Tamiya 1/32 F-4J Phantom II
By Kelly Quirk
I have always been a huge fan of the Phantom, and in particular the US Navy variants. In my entire modeling lifetime, I have built more F-4's than any other plane. I have long desired a good kit in 1/32 scale, even going as far as writing letters to the major model manufactures begging them to produce one. Tamiya finally answered my prayers, and I must say they did not disappoint me. The single piece fuselage is very nicely engraved, even with the rivet detail, and raised panels in the right places. The single piece moulding rids you of having to join two halves together, and then having to sand and rescribe the spine of the aircraft as in days past. Part fit was pretty good throughout, the only trouble spot I had was with the vertical tailpiece. No matter what I did, I just couldn't get it to set down flush with the fuselage. I ended up with several applications of gap filling super-glue, and after sanding and painting, it looks fine. I also encountered a very small gap between the wing to fuselage joint, but that was very easy to fill in with super-glue. Part fit otherwise was excellent, in fact I painted the metal part of the tail of the jet and the jet itself before putting the parts together, and there is virtually no seem. This was much easier than masking the parts after assembly and then painting it.
The cast metal landing gear is very sturdy - it needs to be, this model is BIG - and it is secured in place with supplied screws. The only part of the model I am really disappointed about is the intakes. The way they are engineered, there is an overlapping of joints about an inch inside the intake. There is probably a way of fixing this, but I didn't have the patience to try and figure out how. There is not exactly a ton of detail inside the intakes, in fact you can just barely see the engine fan blades, so I made intake covers from styrene and glued those over the intake openings. Problem solved. Building the rest of the model was pretty straight forward, so I will just go into the extra work I did to it for the purpose of this review. Most of the extra work was done in the cockpit. I used Waldron modern jet gauges in the front panels, and they were well worth the effort. I also scratchbuilt the opening mechanisms for the canopies out of bits of plastic rod and Grandt Line bolts. Also added wires and cables in various places, made from copper wire and Verlinden flexible hoses.
One detail in all Phantoms that a lot of modelers don't catch is a small coiled wire (almost like a spring) that goes from the right rear of the ejection seat to the rear of each canopy. In this large scale, the effect is spectacular. On the ejection seat themselves, that is quite a story. I purchased resin seats from Verlinden, but was not real pleased with them. Problem number one is they are made for Air Force Phantoms, not the Navy version. So I went back to the kit seats, which are really not bad, they just need some fixing up. I used the hardware from the Verlinden seats, and made belts from fabric from ReHeat, and also used lead foil for the smaller belts. I used very thin solder to detail the seats, bits of sheet styrene, and more Grandt Line nuts and bolts. Also added the drogue chute cable made from solder, and the secondary ejection pull ring from solder. Also in the canopy I used photo-etched canopy rails, hooks, and the holes in the sills to accept the hooks.
To finish it off I added photo-etched mirrors with stretched sprue mounts to the two canopies. A lot of work in a small area, but every bit of it shows well. On the landing gear, I simply added a few hydraulic lines, as well as a few in the wheel wells. I added the ring to the nosegear for the tie down chains out of solder. I was very pleased that Tamiya provided the option to fold the wing tips, as I wanted to show mine in the stowed position. There is a fair amount of detail in the fold provided by Tamiya, I added the folding mechanism (which is basically a small arm) out of styrene cut to shape and detailed with a couple bolt heads. Also put in a couple small hydraulic lines. I have heard complaints about the kit decals, but mine were perfect. I only used the walkways, the large "NAVY" and the stencilling, but they went on with no problem at all, and were in perfect register. For the rest of the markings I used the Superscale set for the VF-142 "Ghostriders" off the USS Enterprise in 1972. I used ModelMaster paints for the entire model, and weathered with pencil, oils, and pastels. The metal work on the tail section was done in different shades of buffing Metalizer.
One of my personal favorite tricks in modeling is doing the navigation lights. I paint them the correct colors (red, green, white) and after the paint is dry, apply a small glop of 5 minute epoxy with a sharpened toothpick. When dry, it produces a very realistic lens. Do this AFTER your final flat coating. For a unique display I purchased a carrier deck set made by FlightPath, and it has all the tie down points, chains and hooks, tow bar, and wheel chocks. With the F-4 all chained down to the deck, it looks very impressive. The hook mechanisms look great in this large scale. Overall, I am very pleased with the kit. Thank you Tamiya!!!! (maybe my letter did some good!) If anyone wants to visit with me about it (or take me to task for something I did wrong) please e-mail me, I'd love to talk about it. Now I will start my letter writing campaign for a 1/48 SH-60 SeaHawk!
To see more pictures of this excellent model by Kelly click here