Saturday, April 11

Build Review Pt II - 48th scale PLA P-51D/K Mustang (1949 Parade) from Bronco Models

Even a quick build for our man Gary is a great build, & today with the second part of his build of 48th scale PLA P-51D/K Mustang (1949 Parade) from Bronco Models proves it. As a bonus, you will pick up a lot of tips and tricks - & even get a lesson on creating masks with the Silhouette masking machine thrown in. See how the Mustang turns out in Pt.II... 

Build Review - PLA P-51D/K Mustang (1949 Parade) 
From Bronco Models
Kit No #FB4010
1/48th scale

Product Link on the Bronco Website

Previous parts of this story:

Build Review Pt II - 48th scale PLA P-51D/K Mustang (1949 Parade) from Bronco Models
We last left Gary's story at the first stage of Natural Metal Finish - we will go now through the build to the finishing stages and place it on a nice base in part II of today's story.
Like most models I like to create some visual variation on the surface finish. You can't really fade or pre-shade metaliser paint but you can apply subtle effects to the surface by applying different shades of metaliser to selected panels. I masked off a few panels and applied a selection of the other colours in the AK Xtreme range. I was happy to note that the base coat of AK Xtreme Aluminium was not at all affected by all this masking activity. This was encouraging as I had by now decided to forgo the kit decals and instead make my own masks and paint the national insignia onto the model.
As I seem to be a glutton for punishment I decided that this model would be a good choice to stretch myself a bit and learn more about making paint masks instead of using decals. The first step in making your own masks is to create the design on the computer. I scan the kit decal sheet and then use a vector graphic program called Inkscape (which is free) to trace the outline of the decals I want to mask. There is a bit of a learning curve involved in coming up-to-speed with Inkscape but nothing too complicated as most of the designs we encounter on aircraft models are straight lines, simple curves or text/numbers.
Once complete the mask design can be sent to a cutting machine, which is just like a printer but instead of having an ink cartridge has a blade. The blade cuts the design out of a sheet of self-adhesive masking material made from vinyl or tape. 
Several brands of hobby cutting machines are available on the market, I personally use a cutter from Silhouette which simply plugs into my computer via a USB port.
The masks are now transferred to the model surface and burnished down to make a paint-safe edge. The vinyl masking material I have used for this project is called Oramask 810 and is semi-transparent as you can see here.
The first colour is now applied, which in my case was Tamiya XF-3 Yellow acrylic. I thin the acrylics with Tamiya Lacquer thinners so they dry extra fast and cover with just a few coats. You do not want to apply too much paint or you risk building up the thickness which results in a visible edge to the marking.
Let the Yellow dry and the second part of the mask can be applied. This covers the area that needs to remain yellow, which is mostly the outline around the star and bars.
To eliminate the chance of any of the next colour bleeding through the small gap between the first and second mask I like to overlap the edges with thin strips of tape. It's time-consuming but worth the effort to avoid annoying thin lines on your finishing marking.
XF-7 Red is now applied and built up to cover properly the yellow below. As you can see it is wise to outline the vinyl mask with tape to avoid overspray.
All the masking can now be removed and once the paint is fully cured a light buff with a soft cloth will deal with any raised edges or ridges left by the paint. I feel the end result of painted markings is superior to any decal and once you have mastered this technique opens up a world of custom markings for your modelling projects.
Of course, not all masking designs have to be complex. For the rudder, I needed simple parallel lines for the stripes and upon measuring worked out these needed to be 4.5mm each. I could have cut strips of Tamiya tape to the right size and marked out the spacing etc but it took me less than 2 minutes to draw this in the computer and cut it out. 
The masks are all guaranteed to be the same size and I did not have to worry about getting the spacing perfect as the mask took care of that for me.
Once you are happy with the mask you can cut out many copies and apply them to the model all at once. This way you can spray each colour on all markings at the same time. It helped with this project that the same national insignia was used on the upper and lower wings and the fuselage sides.
The simple tail-code was also cut and masked. Note that I had previously used the Bronco decal for the tail code (yes I got lazy) but the clear carrier film was a flat finish and very visible when applied over the natural metal. I scratched the dry decal off with my fingernail, touched up the underlying aluminium paint and made the mask as seen here. Another example of where being able to make your own masks provides more options should things not go according to plan.
