1/48 Consolidated B-32 Dominator

Gallery Article by Gerald Asher on Nov 15 2013



My first step was to get some 1/48 plans. With nothing commercially available, I resorted to master modeler Lloyd Jones’ scale drawings and a xerox machine. After studying the plans, I came to the conclusion that I would need the following kits: two Monogram 1/48 B-29s, two Monogram B-24s (D or J, no matter) and a 1/72 B-36.

Here’s how the basic shape was worked out: the fuselage for the B-32 (from the cockpit bulkhead moving aft) was various sections of two B-29 fuselages. These had essentially the same diameter as the Dominator. There were many holes to plug along the way, including removal of the B-29 wing root and filling the turret openings. About 2” forward of the empennage, however, the contours alter course enough to warrant a change of equipment: the 1/72 B-36 came into play. A portion of the aft fuselage matched perfectly in the side views, but lacked sufficient “meat” when viewed from the top. This was remedied by making a circular template which was slightly over the diameter as the Sperry nose/tail turrets, and cementing this to the aft lip of the tail section. Epoxy putty was then built up to meet this template and give the aft fuselage its proper circular cross-section. 

Since the horizontal stabilizers appeared to be directly copied (or possibly even sub-contracted ) from Boeing’s B-29, the mount points were removed from one set of fuselage halves and grafted on to the B-32 fuselage. The shoulder-mounted wing of the Dominator would require removal of some of the upper fuselage as I was planning on a one-piece wing with a carry-through spar arrangement, but cutting the openings for that would wait. Right now, I was concerned with the vertical fin. My earlier analysis had dictated a PB4Y-2 Privateer arrangement, but when this piece (from an out-of production resin conversion) was laid on the plans, it fell drastically short. 

After much head-scratching and parts-shuffling, I came up with a workable plan (although you’re probably not going to believe it): the B-36 kit came to the rescue. In retrospect, it almost stood to reason that parts of the “Peacemaker” would have some resemblance in planform to earlier Consolidated products. The B-36 vertical and horizontal stabilizers combined to the vertical fin and rudder - as a matter of fact, a 1/72 B-36 elevator matches almost perfectly in shape to a 1/48 B-32 rudder! Some additional build-up was required at the base to meet the fuselage contour, as well as re-positioning of the rudder hinge points, but the hard part was over - at least, where the tail was concerned.


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Now came the fun part - duplicating a cockpit and forward fuselage section which bore a resemblance to absolutely no other aircraft in existence. Scratchbuilding time! There was no way around this one; the only way was to use plastic card and multiple xerox patterns of the side, front and overhead views, building a sort of “skeleton” with the basic shape of the Dominator. The blank areas were then filled with epoxy-based body filler (similar to auto refinishers’ BONDO products) and sanded smooth to the finished shape. When I was satisfied that I had achieved the proper “look”, I carefully scribed not only the windshield framing and bombardier’s window detail, but the forward crew hatch and nose landing gear doors as well. Once this step was completed, I made a rubber mold (using two-part casting RTV silicone), and poured a couple of solid resin castings. These castings were then cut apart in various ways to make vacuform masters for the forward fuselage to be molded in clear butyrate. This process (cutting one of the solid masters at the cockpit floorline) also gave me an accurate template on which to base the cockpit, all of which had to be scratchbuilt or “kitbashed,” mostly from B-29 and B-24 interior parts.

I used two sets of B-24 wing panels; the first set was full span, minus the engine nacelles (plastic card used to fill the voids). The second set, which would form the wing at its root and “carry-through” structure through the fuselage, started with the B-24 root and extended to just inboard of the #1 and #4 nacelles. These pieces were split spanwise and attached to the first set of wing halves – with parts joined to match leading– and trailing-edges. The void between the leading- and trailing-edge “halves” was filled with card stock. Extreme care was taken throughout this grafting process to ensure that all parts, upper and lower halves, would fit together properly when joined. Spars were built by using dimensions obtained from the head-on plan views, with the wing being eventually assembled as one piece, tip to tip. The corresponding section of the fuselage was cut out for wing installation, with that section being modified to fit the upper surface of the wing assembly. Ailerons had to be increased in size from the B-24 dimensions, as did the flaps; while the flap separations were simply filled and re-scribed, the larger aileron dimensions were cut completely away from the wing. These parts were then filled and sanded to airfoil shape, with revised rib detail made using strip plastic. The semi-elliptical wingtips of the B-24 wing had to be re-shaped to a nearly semi-circular profile for the Dominator.

