Swappable metalic P51 Mustang based on FT Spitfire

by ultramicrobe | September 7, 2013 | (35) Posted in Projects

I recently posted instructions and build plans for a swappable Messerschmitt bf109, the bones of which were based on David’s Spitfire plans. The concept was to change everything about the shape EXCEPT where any two parts joined, the idea being you can use the Spitfire build instructions and end up with a plane that flies just as nicely but a little different, and which looks totally different. That worked really well, and the plans have been pretty popular (I hope to build as well as look at). 

So here I hope to extend this a little further, from swappable to super-swappable. The idea here is to make another popular WWII plane, but this time even re-using major parts. In this case, its the much-loved P51D Mustang. At first glance the Mustang is very distinctive because we focus on the bits that are different - the air scoop and the bubble canopy. But in fact much about its shape is similar to a Messerschmitt (evidently their silhouette was often mistaken during the war, and I even read an amusing story about a Mustang pilot flying in formation with some 109s by mistake for a few minutes). Anyway, that is all good news, because it means we can swap whole parts of the planes and make new planes, which I do here. 


I recently visited the RAF musem in London and have updated all my old posts with pictures of the real thing. Here are a couple pictures of their mustang. 


Below I outline the build, but not in so much detail because it is almost exactly the same as the Messerschmitt. The plans for Mustang-specific parts are attached as PDF files, and the parts that are identical to the Messerschmitt are not, just download them from my Messerschmitt post (Aug. 28, 2013). Actually making the Mustang was easy - I got carried away with the taping as you will see, which was about 80% of the work. This was because I wanted to see if I could make it look like a real one by using aluminum foil tape (“real” duct tape). The results are pretty interesting, but one could make the plane and spray paint it silver and save a lot of bother. 


Before you bother making one, here is how it flies. 


This video shows some low and slow passes from the first flight. The set up was the same as the Messerschmitt - and NTM 1350Kv motor and a 220mAh 3S battery and 35A ESC. The balance is a bit different, and it was a little tail heavy so I taped a coin under the battery compartment (probably because of the longer rudder) and that sorted it out. Once it was trimmed and balanced it flew like an arrow. It does not glide quite as well as the Messerschmitt (maybe due to the weight of the foil), but it was adequate to glide across my field and land, so still ranks as “good” I think. It performed loops and rolls as you would expect. The weather was poor for movies, so below I concentrated a bit on close ups to show the stability and how it looks in the air, but this is mostly at 1/4 throttle. When I gave it full throttle it zipped around wherever I pointed it. 


Below are some building instructions, similar to the Messerschmitt, and full scale plans are found at the end of the post. 


The Fuselage and Air Scoop:

The fuselage is pretty much the same as the Messerschmitt, except I altered the nose a bit (not enough to bother re-drawing the plans, just smooth out the lines on the bottom forward of the wing). I considered making the scoop an integral part of the fuselage. This would be cleaner, but also would have meant changing the plans a lot (which I am trying to avoid) and two seams rather than one. So build the fuselage as normal, and then build the scoop separately and glue it on. The scoop is made of two identical side pieces, a small top piece at the very front (where the scoop is separated from the bottom of the fuselage), a former (or add more formers if you like - they are easy to make), and a tapered bottom piece. To get the bottom piece to follow the arc of the scoop, remove the paper from the inside to make it flexible. Glue the bottom to one side and let it set, then do glue the other side on. Last, put the top and formers in to make sure the scoop sides meet the fuselage sides roughly evenly. Make a slot where your former tab hits the fuselage, and glue the scoop into place (you can see where it fits by the angle in the top line of the side pieces, which corresponds to the angle on the bottom of the fuselage). 

I put aluminum foil tape tape on the fuselage, along with some stripes and a big red nose all the better to see it in the air.


The Wings: 

Above: Top of wing.

