There is not much that has not already been written about the famous P-51 Mustang. Every aviation enthusiast knows the story of this iconic WWII fighter which has been designed by an American company (North American) for a British Purchasing Commission. Everyone also knows that once equipped with a Packard-built Merlin engine, the aircraft became a legend, although it performed very well in it's initial fighter-bomber role with an Allison engine until the end of the war. The P-51 was a masterpiece of technology and was able to combine performance, aesthetic and mass production to a level seldom reached in aviation history.
Like it is the case for the real P-51 Mustang, there is not much that has not already been written about the new Tamiya kit of the aircraft. As soon as the Japanese manufacturer unveiled its decision to do a P-51D in 1:32 scale, people started to get excited on modelling forums. It became hysteria when the first pictures of the plastic parts were made available and the first built up models were presented during the 2011 Shizuoka Model Show. The drama reached its peak when it was obvious that Tamiya decided to represent rivets on the wings (they were smooth on a factory fresh aircraft) thus leaving the modeling community divided in two: the pro and contra "rivets on a Mustang wing".
I don't pretend to be a Mustang expert. Certainly not. So I won't make final statements about the accuracy of the kit but rather focus on the content of the box and it's overall quality. The way Tamiya has decided to do their 1:32 kit of the P-51D may not be of everyone's taste but keep in mind that every plastic model is a subjective representation of the real thing based on technological limitations and economical aspects. I do hope, however, that this review will help everyone to decide whether or not this kit meets their standards… or not.
For more precise info about accuracy, please refer to the excellent article published on the IPMS Philippines website:
- IPMS Philippines Tamiya P-51 D test shots review
Content of the box
The first thing I have noticed when examining the new 1:32 scale Tamiya Mustang kit is that the box is bigger than the Spitfire and Zero boxes by about 20% (the package is longer and higher). Once opened, one realizes why: there is plenty of plastic inside, and even more is hidden under the cowling tray in a special box. Below is a list of what is provided in the kit:
- 16 sprues of medium grey injected plastic (some sprues are made of two separate trees).
- 4 separate cowling parts made of medium grey injected plastic.
- 3 sprues of transparent plastic parts.
- 1 sprue of black injected plastic (display stand)
- 2 vinyl tires.
- 2 photo etched frets.
- 1 sheet of masks (not pre-cut).
- 1 bag with magnets (three different sizes).
- 1 bag with screws and nuts in various sizes.
- 1 bag with metal rods in various sizes.
- 1 bag with a screwdriver and poly caps.
- 1 name plate.
- 2 decal sheets.
- 1 Instructions booklet.
- 1 color painting guide.
- 1 reference book.
- 1 A-4 size folder.
- 1 A-4 poster.
When I first opened the box, it took me one hour to examine the content of the kit and it was a very enjoyable experience. The overall quality is very high. It's a Tamiya kit after all so this is not a surprise. The plastic parts have been superbly done and I have yet to find a flaw somewhere. The only negative thing I have noticed are ejection pin marks on some parts, but more on that later.
The level of detail of the kit is amazing, the engine once assembled looks superb and the fact that the engine bearers are molded with the fuselage will make its installation easier than on the Spitfire kit. Like the latter, the Mustang kit includes very thin engine cowlings which can be manipulated on the finished model and which are held in place with small magnets. Apart from cables and pipes, I don't think there is much to add in that area apart from a good painting job.
The cockpit interior is also very nicely rendered. Not much is missing here and Tamiya have use the same receipts as in the Spitfire kit: crisply done plastic parts, photo etched details (seat belts), clear instrument dials and decals for the instruments, etc… Here as well, everything is provided in the box for an accurate representation of the interior of the aircraft. Optional parts are present such as different instrument panels and different seats to represent the variations found during production on the real P-51s. A pilot figure is included but I think it's representation is rather soft so I think it is best to forget it and it would be a shame to hide all that interior detail. The standing figure is much better though.
