Scale 1/72
Manufacturer Italeri
Kit ID
Type Convair TB-58A 55-670
Unit 43rd Bombardment Wing, Carswell AFB, Texas
Aftermarket parts used None
Other detail added
Model built by Alex Hunger
Date Completed January 2016

The B-58 Hustler was an absolutely groundbreaking aircraft in the late 1950s but only served in the USAF from 1960 to 1970 as a SAC medium bomber. It also became memorable in the classic 1960s doomsday film “Fail Safe.” The aircraft required a lot of maintenance, was difficult to fly, had relatively short range and could not adapt to low altitude mission profiles thereby exposing it to the growing SAM threat. Relatively small oscillations or an engine out situation at high speed could result in an airframe breaking up in flight. A trainer version could help with this issue. Due to a shortage of airframes after production cut backs, Convair convinced the USAF to recondition some of the non-operational prototypes and pre-production aircraft into trainers. They were unarmed and had extra glazing to help the instructor.

For many decades, the Italeri B-58A kit has been the only game in town and was reasonably close to being a definitive kit. The kit suffered from a poor fit between fuselage and wings on the underside, poor fit of the cockpit hatches and inner engine pods that had to be butt joined. Otherwise, the finely engrave panel lines allow the kit to continue selling even in this millennium.

The TB-58 kit has the same issues and also has a tail gun which was should not be present. The decal sheet also has an error on the serial number of the colourful variant reusing the paint scheme of the prototypes. It simply has "5070" rather than the full serial "50670" (replicating the actual serial number - 55-670). With the black numbers printed on a white background swoosch, the modeler has to become inventive.

I largely built the kit straight out of the box with little deviation other than to correct the obvious mistakes. Much time was spent filling and sanding the wing to fuselage joint and then recarving the lost panel lines. I also sanded the Gatling gun into a nice normal cone. The location holes for the non-existent B-57 bombs also had to be filled. The inner engine pylons received small nibs which could then slot into the wing with a little more confidence. I left off the engines until after painting.

I first masked off the glazed parts. The airframe and engines were primed separately in Halfords Grey. Wanting the colourful trainer version for a bit of diversity, I first spray painted the tail, nose and landing gear bays in white primer and then in gloss white. The idea was to avoid using the erroneous white decal on the tail.  When dry, I masked these areas off and spray painted the red areas. When dry, I masked these areas off and applied a light grey coat to the landing gear pods and wing tips. This was masked off again allowing me to paint the rest in Nissan silver. When dry, I masked off the light natural metal areas in order to airbrush a darker aluminum to the remaining areas on the wing leading edges and some other areas on the airframe and engine pods. That done, I could peel off all the many layers of masking tape. The large anti-glare panel was painted onto the top of the nose by hand using black enamel and left to dry overnight. Some areas had to be corrected manually before adding the engine pods. The fit of the inner engine pods is still a bit iffy.

The landing gear were assembled as per instructions and only received some retraction links on some locations as per photos I took at the Pima air museum before being added to the airframe. Separately, the MK1 fuel/bomb pod was spray painted red. The airframe received a couple of generous coats of gloss as the Italeri decals were going to be prone to silvering. I applied most of the kit decals as indicated, with some minor trimming of the backing areas. The serial numbers was replaced with numbers from the spares box while red stripes had to be found for the engines. The pod did receive the kit “swoosh” which did not show the underlying red through too much. Voila!

The endless masking was a sacrifice well worth making in order to achieve a TB-58A which was different from the all-natural metal of the service version. The alternate markings for the Trainer nick-named “Boomerang” would also have been acceptable but not as vivid. It’s a pity they didn’t call it B-58B, as they would have a few decades later,  in order to simplify my book keeping.

Model and images by Alex Hunger