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XF-85 Goblin

Special Hobby 1/48 XF-85 Goblin Build Review

By Kelly Jamison

Date of Review February 2006 Manufacturer Special Hobby
Subject McDonnell XF-85 Goblin Scale 1/48
Kit Number 48003 Primary Media Styrene, Resin
Pros Excellent detailing in the cockpit, subject matter Cons Vague instructions, needs some scratch building experience, lots of filling and sanding
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $25.00


Born for a necessity of having an escort fighter that could be taken with the bombers during their strikes deep into enemy territory, McDonnell designed the small parasite fighter to be stowed inside the newly designed B-36 Peacemaker bomber. It would not need landing gear and would be fitted with a retractable skyhook to hatch onto a trapeze. Initial test using a B-29 were not promising. After a failed hookup and belly landing, the plane was retrofitted with wing tips fillets and fins to improve stability. This did not help and after a whopping 2 hours and 19 minutes, the Air Force decided to pull the plug on this experiment.

Three of the aircraft were made. Only two ever were flown at a cost of over 3.2 million dollars. The first one 46522 never flew because it was an engineering mockup made from plywood and metal. It was scrapped after the program ended. 46523 can be seen at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum and 46524 can be viewed at the Strategic Aerospace Museum at Offutt Air Force Base Nebraska.

Here is a little history about Herman Barkey, the designer of the XF-85 Goblin. Herman Barkey was born in North Judson, Indiana where he studied mechanical engineering at Notre Dame before finally graduating from the University of Detroit in 1932 with a degree in aeronautical engineering. Early in his career he worked for both Hamilton Standard and Curtiss-Wright before joining McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis in 1945.

Along with his bazaar looking XF-85 Goblin parasite fighter, He worked on several early projects, including the XF-88 Voodoo experimental fighter, and the successful F2H Banshee. In the fall of 1953, Barkey laid down the initial drawings of what was then McDonnell Model 98 which would develop into the amazing F-4 Phantom program. From the Goblin to the Phantom is truly a study in design and needs of the times.

Herman Barkey, died December 9th 2005 at the ripe old age of 96. Many pilots from many different nations owe their lives to Mr. Barkey and his Phantom.

The Kit

An inbox review can be found here.

This little kit is very deceiving in its appearance. It only has 48 parts including the resin pieces, clear vacuformed canopy, split tires for the trailer and the trailer itself. The wings are one piece along with all winglets and elevators and rudders. The wings are a bit warped and needed some time under hot water and a firm hand to mold them back into shape.



Start off by clean cutting the fuselage halves from the tree with a hot knife. The channels are thick and easy to scar the fuselage if you break them off. Then since the fuselage is the next step, take all the resin to the sink to wash off any oils from the mold release agents. A simple old toothbrush and a bit of soap and warm water is all that is needed.


The instrument panel is good but does not look like the real thing. I added small “ears” off to the sides of the panel and added some Mike Grant Instrument decals to the faces of the panel. I then punched out small clear disk using a Waldron punch and die set. Using a pin vise, I drilled small holes on the backside of the gages and used wire to replicate, well, wire! The whole thing got a coat of Testors Acryl Interior Black. This greatly enhanced the plain kit panel.

All the interior pieces are very nicely done in crème colored resin. The cockpit tub is painted in the same Interior Black as the instrument panel. I took some aluminum foil and pressed a diamond pattern into it with the backside of a dull knife blade. This replicates the sound padding behind the ejection seat. Paint the padding flat black. I didn’t install it until right before I glued the canopy on so you might not see it until later photos. The only thing in the cockpit that is Zinc Chromate is the ejection seat according to photos taken last week of the real deal sitting in the museum at Wright-Patt. The headrest is flat black and the back cushion is OD green with grey shoulder harnesses and lap belts. Silver detailed buckles complete a fantastic looking ejection seat. The seat is not 100% accurate but very few people on the face of the planet would ever know or care about it.

The control stick isn’t right either. I cut off the handle from the stick and put a small piece of scrap so that the handle sits closer to the pilot. I also detailed out the control column with wire. Since I knew the plane was going to get a lot of sanding and scribing, I did not put the seat or instrument panel in yet.

