1/72 XB-41 - Destroyer Escort

Gallery Article by Douglas Conrady on Nov 21 2013

 

 

Here for your viewing pleasure (or so I hope) is a 1/72 Consolidated XB-41. Back in the early days of the ETO during WW2, and before the US had the long range fighters (i.e. P-51), the USAAC had a little problem of having their bombers being shot out of the sky. Their solution was to make destroyer escorts out of bombers. They first started with the B-17's - the XB-40. This progressed up to the YB-40 stage. The YB-40 program is more known, probably because there were 20 made, and they were even field tested in the ETO. I'm guessing the B-24 boys wanted their own escort, and thus started the XB-41 program. From what I can make out, sometime in 1942 a standard B-24D was taken for modification. They added the chin turret, added a second dorsal turret, and staggered and doubled the waist guns. They would've probably added a Sperry belly turret to this particular B-24 had it not been one of about 290 that had the remote control turret. This is the same type that some early B-17E's and the B-25's carried.  This plane's forward dorsal turret had an interesting feature. To keep the gunner from shooting his buddy in the aft turret, the fwd turret raised up just enough that the bullets would clear the turret. By this point you might be asking yourself, why only 1 XB-41; they made 20 YB-40's. I've asked myself the same question. I have an answer, and it even sounds plausible. My thought is since this program was started later than the X/YB-40, and when they figured out the YB-40 didn't work so well, they shut this one down too. If it didn't work with a B-17 it wouldn't work with a B-24. 

 

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After I built my YB-40, I stumbled upon ONE pic of the XB-41. It made sense too, if you make a plane to escort 17's, you need one to escort the 24's. I decided that I had to make it to go with the YB-40. The next part was the research.... Oh boy, did that take a while. However, I did end up finding several close up pics of the XB-41 while they were testing it. After I poured over the pics, I went about trying to figure out how to convert a B-24D into the XB-41. I hate the idea of having to purchase a kit just to rob one or 2 pieces and I was about to give and buy other kits to get the parts I was after. Then it hit me! Use a Paragon YB-40 kit and modify it for the XB-41. It had all the right parts, a chin turret, extra dorsal turret, and the doubled waist guns. The bad part was, I was looking for the paragon parts about the same time they were going out of business. I wasn't ready to build yet, but I hunted and searched, then hunted some more, then on eBay one came up. I snagged it, knowing it would be quite some time before I saw it again. 

Construction began pretty normally. The cockpit went as instructed, no modifications there. Since this was not going to be your normal bomber (or a "bomber" at all), I didn't need the bomb bay equipment, so I skipped those parts and glued the doors shut. I also went about getting the wings and stabilizers put together, knowing they would be simply installed. Since I had done lots of looking, comparing, and measuring to see how to make the conversion, it was time to put those theories to the test. The main conversions were for the chin and dorsal turrets. For the chin turret, I cut the bottom row of panes off the nose glass and cut and filed a semi circle out of the nose. After lots of test fitting, I added some sheet plastic to the nose glass to help make the look seamless. One part of this conversion had me the most worried was the modifications to the nose glass. Not the cutting off mind you, but the removal of the panel lines on the top part. I discovered the top most forward part was one piece and not 11. I've never had good luck with clear pieces. Generally my rule is leave those parts alone. But with the XB-41, I didn't have that luxury. I commenced to file, scrape and sand off the lines. After that was done, I had a mess on my hands, one that I hoped I could clean up. I had read a post on the ARC forums that mentioned how to polish clear plastic. I followed those instructions and you can see my success. Basically, I started with a low number sandpaper and worked my way to a higher number sandpaper. The last step was the most foreign to me. I used paper, just regular, run of the mill paper. It really put a shine on the nose glazing. Another difference between a standard B-24D and the XB-41 is lack of side windows just aft of the nose glazing. All I did was install the normal "glass" and paint over them. The aft dorsal turret was a bit less involved. I lightly glued the fuselage halves together so I could get a good hole made, then I went to my drill press and started drilling. The hole got drilled, but it wasn't quite round. I filed it until it was just right. I then decided I would use the kit turret for the aft hole and the Paragon turret for the fwd hole. I thought it would be easier to have a little bit of custom parts in each hole instead of all custom on one hole. I also added a ring around the aft hole to make the turret transition into the body look better. The belly turret wasn't a "conversion" per say, but it was an addition. The kit has 2 options for that area - nothing or 1 .50 cal sticking out of a hole. I was really hoping for an easy ball turret, but oh no, this B-24 had to have the remote turret. I looked, thought, and tried scrounging. Nothing I could find would look right. I then took to the ARC forums (great place!). I put out an APB for an extra B-17 chin turret. I was able to get one taker, a one Mr Pete (many thanks!!!). My plan was to take the blank piece and drill a turret sized hole. The basic plan worked out great, but it was the "now what" that gave me the biggest headache. Since a B-17 chin turret slopes towards the back, I had to figure a way to mount it level. My plan... mount it in the hole at the angle that will make it look level, since cutting it all apart seemed a bit drastic. Fortunately, the kit came with all the equipment to mount a turret, I just needed to add the turret. The rear turret went together and on as advertised. The doubled waist guns were simply glued to the kit mounts. Pretty simple compared to the fight the other turrets put up. After I was too far in I realized they staggered the waist guns, so... that is one error I wont be correcting. Whew, after all that, it was down hill from there. I got the body glued together and stuck the wings on. I did make one discovery in regards to the nose gear. I didn't realize that there were 2 ways the nose gear doors folded/unfolded. Of course, the way the kit was made was not the way the 1:1 was. Fortunately, I was able to basically hide that issue, since there isn't any detail. I glued the doors onto the fuselage about where they should be, but you won't be able to see much because the nose wheel is in the road. The doors that cover the waist guns were modified in the way they attach too. Instead of the way the kit instructs (sliding fwd), I installed them to swing up and down into position. The engines and related parts went together without any modification. For all the gun barrels, I used Quickboost barrels. They are 1000% better than the kit sticks. Painting was your standard OD top and neutral gray bottom. I used my paint of choice, Model Masters Acrylic. For the ID numbers, I went out and found a set of yellow 45 degree numbers and used them. I had a little issue there. The set I bought didn't have enough 1's. I had to cut down a couple of 4's to make look like 1's. I'm not sure I could even find which ones I cut down.

I have included a couple of pics of the two destroyer escorts together, the YB-40 and the BX-41.

All in all, a challenging build because of the lack of reference material, but one that I enjoyed. 

Thanks for looking and don't throw rotten tomatoes!

Douglas Conrady

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Photos and text by Douglas Conrady