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KIT REVIEW


Airfix North American Mk. IV/P-51K -- 1:48 Scale

The P-51 Mustang needs no introduction as one of history’s most famous aircraft, the highest-scoring Allied aircraft of WWII, and one of the most widely produced and popular model kits in most scales.  Airfix has recently released a new (and growing) line of 1:48 scale P-51Ds beginning in 2017.  Here, let’s take a look at the 1:48 scale Airfix edition of the British Mustang Mk. IV/P-51K.

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The origins of the legendary P-51 go back to early 1940 when the Mustang was first developed not for the US Army Air Force where it gained its greatest fame – but for the RAF.  Developed by North American Aviation as part of a purchasing commission related to the Lend-Lease Act, what became the Mustang was to fill gaps in capability and numbers in the RAF fighter inventory as Germany threatened Great Britain.  The first incarnation of the Mustang was the NA-73x.  It featured a revolutionary laminar flow airfoil wing derived from NACA data and an innovative under-fuselage ducted engine cooling system.  Mustangs were very fast, maneuverable, and well armed.  These early versions entered production in May 1941 and went into combat with the RAF 11 months later.  These were powered by Allison engines and typically equipped with two .50-calibre nose-mounted and four .30-calibre wing-mounted machine guns.  The 1,100hp Allison V-1710-39 powerplant provided impressive performance, but only up to about 15,000 feet.

RAF Mustang Mark Is and IIs were soon followed by improved versions operated by the USAAC and the RAF.  P-51As, Bs, and Cs followed.  British experimentation with the supercharged Merlin powerplant’s efficient mechanical supercharger provided for outstanding high-altitude performance, and by mid-1943, Packard-built Merlin engines became standard for new build P-51s.  The definitive P-51D variant was fitted with a Plexiglas bubble canopy providing excellent 360-degree visibility, and the aircraft could reach around 440 MPH while its service ceiling was just shy of 42,000 feet.  Its armament consisted of six wing-mounted .50 caliber machine guns while underwing pylons permitted the use of range-extending drop tanks, along with rockets and bombs.  On a number of levels, the P-51 would not have existed if it had not been for the involvement of Great Britain at various points in the airplane’s development. 

The RAF assigned the designation Mustang Mk. IV to the P-51Ds they received via the Lend-Lease Act.  The Mk. IVa was the name for the P-51K model.  The P-51K was essentially a P-51D equipped with an 11-foot Aeroproducts propeller in place of the 11.2 ft Hamilton Standard propeller.  The hollow-bladed Aeroproducts props were unreliable due to manufacturing quality issues and sometimes produced dangerous vibrations at full power.  These were eventually replaced by the Hamilton Standard units.
The RAF operated 282 Mk. IV and 600 Mk. IVa Mustangs.  By the end of the war, all remaining Mustangs either returned to the USAAF or scrapped in the U.K.  The last RAF Mustangs were retired from service in 1947.

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The 1:48 scale Airfix P-51 North American Mustang Mk. IV/P-51K Mustang kit comes on five injection molded polystyrene sprues containing 124 parts.  Ten additional clear parts come on one clear sprue.  The full color instruction booklet organizes the build over 68 steps. Markings are provided for two airplanes:

Strengths:  The new-tool Airfix 1:48 P-51D that emerged in 2017 was well received to the point that I would call it mostly triumphant.  As a serious Mustang fan and high-volume consumer of P-51 kits, the Airfix kit features excellent engineering, great fit, and parts design that gets around a number of the small glitches and issues that generate some hassle with the Tamiya 1:48 scale P-51.  Further, the painfully excessive and inaccurate rivet details (especially on the wings) seen in the Meng P-51D is NOT present here (but see below).

The Airfix 1:48 scale Mustang features some excellent recessed panel lines and rivet/fastener exterior details.  The surface detail is frankly beautifully done.  The cockpit is also particularly well done with separate sidewalls, throttle quadrant, trim wheel, oxygen regulator, and oxygen hose.  The instrument panel has a lot of raised details that detail painters will enjoy.  Regular readers of these reviews will know that my personal preference is never in favor of molded-on belts, but the pilot seat shoulder harnesses and backpad detail here is so crisp that one could pull of fairly realistic belts.  Lap belts, however, appear as these gruesomely thick extensions of the seat frames.  The kit also has a decent optional seated pilot figure.  But with the molded-on belt details, a little work will be needed to strap him into the cockpit in an accurate manner.

The cockpit itself is part of a contiguous floor/frame from the firewall to the cockpit itself, top of the radiator assembly, and the tailwheel well.  As part of this, the radio and aircraft battery behind the pilot are well done.  The radiator is also very well done.  The builder will also note the two styles of windscreens (with and without the rear-view mirror mount) and that there is an extended windscreen fairing into the forward fuselage.  This is a very thoughtful design feature – thanks, Airfix!  There’s also a choice of the late bubble canopy and the subtly different Dallas canopy.  I also very much appreciate that the three .50 caliber machine gun ports on each wing leading edge are molded as a single, separate parts. There’s no pesky and unsightly seam running through the middle of the guns.   

Other construction options include separate and positional ailerons, landing flaps, elevators, and rudder.  The radiator exhaust flap can also be positioned open or closed. The radiator itself is nicely done.  You also get optional parts for an early or late-style production filleted tail, two styles of engine air vents, and either the open or faired engine exhaust stacks (though certainly, some of these DO NOT apply to the Mk. IV/IVa Mustang; follow the instructions). 
A small separate sprue includes the P-51K Aeroproducts uncuffed propeller and it looks quite accurate.  The main gear well is also very nicely done, but it does not include much of the plumbing or wiring details present in the aircraft.  There are also options for weighted main gear tires with circumferential and diamond tread.  For external stores, there’s a choice between the metal or paper underwing external drop tank varieties.  

The two schemes included in the kit are really attractive.  While the camouflage scheme provides a classic RAAF Mustang look, at least in my eyes, the natural metal scheme is particularly fantastic.  It’s not clear who printed the decals, but they are of Cartograf-level quality.  The printing is fantastic.

Weaknesses: I would say that some of the upper and lower wing and tail rivet detail is a little overdone.  While the shape and profile of the exhaust stacks are good, my personal preference is to use aftermarket exhausts with hollowed-out stacks.  The kit parts try to simulate the hollowed-out look but do not achieve the illusion of depth.  Watch out for the odd few ejection pin marks here and there, such on the cockpit sidewalls and a few spots in the main gear well walls.  

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Over the last several years, Airfix has continually upped their game in kit design and production to be one of the very best in the industry.  As part of this trend, I think they have produced the best 1:48 scale Mustang.  In my opinion, there are some design features here that are superior to the venerable Tamiya kit.  The restrained surface details are also superior to the otherwise respectable Meng P-51D.  This kit looks great on the sprues and lots of anecdotal accounts I’ve heard from fellow scale modelers indicates this kit builds like a dream.  It is just plain enjoyable.  For those interested in even more detail, Eduard has released a number of detail sets for the Airfix P-51D.  However you build it, the Airfix Mk. IV/IV Mustang will be real a head-turner.
    
Sincere thanks are owed to Dave Kennedy and everyone at Hornby America, Inc., for the review sample.  You can find this kit set and all of Airfix’s other products for sale on the web at https://www.airfix.com/us-en/ and at your favorite hobby retailer.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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