1/48 P-51B Mustang
with USAAF Pilots and Ground Personnel
Kit Number: 48125
Reviewed by  Charles Landrum, IPMS# 26328

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MSRP: $22.10

My thanks ICM for providing this review kit

The ICM P-51 Mustangs have been around for a while. This latest release of their P-51B includes markings for MAJ John C. Herbst mount "Tommy's Dad". MAJ Herbst was the leading ACE in the CBI Theater with 18 victories by the wars' end and includes ICM's Army Air Force figures (more about them later). The kit is essentially a copy of the Tamiya P-51B, in softer plastic, with two notable differences. First there are no locating pins, which can make assembly tricky. Secondly, ICM copies Tamiya and gives you a curved cockpit floor (it should be covered with plywood and flat) but to match floor, they copied the sidewalls from the Accurate Miniatures P-51A (the A did have a curved floor). Since the mold has been around for a while, (mine had a lot of flash - but the plastic is soft and the flash easily removed) I will not preview the sprues, but focus on the build. In building this release I ended up deviating from an out-of-the-box build in three significant areas: the cockpit, the wheel wells and the propeller blades. The cockpit needs attention to make it accurate (or close) for a P-51B. Like all P-51 models in 1/48, the main wheel well is incorrectly boxed in. Also the cuffed propeller blades are look wrong in shape.

I started with the main wheel wells. I removed the rear bulkhead of the well from the lower wing - in reality the spar was the rear of the wheel well. The soft plastic made this job easy. I made a spar from .02 strip styrene, tapering it to match the wing taper. This was an exercise in dry fitting and sanding. I extended the longitudinal stiffeners molded onto the upper wing with the strip styrene, carefully fitting the parts so that they would meet the spar when the wings were assembled. I also extended or added the stringers of the upper wing.

I also added a landing light to the leading edge pocket before assembling the wing. There was no problem with dihedral even with the soft plastic. The only trick is the inboard trailing edge where the flaps go - there are no positive contact points.

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The cockpit was a challenge. You need to essentially replace the cockpit since it is wrong and even the correct detail is weak. Unfortunately, I did not have a resin P-51B cockpit lying around or readily available. But I did have a partial True Details P-51D cockpit. I used the floor and instrument panel as the basis for the new cockpit; the detail of these parts is superb. What I still needed were sidewalls. Not wishing to scratch build or extensively modify the kit parts, I opted to cast and make resin copies of the sidewalls from my Accurate Miniatures kit. The copies worked well with the TD resin and provided sufficient detail for a closed cockpit. I used the kit seat with seat belts from Reheat Models set 48075. I opted for a closed cockpit, because the canopy has to be cut to be opened and because I wanted the cleaner lines of a closed canopy. To simulate North American dark green in the cockpit, I used Model Master European Green, which I darkened with a black wash.

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Before buttoning up the fuselage, I next worked on fitting the inlet and outlet of oil cooler. I had to use the overhead of the outlet duct cut from the rear of the kit cockpit; the fit of this section was poor. There is no overhead to the inlet, so I made one from sheet styrene. Zinc Chromate was used to prime these areas. The cooler itself I painted black with silver dry brush. [review image] Buttoning up the fuselage is tricky with no locating pins! The soft plastic makes gluing easy, but I had no hard point to ensure alignment. Fortunately the panel lines align correctly, so I used them for reference as well as a transparent, gridded straight edge to check alignment. I work slowly with clamps and liquid cement applied with a Touch-n-Flow applicator. Due to the softness of the plastic I cemented the control surfaces with CA, to prevent distortion. With the fuselage together, I found the fit of the intakes to be good. The dowel for the propeller is slightly off center. I cut this off and made a new one from styrene rod that I inserted into a drilled hole centered on the nose.

