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Build Report: Tamiya 1/48 P-51D


I don’t know that there is much to say about Tamiya’s 1/48 scale P-51D in terms of a build report. It just goes together. Everything fits. No tips on assembly, no things to watch out for…. just use glue. That’s pretty much it.

The cockpit is reasonably detailed. Good enough for an open canopy build. Adding some seat belts, or a good resin seat with belts, will help finish things off. Once that is done, you just close it up and dress the seams and the fuselage is done.

The wing is not much different. Glue the parts together. Sand the seams smooth. That’s it. Add it to the fuselage. Glue the join. Done.

All in all, assembly on this kit is almost boring. Which is a good thing and a bad thing. If you like having to sand and fill and adjust, it’s a bad thing. Otherwise, it’s all good.

Despite how easy it is to assemble, I don’t build a lot of these kits. One reason: metal finish. I am horrible at metal finishes. I don’t really know why. I do pretty well with an airbrush overall, I think. I’ve tried all sorts of metal finishes. Alclad II eludes me for some reason. No matter what I’ve tried, the finish looks bad. Different primers, different sanding methods, different air pressures. Even different air brushes. Everyone who has the Alclad II thing figured out has given me advice, and I can’t make any of it work. And I know it’s me. It’s not Alclad II.

So I avoid P-51Ds.

Then I decided to try Valljo Metal Color.

I think I found a metal finish I can work with.

I don’t know what the difference is. I used the same techniques for surface prep as I did Alclad II. Same method for applying it. But this time it worked.

I did find in testing that it MUST go over a primer coat. Despite marketing claims, and even reports from others, my experience was that putting it down on bare plastic is a no-go. It had ZERO adhesion with tape, and scratched easily. (And yes, I do wash my parts thoroughly to make sure there are no surface contaminants.)

Over a primer coat, though, it stuck well- 99% I’d say. A few places did pull up when masked- very tiny spots here and there- but given the fact that I could make the metal finish work, I’ll go with it.

The decals were from Aeromaster. To be honest I don’t recall the set. Overall they worked OK, except for the diamonds on the nose. I don’t care how carefully a manufacturer makes their decals, trying to conform to compound curves is almost impossible. Even cutting the pieces didn’t help too much, as the shapes were still not quite right. Ultimately, I cut and adjusted and prodded and cajoled and even had to resort to the spare blue diamonds on the decal sheet to get it looking OK.

I decided to weather this one a bit. Every metal finish P-51 I see looks like it’s been plated in chrome and buffed to a high shine. I just don’t see the real airplanes looking like that. Oil, grease, dirt and exhaust all combine to give it a used look. (The next time you fly a commercial airliner- notice the wing. Clean metal it ain’t.)

I gave the painted areas a flat coat and called it done.

The kit is awesome. If you haven’t built a Tamiya 1/48 P-51D- go out and get one. It’s a great cure for those times when you are hung up on the latest Special Hobby monstrosity.

The decals…. meh….. they worked. I don’t blame Aeroscale. I rarely find any manufacturer’s stuff that fits a compound curve well.

The Vallejo Metal Color- I love it. Now, if you’re happy with how Alclad II works for you, this won’t be a replacement. Simply put- nothing beats a well applied Alclad II finish. But if you’re like me, and find Alclad II to be difficult to apply, give Vallejo Metal Color a try. It’s opened up a whole new set of marking and kit possibilities for me.