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The Mustang - Saga ...

built by Jürgen "Jerry" Lehrach (1:48)

The Mustang - Saga ...
The P-51 was without a doubt one of the most if not the most well known aircraft of the W II era. The aircraft was popular with the pilots who appreciated the excellent flying characteristics paired with a powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and the very effective defensive armament. The bomber crews were grateful because "the little friends" could accompany them with auxiliary tanks to the target deep into the Reich.

Less popular were the circular condensation trails the Mustangs left over the Reich with their counterparts in the Luftwaffe who had to deal with their ever increasing numbers. Goering was supposed to have remarked when he saw the silver fighters over the capital: "When I saw the Mustangs over Berlin, I knew that the war was lost." The development of this aircraft began in 1940 and ended with specially designed racing aircraft during the early eighties. Worldwide more than 15000 were built and the aircraft enjoyed a successful operational career. The success story begins in October of 1940 with the development of the prototype: NA-73X. In only 100 days the aircraft with the Allison engine was developed by North American Aviation in Inglewood, CA. The British Purchasing Commission had initially ordered the P-40 to help defend the island from the German onslaught since their own production of fighters was felt inadequate.

Production lines for the P-40 were increased and North American Aviation was asked to have their production lines ready within 4months to produce the P-40. J.H. "Dutch" Kindelberger the president of NAA suggested to the British that he would have a new fighter for them within that time frame that would better meet their needs. On October 24th 1941 the first of 320 Mustang's Mk.I rolled on an English tarmac in Liverpool. Initially intended as a high speed reconnaissance aircraft it soon appeared as a formidable opponent over the European continent. This was due to its incredible range and flying characteristics. The U.S Army Air Corps at first biased against the aircraft and now convinced of its potential ordered 1000 aircraft in a variety of versions. Amongst them were the ground attack version (A-36, Apache) or as a fighter with 4 cannons or six machine guns (P-51 or P-51 A).
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The British nickname "Mustang" eventually replaced the American "Apache". During early 1943 the Mustangs fought over Sicily and southern Italy while the British tested the airframe with a Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 engine. This helped the Mustang to be successful at high altitudes, increased the airspeed and performance and made them superior to the standard German fighters. The engine was fitted by Packard (and license built) as the V-1650-3 and resulted in the P-51 B (British designation Mustang Mark III with the Malcolm hood). She now sported a four bladed propeller, four machine guns in the wings and a carburetor air scoop. The ultimate Mustang was born. It was just in time because the bomber losses of the 8th Air Force over Europe were high due to the lack of escorts for the whole mission. In order to continue the strategy of precision daylight bombing, an escort fighter was needed that could fly with the bombers to the target and back.

The Mustang - Saga ... (1:48)

  Models built by Jürgen Lehrach, photos taken by Wolfram Bradac  
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During early 1944 the P-51B appeared over the skies of Europe and achieved very good results over the Luftwaffe Fighter force. On March 6th 1944 for instance, 41 Luftwaffe fighters were shot down on a mission over Berlin with a loss of only 5 Mustangs. Within a year, air supremacy over Europe was achieved in this manner. While the battle for Normandy was raging the P-51's started to fly without camouflage in their pure natural aluminum finish. There were also some modifications added at this time. The rear fuselage was straightened and a bubble top canopy was added which gave the pilot a clear 360 degree view. Furthermore the P-51D received a back fin to help stabilize the aircraft and an additional machine gun in each wing.

Many US fighter groups in the European Theater were now equipped with the Mustang. In the Pacific Theater the Mustang also played an important role by escorting the B-29 Units based in Iwo Jima who methodically destroyed everything on the Japanese mainland. After the war the Mustang become a hot export item. It is easier to list the countries that did not have a Mustang squadron in their air force than those that did. Decades after WW II, Mustang's played a role in small conflicts around the globe. In Korea, Mustangs played an important part in the ground support role as a night fighter and as the F-82 or twin Mustang. (Two fuselages were connected similar to the P-38 configuration) In the states the military career of the Mustang ended in 1957 with the H model. Further developments by Cavallier and Piper for the US Air Force did not end until the early eighties, but never were produced in series.

The Mustang saga continues. To this day young and old are fascinated by this racy aircraft at air shows around the world. The aesthetic design and the roar of the Merlin's still thrill many. Many air races still feature them because of their speed.
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The Models:

The P-51 family by Tamiya is still one of their best offerings. The P-51B and D are available in 1/48 scale. The D is available in 1/72 scale. The fit is up to usual Tamiya standards and the details are sufficient for this scale. One can kit bash with the also excellent Hasegawa or Academy kits (they also have the P-51A as well as the A-36 available) to correct some of the minor flaws of the Tamiya kits. The aftermarket accessories available for the Mustang can truly satisfy any detail maniac. There also is an abundance of references both text and pictorial available. I just want to mention Aires and Ultracast as two firms that provide the best support to build an accurate Mustang replica. Squadron Signal publications are a must for every Mustang modeler.

Conclusion: Great kits are available (of both the B and D versions) that are easily put together even by beginners. Very little filling and sanding are necessary. There are many accessories on the market and the painting and marking possibilities for aircraft from around the world are endless. What more do you need? (Maybe a new 1/32 scale Mustang from Tamigawa??).
  meet the modeler      

Jürgen "Jerry" LEHRACH

  Hello, my name is Jürgen Lehrach. I was born in 1977 in St. Pölten and very early was interested in everything with wings. I started building models when I was still in school and rediscovered it two years ago.I had the urge to express my love for warbirds three dimensionally. Certainly, my techniques have changed. Today's model builder has a lot of help from accessories manufacturers and the improved quality of the models to create a replica that is fairly close to the original. A little talent and love for detail are also helpful. Historical interest and research round out the picture.

The results can be astonishing. My special interest is the American Air Force in Europe during the Second World War. I work for the largest telecommunications company in Austria in the logistics department. Aside from my affinity for plastics, I love to read. Despite my lack of spare time, I do occasionally get involved in strategy games and travel to airshows in other countries with my girl friend. I also find time to hang out with my friends.
  Jürgen "Jerry" Lehrach  
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This page:  GALLERY: The Mustang-Saga (1:48) - built by Jürgen Lehrach
was last modified on: Feb 14, 2006
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