Friday, November 18

Snap..Fit? We get the lowdown on Meng's new 48th Mustang kit..

Having built both the Tamiya and Dragon kits in 1/32, several tothothers48th and 72nd scale and being quite a fan of the aircraft, Gary Wickham was the natural choice to build the new MENG 48th scale P-51D. This interesting kit is said to come together without even using glue! Let's see if the premise can come true in a quick look at the kit before Gary starts to cut and "push" parts together...

In-Boxed: North American P-51D Mustang
from MENG Models 
Product No# LS006
Scale: 1/48th
(No Cement Required)
Product Link

Build Guide Pt. I
Build Guide Pt. II 
Build Guide Pt. III
Finishing guide Pt. IV

Today I take a very quick look at the brand new tooled 1/48 P-51D Mustang from MENG MODELS. It's my plan to build this model so for right now let us just have a look at what comes in the box. I'll get to the glue and paint soon enough :)

Now if you have collected any MENG kits (even armour ones) you may have noticed that each of them is part of a "series". I've noticed this before but never bothered to google the often long, scientific looking names found on each box. This time, however, curiosity got the better of me. The Mustang is part of the so-called "1/48 Ludodactylus Series" with the previous MENG Me410 currently the other kits in this series.
According to Wikipedia, Ludodactylus was a genus of pterodactyloid pterosaurs from the Aptian-age Lower Cretaceous Crato Formation of Ceará, Brazil. Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight and the early species had long, fully toothed jaws and long tails.

Now it does not take too much imagination to see WWII Fighters as aerial predators armed with sharp teeth which they use to attack their prey. It's worth a quick visit to the MENG Website to see the range of other series they have created for their ever growing kit lineup. It's a bit quirky, but hey, I like quirky :)

Anyway, I digress, let's get back to the P-51D shall we? There has been quite a buzz around this release for one simple reason. It's a "Snap-Tite" kit. Ok, so MENG refers 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."

The first thing I noticed when opening the box was that it contained a very respectable amount of plastic, far more than I had expected from a "beginner" kit. All up we get 5 dark grey sprues, a single clear sprue, a set of Cartograph printed decals and a black & white instruction booklet. I know it's not something we usually speak about in reviews but the box art is well done with a fairly inspirational painting of a pair of 31st FG Mustangs on patrol.
As I mentioned at the start, this review is meant to be a quick look. Rather than the usual sprue-by-sprue treatment, I've just taken a handful of photos of the major kit parts to let you get a sense of the level of detail in the box. My impression, as I was handling the kit, is that it looked great. I'll stop talking for the moment and let you soak up the next few photos in peace.
Pardon me for interrupting, but it's worth mentioning that MENG has not repeated the mistake made by some many kit manufacturers over the years when it comes to the rear wall of the Mustang main gear well. Most kits (including Tamiya's) make the mistake of having the rear wall follow the outline of the wheel well openings when in fact the actual aircraft rear wall is the main wing spar which runs straight, just like shown here on the MENG part (rear is on the bottom of this photo).
Oh and I'm sure that more than one person will question the accuracy of providing such copious rivet detail on a Mustang Laminar Flow wing. The use of this type of airfoil on the Mustang was designed to greatly add to the drag reducing concept that was paramount in all design phases of the aeroplane. The few applications of this airfoil, prior to the Mustang, had been hand built structures which were finished to exacting tolerances. An absolutely smooth surface was necessary due to the fact that any surface break or rough protrusion would interrupt the airflow and detract from the laminar flow theory. Because of the exactness required, the laminar flow airfoil had been shelved by other manufacturers due to the clearances and tolerances which are used in mass production.

The engineers at North American Aviation (NAA) approached this problem with a plan to fill (with putty) and paint the wing surface to provide the necessary smoothness.
More rivets, which you may or may not want to fill based on your preferences regarding the Laminar Flow wing debate. Also, note the recessed cutaway designed for the wing pylon. This will make it pretty much impossible to model and aircraft with a clean wing as the pylon will have to be installed even if you don't attach any stores.
Both canopies provided have a mould seam down the centre which will need to be sanded out. All the clear parts are blemish free.
Looks like someone has been learning lessons when it comes to windshield design. By moulding some of the surrounding fuselage in clear, it makes attaching (and blending) these parts into the rest of the model so much easier. Thank you MENG.

The kit decals sheet seems to be very comprehensive with plenty of stencilling provided. The only decal I felt the could have been handled better was the instrument panel. I know that Cartograph can print finer detail on dials etc (even at 1/48th) than is shown here.
Two marking options are provided as shown below. You need to look to the side of the box for these colour profiles as the instruction sheet is only printed in black and white.
Period photos of well know P-51s are not that hard to find but be careful when comparing them to decals as aircraft changed considerably during their service life and things like kill markings can (and do) vary over time.
The last thing to share with you is the assembly steps. Remember it's all meant to go (and stay) together without any glue (or filler or sanding etc).

A couple of things worth noting as you look through:
a) The flaps are only designed to be displayed down (see step 7, parts C3 & C4).
b) The instructions only show the use of the cuffed propellors (step 4) but a set of uncuffed props are also included in the kit.
c) Both shrouded and unshrouded exhausts are provided (step 4) which is a nice touch.
d) You will need to use glue if you plan to have the undercarriage up and doors closed (step 9)
e) You will need to fit the wing pylons even if you don't want any stores being carried.
So that's it for our quick look. To me, it looks very promising and I fully expect this will be a fun build. I love the Mustang, the "Cadillac of the Sky". To me it is the most iconic fighter aircraft of WWII, surpassing even the Spitfire. I've built both the Tamiya and Dragon kits in 1/32 and expect this new MENG kit to deliver the goods in 1/48. Stay tuned for my next update after I get the cutters and airbrush into action.
Gary Wickham

Build Guide Pt. I
Build Guide Pt. II 
Build Guide Pt. III

Finishing guide Pt. IV

Thanks to MENG Models for sending this kit to Gary to review and build, expect to see his second part of the article very soon here on TMN
If you would like to see more of Gary's work on Mustangs and a broad range of other models, check out his website