"Lil' Margaret" - North American P-51-D Mustang


JSC Models, scale 1:24 - Not currently available.

At the start of the Second World War, a British Purchasing Commission travelled to the United States to purchase aircraft. While initially interested in the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the Commission approached North American Aviation who, in April 1940, agreed a proposal to design and build a new fighter based on research data from Curtiss. The new aircraft, designated NA-73, made its maiden flight on 26th. October 1940 and was subsequently named Mustang. The first Mustang I for the RAF flew on 1st. May 1941 and deliveries began in October 1941. Apart from high altitude performance, the Mustang was judged by the RAF as outstanding in all respects, the first time this had happened to an American aircraft. At low latitude, the top speed of 390 mph was considerably greater than that of any other RAF fighter. By 1942, the USAAF had become aware of the aircraft's exceptional qualities and ordered large numbers, including the P-51 (four cannon), A-36A (dive-bomber) and F-6A (tactical reconnaissance). In the same year, the U.S. recommended installation of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and six experimental Mustangs were built. The results were successful and 1,199 P-51B and 1,750 P-51C aircraft were built using this powerplant. Nearly 900 of these were then supplied to the RAF as Mustang IIIs. Subsequent developments included the teardrop sliding canopy and extra dorsal fin and resulted in the P-51D, by far the most widespread version with total production of 7,956 machines. Although originally designed and employed as a fighter, the Mustang was also used with great success in ground attack, dive bombing and tactical reconnaissance roles. A total of 15,469 Mustangs were built and, after World War Two, served with air forces all over the world, seeing action in Korea and the Arab-Israel War in 1956.
The reconnaissance aircraft F-6D, number 44-84786, was one of a batch of 136 machines from the North American Aviation plant in Dallas, Texas, and began its service in June 1945. Nicknamed "Lil' Margaret", it remained in service until 1949 when it was sold. What then happened to it is not known, but in 1981, Mr. Henry "Butch" Schroeder obtained the airframe and set about rebuilding Lil' Margaret. He and his helpers started to restore and rebuild the aircraft, researching, seeking out the correct original aircraft parts. Particular attention was paid to the accuracy of the aircraft markings and the final result was fitted with all systems, including guns and ammunition, ready to use. Their 12 years of effort was rewarded with the completion of what is undoubtedly one of the finest restored aircraft in the world, going on to win the title of Grand Champion at the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual fly-in at Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1993.

The Model.

The model kit has been designed by JSC in co-operation with the owner Mr Schroeder and great pains have been taken to achieve a high degree of accuracy. The kit contains 408 separate pieces and the model may be built as in flight or with undercarriage down. In the latter case, the undercarriage is movable.
Construction begins with the cockpit shell and then progresses to the fuselage. Of interest here is the provision of slots in the formers to allow the insertion of a handle, with which to position the former securely in place, a technique also encountered in the JSC Sea Wraith. Having completed the rudder assembly, the modeller must then decide whether to build the model as flying or with the undercarriage. The latter is obviously the more complex, especially as the undercarriage, including the tail wheel may be assembled so as to be retractable. In view of the detail provided in the kit, it would seem a shame not to build the undercarriage although it is probably quite challenging.
Construction moves onto the wings. In a similar fashion to some of the JSC ship models, each wing has an internal box-beam structure which is attached to the fuselage by a card beam through the fuselage and which is then covered over with the printed outer skin. The guns must be fixed in position and, if it is decided to make the model with the undercarriage, you can also model the exposed ammunition trays in the wings, with the wing panels opened. If the model is to be of the flying version, the wing assemblies are glued to the fuselage and construction continues with the air-intakes. If the undercarriage is to be modelled, the undercarriage bays must be located in the wings. Again, there is an option to make the undercarriage fixed or, not I suspect for the faint hearted, to model it as retractable. To make the landing wheels, JSC have adopted a technique I have not come across before. Instead of carving the wheel shape from laminated disks, the kit is provided with a set of card strips of varying thickness. Each strip is formed into a ring and laid around the preceding strip. In this way, a semi-shaped wheel is made for the modeller to trim to shape.
Having completed the wings, the cockpit shell is now to be fitted out. If it is desired not to glaze the cockpit, the kit provides card canopy pieces, printed in blue, for this purpose. In view of the wealth of detail in the cockpit, however, it would be a pity to not to glaze. The five-bladed propellor is next built and a bearing made to allow the spinner to turn freely. Two long-range underwing fuel tanks are provided and the model is finished off with exhaust, landing lights, Pitot tube and rocket holders.
What I find remarkable about this kit is the quality of printing which is, in my opinion, quite outstanding. Not only are the markings reproduced to a high standard but over 100 inscriptions on the model. There is a full cockpit interior and it is even possible, with a magnifying glass, to read the writing on the dashboard. I found particularly fascinating the diagrams on the wing ammunition bays which show how the belts of ammunition for each gun are to be stowed. The kit also contains several thicknesses of card. While the internal parts are printed on a thickish plain card, the fuselage and wing silver skin parts are found on a somewhat thinner, coated card; ammunition bay details are to be found on the thin, coated paper of the kit cover and parts to be rolled into tubes such as gun barrels and exhaust pipes are printed on thin paper inside the kit.
Full English instructions are provided although the translation is sometimes a bit obscure. JSC suggest that to build the "flying" version with no undercarriage would take about 30 hours. To build the full version with retractable undercarriage, you should allow 60-70 hours but your labours should be rewarded with a fine model of this classic aircraft which is regarded by many as the best and most handsome piston-engined fighter.

Christopher Cooke.


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