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Tamiya 1/48 P-51D Mustang Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2009 Manufacturer Tamiya
Subject P-51D Mustang Scale 1/48
Kit Number 61040 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy build Cons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $30.00

First Look


North American's Mustang fighter was a huge success once the Allison engine of the early Mustangs was replaced by the license-built Packard Merlin. The P-51B/C Mustangs were a formidable threat to the Luftwaffe. Like most fighters of the early war, the P-51B/C had the standard hood design of the day which was more of a greenhouse type that was streamlined into the rear fuselage. Aerodynamically, this wasn't a bad thing, but combat experience with this type of cockpit enclosure revealed fatal rear visibility. The Americans, British, and Germans set to work on the problem.

North American addressed this visibility issue with the next version of the Mustang, the P-51D/K. The rear fuselage was cut down and the canopy enclosure replaced with a teardrop canopy. Additional improvements included the addition of two more 50 caliber machine guns, bringing up the total to six, additional fuel tanks, and a new gunsight. The P-51D was produced in Inglewood CA, while the same aircraft built in Dallas TX was designated the P-51K.

The P-51D/K became the principal fighter for the US Army Air Force and could hold its own against the Luftwaffe until the advent of the next generation of Luftwaffe fighters including the Ta 152, Me 262, etc. Even then, the Mustangs (and other allied types) outnumbered what was left of the Luftwaffe and retained air superiority over the continent.

Tamiya first released this kit in 1995 and was yet another excellent demonstration of their mold engineering capabilities. This kit is the perfect blend of detail and simplicity. The kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on two parts trees, plus a smaller third tree, and a single tree of clear parts.

I remember building this kit years ago and was impressed with just how easy this model is to assemble. I was struck by how well the parts all fit together in contrast to all of the other Mustang kits on the market. If ever there was one model that would be easy to render as a bare metal aircraft, you're looking at it.

The kit has a nicely detailed cockpit considering the number of pieces - six. The cockpit has the correct wooden floor that raised the pilot up into the bubble canopy for better all-round visibility. I've seen other Mustang kits with more parts in the cockpit, but as I said earlier, Tamiya has mastered the blend of detail and simplicity. An optional pilot figure is also included if you want to crew up your Mustang. If the level of detail isn't enough for you, Lord knows that there are lots of aftermarket sets available for this kit.

The only real glitch in this kit is the same glitch that plagues all Mustang kits to date - the wheel wells. For whatever reason, manufacturers opt to box in the wells, especially the outboard sections, but the real Mustangs didn't have the edges of the wheel wells boxed in this way. If you look at our photo walk arounds, you can see that the rear of the well is the main spar and this provides maintenance access to the hydraulics and wiring that run through the wings.

The kit has optional wing pylons from which you can hang the metal drop tanks provided in the kit. Among the options with the kit:

  • Positionable canopy
  • Choice of standard or Dallas canopy
  • Optional pilot figure
  • Positionable flaps
  • Positionable rear radiator flap
  • Choice of exhaust stacks
  • Optional 75 gallon metal drop tanks

Markings are included for four examples:

  • P-51D-10-NA, 44-14151, 487 FS/352 FG, HO-M, 'Petie 3rd', as flown by John Meyer
  • P-51D-30-NT, 44-11622, 362 FS/357 FG, G4-C, 'Nooky Booky IV', as flown by Leonard Carson
  • P-51D-5-NA, 44-13410, 375 FS/361 FG, E2-C, 'Lou IV', as flown by Thomas Crhistian
  • P-51D-5-NA, 44-13926, 375 FS/361 FG, E2-S, as flown by Urban Drew

The Tamiya P-51 Mustangs are the easiest models to build and render the best results for the least effort. If you want to take a break from some of the more challenging projects 'out there', this is still one of the best kits available to just have fun and still achieve a master's result.