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Build report: Accurate Miniatures 1/48 P-51B

When I’d first returned to the modeling hobby a few years ago, Accurate Miniatures P-51A was one of the first kits I built, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I still think it’s one of the finest kits ever made, and is the standard I judge WWII fighter kits by. It’s combination of detail, engineering, reasonable parts count and ease of assembly are hard to match.

Several months ago, I caught a disease well known to many modelers, Ebay-itis. And one of the kits I “caught” as a result of that particular affliction was Accurate Miniatures P-51B, which had been released under the company’s previous ownership. At the time, I wasn’t even aware that the kit existed, so I jumped on it as soon as I saw it.

And now, having just completed the kit, I’m happy to report it’s every bit as good as Accurate’s “A” model.

While most modelers have a few top aircraft as their favorites, I think it’s safe to say that in terms of kits offered and models built, the P-51 has to be one of the all time greats. Practically every company that boxes plastic for us modelers to glue together has done at least one version of the Mustang. I know growing up here in the US in the 70’s and early 80’s that every friend I had who built models had at least one of either Monogram’s or Revell’s offerings.

It’s no wonder it’s such a beloved airplane. If looks alone were criteria for success, the Mustang (and the Spitfire) would likely be top choice for many. And it’s historical significance can’t be overlooked either. Recently, the Military Channel here in the US did a top 10 show about fighters. And #1 on the list was the Mustang.

So while many modelers may groan and roll their eyes at “another Mustang build report”- there’s a reason it keeps popping up. It’s a darn great looking airplane that is simply way cool.

And Accurate Miniatures take on the P-51B makes it a “cream of the crop” as a kit for me.

(But don’t worry…. that other Maestro of the Merlin, Mister Mitchell’s Marvel, the Spitfire, has not lost it’s shine for me. :))

If you’ve built Accurate’s “A” model, the “B” will look very familiar. The fuselage pieces are different, of course, additional parts are included where the two models differed- principally cockpit layout and a four bladed propeller. The option of shrouded and un-shrouded exhausts, as well as weighted and unweighted tires, are a nice option also. Standard and Malcom canopies are included. Not counting unused parts, this kit will assemble up at a slim 45 or so parts- and yet it’s full of great detail.

The wing included with the kit is the same as the “A” model, and includes some beautiful detailing in the wheel wells. The cockpit is nicely detailed also, though I did opt for some aftermarket photoetch belts instead of the included decals. (More on that later…)

The fuselage halves are split into fore and aft sections, and the fore section has the beginning of a fin filet on it, for what I presume was a version with a filet- though I don’t know if it was released. It puzzled me a bit at first, then after I read the instructions, it explained that, yes, it’s supposed to be there, but please sand it off. (I actually like the fact that you read Accurate’s instructions…. much more conversational, to me.)

I decided to test international treaties and the strength of the Earth’s gravitational pull by starting on the landing gear struts, doors and wheels. All seemed OK by doing this instead of the cockpit, though I have noticed reports of a lot of earthquakes in odd places around the US recently, so perhaps that was my fault. Soooooo sorry folks…. won’t do that again.

The landing gear parts, as well as the previously mentioned wheel wells, are just gorgeous. No need for aftermarket here- even resin tires would be about pointless, in my opinion. One touch I really like- the wheels are separate from the tires, making painting and detailing very simple. It all builds up into a great looking component of the aircraft.

The cockpit is nicely detailed- the sidewall detailing is a separate part from the fuselage parts, so they have good depth, and don’t have that “molded in look”. The instrument panel is nicely done with raised and recessed detail. Simple radio boxes mount behind the seat, and work fine as-is, but would really pop with additions of some simple wiring. If you really get hung up on throttles and various knobs, an AM set or some scratch build might be in order, but for my tastes, the OOB detail is good. The fact that it looks this good without to many “fiddly bits” is a plus for me. I like it to look nice, but I like it to be simple and fun too.

Painting is fairly simple. I airbrushed all the parts with Model Master Acryl Zinc Chromate Green, then painted the various pieces that required a different color by hand. I added some brown on the flooring, which has a wood grain like effect molded in. Probably a bit exaggerated at this scale, but keeping in mind the phrase “Keep it fun- it’s just a hobby”, I painted it and never looked back. If it gives you twitches or something, it can certainly be sanded down. 😉 (And maybe even try and give it a painted wood grain look? Hmmmm….)

I decided to forego the kit provided decal seatbelts, and opted for some Eduard photoetch seatbelts. I think PE seat belts look awesome, they can really make a mediocre cockpit stand out. (Though this cockpit is NOT mediocre at all…) Still, I realized something about me and photoetch.

We don’t get along. At all.

I love the way it looks. The pre-painted stuff is really stunning. But no matter how hard I try- and believe me, I’ve tried many, many methods, my attempts to use PE always results in globs of CA, stuff bent wrong or at crazy angles, and more often than not, pieces stuck to my thumb, forehead, etc.

