Building the P-51 Mustang

Published: October 16th, 2010     
P-51 Book Cover
P-51 Book Cover
Author: Michael O'Leary
Reviewed by: Mike Kellner - IPMS# 30864
Company: Specialty Press
ISBN #: 978-1-58007-152-9
Price: $399.95
Product / Stock #: SP152

The book is hardbound, measures 11-1/4 by 8-3/4 inches tall, and comprises 239 pages, divided into 6 chapters, as follows:

  • Chapter 1 - Creating a Prototype: This look-back into the Mustang's genesis describes how the British wanted North American to build more P-40s, but N.A. balked, saying they could build a faster, more maneuverable fighter instead. The British agreed, but made it contractually mandatory for N.A. to buy the engineering of the XP-46A from Curtiss. This chapter also covers the cost of the NA-73X prototype and the early production run.
  • Chapter 2 - The Allison Mustang: The second chapter covers wind tunnel tests and the gearing up of production, which the author attributes to James "Dutch" Kindelberger, the president of North American. It also describes the Army Air Corps' initial disinterest in the Mustang, until the British expressed satisfaction with it.
  • Chapter 3 - Building the Allison Mustangs: This chapter contains detailed descriptions of how the aircraft was constructed---and was right on for the real (not model) P-51 flaps that I'm restoring in my shop. This chapter also covers the A-36.
  • Chapter 4 - The Merlin Mustang - A Match That Made History. This chapter covers the story of how putting the Merlin powerplant in the Mustang came about, plus flight test and trials on spinning the aircraft, mounting bazookas, rocket assist, plus photo-recon and training versions. It also compares the P-51 to the other fighters of the day. You'll also find the P-51C variant included in this section.
  • Chapter 5 - The Light Weights. Covers the XP-51F and XP-51G, two variants where North American exercised a major weight reduction program to the baseline aircraft, with the aim of higher performance.
  • Chapter 6 - Last Of The Pony Soldiers. The book's final chapter covers the P-51H---the last of the line; it includes cutaways and exploded views.

The book's appendix covers serial numbers, contracts, variant charts, and specifications.

Modestly speaking, I thought I knew a lot about the P-51 until I read this book. It has many great photos of them being built in the factory, showing all the internal structure and components, making the book an excellent reference source for modelers. There are also many pictures of the early variants (my favorite versions) that I hadn't seen before. Photos of the Allison and the Merlin engines are plentiful, and should satisfy any detail-oriented modeler. My only objection to the book was that it never explained the reasoning behind the change in the wing root leading edge between the P-51B/Cs and Ds. Every P-51 modeler would be delighted with this book, if only for the pictures, but it's a good read as well.

Thank you to Specialty Press for the opportunity to review this book.

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