant to be as simple as possible. Let's see what Gary can do with his kit in Part I "how-to" build.
Build Guide Pt. I:
North American P-51D Mustang
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
The North American P-51D Mustang
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II, the Korean War and other conflicts. The Mustang was designed in 1940 by North American Aviation (NAA) in response to a requirement of the British Purchasing Commission. The definitive version, the P-51D, was powered by the Packard V-1650-7, a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 two-stage two-speed supercharged engine, and was armed with six .50 calibre (12.7 mm) M2/AN Browning machine guns.

From late 1943, P-51s were used by the USAAF's Eighth Air Force to escort bombers in raids over Germany, while the RAF's Second Tactical Air Force and the USAAF's Ninth Air Force used the Merlin-powered Mustangs as fighter-bombers, roles in which the Mustang helped ensure Allied air superiority in 1944. The P-51 was also used by Allied air forces in the North African, Mediterranean, Italian and Pacific theatres. During World War II, Mustang pilots claimed to have destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft.
Chief Naval Test Pilot and C.O. Captured Enemy Aircraft Flight Capt. Eric Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC, RN, tested the Mustang at RAE Farnborough in March 1944, and noted, "The Mustang was a good fighter and the best escort due to its incredible range, make no mistake about it. It was also the best American dogfighter. But the laminar flow wing fitted to the Mustang could be a little tricky. It could not by any means out-turn a Spitfire. No way. It had a good rate-of-roll, better than the Spitfire, so I would say the plusses to the Spitfire and the Mustang just about equate. If I were in a dogfight, I'd prefer to be flying the Spitfire. The problem was I wouldn't like to be in a dogfight near Berlin because I could never get home to Britain in a Spitfire!"
The Luftwaffe's twin-engine heavy fighters brought up to deal with the bombers proved to be easy prey for the Mustangs and had to be quickly withdrawn from combat. The Focke-Wulf Fw 190A, already suffering from poor high-altitude performance, was outperformed by the Mustang at the B-17's altitude, and when laden with heavy bomber-hunting weapons as a replacement for the more vulnerable twin-engined Zerstörer heavy fighters, it suffered heavy losses. The Messerschmitt Bf 109G had comparable performance at high altitudes, but its lightweight airframe was even more greatly affected by increases in armament. The Mustang's much lighter armament, tuned for anti-fighter combat, allowed it to overcome these single-engined opponents. [source: wikipedia]
The MENG 1:48th scale P-51D Mustang
There has been quite a buzz around this release for one simple reason. It's a "Snap-Tite" kit. Ok, so MENG refer to it as "Cement-Free Assembly" but whatever you call it, you are meant to assemble it without the need for glue. Normally this type of engineering is reserved for the basic, beginner style kits to make it easier for novices to construct their first model without making a mess with all that pesky glue. We have come to expect such kits to be very basic, often lacking detail with low part counts, to suit beginners.

Here is what MENG said on their Facebook page: "During our discussions with modellers, MENG's team has discovered that many modellers are discouraged about aircraft subjects. We have heard the complaints, like  "More sanding work than AFVs" and "too many colours to paint" about building aircraft models. How can we improve the build experience and also replicate the excellent details at the same time? The LS-006 North American P-51D Mustang Fighter kit is our first try. We applied a different design concept than other 1/48 scale aircraft models. For many beginners, they can build this kit without glue. We don't forget the senior modellers who are used to using glue. After glueing and painting of this kit, they will find a detailed Mustang model."
Going into this build I was not quite sure what to expect from a kit like this. I have a few other MENG aircraft kits in the stash (the very well regarded 1:32 Me-163 for example) so I had an idea of what they could produce. The notion of a snap-tite kit was not really appealing but I figured it could be a bit of fun. As I now sit here and write this I have pretty much-completed work on the fuselage interior build and my impression is "WOW". The fit of the parts is superb, which I guess is to be expected if Meng really expects you to be able to assemble a model of this complexity without the need for any glue.

My "WOW" assessment is not just about the fit, it applies to the level of detail Meng have put into the kit, which holds up very well even when compared to say a 1:32 kit of the P-51. The surface detail also looks to be excellent (more on that once I get to painting) and the overall shape looks every bit a Mustang.

To achieve their goal of "cement free assembly", Meng needs all the parts to go together with a tight fit, leaving little or no wiggle room. Every part I have cut out and test fitted so far has just clicked (and stayed) in place. This actually brings me to possibly my one "issue" with the kit. If you are a compulsive dry-fitter like me, having parts that fit very snuggly and don't want to come apart again becomes an annoyance pretty quickly. Trying to separate parts without damaging them after test fitting can be a real challenge as they are literally designed to stay together without glue and you have to fight them.

