Eduard’s 1:48 scale Chattanooga Choo Choo Limited Edition contains one P-51D-5 kit on five injection molded polystyrene sprues containing 216 parts (about 70 parts are not used in this version of the kit). Seventeen clear parts come on one clear sprue. This Limited Edition set also has 63 photoetched metal detail parts included on one fret (most of them are pre-painted). There’s also a pre-cut self-adhesive masking set and one decal sheet. The full color instruction booklet organizes the build over 12 pages. Markings for six airplanes include:
- P-51D-5 44-13535, “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” flown by Lt. Edward F. Pogue, 79th FS, 20th FG, 8th AF, Kings Cliffe, United Kingdom, 1945
- P-51D-5 44-13984, “Meg,” flown by Lt. Clarence Boretsky, 334th FS, 4th FG, 8th AF, Debden, United Kingdom, Fall 1944
- P-51D-5 44-13298, “Marie,” flown by Capt. Freddie F. Ohr, 2nd FS, 52nd FG, 15th AF, Madna, Italy, Fall 1944
- P-51D-5 44-13783, “Rovin’ Rhoda,” flown by Lt. Irving Snedeker, 364th FS, 357th FG, 8th AF, Leiston, United Kingdom, April 1945
- P-51D-5 44-13677, “Miss Steve,” flown by Lt. William G. Cullerton, 357th FS, 355th FG, 8th AF, Steeple Morden, United Kingdom, 1944
- P-51D-5 44-13893, “Caroline,” flown by Lt. Thomas P. Smith, 370th FS, 359th FG, 8th AF, East Wretham, United Kingdom, 1945
Strengths: Over the last decade, Eduard has produced some truly superlative 1:48 scale injection-molded model kits, starting with their family of Spitfires, Bf 109s, Fw 190s, and now, their P-51D. Since the 1990s, Tamiya reigned with their excellent 1:48 scale P-51D, despite much newer releases by Meng and Airfix. While the Tamiya P-51D is still excellent, I think that Eduard can indeed claim “best 1:48 scale P-51D” with this kit.
As a self-admitted, life-long Mustang fan, I had been looking forward to this release for some time, but also a little worried that Eduard might make some of the same errors in detail committed by the recent Meng and Airfix kits (e.g., lots of rivets on the wings, thick panel lines). The first impression one gets from their very first look at these sprues involves the accurate surface details. While the P-51 had thousands of rivets on the tops of the wings, they were filled with putty during the manufacturing process and sanded smooth to help achieve an uninterrupted laminar flow over the wing surfaces. Eduard has nailed the relatively featureless wing surfaces. Furthermore, the rivet/fastener details on the fuselage and tail surfaces are as exquisite as they are sublime. Exterior surface detail is, in a word, exceptional. I also test fit the fuselage halves and wings. In a word, basic fit appears airtight. The only fit that seems not virtually seamless involves the upper wing roots. It looks just a little fiddly, but I suspect that when all the assemblies come together, the fit should be far more stable and precise.
Eduard’s P-51D has a number of building options, including an open or closed canopy, separate landing flaps, ailerons, rudders, elevators, and radiator exhaust, three different styles of canopies, single or dual rear-view mirrors, and shrouded or unshrouded exhaust stacks. Optional paper or metal-style external fuel tanks are also provided. Other building options found on the sprues aren’t used in this issue of the kit, including the uncuffed propeller, bombs, rockets, and a second, alternate tail fillet (used in later model P-51Ds). In this kit, the details of the D-5 look very well represented, including the early cockpit interior and exterior. I find it interesting that Eduard chose to do a non-standard P-51D-5 that featured the tail fillet. It’s a unique configuration.
The cockpit on its own is very impressive, with separate frames for the sidewalls, a multi-part seat, and excellent representations of the radio, battery, and fuel tank, down to the separate parts for the wiring and fuel line. The really impressive elements here are the photoetched parts which add a great deal of detail and visually interesting features to the cockpit, such as the pre-painted instrument dial faces, the gorgeous pre-painted harnesses (complete with simulated stitching details), various placards, and the photoetched throttles, trim wheel, and other parts. In sum, the cockpit is a real knockout.
The main gear well builds up from about 16 parts, and it is very rich with detail, from the textures of the parts and ribs to the fuel lines and pump details. All that’s missing are the smaller hydraulic and electrical lines, and the builder can add these relatively easily if they wish. There’s also a fully enclosed tail wheel well that looks excellent. Another nice feature is a single-piece gun port section on each wing. Unlike the Tamiya kit, for example, the gun barrels do not assemble out of upper and lower halves resulting in some tricky seam work. Eduard’s engineering approach here is excellent. Also note that on the interior of the wings, there’s a blanking plate on the inside of each wing so that shell ejection ports do not open up into the deep, hollow inside of the wing for all to see.
The masking set will save a lot of time with masking the wheel hubs and a few airframe access panels. The exhaust stacks are great, and even though they are injection-molded, the ends are nicely hollowed-out. Here, there’s no need for a cast resin replacement set. The clear parts look fantastic, and the windscreen has a great extended fairing around it so gluing, masking, and painting will be a very low-risk affair.
The markings options are awesome. Of course, Chattanooga Choo Choo was in honor of the 2019 IPMS/USA Nationals held in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The other five options in the box represent additionally colorful and eye-catching schemes. There’s a good chance you’ll have a hard time choosing one, but I think I’ll probably build the yellow-tailed “Marie” since she’s really striking. The decals (including one large sheet with a very comprehensive stencil set for the airframe, gear, wheels, prop blades, and drop tanks were printed by Cartograf, and they all look great. I can see no technical errors in printing. There’s also a very valuable painting guide that highlights where natural metal versus aluminum lacquer-painted surfaces are found on silver P-51s.
Weaknesses: I cannot offer any substantive critiques of this kit. One minor issue for some folks is that if PE parts aren’t your cup of tea, the detail on the pilot’s instrument panel is really minimal. The idea is to either use the PE parts or kit supplied instrument panel decals. Detail painters have little to work with. Note that if you want to position the ailerons, rudder, and elevators in anything but the neutral position, you’ll need to remove their mounting tabs. Also be really careful with the thin plastic strip that separates the left and right wheel wells on the lower wing half (Part B-15). It is pretty fragile, and in some kits, it is warped/bent inward because it is so fine. My sample is unaffected by this issue, but if that’s a problem in the kit you have, just note it will go back to its proper shape when the gear well assembly is fitted.