Thursday, 12 April 2012

Build Review - Hasegawa 1/48 F104G Starfighter

The Starfighter has always been an extremely popular modelling subject. What with it's sleek, rocket-like, almost physics defying design that could have come straight out of any of the Gerry Anderson series.

I was landed with a commission to build one in 1/48, the customer wanted the German grey/green markings which look pretty cool, it has to be said. The choice boiled down to the Revell or Hasegawa offerings and the latter won convincingly on the basis of being a far superior kit for not a lot more money. We also agreed to dress it up a little, so I ordered in the Eduard cockpit detail set, a C2 ejection seat from True Details, and a couple of resin under wing tanks from Heritage Aviation since those do not come with the kit.

Speaking of which, we needed a "G" version since that was what the Luftwaffe mainly used, and no single offering matched the needs precisely, the CCV being the nearest but for ease of build, I opted to bag the "Taiwan Air Force" version since it is identical in every way, and also ordered the simply brilliant decal set for German F104Gs from DACO.

The kit itself is well up to Hasegawa's usual high standards - crisp and clean, almost perfect fit (with one exception - see later) and any decent kit that manages to get its instructions clearly into four pages is all right by me! Having just come from the MPM 1/48 He177, this looked like a well earned holiday.

Starting with the cockpit, as ever, I threw away the majority of the parts since I had third party replacements to hand for them, just using the kit supplied tub and stick. The Eduard self-adhesives went on without any fuss for the side panels and dashboard and I had a thoroughly nice time painting up the True Details resin C2 seat, although this would come back to haunt me later. The tub slotted perfectly into the fuselage halves along with the undercarriage bay (which includes spectacular detail out of the box, by the way). I also took the trouble at this stage to glue some lead shot around the cockpit area since although no nose weighting was mentioned in the instructions, I was going to take no chances with this one.  The fuselage went together with a satisfying click. Virtually no visible seams at all!

Then came the first elephant in the room. I had followed the instructions rigidly and not yet installed the cockpit dashboard which they claimed would just drop in to the tub in the completed fuselage. Would it hell! No way on earth that was going to happen. A serious error in the instructions here that ultimately resulted in me having to re-open the front of the fuselage to install it. Something I hate doing, this, since such a significant re-gluing generally is never quite as clean as the original. However I was pleasantly surprised that no sign of the break in was evident afterwards. I also filled the nose cone with lead shot and attached it, being delighted with the lack of seam that resulted without any effort on my part!

The wings and tail are very nicely engineered and adopt their correct dihedral with no fuss thanks to well structured braces so there was no issue there. I made up the wing tip tanks but kept them off for now so they could be painted separately. I also put together the resin tanks at this stage, these, unfortunately, were not so well engineered and getting the fine tail fins from the casting block without damage and in a state to be attached to the tank body was the work of a couple of hours. But eventually I got there.

On to the painting, and the under body needed to be aluminium. I toyed with a number of options, but as usual, ended up cracking open the bottles of Alclad II.This gave its usual lovely smooth metallic finish. Many people are really scared of this stuff, but you know what, just use it like any other paint - it's fine! If you want a really shiny finish you should prime with gloss black, but in this case I did not bother since the actual German planes had a dull finish. A few random panels were masked out and sprayed in a darker shade to give some variety.

Masking was easy, its basically one big straight line down the side, and I then sprayed the whole topside with a mix of 50/50 Tamiya Neutral grey and Tamiya Dark Grey, which gives exactly the right "basalt" hue needed. I then masked the camo scheme, again an easy one here since it's all straight lines with sharp edges, and sprayed over with Tamiya Olive Green. The DACO sheet calls for Olive Drab, but that's too dark and brown. The tanks all got a topside of Olive Green as well, after which the wing tip tanks received their distinct orange jackets. Once all masks were removed and a bit of touching up done, I then masked off and sprayed the air intakes in a mix of black and mid grey - the sheets specifies black but if you look at any photos you will see it is actually more like anthracite. Then the whole lot got a couple of coats of Klear and was set aside to cure whilst I sprayed the exhaust piece (which is mercifully separate) in Alclad burnt iron and then went off to build the undercarriage.

The undercarriage parts are of superb quality, and are engineered to fit using poly plugs rather than the usual "best of luck" holes in the plastic floor, which is actually a brilliant piece of design by Hasegawa, it should be done more often!

After curing, I spent nearly two whole days applying the extensive decal sheets. The customer had suggested the "Richthofen" squadron markings and so I chose to number it 20+68 which was a Richthofen plane. But the majority of the time was spent on the stencilling. Barely a square inch of this plane is left without some little tag. By the end of this I was pretty bored, I must admit, but it really does look the business as a result.

Another coat of Klear followed by a panel wash and then a satin coat mix of Klear and flat base and the finishing was done. I attached the undercarriage with no problems, and all tanks similarly went on without argument. I was worried that the under wing tanks would be a nightmare, but with help from some Gorilla glue they went on with no complaint.

Finally, the second elephant appeared. My lovely C2 ejection seat was not specifically designed for this kit. I had left it off to be dropped in at the last minute, and had of course verified that it would. However, it's too tall just being dropped in, and this meant that the canopy could not be closed. The main reason is that Hasegawa have moulded a box in the floor of the cockpit which supports the kit seat to the right height, whereas my resin option was not expecting this. Cutting away the box was not an option at this stage, so I had to spend an hour or so shaving bits of the base of the resin seat (not actually very easy to do, I can tell you) until it sat low enough to be in the correct position. But we got there in the end.

In summary, this is an absolutely superb kit with the exception of that really annoying and unnecessary issue over the dashboard (please correct you instructions, Hasegawa!) and I shall definitely be building another one soon.

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