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Czech Model 1/48 scale Curtiss XP-55 Ascender

Manufacturer:Czech Model, available from Squadron Mail Order, 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX 75011-5010, 972-242-8663
Kit: No. 4806
Scale: 1/48
Price: $24.96
Comments: Injection-molded, 58 parts (17 resin, 1 vacuum-formed canopy), decals
Pros: Unusual subject, fine recessed panel lines
Cons: Warped fuselage, tricky assembly, mismatched resin landing-gear bays, undersized decals
At least Curtiss' radical, swept-wing XP-55 Ascender looked like a winner. It's easy to imagine one wheeling in behind a Zero or a Bf 109 and dispatching it with its four nose-mounted .50-caliber machine guns. Looks can be deceiving, though. The Ascender's design was perhaps a little too far ahead of its time. Making its first flights in 1943, the aircraft was dangerously unstable at low speeds and had vicious stall characteristics. Two of the three Ascender prototypes were destroyed in crashes; the only surviving example is in storage at the Smithsonian's Paul Garber Facility in Silver Hill, Maryland.

Czech Master's Ascender is the first injection-molded 1/48 scale Ascender. The light-gray injection-molded parts feature fine engraved panel lines, but they have a bit of flash and require careful cleanup. The cockpit, wheels, exhaust stacks, and landing-gear bays are cast in tan resin - they're free of pin holes and air bubbles, but the pour stubs are heavy and take some work to remove. Two copies of the vacuum-formed canopy, a sharply printed decal sheet, and illustrated instructions are also included.

Construction begins with the seven-piece cockpit. Everything goes together nicely, and the assembly's sharp detail looks great after a little painting.
Adding the cockpit to the fuselage unveiled a problem. The left fuselage half (part No. B2) in my kit was badly warped. I placed (but didn't glue) the cockpit inside the right fuselage and, starting at the tail, glued the fuselage halves together using super glue, correcting the warp as I moved forward. Afterward, I floated the cockpit into position (working through the wing opening in the bottom of the fuselage) and glued it using gap-filling super glue.
The kit provides a one-piece forward elevator assembly, but it's easier to install if you cut it in two and install the halves individually. The model requires plenty of weight to keep it on its nose gear, but luckily there's plenty of room in the fuselage in front of the cockpit. I added a mixture of epoxy and BBs.

The kit's wing provided a few frustrations. The cast-resin landing-gear bays are designed to install behind the plastic wing's gear openings. The gear bays should be mirror images of one another, but a side-by-side comparison reveals that they're different shapes. On top of that, neither bay fits in the wing very well. Thankfully this problem is hidden under the model - fixing things would require a lot of work.

The fuselage wing root is long, and some of the warp was still evident when it was time to install the wing. A few styrene-strip spreaders carefully installed in the fuselage straightened things and improved the wing/fuselage joints.

Each main gear door will need to be cut into three pieces to be installed in the open position. I used a razor saw and cut along the engraved panel lines. The ventral antenna mast in my kit was broken; I'll make a new one out of sheet styrene.

The vacuum-formed canopy fits well; I fixed it in place with white glue. Although I didn't need it this time, I always appreciate a spare like the one Czech Master provides.

I painted the model with Testor Model Master enamels. After applying a Future floor polish gloss coat, I added the decals. These include national insignia, tail numbers, and stencil markings, and are sharply printed, but look a little small compared to my reference photos. All the markings were thin and sufficiently opaque, and they responded well to setting solution. No placement instructions are provided for the stencil markings.

Speaking of the decals, although the kit box indicates that markings for two different aircraft are included, only one set is provided. The sheet has two sets of tail numbers for the same aircraft.

Czech Master's Ascender has a few disappointments and challenges, but still builds into a good-looking model straight from the box. Modelers who have worked with resin parts and can correct fit problems should be able to add the Ascender to their collections after a couple of weekends at the workbench.


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