Tamiya 1:48 P-51B of the 486th FS, 352nd FG
OK, folks, my first article on IModeler. As my profile states, I’d been out of the craft for about 35 years doing life, and now life seems to have granted me to get back into it. This featured model is my third essay (the previous being an F4F Wildcat and the A6M2 “Rufe” Nakajima float plane, both Tamiya 1:48 kits) as I hone my skills and prep for some kits that I have savored doing for years but never got to as a kid.
The P-51B in the pics is the outworking of a dream I had when I was young. I love the P-51D, but the earlier B model always captivated me with its lines. I always thought it interesting that P-51 units commonly featured a mixture of Ds and Bs. Don Gentile also flew the P-51B on the way to one of the top ace records among American airmen in the War, so there’s that, too. My rendering takes modest artistic license to present a D-Day era fighter of the 486th Fighter Squadron, 352nd Fighter Group based out of Bodney, England, a unit affectionately self-designated as “The Blue-Nosed [Sons-of-Questionable-Legitimacy-Please-Employ-Imaginative-Use-of-Aliteration-Skills] of Bodney.” The characteristic cobalt blue nose and the “PZ” code associated with this particular squadron in the fighter group is telling, though I have played things a bit loose with other specific markings (the “Y” went with an unpainted P-51D in the squadron, not an olive drab B).
This project marked a number of firsts for me in reestablishing myself in the hobby. The Tamiya P-51B is already a venerable kit, and is a beautiful, straightforward build. It took me a long time, though, in part because of my busyness with other matters, but in part because I took it slow and careful on a number of items.
On this project I learned the virtues of priming for myself. I had never used primer before, but I learned it made a significant difference in both the overall quality of the final surface and also was extremely useful in revealing flaws in my putty job at seams (a minor but nevertheless vital issue for the final appearance). I used Tamiya Fine Primer in a rattle can. After that, all paints used are Tamiya acrylics, except for the nose for which I used Model Masters cobalt blue acrylic.
I started with the cockpit and decided to include the stock pilot figure Tamiya provided. I think enamels are definitely better for figures than acrylics (either that or my memory isn’t what it used to be), but I am fairly satisfied with the result. The bird cage canopy I polished carefully with Tamiya polishing compound–first Fine, then Finish–using polishing cloths. (Since then I have graduated to soft string buffing wheel that fits my Dremel, but I was young then.) I painted first in chromate green then laid a coat of olive drab over it. Again, I am fairly satisfied, given my recent reentry into the hobby, but let’s not kid ourselves, canopies are tough and require great patience and care.
My next new horizon was the decision to paint invasion stripes. I knew this would be a challenge, but not content with that I also decided to give masks a try for the insignias and code letters on the fuselage and tail. The only decals on this model are the serial numbers on the tail, the red steps on the flaps, the kills under the cockpit, and markings on the props–the rest are all painted on via masks. This required me to airbrush the pertinent areas white, mask off for the next stage, then proceed. I masked the invasion stripes with Tamiya masking tape, by I had to cut the strips down to scale since they were too wide for 1:48 markings. After doing the mask thing for the black and insignia blue, I painted the rest of the aircraft. (Note to beginner self: paint the underside FIRST from now on!) Here’s where the priming coat really revealed its importance to me, and the minor “orange peel” surface on the upper side where wing meets fuselage is my own failing. I am ambivalent on the masks: you avoid the unsightly sheen of decals (overcoats still don’t satisfy me there), but the Montex masks I used ended up a bit heavy on the adhesive and it was tough to remove all the residue without affecting the acrylic; doubtless enamel wouldn’t present the same problem.
The drop tanks are finished with Bare Metal foil.
I finished the whole with a semi-gloss coat. I would have stuck with flat, but in photos I have seen even these painted birds had a bit of a sheen to them, so my model reflects that. Over the final coat I used black and umber watercolor for the pin wash in the stock scribed lines. I used a sludge wash in the landing bays.
Comments and tips for improvements welcomed!
17 additional images. Click to enlarge.