Collect Aire 1/48 X-24B Lifting Body Kit Build Review
By Kelly Jamison
|Date of Review||January 2005||Manufacturer||Collect Aire|
|Subject||X-24B Lifting Body||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||4822||Primary Media||Resin, White Metal, Vac|
|Pros||One of the very best kits Collect-Aire has produced to date||Cons||Price will keep some builders away|
|Skill Level||Intermediate||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
In 1972, with limited funding the fine folks at NASA pulled a quick one. Rather than fighting for funds to build an all new lifting body, the brilliant engineers decided to redesign and rebuild the X-24A into the X-24B. The X-24A was completely stripped down to the basic framework and reconstructed from the ground up as the recycled X-24B.
The new body shape was affectionately known as “The Flat Iron” and had almost twice the lifting surface as its ancestor did. The lofty goals of the flight test program were to explore the handling of a wingless configuration in near-earth flight and for use of conventional runways for recoveries.
The X-24B made thirty-six successful flights in its reborn career. The final flight of this sleek aircraft was on November 26, 1975. Then it was delivered a year later to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where it resides today.
You can say what you want about the up and down quality of Collect-Aire kits but I have always liked those sturdy boxes these kits come in. They handle shelf wear without a problem. I use them for other project holders after I build the kit. Each kit is hand numbered and my kit was #122.
Collect-Aire is one of those companies that tackle subjects no one wants to touch. And for that, my hat is off to them. Many model enthusiasts collect these kits but I really wanted to build one of these rare planes. I got a good deal on an X-24B at a swap meet in Dallas. This kit fit what I was looking for.
The 32 pieces of the kit are well wrapped and the two piece shell of the X-24 fuselage, (top and bottom halves) are taped together and covered in tissue paper. Taping the two halves together helps a bit on stopping the natural warping of the large resin pieces. The small metal cast pieces are wrapped in small bags as to keep from scratching or marring the resin residing in the box.
As with most Collect-Aire kits the instruction sheets are done on a mustard yellow paper stock which makes reading the black ink very easy. You get an exploded version of the upper fuselage and the next page is the bottom of the fuselage. I just used the sheet for basic reference. The build is so straight forward. If you have some modeling skills, you will be right at home here.
The two piece fuselage is made in Collect-Aire’s normal tan resin with just a few pinholes. I thought the scribing was a little heavy handed but all in all very livable. Later in the construction when you primer the surface, you can fill the lines a bit softening the effect.
The canopy was done in a yellow plastic which was a bit roughed up in shipping. A few dips into a bath of future made this piece a gem. Also you get two canopies making this ham fisted modeler very happy. (Oh, yea, I used them both.) The cockpit is simple but effective with a metal seat, resin instrument panel and resin side shelves.
On looking this model over, I came to the conclusion that this is one of Collect-Aire’s better endeavors. I was very happy to see ScaleMaster decals in the kit for different versions of the X-24B during its test career. You will have to do a bit of research to get them perfect since the planes markings changed slightly between each flight. There are lots of websites with photos of the X-24 available online.
Time to start on the upper fuselage by painting the interior a flat grey. The different panels were painted flat black and I went into my parts dungeon and got a throttle quadrant to help dress up the side panels a bit more. I used grey and white to highlight knob and switches. Instruments from an old decal sheet filled in the instrument panel nicely. A drop of epoxy on each instrument replicated the glass and a light black wash brought the relief detail out. The metal seat got a coat of grey and I used an insignia red for the headrest and a green olive for the seat cushions. An extra set of shoulder harnesses from the parts bin were glued down with thin super glue and again everything got a nice light black wash.
I use white glue to get the cockpit floor set in. The white glue allows time to get the cockpit set just right and is hard as a rock when totally dried. I decided to put the seat and control stick in after the final painting. The front pitot tube is going to be the last thing installed along with the upper and lower control surfaces. The wheel wells were painted Floquil Old Silver and then glued into place. I used a few lead weights to the nose area just to make sure it doesn’t become a tail sitter.
Use some superglue to glue down the back engine compartment that is recessed into the tail. Now glue the top and bottom pieces together using thick superglue to fill in any imperfections in the mating surfaces. The shell became very strong at this point. It is time to attach the two outer rudder panels. You will have to use a lot of filler to blend these surfaces together. Take your time and refer back to photos of the actual article.
Cut the pitot tube from the mounting portion of the tube and blend the mounting point into the nose. I added a dump tube that came out the side of the aft fuselage. Just a bit of bent plastic stock tubing fixed this are right up. I noticed it on some reference photos but the kit does not come with it.
Next thing to assemble is the center vertical stabilizing rudder. It went down with no problem. I used a bead of Mr. Surfacer to smooth out the seams. Everything got a coat of primer and sanded smooth. Since I had chosen to paint the model in the attractive white with the blue stripe and gold accent on the sides of the fuselage, it has to be mirror smooth. The silver version of the plane will make you work just as hard.
Now I really deviated from my normal way of painting and tried the new Tamiya Color AS-20 Insignia White spray paint. White in large amounts has always been a hard color for me to airbrush so I thought I would take a leap of faith and try can spray paint for the first time.
It flowed great and dried to a near perfect finish. I was really happy with the outcome. Don’t forget the upper and lower control surfaces and landing gear covers. Next came a custom mix to achieve a medium NASA blue that I made by mixing white with dark blue Testors Enamel paint. And now for the trickiest part of the paint job. The small gold stripe! I messed with gold decal and just could not get it to look right. So out came the Tamiya tape and 2 hours later, I got a really nice gold stripe using good old Testors Gold Enamel in the little glass jars. I think that bottle was over 20 years old and did a great job.
Once everything had a chance to dry, I coated the fuselage with a nice coat of Future Floor Wax. A light sanding smoothed out some bumps. Decals were next. The decals came off the paper and settled down on the Future very well. They were not translucent and looked great on the white. The next day the plane got another coat of Future and another day to dry with a very light sanding to make things even smoother. Another coat of Future sealed the deal. One more day was needed to let the Future dry before I tackled the Black anti-glare panel.
The metal landing gear got the oleos polished out and a coat of Floquil Old Silver over the rest of the struts. Superglue or Epoxy is about all you can use to glue the metal to the resin. Take your time setting the gear at a 90 degree angle to the bottom of the fuselage. I used a set of photo-etched drag links I had left over from another project. These links point toward the centerline of the fuselage and not backwards like on a P-51D Mustang. It is a bit unusual. The main landing gear doors attach to the gear strut and should point inwards slightly. (A detail I didn’t notice until it was too late) Again, check your reference material. The front gear door just hangs straight down. I added hydraulic brake lines to the struts to help dress them up just a bit more. A black blade antenna finishes off the bottom of the kit.
Up top I detail out the engine pumpkin with different wires to replicate the plumbing. The inside of each nozzle is painted a strange light olive and the outside a gunmetal color. Other little “busy bits” were added for eye candy and the whole thing was glued into place. Another small dump mast was added to the aft right side of the engine compartment according to my reference material.
The canopy is the final assembly item. I constructed small hinge points to keep the canopy up and painted the inside rails flat black and the outside gloss white with a buff colored cross piece. Another bit of photo-etch for canopy handles completed the build.
This plane looks great! It has won a few awards and looks fantastic next to my other X-Planes in the cabinet. I really think this is a super kit to get your feet wet with as far as Collect-Aire kits go and as far as a resin kit goes. There were no nasty surprises or fit issues that I could complain about. I thoroughly enjoyed this build and it gave me courage to tackle other harder projects.