Scale 1/72
Manufacturer Testors
Kit ID
Type Brilliant Buzzard
Aftermarket parts used True Details seats, Hobbycraft and Alps custom decals
Other detail added None
Model built by Chris St Clair
Date Completed November 2005

Any of you who have seen my collection of models will know that it is somewhat “esoteric”.  I tend to produce models that most people wouldn’t touch with a barge-poll (how many Matchbox Victor tankers have YOU seen completed!  Airfix B-1 anyone??).

I quite like off-the-wall aircraft so when I found this on E-Bay, I just had to have it … I thought that it would add nicely to my (planned) reconnaissance and stealth collection.  I can’t remember how much I paid for the SR-75 but it wasn’t a huge amount of money.  I would have liked the version of the kit which came with the XR-7, but you can’t have everything!

Testors seem to have decided that their role in life is to produce kits which make you think – for example their F-19 Stealth.  The SR-75 is no exception to this.  The aircraft looks much like a cross between a scaled-up SR-71 and an XB-70 Valkyrie.  It has the long nose and chines of the SR-71 but the engine configuration and wing layout of the Valkyrie and looks pretty good.  The size of the beast is apparent – it’s nearly twice the size of the SR-71 and more or less the same size as the XB-70!  Its special feature is the piggybacked XR-7, which sits on a flat raised section on the rear fuselage.  The tailplanes are canted outwards to avoid the jet blast and there is a dedicated crewmember to watch the launch (must be a bit boring for the other hours of the flight!!)

So where did Testors get their inspiration from??  Well…  Since the early 1990’s there have been reports of unknown large aircraft over the US – the first of these coming from Nevada and the Antelope Valley region of California in 1990.  The aircraft spotted was described as being around 200 feet long and resembled the XB-70 with a large delta wing, tip-mounted rudders and large underwing engine pods.  It was white (or light gray) overall with black leading and trailing edges.  Various other sightings were made and a large “SR-71-shaped” forward fuselage section was spotted being loaded onto a C-5 galaxy at Lockheed’s Skunk Works – it was headed for Boeing Field in Seattle.  Strange “donut-on-a-rope” contrails were also sighted on a number of occasions and it was thought that these were symbolic of a Pulse-Wave-Detonation-Engine (PWDE).

During this time period, major modifications were also noted to Area 51.  The runway was extended to almost 7 miles long, large (unidentified) fuel tanks were installed and a huge hangar was built – known as “Hangar 18”.

Given that the US had retired the SR-71 and had limited ability to launch satellites into space, it was thought that something must exist to fill these joint requirements, and maybe this aircraft was it??  It was quite conceivable that it could be a launch platform for some kind of aerospace plane, especially since the idea had been trialled before with the XB-70/X-15 and M-21/D-21.  Through various sources in the military, the name Brilliant Buzzard was mentioned.  BRILLIANT is a US prefix indicating a Strategic Defense Initiative Organisation space-based programme.  It has been theorized that the “Brilliant Buzzard” was then developed into the “Snow Bird” as a high-speed reconnaissance aircraft.

Interesting stuff… but very difficult to verify!

Oh well…on with the build…

The kit is moulded in grey plastic and there are few parts.  Markings are provided for two colour schemes – a test aircraft in a fictional gloss grey and black scheme, and an “operational” version in all-over black with red markings a la SR-71.  Both schemes look quite nice, although I’m not sure a test aircraft would be grey and black??  Obviously, my choice would be neither – being based on the “real” (!!) operational scheme of black and white.

The layout of the main fuselage and wing pieces is distinctive, being split into four – upper and lower front fuselage and upper and lower rear fuselage.  The “wingtips” are separate and are designed so that they can be modelled raised or lowered.  The step between the front and rear fuselage halves is staggered for strength and there is also a prop in the front fuselage.  The rear fuselage pieces are almost a foot square – which makes working difficult if you have a limited space.

I started construction by tackling the cockpit interior.  Testors have decided that the SR-75 is a 3-seater, with pilot, navigator / electronics officer and a “guy-in-back” facing backwards to manage the launch of the XR-7.  The cockpit is built up from a simple tub with three instrument panels and three ACES II seats – the rear-most one facing backwards.  I sprayed the interior using Halfords Gray Plastic Primer, which has the curious property of being almost identical to Dark Gull Grey!  I chose to replace the kit seats with Aires replacements and these were also sprayed grey.  I painted the cushions black and the straps green on the basis that it was a stealth aircraft, which works for me!  The cockpit interior had the various panels painted black and then dry-brushed with grey to bring out the detail.  I weathered the seats using “The Detailer” which does a great job of making detail “pop out” although it does darken the finish and make it slightly shiny.  I didn’t go over the top here as this was meant to be a “quick” project.  At this point I went to glue the seats into place, and found one missing!  Given that I’d just moved model rooms, I suppose it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but it was annoying.  Oh well, lucky I had some spares in stock!

Next step was to spray the undercarriage bays, first with Halfords White Plastic Primer and then with Halfords Appliance White.  I then glued them into the lower fuselage parts using superglue.  I then glued the interior tub into the top forward fuselage.  At the same time, the instructions call for the engine intakes to be added.  I started by spraying the outsides with a coat of Gray Plastic Primer, then Matt Black and then followed up with a couple of coats of Halfords Nissan Silver, left over from my Monogram NB-52E project.  They were then super-glued into the lower fuselage halves – the fit wasn’t perfect so it’s a good thing I used gap-filling superglue!  Next, I sprayed all of the interior pieces with the black primer so that it would stop the fuselage from appearing to be translucent.

