American P-51B Mustang
363 FS/357th Fighter Group, Pilot: Captain Don Bochkay
scale P-51B Mustang is available online from Squadron.com
"Here They Come...!"
I guess I’ve always thought that most aircraft look best in the air and
arguably, none more so than the Mustang.
As a kid nearly all the aircraft models I made were made “gear-up” and
immediately upon completion, hung from the ceiling of my room. Conversely, as an
adult modeler my aircraft models were all grounded, but I’ve always admired the
work of modelers such as Caz Dalton and others who choose to model their
aircraft in flight.
So, in order to change things up a bit this time, I elected to make Tamiya’s
excellent 1/48th scale P-51B kit as an “in-flight” desk model mounted on a
The construction of the Tamiya Mustangs has been covered many times here and
elsewhere so I won’t say anything more than it was a very straightforward build
that presented no problems. Modifications from straight OOB construction were
limited to the ailerons, which were separated from the wing during construction
and re-positioned to display a slight left roll attitude.
Since I wanted to mount the model on a base, but still give the impression of
a “dynamic” scene, I elected to mount the model using a thin, but sturdy bit of
metal rod that bent back out of the way as much as possible. I found the perfect
size and strength in a heavy wire clothes hanger. I cut off most of the upper
section, keeping only the straight bottom and one of the U-bends. After first
test fitting several times, I used a rat-tailed file to sand a hole for the rod
to exit along the bottom of the aircraft along central axis, behind the tail
wheel. The U-bend part of the rod was further bent into a loop so it wouldn’t
twist within the plane, and was glued into the fuselage with a lot of 2-part
epoxy. The fuselage halves were then glue together.
For the pilot, I elected to modify the Tamiya pilot figure slightly, by lopping
off his head (!)… and re-positioning it looking to his left. I then used a small
bit of Squadron Green putty to re-contour his neck. An oxygen mask and hose was
made from liquid latex and very fine copper wire (fuse wire), wrapped around a
The kit drop tanks were assembled with 2 loops of aluminum wire added on the
top of each tank as mounts. The tanks were then painted, weathered and set aside
to be added last.
I’ve always thought that the shape of the Tamiya prop spinner for the
Mustangs was a bit oddly. It comes in two parts and the rearmost of the two
parts flares out at a slightly greater angle than the front part. I haven’t
heard anyone mention this before, but it bothered me enough to want to fix it as
best I could. My initial thoughts were since I was doing an “in-flight” model I
wouldn’t use the propellers, but just have the spinner. (I changed my mind later
on this). I glued the two halves together and filled in the prop holes with
Squadron Green putty. This required two applications as the putty does shrink a
bit. Following this, I smoothed the putty flush with the spinner and in the
process sanded down the rear half of the spinner until it was flush with the
front half and had what looked like an even cone shape.
My only concession to the aftermarket for this build was the addition of
Moskit metal exhausts of which I’m a devoted fan.
In looking at the photos that are available of the 357th FG aircraft there
appears to clearly be two “shades” of green used. The conventional wisdom says
that Mustang fighters painted in the US factories were USAAF Olive Drab, and
ones delivered to England in natural metal/silver lacquer were camouflaged there
using the widely available RAF Dark Green.
Fortunately, while I was building this model and trying to decide on what
colors and markings to use, Merle Olmsted (357th FG Armorer & historian), posted
photos of Speedball Alice 36963 on the C.E. “Bud” Anderson website, along with
information on the correct serial numbers for Bochkay’s aircraft. This
information was invaluable in getting the colors and markings right. The
information on the specifics of this aircraft (as well as many others from the
357th FG), can be found at the C.E. “Bud” Anderson website,
The decals for this aircraft were from the Super Scale sheet, but the decal
sheet includes a serial number for this aircraft that is incorrect as are the
color call outs. The correct serial number was made up by cutting the needed
numbers out of another decal sheet.
After the painting and assembly of the aircraft was finished I hung the drop
tanks from the aircraft on 0.001 inch thick stainless steel wires.
Unfortunately, wire this thin doesn’t have much strength and they promptly broke
when the model was moved. I then tried 0.015 inch thick wire that was stronger,
but was still thin enough to be unobtrusive.
When I started photographing the model I realized quickly that I wasn’t
satisfied with the realism of the propellerless spinner, so decided to swap out
the propellerless hub with the prop from my other 357th FG P-51 model. I used a
hairdryer to spin the prop, which had the added benefit of causing the droptanks
to oscillate, and added to the realism. (Thanks for the idea Snake!). After
photographing, I put the spinner with the props back on my other model and put
the prop-less one back on for static display. The photos were taken using a
Nikon Coolpix 950 digital camera using a mixture of fluorescent and incandescent
lighting. I used Photoshop to erase the mounting rod and the wires suspending
the tanks, but otherwise the photos aren’t enhanced in any way.
This was a quick, fun project that didn’t require a lot of super-detailing or
aftermarket expense, but still built into a nice conversation piece for my work
desk. Maybe next a Bf-109 to put in front of it….?
357th Fighter Group. Squadron/Signal Publications
P-51 Mustang Walk Around Squadron/Signal
P-51 Mustang In Action Squadron/Signal Publications
Super Scale Decals sheet # 48-554
Model, Images and
Article Copyright © 2002 by Fred List
Page Created 17 January 2002
Last updated 04 June 2007
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