Subject: Bell X-1

Scale: 1/32

Manufacturer: Revell

Kit No.: Kit 4656

Parts: 51 (1 transparency, 49 orange styrene, 1 clear tail prop)

Media: Injection molded styrene

Price: About US$7


Back when Chuck Yeager was in huge demand because of his entertaining and informative autobiography, Revell reissued four of its earlier 1/48 jet fighters - Phantom, F-15, F/A/18 and F-16 - in special Yeager commemorative boxes. Revell also put out a new 1/32 kit of the X-1 rocket plane in which Yeager first reached Mach 1 in controlled, level flight (as opposed to diving, out of control and structurally disintegrating flight encountered by Mustangs and Spitfires in WWII).

The X-1 can still be found at swap meets and some out-of-the-way stores. In fact, I'll go out\ on a limb and predict that some marketing type at Revellogram will figure out that 1997 is the 50th anniversary of Yeager's flight and a half-century commemorative will appear on the shelves. If not, you may leave derisive comments about my psychic ability at this web page next year.

It's simple in parts count, but includes a good level of detail. The orange plastic was obviously aimed at the younger model builder, however, and can be pretty irritating when it comes to painting. Panel lines are raised, except for a deep outline to the extreme rear fuselage cover for the four-chamber rocket engine. The wing to fuselage joint has a noticeable gap, and the cockpit tub assembly also has a gap between itself and the fuselage interior. These can be cured, though, with plastic strip and test fitting. A fairly nice six-piece Revell shell-type pilot is included, with the head encased in British-style WWII helmet, mask and goggles.

The engine, while not particularly visible when the fuselage is cemented, looks great when painted black and drybrushed with successive applications of Testors Model Master Anthracite Metallic, steel and lightly applied chrome silver. Landing gear is nice, with beefy scale-like two-piece mains and a single piece nose strut. The two-piece main wheels feature disc brake calipers and Goodyear emblems on the tires. The single-piece cockpit tub includes the floor, rear bulkhead and seat. Separate parts are provided for the port console frame, instrument panel, control stick, oxygen regulator and rudder pedal frame. While the instrument panel's back is open under the canopy as on the real X-1, the molded-in instrument can rears have no detail. Drill them and add some of the available aftermarket ignition wire as vacuum and electrical leads to the instruments. The control stick (or part-wheel) is well detailed, and the rudder pedal unit suffers from sink marks in the pedal centers. Despite appearances, there is little positive location for the instrument panel in the fuselage.

The best thing to do is, after any instrument detailing work is to super glue the panel in one half of the fuselage while both halves are dry-fitted together. This takes tweezers, a long thin applicator for the super glue, and a thin applicator to swap some super glue accelerator into the glue joint for a bit of insurance. This is also the only fiddly problem in the kit, but it has a certain perverse charm of its own. The instructions call for a medium or light gray interior. Eddie Chavez, in a 1992 issue of FineScale Modeler, scratchbuilt an X-1 for Yeager, and got the National Air and Space Museum crew to photograph the interior of the X-1 (it's still around and the Smithsonian's got it!). He did his X-1 model with a chromate green interior, and that was good enough for me. Wheel wells and door interiors should also be chromate green. Testors Model Master Interior green is good for this. The orange shade is actually a kind of deep reddish orange. The FS 12197 called for in the instructions is more of a deep reddish/orange brown. Mix your favorite gloss orange and red paints to match available photos other than the box top. FS 12199 is actually closer, although a bit redder than what I remember.

It's fun, it's different and it fits just about where a 1/48 jet kit would on your display shelf!

-Mike Still

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