Dragon Models Ltd
1/32 P-51D "Early Version",
Kit Number: 3205
Reviewed by  Rod Lees, IPMS# 10821

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MSRP: $51.95
Web Site: www.dragonmodelsusa.com

Not much to say on the history of the P-51. It's considered by many to be the best Fighter of World War II… Such opinions result in debate in which I shall not participate. History on this aircraft is readily available; it's like walking through a cow pasture blindfolded; "You can't miss". As this is a model review, let's stick with that… History lessons some other time.

This is a re-release of Dragon's much-maligned P-51D without the dorsal strake. When I read one reviewer's comment that he "binned" the kit without even attempting to build it because of the overstated rivet detail, I thought "Must be nice to be independently wealthy"… Having built the original "straked" version when it came out, I offered to see what I could do with the new release; I could see Dave's smile through the electrons.

I'll make a comment here; this kit is not nearly as bad as many make it out to be. Matter of fact, it's pretty nice once you get into modeling it. It's not perfect, but I received it last week, and finished it in on Sunday night… The fit is excellent overall, and it certainly looks like a pony when finished. On to my assessment…

[review image] Open the box and feast your eyes on 212 plastic parts in standard DML neutral gray plastic, and 9 clear parts (with a couple of extra landing light lenses and the instrument panel). A brass photoetch fret is included with seat harness and radiator /oil cooler faces, an instrument panel, and seat side braces. Nice touch DML. Included is a clear plastic packet with two metal springs to make the landing gear oleo struts operative, and three formed wires for control surface hinges. I used none of these metal items; I prefer to attach my control surfaces firmly in place, and if you use the springs for the oleos they extend way too far out while the model is on the ground. The tires appear to by vinyl; not a great choice, given how frequently that material eats plastic, but I decided to do a review use of them. (I have noted the tires in Trumpeter's kits appear to be actual rubber, not vinyl. My 1/32nd SU-27 tires worked just fine, and that was a heavy model). As a test, I assembled the wheels, then fitted (Using a prybar toothpick) the tires to the wheels. They fit a bit loose, but can be used. And they come with "flats" already molded in place; the wheel assemblies have inner plastic wheel diameters that takes the weight off the actual tire sidewalls, so the vinyl will not end up flat after two years. Since they are a bit loose you can install them and rotate the flat tire parts to the appropriate location before cementing (or leaving them loose). Interesting detail, more points for DML's engineering.

The surface detail is certainly a contentious issue; I agree that the P-51 I was lucky enough to spend about 1 and ¼ hour of flight time in a few years ago (Miss America) is not a representative P-51, as all the surface detail was filled in for racing. That said, the other P-51's I've been around exhibited plenty of rivet detail when not painted over. Let's just set the record straight; the surface detail is a bit overdone, but put a couple of coats of heavy automotive primer over it, sand it down, and it looks just fine for the OD and Gray schemes. A couple of extra coats would be appropriate for a natural metal bird. I shall stay out of the "P-51's had painted and filled wings" fight. You use your references, I'll use mine.

One item is missing: The pitot tube. It's not in the kit, nor is there a location for it. The external stores are excellent; the bomb fuse is unlike any I've seen before; toss it and make your own. The rockets and zero-length rails appear to be correct. The external tanks, both paper and metal teardrop, are well done, although the filler cap on the paper tank appears to be an afterthought that stands proud; the pictures I have seen of them show the cap to be flush-fitting. Included are appropriate fuel feed tubes and sway braces. I drilled through them into the tanks to install brass pins for added security.

The wing mounted guns are nice; belt and ammunition detail is exquisite. If you choose to have the option of opening the gun bays, you shall be required one to cut out the doors. I personally like them closed, but the availability for detailing is there. I cut off the gun muzzles and installed them in the wing fairings from the front after the model was cleaned up. (a bit of sanding stick was required, but that was only to remove the cement bead after assembly). As a note, filler was required in few areas, more a case of my speed at assembly rather than parts fit.

I did not opt to have the clear cowling "clear". This little gimmick is something I just paint over. I recommend you use the engine, if nothing else, as a mount for the exhaust system and a place to hang the prop. Another engineering note: The exhaust stacks are hollow. More slide-mold technology bliss; it means I don't have to keep an extra supply of band-aids on hand for the drilling-out process. The engine fits on the bearings and mounts quite nicely, and it has a bit of Merlin-like appearance, but not to the extent that I would use it for an open cowl situation, unless I was prepared to do a lot of scratch building.

The cockpit is not too bad; paint everything, and install. Instruments for the panel are individual items, which fit nicely on a black painted panel with gloss over them after drying. The gun sight is a multi-part gem; The control column is fictional and does not represent the actual item; same with the quadrant mount at the bottom. Photoetch seat belts are included, and they look good when installed. The seat assembly, as it comes from the box, is mounted at the right place but is raked too far forward. When properly installed, the armor plate headrest should be near vertical or slightly leaning forward. Just trim a bit from the seat mount rails to allow it to lean back, and it looks good. For some reason, the floorboard seems to have been fixed from the first moldings; as I remember it, the original seemed too narrow and did not meet the sidewalls. This one fit well; could it have been (Gasp!) builder error last time???? All in all, the cockpit is acceptable, particularly if you close the canopy as I did.

