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Mustang Mk.I

by Colin Ford

North American Mustang Mk.I (Dive Bomber)


 Accurate Miniatures' 1/48 scale A-36 Apache is still available online from Squadron.com





The 26th North American NA-97 Apache built, serial number 42-83685 was delivered to the Royal Air Force for evaluation in March 1943.

The A-36A provided to the RAF was given the RAF serial EW998 and designated as the Mustang Mk.I (Dive Bomber). It was evaluated as a possible replacement or supplement for the Hawker Typhoon, which at that time was still suffering from its engine development and reliability problems plus the other structural issues that were being encountered in service.

As it turned out, the solutions to the problems plaguing the Typhoon were in hand, and the RAF’s need for a dive bomber version of the Mustang was not a priority. As well, the development of the Merlin engined Mustang was proceeding apace, and the RAF already had its eye on the production capacity that would be required to produce the Merlin engined Mustang fighter, rather than another ground attack aircraft.


The Kit

The kit used is the Accurate Miniatures 1/48th scale model of the NAA A-36-A Apache (AM #3401). This kit is a fine example of the model makers art and accurately portrays the look and dimensions of the actual aircraft, and has received many favourable reviews by modellers. The detail differences between the A-36A Apache and other members of the Allison engined Mustang family were correctly captured by Accurate Miniatures, including the wing mounted dive brakes, underwing hard-points, revised aircraft armament (two x .50in calibre Browning HMGs in each wing plus two in the nose synchronised to fire through the propeller arc), revised landing light and pitot head fittings, changed under fuselage radiator air intake shape, and revised carburettor air intake incorporating a larger air filter arrangement above the aircraft ‘s nose.


The kit is moulded in dark olive green plastic, and features fine engraved surface detail plus a logical assembly sequence. Most major join lines are along actual aircraft panel lines, which helps reduce any potential problems with covering up unrequired seams. However there are the usual length-wise seams between the two fuselage halves, the front fuselage halves and the wing upper and lower sections, but the seams here are easily handled. The kit offers the choice of weighted or un-weighted tyres, and comes with one decal choice, being an A-36A operating with the 27th Fighter Bomber Group of the USAAF in Italy during 1944.

There is one error which Accurate Miniatures have made in their kit instructions, which a number of others have made as well. This concerns the inboard main undercarriage doors (kit parts 28L and 28R) being shown in the down/open position.


A Common Mustang Modelling Misconception

I’ll make a point about modelling Allison engined Mustangs, and a common mistake many modellers make when modelling these particular aircraft. It has been confirmed by a number of sources during my research (ex-Allison engined Mustang pilots and ground crew included), plus as is evident in so much of the photography available of Allison engined Mustangs, that these aircraft should not normally be modelled with their inboard main undercarriage doors in the down position. The Allison engined Mustang had a different hydraulic system to that of the Merlin engined variety, as well as a number of other detail changes. Whereas the Merlin hydraulic system would “bleed down” allowing the inboard main undercarriage doors and flaps to droop after the engine had been shut down, the Allison engined system did not. The inboard main undercarriage doors also had a different locking system to the later Merlin engined models as well. So the inboard main undercarriage doors and flaps normally stayed in the up position on Allison engined Mustangs.





The kit is basically built following the build sequence set out in the Accurate Miniatures instructions. I had taken note of a couple of possible build issues that people had raised with this kit and the other Accurate Miniatures Mustangs, and therefore before completing some sub-assemblies I did a test fitting first, or varied slightly from the AM build sequence.

One example of this is the rear radiator exhaust duct fitting, where I trimmed the kit part to size, and fitted the duct after the main fuselage halves were together. I also of course finished the build with the inboard main undercarriage doors closed, not open, which required the removal of the two small mounting points on each door before assembly and I elected to use the weighted tyres provided in the kit.

One of the fiddly parts of the build is in getting all the interior components for the cockpit to line up as you join the two fuselage halves together, as well as trapping the tail wheel at the same time (it’s one of those jobs where you need two pairs of hands, and all a couple of sizes smaller than your own to hold everything together in the right positions and fit “slot a into tab b” as well as running the glue into the joining surfaces).

Overall though, there are no major problem areas with building this model, and a little care and patience as always pays dividends. Minimal filler was required on any of the major or minor join lines. Two areas that did require a little bit of filler was on the underside of one wing for filling in the recognition lights (more on that shortly), and to blend in the lower fuselage air intake front section to the main body of the aircraft.

To add a little extra detail to the cockpit I used one of the Ultracast early P-51 Mustang cast resin seats (Ultracast #48014), and the fine detail on this casting really helps to add that little something extra to all the detail already there from Accurate Miniatures. You could make do with the kit item enhanced with an aftermarket photo-etch harness, but I like the Ultracast item for its quality and level of in-built detail.


There is one notable external difference between the sole RAF A-36A and the USAAF versions, and that is the fact that all the photos I have seen of EW998 it does not have the three recognition lights under the starboard/right wingtip. So these were filled in with surfacer and carefully sanded back to give a flush panel area.

