Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Build Review - Sweet 1/144 P51-B Pioneer Mustang

1/144 is not my default scale, like most modellers I have done my fair share of it in the past, usually larger aircraft such as airliners and big transports. But I was asked for a 1/144 RAF Mustang by a customer who collects in the scale. Now 1/144 is not a well served scale for fighter size aircraft, particularly WWII types. And whilst there are a few P51-D options out there, the RAF did not use these until well after the war. Fortunately, Sweet (love that name!) came to the rescue as they produce this rather decent "B" version in 1/144 which would not take much to turn into a Mustang III of the type used by the RAF in the war.

Whilst I was aware of them, I had never built a Sweet kit before and so was very interested to get my hands on one. I had to source it directly from Japan in the end, they are a little tricky to get hold of this side of the globe but Hobbylink Japan (what a great company they are!) came to the rescue again and within a few days it was in my hands.

And what a little gem of a kit it is! As usual with Sweet, you actually get two identical kits in the box. I think the unwritten reason for this is that with parts this tiny, the carpet monster may be well fed and having spares could well save your project. The parts, albeit tiny, are perfectly moulded, exquisitely detailed with no flash or unreasonable ejector marks and what is more, no mould seams that I could see either - that's pretty good going, especially in this scale.

The cockpit fits directly into the fuselage halve and consists basically of a seat and a box representing the radio equipment behind the pilot. It's probably a little crass to complain about lack of cockpit detail in a model that is only a few centimetres long, but I thought I would add a couple of details even if it was probably not going to be visible when the canopy was in place. So I hand painted (with my finest brush) some side wall detail - I was not too precise, it only needed to give an impression of something being there. I then used a spare piece of plastic to fashion a rudimentary control column, a section of sprue painted black with white squiggles did as an instrument panel and last, but not least, created some seat belts out of tape.

The fuselage then went together perfectly with no seam at all. I filled the tank locating holes on the underside of the wing, as these would not be needed, installed the wing section (which is a single part), added the tail planes and air filter extremities and that was basically it! Now came the fun part, masking the 1/144 scale canopy. This was a truly difficult feat, in the end I used incredibly thin strips of tape and moulded them to shape to get a decent edge. One sentence does not do justice to the work involved, but eventually I got there.

No filling was required, just a little sanding around the edges for safety and on to the painting. I have started to get into priming these days, I never used to bother, but for this one I decided I had better not for fear of losing some of that lovely engraved detail. So I sprayed the underside sky grey and carefully masked it off. One has to be really careful with a model of this size, not just aligning the masks, but the tape itself can easily damage or warp the model. She then got a top coat of dark sea grey, and whilst applying this it occurred to me that more paint was probably waster emptying the airbrush nozzles than was actually used to coat the plane! To mask out for the camouflage pattern, I decided to stick with what I knew and use the Blu Tack and tape methodology to give a soft edge. But I had to use incredibly thin rolls of Blu Tack and cut my own customised tape strips because of the small size of everything. Tape was not required at all in a few areas. Then a coat of RAF green and left to dry.

Once dried, I masked off and applied the wing leading edge yellow strips and the white band around the nose. The customer wanted the white identification stripes around the wing but these are supplied as decals in the kit, which made things a little easier. I gave the plane a coat of Klear and left it to dry. At this point, I turned to the undercarriage parts, painted them up and assembled them so they would be ready for installation later, and likewise the prop and spinner and the exhaust stacks.

Once the gloss finish was dry, I proceeded to decaling. I used the kit decals for the identification marks and prop blades, but otherwise I turned to the after market. The customer wanted the specific plane FB201 QV-D from 19 Squadron and I managed to get hold of a 1/144 set of roundels and squadron markings from micro scale which covered this subject nicely, and left me with plenty of spares if I should venture into this scale fighter again. These also provided a decal fuselage band - I normally paint these on but in this scale it was a lot easier to use the decal. These performed brilliantly and settled down a treat. Another coat of Klear and left to dry.

I then applied a black oil wash which brought out the wonderful panel detail on the model far better than I had hoped. It was then a matter of coating with matt varnish, and adding a little staining and dry brushed wear and tear.

The moment of truth was now on me - removing the canopy masks. As it happens, they had worked as well as I could have hoped, with only one snag, nothing to do with the canopy masks. There was a highly visible piece of tissue paper grinning at me through the canopy - it must have come loose from the masking I used on the air tubes. On a sealed cockpit model, this is a modellers worst nightmare as there is no obvious way to remove it short of removing the canopy. As I know to my cost, doing this on a nearly finished model is a tragedy, as you can never really get it to look as seamlessly joined after a removal once all painting and finishing is done. What to do? In the end, and after much experimentation, I managed to insert a fine length of wire through the air duct on the bottom (and found it hard not to giggle whilst I was doing this) through into the cockpit and managed to remove the offending foreign body, or at least tuck it away out of sight. Talk about keyhole surgery!

Finally, I fixed on the undercarriage and spinner. The only significant external difference between the P51B and the RAF Mustang is the aerial. This kit supplied a fixed rod aerial as per the USA plane, but the RAF ones almost always used a "whip" style aerial. So I fashioned a whip aerial by bending a small piece of guitar string (top E, if you are interested), painted it black and fixed it to the top of the fuselage. All done!

This is a beautiful little kit, highly recommended to anyone who dares tackle such a small plane in such a small scale. It surpasses in detail what I had previously assumed to be possible in 1/144 and is a real joy to build, if you have good eyes.


1 comment:

  1. What wonderful models. I used to build these when i was younger and hang them on the ceiling in my bedroom