Rear View Mirror for the P-51D By Erik Whipple

Okay Mustang maniacs,

Jim wanted me to create a feature for the Old Crow Modeler's Guide covering the technique I used in order to make a mirror and clear fairing for a 1/48 Scale "Old Crow" P-51D.  For years I had been under the impression that the pylon fairing I'd seen in photos was aluminum so I had been painting them that color.

So, while I was delivering a P-51D diorama to him, Col. Anderson casually mentioned that the fairings on those later mirrors were actually made of pylon-shaped clear perspex.  May have been no big deal to him, but all the way home I obsessed over how I was gonna replace that stupid mirror.  As I passed through Sacramento, gazing at the life size model of Yeager's Glamorous Glen III gracing the arch at "Aces" restaurant, I remembered that Squadron makes a product called "Clear Thermaform" for making your own heat-and-smash canopy parts.  Little did I know that I was on my way to a full-blown love-hate relationship with scratch building.

Close up shot of actual P-51D rear view mirror.

Once I'd finished the clear fairing, of course, I contacted Col. Anderson to arrange another visit under the auspices that it was absolutely critical that I correct his model.  I'm certain that there are a gazillion modelers out there, such as John Greiner or Franck Oudin, who could do a much better job than I, but here's how I made my fairing:

1. Materials needed:  

Squadron Products Clear Thermaform .010 Sheet, Styrene stock, stiff wire, a candle, hobby knife, tweezers, cyanoacrylate glue, candy wrapper with reflective silver inner foil (I chose AirHeads 'Blue Raspberry' because it is very thin)

2. Steps involved:  

A.  Make smash mold.  I used the front corner of a spare Spitfire "clipped" wingtip, sanded it until it had the shape and contour I was looking for and then glued a small rectangle of styrene on top to form a step, then filed the step to blend it onto the wider bottom piece.  You'll want to make the
features of you mold a little exaggerated to ensure that your Clear Thermaform adopts the right shape.

B.  Drill a small hole in the bottom of the smash mold and glue it to the end of a stiff wire rod.

C.  Unless you're an octopus, secure the smash mold on it's wire stalk to the edge of your hobby table using strips of masking tape.  You'll need both hands to hold the clear sheet.

D.  Heat a piece of the clear thermaform above a candle per manufacturer instructions.  As you slowly wave the clear sheet about 4 inches over the flame, in a few seconds you'll see a matte spot appear which will then turn very glossy and wet looking- it's ready.

E.  Move the molten part of the thermaform over your mold and with even pressure smash it on down- be aggressive, let it know you're in charge!  It's my favorite step, I made about 10 of them because I found it brought me the same simple sense of elation that kids get from their first can of Play-Do!

 F.  The Thermaform cools and sets in about 1 second.

G.  Use a sharp hobby knife to cut your new mirror fairing away from the wasted Thermaform.

H.  Make a flat rounded-off square mirror piece of a proper size to fit in the flat center section
at the top rear of the clear fairing.  Paint it in an aluminum color.

I.  Glue it to the nonreflective side of a scrap from your Air Heads candy wrapper, then trim off the excess with your hobby knife.  Use a small drop of CA glue to affix it within the fairing at about a 70-degree angle so that it faces the seat headrest.

J.  Place your new mirror on the sliding canopy so that it is centered and the point of the fairing rests at the outer edge of the aluminum canopy framing.

You're done!