Modern Classics 1: Cripes a' Mighty 3rd


This is the first in a series of archived model build articles retrieved from the darkest reaches of the internet. This article was first published on Large Scale Planes web site 2004.


The first generation digital images are of poor visual quality and suffer from low pixel count and hence low resolution issues. The original images are no longer available and from memory were resized to fit the needs of a web site format which had limitations on image file size back in the day when bandwidth was a thing and super-fast fibre was something you got from eating breakfast cereal too quickly.


Also, the Hasegawa 1/32 Mustang was really the only game in town in 2004 and the sublime Tamiya and Zouki-Mura kits were still over the event horizon.


Thanks for revisiting.



George W. Preddy's NAA P-51D -5NA 44-13321


The reason behind building the Hasegawa Mustang was simple, it was a straightforward build, no fuss, no extras and a kit with few vices. In essence, something easy and non-Luftwaffe after almost two and a half years of modelling inactivity.


The attraction of this particular aircraft are based around its historical context and from the outset I intended to model a Mustang flown by Lt.Col Richard E Turner, CO of the 356th FS.

Years ago I read a tatty paperback which recounted Turner's air war over Europe and decided to one day model his Mustang, 'Short Fuse Sallee' in its first markings of blue noseband/spinner and white stars. Named for his girlfriend of the time, 'Short Fuse Sallee eventually became 'Short Fuse' after their relationship broke up.



Turner's later P-51D had a new nose art and sported a red spinner, but a lack of references and decals (in 2004) for Turner's early aircraft and a personal liking for blue nose mustangs, led me back to George Preddy and the Bodney based 'blue nosed b'stards'.


I decided that I recreate his P-51D as it appeared around the summer of 1944 rather than the more popular modelled final version.

I'd already started building the Hasegawa 'Stang when Rodney Williams' P-51B/D articles appeared on LSP.


His amazing craftsmanship made me realise that while I couldn't hope to achieve his level of modelling skill, the inspiration gained by just looking at his work meant that I should at least attempt some sort of extra detail if only to correct the obvious clunky deficiencies in the old Hasegawa kit.


So after some portrait sketching of Preddy to get my head into the game so to speak, I got down to making the Has-classic a little better.


Here's an account of the work done on the kit in as near as some sort of order as I can remember!



Cockpit


Scratch-built fuselage wall detail and framing, adding placards and rivet detail.

Altered kit rudder pedals and suspended them from rear of instrument panel.

Modified/scratched seat adding new armour plate and seat support.

Scratch-built rear fuselage area to include fuselage framing, radio rack and the main fuel cell with vent and filler inlet.


Modified windscreen coaming to corrected profile adding crash padding strip and scratch-built K-14 gyro sight. Added canopy rail detail.


Fuselage


Removed rivets/raised panel detail and re-scribed corrected panel lines.

Removed the kit tail fillet after a certain LSP staff member pointed out Preddy's early 'Stangs were fillet-less (my excuse is I was still building 'short fuse salee' in my head…) Removed the kit exhaust stubs drill out and inserted new ejector stubs from plastic tube stock (Chupa Chup lolly sticks were the ideal diameter for this!). The carb intake breather grilles were sanded away and replaced with sheet metal covers from a toothpaste tube.



Wings

Opened up gun fairings and inserted blast tubes. Opened up gun camera port.


Kit gear bay doors were thinned down and the struts re-profiled as much as possible to get closer to the original's shape.


Pics of -13321 show that it doesn't seem to have the retro-fitted metal flying surfaces which popular opinion (aren't 'experts' wonderful?) says all ETO Mustangs must have.

Although I was off the hook as far as fitting metal flying surfaces, the Hasegawa fabric still looks a bit heavy even after sanding back.


Extras included a Falcon vac canopy which received about five coats of Johnson's Kleer and some internal framing, and a set of Squadron resin wheels which need more work on them in the end than it would have took to build up the kit items - they turned out to have the wrong tread pattern for 13321. . .



True Colours (remember this was 2004, and paint has come a long way)


I used Alclad II white aluminium (ALC106) as the base aluminium tone, which was applied over a primer coat of Halford's Acrylic white auto primer. The primer is a matt base but as I didn't want a super shiny finish I chose to rub this down with 1200 grade wet and dry to give the primer a smooth-ish finish for the Alclad. Initially I used the grey primer, but the effect of the Alclad over this looked too dark to replicate the lighter slightly 'oxidised' un-shiny look of unprotected alloy panels.


Many sources state that Mustang wings were given a clear dope finish to protect the laminar flow properties. This maybe true in some cases but I don't subscribe to this theory and the finish would quickly become worn in service. Close examination of images of 'Cripes a Mighty' show up tonal differences in wing panels and the surface finish. If you bear in mind this aircraft was flown intensively during poor weather conditions, then the idea of a pristine 'aces mount' starts to seem less likely. (Recent data on laminar flow and the wing surface finish suggests my approach to replicating Preddy's a/c was mostly correct).


Anyway that's my reasoning for including quite a bit of wear and tear to hatch edges and around the Packard V1650's cowling panels. I sharpened a paintbrush handle and used this to burnish edges of panels and to chip away areas of painted over Alclad, paying attention to the .50 Cal hatches, reasoning that these were opened most frequently and were ideal candidates for losing the distempered invasion stripe paint.


