Build Date: Start Jan 24, 2018.
Col. Robin Olds, 433 FS, Satan’s Angels, Ubon, Thailand, 1967.
This is a kit my best friend, Ricky, gave me. Thank you, Ricky! I’d try my best to do this kit justice. For this model, I will be replicating Col. Robin Olds’ personal aircraft as shown above.
This Tamiya 1:32 F-4C/D model kit, issued in 1995, is one of those kits that every modeller wished to build in one time or another. It was a state of the art kit at that time featuring a one-piece fuselage. Much has been written about the good and bad of this kit over the years and, as such, I suggest a Google search would yield far better reviews than what I can rehash here in my blog.
I will be using just a few aftermarket parts to embellish this kit. The most impactful upgrades are the Aires exhaust nozzles and the Quickboost seats.
There is a lot of good features of this kit, but there are a few well-known faults which I feel makes this kit a total pain-in-the-ass to build. Click this link here to read this detailed listing at LSP in which Mr Thierry Laurent and Mr Ben Brown list all the fixes that one needs to rectify in order to make a good build of this kit.
The fuselage and tail fins have many raised patches all over the place. According to some sources without validation, the Tamiya research team used a BDR (Battle Damage Repair) aircraft frame based at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa to do all its measurements for the kit and they faithfully reproduced the BDR patches on the model. For whatever the reason, the patches were a mistake and I have to sand them all off and the panel lines rescribed. Now, this is an area where many modellers took the lazy way out and left them on. To faithfully reproduce a Nam era F-4, one really must remove them.
Seamless Intakes (or lack thereof)
The most troublesome fault is the horrible intake trunks inside the fuselage: I have not seen intakes designed and fit up so poorly as they are in this model kit. To illustrate this better, I borrowed a photo of Lee Kolosna’s photo of his F-4C from Modeling Madness to illustrate how the intake would look like if the large gap between the intake trunk and intakes are not addressed.
I’m trying to decide whether I should jump in and perform a miracle to blend the trunks to the intake lips or just give up and make the FOD covers to cover up the intakes. Let’s see how I feel tomorrow after a night sleep… Ahhhh!!!
After analysing the problem of the large overlapping intake trunks inside the intakes, I decided the solution is to blend the intake trunk into each intake with filler strips and putty. In 32nd scale, the intakes are very large and I can work a small sheet of sandpaper inside to sand the joints. Hence, my solution is workable and I feel would yield a result identical to that of the aftermarket resin Seamless Intakes, but without the expensive cost. Here’s how I did it.
Use Tamiya putty and fill in gaps in each intake trunk first. I use a Q-tip wet with fingernail remover solution to smooth out the putty during application. Sand smooth the putty with wet sandpaper. Note how smooth mine look.
Dry fit each of the intake trunks into the fuselage along with the intake pieces (parts A1 and A2). Hold the pieces together with tape so nothing moves. Then, I drip liquid cement to glue only the intake trunk lip to the inside surface of the intake parts A1 and A2, respectively. Insert and glue shims between the parts as necessary to secure the attachment angles. The result is seen in below photo after I remove the parts from the dry fitting.
Cut each of the mating intake trunk lips from the fuselage with a hacksaw. Clean up the cuts and then glue these mating lips to the intakes. When glueing, I made certain to press each of the intake trunk lips flush with the intakes to reduce the amount of overlaps I have to blend smoothly with putty.
Apply lots of Tamiya putty to all the joints using a spatula. Smooth out the putty with a Q-tip wet with Cutex fingernail remover solution. This will help tremendously around the corner joints and help reduce the amount of sanding later.
Sand smooth all the putties when they dried. For sanding, I roll up a small sheet of wet sandpaper (100 grit) around a finger. The space inside the trunk is large enough for my finger to slip through and do a decent job of sanding. Repeat Step 4 and 5 until the putty joints are smooth enough.
The finished result is shown in the below photos. When I view the joints at an angle to reflect the light off of the putty, I see a smooth intake ready for painting. I don’t worry about the joints on the side of the intake where it glues to the fuselage as that part will be covered up by the intake splitter plate and thus cannot be seen later.
After spray painting the intakes with Off-White enamel paint, the result is evident and well worth the effort.
There are other methods to solve this problem. Another method that was pointed out to me by another modeller (Duane Wood) is to glue a thin sheet of styrene inside the lip of the intake and have that piece of styrene overlap the protruding trunk lip. That way when one look into the intake, after the model is completed, it gives the illusion of a seamless intake.
The last step before working on the cockpit is to attach the intake assembly to the fuselage. The forward inside surfaces of the intakes are painted with the exterior colour as typical on all F-4. I read that for the F-4C/D, approximately 3 feet of the intake were painted. Note also that I cut off the variable intake ramp (also called splitter plate) from the kit part, leaving only the fixed ramp to be glued to the intake right now. I do this to make it easier for me to paint the portion of the fuselage behind the splitter plate.