The easiest route I could find to the B-32 engine nacelles was to start with two sets in B-29 inboard nacelles; both sets had to be shortened, but I needed the inboard assemblies because the B-32 engine pods had “stingers” (came to a point past the trailing edge of the wing) on all four engines. Engine cowls had to be modified as well; even though both aircraft utilized the Wright R-3350 powerplant, the cowl flap arrangement differed substantially. The propellers and engine “facades” were two of a handful of pieces which required no modifications. The exhaust stacks were resin cast from scratchbuilt masters, and photo-etched material was used for the oil cooler vents on either side of the cowlings.

B-29 parts formed the basis for the landing gear, which involved considerable “stretching” where the main struts were concerned. I used True Details B-29 “flattened” tires all the way around, for their extra tread and wheel hub detail. Besides, the “squashed” look was really warranted by that load of 500-pounders.

The nose and tail turrets proved to be one of the more challenging episodes. The only other aircraft to use this style of turret was Consolidated’s XB-24N - needless to say, I wasn’t going to be able to kitbash THESE babies. More “imagineering” went into effect, scrounging something which could serve as a master for these glass-ridden, spherical turrets. My answer was finally found in the form of an aircraft light bulb. With a small glass cutter (and a bucket of patience) I cut the upper half of the bulb’s globe off, ground the edges smooth and filled it with epoxy. This then served as the basis for vacuforming the turrets, each eventually using three separate pieces of vacuformed clear stock.

The top turrets were similar to those which appeared on late production B-24s, referred to as “High Hats” due to their increased head room. My workload was reduced considerably in this department by Koster Aero Enterprises which makes a vacuform B-24 replacement turret glass set for the Monogram Liberator line. This set includes a “High Hat” turret on which I could properly model my B-32 examples. The teardrop-shaped fairing on the Dominator top turrets (which was recommended to be deleted from production models after in-service combat tests) was made by building up an epoxy putty master to be used as a vacuform mold.

Natural metal finishes have never been my “cup of tea” - buffing “metalizers” and the like leave me cold. I do well to get one color of silver on a model without fingerprints or lint particles, let alone a multi-shade, Alclad-like finish. If a choice must be made, I prefer a silver paint which takes durability over “mirror” look. To this end, I have achieved my best results starting with this B-32.

Up to this point, I had been using Floquil Railroad Colors “Old Silver” for my aluminum finishes, applying the paint over a base coat of sandable primer which I had buffed with a fine steel wool. The steel wool made for a very smooth base upon which to lay the silver; a certain amount of buffing could be done when the silver dried, but it still wasn’t “shiny” enough. For the Dominator, I knew I wanted something more - there was A LOT of surface area here, and the last thing I wanted was a dull finish. It finally occurred to me: if I wanted a smooth base for the silver, why not PAINT THE WHOLE AIRPLANE GLOSSY FIRST? Okay, so I’m a little slow sometimes…

I did want a few dissimilar shades of metal, so after the primer coat, I sprayed the exhaust panels on the engine nacelles as well as a broad area on the vertical fin (which was noticeable in many of the period photos) and the control surfaces - even this late in the war, advancing technology still defaulted to “dope and fabric” for the ailerons, elevators and rudder. Once these areas were finished in the desired colors, I masked them and sprayed the remaining airframe Testors Gloss Gray – straight from a spray can. I allowed a couple of week’s drying time, as I had applied the stuff a bit on the heavy side.

Probably the neatest thing I have noticed from my experiences using Floquil metal finishes is that I’ve never had any overspray problems. Even when I have gone back and touched up small areas where a scuff or piece of lint may have made its home, the paint surrounding the affected area acts as if it had never dried - the newly sprayed area simply blends in to the point where it’s nearly impossible to distinguish.

I debuted the monstrosity at the 1998 Squadron Scalefest in 1998, and won First in its category at the 2000 IPMS Nationals in Dallas.

Gerald Asher

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Photos and text © by Gerald Asher