In areas where a light sanding was required, if any panel lines were removed or reduced, then I rescribed the panel line using a needle point scriber. Some panel lines on the kit, such as for the flaps and the wing dive brakes and the moving sections of the underfuselage cooling vents, I ran the scriber through to make them more prominent, in line with how they appeared in reference photographs. Most of the other panel lines I left as they were, as generally panel lines were not prominent on the early Mustangs due to the high standard of panel fit and surface finish they had ex the NAA factory.



Painting and Finishing


Painting was primarily with a mix of various enamels, ModelMaster, Humbrol and Tamiya for the major components, with Tamiya or Gunze acrylics for washes and weathering.

For the interior colours, I used the photographs in the “In Detail & Scale P-51 Mustang Part 1” by Bert Kinzey as a guide. This meant the main colour used for the cockpit interior was ModelMaster Green Zinc Chromate #1734 for the interior wall and floor, with the pilots seat being in Humbrol 81 Matt Pale Yellow to represent Yellow Zinc Chromate, with the side panels and instrument panel being in Humbrol 66 Matt Olive Drab and Humbrol 33 Matt Black with white, red and silver highlights. The fabric cuff around the base of the control column was done in Humbrol 141 Matt Light Sea grey, and the harness on the pilot’s seat was done in Tamiya XF-57 Matt Buff with Tamiya X-11 Silver for the buckles and Tamiya XF-64 Red Brown for the leather panel under the main buckle. The cockpit interior was given a couple of light washes and some restrained drybrushing to help bring the detail into relief.

The undercarriage wells were also done in Testor's Green Zinc Chromate #1734, as were the interiors of the undercarriage doors. The centre panel of the inboard main undercarriage doors was done with Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminium (altho you don’t see too much of these as they are closed on the finished model).

For the under surfaces I used Humbrol 64 Matt Light Grey for the RAF Medium Sea Grey. The upper surface camouflage scheme was completed in Humbrol 116 Matt US Dark Green for the RAF Dark Green and Humbrol 106 Matt Ocean Grey for the RAF Ocean Grey, with a semi-hard delineation between the upper colours.

The camouflage pattern for this aircraft is not a standard scheme, it bears some resemblance to the standard Mustang pattern of the time, but there are a number of differences in the delineation of the colours. The greatest area of difference from the standard Mustang pattern is for the starboard (right) wing upper surface, where Dark Green is the predominant colour. If I were to hazard a guess at the scheme used on this aircraft, it bears all the marks of the spray painter at the aircraft depot at RAF Speke in the UK where it was assembled after delivery from the USA being told to, “paint it similar to that one over there”, and being left to it.

The spinner and rear fuselage band were done in Humbrol 90 Matt Beige Green – Sky. The propeller blades were done in Humbrol 33 Matt Black with Humbrol 154 Insignia Yellow tips. Humbrol 154 Insignia Yellow was also used for the wing leading edge stripe which extends from the wing root to the wing tip of each wing. The undercarriage was done with a selection of Tamiya X-11 Silver and XF-16 Flat Aluminium for the metal parts, with Humbrol 33 Matt Black as the base colour then drybrushed over with Humbrol 32 Matt Dark Grey for the tyres.

The large colour areas were all airbrushed using my ModelMaster Aztek A430 airbrush, using either the medium or fine tips with masking being done with a combination of Tamiya masking tape and paper post notes cut to shape.

To get the camouflage pattern correct, I had enlarged a line diagram of the A-36A up to 1/48th scale on a photocopier, then marked the pattern onto the diagram. This was then used to make the templates for cutting the masking tape and post notes to shape.

Fine detail work was mainly done with paint brushes of varying sizes.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The aircraft in most of the photos I have seen of it, is shown without the nose mounted machine guns (with the holes in the lower front cowling showing, not covered over) and carrying a pair of US pattern 500lb General Purpose bombs (inert most likely as there is no visible fuse in the nose). The bombs are painted in what appears to be a fairly darkish colour, and a light coloured tail assembly (Olive drab main body and yellow ‘practice’ tail fins?) with no colour bands around the nose. The kit bombs were assembled as per the kit instructions, have had the nose fuse assembly removed, and sanded back for a smooth finish to the nose area. They were primed with pale grey primer to assist the coverage of the yellow paint over the tail fins, again using Humbrol paints for the body and tail colours. The finished bombs were one of the last items added to the model on finishing. The nose mounted machine guns were left off this kit to match the photos I was working to of the aircraft.





After finishing the external paintwork, the aircraft was left to stand for a week before being “Futured” and then left to stand for a further two days before the application of decals commenced. Decals came primarily from spare Accurate Miniatures markings from their Mustang Mk.IA kit, with the serials from Ventura decals (Ventura Sheet V4851 RAF Serials Black 8”). The propeller data blocks came from the Accurate Miniatures decals provided with the kit. The doped gun covers were reproduced by pieces of decal sheet painted with a 5:1 mix of Tamiya XF-7 Flat Red and XF-9 Flat Hull Red, then cut to size and placed over the kit wing machine gun barrels.