The ident stripes applied for June 6th caused me a headache mainly because I couldn't get the Tamiya acrylic black to stick to the Alclad II. Eventually an old tin of Humbrol coal black acrylic did the job and it doesn't look too 'black' into the bargain! (I also used this on the thinned out prop blades).


This was a happy accident when I discovered that the stripes were almost certainly hand painted in the field, a fact supported by an image in the Osprey Aces book showing the misalignment of the upper and lower stripes on the starboard wing leading edge.


Before I started to apply the stripes and the blue nose, I used Tamiya smoke to post shade panel lines. I diluted it and added a little black and sprayed at low pressure just to pick up the engravings and areas of detail round the wing roots.


That blue. . .


Mike Grant's decal sheet recommended Testors French Blue or a Floquil USAAC Blue 23. I'm not sure about these colours in comparison to pictures of -13321 published in the Osprey Aircraft of the Aces Book.


It's difficult, if not downright impossible to determine exact colour from a monotone image, but what we can do is compare the tonal values against other known colours in the image to get an idea of the tone. The images on p74 and 75 of this book do give an idea of the lighter tone of the mid blue in comparison to published colour pictures of Bodney Mustangs in the Roger A. Freeman book 'The Mighty Eighth in Colour. From a photographic technical perspective, there is a lot of variables which can modify the colour we see in period images. Exposure is the obvious one and will darken blues quite markedly. Then there's the chemical processing temperature - critical for colour films of the day. If its colour positive (slide) film then colour exposure latitudes are incredibly narrow and can affect any colour in the image. The skill of the photographer is also a variable. So we can but make a close guess and chalk it down to personal opinion/preference and being happy with near enough.


So to get that mid blue value, I ended up mixing a Revell gloss blue enamel with an old tin of Humbrol French blue and added a touch of white to try and replicate the tonal value in the monochrome image shown below.


Despite it being a sunny day, there is no shine or reflectivity visible in the image opposite, so its a safe bet that the blue is a matt finish and fired on with a spray gun quickly (as someone didn't bother to mask the prop blade cuffs). I thinned it with cellulose thinners to get a quick drying and near matt sheen. For some reason, my first generation Sony digital camera didn't like blue and the real colour is actually a lot richer (2022 editorial - this is in the days before accurate white balance was controllable with a Kelvin setting in-camera). Post editing could probably have given a truer value for the blue.


As said, decals were ALPS printed by Mike Grant and superbly thin, so thin that the nose art decal of Preddy's favourite saying had me angst ridden with worry over applying the separate black outline decal over the red/white lettering. Mike's sheet has been reviewed on LSP before and needs no other endorsements as it comes with a detailed synopsis of Preddy's career and a historical breakdown of how his aircraft markings altered during late 1944.


Main national markings were from an old Superscale sheet. All of the above were applied with a few drops of Kleer brushed onto the surface of the kit to aid settle and adhesion. The Superscale decals in particular reacted well to this.


Last bits and pieces included brushing a tan dust wash into the tyre treads as Bodney was a grass field using PSP for hard standings. Also a wash of dilute Tamiya smoke for coolant/fuel stains around the radiator area and into moving panel lines and that's about it.


Apart from a few details such as drop tank sway braces, brake lines, a seat harness and the wheel well landing light which disappeared into the black hole of my hobby room, it's more or less finished. One item not missing is the canopy to fin antenna wire, which as pictures and Mike's decal instructions suggest, 352nd FG aircraft didn't use.


It's not a definitive Preddy Mustang by a long way (or any Mustang for that matter!) but then that wasn't my intention. I wanted a fair representation of a famous aircraft with a blue nose (I like blue) and a point of human interest to create a back story. I think I got this far and I'm happy that its good enough to take its place beside a full size Packard Merlin V1650-3 in my local museum.


'Old, and young, and gone. . .'


It's worth bearing in mind that being the best in your field doesn't come with any guarantees. Major George E. 'Ratsy' Preddy Jnr. was shot down and fatally wounded by friendly ground fire whilst chasing Fw 190s over the Ardennes forest South west of Liege, Belgium, Christmas day 1944. His Brother William also an 8th AF pilot was killed in action in April 1945. He was 25.



Post script: Dick Turner went on to fly Sabres in Korea before a back injury sent him home, if anyone has any info on his other North American mount, I'd be very interested.


References

  • P-51 Mustang D&S Vol. 51, Pt 2 B. Kinsey 1997

  • Mustang Aces of the Eighth Air Force, Osprey AOTA series No1 J.Scutts 1994

  • Mustang Aces of the Ninth and Fifteenth Air Force, Osprey AOTA series No7 J.Scutts 1995

  • British piston aero Engines, A.Lumsden Airlife Pub 1994 The Might Eighth in Colour R.Freeman Arms and Armour press 1991.

  • Websites including: reference articles from the following:

  • Large Scale Planes

  • Hyperscale

  • Aircraft Resource Centre

  • Kiwi Aircraft images

And all the people including Mark, Chris, Brad, and Mike at LSP for the help with the Preddy Mustang. I hope you're all well and enjoying life.


Kia kaha noho kaha!


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