In-Box Review
Curtiss XP-55 Ascender

by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

Nowadays, with so much attention focused on Germany's weird and wonderful WW2 paper-projects, it's easy to overlook the fact that American companies built and flew some of the most radical aircraft of the era, including the Northrop flying wings and Black Bullet and, the subject of this review, the Curtiss XP-55 Ascender.

The XP-55 was a swept-wing, pusher-engined fighter with canard fore-planes. The configuration promised good forward visibility and the optimum grouping of the armament for maximum "punch". Despite it's exciting looks, the Ascender was plagued with technical and aerodynamic problems and only three prototypes were built. 2 of these crashed (one fatally, killing both the pilot and a passing motorist), by which time the design had been overshadowed by the advent of the jet age, and the surviving example was retired and is in the NASM collection.

The kit
Czech Model's XP-55 has been available for a few years now and MMD-Squadron have very kindly suppied a sample for Armorama's look back at earlier short-run models. The kit consists of:

40 x Plastic parts

18 x Resin parts

A vacuform canopy (with a spare)

Main Parts
The main parts are moulded in pale grey plastic with no sign of sink marks. The surface finish is very good - highly polished with finely scribed panel lines. The sprue attachments are commendably small. The smaller parts are pretty good, with some nice detail on the undercarriage and doors but, hardly surprising for a short run kit, there is a little flash to clean up here and there.

Test Fit
I did a test fit of the major parts. There are no locating pins, but the fuselage halves line up fine. The wings have ejector-pin marks to clean off before assembly, but the trailing edges are very thin and sharp. The full span lower surface fits into the fuselage slot with minimal fuss and helps keep everything straight and true.

Resin Parts
The kit contains a neat set of True Details resin parts. The cockpit features some fine detail on the floor and panels, plus a really excellent seat with moulded-in harness. Inserts are supplied for the wheel wells (experience suggests these will need careful sanding to fit) along with some nice wheels with "weighted" tyres. A gunsight is supplied, but isn't shown in the instructions. Last, but not least, the distinctive 12-stack exhausts are very well done.

The vacuform canopy is thin and very clear, with precisely moulded frames. Full marks to Czech Models for including a spare... little touches like this make all the difference.

Instructions and Decals
The instructions are well laid out and clearly illustrated. This model is a tail-sitter and, although the instructions show that weight in the nose is needed, they don't state how much.

Painting instructions are simple and clear, with FS equivalents quoted and plenty of colour notes for the cockpit.

The decals are thin, glossy and printed in perfect register. Strangely, two sets of identical serials for the second prototype are supplied. A nice set of stencils is also included but, sadly, there's no placement diagram.

A look at the latest Czech Model kits shows just how much short-run standards have risen, but this is still a very fine kit. It's not suitable for absolute beginners, but modellers with a couple of intermediate-level builds under their belt who want to try a short-run kit for the first time should have few problems. The XP-55 looked outrageous in its day and, even as a model, it's still guaranteed to raise a few eyebrows if sat in a lineup of US WW2 fighters.

Thank you to MMD-Squadron for kindly supplying the review sample.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: 4806
  Suggested Retail: $21.92
  PUBLISHED: Oct 25, 2004
  NATIONALITY: United States

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright 2021 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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