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Brewster XA-32
in 1/32 Scale

Brewster XA-32

by Dr Frank Mitchell

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Prototypes and losers have always appealed to me as modeling subjects. Therefore, I guess it follows that prototypes of loser airplanes should be a particular interest, and the XA-32 falls solidly into that category.

The Brewster-designed XA-32 was a mid-wing, single-seat attack aircraft with an internal bomb bay.

The prototype, according to the USAF Museum, had a P & W R-2800 engine, but was designed to take the R-4360. The airplane was overweight at almost 20,000 pounds (about the same as an A-20), and was underpowered even with R-2800.

First flight was in May 1943, and although some reports say it handled well, particularly at low levels, the official reports noted that almost every aspect of performance fell short of the specifications.

The real problem, I gathered, was the Brewster management, which had a miserable reputation. Two of these aircraft were built, the XA-32 and the XA-32A, the latter being used for various armament trials.

It appealed to me as a model because it just looks like a big bulldog of an airplane; one friend described it as looking like a Thunderbolt on steroids (the length was 40 feet, 7 inches, and the span was 45 feet, 1 inch).




Building a 1/32 scale XA-32


The model was scratch built in pretty much my usual way, but there were some problems that required a bit of thought, among them the fact that the cockpit interfered with the wing assembly, mounting the large stabilizer high on the fin, and dealing with the fairly complex cowling.

The in-progress pictures pretty well tell the story, but here are a few notes to accompany them.

Basic construction was the usual vacuum-form-over-balsa-molds for the wings, fuselage and tail surfaces.


The plastic fuselage forms were glued onto the molds after the appropriate wood was removed for the cockpit. The cockpit itself was built as a tub inserted into the fuselage. The interior was mostly scratch-built using a number of Waldron pieces and the Cutting Edge 1/32 scale posable seatbelts from Meteor Productions (which I think are great, by the way). The canopy was molded from 1/32nd plexiglass, and the gunsight was scratch-built.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The cowling probably took as much time as several of the other pieces combined. It was first vacuum-formed without the upper and lower scoops. After the front opening was cleaned up, two more pieces of plastic were heated-and-smashed on the top and bottom of the cowling and these were glued into place thus making the scoops.

I chose this way because, from the side, the cowling curves up more on the bottom than it curves down on the top; therefore, I needed the formed plastic to keep the proper compound curves.

The spinner was turned from basswood and the prop blades were cut-down 24th scale Bandai P-51 left over from a Mustang I conversion. The most tedious part of the cowling was at the rear. The cowl flaps were cut out and then replaced in the open position. After that, 18 holes were drilled around the cowling (they were staggered and not equally spaced), and 18 small deflectors (pretty much like those on the B-25) were formed over a mold, cut, sanded and then glued in place over each hole. Tedious, but satisfying when finished.


The vacuum-formed tail surface skins were epoxied onto the balsa cores. The stabilizer was then cut in half and re-glued to the proper dihedral using brass pins for strength.

The vertical tail was cut in two and the chord-shape of the stabilizer removed. The lower half was then glued to the fuselage and the stab and upper section of the rudder added on top of that. All attachments were made using long brass tubing or wire to give the required strength.

The wings were made by first cutting the wood mold in half and removing a section from the upper center section that would have otherwise interfered with the cockpit tub. The wings were then re-glued with the proper dihedral, and braced with some brass tubing.


The wheel well openings were cut from the wood, and the upper plastic surface attached with epoxy. Detailing of the wheel wells was then done followed by construction of the landing gear. The wheels, tires, and parts of the gear leg were also taken from the remains of the Bandai 24th scale P-51. The rest of the gear was scratch-built. After this detailing was done, the bottom surfaces of the wings were epoxied in place and the wing was cleaned up.

The gear doors needed a bunch of pieces, but were fairly straightforward. It was nice to have only one gear door per side (the retracted wheel was not covered). The tail wheel is non-retractable. Landing and nav-lights were also added.

This particular bird is the XA-32A, the armament test aircraft. I chose it because I thought the cannon looked cool. The cannon housings were made by heat-and-smashing 8 halves over a turned mold and gluing them together after trimming. The barrels were aluminum tubing which had to be plugged and filled since, at least at the time the pictures were taken, they were dummies.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

All the control surfaces were cut out and re-installed, and for once, I did not open the flaps/dive brakes (it had them on both the upper and lower surfaces).

After priming and sanding, all the parts were scribed. I know that I will always lose some of the scribing during the assembly process, but it always seems easier to me to repair rather than try to do it all after the main pieces are assembled.


The wings and tail were attached to the fuselage and all the fairings were added/cleaned.

Sanding, puttying, sanding, etc., was then done and the scribing touched up where necessary.



Painting and Markings


The finish on the airplane was silver lacquer, which is kind of boring, but it did avoid a lot of natural-metal work.


Decals were scrounged from the scrap box. When it was finished, I just had to picture the thing alongside a Revell P-47 dating from many years ago.

It was big.

Bottom line: One more weird airplane to add to the shelves. At least Trumpeter won’t be bringing it out a month after it was finished.



Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2003 by Frank Mitchell
Page Created 31 July, 2003
Last Updated 17 March, 2004

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