I used Mr Mark Decal Softer to assist the decals in conforming to the shapes of the model. The decals went on well with no real problems, adhered and conformed well to the surface. After all the decal work was completed and left to dry overnight, the aircraft was given a light wash down to remove any residual decal glue or setting solution, and left to air dry.



Final Details


The panel lines were brought into relief by a careful wash using thinned black and burnt umber acrylic watercolour, as well as fine 2B pencil (using a 0.5mm Pacer pencil). The panel line work I kept fairly subtle, as looking at the photographs of the actual aircraft, very few of the panel lines really stood out, with the most visible being the gaps around the main control surfaces.

The model was left to stand for a few more days before being “Futured” again with a 7:3 mix of Future and Tamiya Acrylic Flat Base to give a flat semi-gloss finish. This both sealed in the decals and the panel highlighting effects.

After a further week to cure, exhaust staining was added with dry brushed layers of semi gloss black, matt dark grey and matt light grey, as was a final bit of oil staining on the underside of the aircraft flowed from the back of the engine panels. This was done using heavily thinned (using water not Tamiya Acrylic thinner which could react with the Future) Tamiya Acrylic X-18 semi gloss black mixed with varying ratios of Tamiya Acrylic XF-1 Flat Black to give the right amount of shine to the oil stains. (“The Mustang Story” has a number of photos of this aircraft including a great underside profile photo, and these were used as the basis for the weathering and oil staining.) A number of the engine fasteners around the engine cowling were also picked out with a fine brush loaded with Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminium, as were a number of other panel fasteners, again using photographs of the actual aircraft as a guide to which ones needed highlighting.

An aerial was added using fine clear polyester sewing thread, between the antenna mast and the tail, which was touched over by a fine brush that had been lightly loaded with thinned gunmetal colour paint. The wingtip formation lights were done using Tamiya Clear Acrylic colours (red and green) over silver enamel. For the twin landing lights in the port wing leading edge, during construction I had filled in the void in the wing leading edge with some filler and shaped this as it was drying. This was painted in zinc chromate green. The landing lights were represented by the heads of two shirt pins. These were then covered by the kit transparency, fixed in place using Humbrol Clear-Fix.

The cockpit canopy had been fixed in place early during construction and masked on the clear areas. The frames were first painted with interior green, then overpainted with ocean grey which is the predominant colour around the cockpit exterior. After all the external painting, top coating and decaling was completed using a very fine brush the panel lines on the canopy were also picked out using thinned black water colour and 2B lead pencil, and after this had dried, again using a very fine brush, minor wear and tear was represented around the moving components of the canopy using Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminium.

The main undercarriage legs, wheels and outboard doors were added about this stage, with care taken to get the fit and angles of the completed undercarriage right. To do this I sat the model into a small cradle and used a mix of masking tape bands and props made from cut Q-tip sticks, to hold the undercarriage in place whilst it dried.


The leading edge pitot tube in the starboard (right) wing leading edge was painted on its end section with Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminium and Humbrol 106 Matt Ocean Grey on the main section, and was about the last item added to the model.





This was the first of the Accurate Miniatures Allison engined Mustang kits that I have built and completed. For me it was a chance to refine my building methods and procedures for building more models of the Allison engined Mustang using the Accurate Miniatures kits. It represents an interesting side-line in the history of Allison engined Mustangs in service with the Royal Air Force in World War II, and a glimpse at what could have been a more familiar sight in RAF colours had the problems with the Hawker Typhoon not been fully sorted out. It also gives a change to the usual USAAF olive drab over neutral grey schemes that this aircraft type is seen in.

This is the first in a series of Allison engined Mustangs that I am currently building, spanning the Mustang Mk.I, Mk.IA and Mk.II in RAF service with one specific RAF Squadron. The model production line for these would do credit to NAA, and the conversion to RAF specifications would do the same for RAF Speke.

This is only the second aircraft model I have built in about the last 15 years or so (the first was a rip-off of the Hobbycraft Spitfire Mk.XIVc built to get back into the swing of things), and makes a change to my usual model car building.





Photography was done using my Canon EOS camera, using a range of Canon Ultrasonic lenses. Negatives were scanned to digital form on a HP flatbed scanner. Backgrounds are either photocard or my modelling workbench.





  • In Detail & Scale P-51 Mustang Part 1 (D&S Vol.50) by Bert Kinzey, Squadron-Signal Publications.

  • The Mustang Story by Ken Delve, Arms & Armour Publications.

  • Mustang, the Operational Record by Robert Jackson, Smithsonian Institution Press.

  • Mustang by Stewart Wilson (Sovereign Series), Aerospace Publications.

  • Wings of Fame, Volume 1, Aerospace Publishing.


Additional Images


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2002 by Colin Ford
Page Created 23 June, 2002
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

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