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RCAF Mustang, from 1/24 scale to 1:1 ...sometimes it pays to be a nerd


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I've spent almost fifty years researching and collecting documents, manuals, interviews, and photos dealing with the Mustang, narrowly focusing on its service with Commonwealth and Polish Air Forces, but most particularly with the RCAF post-war. One thing you discover is that there is always something new to learn, from others (thanks WilliamJ, and Barney) and from your own accidental discoveries.

 

Back in 2019 I was invited to join a small team which was researching and designing the markings for a new Mustang restoration that was coming to completion. The team was led by Al Mickeloff, who is the marketing manager for the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario. He has also headed the teams which researched and applied the markings on a number of their aircraft, the latest being their Avenger. 

 

The new owner of the Mustang (44-72059) wanted her painted in a 424 "City of Hamilton" Squadron scheme. Since the aircraft had not ever served with the RCAF (many current warbirds carry schemes they never wore in service) we were free to choose a scheme for him. It was restored in Florida by Glenn Wegmann, and is housed there for now. 

 

The whole process was fascinating and a tremendous amount of work, cross-checking and confirming. We used several dozen photographs, some never seen before, including original colour photos of the aircraft we chose to represent. As well, there were official RCAF markings blueprints, official orders and engineering manuals that I owned. My job was pretty easy and fun, I provided the research material and placement information, and helped the designers ensure what they drew up was accurate. They have spent hundreds of man-hours designing and producing the vinyl decals for the major markings, and stencils for painting the factory instructions and airframe stencils. 

 

It first flew back in September 2020, and has flown with full markings late last year (apart from stencils which we are finishing now). The owner is down in Florida building hours and training hard on formation flying. I thought some of you might be interested in what it takes to do up a paint scheme for a warbird restoration. Not all are done the same way of course, and this is not the authentic historical process used in the case of "Happy Jack's Go-Buggy" or "Sierra Sue", but we know the colours and markings are accurate. 

 

And one thing I did learn was that the markings on my 1/24 Airfix version are not all completely accurate...

 

Richard

 

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Edited by R Palimaka
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Back in January 2019 the owner flew us down from Canada to the restoration facility in Florida to measure and confirm placement on the real aircraft. We spent the weeks prior putting together the main markings, and the printing company produced paper copies at full size to fit on the airframe. Sometimes, when you work from drawings and photos, the markings don't always translate from computer screen to the real thing. It was an amazing experience, crawling with a purpose all over my favourite aircraft.

 

Our ride down:

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Measuring and placing markings:

 

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Hero shot :-)

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Edited by R Palimaka
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Once the restoration was completed, the aircraft underwent flight tests awaiting certification. When all the legalities were dealt with, she went off to the paint shop not far away to have the American markings stripped off, and RCAF colours applied. When it returned to the restoration facility, it was polished to a beautiful mirror finish. Although not entirely historical, she is spectacular. 

 

The blank canvas:

 

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Because of COVID, we were not able to travel to Florida to apply the decals and markings ourselves, but there was an experienced company that was able to do the work for us. 

 

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Edited by R Palimaka
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  • R Palimaka changed the title to A Mustang, from 1/24 scale to 1:1 ...sometimes it pays to be a nerd

Awesome... Thanks for sharing Richard... Also a cool thing is that it closely resembles the first Mustang that CWH co-founder Dennis Bradley had (C-FBAU) which was lost in a fire after a engine failure and emergency landing - both pilot and passanger got out ok...

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4 hours ago, mkd1966 said:

Awesome... Thanks for sharing Richard... Also a cool thing is that it closely resembles the first Mustang that CWH co-founder Dennis Bradley had (C-FBAU) which was lost in a fire after a engine failure and emergency landing - both pilot and passanger got out ok...

 

Oh yes, that Mustang was always my favourite restoration until now! The Canadian markings just suited her, although now we know they weren't completely accurate. I was heartbroken when I heard of its loss, on its way back from having the engine inspected and overhauled! It was the first Mustang I sat in, although I never got a flight, I wasn't very involved yet with the Museum. 

 

The owner of this one wanted it as accurately marked as possible, although there are some modern compromises with the polished metal and glossier paint. Interestingly, the real RCAF "9253" (44-74582) is still flying painted as a post-war USAF aircraft "FF-582, Crusader". It would be wonderful to see the two of them side-by-side perhaps at Oshkosh or another show.

 

We spent almost two years with stacks of official documents and photographs measuring and placing all the major markings, down to capturing all the stencils in the correct fonts. Some of them will be superfluous, such as the instructions for the rocket and bomb rack fittings, as the aircraft doesn't have them...yet. We now have full documentation and drawings for all the RCAF early stencils...they changed again after the major mid-life overhaul. It's all been good information for a couple of publishing projects I am working on. 

 

This actual airframe, 44-72059, had a colourful history; 364th FG, 8th AF with several missions from January 1945 to the end of the war, post-war to the Swedish Air Force, then sold to Nicaragua, back to the States, then served in Bolivia, only to return to the US in 1995. Since this aircraft never served with the RCAF, we were asked to chose something from 424 "City of Hamilton" Auxiliary Squadron. We wanted something from the timeframe when they wore the Tiger crest, the spiral spinner and the red search panels on the wings and tail. The deciding factor for this airframe was the number of excellent photos of BA@S that were available, including some in original colour. Also...I kinda liked the shape of the "S" in the code...it had an odd fat bottom.

 

Anyway, here are two of the dozens of photos we used for reference:

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Richard

 

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  • R Palimaka changed the title to RCAF Mustang, from 1/24 scale to 1:1 ...sometimes it pays to be a nerd

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