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Special Hobby 1/72 scale X-1E "Last Model" aircraft

Kit: No. HS72158
Scale: 1/72
Manufacturer: Special Hobby, from Squadron Mail Order, 877-414-0434,
Price: $25.50
Comments: Injection-molded, 77 parts (11 resin, 20 photoetched-metal), decals
Pros: Accurate; fine recessed lines; good resin and photoetched-metal parts; beautiful decals; five markings choices
Cons: Vague interior part locations; rocket nozzles too big
Issue Published: April 2008
The second Bell X-1 built was a twin of the aircraft in which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier but was extensively modified and became the X-1E. It had a raised windscreen, short stubby wings, and more-powerful rocket engines that pushed it to Mach 2.24. This airframe was also the last of the X-1s to fly (November 6, 1958).

Special Hobby's kit offers a choice of modeling the craft at five stages of its service life. Optional ventral fins, rocket nozzles, and markings cover the modifications made along the way. I added the ventral fins and big nozzles used on a later flight.

The kit comes with a well-detailed cockpit, including a resin seat with photoetched-metal harness. If you choose to pose the canopy closed, save yourself time and forgo detailing the cockpit - you can't see much through the tiny windscreen.

The fit of the major components is good, but I had to clean up the separate rudder and the surface where it meets the fin. The wings and tail planes fit to the fuselage with flat butt joints, so be sure to maintain alignment as the cement cures.

The landing gear fit is imprecise; I installed it after painting with tiny drops of slow-setting super glue so I could adjust the alignment. The resin extended rocket nozzles are too large and intrude on each other when installed. If you use them, reduce their diameters with sandpaper.

I painted the model with Model Master gloss white and used Bare-Metal Foil for the natural-metal control surfaces. The excellent decals went on without problems. My main reference was The X-Planes: X-1 to X-45 by Jay Miller.

The model is tail heavy, but the there is no instruction to add nose weight.

I'm glad to see Special Hobby concentrating on the 1950s "X" planes - look for the Navy D-558-1 Skystreak, D-558-II Skyrocket, and USAF X-1A to come hot on the heels of this little gem.

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