You may be wondering why the excessive use of Halfords products? Well, I’m basically lazy!  Spraying with a can means I can get a lot done very quickly and move on to other things!

The next step (once the paint was dry obviously!) was to spray the exhausts silver and glue them into the lower fuselage halves.  Again, I used superglue for this for speed.

Now the fun really started!  I don’t like raised panel lines so I elected to rescribe everything before I glued the halves together.  I used a Hasegawa Tritool scriber (which used to be manufactured by Tri-Part) – this looks similar to an Olfa P-Cutter.  I’ve gone through at least three Bare-Metal Scribers in the past; whilst they scribe very well, I have a bad habit of scribing across my metal rule and breaking the tips off!  So far, the Hasegawa tool has fared far better.  I used a combination of a Scale Aircraft Modelling ruler (staple of my tool box!), Tri-Parts scribing templates and a steel rule, together with some Dymo lettering tape to do the job.  Where I overshot in places, I dripped super glued into the erroneous area and then rescribed it again until I was happy.  I then sanded everything down using a couple of sanding sticks and finished off by running liquid cement into the lines to clean them up. 

Having got the “housekeeping” out of the way, the big job started – joining the fuselage quarters together!  I had previously started the AMT/ERTL XB-70 Valkyrie (note that I didn’t say FINISHED!!) and had had major problems getting the fuselage to stick together.  I chose this time to glue the front and rear halves together so I could keep them flat, rather than joining upper and lower halves.  It was at this point in time I realised just how BIG the finished model was going to be.  Having built a Monogram B-52, Airfix B-1 and AMT/ERTL KC-135, I’m used to larger models, but this surprised me – my workbench started to look quite small!

Whilst my original plan was to glue upper halves together and then mate them to the lower halves, this did not work in practice.  I started by filling the upper front “quarter” with Wickes Foam Filler, but when this had dried and finished expanding I realised that the Testors plastic was so soft it had distorted!  In the end, I superglued the upper and lower sections together (front and rear) and then filled each part (front fuselage and rear fuselage) with the foam.  Once set this made the fuselage rock solid.

I then glued the front and rear fuselage halves together and discovered that one half was slightly smaller than the other leaving a slight step.  I managed to get rid of most of this using Isopon P-38 car filler, but it did leave a small area I just couldn’t get rid of.  This left me with a more or less complete airframe so the next step was to add the wing tips and fill the joint.  A final clean up of the panel lines and it was time for painting!

I masked off the undercarriage bays with the doors and added the cockpit canopies and fairings as it made sense to do it at this stage.  I primed the whole airframe with Halfords gray primer and went through a few cycles of fill, sand and prime…

Several weeks later (well, that’s what it felt like!!!) I oversprayed the gray primer with several coats of Halfords White primer in preparation for the top coat.  I chose to use the Appliance White again as this covers well.  Next time I will use straight Gloss White as the Appliance White dries quite dusty.  After four or five coats I was left with a reasonably nice, and more or less complete finish.  I left this to dry, then masked the wing edges and sprayed Halfords Matt Black.  When dry, the masking was removed … and the aircraft was basically finished!!

Now it’s time to spill the beans…  I had been keeping this build quiet to surprise Haydn – I’d actually been scribing the fuselage halves the weekend before the 2005 Scale Modelworld!  By the Thursday evening, I’d got the painting finished but quickly realised that there was no way I was going to get it completely finished in time!  Since this was a “black” project, I theorised that it would have limited markings, and for the purposes of the Nationals I assumed it would have been trialled with no markings at all!  So I concentrated on getting the undercarriage on and the gear doors in place.  Taking this approach meant that I was able to get it into it’s lair (i.e. the large box normally used to transport my NB-52E!) by Friday evening.

At Scale Modelworld it attracted quite a lot of interest which pleased me no end – it completely overshadowed my Bird Of Prey (which Haydn WAS expecting!).

When I got back I resolved to get it finished – which turned out to be quite time consuming.  The kit markings were in red, but I wanted to use black to match the black and white scheme as I thought red would be too obvious.  Unfortunately, the font of the stencilling was identical to that used for the SR-71.  I could have just used standard Amarillo but wanted to remain true to the idea, so ended up making most of the markings from scratch using Corel Draw and printing them using my Alps MD-1000 printer.  This worked extremely well and enabled me to add not only the “No Step”, “Danger” and “Beware Of Blast” stencils, but also the panel markings (which I assume cover access panels for the reconnaissance pods) on the underside of the front fuselage.

For the black ejection warning triangles, I resorted to a couple of Hobby Decal A-10 sheets – these are of the “rub-down” variety and worked a treat.  Finally, I added the walkways from 1/16th inch Superscale black lines and the launch “rail” on the raised rear empennage from 1/8th scale lining.

To finish off, I opened the canopies tidied up the undercarriage.  The plastic was so weak that both outriggers snapped and I had to reinforce them with steel tubing.  Luckily all wheels contact the ground, reducing the likelihood of breakage.

Finally, it was finished.  I was extremely pleased with this build – it could have been better but my output of late has not been exactly prolific so I was happy to get it finished.  If nothing else, it made Haydn’s day!

Model, article and photographs by Chris St Clair