Hobbycraft 1/32 P-51A Mustang Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|First injection-molded Allison-powered Mustang kits in this scale; simple construction
North American was developing its new Mustang to support the RAF's urgent requirement for capable fighters in the early stages of World War 2. The USAAC received two examples for evalutation during 1941. Fitted with the same engine as the P-40, the early Mustang was faster than the P-40 as well as faster than the Spitfire Mk.VC below 15,000 feet.
The first production batch, the Mustang Mk.I, was armed with four .303 caliber machine guns in the wing (two on either side) and four .50 caliber machine guns (one in either wing and two in the nose). The second production batch was the Mustang Mk.IA (P-51 for the USAAC) and this differed from the first batch by having all of its machine guns replaced with four 20mm cannons, two in each wing.
The first production batch ordered specifically for the USAAC was the P-51A and was ordered in parallel with a ground attack variant, the A-36 Apache. The P-51A differed from the previous versions in its armament, being armed with four .50 caliber machine guns, two in each wing. The type was also powered by an improved Allison engine turning a Curtiss Electric propeller. Though initially 1200 of these aircraft were put on order, the number was cut to 310 as the USAAC wanted to shift production to the new Packard Merlin-powered variant, the P-51B.
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 five parts tree, 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 P-51, so the camera parts that were in the RAF Mustang Mk.I have been removed from the fuselage tree. If you want to build a US F-6A/B, you'll need to get the camera out of the RAF boxing. On the clear tree, the port side quarterlight window with the hole for the camera is also removed and you'll also need this for the recon version. You can see what these parts look like in that kit here.
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 the standard side-hinged enclosure which is actually two sets of parts on the clear tree. One set provides the cockpit enclosure closed, the other with the enclosure hinged open. Take your pick.
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.
You might notice the openings in the cowling for the machine guns. This kit share the same nose as the A-36 Apache with the wide carburetor intake, but rather than cast two noses for the same profile, the instructions in this release for the P-51A have you simply fill the gun holes.
This boxing depicts the P-51A as operated out of the 1st Air Commando Group in Burma but the kit doesn't provide the parts for the distinctive DF loop antenna mounted to the dorsal spine of the aircraft between the cockpit and the tail. You'll need to scracthbuild that part if you want to capture that distinctive look.
Markings are provided for two examples:
- P-51A, 43-6189, 1st Air Commando Group, USAAF, Burma, 1944
- P-51A, 1704, Dominican AF, late 1940s (two marking options)
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.