1/24 Trumpeter P-51D Mustang

King Leonidas (what if...) 

by Alex Kontiveis




To tell the truth, I never liked P-51 models!  I always believed that this type of aircraft had so few details to offer, because it was just so simple a construction! Since I took a look at Rodney Williamsí article for a Trumpeterís P-51b (conversion!) I was at once delighted and changed my mind immediately!  Although I never believed that Iím a modeling expert, I decided to make an effort to build a nice looking model, trying to catch a medium level at least.  For every modeler, itís the effort that counts (thatís my opinion and Iím speaking for myself only).



This P-51d kit was my second Trumpeter kit after the very good Spitfire Mk Vb trop (already in ARC gallery pages), so I already knew what to expect.  Unfortunately every time Trumpeter seems to have a tradition of inaccurate (and under scale) pilotís seats!  What a disappointment!  For a moment I thought that my model supplier sent me a P- 51 in 1/32!  Another hard point was the Engine!  Very good in itself with a lot of extras, but everything seems to be useless, because of its mounting!  Too low, and after the construction it looks so small for the Kit!  Everything else appear to be detailed to exceptionally good levels, although anyone who buys such an expensive kit, expects more detail, more choices, and more quality.  I do not want to mention other kits but I met better detail in 1/32 for the same model!  Anyway, I thought itís a challenge for every modeler to prove his qualifications on working on large scales!  So, letís get started!

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I began with the floor.  I used real wood flit and I painted it in a way to look old and very weathered!  I added 2 aluminum foot panels and then I began working with the pilotís seat!  I tried many different ways to make it a ďseatĒ, but none of them were accurate for me.  So I decided to make a new one!  I discovered in my spares box a part that I could use for the pilotís seat.  Using plastic card I made the seatís back, rounded with copper.  For its mounting I used springs from a watch and metal pins!  For the pilotís back pillow I dressed a plastic sheet with real leather and a painted it in khaki color.  The rest of the seat was painted with metallic olive drab mixed with some yellow.  The final result was quite good (much better than Trumpeterís own 1/32 idea of a seat!).

My next step was the instrument panel.  I replaced the instrumentís film with a new one made with CorelDraw!  I designed all the instruments one by one copying the real ones.  I placed them in the right position and then I laminated them to give the glass cover effect!  The result is very impressive and it changed the panelís look at once!  I added switches and levers as many as I could and I rebuilt the gun sight.  No improvements were needed for that, although I knew it was not correct.

For the pilotís side panels, everything is scratch-built.  I had to rebuild everything because I found all parts very fat and under-detailed.  These parts were improved using metal, spring, copper and plastic sheets.  The main interior color is a mixture from Olive drub, earth, and yellow.



These parts didnít need many improvements.  Although I had little information on the particular areas, I used my knowledge in mechanics and I added all the details needed, such as gas tubes, reservoir tube, electric sockets and of course the electrical connections!  I painted the main gas tank with army green, and weathered it with dark grey and silver.  Gunze Oil was used around gas tube connections.



Here is a BIG (?)!!!

Actually, I never heard anybody who chose Trumpeterís kit say any good words about the engine area!  You will not need any specific knowledge to understand why!  Although the quite good detail of the engineís main body, and the other parts, the final assembling seems too small, compared with the large size of the Aircraft.  The mounting is too low and finally the result makes you really desperate!

Even though I decided to take the risk, I already knew that I would fail.  I studied very carefully the real engine compartment, taking a close look at a large amount of photos of the real aircraft.  The risk was too big if we count the hours of work needed for a good result!

So I started working without thinking the bad dreams of failure, as if everything was ideal!  I used all the pieces that the kit already gives except for the oil filter (scratch build).  All the other additions were made close to real engine parts, using metal, rubber, and stretched sprue.

I chose to paint the main body with a light azure blue, silver and white (only for the engineís fire wall and engineís panel holders).

The final result was very good and represents the P-51 engine very close to the real one.  The only problem was the fitting on the fuselage!  I was afraid of the large amount of detail. ÖAnd, unfortunately, I was right, since I had to rebuild half of the engine again!!!



Trumpeter managed to simulate the landing gear in very convincing level, so I didnít have to make a lot of improvements.  I replaced the suspension tube with metal bracket to make them look really natural, and I added the valves and the lug nuts on the wheels.

Next step was the whole improvement of the wheelsí well.  Although the kit gives a compact detailed wheel well, it seems rather too poor, especially if you have already done a hard work in all the other parts of the kit.  So I decided to add all the extra items and ribs needed for a well-detailed look, according to close up photos of the real aircraft. This kind of work was really quite boring for me because of the Ėnano Ė work I had to do!!!  In fact I canít see the use of working on a part that nobody can take a close look on.

Any way, I did the best I could, working more than 5 days!



Itís a fact, Trumpeter did a very accurate job in this sector.  Separate bullets were the better way to achieve a very good result.  Firstly I painted them Matt black, and then I gave them a silver tone by dry brushing.  Then with a very thin brush, I painted them with gold and bronze.  Then I weathered them with black.  My next step had to do with the Brownings.  Painting them with Gun metal and adding all the electric and hydraulic connections according to real close ups, were enough to give them a convincing look.  Of course I replaced the gunsí plastic massive tubes with real ones from metal, since the bullets have to find a way out somehowÖ!  A close look on the gunsí main panel gives an idea of the amount of work I did on it.  I tried a lot to construct the port mechanism, using metal pins and some scratchbuild little items.  I think I did my best on it, and Öthatís it!!! FINISHED, with the basic build.



After a test on test-fitting the fuselage and the wings, I almost thought to give up!.  ďSaint FillerĒ had to make his miracle!  But most impressive was the left upper wing part!  It had to be shortened more than 3mm to fit exactly with the rest of the parts! After the masking procedure I had to decide what to do with the painting! Trumpeter gives the modeler only one choice!  And nobody (99 out of 100 kits) follows this!  The answer (I think) is that this particular choice is not such impressive, as other more famous and colorful Mustangs!

So at first, I decided to please Trumpeter, by making their aircraft!  But finally I changed my mind!  Although Greece never owned P-51s in WWII or later, (for the record, Greece fought against Axis forces with Spits, Hurricanes and Harvards with over than 250 aircraft), I thought that it would be a good idea for a ďwhat ifĒ P-51!

So this particular aircraft never existed.  I name it, ďLEONIDASĒ king of Spartans, as a tribute to his great achievements!

I painted it with shining Gunze silver, which I partially polished to give it the contrasts I wanted.  Then I airbrushed all of the aircraft with thinner adding few drops of black, and I whipped it with a hard paper.  The result was quite good (Iím not an NMF expert guys, I did my best)

For the decals I made masks with Vinyl (using Computer) and I painted them with reflex blue.

With a very fine brush, I draw King Leo! (I do not suggest it to inexperienced modelers)



King Leonidas, is a fact!  Although the particular aircraft is a ghost, I loved it as it represents a unique P-51, much different than the already known ones.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy it and I think it deserves a place among the few high quality P-51 builds.  If anybody has any questions, they are welcome to e-mail me.



Bf Ė 109 G6 (early) ĖTrumpeter 1/24-


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Photos and text © by Alex Kontiveis