by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Valiant Wings have released a comprehensive study of the Mustang through it's early development up to, and including, the Merlin-engined P-51B/C (Mustang Mk III). The book is ambitious in targeting both aviation enthusiasts and modellers in its coverage, although on balance the bias is slightly towards the latter, making it an ideal companion for anyone building an early-series Mustang kit.
DetailsA-4 - 192 Pages - Softbound
Author - Richard A. Franks
Profiles by Richard J. Caruana
Drawings & Plans by Jacek Jackiewicz
Following a brief Preface that outlines the development entry into service of the early Mustang variants, the book breaks down into 3 main sections: Airframes, Miniatures and Appendices.
Airframes Chapters1. Evolution – NA-73X and Mustang Mk I
2. P-51, A-36, P-51A and Mustang Mk II
3. The Early Merlin-powered Mustangs
4. Test Airframes, Conversions & Projects
Each of the above chapters covers prototypes, sub-variants and test aircraft in a very useful easy to reference style, with (sometimes multiple) side drawings and photos for every machine. There are notes on any modifications and equipment fitted, along with serial number and production batches. Camouflage and markings are described – obviously in more specific detail for test aircraft. I found the section on the early Mustang X and XP-51B especially interesting, as it offers more detail than I've found in previous titles on my shelves, and the combination of drawings and notes immediately conjures up the temptation of conversion projects.
5. Camouflage and Markings
The author warns readers that nothing can be taken as certain when trying to judge colours from vintage B&W photos (and I'd also caution against rushing too hastily to conclusions from even some old colour photos, for that matter). With that caveat out of the way, the chapter offers a very useful of overview of this huge topic with details of the standard schemes and tactical markings for U.S. and RAF aircraft, along with some interesting variations and lists of marking sizes and squadron codes. Ther are original manufacturer's painting instructions, wartime photos (some in colour) and profiles of nose and tail markings.
The chapter then covers other airforces that have flown the Mustang, including captured examples, before moving on to a nice set of 32 colour profiles by Richard Caruana. Ironically, some of these illustrate precisely the difficulty in ascertaining colours used, because the captions are at odds with the descriptions given in the preceding chapter – e.g. the Luftwaffe's captured T9 CK is shown with Olive Drab upper surfaces, while the text describes it as repainted in RLM 74 (and I've always assumed it was RLM 71), while a Swedish aircraft is shown in standard U.S. colours rather than the Swedish paints noted in the text.
What modellers may be disappointed not to find is any coverage of the use of primers or interior colours. True, they may not fall exactly under “Camouflage and Markings”, but it's a subject so frequently debated in modelling circles (particularly the n/m versus primed and painted laminar flow wings) it's odd that the author hasn't touched upon it.
Miniature Chapters6. A-36 Apache and Early P-51-Series Kits
As the section heading suggests, this is very much focused on modellers, beginning with a very useful chapter of detailed in-box reviews of models in 1:144, 1:72, 1:48 and 1:32, including vintage classics in their various incarnations as well as the latest new-tool kits.
There then follows a selection of full-builds, offering a nice selection of choices, including a couple of arguably less obvious models for a change:
7. Building a Selection
Condor 1:72 A-36A Apache
Academy 1:72 Mustang Mk IA
Revell 1:72 Mustang Mk III
ICM 1:48 P-51C
Italeri 1:48 A-36A Apache
The eagle-eyed among you will note that there are no largescale builds in the list, and the publisher includes an apology that time and space precluded their inclusion.
8. Building a Collection
To my eyes, this chapter sits slightly strangely in the Miniatures section, because it would be equally appealing to enthusiasts and historians. It covers similar to ground to the Airframe section, except with annotated perspective drawings providing a handy quick visual reference, so it feels the material could have been combined to be accessible in one section rather than split up.
9. In Detail: The A-36 and Early P-51
Walk-Arounds are almost an essential these days for modellers (I've so much come to take them for granted, it's hard to imagine they were almost unheard of when I started out in the '60s). While photo-shoots of restored airframes are undoubtedly useful, they do present pitfalls, so Valiant Wings have taken a slightly different route from many walk-arounds by using some modern photos of restored machines, but wisely focusing primarily on vintage source material to ensure authenticity as far as possible. These are taken from company and official archives, pilots' notes and servicing manual diagrams.
AppendicesI. A-36 Apache and Early P-51-Series Kit List
II. A-36 Apache and Early P-51-Series Accessory List
III. A-36 Apache and Early P-51-Series Decal List
The lists are ambitious in seeking to include all the static kits, accessories and references produced to date (plus a number that never saw the light of day).
Scale Plans – A-36, P-51 & P-51B/C
Finally, the book includes a set of neat 1:48 drawings. They fold out, which is obviously easier in terms of binding and keeping them safe in bookshops, but I'll separate mine carefully to make them more easily usable on the work-bench. The drawings by Jacek Jackiewicz are well detailed and include rivet patterns.
conclusionI've thoroughly enjoyed reading Valiant Wings' guide to the early Mustangs. Is it the ultimate book on the subject? I doubt it, because many of the topics covered could fill a book in themselves. Nevertheless, it does cram a huge amount of information between its covers while remaining highly readable. I did spot one or two typos which will hopefully be tidied up in future editions, but the book will certainly provide a valuable reference for builds to come.
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