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LUCKY LEAKY II - The modelling journey

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This was my first group build and I enjoyed it immensely. The Mustang is certainly among the most deeply researched and most frequently reproduced airplanes of all times. There are so many well informed experts in this field that each model offers new insights.


Although there are a couple of very tempting new P-51D kits in 1/48 – and many of them adorn the gallery – I chose to contribute an early Merlin Mustang, unsurpassed in its beautifully streamlined form. It's my pleasure to introduce -


SX-M   LUCKY LEAKY II   42-103363   P-51C-5-NT

353rd FG  352nd FS,  1/Lt John E. Davenport,  F-157 Raydon,  January 1945


Once finished it will hopefully look as lucky as on this picture...



(All pictures public domain)


... and not as leaky as on this one!



LUCKY LEAKY II belly-landed on 2 May 1945 when pilot Lt. Leroy O. Pletz switched fuel tanks and the engine cut.




42-103363 started its career as 5Q-C in the 504th FS of the 339th FG. There, too, it was involved in an accident, on 21 November 1944 while being taxied by Lt. Lawrence J. Barrett. After repair it was handed down to the 352nd FS as they converted from Thunderbolts and was assigned to Lt. Davenport before it served its final days as squadron hack.


Chapter 1 - The Kit


My choice of LUCKY LEAKY II was not a spontaneous idea. As illustrated in this topic my collection of Eighth Air Force Mustangs includes 12 Fighter Groups at current. The 353rd is one of the two missing, and already many years ago I determined that LUCKY LEAKY II should be its representative.


Also many years ago I purchased the new Tamiya P-51B/C kit - my previous B-models were all based on the 1967 Monogram oldie - but since there is no dorsal fin extension on the Tamiya I was lucky to find the Loon Models resin fuselages, which are an exact copy of the Tamiya parts except for a separate rudder. All this had been in my stash for twenty years at least.




It is almost redundant to mention that there are loads of aftermarket items for the P-51. The majority are for the D-series but many of these come in handy for the earlier Mustang, too. Below I spread out what I've got already. Maybe more is needed as we go along. Being over-supplied is not for vain because any surplus will support the restoration of three earlier P-51Bs, built in the eighties, that I treat in parallel.




Of course there are also countless books and articles. Below are a few references that focus on the technical and modelling aspects. Not every publication is meaningful for the construction of this model, but they are all nice reading. Also a great many pictures of original and restored airframes can be found on the internet as well as discussions of all kind that deal with technical and painting detail. A few of the links are also referred below.















Now, I think, we're ready to start...


Chapter 2 - Inner workings


Before the GB began I had already evaluated a few interior components to decide between the parts to go into LUCKY LEAKY II and those for restoring my old Monogram models.


The Aires resin cockpit is an excellent improvement over the kit's molded-on detail and its incorrectly curved cockpit floor. Although the starboard console depicts the early B-model's switch boxes I neglected this lesser flaw. After sanding the area I fixed the new side walls, adapted the Tamiya rear cooling duct, added a home-made radiator with a mesh grille from the Part S48-011 PE set and scratch-built a tail wheel housing.




There is a very nice rear wheel compartment from Quickboost (48 113) but it didn't quite fit and therefore it upgraded one of my older P-51Bs. Most Mustangs had a canvas cover inside to protect the gear from dirt and then no detail was visible.


The pilot seat of the kit as well as the Aires one (picture above) portray the early Schick Johnson model that many sources attribute to the P-51B/C. This was apparently not the case in the 8th Air Force since every picture I found seemed to show the later Warren MacArthur seat of the D-series. So I ordered a doublet from Ultracast. Further accessories seemed necessary and the number of after-market items grew.




With the new seat available, the completed Aires cockpit was painted and a slightly modified oil cooler installed.




As mentioned, excess parts provide for the restoration of my earlier Mustangs. Just for fun I produced a different padding for the second Ultracast seat and for two former Monogram P-51D seats. I also finished the original Tamiya cockpit with a corrected floor and with PE and scratch parts. This assembly inserts perfectly into the disemboweled fuselage of my vintage 357th FG Mustang.




Chapter 3 - The fuselage


A last check if details are complete and firmly fixed before merging the fuselage halves.




Following is the assembled fuselage with notes that may be useful for fellow modellers.


The Tamiya kit impresses with an extraordinary fit of parts, and this compliment extends to the Loon Models replacement fuselage. I haven't enjoyed such an outstanding tooling quality for a long time. Not that I care much about fit, but in this case a tribute is deserved.


Chapter 4 - Colour & Markings


Since the parts of the Tamiya kit fit so well I decided to complete the fuselage first, with markings and all, before turning to the wings. This is actually my preferred approach because it keeps the wings out of the way while dealing with decals and panel lines. On the other hand you might destroy some of your previous work if filling and sanding becomes necessary later, but no such risk here.


