Hasegawa 1/48 F-4 Phantom FG.1
Model, Text and Photos by: Mike O'Hare
Hasegawa's series of 1/48 F-4's are classics that truly raised the bar when first released some twenty years ago. Perhaps the best measure of how good they were is the fact that they are STILL excellent kits today. They're certainly the best kits of the Phantom in 1/48, arguably the only one worth building in the scale, and their family is one of the most complete ranges of F-4's in any scale - the only major versions Hasegawa haven't released yet are the recce RF-4s, though the RF-4B and RF-4E are coming soon. It is also possible to convert their B/N, C/D and E kits with the Black Box noses in the mean time.
The kits themselves have something of a storied past - originally released was the F-4J, which had raised panel lines throughout. Not long after, a high-tech version of the kit came out, which was re-tooled to include recessed panel lines. At present, the F-4E, F-4EJ (and Kai), F-4F, F-4G, F-4J, F-4K, F-4M and F-4S all have recessed panel lines, and only the thin-winged F-4B/N and C/D kits have raised panel lines. Each release includes parts specific to the version it's meant to represent - slatted or hard wings, slotted or unslotted stabilizers, different radomes, gun configurations and forward fuselage plugs. The British Phantom kits share only the cockpit/main landing gear sprue with the rest of the series; the whole of the airframe proper was re-tooled to accurately depict the changes, both major and minor, for Spey-engined aircraft. The kit in this review is from an SP release of Hasegawa's FG.1 - the basic kit, plus a set of Cartograf printed decals to model "Black Mike", one of the farewell schemes. It's also available in two regular releases, for RN Phantoms in Extra Dark Sea Grey over white, and later RAF aircraft with markings for the Barley scheme. The FGR.2 is largely the same again, save for the decals.
Simple Scratchbuilding, Pt.1:
Construction begins, as with most kits, in the cockpit. Hasegawa are known for decent, though not spectacular cockpit detail, and this kit is no exception. It looks good OOB - particularly the tub itself, though the five-part seats are nice too - but the detail oriented will want to either scratchbuild or opt for a resin replacement. As I intended to close the canopies, going all out with a resin cockpit seemed a bit of a waste, so I opted to just do a bit of scratchbuilding on the sidewalls. These, as with most models, are the weakest part of the kit's cockpit. They have some raised detail, but it's very faint, undersized and unspectacular. At the very least, some ribbing can be added with strip styrene. I went a bit further, adding details with sheet and rod styrene, essentially just trying to duplicate (more or less) the basic shapes using the sidewalls from a Black Box F-4E cockpit as a sort of 3-D, scale reference. I also added a simple attempt at a throttle - the corners were rounded over on a section of strip styrene and a line scribed to give the impression of two halves, it was then painted, lopped off the strip and glued in place. Finally, I added True Details seats - not strictly correct for the British Phantoms, but close enough for me.
It's Shake and Bake, and I Helped:
Simple Scratchbuilding, Pt.2:
The intakes themselves are a little disappointing - there's no intake trunk, just a simple bulkhead an inch and a half back on the fuselage halves. And the bulkheads themselves aren't flat, nor do they cover the whole of the intake - the model is see-through along the bottom of the intake. Seamless Suckers have resin intake trunks available for those who want to look back to the fan and there's also a number of aftermarket options to do US-style FOD guards. The British Phantoms have different intakes though, and different intake covers - basically a sheet of plywood roughly the size and shape of the intake, outlined with a spongy medium to hold it in place, and a pair of metal handles. In scale form, it's a case of cutting a piece of sheet styrene roughly to size, tacking it in place, adding a thin sausage of epoxy putty around the edges and some wire handles in the centre. The "plywood" portion was then painted red, and the "foam" sections hand-painted Light Ghost grey and washed to bring out the detail. A quick search for British Phantom pictures on-line will turn up dozens of images of the FOD guards for reference.
I See a Phantom and I Want to Paint it Black:
First, in preparation for a coat of Alclad II, the exhaust area was primed with Gunze's Mr. Base White 1000, basically just a white version of Mr. Surfacer 1000, a very tough lacquer-based sandable primer. Its biggest benefit is the fact that it buffs to a high gloss, which means it's the perfect smooth, shiny base for metallics. It's also an excellent choice for any gloss white - a brisk buffing will give it a good shine, and a bit of Tamiya polishing compound will bring out a mirror-like finish. With the primer coat down, the Alclad could be painted. The aluminium sections are, surprisingly enough, aluminium, but with a hint of steel added to take the edge off. I then sprayed lightly along the panel lines with a slightly darker version of the base shade (more steel added). For the burnt metal portions, the process was reversed - steel with a touch of aluminium to lighten, and a slightly lighter version sprayed down the centres of the panels. The exhausts were painted with a base coat of aluminium, and detail painting done with a variety of shades and techniques - the "feathers" are Model Master Metalizer gunmetal on the inside, titanium on the outside, while the darkest band around the exhaust itself is Metalizer magnesium. The lighter band is Humbrol matte coat. It's interesting to note that the Metalizers seem to stick very well to the Alclad underneath. With the natural metal portions taken care of, they were masked over and attention turned to the rest of the aircraft.
One of the main reasons Black Mike vaulted to the top of my To-Build pile is the relatively simple paint scheme: it's black. The problem with this, though, is that it can be pretty boring visually if a model actually IS black. Because of this, I added a few drops of Gunship Grey to my paint cup full of Humbrol matte black paint to lighten it ever so slightly, allowing me to pick out the panel lines with a truly black wash later on. Wheel, airbrake and auxiliary engine wells were painted with Gunze's Mr. Base White, along with the associated doors and landing gear. Once it had set, the engine bays and doors were sprayed with Gunze's gloss red.
The gloss coat is Model Master Metalizer Sealer - a laquer based gloss coat that goes on beautifully smooth and dries to a rock-hard finish. I find it's best to mist on a few light coats, then a couple of wetter, heavily thinned ones. The result isn't quite a "wet paint" kind of high shine, but it is nice and smooth, and glossy enough for any decal.
Decal, Wait, Repeat:
As this is an SP release, the decals aren't standard Hasegawa fare. The ones in this release were printed by Cartograf, and were beautifully thin, completely legible, and in perfect registration. This was a lucky thing, as most of the major markings, such as the roundels, nose and tail badges, aircraft numbers and so on, were printed in two parts. The first part a white slug to serve as a backing, the second the marking proper, again printed over a layer of white. While it is something of a hassle applying the major markings twice, everything lined up perfectly, and the clear film on each piece is a different size so the decals blend in better. And, with a bit of Gunze's Mr. Mark Softer, they all melted in to the model's surface. With decalling done, the residue was rinsed off and the model gloss coated again to even out the surface.
Final Assembly, Final Comments:
Final assembly began by adding the landing gear and gear doors. The white metal wheel hubs were polished with a motor tool, then sprayed white and added to the gear struts. The canopies were attached after securing the seats and adding both the scratchbuilt inner and kit supplied outer portions of the side periscope. The airbrake doors were given a light wash of white paint, then added to the wings, and the flaps attached. All that remained was to pick out the assorted lights and probes and the model was finished.
It really is a classic kit, and one that's hard to screw up. That's a lucky thing, as there's dozens of fantastic users, camo schemes and special markings that can be built with the various Phantom kits. It's eminently buildable straight out of the box, while a little bit of (very simple) effort will help to flesh out the cockpit sidewalls for the more advanced modeller. And if you want to go all out, there's a slew of gorgeous resin and etch products from Black Box, AiRes and Eduard to make superdetailing easy.
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