Even on the Hasegawa F-4 kits, there were some minor misfitting of the fuselage intake piece to the main body of the fuselage and some sanding is generally required. However, this kit’s intake fit up is the worst. I won’t show the before picture as it does look pretty scary, but here’s what it looks like after filling the gaps with styrene strips and cyanoacrylate glue and then sanded smooth.
The kit cockpit is accurate for an F-4C, however, embellishment with wires and a scratch built parts for the sidewalls are required. I made the details to match the reference photos of an F-4C in “The Modern Phantom Guide” by Jake Melampy. Other details were inferred from photos of an F-4B in the “US NAVY F-4B/J/N/S Phantom” by Daco Publishing. Although the cockpit of the F-4 in 1:32 are fairly large, I noted that a good portion of the cockpit side walls is hidden from view by the curvature of the fuselage. Hence, I restrain myself from overworking the details by limiting my scratch building to only the most visible portions of the cockpit.
Instead of making new side walls, I felt the most efficient method is to add internal ribs and parts directly to the kit’s side walls.
Soft lead wires were used to simulate the electrical cables seen on the deck in front and behind the RIO’s cockpit. Note I added canopy latching hardware with styrene as well as using Eduard photoedge cockpit side details. When I put everything together for test fitting, the cockpit is starting to look reasonably busy and detailed. Other smaller parts such as handles, levers and additional tubings will be added later after painting the cockpit and securing the cockpit tub to the fuselage.
This Tamiya kit’s instrument panels for an F-4C are very accurate when compared to these reference photos. These photos of the instrument panels for an F-4C are available at this web site for Phantom Parts
Here’s a colour photo of an F-4C cockpit. This photo is from the excellent Cockpit360 virtual cockpit of a display F-4C in the National Museum of the US AirForce. Click this Link to the Virtual Cockpit. This is perfect for my use when I paint the instrument panels.
The Kit’s stock decals are too old. When I test one small piece of the decal for release, the decal disintegrated into many little pieces. I have since found some replacement decals for this project and now I can continue with this build.
I replaced the kit’s seats with a nice set of resin seats from QuickBoost (QB 32-069). I painted the seats with Gunze H303 Green for the seat cushion, Tamiya XF-62 and Model Master Dark Earth for the seat back cushion, Model Air 71056 Black for the seat frame, and Gunze H57 Aircraft Grey for the seat belts.
It took me a while but I have sanded off all the battle damage repair patches on the model and rescribed all the panel lines and restored all the rivets. I did a quality check on my work by running panel wash liquid into the panel lines. Everything looks good.
I dry fitted all the major fuselage and wing parts to ensure that by the time I apply cement to the model everything will fit as best as I can get it. More importantly, dry fitting of the Aires resin engine ducts and exhaust nozzles to the kit fuselage is absolutely paramount. I found it necessary to install support bracings for the engine ducts to ensure that their installed angle is correct. The engine duct assembly is screwed to the fuselage on a single attachment pole. This pole will flex when pushed against during the attachment of the exhaust ducts. Hence, the braces will provide me with a place to glue the ducts to and prevent them from shifting.
The stabilizers are moulded together along with its mounting bracket as one piece. This is very good for strength and easy to assembly. However, this set up makes it difficult to paint the metal panels on the stabilizers and bottom rear fuselage. The stabilizers also will get it the way of alignment and sanding along the joints for the rear lower fuselage piece. The gap in this area is fairly big.
I didn’t want to cut off the stabilizers but, after much deliberations, I bit the bullet and saw off the stabilizers from the mounting bracket. Then, I carefully align the pieces to drill and insert a brass mounting rod. This will help me later when I reinstall the stabilizers after painting.
After installing the rear fuselage pieces, I was able to quickly install the bottom wing panel and glue it firmly to the fuselage. There’s a lot of joints that need to be fixed up, but I should be able to progress quickly now.
Coke Bottle Fuselage (History)
When I was glueing the sides of the fuselage to the lower wing, I took notice of the curve shape of the fuselage and I remembered the interesting history of the development of the F-4 Phantom. The F-4 fuselage is shaped like a coke bottle in that on the Plan View, the fuselage is wide at the air-intake, narrow at the middle and flare out to widen again at the engine exhaust section. This shape is often described as a coca-cola bottle. Scientifically, it is what aerodynamicist called the WHITCOMB AREA RULE (also called transonic area rule) design to reduce an aircraft’s drag at transonic and supersonic flight (between Mach 0.7 to Mach 1.2).
The area rule concept was developed by Richard T. Whitcomb in 1951.
