|AERO DETAIL - DAI NIPPON KAIGA|
by: Bill Cross [ ]
It would be difficult to argue another plane is more-deserving of the accolade of “most iconic American fighter of WW2” than the P-51 Mustang. But its triumph over failure (after it was married to the Packard-licensed Rolls-Royce Merlin engine) obscures the fact that the plane grew out of a purchase spec issued by the RAF for a tactical & recon fighter-bomber. North American Aviation tinkered with several versions until it found perfection in the P-51D. Finally the Allies had found the fighter to escort bombers all the way to Berlin and back, as well as sweep the skies over Germany of even Me-262 jets.
Yet the plane’s very success has made it a swamp for modelers. Planes were often modified in the field, and numerous P-51s have flown continuously ever since, often with souped-up engines and non-standard restorations (the recent air race crash in Las Vegas involved a modified P-51). Kit after kit has been criticized as incorrect for a variety of reasons, so finding the right documentation has proven a challenge.
The Japanese publisher Dai Nippon Kaige has released a series of glossy soft cover books intended to help modelers of this and other iconic aircraft. They’re not cheap, but they are definitely worth looking at , especially if you’re only going to acquire a single reference work. The P-51 book was edited by Masatsugu Shiwaku, with text by himself and Shigeru Nohara, and English input from Scott T. Hard. The drawings are by Nohara.
The book comes in a square 10 ¼” (26cm) format with 81 pages of color and B&W photos, along with line drawings. Text is in both Japanese and English.
The contents are divided into 16 chapters:
Three surviving aircraft (Midwest Aviation Museum, USAF Museum, Planes of Fame Air Museum)
The major sections:
Landing gear & bays
Plus Paint schemes & markings
A photo album of period images
Line drawings of the aircraft
Variations of the P-51D/K
The three pages devoted to the surviving aircraft consulted are a nice overview, but little else. The nitty-gritty is the individual sections: the nine pages on the nose alone shows the “cuffs” on the Hamilton-Standard props (missing from the recent Tamiya kit), the coolant fill access hatch, the inside detail on the oil fill access hatch, etc. The engine only gets two pages, but it has been removed and mounted on a stand, allowing ample detailing or just admiring. Obviously the four pages of color photos of the cockpit interior will be a special interest to modelers, as will be the four pages on the main landing gear and bays (fear not, you tail wheel aficionados, the rear gets five pages of its own spotlight). All told, there are 42 pages of color close-ups of the plane’s details.
The ten pages of markings are probably mixed value to modelers, since most will either use a kit’s decals or purchase an after-market set. But I did find useful a breakdown of the various nose color schemes adopted by the many fighter wings (there were over 50), and section of eight actual planes and their markings was fascinating. These aircraft were flown by real heroes, and it always pleases me to see them remembered.
The nine pages of period photos are interesting, and aren’t the “same old” candidates I’ve seen many times before. But the main text isn’t translated; only the photo captions. There is a page on rear view mirror variants, which could prove tantalizing to customizers, and the section of line drawings will be of particular interest to accuracy buffs. It includes six pages of complete plans, plus detailing on things like the props & spinner.
I have no way of knowing why the book’s team did not consult other surviving Mustangs, including the one in the Air & Space Museum outside Washington (reportedly the basis for the recent Tamiya Mustang in 1/32nd scale), or the one in Switzerland’s Dübendorf Air Force Museum (Flieger Flab Museum), which modeler Jerry Rutman consulted for his resin upgrades.
This book is definitely the “one-stop shopping” solution for modelers who want to up their accuracy without investing in an entire library. The price is on the high side, especially for things like the “Walk Around” series, but this book seems to me to be the answer to most everyone’s needs.
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