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On the rest of the fuselage, I did not use the photoetch radiator parts; the plastic fits nicely. I did use the lower fuselage screen; I had difficulty fitting it, but others may not. The radiator cooling dump door is positionable; no actuator ram is included but could be easily done so using tubing and rod. I installed it in full-closed position.

The propeller is the real issue with the kit, to my mind. If you install it correctly (that is, airfoil side to the front) you will have a prop going backward. The rake at the back of the actual prop blade is therefore at the leading edge. A sanding stick fixes this, but the mounting needs attention. When viewed from the cockpit, it should turn clockwise. Check your references… That's the way ALL P-51 propellers turn. Here's my fix:

Remove the mounting boss (the pin at the base of the prop). Take your dremel tool or whatever circular device you have, use a large sanding drum, and hold the prop up to the spinner at the correct mounting angle; once you see which way to go, and using low speed to avoid disaster and total meltdown of the prop blade, gently change the angle of the prop so it matches the correct angles on your spinner. (You did assemble it already, didn't you?). If you are careful, you will not have to remove much, and it will look "jest fine" when complete. Drill the base of the prop to accept new pins made from circular stock or metal (My choice: coat hangar wire), and superglue into position after painting and decaling. Here's a modeling technique from "I don't know where"… on "How to paint striped spinners": After assembly of the front and back of the spinner and sanding to remove the glue seam, mount the spinner back plate on a piece of wire wrapped in tape so that it will act as an armature shaft. Spray with flat white, let dry, then paint the base color of your spinner (in this case, Tamiya Camel Yellow). Let dry, then chuck the wire and spinner in your variable speed drill. Using low speed, flat insignia red acrylic paint, and a medium brush that will hold a bit of paint, slowly apply the red while spinning. Let dry, remove the armature, and you are set. Some people use a pencil to mark the area the red should be; I use a Mk 1 eyeball and try to match the pictures. It is at this point I use plastic tubing to make a new spinner shaft, and drill (carefully) into the engine front bearing to insert a new prop bearing from larger tubing. Insert the (smaller) spinner tube on the spinner into the engine and you are done.

The main wheel well needs attention. I made two spars, one for each wing, and ran them out from the aft wheel well assembly (Part # E25). (This part, by the way, was used for the center section and the upper gear well details; I cut off the fake aft bulkhead on the strut wells, but retained the aft portion of the wheel well for structural purposes and the fact it provided a place for the spar to attach to).. I formed some false ribs to fit in front of the spars, ending at the wheel well. I did not attempt to make the leading edge ribs. Since the inner wheel follow-up fairing doors are usually closed right after shutdown, I cemented them in place, which allowed me to avoid detailing the wells too much. Once I painted the interior of the well aluminum, the overall appearance looked much better. Not perfect, but I don't do the inspection mirror thing. Before you close up the wing, decide if you are using the zero-length rails for rockets. If not (as on most European Mustangs) use some sheet plastic to back them up, then fill them with putty from the outside. Since you need to fill in the rivet detail on the wing anyway, the detail loss will be minimal.

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I assembled the landing gear without the springs; if you cement them with about 1/8 to 3/16" of strut extension, it will provide the proper "sit" for the aircraft when finished. A major mistake of many mustang builds is to forget to install the forward rake angle to the gear; they do not hang straight down, but the wheel axle is located approximately at the leading edge of the wing when viewed from directly overhead. When combined with fully extended gear struts, such details can ruin the appearance and make the model appear like a toy rather than a replica. The tail wheel is a bit fragile, but accurate.

[review image] The canopy has a slight seam in the centerline of the bubble; I opted to leave it alone and see if anyone notices. That means it has the proper "blown" sides, folks… something others have missed. The windscreen didn't fit too well for me, but a bit of tape and watch crystal cement, along with a smear of putty on the front, made it fit.

For markings, the kit provides three options: "Hurry Home Honey", from the 364th FS, 357th FG, out of Yoxford, UK, 1944; "It's the Kid", from the 77th FS, 20th FG, out of Kingscliffe, UK, 1944; and "Julie", with the 2nd FS, 52nd FG, flying out of Madria, Italy, 1944. What this model provided me with was the opportunity to use EagleCals sheet # EC-103, which included markings for "Passion Wagon", an early D from the 362nd FS, 357th FG. According to the Eaglecal sheet, this was flown by Lt Arvil Roberson, who was credited with six victories in this aircraft.

I finish painted the model in this order: Invasion stripes and recognition stripes white, mask, black invasion stripes, mask over them, and paint the whole underside Tamiya Neutral gray. Remove the tape from the invasion stripes, and airbrush the topside RAF dark green, over spraying the invasion stripes. After that, remove the rest of the masking, and press on by applying Tamiya clear coat, decals, a mist of clear after drying, and Tamiya flat coat. (GREAT stuff) A light bit of weathering and minor gun smoke trails on the wings, and finish up.

What is my overall assessment? I give it a 7/8 of 10; because it is a simple build, (Not overly complex), well under the now-common $90-$100 mark for a 1/32 kit, and has excellent potential; a bit of skill and it could be the perfect pony. If you work on it, the finished product looks right. It has all the proper Mustang armament, and if you want you can rob a Monogram (now Revell) P-51D for the paddle bladed Hamilton-Standard prop to come up with a Korean/ANG-era aircraft with rockets and bombs.

Sincere, extreme thanks go to DML and Dave for providing me this opportunity; now that I have worked out the details, I can see no reason to not try another one, except for shelf space!

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