Hobbycraft 1/32 Mustang Mk.IA Kit First Look
|Date of Review||June 2009||Manufacturer||Hobbycraft|
|Kit Number||1713||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||First injection-molded Allison-powered Mustang kits in this scale; simple construction||Cons|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$47.95|
We can thank the British for the existence of the P-51 Mustang. While United States was maintaining its neutrality as the German and Japanese empires were assimilating Europe and Asia, respectively, the British were bracing for the worst. Their island home and their colonies around the world were on the verge of being assimilated as well.
While British aircraft industries were ramping up production of new and old designs to reinforce the RAF, delegates from the British government embarked on an extended shopping trip to the United States for potential American aircraft to fill the under-staffed RAF ranks. After visits to Lockheed for the Hudson and Curtiss for the P-40, the delegates paid a visit to North American Aviation to have them to produce the P-40 under license to augment Curtiss’ production lines.
North American convinced the British delegates that they could produce a better fighter using the same engine and weapons as the Curtiss P-40, and that a prototype would be in the air within nine months. The aircraft was quickly pressed into service, but like the P-39 and P-40, the Mustang's performance was poor above 15,000 feet, a limitation of the Allison engine without suitable superchargers. It was the RAF that modified one early Mustang with a Merlin engine and propeller from the Spitfire and the performance gains were significant. The rest is history as this first Packard-Merlin-powered Mustang would enter production as the P-51B and the aircraft would go on to become one of the leading fighters of the war.
A number of years ago, Accurate Miniatures released the Allison-powered Mustangs in 1/48 scale. These kits were easy builds and featured some nice detailing for the price. Hobbycraft Canada obtained permission to produce these kits in 1/32 scale from Accurate Miniatures, and while some time passed since that permission was granted, we finally have these nice kits available in 1/32 scale as well.
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and is presented on four parts trees, plus a single tree of clears. If you read our preview of this kit series, you know there are at least nine trees of parts to render the various early Mustang variants:
- Common fuselage tree
- Three wing trees
- Two nose trees
- Common detail tree
- External stores tree
- Common clear parts tree
While the common trees have parts that apply to all the variants, there are some parts that are unique to a given variant and these are removed at the factory for kits where these parts aren't needed. For example, in this kit, we have the Mustang Mk.IA which is configured as an armed reconnaissance platform. The common fuselage tree has the camera parts but these are removed in the other kit releases. If you want to build a US F-6A/B, you'll need to get the camera out of this kit. On the clear tree, the port side quarterlight window with the hole for the camera is also here and also removed in the other releases.
Most of the detailing from the Accurate Miniatures scales up nicely, but there are a few action items to tend to as well. The details on the instrument panel are soft and you might want to look into some aftermarket products to detail this out. The radio trays behind the pilot are very soft detailwise and you may be happy with that or you can do a little detailing back there to make these look right in 1/32 scale.
The rest of the cockpit is done right with the curved floor (which was the upper surface of the wing) provided and the control boxes on the sidewalls that don't reach the floor, just like the full-scale aircraft. Again, there are opportunities to do some super-detailing and detail painting to bring out these details and to add to the visual effect.
The kit provides you with your choice of the standard side-hinged enclosure or the Malcolm hood that was fitted in theater. If you do opt for the Malcolm hood, DON'T believe the box art or the instructions. The antenna mast used for the standard enclosure would be in the way of the sliding Malcolm hood preventing it from opening. These modified aircraft were given whip antennas mounted farther aft to provide adequate room for the hood to slide fully open.
The Malcolm hood was also fitted to some USAAC early Mustangs, but the hood isn't provided in the kits of the US versions. Perhaps we'll see some additional versions coming from Hobbycraft?
One other action item that could be corrected involves the wheel wells. Since the Hobbycraft kit is a scaled-up Accurate Miniatures kit, it brings with it Accurate's inaccuracy - the boxed-in wheel wells. This is also a bug in just about every other Mustang kit ever produced, but there are some aftermarket wheel wells that can correct this error, but you'll have to surgically remove the molded-in wheel wells to replace them.
Since the main gear doors are typically closed on the early Mustangs, this may be more effort than its worth. Here is a shot of the visible portion of the wheel well that would be visible even with the main doors closed. Personally, I think a modification is in order.
As with the Accurate Miniatures kits, the flight control surfaces of this kit are all molded in-place in the neutral position. This is fine for most builders, but the AMS builder may want to drop the flaps and perhaps pose the rudder and elevators. A little careful surgery and detailing will also add to the visual appeal of this kit. You can see photos of Mustang flaps and flight controls in various stages of assembly and positioning in our online references here.
Markings are provided for three RAF Mk.1A airframes:
- Mk.IA, FD465, N, 168 Sqn, RAF, 1944
- Mk.IA, FD472, M, 168 Sqn, RAF, 1944
- F-6A, FD462, B-WU, 225 Sqn, RAF, Tunisia, 1943 (on loan from the USAAC)
These Hobbycraft Mustang kits are easy builds straight out of the box and there are lots of interesting color schemes to choose from whether you use the markings included in the kit or adapt aftermarket sets to render your subject. If you want to see what this kit looks like build-up, check out Tony Bell's build-up review here.
One final note about early Mustang main gear doors. Under normal circumstances, these doors were closed under hydraulic pressure and when the gear was lowered, they'd open to let the gear out and close afterwards. A P-51B/C/D/K would have these doors still closed after engine shut down, but after the aircraft sat a while and the hydraulic pressure would bleed off, the doors would open under gravity. Most of us would see photos of the doors hanging open and assume that all Mustangs were made that way. Almost...
The Allison-powered Mustangs also had hydraulic-powered main gear doors, but these were augmented with mechanical locks to hold the doors closed. When the hydraulics bled off long after engine shut-down, the doors remained closed. So is it wrong to pose these doors open? Absolutely not! When the crew chief or maintenance troops serviced the aircraft, these doors were simply unlatched and they'd drop open without hydraulic pressure to hold them up. You can see an example of this at North American's ramp with the Mustang in the foreground with its doors closed and the one behind undergoing maintenance and its doors open (look here).
This was a cool kit when we first saw it nearly two years ago and when it finally did reach store shelves late last year, it was not surprising that the first run had virtually sold out right away. It is elegant in its simplicity which will provide you with a nice weekend project or the foundation for a beautiful AMS build. The choice is yours.