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Classic Airframes 1/48 scale P-51H Mustang - double review

N. A. P-51H Mustang
Kit: No. 426
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer: Classic Airframes, P.O. Box 577580, Chicago, IL 60657-7580, 773-588-5161.
Price: $29.95
Comments: Mixed media, 60 parts (43 injection-molded plastic, 15 resin, twovacuum-formed canopies), decals.
Pros: Accurate outlines, excellent resin details, excellent decals.
Cons: Some fit problems, missing brakes and aileron fairings, fin is too tall, fit problems, incompletely molded canopy, thick small parts.

P/F-51H Mustang
Kit: No. 005
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer: Historic Plastic Models (HiPM), distributed by Condor Models, 3408 S. Harvey, Berwyn, IL 60402, 708-484-6815.
Price: $35
Comments: Mixed media, 89 parts (70 injection-molded plastic, 18 photoetched brass, one photo film), decals.
Pros: Excellent photoetched brass details, recessed panel detail, optional open or closed canopies.
Cons: Some fit problems, wing chord too narrow, nose too shallow, too much sweep in horizontal stabilizers.

Ignored by kit manufacturers and unknown to many enthusiasts, the P-51H was the last and fastest model of America's most famous World War II fighter. The H model was a development of an experimental program to produce a lightweight Mustang. Engine changes pushed the top speed to 487 m.p.h. Other improvements were aimed at pilot comfort and vision. Unfortunately, production came too late to place the H in combat. After WWII, it was used extensively by the Air National Guard but did not see action in the Korean War.

Classic Airframes' P-51H is molded in light gray plastic and has recessed panel details. Scribing on the wings was a bit inconsistent, with visible traces of odd panel lines. I found just a small amount of flash to deal with. Featured are a vacuum-formed canopy (spare provided), resin cockpit and wheel well detail parts, and an optional fin tip. The instructions are easy to follow and include part maps and color and markings guide.

Fit of the exhaust panels was poor. I needed to reduce their width and bevel the edges to improve installation. A choice of parts is given for the carburetor intake. I used part No. 18 and found it prevented the fuselage halves from joining properly. I reduced its width to fix the problem.

Wheel well detail is provided via a one-piece resin part. It needs to be reduced in height, otherwise the wing tops will not fit to the lower wing. It is easier to remove the excess material before adding the part to the lower wing.

The instructions show the main wheel covers open. With earlier models of the Mustang, these doors would drop open after hydraulic pressure bled off. I couldn't find one photo of an operational P-51H with the doors down. I closed them, but the doors were much larger than the openings in the wing. A few minutes sanding and filing fixed the problem. The wing's trailing edges are thick and will produce large gaps if not thinned.

Above: Classic Airframes' P-51H

The resin cockpit interior has crisp detail and looks good painted and installed - even the fuel tank is represented. The instructions are vague on installing the radio shelf, part No. R46. It's best to add it to the assembled cockpit module with it riding on the back rails. The kit includes parts for several different aerial installations, so check your references before installing. A short tail variation can be modeled by trimming the tail as instructed and installing the fin cap provided.

I painted my Classic Airframes P-51H with Gunze Sangyo and Testor paints. Decals are provided for four aircraft, including the prototype, an RAF machine, a colorful 56th Fighter Group P-51H, and a Wisconsin Air Guard Mustang flown by Paul Poberezny, who would one day form the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The decals are nicely printed and went on with no problems, though the blue of the insignias is a bit too light.

Classic Airframe's model comes close to the actual dimensions and captures the stocky appearance of the H. The fin is a bit too tall - sand it down to the topmost panel line, and it will look a lot better. Even though they are shown in the box art, the fairings in front of the ailerons are missing in the kit. The main wheels look good, but the prominent brakes are not provided. The propeller blades are a bit too long and too blunt at the tips. The engraved landing light on the bottom of the wing is too close to the left gear strut.

My references were P-51 Mustang in Detail & Scale Part 2, P-51D Through F-82H, and Model Art No. 401 North American P-51 Mustang. The Classic Airframes kit took 21 hours to complete.
Above: Classic Airframes' P-51H

Historic Plastic Models' P-51H is molded flash-free in neutral gray plastic and features neatly recessed panel details. The kit also includes optional open or closed injection-molded canopies, which although thick, are clear, allowing a good view of the cockpit detail.

Interior and landing gear details are photoetched brass that are applied to plastic parts. The great-looking instrument panel uses photo film gauges.

The wings went together with minimum effort, but the .50-caliber machine guns are poorly represented only by holes molded into the leading edge. They required some clean-up, and I added the protruding machine gun barrels from plastic rod.

Construction went slowly due to fit problems. I had to adjust the height of the instrument panel and coaming to allow the windscreen to fit without interference. After installation, the cockpit pushed the fuselage out enough to prevent the attachment of the wings. The cockpit floor is the culprit. I trimmed 1/16" to achieve an adequate fit. Still, there were large gaps fore and aft at the fuselage/wing joint that needed filler and sandpaper. The separate ventral radiator housing also fit poorly.

The main wheel covers were larger than their openings. You can use either plastic or photoetched main-gear oleo scissors. The main gear tires look thin, and the wheels clunky, but they do show good brake detail. The tail-wheel strut is too massive for the scale. I didn't use the tail wheel doors, as a photo of the aircraft I was modeling showed they were not installed.
Above: Historic Plastic Models' P-51H

I painted my HiPM P-51H with Gunze Sangyo and Testor paints. Decals for four aircraft are provided: two from the Massachusetts Air Guard, one from the 57th Fighter Group, and the one I chose from the 62nd Fighter Group. The large yellow identification panels for the aircraft I chose were not wide enough, so I painted them instead. All other decals worked fine, but the blue of the insignia is too light. My model took 19 hours to construct, with much of it dedicated to the fit problems.

This model's general dimensions are fine, but some shapes appear wrong. The nose doesn't look deep enough, and the prop blades are too long. The wing chord is noticeably too narrow, and there's way too much sweep to the horizontal stabilizers. The fin has the right height, but the bottom rear corner has too much curve. Also, the cockpit detail sits too far forward under the canopy.

And the winner is . . . ? In this horse race, the winner is Classic Airframe's Mustang due to its more accurate appearance and better fit. In either case, you should have experience building short-run injection-molded kits before entering the gate.

- Jim Zeske


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