I worked off the left side of the fuselage half. It doesn’t matter if you use the right or left. You will have the same alignment problems either way. Next bit to do is the tail exhaust pipe. It fit with just a little of shimming up. Then the cockpit tub came next. If you draw a line with pencil right down the middle of the firewall of the tub, it will help you align it better. There is a large gap between the sidewall of the tub and the sidewall of the fuselage interior. Taking time to align the cockpit will help you when you put the hook stowage well in and the alignment of the intake too.

The skyhook stowage well needs some attention. It needs a bit of sanding on the top side to replicate the curve of the fuselage as it tapers to the intake. Take your time and align the intake plug to this stowage well. I had large gaps around the front edge of the intake and the side of the fuselage. Extra thick superglue to the rescue! I built up this area until it was flush adding a few shims made from scrap plastic to give the glue something to adhere to. This same process is going to be replicated for the left half when it is time to glue it in but it is much harder because you no longer have access to the area. I would tilt the model to that side and drip the glue down into the gap letting each layer dry a few hours between each session.

When you put the fuselage halves together, the very tip of the top edge of the nose should not meet. This is the area where the hook part of the Skyhook should enter the intake when stowed. This makes things very difficult to keep in alignment and glue together. I used some more 30 thousands sheet plastic to temporarily put in the gap and glued around it making sure not to get superglue on it. Then when it was dry, I pulled the plastic out and it made a perfect gap.


I took advantage of the ejection port lugs on the wings to use to help the structure have more strength on the wing to fuselage but joints by drilling out holes in the fuselage wing root mating area. It helped a lot on the many times I dropped the model during handling. The joint area was surprisingly good! I did use some Mr. Filler to clean it up a bit. The version I was building has the winglets but I didn’t put them on yet knowing that they would be easy to break off.


At this point I noticed a new problem. There is supposed to be a small area that covers the hook when it is in its stowed position. It is not in the kit at all so I made it by gluing the tips of an old Hasegawa Hellcat prop between some plastic and wedging it into the gap I left earlier. It worked great and looks right.

Because of all the fins, you have to think about the order you want to glue them on. I glued the rudder on first then you have to build up the area behind the cockpit as it joins the rudder. The kit manufacturer did not get the shape of this area right. It should be more bulbous. Lots of sanding, shaping and filler finally got this area into shape.


Next on the list are the outer rudders. It is the same story as before. Sanding, filling, more blending to the fuselage. I also left off part #11 ventricle fin. It is not needed on the version I planned to build. There are some resin strakes that go down the wing. They got cut from their pouring block and superglued to the top of the wings. The little winglets got put on the wing tips. WARNING! I promptly broke them off a few times in handling.

The build seemed to slow down with little things that needed to be scratch-built or cleaned up. There is a small faring at the nose that I built from the wing tip of an old broken Otaki Corsair. The pitot tube was made using some micro-tube with wire in the end. The pitot tubes on the wing tips were made by drilling a larger diameter hole into the wing tips and a short brass tube superglued in. Then smaller diameter tube was used for the pitot tube and placed into the bigger tube for better structural rigidity. You better believe that these two pitot tubes are going to get hooked on everything they come close to. The two airflow humps were superglued to the area right before the canopy and blended in with Mr. Surfacer. Don’t get them too close together or the skyhook will not fit.

XF-85 XF-85

I cut the canopy off its carrier and fitted it to the fuselage. There was a large gap on the right side that I filled in with sheet plastic and more superglue. The area right behind the hook stowage area needs some filling in to get it to fit right and not leave a gap between the bottom of the window and the firewall. Another thing the kit leaves out completely is the air mover system that kept the giant fishbowl canopy from frosting over. I built it out of some wire and scrap plastic. More sanding and filling and superglue blended the canopy into the fuselage. I had planned to have the canopy closed on this build. That was to change. More on that subject later.

Painting and Marking


I used Tamiya low adhesive tape to cover the canopy and then gave the whole plane a coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000 spray paint. This stuff is great. It shows all the little blemishes you didn’t find earlier. More filling and sanding to get all the bumps and divots out before the next step.


