Point of no return
Convert Tamiya’s 1/48 scale F-51 to a Salvadoran Cavalier Mustang MARCO ANTONIO LAVAGNINO
On July 17, 1969, two Salvadoran air force Cavalier Mustang IIs flew through a blue sky with scattered clouds and the beautiful Pacific Ocean coast below. If it was not for the dense smoke columns ahead, clearly signaling the fourth day of combat during the 100 Hour War, sometimes known as the Soccer War, between El Salvador and Honduras, Capt. Douglas Varela and his wingman could be flying for joy on a weekend.
Entering Honduran airspace in their bomb-laden aircraft, Capt. Varela and wingman begin looking for ground targets. Instead they spot a lone Honduran Corsair and jump on it. Focused on their target, they don’t notice two other Honduran F4U-5NLs coming in fast until too late.
Hit multiple times by 20mm cannon rounds from one of the
Corsairs, the engine in Capt. Varela’s Mustang caught fire. He did not survive bailing out as his fighter became the last Mustang shot down in combat.
The Cavalier Mustang II started life as a private executive development of surplus Mustangs. Some were adapted for closesupport and counter-insurgency operation with updated avionics, a 14-inch vertical tail extension, a reinforced wing spar with additional bomb racks, and wingtip fuel tanks. El Salvador deployed five of these aircraft during the 100 Hour War.
To build Capt. Varela’s plane, I converted Tamiya’s 1/48 scale Korean War F-51D Mustang (No. 61044) which had the correct propeller. To pump up the detail, I also used a P-51D photo-etched metal (PE) set from Eduard (No. 48200) and Squadron’s vacuumformed “Dallas” canopy (No. 9579).
First, I sawed off the auxiliary fuel tank and covered the resulting void with styrene sheet as a floor for the rear cockpit. I omitted the rear armor plate for the pilot’s seat and sealed its locator in the floor with putty, 1.
To form the rear seat, I grabbed one from an old Monogram Mustang; both seats were detailed with .75mm copper wire frames and PE seat belts, 2.
To match the Cavalier Mustangs, I scratchbuilt a new console control panel to the right of the pilot’s seat and replaced the throttle control with a more-modern bulky lever. Some side equipment was simulated for the rear cockpit, but I couldn’t find detailed references for the area.
To represent Capt. Varela at the controls, I modified the pilot
from Monogram’s F9F Panther to represent equipment used by Salvadoran pilots in 1969. To form the P-4 helmet, I reshaped the figure’s helmet with a rotary tool, sanding, and putty, then added goggles made from putty and foil.
I repositioned the limbs to fit the P-51 cockpit and reshaped them with putty. After painting the figure with enamel base coats and artist-oil shading, I glued it in place and added foil belts that blended into the harness and connected to rear of the seat, 3.
Then, I closed the fuselage round the cockpit.
Before painting, I attached L-shaped directional antennas cut from sheet styrene on either side if the tail,
I was really disappointed with the separate flaps. I had read that they had problems but didn’t imagine that they would require so much work to realistically pose them extended. I glued styrene strips to the front of each flap until a flat continuous surface was