Once the painted markings were complete I applied a handful of small stencil decals. Normally I would apply a clear coat over the paint and decals at this point but I wanted to really put the AK Xtreme Metals to the test. Were they durable enough to handle a layer of enamel based washes, say from MiG Ammo or Tamiya Panel Liner? I generously applied the Ammo Panel wash and left it for an hour to dry. The excess was next removed with a soft cloth and white spirits. I'm happy to report that most of the AK Xtreme Metals withstood this treatment without any problems. Only the Stainless Steel and Polished Aluminium colours were affected by the solvent and these came off (cleanly). A lesson for next time.
Even with the panel wash applied the natural metal paint was still too bright (clean) for my purpose. I wanted a tired, oxidized look to the weary Mustang as seen in photos. I could have toned it down with a light flat coat but was curious to test an alternative method. I covered sections of the model with a light coat of clean white spirits, then loaded up a small brush with a heavily thinned oil paint glaze. This was dabbed onto the surface and the layer of white spirit diluted and helped flow the oil paint evenly over the surface. This resulted in a thin filter of dirty coloured oil paint over most of the model surface and when it dried was ever so slightly dull. So in one step I had both deadened the finish of the natural metal and given it a grimy finish full of natural variation.
For the remaining weathering effects, I loaded the airbrush with super thinned Tamiya Earth and Black. This was so thin that it took between 5-10 passes to get the transparent effect you see here. The trick with this technique is to use pure alcohol (IPA) as the thinner rather than Tamiya's own thinner. The Olive Drab anti-glare panel on the engine cowling was chipped using the hairspray method with a darker wash applied to make it look more grotty than elsewhere.
The Bronco kit includes both the cuffed and un-cuffed Hamilton Standard propellers. I prefer the look of the un-cuffed prop (less commonly seen on WW2 era Mustangs) so selected this option for my build. The kit decals were used for the logo's and stencils, these being applied without a gloss coat to see how they performed.
The final touch was to add some weathering to the True Details resin wheels in the form of MiG pigments. These were simply brushed into the cracks on the tires and using a wet cotton bud the excess was removed.
All the small details were now attached and the model prepared for final photos on a suitable base. All up the elapsed time for this build from opening the box to taking these pictures was 2 weeks and 2 days. Even though I used glue and pretty much bypassed all the Bronco "quick build" features I guess I did still crank this one out fast.
CONCLUSION - Bronco 1:48 P-51D/K Mustang PLAAF (FB4010)
So as expected this kit is a real mixed bag. As you've seen from my build it has some nice points, some not-so-nice points and some downright nasty points.
Bronco has clearly aimed this kit at the Chinese domestic market, the choice of markings alone kinda proves that more than anything else. It's a little surprising however that they have not taken more care in the research, especially when they had to know they were entering a market jam-packed full of brand new tooled kits of the same aircraft. And this is not just any aircraft, it's the most beloved of all allied fighters, it's the Cadillac of the Skies and you really can't get away with releasing a sub-par kit of the P-51, not now, not ever.
I thought a summary table might be helpful to see how it all stacks up:

The Good
Fine surface rivet detail
Interesting marking options
Good overall fit
Choice of two propeller options

The Bad
Misshapen seat
Simplified shrouded exhausts
Missing panel line on the engine cowling
Questionable canopy shape
Incorrect flap cutout
Not really 'glue-free'

and The Ugly
Incorrect main wheel bay
Wrong alignment of the main undercarriage
Fabric/riveted elevators

So having said all that I think the end result holds up pretty well. It looks like a P-51, the PLA markings look very striking and eye-catching and under a coat of paint the rivet and panel surface detail looks convincing.
So would I recommend this kit? Yes and No. If you care a lot about accuracy and don't want to spend time fixing things then this kit is not for you, go buy the Eduard P-51. If you don't care so much for accuracy, you like the marking options and are willing to invest some TLC to fix the easy things then as you can see it polishes up pretty well.

Gary Wickham

Thanks to Bronco for sending this kit to us to build and review. You can see more about Bronco's kits on their website.
If you like Gary's work then please do go to his website for a whole lot more of that...