The fuselage halves are made of several parts. The engine cowlings are separate and so are the rear fuselage parts to allow the representation of two different tail configurations (with and without tail fillet). There are also optional parts for the elevators (fabric or metal) and the possibility to add the antennas of the AN/APS-13 Tail Warning Radar if needed. Some fuselage panels are separate inserts like the radiator access panels. Once assembled, one would never imagine that the fuselage halves are made of separate parts so precise is the fit.
The wings are made of one under part and two upper parts mainly. Additional parts are a complete landing gear bay with, at least, an accurate representation of its rear wall (wing spar), separate landing flaps and ailerons (with metal hinges) and the machine gun bays which can be left visible this time unless on the Spitfire kit. Tamiya have decided to represent the rivets on the wings, despite the fact that their were mostly filled on the real aircraft before entering service. This caused much debate already so I won't comment any further. My personal opinion is irrelevant anyway I guess so I will let the review pictures speak.
The clear parts are very nice as well but the bubble top canopy has a seam line on top which will have to be removed of course. Three (slightly) different hoods are provided and since only one is to be used for each variant, one will have two spares to test his polishing skills.
Once assembled, it will still be possible to change the presentation of the model thanks to modular parts. The landing gears can be positioned in up or down position, including the tail wheel, thanks to screws and magnets. The same is true for the cowling parts of the engines. Enough machine gun bay doors are provided to depict them in both opened or closed position. Of course, the canopy hood can slide to show the interior of the cockpit and two different external fuel tank models are included.
Extra parts not made of plastic are provided in the kit. They are bagged separately and placed in a special box in the kit. There are two photo etched frets including detail parts such as seat belts or radiator grills but also metal parts to be glued on the plastic parts to work with the magnets. Metal hinges are present on the frets as well. Along with the metal rods, they will allow the ailerons, flaps, elevators and the rudder to be movable. The tires are made in vinyl and look very convincing though a molding line will need to be eliminated with careful sanding. Some poly caps will ensure some reposition-able parts to stay in place like the lower engine cowling and a small screwdriver is provided for the landing gear legs.
One display stand is included in the kit. It is made of black plastic and it will be possible to show the model "in flight" without altering it's appearance thanks to an extra part hiding the opening located on the belly of the aircraft. Two name plates (metal or black) are included.
Decals are provided for three marking options:
A - P-51 D Mustang "Blondie", 334th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group.
B - P-51 D Mustang "Petie 2nd", 487th Fighter Squadron, 352nd Fighter Group.
C - P-51 D Mustang "Glengary Guy", 79th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group.
The decals are well printed although a little on the thick side. The bigger one has been printed with solid colors throughout while the second one holding the stencils has the artwork printed with small dots. They are almost unnoticeable though.
The instructions are typical Tamiya (this means very good) and are composed of an A-4 sized, 36 pages booklet. There are a total of 74 construction steps!? An extra A-3 painting guide is provided for option A.
I don't know if this will be only the case for the first batch of kits, but some extras are provided in this boxing. The first one is a very useful A-5 sized booklet with walkaround pictures, history texts and drawings showing the different variants of the P-51 from the prototype to the F-51 D. Judging from some leftover parts of the kit, I assume a P-51 K and a F-6 D will follow next.
An other bonus is an A-4 sized folder though in this case, like the Spitfire Mk.VIII mouse pad, it is more a gimmick than anything else. I wish Tamiya would have done the reference book in A-4 instead of A-5 and forgot the folder.
This is another great kit made by Tamiya. Like the previous Spitfire kit, it will provide many hours of enjoyable building and end up into a beautiful model. The quality is top class and the level of detail amazing. Some will see some features as useless but in such a big scale, they sure are spectacular. It seems that the engineers have learned some lessons from the Spitfire kit in some places (engine bears for example) but unfortunately not in other places. The biggest let down are the numerous ejector pin marks in some hard to reach places (landing gear bay bottom). However, this shouldn't detract from the fact that this is a fantastic kit. Not better in my opinion as the Spitfire kit, but at least on the same level.
The representation of the rivets are an other thing. Like I said, one will have to judge by himself if this way of representing the surface of the wings matches his own standards. One thing is for sure, their representation is very subtle and it will be easy to remove them if one wishes so.