Ask any aviation enthusiast what a P-51 Mustang is and you'll get an earful. Since there has been so much written about this plane I'll leave it up to you to go check out any one of the myriad of Mustang titles out there to bone up on your Mustang history.
This kit states that it's a P-51C, but what it could be called is a late razorback Mustang with the fin fillet. The presence of this fillet does not necessarily denote a P-51C, and the lack of it does not mean it's a P-51B, either. This kit is pretty much the same thing as the earlier P-51B kit, aside from the addition of the fin fillet. The way Academy did this is by providing separate rear fuselage sections. Unfortunately, they didn't include both sections (with and without fillet) in the kit, so you'll have to know ahead of time which P-51B/C you want to build.
As far as accuracy goes, the only thing I will say is that the finished kit looks like a Mustang to me. I've heard grumblings from some people commenting about "fatal shape flaws" in this kit, but like I said, once it's done it looks like a P-51B (or P-51C, depending).
Now on to the meat of the kit. Starting with the interior you get a fairly decent cockpit setup, with a two-piece seat, control stick and instrument panel fitting onto a rather large cockpit floor that extends back behind the seat. This all fits between the fuselage halves, where sidewall detailing molded on finishes out the interior. Out of the box it will look quite well, especially after some careful painting.
The two fuselage halves have the tail removed, as I had mentioned. The separate tail section is also split into right and left halves, and it would probably be best to glue each side together first, before joining the halves. The kit instructions reverse this, having you glue the forward section together and then try to mate up the rear section, but this method can result in a step at the joint if you're not careful.
The wing is molded in three pieces, with the lower half being one piece, complete with the proper dihedral. There are bomb racks molded onto the lower wing, and if you want to add the rocket tubes you'll have to hollow out the locator holes. Speaking of underwing stores, in addition to those rocket tubes the kit includes two styles of drop tanks and a pair of bombs, so you'll have plenty of variety to choose from. Other alternate parts include two styles of exhaust stubs and a straight and blown canopy.
The decals look to be very well done and are in excellent register. They appear to be fairly thin as well. You get a total of three P-51s on the sheet. Interestingly, while two of them have the fin fillet, the third does not (at least according to the drawings in the instructions), yet there is no mentioning of that fact in the assembly instructions.
The first two choices are both US birds, one from Italy and one from China. The Italy-based P-51 is a P-51B-15-NA, 42-106750, of the 5th FS, 52nd FG, 15th AF. It's finished in natural metal overall, with a yellow tail and a red nose. Add in the olive drab anti-glare panel and you've got a very colorful Mustang. The second US bird is the boxtop example, also a colorful one. It's a P-51C-10-NT, 42-103896, of the 530th FS, 311th FG, out of China. Again, natural metal overall, with a yellow tail and black stripes.
The third choice is your only option for a camouflaged bird out of the box, and it's a P-51C-11-NT (s/n 44-11073) of the Chinese Air Force. It's this one that is depicted as having no fin fillet. Camouflage is the standard olive drab over neutral gray, with the Chinese roundel in all six positions.
While it seems that everyone has a Mustang in their catalog, the Academy P-51B and P-51C kits are definitely near the top in terms of quality and accuracy. If you're looking to add a Mustang to your shelf, you can't go wrong with these kits. With the high quality of the parts you'll likely have a fast build and a decent-looking model when you're done.
My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!