So, I proceeded with the principal colours. The natural metal is Tamiya's TS-17 Gloss Aluminium from the rattle-can, some panels accentuated with brush-painted darker shades according to the original photo. No anti-glare OD yet as this needs to line up properly with the checkerboard.




À propos checkerboard; for the markings I have the choice between two decal sheets from my stock - Microscale 48-205 and AeroMaster 48-213, both long time out of production.




Although I like the yellow tone of 48-205 better it is completely useless because the circumference of the checkerboard should count 22 squares whereas 48-205 offers only 18. Fortunately AeroMaster did better, except for the length of the decal which extends to the very rear of the exhaust shroud instead of ending short of it (27 mm instead of 25.4 mm - the original squares are 6 in wide). I will need to cut each row minimally to gain 1.6 mm. In order to compensate for small errors I pre-coloured the nose.


Another challenge are the letters which have wrong proportions on both decal sheets, notably on 48-205 and the 'M' on 48-213. AeroMaster is again more accurate but their letters are still too wide.





Chapter 5 - Fuselage finished


After a long holiday shift with agonizing decal cutting and re-sizing I now declare the fuselage ready - save some small fragile accessories. A few stains applied like on the original plane but a very sparse panel line wash under Tamiya clear coat (X-35 for NMF and X-86 for coloured areas).


The decals behaved very well, sliding nicely on a thin water film. The nickname and call numbers showed no silvering which may also be owed to the glossy silver background.


Chapter 6 - Wingwalking


The Tamiya wing is not the highlight of the kit, I'm afraid. There are a few challenges to overcome.




  •  On the real plane the inner walls of the undercarriage bays are recessed making the wing panels overhang whilst on this kit (like on most older ones) the wing cuts off at the wall edge. After some deliberation I covered the step with a protruding strip of cardboard (see inset).
  •  I also enhanced the visible part of the gear housing with a few rods, pipes and fake holes.
  •  Tamiya modelled the rivets with mixed success - nice work on the raised ones but the sunk rivets on ailerons, gun panels and flaps are too large and too widely spaced.
  •  As per NAA factory finish I treated the forward panel lines with Mr. Surfacer.
  •  A landing light was installed behind the transparency; the latter was a fraction too small to fit well.
  •  The pitot tube is too far outboard for the early Mustang by appr. ½ in, which became only apparent when I placed the star-and-bars.
  •  Holes were drilled into the gun muzzles. The gun position is also slightly off towards outboard. This affects the location of the wing pylons. I compromised a little bit as there is not much you can do.
  •  For pylons I installed the P-51D early version which I cut from a cannibalised Otaki wing. LUCKY LEAKY II was obviously upgraded with many late-war gadgets such as fin fillet, tail warning radar, K-14 gunsight - so I reckoned that the pylons would have been replaced, too. Sway braces will be added later


To round off the hassle with the wing some granulation appeared on the kit's super slick plastic surface when I applied aluminium from the rattle-can, which - thank goodness! - hadn't happened on the resin fuselage. Bypassing a basic priming hasn't paid off! It took several rounds of colour and wet sanding to turn it into a typical attrited wing surface.




The flaps will be displayed in the lowered position. As this draws attention to these parts I'm replacing them with the superb A.M.U.R. Reaver flaps for the Meng P-51D. With a few adjustments they will fit the recesses in the wing squarely. The rivet detail of this aftermarket product is excellent!




Chapter 7 - It's an airplane!


Wing, tailplane and landing flaps have joined the fuselage. To blend the wing and fuselage properly some sanding at the front and rear seams and some filling at the wing roots was necessary.




LUCKY LEAKY II displays a no-step warning bracket on either landing flap. I never figured out why some Mustangs had them on both wings whilst most seem to have had only one on the port flap - a repair depot practice perhaps?




While work on chapter 7 was underway I moved on to the usual peripherals.


Chapter 8 - Fun with the small parts


My propeller combines the kit's two-piece spinner with blades from Eduard 648-347. Their spinner was a fraction too narrow and has ugly sprue pins right on the face (how thoughtful of Eduard...!). I used the technique described here to paint the multi-coloured spinner.


The main landing gear is the Tamiya original enhanced with break lines and with scissors from a PE set. I tested the Scale Aircraft Conversions 48142 white-metal legs, which look exactly the same, but the wing connection is less steady. I will use the SAC tail wheel, however, because one of my restoration projects is better off with the Tamiya part.


The tyres are Eduard Brassin products (cutting out the wheel holes is a bit tricky), and the Malcolm hood was included in the Falcon set 54 (vacuform canopies have never disappointed me!).



(Table laid out for the final pasting orgy 😀)


A last wistful 360-degree survey of the open cockpit before the Malcolm hood will seal up all precious detail. Not to forget to vacuum the interior! (Why do those small static crumbs always appear after the cockpit is closed?)






