1/32 Revell Bell X-1

by Dean Large



Well, this one fought me all the way. I’d wanted a model of the X-1 for my display case ever since I built Yeager’s F-104 from The Right Stuff, but as the original aircraft is so small, I thought a 1/32 scale version would be a decent sized model. The only choice therefore, is the venerable Revell offering, which I scoured Ebay for. The appropriate bargain duly presented itself, and the suspiciously small parcel arrived in the post…turned out the vendor had misread the box, and instead of 1/32 it was 1/72! Maybe, one day, perhaps. Eventually I found the right item, and when I opened the box and was greeted with a pile of bright orange plastic, my first thought was that it was aimed at kids. Sunglasses were almost needed during the construction…
  Anyway, I decided to rescribe the whole model (why do I keep doing this to myself?) and use a microdrill to depict the few rivets visible, and eventually had a pile of useable bits. I primed the cockpit parts, and my plan for leaving them in grey primer was scuppered when internet research showed that the interior was actually green. I used the interior green colour that I mixed up for my Spitfire, and that seemed to go pretty well. I glossed, washed and matt coated the interior, then used gloss in the instruments to simulate glass.  

I couldn’t remove the belts from the seat as they were moulded on, so I simply laid a new set of PE belts on top of them. The moulded belts were so narrow, that an exact fit over them was only to be found with a set of Luftwaffe WWII belts! Whatever would Yeager say? The rear of the instrument panel is visible through the cockpit, so all the wires trailing from the instruments had to be added. This actually turned out to be a useful addition, as the locating points for the sides of the panel are so poor, that I had to use the wires I’d added as an extra attachment point inside the nose cone.  

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 I also had to create a bulkhead from plastic card inside the rear fuselage ahead of the rocket engine to avoid the see-through effect.    

I glued several .38 calibre bullets behind the cockpit to avoid tailsitting, as I didn’t like the idea of using the naff clear support under the rear fuselage, and after I closed up the fuselage, one of them came loose! I had visions of it rattling around the inside and bashing the cockpit loose, so something had to be done. I didn’t fancy opening the fuselage again, so in the end I ladled white glue into the fuselage through the wing slots, and manoeuvred the fuselage around until I was sure the loose bullet was covered in it. 

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Then I had to stand the model on its nose overnight to make sure the bullet reattached itself to the back of the cockpit! Seems to have worked.

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Then the wings went on, and the fit was abysmal. Big steps to be sanded down, filled and sanded again. Rescribe, prime, repeat. Eventually the wing joints looked ok, so the whole thing was primed with Halfords grey – another mistake.  I mixed up a slightly darker shade of orange than was called for in the painting guide, from Tamiya acrylics, and started airbrushing. And carried on airbrushing until I ran out of paint. The grey primer refused to be covered by a lighter shade, and I eventually used two whole pots of orange on the model before it was anywhere near even in colour. Then I left it in the airing cupboard for a week to harden the paint, as I’ve been caught out with Tamiya gloss acrylics before. All to no avail though, as the fuselage belly and the right wingtip both developed marks where they had been in contact with the supporting surface! Sand, rescribe, airbrush, curse. The panel lines I’d spent so long rescribing were in danger of disappearing under the thicknesses of the paint.

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Eventually, after more curing and several coats of Johnson’s, the airframe was ready for decalling. I’d already realised that the kit decals were wrong, showing the WWII style stars and bars, and as I wanted to model the plane for the Mach 1 flight, I needed the red flashes. 

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I’d planned to do this with a combination of kit decals and decals from the spares box, but when I applied the first of the national insignia, the white wasn’t any where near opaque enough to cover the orange beneath. I decided to double up on the decals, but every other decal on the sheet dissolved in water due to their age. I ended up ordering a new decal sheet, which in retrospect was a good thing as it was far superior to the kit sheet, more opaque and included all the decals for the stencils too. Pity it cost about the same as I paid for the rest of the kit. I used a wash in the control surfaces only, as having studied various photos of the rear thing, virtually no panel lines are visible anywhere on the aircraft. Being glossy and polished for speed precludes the need for heavy weathering. More Johnson’s sealed the decals.

Then after adding an Alclad Steel sprayed undercarriage and Alclad Aluminium pitots, the windscreen was unmasked, the final detail painting was done, and the brightest object in my collection entered my display case.


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Photos and text © by Dean Large