Above: Bottom of wing

The wing is identical to the Messerschmitt wing. I made the distinctive black and white stripes with tape, and covered the rest with aluminum foil tape. It puckers at the edges, which gives it a nice effect like rivets on sheets of aluminum. It also catches light and reflects well - since it is really made of aluminum, so it looks real. I gave it some red wing tips on the bottom. 


Attaching the Wing to the Fuselage:

 Once the wing is inserted, you could make it removable by cutting right though the scoop. I did not bother, but don’t see why this would be a problem. 


Turtle deck and Top Formers: 

 The turtle deck is a bit different from the Spitfire and Messerschmitt because the P51D had a bubble canopy and no elevated rear spine. I used the same overall layout of formers and some of the same actual formers, but to get the right effect for the canopy made one major modification. 


The rear-most former is similar to the other planes, but the large former normally behind the canopy is cut short and serves as a support for a flat cockpit piece (with black tape sitting on an angle in the photo). This piece and the first front former that it buts against will form the cockpit. 


The Messerschmitt had four front formers descending in size from the cockpit to the motor (from largest to smallest numbered 1, 2, 3, 4). The Mustang also has four, but they are 2, 2, 3, 4 (ie the first two after the cockpit are identical to one another). 


The forward turtle deck (black here) is similar to the Messerschmitt, with the angle cuts moved back to correspond to the position of the second former. The back turtledeck (silver) is very different because it will form the cockpit (kind of like the blender). 


 Put the rear turtledeck on first, glue it to the formers first (including the horizontal cockpit piece) and then tape the sides. Be REALLY careful to make sure it is centred so the arc of the deck matches the horizontal cockpit former. I left some space above the actual cockpit because I liked the look - you can trim this down a bit with a sharp blade after installing. Once this is done, install the front deck. It is installed as for the Messerschmitt, but line up the slits with the second former, and trim the front when you are done. 


Finishing Touches:

I tidied up the scoop with some foil around the edges and black paint inside. I also made a canopy out of some clamshell packaging (a half-sphere), but a drink bottle would also work. This plane needs a canopy more than the Spitfire or Messerschmitt because there is no elevated rear spine. The canopy is not too hard if you find the right piece of garbage to make it out of.


Build Plans:

Here are the plans for pieces that are different from the Spitfire/Messerschmitt. As with the Messerschmitt plans, dotted lines are the same as the Spitfire, so just use David’s plans and copy my changes on top.

I would love to see comments, especially if you build and fly it. Mine flies great, so let me know how you go with it (same goes for the Messerschmitt) - please post any comments.

Tail and Formers plans

Air Scoop plans

Turtle Deck plans


Flying Penguin RC on September 16, 2013
Nice job
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tramsgar on September 16, 2013
It looks awesome, you did a great job with the plans and the silver finishing! If I had (when I get) the time, I'd definitely build it! Thanks for sharing.
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Windburn on September 16, 2013
That looks amazing. Can't wait to build it. What did you end up using to make the canopy?

I love how well you used the original plans as a base for this plane (and the BF-109). I think that anyone who wants to make a P-51B/C could probably use the turtledeck formers from the Spitfire plans on this to give it a razorback look.
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ultramicrobe on September 16, 2013
A P52B would be even easier - a spitfire with a Messerschmitt wing really. I thought this one would look more distinctive. For a canopy I used a piece of clear plastic packaging (clamshell) that was a hemisphere. I just cut one end off it and hot glued it on, then made the front three panels from a flat piece of the same (basically a half-circle with two wedges cut out, then fold into place and put black tape on the seams).
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Windburn on September 16, 2013
It definitely is much more distinctive, and much more of an icon than the earlier variants. I haven't heard of the P-52B before, but your description sounds like the Mustang models prior to the D variant.

