Kiwi Resin Models 1/48 RB-51 Red Baron Mustang Kit First Look
By Kelly Jamison
|Date of Review||February 2009||Manufacturer||Kiwi Resin Models|
|Subject||RB-51 Red Baron Mustang||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||-||Primary Media||Resin/White Metal|
|Pros||Shape and subject, well casted and quality resin||Cons||Limited run kit, needs lots of TLC and skill to build properly|
|Skill Level||Expert||MSRP (USD)||$95.00|
RB-51 “Red Baron” is just about the most exotic of the Reno Racers. It was highly modified from its original construction and slowly transformed into one of the most iconic racers ever. Starting life as Serial number 44-84961, it was relieved of military duty at McClellan Air Force Base California in 1958 and quickly purchased by Capitol Airways of Nashville Tennessee and re-registered as N7715C. Around mid July of 1964 it was purchased by Chuck Willis, Frank Lynett and Charles Hall who set it up for racing. They christened it #5 “Red Baron” and then renamed “Miss RJ”.
About 1971 the plane was sold to a Mr. Gunther Balz who changed the name to “Roto-Finish” but always kept the #5 badge on its wings. Again it was sold to Ed Browning in 1973 and moved to Idaho Falls. Browning mounted a Rolls Royce Griffon engine with contra-rotating props and brought back its original name “Red Baron” but added the RB-51 to its moniker.
Through many years of test and development RB-51 set the world’s piston engine speed record of 499.018 MPH on August 14, 1979 under the skillful hand of Steve Hinton. In September of the same year with Mr. Hinton at the helm, RB-51 had a catastrophic failure of the oil system that held the complex Griffon gearbox together causing a spectacular crash of the aircraft. Observers radioed in to Reno Air Operations to not bother sending an ambulance but send a recovery team to the crash site. But Hinton’s loyal crew raced out to the crash site to find Steve crushed in the fuselage, unconscious but alive. He was whisked away to the emergency center and eventually made a full recovery.
The wreckage was sold to Richard Ransofer of Grapevine, Texas in 1980. Parts of RB-51 were then used by Fighter Rebuilders of Chino California to rebuild 44-73053 “Wee Willy II” in 1985. Terry and Bill Rogers used more of the recovered wreckage in other aircraft. Parts and pieces can still be found at Chino if you know where to look.
Before we get to the meat and potatoes of this review, we need to talk about limited run cottage industry kits. Company owners of these garage casting enterprises are just like us. They are model enthusiast and most of the time is obsessed with a certain subject matter. In many cases, they are the only source of the rare and exotic subjects out there. Very exciting for those of us that likes the offbeat and unique subject matter. Leave the P-51s and Spitfires to Tamiya and Hasegawa.
Dave Lochead is the chief in this endeavor. He is Kiwi Resins. A resident of Blenheim, New Zealand and a connoisseur of fine beer (anyone who works in this medium has to be!). He does most of the work in house. (Literally in his garage) Darryl Gardiner did most of the masters work on this particular kit, with Dave doing the mold making and casting. A mammoth job in itself, not to mention bagging, boxing and Quality Control, shipping and all things unmentioned to get this kit out to us.
Most pattern makers start with a basic kit to modify. It is the best way to do it. To build from scratch is time and cost ineffective on many levels. Even Quickboost used the stock T-28 cowl from Monogram to cast their Trojan engine and cowl combo. You will quickly see that it is based on the Tamiya P-51D, but highly modified to racing configuration. Matter of fact there is almost nothing from the firewall back that is the same along with the front lower cowl rework too.
The kit is cast in high quality cream colored resin and practically bubble free. There are only a few very minor blemishes I could find on the wing and fuselage halves. Nothing that five seconds with a sanding stick could not take care of. A lot of work went into the masters on this, especially around the nose and tail area. Kiwi Resin decided to go with the full tail on the right fuselage and a notched out portioned on the left side fuselage. This allowed the proper thickness of that huge fin to be molded properly. Good thinking. The rudder is molded separately and is correct in dimension.
Some of the fuselage and wing detail is lost in the molding and casting process. Not a big deal if you are even slightly apt with a scribe. Remember the real deal had every seam either sealed or so tightly buttoned up so that the plane could slide through the air with minimum drag. The wings were very slick. You can barely make out where the old gun access panels were. They should disappear under the first coat of primer you will have to use.
The wingtips are very well done. Chopped down and scalloped to just the right profile. The wing is molded in one large piece including the wheel wells. Not an easy cast to do and I think Kiwi Resin pulled it off very well. The flaps are cast separate. I have seen pictures of RB-51 with them up or down. Dealers’ choice.
The cockpit side walls are molded into the fuselage halves and are very well done. The real deal kept a lot of the original P-51 cockpit configuration so except for a few levers and switches; you will have a nice facsimile of the cockpit sidewalls. The instrument panel looks a bit different from the one in my research folder. This is not a great surprise because each racing season RB-51 was modified many times over and there was a new configuration to the instrument panel each year.
The kit instrument panel has extra gauges on the left side while my photos has the extra gauge clusters on the right side and to keep Mr. Hinton from overheating, a cool air gasper was installed on the lower left hand side in place of a unneeded gauge. The rest of the cockpit fits very well and should pose no problems.
The front upper nose cowl is another notable piece of cast resin. It is very difficult to get that racing profile just right in all three dimensions. With the highly modified lower cowl and the upper piece having to be completely reworked, Kiwi nailed the shape perfectly.
The props, landing gear, exhaust stacks and some other small detail were cast in white metal. It will take very little cleanup to get everything in order. They are well cast and should be no problem in the construction. They are very competently crucible and poured by Avon Precision Miniatures in Christchurch NZ.
You get a nicely cast set of wheels that will work just fine. However they do not represent the modified brake system used on RB-51 but it would take very little work with some plastic card, a punch set and 2 minutes of grinding to modify them to proper specs. The longitudinal grooved tires are spot on to my research.
I got two vacuum formed canopies which are crystal clear. Falcon, considered by many to be the best in the business, made these little gems. I can contest to the fact that everyone who builds limited run models loves having an extra vacuum formed canopy, when you mess up the first one.
I have to reiterate that these kits are a real labor of love for Dave Lochead. He is a one person outfit trying to share his passion for unique aircraft with the rest of the modeling community. This is one of the first times this kit has been available in 1/48 from anyone and it was brought to us by Kiwi Resin. It is not a Tamiya or a Hasegawa or even an Eduard Weekend Build. You will need to take your time, have some experience working in resin and have your research in order before starting the kit. The results will be stunning when you are done.