Airmodel 1/72 XP-54 'Swoose'

KIT #: ?
REVIEWER: Brian Baker
NOTES: Resin with vac canopy


This was one of the unconventional designs that was considered by the Army Air Forces during 1941.  Originally known as the Vultee Model 70, it was powered by an experimental Pratt and Whitney X-1800-A4G radial engine buried behind the pilot and driving a four bladed propeller, although it was first intended to have contra-rotating propellers. When finally constructed, the prototype had been redesignated Vultee Model 84, while the Army called it the XP-54.

 One really unusual feature of the aircraft, aside from the twin boom layout, was the articulated nose section. This was installed to cope with the armament, which originally was to have been six .50 cal. Machine guns, but which eventually turned out to be two .50’s and two 37 mm cannons.  The low muzzle velocity of the cannons required the guns to be fired upwards so that the trajectory would conform somewhat to that of the .50 caliber machine guns.  The solution was to install an articulated nose section, which could be rotated upwards to increase the elevation of the guns. At the same time, the machine guns were depressed to allow both to hit the same target at the same time. Another interesting feature was the way the pilot entered the aircraft. Since the bottom of the airplane was six feet off the ground, a special hinged section of the cockpit could be dropped down, lowering the pilot’s seat along with it. The pilot then simply got into the seat, and rode it up into the cockpit.  In addition, it served, in effect, as a mechanical downward ejector seat, which would allow the pilot to leave the airplane without hitting the propeller mounted in the rear.

 Two prototypes were constructed, 41-1210 and 41-1211. The first aircraft was finished in standard olive drab over neutral grey, and this plane was intended for extensive flight tests, but after being flown to Wright Field in October, 1943, the plane was grounded due to engine problems. The decision was made to use the second prototype for flight tests, with the first prototype serving as a source of spare parts.  However, the second prototype, which was finished silver overall, was only flown once, when it was ferried from the Vultee Plant in Downey, California, to Norton Field, in San Bernadino, where it was dismantled. The tilting nose was shipped to Eglin Field in Florida for further tests.

 The airplane was not a success, and the prototypes were apparently scrapped.


 This is one weird model, and when I obtained the kit from Alex Bernardo, sans decals and instructions, my first though was, “What the heck am I going to do with this?”

 Cast in a pukey green resin, the kit is not awe inspiring from the beginning.  However, upon closer examination, it is quite simple, and extremely heavy, since it is a BIG airplane and made of solid resin.  I thought from the beginning that because of the solid fuselage, it would be one of the few models that would sit up on its nosewheel without any weight in the nose.  In fact, there is no place to put any weight in the nose anyway, as the cockpit and front wheel well are the only open spaces.  The parts include the fuselage center section, the prop and spinner, the outer wing panels, the rear fuselage booms, the horizontal stabilizer and elevators, the gear doors, and the landing gear and wheels. A vacuformed canopy is also included. There were no instruction, box, or decals in this kit, and I suspect that Alex had been holding on to this kit for a long time, wondering exactly who he would inflict it on. (In trade, I gave him an old Heller “Arc-en-Ciel”, so I think I got the best of the deal.)


 In reality, the kit goes together rather quickly, and it easy to line up. I was surprised at the simplicity. I used massive amounts of superglue, but with a little sanding and filling, I achieved a reasonable likeness within a relatively short time.  The vacuform canopy went on smoothly, and it is clear enough so that the cockpit details are visible. 


 Painting was easy, as it was mainly the two color OD/Neutral Grey scheme.

 Decals and markings came from the spare decal box, and since it was a new prototype that wasn’t flown much, weathering was not necessary. Most photos show a pristine airplane, quite shiny in comparison to most military aircraft. Oh, and it DOESN’T balance.


 Although an oldie, this kit was a welcome change from the usual Spitfires, FW-190’s, and P-47’s.  It is worth getting and building because of its uniqueness and weirdness.

I have since built the XP-55 ‘Assender” and  the XP-56 “Black Bullet” prototypes, and they look good lined up together.  Get one if you can find one.

Brian Baker

October 2006


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