I will have to look around for some of that packaging (this might be the only time I will ever seek it out), that and the foil tape definitely make the plane.
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ultramicrobe on September 16, 2013
oops, meant P-51B (not P-52)
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mattplaneflyer on September 16, 2013
Wow! Awesome build!
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Nathan_116 on September 16, 2013
Now all I need to figure outside wether to build this p5- or flikens. I wish you would have given us more detail on the canopy like you did on he bf109
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LALooper on September 16, 2013
"The canopy is not too hard if you find the right piece of garbage to make it out of."
My favorite model airplane building advice ever.
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Carmatious on September 16, 2013
+1 on that! FliteTest should implement a "Like" feature, but more aircraft related.
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ultramicrobe on September 16, 2013
I will upload canopy plans since it seems like a popular idea. Check back in a couple days.
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Miracle Air on September 16, 2013
This bird is a LOOKER! Well done. I'd love to build your BF 109. I've always wanted one of these done up in Israeli Air Force colors. May have to do that.
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JasonEricAnderson on September 17, 2013
Awesome job. I love the look and color scheme. I was thinking about trying to get the metallic skin look by using some Super77 spray adhesive and covering the plane with emergency mylar blanket.
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Jghanson25 on September 17, 2013
AWESOME! great job with this plane! it looks amazing and flies just the same! have to say it would be nice to have all the plans right there handy under each plane that needs them. saves the hassle for those who may not want to go searching for bits and pieces of the plans from different articles. just saying, but awesome video and article man! great job!
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Flying Penguin RC on September 17, 2013
How much weight did the foil add?
I wanted to do the same with mine
but was worried about the added weight.
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ultramicrobe on September 17, 2013
Did not really add any weight that I notice. I am sure the scoop added more. The tape is probably 2X the weight as packing tape, but it adds up to not enough to matter. The thing still glides across a baseball field without trying too hard.
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LordVader on September 17, 2013
This is awesome. I built your 109 and love it. I'm sure this is going to be as good if not better. Keep it up, I love it. I will try to post pics.
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ultramicrobe on September 17, 2013
That is pretty cool to hear. Its nice to know someone actually built the 109, but even better to hear you like it! I love mine, though with the dreary winter weather coming on am flying the P51 more since it is more visible.
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sailorJohn on September 17, 2013
Great build I enjoy these articles more than any other.
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teteorp on September 18, 2013
Great job!!! It looks AWESOME!!!!
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Skipp2Maloo on September 18, 2013
That's about the best looking foam board plane i have seen! WOW
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LordVader on September 18, 2013
I am having trouble printing the plans at the right size. They are printing at 75% instead of 100%. I can't seem to figure out why, if you could help me out I would appreciate it. I would like to see a Japanese Zero next or your take on a F4U Cosair.
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completemadbastard on September 19, 2013
Hey, FT guys! As soon as you kit this, I'm buyin'!
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donnyb on September 23, 2013
That's awesome! And another use for aluminum duct tape!
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RCEM-Joey on September 23, 2013
Good job!
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heshandashu on October 9, 2013
good job!!!
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rcflyer729 on November 14, 2013
nice job
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calipso on November 26, 2013
What a beautiful warbird. Nice job on the build and the thread. I am inspired and build season (winter) has officially hit central Texas... what I 'lovingly' call 30/30 weather, mid 30's temps and 30mph+ winds. I wonder if there is anywhere to fly indoors around here??

I'm going to put this one on the build list, and will post pics and updates. Thanks Ultramicrobe for the post and all...
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ultramicrobe on February 16, 2014
For anyone that is interested, I have by accident determined that this plane makes a great screaming noise when you go into a high speed dive with 1/2 throttle (with my power set up anyway). It sounds very cool, and it seems to be the airframe since I crashed badly doing this and had to replace some of the other possible parts (e.g. prop). I would be curious, has anyone made this plane? If so can you make it scream in a dive?
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DukeNukem on May 26, 2014
Very nice , but the canopy is tooo far back looks like a german plane

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rcrob on June 22, 2014
WOW! Superb job! Can you please explain how to print the plans? on what size of sheet? Thanks.
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Hoangtugio on May 19, 2016

I can not download drawings

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Swappable metalic P51 Mustang based on FT Spitfire