Chapter 9 - And at last the very small parts


The model, complete with pitot tube and rear view mirror (Tamiya), sway braces (scratch), AN/APS-13 antenna (A.M.U.R. Reaver) and whip aerial (from my wife's hairbrush).






With all items attached it's time for the roll-out. Just a final walk-around for any small damages and LUCKY LEAKY II will take to the air.


Chapter 10 - Ready for take-off




Thank you for following my build. More pictures in the gallery here.




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Wait, the rear wheel doors are backwards?  So I guess I need to fix the one on my Tamiya build.


How much did you deepen the air grille holes?  Was just thinking about this on my Tamiya just this morning.  On the Tamiya I'd think it wouldn't take much and you'd be completely through.  Which the only time it would be a problem is if you look at the right angle you'd see completely through.  My fuselage is closed up so I can't do anything inside.


Also, great progress so far!

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17 hours ago, BlueNosers352nd said:

How much did you deepen the air grille holes? 

This is the Loon Models fuselage, and I think the resin material is a bit thicker than Tamiya plastic. I drilled by guessing depth, maybe .5 mm. I wouldn‘t be concerned about getting through, but then you need to do it for all holes. Btw, when you dip little drops of watery acryl glue into the holes with a pencil brush they close again and nice indented covers remain.

Good luck!

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10 minutes ago, Toryu said:

complete the fuselage first, with markings and all, before turning to the wings.

That'd be disaster in my book...:nah:

11 minutes ago, Toryu said:

I will need to cut each row minimally to gain 1.6 mm.

Better you than me...those squares will then become rectangles :coolio:



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14 minutes ago, Courageous said:

Better you than me...those squares will then become rectangles

They will then be what they are on the original - see photo at the top of topic 😉

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Your fuselage looks very well done,nicley detailed toryu

Have you mated the tamiya wings to the fuselage  yet, as stuart mentioned it'd be asking for a catastrophe if it were me too

Smashing thread so far though

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@Hewy  Many thanks Glynn.  I dry-fitted the taped wing and it looks good. A lot of dihedral, though, but I think I won't interfere with that or else the gap between fuselage and wing gets too wide.

I admit that completing the fuselage before adding the wings is a bit risky but actually my usual approach. So I've got a lot of practice with mating the two w/o accident. I guess I'm an unconventional modeller. 😀

Cheers and have a wonderful party tomorrow night, Michael

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4 hours ago, Toryu said:

I must say that I'm very annoyed when decal companies, despite photo evidence, fail so obviously in return of the good money we're paying for their products.

To be fair the Microscale sheet is most likely from the 80’s or very early 90’s and may have preceded the actual photo ? More than not they probably worked from a profile like most did back then. Photo’s have become more available since the Internet’s birth, and veterans die off. ☹️. I believe there families find older photo’s and either post them online for family and friends to see, or donate them to museums. Sadly i have to wonder just how many great photo’s have gone to landfills because the families didn't know what they had. Or care enough to share them. By the way Microscale became Super-Scale in the early 90’s, and are still known as that today. Though now they mostly do railroad decals.  

Edited by Corsairfoxfouruncle
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17 hours ago, Corsairfoxfouruncle said:

To be fair the Microscale sheet is most likely from the 80’s or very early 90’s and may have preceded the actual photo

You're quite right Dennis. Microscale did a great job in the early years to provide us with aftermarket decals when nobody else was around. I still have a few markings left from their very first release, the Microscale 48-1 - bought around 1976 - which very fittingly featured the P-51. It's disappointing, though, that many of the more recent profiles (and decal sheets) still don't look close enough at the available photo evidence.

Have a great New Year party tonight!


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On 30/12/2019 at 15:09, Toryu said:

 AeroMaster is again more accurate but their letters are still too wide. I must say that I'm very annoyed when decal companies, despite photo evidence, fail so obviously in return of the good money we're paying for their products.

Hi Michael, Your P-51 is looking very good, concerning the AeroMaster sheet, I built the first option QP-B from this sheet and the decals silvered really bad no matter what I tried.   In the Valiant Early Mustang book, when building a 1/48 P-51C he had the same problem with some AeroMaster decals from this period, you might be lucky, but I thought I should let you know of the possible problem. 😉

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@Retired Bob   Many thanks for the heads-up Bob. I've already started applying them and had no issue so far because I cut them very close to adjust the squares and the letters. I will need to watch out when I come to the inscription. Btw, QP-B is on my list for one of the restorations. Thanks again and have a great evening!

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Very impressive indeed.

I like the finish on the fuselage. I have a can of Tamiya TS-17 so I might try it out on my paint mule as a possibility for my F-51.

Looking forward to seeing what you do with the wings.



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