Model, Text and Photos by: Kyle Williams
The venerable Douglas A-4 has seen it's share of attention from various kit manufacturers in a variety of scales. When the wizards at Hasegawa decided to offer the bantam-weight fighter-bomber in 1/48th scale, they set a new standard for A-4 kits. Precision molding, fine, recessed detail, and a fall-together assembly process make this kit perfect for beginner or experienced modelers. Well, enough talk, let's get on to the build.
Parts break down in a common sense fashion with the cockpit starting us off. Although you are given a decent raised-molded cockpit, those detail sticklers will ache for an aftermarket seat. Since the real seat isn't that complicated, I opted to add detail myself with wire and foil harnesses. I also opted to detail the instrument coaming with a gunsight made from tin metal. A little detail goes a long way in this tiny cockpit.
The fuselage goes together well with attention needed at the intakes and tail underside where a blank fuselage plug is placed. (This plug allows other versions of the A-4 to be made from the same fuselage pieces.) Dry fitting and patience will keep the filler putty in the drawer.
This model fits together so well that fuselage and wings can be assembled and painted separately. Since I worry about the underside of the intakes creating a paint trap (resulting in a pebbly finish along the wing root), I opted to go this route with no problems.
Wheel well detail is awesome and a little wash brings out the detail big-time. The rest of the assembly went according to the instructions, with the exception of the elevators and ailerons being re-positioned. This wasn't necessary as most A-4's have neutral controls on the ground.
I opted to make a new refueling probe from metal rod. I simply cut the head off the kit supplied piece and super-glued it to the appropriate sized rod.
I also decided to arm my scooter to look more aggressive. Since the kit only supplies wing tanks, the M.E.R. and bombs were donated by a fellow modeler from a hobbycraft kit. I detailed these with metal fuses. I also replaced the top and bottom anti-collision lights with my own made from sequins and epoxy.
Although there are literally dozens of early A-4 markings available, I chose the kit supplied VA-15 Valions. The kit's sheet also provides an option for the 'Blue-Tail Flies' of VA-153.
Using PollyScale acrylics I sprayed thebase colors of early Vietnam-era A-4s: Lt. Gull Grey over Gloss white. I then weathered and shaded panel lines with pastel chalks. Once the scooter was suitably grungy, I re-sprayed a slightly lighter version of the base color, slowly covering the pastels until they almost disappeared. Once dry, I brush applied FUTURE over the whole model, then applied the decals. Special attention should be payed to the rudder markings. Lightly cutting the tiny black triangles BEFORE you wet and apply them, will help them conform over the rudder ribbing. Be sure and let those dry completely before applying the larger gold decal. Again, patience and lots of water helps provide excellent results.
Micro-sol helps soften the decals over the little wing fences and the refueling probe. The trick here is repeated applications of the setting solution and careful pressure to help get them to snuggle down.
After the decals (certainly the most tedious portion of the build,) I gave the whole plane an oil wash to bring out the excellent recessed detail, then sprayed a thin coat of Polly-Scale flat to give a semi-gloss finish.
You can't help but smile when you finish this little guy. Lots of detail packed into such little space is certainly a crowd-pleaser. With the large selection of aftermarket goodies, and late-model Hasegawa scooters hitting the shelves, you'll be hard-pressed to find an option that's not available for this great kit. The tough part will be deciding which one to do next.
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