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Martin XB-51

by "Bondo" Phil Brandt


Martin XB-51

Photos by Milton Bell and Phil Brandt

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Martin's three-engined XB-51 tactical bomber was one of the "hottest" and most admired designs to come off the drawing boards immediately after WW II. Ungainly on the ground, with its prominent, fuselage-mounted jet pods, its tiny wings, rotary bomb bay and bicycle landing gear, it became a whole new airplane when airborne.



Chuck Yeager loved it, and F-86 chase planes often had to request that it slow down so they could catch up! But politics, as so often enters Air Force buying decisions, dictated that, instead, the slower but proven English Canberra be built by Martin under license as the B-57. Sadly, both XB-51 prototypes eventually crashed, not due to design or material flaws, but to pilot error.



Execuform's 1/72 Scale XB-51


Execuform's vacuform moldings are plain but of heavy plastic, which makes the structure self-supporting in 1/72. Bondo likes the fact that there was no engraving, which allowed him to pick and choose what lines to scribe, and, unlike Combat and ID, one doesn't have to laboriously fill in rounded-edge trenches first, and then re-engrave!



Injected main wheels and outriggers are provided, along with a thin, crystal clear vac'ed canopy. Although some may think Mike Herrill's releases are rather minimal component-wise, he makes up for it by IMO the best and most copious line drawings you're gonna find in any kit; this release has no less than four large sheets!





Let's skip the boring parts prep and go VFR direct to the kitbashing/scratchbuilding action: the cockpit was cannonballed from the ever popular 1/72 True Details F-94 cockpit tub, cut in half behind the front seat. Part of the left wall of the tub is Dremeled away to make room for the pilot to exit downward through the crew entrance door. The main gear wells are scratchbuilt with structural ribs of Evergreen strip, and the forward and upper walls are courtesy of the Monogram 1/48 F-101 and Monogram 1/72 EF-111A wheel wells. BTW, the wonderful complexity that Monogram put into the "innards" of its many Century Series jets are perfect for detailing. Both wings were built around a brass tube so that their incidence can be varied as could the real ones.


Maingear struts are from the old Hasegawa B-47, suitably modified per the great detail pix in the new Ginter XB-51 book. The "Decelostat" anti-skid brake assemblies (which can hardly be seen) were scratchbuilt from 1/2" plastic tubing and various Evergreen stock. Flaps and slats were kitbashed from various--never throw away any old kit!--wing leading and trailing edge assemblies. Evergreen tubing forms the intake and exhaust passages, and the compressor blade assemblies are from the--again--Hasegawa B-47 outboard J-47 engines. The JATO bottles were scratchbilt from Monogram bomb casings and Evergreen tubing and rods.



Finishing, Painting and Markings


After lotsa 3M Blue Acryl and lacquer primer, I wet-sanded with 1000 grit, and started shooting four (aluminum plate, stainless steel, titanium and magnesium) Testors Metalizer shades plus a little of my closely-held stocks of original formula Alclad. Use very light tack masking medium because the outer layer of the Testors Metalizer does try to "lift."



Decals were from various Micro-and Superscale sheets, except for the Edwards test wing logo from the 1/72 Monogram B-52/X-15 kit and the computer-generated, laser-printed "XB-51". Well-thinned Aeromaster clear enamel glosscoat was then shot overall; it's expensive, but superior, stuff.





I like Execuform's vac kits. They aren't exquisitely engraved, and don't fall together as with Dynavector, but they're certainly not the exasperating mass of thin plastic that faces the purchaser of a Combat or ID kit either. And, maybe it's Bondo's fading memories of two years over the mechanical drawing board at Pittsburgh's old Perry High School, but Mike Herrill sure does nice illustrations.



Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Review and Images Copyright 2002 by Phil Brandt
Page Created 14 May, 2002
Last updated 04 June, 2007

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