Wednesday, March 16

Read n' Reviewed: The NA P-51D/K Mustang - A Detailed Guide To The Cadillac Of The Skies from Valiant Wings Publishing

Valiant Wings Publishing has finally given us the second part of their "Mustang Opus", filling in the gaps for the later versions of the NA P-51D/K Mustang. Gary Wickham has read the book, now he takes time to recount the contents in his review...

The NA P-51D/K Mustang - A Detailed Guide To The Cadillac Of The Skies
Airframe & Miniature No.18
by Richard A. Franks
From Valiant Wings Publishing
Expanded to 272 pages!
A4 portrait format, softcover
English Text
Black & white + full colour images.
Price: £24.95
The North American P-51D/K Mustang - A Complete Guide To The Cadillac Of The Skies is No. 18 in the Valiant Wings Airframe & Miniature series.

The Airframe & Miniature series are all built around a consistent format and "Each title contains technical information, full-colour profiles, walkaround images, diagrams, camouflage and marking details, a wealth of photographic resource plus comprehensive model builds and information on kits both past and present."

We have already reviewed the earlier Mustang book in this series, back in 2013 (wow!)  Valiant Wings Airframe & Miniature No.6 The North American P-51 Early Mustang. We loved the book, and looked forward to the second one coming down the pipeline.
This book, featuring the latter Mustang Marques is the eighteenth in the series and contains 272 pages packed with vital information that any active modeller and USAAF enthusiast will find interesting.

The P-51 Mustang is one of the most popular aircraft modelling subjects around. Much has been documented about this iconic aircraft over the years and with this release, Valiant Publishing believes that their latest book will go some way towards unpicking the different variants and colourful schemes that apply to the type.
This softcover, 272 pages, A4 format book is organised into three major sections:
Airframe Chapters
Evolution - P-51D & K
Evolution - Photo-Reconnaissance, Trainers & Projected Production
Foreign Production, Lightweight & Cavalier Mustangs
Camouflage & Markings and Colour Profiles
Miniature Chapters
P-51D to K Mustang Kits.
Building a Selection
Building a Collection
In Detail: The P-51D to K
P-51D to K Kits
P-51D to K Accessories & Masks
P-51D to K Decals
1/48 Scale Fold Out Plans

Airframe Chapters:
Given the longevity of the P-51 in service, spanning from WW2 into Korea and beyond, it's not surprising that the author has compiled a diverse gallery of B&W and colour photos of the Mustang. As usual with Valiant Wings publishing titles, the printing quality is excellent which means the clarity and colour of the included photos are as good it gets.
Each sub-type of the variant is described and shown in profile detail.
The focus of Chapter 2 is on the "non-fighter" variants of the P-51 including the F-6 photo recon, the two-seat TP-51 trainers and the P-51L/M variants that were never to be.
The third chapter covers those Mustangs that were manufactured under Foreign Production license including the CA-17/18 Mustang produced by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation here in Australia. The XP-51 Lightweight prototypes and P-51H production aircraft are covered as are the military "Cavalier" mustangs. These tend to be lesser-known variants but interesting reading nonetheless.
As you probably expect the Camouflage & Markings chapter consumes a significant number of pages. Spanning not only USAAF Service but RAF and smaller foreign operators each is covered in some detail including colour profiles and supporting period photos.
Along with the extensive colour profiles that span right until the end of military Mustang's uses. 
There are layouts like stencil plans and other helpful data on the late P-51's.
Miniature / Modelling Chapters:
The second half of the book is focused on modelling the P-51. Kicking off we have a very comprehensive assessment of the major kit offerings in all the major scales (1/144, 1/72. 1/48, 1/32 & 1/24). I personally found this chapter quite dry inevitably skipping straight to the "verdict" section for each kit. I suppose it is useful to understand the pros and cons of the various kits on offer but still, it seems like a lot of pages to cover something that only a modeller who had never purchased (or built) a P-51 kit before would ever use.
Chapter 6 provides a far more "hands-on" assessment of a wide range of P-51 kits because here we see them being built. I'm a very visual person and find I can learn a lot more from seeing how a model goes together rather than just reading paragraphs of text about it. 
The standard of models on show is of a high standard.
If I had one criticism of this chapter it is that the build photos end up being way too small to be of much use. Less text, bigger pictures (with captions) would be my preference.
Chapter 7 reminded me of the old Squadron/Signal "In Action" series which always contained thorough coverage of the major differences between variants as the aircraft evolved over time. No less than 56 variants (including sub-variants) are documented here, with isometric drawings of each one showing what changes were incorporated. 
This chapter is very worthwhile if you want to geek out just how far North American pushed the Mustang during its service life.
The final chapter in the book is where the rubber hits the road for those of us who like the details. Fifty pages are dedicated to this most important of subjects because as they say "the Devil is in the details". 
Every single part of the Mustang is covered via the use of several existing restored examples.
The chapter is logically broken down into sub-sections containing photos and drawings of each facet of the Mustang including everything from the oxygen/hydraulic systems to photos of each style of rear-view mirror used on the P-51. Very comprehensive indeed.
Several appendices are provided at the very end of the book which catalogue all the known Kits, Accessories & Masks and Decals across all scales. Someone has done a lot of work indeed to compile this catalogue.
Last but not least is the inclusion of 1:48 scale plans covering the main variants of the P-51. This is a welcome addition particularly as the drawings include the rivet locations for those that want to enhance their kits with some accurate surface detail.
Much like the other titles in the Valiant Wings 'Airframe & Miniature' series, this book truly provides a one-stop-shop of information for modellers looking to not only build an accurate model of the P-51D/H but also to understand its history and operation. I'm a big fan of reference books like this that cover one particular aircraft in great detail and I have no hesitation recommending it as very good value for money.

Gary Wickham

Thanks to Valiant Wings Publishing for sending this book to Gary to review. If you like the look of this book you can find out more about it on the Valiant Wings website for more on their great books.