by: Darren Baker [ ]
The P-51 Mustang provided sterling service during World War 2 escorting bomber formations into the heart of Germany and back again. In combat the P-51 fighter proved a worthy opponent against all that came against it and is perhaps the best piston engine aircraft of World War 2; its high speed, good manoeuvrability and long range making it a stunning all round aircraft. The P-51 went on to fight during the Korean War as the F-51 where it was used primarily in the ground attack role being able to drop bombs and fire rockets it made the North Korean forces pay dearly. In the ground attack role it proved to be a feared weapons platform, but it was no match for the jet fighters it was up against and suffered losses due to ground fire being a role the aircraft was not designed for. What I did not know is that the Americans gave the Chinese 150 P-51 in the C, D and K versions and these formed the backbone of the PLA fighter squadrons in 1949. Bronco Models has now released a model to represent one of these aircraft in service with the PLA during that time.
This offering from Bronco Models is supplied in a cardboard tray with a card lid. The artwork depicts a P-51K flying over a military parade. Inside the sprues that make up the model are supplied individually packed for the most part in order to prevent damage to the mouldings. The instruction booklet is well made and I see no issues there to be concerned about. There are two extra sheets covering the three finishing options and Bronco Models has printed the artwork on the reverse of the sheet showing only one options.
The cockpit of the model looks to be of a suitable quality detail wise. The instrument panel is replicated via a decal showing all of the instrument faces. No photo etch is included with this model which is a little bit of a surprise for a Bronco Model offering and this has resulted in the harness detail being moulded as part of the seat assembly. Looking at the assembly everything appears to be straight forward, but I find it very unusual that the shroud covering the instruments is applied during the cockpit assembly and attaches via the weapon sights. The interior of the fuselage halves have a good level of detail where the cockpit is concerned which should meet the expectations of most.
Looking at the exterior of fuselage reveals very nice detail covering recessed panels lines and the rivet detail is exceptional in my opinion. There are some odd choices here as regards assembly and some good ones that enable easy selection when it comes to the version you opt to build. The connectors between the halves are very large and not attached to the mating faces as is the usual approach; they are instead in hidden areas of the interior and will provide very strong connections. The large size of the connector caused me some concern as I was expecting to find sink marks, but somehow Bronco Models has managed to avoid the issue.
Bronco Models has supplied two blade styles for the aircraft depending on the version being built and these are both Hamilton standard four bladed propellers and they are cuffed or cuffless so take note as to which version is correct. The upper engine cowling and the area behind the cockpit have been supplied as separate parts and I am unsure if this purely for alternate parts which are not the case in both examples or to allow particularly high quality moulding to be achieved. In either case it seems a little odd to me.
A nice touch in the area of the fuselage is the canopy. The fixed front portion of the canopy contains a good portion of the fuselage itself and so if filler is required it can be dealt with well away from the clear portion that will be seen. The tail wheel is separate from its support leg which is something I approve of. For those wishing to depict the undercarriage retracted some surgery is required to remove the doors and re-secure them in the closed position. The control surfaces on the tail are a mix of fixed on the horizontal plane and moveable on the vertical.
The main wings share the exceptional surface detail that is on the fuselage and with careful painting this stunning detail will attract comment I feel; the very large connectors are again present on the wings and I am pleased to say have again not caused deformation to the parts which I find impressive. The control flaps have been supplied separately and can be set as desired by the modeller if the connectors are removed; the instructions cover this aspect. The gun fairings have also been provided as separate parts that should prove useful if you opt for after market barrels. Assuming most modellers will assemble the undercarriage in the down position you are in for a real treat. The recesses are easily the equal of any resin offering I have seen and I also quite like that the flaps that cover the wheels are attached to the separating walls; the same very high quality detail is also on the inner and outer doors. The legs need some brake cables added and I would have liked to see weighted wheels provided.
Bronco Models has supplied three options for the wings mounts in the form of 500lb bombs, 75 gallon metal drop tanks and 108 Gallon reinforced paper drop tanks which I thought were a temporary item until pressed metal offerings made it into the field. The three finishing options provided are:
P-51D-25-NA, 44-73920, Pilot Lin Hu, No 2 Squadron of the Air Combat Group, PLA, 1949 Parade
P-51K-10-NT, 44-12458, Red 3032, No 2 Squadron of the Air Combat Group, PLA, Oct 1st 1949
P-51D-25-NA, 44-73920, Red 3, Displayed in the China Peopleís Revolution Military Museum
I am very impressed with what Bronco Models has supplied here due to two main factors. Firstly the number of parts is not excessive and building the model should prove a relatively easy task if built from the box. Secondly I am very impressed with the level of detail on the external areas of the model that should be very well received by modellers. The only negative I can come up with is the parts that need to be removed and reattached if the undercarriage is going to be shown retracted, but I suspect that will affect very few of us. I accept that Chinese P-51ís may not appeal to many but I think this could be a great kit to add US wartime markings too.