The fit of the wing to the fuselage was also good with no gapping or binding. I needed no filler and welded the joint with liquid cement. The fit of the flaps was good as well and it was easy to achieve the appropriate angle of droop - I attached them with CA. I decided to add the clear cover to the wing light at this juncture. This was without a doubt the hardest part of the kit. The part does not fit well and I invariably fogged the plastic getting it on. On the other hand the side panel windows and the canopy/windscreen assembly fit well with only a very minor gap between this and the side panels, which I filled with Crystal Clear.

As I mentioned the kit blades don't look right. I replaced them with spares from my parts bin. I re-keyed these parts to fit the ICM hub.

To the paint shop…

I found the kit markings a bit boring (although Herbst's brief career certainly wasn't!) and since I just finished a CBI P-51A, I opted to paint a mount from the Mediterranean Theater. Not wishing a natural metal finish, I compromised on a scheme that I found in the Arco Aircam book on US P-51Bs. I chose a plane from the 31st FG 307th FS with OD over neutral gray, except the stabilizers, which were red diagonal stripes on silver. With the yellow theater stripes and red accents, this would be a colorful plane for OD and gray! Wherever possible I used the kit decals.

I used enamels and lacquers throughout. I pre-shaded the panel lines with flat black. Then I sprayed the wing exposed by the flap and the stabilizers Alclad aluminum. If you mist on Alclad you can get away without primer. I was successful for a while until I laid it down to wet on the tail. Crazing! The ICM plastic really is too soft for no primer. I was able to recover by sanding the plastic after it had hardened and reapplying the Alclad. I have included before and after pictures. The red diagonal stripes were then masked and sprayed onto the silver with MM insignia red. For the theater stripes, wing tips and spinner laid down a have a layer of flat white before applying the insignia yellow and insignia red in order to make the colors more true. The OD is MM OD 34087 with 20% flat black to darken it up. The Neutral Gray is MM. I faded the upper surfaces slightly with OD straight from the bottle. Since I was not masking the wheel wells or gear doors, I used Floquil Old Silver in these areas. I sprayed the plane with MM Metalizer sealer to prep for the decals.

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Despite what I had read about ICM decals, I had little problem. The decals are flat rather than glossy, but that is no matter when you are going to ultimately flat coat. The decals reacted well to Micro-sol and Solvaset except the national insignia. These took lots of Solvaset in multiple coats because of the thickness of these decals, but ultimately they settle down. The fuselage letters came from my spare drawer and unlike the ICM decals, silvered slightly. I sealed the decals with Metalizer sealer. The panel lines are crisp and take a wash well; I used raw umber for the undersides, the wheel wells, and silver areas and burnt umber as the wash on the OD. Once dry, I used Testor's Dullcoat on the entire plane.

In the final assembly, I used the kit drop tanks. The antenna is dark monofilament, Invisible Thread. The marker lights and formation lights I painted Testors silver and than over-coated with Tamiya clear colors.

This was a fun build, and in the end it is a good scale replica. But the kit does have some idiosyncrasies than need to be addressed, primarily the cockpit and propeller blades. I am used to building aircraft without locating pins, but normally ones with thicker sidewalls; with thin soft plastic, locating pins are a must. Recommended.

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USAAF Pilots and Aircrew
ICM offers a five figure set either separately or in this case with an aircraft. This set is a welcome addition for those of us tired of recycling the same old Monogram figures. The figures are well sculpted; the poses being natural and for the most part in proportion. A figure expert in my club, who sculptures his own, thought that the right arm of the pilot in flight gear is too long. The standing pilot has the choice of combination cap or garrison cap. If you recognize some of the figures, some take inspiration from other kits. The pilot in flight gear resembles the pilot in the Tamiya Corsair, while the seated pilot resembles the one in the Pro-Modeler SB2C Helldiver. Despite some similarities, these figures add new variety to those available in 1/48. Assembly was easy and the standing figures do so on their own. I have posed 4 of the 5 figures in a simple vignette to show how natural they look - more so than some earlier ICM figures. If you like figures to give your aircraft life, pick this set up!

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