A lot of restored Mustang claim to be "factory" accurate but I've never seen one which truly is.
There are a lot of reasons for this, one as to do with the fact that all the parts in a restored P-51 are primed to prevent corrosion and static electricity.
This was not always the case during production in WWII where because of time constraint only some "sensitive" parts where protected.
Another reason has to do with availability of parts, for example Happy Jack's represents a P-51D-5NA but is built as a mix between a P-51D-20NA and a P-51D-25NA as are most of the restored P-51Ds.
It is much easier to find instruments for a D-25 than a D-5 (the earlier models were scrapped after the war).
It still is a gorgeous restoration.
I'm pretty sure no wheel wells were ever painted this way during production.
As far as I know the main spar came primed with ZC before installation but the rest was assembled bare before painting (the wells where painted once assembled), photos showing a ZC spar with a metal finish for the rest of the well (such as Ding Hao) just means that the well was unpainted.
The Green finish (IG) was mostly used post war, although it's safe to assume that some aircrafts may have been repainted that way in the field.
Here are comments Dana Bell made overtime on Hyperscale regarding this subject:
Mustang corrosion control...
Fri Oct 1, 2004 08:33
You've got several options here, but unpainted "natural" aluminum with a
yellow zinc chromate main spar is the most common for P-51Bs and Cs.
The early Allison-engined Mustangs used the standard prewar corrosion
control finishes for the wheel wells and struts: two coats of primer and one
coat of aluminized lacquer.
In 1942, before the Merlin-engined Mustangs entered production, North
American was granted permission to build Mustangs without interior primers
as a means of speeding production. The main wing spars were generally primed
with a single coat of yellow zinc chromate to protect the alloy spar itself,
to avoid dissimilar metal corrosion in the areas where the spar contacted
the inner faces of the aluminum skin, and to reduce static electricity
buildup on the aft face of the spar (where the main tanks were located).
There is a chance that some early Bs and Cs were delivered with unpainted
spars, but I've never found more than a slight possibility of that having
As part of the cost- and time-savings measures, all other non-cockpit
interior areas were left in unpainted aluminum finish. Since there were
several grades of aluminum present, this led to corrosion issues on the
Mustang, and at some point (I've not been able to pin down a date or place
in production) wheel wells began to appear in overall yellow zinc chromate.
I know for sure that this happened late in P-51D production. The problems
had certainly been identified during B and C production, and fixes were
ordered, I just can't find proof that these earlier models actually got the
If, for any reason, a second coat of primer was applied to the wheel well,
it would have been green zinc chromate (by that time, the same as Interior
Green). I haven't seen evidence of that during WWII, but it could have
As for aluminum lacquer with a yellow spar, that's the one option that
didn't happen and actually makes the least sense. The object was to save
money and time, so most corrosion control finishes were eliminated. If
aluminized lacquer WAS used, it would have been used to overspray the entire
well. (Leaving the main spar in yellow in a lacquered well was made more
difficult by wartime shortages of both Magic Mask and Parafilm.)
This may be splitting hairs on an OOOOO paint brush, but an aluminized
lacquer finish just doesn't look the same as an unpainted aluminum finish,
even in scale.
Hope something here helps and makes sense...
AM Mustang wells...
Fri Oct 1, 2004 09:11
I plan to use an aluminum lacquer effect in my Accurate Miniatures P-51A
wells - it's certainly the best documented option. The caution here is that
later Allison-engined Mustangs MAY have had unpainted wells with a yellow
zinc chromate spar - that documentation probably won't turn up until both of
us have completed our models!
Not so, sir...
Fri Oct 1, 2004 07:50
I'm afraid "current thinking" is wrong on this one - there is no evidence of
aluminum lacquered wheel wells with a yellow main spar, while there are
plenty of photos of overall yellow P-51 wells.
You've got to ask yourself how the manufacturer would have been able to
paint the well aluminum without getting any overspray on the spar, or why
anyone should even attempt such a thing.
Fri Oct 1, 2004 15:22
A good thought, but not backed by photos of the production line. The wheel
wells were not actually subassemblies - they were just spaces for the
wheels. The top of the well was the inside of the skin, as was the bottom.
The back was the spar - everything else was gear-related or a rib.
The spar was painted with yellow zinc chromate prior to construction of the
wing. Any other finish was applied during construction.
Fri Oct 1, 2004 09:03
Sorry to leave that post without details - I've added an explanation above.
You're right that the effect was the result of the production process. I was
distinguishing between unpainted aluminum and aluminum lacquer - two
different processes in manufacturing and two different effects in modeling.
Many modelers probably don't care - after all, we all have to paint the
plastic "silver" - but with the wide variety of aluminum finish paints now
available there'll be a lot of folks looking for the most accurate effect in
I seem to remember modeling as an easier hobby back in the days when
everything got brushed with a coat of Pactra Flat Aluminum - the paint had a
grain larger than a silver dollar, but I loved that stuff!
Anticorrosive colors and P-51s...
Tue Aug 27 10:19:29 2002
There are really three phases of wartime painting of Mustang wheel wells -
all related to corrosion control. At first, the metal surfaces were to be
painted with one coat of zinc chromate (yellow), one coat of tinted zinc
chromate (green), and one coat of aluminized lacquer. This finish appears to
have been limited to Allison-engined Mustangs.
Two things happened in 1942. First, a shortage of aluminum ended the use of
the aluminized lacquer and forced the reformulation of green zinc chromate.
(This led to the use of other colors for wheel wells and struts - for
example the Neutral Gray on Lightings and Bronze Green on some P-39s and
B-29s.) Second, the AAF allowed North American to produce AT-6s, B-25s, and
P-51s without primers to ease production. (Boeing got similar permission for
its B-17s.) This is what led to the unpainted wheel well noted below.
Throughout this period, the wing spar appears to have consistantly carried
zinc chromate (yellow) primer. (The primer reduced corrosion where the spar
contacted the aluminum sheet and reduced the buildup of static electricity -
an important issue with the fuel tanks mounted just aft of the spar.) This
combination, as noted below, was common on Bs and Cs, and most Ds and Ks.
By 1944, the AAF was receiving complaints about corrosion in a number of
aircraft, including the Mustang. Some unspecified action was required,
particularly to reduce dissimilar metal corrosion between structural members
and skin panels. Some manufacturers gave the structure a coat of yellow zinc
chromate before adding the skin. Some left the structure unprimed and gave
the inner surface of the skin a coat of yellow zinc chromate. It's not clear
how North American handled the problem, but there is one undated color shot
of a P-51D (or K) production line showing the entire wheel well primed in
This is just a general explanation - it won't help you know what color the
wheel wells would be on any particular aircraft. But you can make your own
informed decisions based on the date you suspect any particular aircraft
(and not just a Mustang) was manufactured.
Green Zinc Chromate...
Tue Aug 27 10:30:45 2002
Interior Green is the ANA color name for the zinc chromate green mixed from
black and zinc chromate yellow. Up until 1942, the zinc chromate green
formula also included aluminum paste or powder - this was dropped due to the
wartime aluminum shortage. For about a year, each company did some
experimentation trying to match zinc chromate green using different tints
(though the Navy also used a red tint). In 1943 the ANA colors came along,
and after that, Interior Green quickly became standard.