1/72 Airfix P-51B Mustang

by John Krukowski



A restoration of sorts, this thing came into our house by my older son bringing it home in a bag after a grade school science project.  My son is now 22 so this has been an on-and-off WIP for quite a while!  A classmate of his built it for a wind tunnel experiment in typical kid fashion, bare gray plastic with a few decals pasted on it, but construction-wise it wasn't done too badly.  The main problem was that he built it gear up and instead of just using the doors he actually tried to fit the gear into the wells too which, well, doesn't. Luckily, the canopy and prop were in good shape, usually the first two victims of a kid build.


The first order of business was to dig the landing gear out of the wings with a screwdriver. I was able to save all the doors, the wheels and the strut yokes but the struts themselves came out in little splinters. I reconstructed what was left and made new struts from wire-lined styrene tube. Usually I mount the outer doors after the struts are on but in this case I started with the doors and glued everything else to them, using the doors for strength to hold the airplane up. The inner doors were too glued-up to display open so I closed them.

While I was still in a plastic-hacking mood I chopped the flaps loose from the wings and reshaped their leading edges with Squadron putty in order to reattach them in the dropped position later on.  Next I removed the canopy, decals and slightly crooked stabilizers, reattached the stabilizers straight and readied the airframe for paint.

The plastic propeller shaft was broken so I used two telescoping pieces of K&S tubing (I once bought a bag of K&S odds & ends for fifteen bucks...highly recommended!) and mounted the smaller one to the spinner and the larger one into the fuselage, running from the nose to the instrument panel, so that the propeller could still rotate. I also replaced a few other missing plastic parts with brass, including the radio mast, pitot tube and tailwheel doors. The tailwheel was loose so I reattached it in a turned position, like I always do when such an “opportunity” presents itself.

Painting and Decaling

Although I’d already done a 1/48 Monogram P-51B in these markings I again chose Don Gentile’s “Shangri-La”. I fell in love with this airplane while drooling on Revell catalogs as a kid. Revell’s 1/32 “Shangri-La” boxtop painting is still my all-time favorite work of art.

The main colors were brush-painted with Model Master Enamels, using new stock for the Olive Drab which took three coats to cover and old stock for the Neutral Gray which took one coat to cover. I preshaded the control surface joints and the overpainted tail stripe before the last coat of O/D went on. The white wing identification stripes had been brushed on with Testors flat white before the main colors were applied around them.

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For decals I used some scraps found in a junk box at a LHS which included the squadron badge & name, victory scoreboard and serials. The squadron codes and cowl checkers came from an ESCI sheet, and the insignia are from Aeromaster.  A quick note of caution: I used some Solvaset on the ESCI nose checkers which curled them up so some fast work with water flushed the Solvaset away and I pressed them down again by finger pressure. Whew! Needless to say, I kept the Solvaset away from the ESCI code letters.

I usually build in 1/48 and my son usually builds in 1/72. Not wanting to cut into my son’s limited supply of 1/72 Mustang data decals I hand-painted the propeller markings on this airplane. The red & yellow Hamilton-Standard ovals were brushed on and the white lettering is just some toothpick-applied ‘jibberish’. I also hand-painted the red “no step” outlines on the flaps, again in the interest of decal conservation.

Areas that were “‘brush-painted into being” include the landing light, wing navigation lights, camera port, slots at the leading edge (silver area) of the flaps and the chin scoop (under the spinner) which comes molded closed over on this kit. The covering over the guns is from red decal stock.

Clear lacquer overcoats, all from spray cans, include Testors Glosscote before decaling and Model Master semi-gloss afterward, followed by Testors Dullcote for the wheels.

Other than what was used to make the seat belts, no masking tape was harmed in the making of this model. The antenna wire is nylon fishing line (2 lb. test) painted silver.


Although I didn't really build it, this Airfix P-51B seems like a pretty nice little kit. It sure looks the part to me, proportion-wise. Ah, another one rescued from the trash can!

Special thanks to Rick Reinbott for his inspiration and assistance in submitting this article.

Thanks also to my son Tony, whose resourcefulness brought this project home to our bench and whose encouragement (OK prodding) convinced me to take a few extra steps than I had first planned to in the detail department.


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Photos and text © by John Krukowski