Few kits have managed to cause quite as much furore as Dragon's 1/32 scale P-51D on its initial release. Along with other concerns, the controversy chiefly surrounded the kit's heavy embossed riveting. One well-known critic went so far as to say publicly that he'd "killed" the kit with his review - well, proof that such a boast was a little premature (and maybe that we reviewers don't have quite the influence we'd sometimes like to believe...) came with very healthy sales figures and the kit is now back for its third outing in eighteen months - this time as an early production P-51D, with no fillet on the vertical tail.
The sturdy conventional box is stuffed with sprues and the presentation is very good indeed, with everything bagged separately and items such as the etched parts and decals further protected by being taped in their bags to a cardboard insert. The kit comprises:
228 x grey styrene parts
11 x clear styrene parts
3 x rubber tyres
11 x etched brass parts
A small set of springs and hinges
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
The kit is cleanly moulded with next to no sign of flash ir sink marks. Oddly for a mainstream kit, there are some big ejector pin marks on the inside surface of the wings that will need removing before construction can begin. The surface finish is always going to remain a bone of contention with Dragon's Mustang series because the kits share the bulk of the sprues with the initial release, but what is nice to see is that the retooled tail is definitely more crisply detailed - the panel lines are lighter and sharper and the riveting less heavily embossed. Obviously, that leaves the rest of the airframe unchanged, but it's encouraging to see a manufacturer responding to feedback, so Dragon are to be applauded on this account.
Construction is unchanged from the earlier kit, so please refer to Jean-Luc Formery's excellent Full Build Article
but, in brief, the kit features:
A 31-part engine bay that can be displayed with separate (clear styrene) cowling panels
A quite well equipped cockpit comprising 46 parts
A main undercarriage that is "sprung" to compress under the weight of the model
A good selection of underwing stores, with bombs, rockets and two styles of drop tanks
One anomaly still survives in that the wing gun bays are complete with guns and ammunition, but there's no option to open the servicing panels to display them.
The kit contains the same K-14 gyro gunsight as the initial release. Squadron state that this was fitted from the D-20 onwards, early aircraft being equipped with the N9 reflector sight, but the new sight was retro-fitted to many aircraft in the field, so if possible try to find references for the aircraft you're building.
Instructions & decals
The instructions are very well drawn and break the construction down into just 13 stages - surprisingly few, considering the parts count. Nevertheless, the drawings are clearly laid out and most modellers with a little experience should find this an enjoyable and reasonably straightforward build. Colour matches are included for Gunze Sangyo paints.
Dragon have included a large and colourful decal sheet, custom printed by Cartograph, with marking for 3 aircraft:
1. P-51D s/n 413586, "Hurry Home Honey", 364th FS, 357th FG, Yoxford, England, 1944
2. P-51D s/n 413746, "It's The Kid!", 77th FS, 20th FG, Kingscliffe, England, 1944
3. P-51D s/n 413264, "Julie", 2nd FS, 52nd FG, Madna, Italy, 1944
The quality of the decals looks superb. The items are thin and glossy with almost no carrier film extending beyond the designs - important on n/m finishes. The registration is basically perfect. Along with the main markings, there's a small selection of stencils, plus individual instrument faces for the cockpit.
The problems of the first release are still present - but one look at Jean-Luc's finished model shows just how attractive Dragon's P-51D can look. Despite the controversy, the kit looks set to be a very popular part of the Dragon range for the foreseeable future - in true Mark Twain-fashion "reports of its death, have been greatly exaggerated".
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