Chris Clifford kindly invited me in 2016 to participate in an AMW ‘special’ focussed on aircraft of the USAAF and asked what I’d prefer to contribute.
US Army Air Force ‘Special’
With the 1/32 Tamiya P-51D ‘Pacific’ boxing calling to me from the loft it seemed a perfect opportunity to align it with a long time ‘bucket list’ wish to build a Mustang as my own small tribute to Captain Roscoe Brown and his wartime ride ‘Bunnie’ / ‘Miss Kentucky State’.
The kit sidewalls finished off with BarracudaCals cockpit decals.
As a side note, the P-51D on display at Hendon RAF Museum is, it seems, broadly accepted as a fine quality restoration of the marque and in its natural metal finish guise, also has wings coated in aluminium lacquer, akin to that used in wartime.
My enquiries into the factory process involved (after puttying the panel joints) one or two sprayed applications of DuPont Light Grey primer. This was then overcoated with an aluminium lacquer in the ratio of eight ounces of aluminium paste to a gallon of clear lacquer or varnish. It seems the aluminium in this mix reacted vigorously with oxygen and became aluminium oxide, a greyish material which accounts (in tandem with the grey primer beneath) for the Mustang wings at Hendon being overtly grey in tone, rather than the solid silver or aluminium normally used to portray this feature on models. Depending on whether the lacquer was new or aged, therefore gives modellers scope for a more silvery grey, evolving to the darker grey of the Hendon Mustang. The build seen here can be considered somewhere between the two.
Given the grey bias of the Hendon Mustang, a concoction of Tamiya XF-19 Sky Grey (one part), Tamiya X-32 Titanium Silver (three parts), Tamiya XF-2 Flat White (one part) and Tamiya X-22 Clear (two parts) were mixed and sprayed over the appropriate parts of the wing. This gave a tone commensurate with the Hendon paint, while leaving a gentle satin finish, that was later glossed with more X-22 to more closely match the museum Mustang.
I had some dialogue with Dana Bell over this before settling on the m/o above, who kindly advised the following – “Most of the Mustang’s aluminum skin was Alclad – an aluminum alloy coated with a thin layer of pure aluminum. The aluminum coating would fix any corrosion to the surface, preventing the oxygen from migrating into the alloy core. The wings, however, were puttied to reduce friction drag, and looked like heck unless given a finish coat. On camouflaged Mustangs, there was no problem. But on uncamouflaged Mustangs, the wings needed to be painted silver for appearances’ sake. I’m attaching a shot of one of the Tuskegee P-51Bs to show how well your model matches reality.”
The main gear doors awaiting finishing.
The Alclad II Aluminium was given a grubby patina by the simple expedient of two thin applications of Michael Harding Lamp Black oil paint – these superlative oils have hand ground pigments and are much recommended over more popular brands.
It occurred to me, during the early part of 2016, to see if Roscoe was on Facebook and it was soon apparent that he was. A personal message drew a rapid and kind response from him and he graciously consented to my sending him three copies of the ‘Special’ to his home in New York, so two could be signed and returned – one for editor Chris Clifford and the other for me. I received the two copies together with this copy of my covering letter endorsing the build.
It was a lovely surprise to find that Roscoe had actually signed each copy in two separate locations!
I was very touched by Roscoe’s overt kindness and sent him a couple of gifts by return (which he wasn’t expecting) and a while later there was a soft plunk on the door mat when this arrived.
The passage of time makes contact with veterans from WWII an increasingly rare opportunity but I’m happy beyond measure to have had the opportunity to correspond with one of my heroes and receive his generous approval for my personal tribute.
Best of all, I was upstairs one evening when the landline rang. I heard my wife coming up the stairs. “Doctor Roscoe Brown for you”. I was floored and we spoke for about ten minutes, during which he expressed his pleasure at the sight of “Bunnie” and the build article. It was an unforgettable conversation in which he said he always did his best to meet requests from those who approached him. He added that he’d been very ill over the winter and this made his kind attention to my correspondence all the more remarkable, as he must still have been somewhat debilitated.
Sadly, Roscoe died on July 2, 2016 just weeks after we spoke on the phone and has joined his Tuskegee comrades who passed before him. I wish Roscoe blue skies with the sun on his back. He was 94.