Next I used a product called Krylon Black Lacquer Gloss to give the upcoming silver something to bite onto and a deeper sheen. My silver of choice lately has been Krylon Original Chrome spray paint. This looked very good as polished aluminum paint. But it does take a long time to dry. Well at least one full day.

The rudder tips got painted white. I know the instructions say yellow. I have about 30 period pictures that show it white. None that show them painted yellow and the two restored versions have black, red (which is completely wrong), white and yellow depending on when the picture was taken but all were after the flight program was completed. I went with white.

This is where I think I went wrong. The decals went on without any problems and were great. I wanted to give the decals a good surface to bond to so I sprayed the entire kit with Future. I knew this would kill the sheen a bit and hopefully make it look like tarnished aluminum. But it completely killed the metallic look I had. I was disappointed to say the least. There are not many decals that show the carrier film on this build so I should have not worried about it so much. That excess clear carrier film is always the bane of silver paint jobs. I believe this kit would have been a good candidate to leave the silver bare like it was. I felt I made a big mistake. The plane would have looked better before the Future.

I then masked off the black anti-glare panel and sprayed it before putting the skyhook in. Don’t forget to paint the backside of the skyhook black too. The skyhook also has some linkage that needs to be put in and it is finished.

When I peeled off the masking tape, to my surprise, the canopy was fogged over on the inside. I let it go for a few days hoping it would clear but it did not. I made the decision to cut open the canopy. Not an easy task with it glued into place. I got a new #11 Exacto knife and started cutting slowly. This broke the gasper dry air system I had scratch-built in the canopy frame earlier and that had to be rebuilt when the canopy got posed in the open position. The canopy had to be polished out to get the fogged material off it. I dipped the canopy in Future before originally installing it but this did not seem to help the fogging effect of the superglue. It usually does. Well I painted the yellow warning strip around the inside of the canopy and the black then silver framing and glued the new and improved gasper dry air mover into the canopy frame. I used white glue to pose the canopy in the open position. The airframe is now complete and set off to the side only after dropping it again and scratching the spine of the plane and breaking off (you guessed it) both long pitot tubes.

Last thing to do is the Aerospace Ground Equipment trailer. It is a combination of resin and plastic and is a model unto itself. The beams on my sample were warped. It took a lot of hot water and trimming to get as much warp out of them as possible but I didn’t get it completely straight.


The wheels are too wide and are shapeless in the hub area. You might look in your spare parts dungeon to see if you have a set better matching your research pictures. The vertical bars, going to the connecting points on the aircraft fuselage halves and need a bit of cleaning up before being glued on. It did not make sense to me how they went on the trailer until I looked at pictures of the real thing in detail.

The small mounting lugs are resin and broke easily under handling so I made some that look more like the real thing. The two beams coming off the frame and connecting the axel to the wheels are not done very well and need some care to get them to fit right. You don’t really know the distance they should be until they are already glued up. I drilled out the center area where the axle would be and placed some plastic rod there so the wheels would at least have something to ride on. The front wheels were drilled out and given the same treatment. The rest is straight forward modeling you can handle. I painted it Tamiya XF-26 deep green and stained it with different dark washes. The instructions and the real deal in both museums shows the trailer in yellow but all the period pictures show it in a dark green color. The yellow is very colorful but the dark green is more correct.

XF-85 XF-85


This kit was a bit of a bear for such a simple kit. With lots of superglue to fill in poor, misshaped areas and gaps along with instructions that were vague at times and confusing, poor fitting trailer pieces, soft panel lines that seem to disappear under all the needed primer and undercoats and so many different configurations for a plane that didn’t fly that much makes this a tough build in my opinion. I would not recommend this for a first time limited run builder. It will beat you down before you finish.

XF-85 XF-85 XF-85

But, subject matter, decals and resin pieces and a very cool addition to your collection makes this little kit a gem in the rough. I am really interested in building its stable mate #6523 and trying ideas like first building the trailer, deepening the panel lines before assembly, chrome silver paint without future and maybe the skyhook in the stored position. The two very unique aircraft would look great together.