Zoukei-Mura Inc. 1/48 F-4J Phantom II Kit Build Review
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||November 2016||Manufacturer||Zoukei-Mura Inc.|
|Subject||F-4J Phantom II||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||48004||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Beautiful molding, excellent detail||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$75.00|
For a look at this kit out of the box, look here.
As with any good aircraft build, construction starts in the cockpit. Step One assembles the two Martin Baker ejection seats and while I have the parts pre-painted, I will assemble these later in the process.
Step two builds up the cockpit and nosegear well assembly. Working through these instructions, you'll note that each part is clearly called out and most of the parts for a given assembly are mercifully provided on a common parts tree, so you're not spending half of your build time hunting for parts. The diagrams also show you the various mold stubs that must be removed from each part before assembly and a little bottle icon with a number in it calls out the color(s) of that part. In the image below, we have the various parts from Steps Two and Three that build up the cockpit tubs.
Here is the the same cockpit tub asssembly from underneath revealing the nice details molded into the nosegear well. While the tubs and well are painted their respective colors, I haven't started the process of using washes to bring out the details. Note that even with the instructions pointing out the mold stubs, I take a little extra time to inspect and clean every edge from overlooked sprue tree attachment remnants, mold lines, and the occassional bit of flash. The time spent preparing each part and test-fitting during assembly will make the build go smoothly.
A little extra time was taken in Steps Four and Five to mask off the various panels and sub-panels in both cockpits. I kept a copy of Bert Kinzey's F-4 in Detail and Scale handy for the color cockpit photos to replicate 'the look'. Note the black cockpit sill that mounts integral to the cockpit tub as the designers use this to help align the cockpit assembly within the fuselage halves. Aside from the time masking and painting, the kit goes together effortlessly.
In Step 6, the cockpit assembly mounts to the right fuselage half and as expected, the fit is perfect. Don't forget to install the canopy locking levers! Moving to Step 7, we add one last panel to the left side of the rear cockpit, add the air intake splitter to the base of the vertical stabilizer, and put the fuselage halves together. The left fuselage half aligns nicely around the cockpit assembly and the fuselage is together. Note the dorsal spine is waiting for its inserts that come in the next step.
Using the cockpit sill to align everything is brilliant. The fit is excellent and more importantly, the cockpit bulkheads butt against the fuselage sides providing positive gluing points to keep everything together.
Here's the fuselage after Steps 8, 9, and 10. The fairing aft of the cockpit needs a slight trim at the base against the rear cockpit bulkhead. You'll see it when you test-fit and when you lightly sand away those points, the fairing fits perfectly. Then there is that insert along the top of the dorsal spine. It too almost fits but I had to file one end slightly to get it to drop into place. It is easier to make a part slightly large and trim it than trying to fill around a part too small. When you look closely at the dorsal spine without the insert in place, you'll notice an array of slots molded into the fuselage halves there. This is a bit of brilliance again because you can put that insert into place, flip the fuselage over and glue from underneath. Well done!
Step 9 installs the radome and air conditioning scoops on the nose. The radome is dry-fit into place but I'll wait until the end to install it just in case the model needs ballast. Step 10 adds the fin cap, braking chute door, and light lens to the vertical stab. All of the lenses will also stay off the model until we're done painting.
Steps 11 and 12 build up the J79 engines and intake ducts. The engine compressor area was painted aluminum along with the compressor and turbine faces as well as the afterburner flame holder rings. The insides of the afterburner chambers were painted gray, then all of the parts were given a gray wash.
The intake ducts halves were assembled and while the exterior surfaces were almost seamless, the interior surfaces had slightly rounded edges creating a seam inside the ducts. I used acrylic putty to fill the seams, sanded the interior smooth, then painted the ducts' interior white.
Here's the lower wing/fuselage section being dry-fitted to the fuselage. As careful as I was cleaning each part, this dry-fit revealed two sprue tree remants that were not completely cleaned, but now the fit is nice.
Now for the real reason for the lower wing/fuselage section - Step 13 has you open up flashed-over holes for the weapons pylons and fairings. The hole diameters are in metric while my pin vise drill bits are (fractions of) inches. I simply used a smaller bit to open up the holes, then worked up to one that matched the pylon mounting pins. Mission accomplished.
Step 14 mounts the engines/intakes to the lower wing/fuselage section. Step 12 wanted the engines glued into the intakes, but I waited until I had this lower wing/fuselage section ready as I was skeptical that simply gluing these parts together was really going to work. There are tabs on the intakes and on the rear of the engines that plug into corresponding slots on the lower wing/fuselage section, so when I glued the engines into the intakes, I dry-mounted the assembly to the lower section to dry.
Once the intake/engine subassembly had dried, I painted the only area that will be seen from outside aluminum and then applied a gray wash to bring out the details. In the second image below, you see all you will see of these engines through the auxiliary intakes. This isn't a criticism as you need to add a resin part to the Hasegawa and Academy kits to replicate this same detail, otherwise you can see into the empty fuselage cavity.
Step 15/16 assembles the main wheel wells and the upper surface of the wings. In this photo, I am dry-fitting the fuselage.
Here's a look into the wheel wells which are pre-painted along with the speed brake wells.
In Step 17, you insert the nose gear strut up-lock and then Step 18 mounts the fuselage to the wings. With Steps 19/20, the outer intakes and splitter plates are assembled. Note the air pressure/velocity pitots in each intake. I've also masked off the white intake section on the splitter plate as the latter will be gull gray.
Here are the intakes assembled with the back side of the splitter plates and forward fuselage sides pre-painted gull gray.
Here's a glimpse down the port intake though the flash didn't quite reach back there. Note the port side hollow air conditioning scoop which is another example of the great detail put into this kit. You need aftermarket resin scoops to do the same for the Hasegawa and Academy kits.
Here are the stabilators with the preliminary white coat on both sides. They were later masked and painted with several shades of metalizer to replicate the 'look' of these units. The underside of the aircraft is also painted white.
I've masked off the white areas as well as the engine exhaust shields for the gull gray. Note the one-piece canopy - this is dry-fit in place (the fit is excellent) and it is serving as my cockpit mask since I'll be displaying this aircraft with the canopies open.
To be continued. Stay tuned!
My sincere thanks to Zoukei-Mura Inc. for this review sample!