Manufacturer: Tamiya, distributed by Tamiya America, 2 Orion, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656-4200, 800-826-4922
Kit: No. 60749
Comments: Injection molded, 49 parts, decals.
Pros: Fine recessed panel lines, excellent fit, great landing gear bays, alternate exhausts and canopies, perfectly fitting decals
Cons: Attaching clear parts is tricky, no dropped flaps, decals are translucent.
Tamiya's is the best 1/72 scale bubbletop Mustang yet. Before clipping the parts from the sprues, I studied and appreciated the fine recessed panel lines, the deep and detailed wheel wells, the choice of shrouded and unshrouded exhausts, and the standard and "Dallas" canopies. The decal sheet is beautifully printed, with markings for "E2 S," "Petie 2nd," and "Nooky Booky IV."
The interior detail is excellent, although the sidewall detail is a bit shallow. I liked the clear-molded gunsight, complete with the cushioned pad, and the raised-detail instrument panel. The two-piece seat is nice, but the only harness is a decal. The cockpit tub includes the floor, radios on top of a fuel tank, and the ceiling to the ventral radiator section. A separate radiator attaches to this, then the whole assembly fits nicely into the fuselage.
The separate exhausts are a nice feature. Not only do you get both shrouded and unshrouded versions, but they are easy to paint before inserting them into the nose. Underneath, the landing gear is complemented by a separate landing light and a pair of 75-gallon drop tanks. Flashed-over holes in the lower wing half suggest that rocket rails will be featured in the forthcoming Korean War F-51D kit.
Assembly is straightforward and fit is perfect. However, Tamiya has chosen to mold the clear canopy separate from its bottom frame, same as in the 1/48 scale kit. This makes the frame easier to paint (no masking), but makes attaching the clear bubble tricky. I mixed water-based Polly Scale olive drab paint with Sobo white glue and used this mixture to hold the bubble to the frame. A similar problem crops up with the windscreen; the bottom edges of the part are the edges of the "glass" panels, so you have to be careful sticking it onto the fuselage. My sample's windscreen seemed to tilt back slightly, which didn't match up with the canopy's forward edge.
I chose the most difficult scheme of the three on the decal sheet: "E2 S," a machine from the well-photographed 375th Fighter Squadron. (Many of you might be screaming "it should be blue camouflage!" No, olive drab is correct, but that's a long story!) I painted the model overall Alclad II White Aluminum, then cut paper masks to shape the field-applied camouflaged areas. I used Polly Scale Olive Drab here.
I was impressed by the decals; they fit perfectly. Even the 12-piece invasion stripes fit around all those funky curves on the bottom of the fuselage. Silver outlines to the national insignias on the fuselage and wing do away with trying to mask around them. However, the white areas of the decals are translucent, and trapped air inside the recessed lines shows up as whiter than white.
I'm pleased with Tamiya's latest reduced-scale effort, and I'm going to figure out a way to drop the flaps on the next one I build (when parked, the Mustang's flaps and wheel covers would drop after a few minutes when the hydraulic pressure bled off). I spent 21 hours on mine, more than usual to apply the complicated camouflage and the multi-decal invasion stripes. Despite a few minor problems, you won't find a better Mustang in this scale.