Building the MENG 1:48 P-51D Mustang (LS-006)
Assembly of the kit follows a pretty standard sequence, beginning with the cockpit. All the major interior components you would expect to see in a 1:48 model of the P-51D are present. I really like how each part is provided separately as this makes it so much easier to paint first and then assemble. I expect this was done in the spirit of appealing to beginners, but it also works just great for crusty old builders like me :)
My plans for this model called for a pilot. The kit comes with no pilot so I scavenged one from the spares box. He did not quite fit the cockpit so a little surgery was needed to get his leg to sit right and while I was cutting I lengthened his neck and turned his head. The shoulder straps were added from lead foil. To repair the surgical cuts I used Milliput epoxy filler.
Another view of the pilot and seat. As per the instructions, the seat and armoured backrest comes in six pieces, including the seat pan and leather headrest cushion. I really had no intention of building this model "glue free" and its safe to assume that any assembled items you see throughout this article have been glued with Tamiya Extra Thin glue or pure MEK.
I have applied a coat of grey primer, mainly to prepare the pilot figure for hand painting, but I also did the seat parts as well. My preferred primer is the Alclad Grey Primer which I find adheres very well to all sorts of plastic and putty.
The pilot figure is finished in Vallejo acrylic paints. I certainly don't consider myself a figure painter but I muddle through well enough and when he is mostly buried inside the cockpit with the canopy closed, he will do the job.
With the pilot out the way, next up is the main instrument panel. MENG provides a decal designed to cover the entire panel, including the centre console. The only part of the decal that I intend to use is the top section containing the main instruments. This area of the panel is mostly flat (except of course for the instrument bezels) and I expect that with the liberal use of softening solution it will settle down nicely. It will require the decal to be trimmed closely around the main instruments using a new blade. Decals should always be applied to a gloss surface and so I have hand brushed a coat of Future on the panel.
Using a metal ruler and a new blade I lightly cut thru the decal as closely to the main instruments as possible. One tip when trimming decals is that you only need to cut thru the decal and not the paper, this means you can use a much lighter cut with a much lower chance of damaging the decal. This photo was taken after I had dipped the decal in water and then used some tweezers to move the scrap pieces to the side.
The decal is now gently lifted off the backing paper using tweezers and placed onto the model. The decal in the photo has not yet softened and is why it appears to be sitting flat on top of the raised detail. I like to apply a generous amount of Microscale Micro Sol Softening solution with a brush and then use a pointed cotton bud to coax the decal down into the raised detail.
The decal has now dried and settled down into the raised detail. It can be quite tricky to get everything aligned properly when you first place the decal as the detail underneath is obscured but with patience and experience, it all comes together. A flat clear coat has also been applied and the remaining switches and button painted by hand.
The finished product has now been lightly washed and drybrushed to make the detail stand out. A small dab of Future has been placed in each dial to simulate the glass. All up this looks pretty good for a 1:48 IP and will be more than adequate once the cockpit is closed up and the glare shield and gunsight attached.
Directly behind the pilot is the fuselage fuel tank and placed on top is the radio equipment. All these parts (including the framework on the tank) has been painted separately and then assembled. I added some cabling using EZ Line which is normally used for aerial wires etc but the thicker version is also useful for cabling like this. Thankfully it comes in white which saved me having to paint it.
Time to do a quick test fit of the cockpit components before committing glue and moving onto the rest of interior.
The cockpit consists of these four major sub-assemblies that I am now ready to bring together.
The gunsight is provided in clear plastic and I have hand painted the body, frame and leather cushion whilst leaving the reflector glass clear. In 1:48 this is a perfectly acceptable way to represent a gunsight. The Mustang has a separate bullet proof glass plate position under the front windscreen. Meng has kindly provided that as a separate part which simply clicks snuggly into place on the base of the glare shield.
Notice that light (subtle) wear has been applied using silver drybrushing to the glare shield, seat back armoured headrest and radios. Simple detailing like this can easily be applied and help complete the illusion of a weathered warplane. The painted pilot looks ok, and once the canopy is on will be adequate for the job.
Cockpit sidewalls are next in the assembly sequence. Meng has once again kindly provided some of the port sidewall raised detail as a separate part (D10). This is very welcome as it makes painting so much easier.
Mr Color C351 FS34151 Zinc-Chromate Green Type I has been applied over a black primer for the cockpit interior base. Details have been picked out by hand with Vallejo Acrylics.
The kit is designed with a separate tailwheel sub-assembly. This is built and they sandwiched between the two fuselage halves. The joins between the sub-assemblies are along natural panel lines. We also need to paint and install the rear face of the radiator (part B21) prior to closing up the fuselage.
Just like the port sidewall I have painted the Interior Green using Mr Color C351 and the consoles and oxygen hose in Vallejo. I did not attend to any of the ejection pin marks seen here because once assembled they are also hidden by the cockpit (let's not make work for ourselves).
The tailwheel assembly has been painted using  Mr Color C352 FS33481 Chromate Yellow Primer as I imagined this area may have been repaired at some point at left only in primer. The tailwheel strut has so far only been finished with Alclad 101 Aluminium and will later receive a dark wash to bring out all that nice detail.
Sandwiched between the fuselage halves is the rear face of the radiator assembly. I painted this Tamiya Rubber Black and then lightly dry brushed with silver to highlight the radiator grill pattern.
With all the interior sub-assemblies now complete its time to close it up. I will be ignoring the Meng assembly sequence here with regard to the propeller unit and leave that off until the end of the build (likewise with the exhaust stubs).
Everything slides into position with the precision of a Swiss watch. No glue has been applied at this point and no serious gaps are evident.
The assembled fuselage - seen from underneath. Note the large circular mounting posts inside the fuselage, these are what hold the whole thing together so very firmly. I will be applying liquid glue to the fuselage join but only because I am a cautious sort of guy !!
Gary Wickham
Thanks to Meng Models for sending this kit to Gary to review and then build. It is available no thru Meng's Distributors Worldwide.
More of this kit's construction is coming in the next few weeks in two more articles. See as Gary finishes construction and then paints, weathers and applies a base to this kit.