So though I love it, I must now classify photoetch as I have vacform canopies: my evil arch enemy. If you have suggestions on how to make use of this wonderful yet maddening material, please contact me.

Onward we go, however…..

When it comes to the split fore-and-aft fuselage sections, I’ve read and seen people handling this two ways- glue the fore and aft sections together and then join the fuselage halves, or join the fore and aft halves and then join the fore to the aft. (Are you totally confused now….? :)) I decided to join the fore and aft pieces together to make complete fuselage halves, and this worked out quite well. The cockpit parts fit well on their aligning pins, so with care I had no problems joining the two halves. You will want to have some “dry runs” to make sure you identify and problem areas regarding fit ahead of actually applying glue to plastic. For me it went together very well, and with a quick bead of Tamiya Extra Thin Cement and some rubber bands to hold things in place, the fuselage closing was uneventful.

The wings consist of a single bottom piece, and two upper pieces. Not much to report there…. you glue ’em together. They fit nicely.

Joining them to the fuselage leaves a small, and I thought, manageable gap. I suppose I could have used the method of joining the upper wings to the fuselage first, them gluing on the lowers. Or I could have used a simple fuselage spreader…. a piece of spruse glued in place to slightly open the fuselage halves. However, I didn’t, as I have a keen sense of doing the most straight-forward yet most pain inducing thing in cases like this.

The gap at the wing root is small. Wafer thin, actually. Perfectly manageable by even the rookiest of modelers.

Except myself of course.

I decided the best way to handle it was to use a bit of Tamiya putty. So mixing up a small amount, I proceeded to work it into the gap, using some alcohol to work off the excess. (Rubbing alcohol, mind you… not the drinking kind…) having done that, I set it aside to dry.

Having given sufficient time to dry, I pulled out a sanding stick to smooth things out, and begin sanding. As I sanded, a small chunk of the putty broke away. Just lifted right out of the gap. I stopped and checked it out, figuring I could fill the small gap with some CA, and that would be the end of it. SO I started sanding again.

And another chunk broke loose. A bigger one. At this point, I had two choices- stop and evaluate the situation, or start sanding while doing a Yosemite Sam impersonation. Being a level headed fellow, I chose the latter.

Eventually, I sanded enough to get ALL the putty to come loose. On both sides.

Now, I probably should have stopped, put the model down for a few days, and started over on filling the gap. But once again Yosemite Sam took over, and I declared the situation “good enough”, and moved on to painting. I officially declared the gap a “panel line” specific to that aircraft. (The records of that were sadly lost in a document fire at a North American storage facility in 1946….. really….)

The lower surfaces were painted with Tamiya Neutral Gray using my newly purchased Badger 155 airbrush, which I love. The upper surfaces of this particular bird were not painted the standard OD green, but rather a darker green, most likely British Dark Green. After careful consideration and research…. namely carefully considering the matter and researching what paints were within arms reach, I settled on Tamiya Dark Green, primarily for two reasons: A.) It was NOT olive drab green, and B.) I had a full bottle handy. Still, I can assure you this is the right color…. though the same records of it were lost in that fire, previously mentioned.

The nose was masked off and painted blue, and I added the white stripes to the wings. Sime paint chipping was added with a Prisma color silver pencil, and then I applied a coat of Future to prepare the surface for decals.

The kit comes with markings for the familiar red and yellow checkered band of the 4th Fighter Group, which is seen quite often. I decided to go for something a bit different, thus the odd green color with the blue nose, and ordered “Blue Nose Birds of Bodney, Pt. II”, Eagle Strike set #4808. I’d never seen a “B” model with the blue nose that didn’t have the metal finish, so I thought this would be unique.

And within about two weeks of completing this kit, I saw two people post pictures on the internet of the same plane in the same markings. So much for being original…..

I finished up the build by adding on the final bits and details, and flattened out that Future shine with Pollyscale Flat.

Aside from my own “Adventures of Yosemite Sam Builds a Model” episodes, this is a great model to build. It goes together well, is detailed nicely, and doesn’t present any problems in assembly. The only complaint I could really bring up is the canopy. I used the Malcolm canopy, and wanted to pose it open, to show the detail Accurate Miniatures so nicely cast in their kit. Yet even though the canopy is molded in parts to allow the modeler to pose it open- why doesn’t any manufacturer ever cast the piece to fit nicely in the open position? Of course, there are ways to rectify that…. I could plunge cast my own, or order a vacform canopy (they are my evil arch enemy), or even sand down the interior of the canopy and polish it out and maybe it would fit that way. But I’d love it if it was just made to be open.

So being a lazy modeler, I placed the canopy on as best I could and called it done.

Though this kit is out of production, if you can get your hands on one, I’d highly recommend doing so.