Mr. Whitcomb was solving one of the most perplexing problems that faced aviation engineers – the sound barrier. Even though aircraft at that time seemed to have enough power, they were not able to achieve supersonic flight because of the increased wind resistance. Whitcomb came up with the solution in 1951 when he realized that when solving the air flow-velocity-pressure over a cross section during transonic flight regime, one must consider the entire cross-sectional area of the plane to include the area of wing and fuselage. He surmised that the solution was to indent the fuselage in that area where the pressure is highest. The indentation would need to be greatest at the point where the wing was the thickest and could be gradually reduced as the wing became thinner toward its trailing edge.
In many designs, narrowing the fuselage in the midsection to resemble the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle was the solution. That design dramatically reduced drag, and within three years, military aircraft could achieve supersonic speeds. Examples of aircraft that employed the Whitcomb Area Rule are evident on the F-11, F-101, F-102, F-105, F-106, and F-4.
Final Stages of Assembly
Tamiya did the right thing by providing cast white metal landing gears for strength. The cast metal landing gear struts are covered with detailed plastic strut for appearance. I wished all model manufacturers would do that for their 32nd scale models – my Kitty Hawk 1:32 Bronco landing gear is already sagging under the weight.
As I was dry fitting the metal landing gears with their plastic strut pieces, I noticed this kit was packaged in error with two metal left landing gears. It means I cannot fit a left landing gear into the right gear’s mounting groove and the right gear’s plastic strut covers cannot fit onto a left landing gear strut. I figured the only solution to this problem is to cut the mounting bracket off of one of the left landing gear. This landing gear cannot be mounted with the screw but I can get around that by attaching it to the mounting groove with epoxy. Then, the plastic cover pieces for the right struts were slightly trimmed so that they can fit on.
Before I attach the top panels of the wings, I have to assemble the main landing gear well walls to the underside of the top wing panels. The landing gear well details in this kit is only modestly detailed for a model this size and more details should be added. I referred to several reference photos of the main gear wells and noted that there are not that many piping and cables that are noticeable, but there are few that needed to be added to this model. I used tin solder wires and formed the tubing and hoses and epoxy them to the top wing panels. The same idea was done for the nose gear wells except more piping were needed to make it look busy.
After painting the main gear wells with an off-white colour, I glued the top wing panels to the fuselage. Since I previously dry fitted the pieces and added a bracing to “push” the mid-fuselage outward, the fit up now is almost without gaps. For the very small gaps near the tip of the wing, I was able to fill with a few passes of Mr. Surfacer 500 and sanded smooth.
The wing outer panel’s dihedral on the F-4 should be 12.5 degrees. This dihedral on this kit is more than 12.5 degrees. I corrected this problem by glueing on a strip of styrene on the upper wing panel until I achieve the correct “bent” look for the outer wing panels.
I spent more time filling and sanding away small gaps and scratches. Now the model is ready for the primer coat for one last check.
The model is sprayed with a coat of grey primer.
A model of Col. Robin Old’s F-4C aircraft serial number 64-0829, “SCAT XXVII”, can be built in the pristine condition or in the slightly worn look. This is verified from these following photos.
Hence, one can choose to paint the model in either condition or something in-between and it won’t be wrong.
The area where paint scratches will appear is sprayed with a solid coating of Alclad Aluminum paint.
For the type of scratches on the port side of the forward fuselage, I generally like to use the liquid mask. I apply Mr. Masking Sol R with a small piece of sponge. I just lightly dab the Masking Sol onto the surfaces and let that dry for about an hour and then paint over it. When I finish painting, I just have to use the tactile side of a piece of tape to pull off the mask to reveal the scratches.
The south east Asia (SEA) paint scheme colours are mixed according to my mix formula shown in below table. I used the same mixture for my Skyraider project last year and it turned out very well. I have also listed the paint numbers for Gunze paint and Vallejo’s Model Air paint.
|Colour||FS Number||Gunze||Vallejo AV||Tamiya Paint Mix|
|Lt Gray||FS 36622||H311||71.296||XF80 (75%) + XF2 (25%)|
|Tan||FS 30219||H310||71.125||XF52 (77%)+ XF3 (8%) + X2 (15%)|
|Dark Green||FS 34079||H309||71.289||XF81|
|Med Green||FS 34102||H303||71.294||
XF67 (90%)+ XF19 (10%)
To spray the camouflage pattern, I draw the pattern on lightly with a pencil. Then, I freehand spray all three top colours. At this stage, I am more concentrated on just getting the colour on. Fine definition (sharpening) of the spray edges is refined later.
By this point, all three of the top colours are on the model. Now, I refine the pattern edges by lowering my airbrush pressure to 10 psig and go over the pattern edges for all three colours. Also, at this stage, I adjust the camouflage patterns by referring to reference photos of the real aircraft to ensure the pattern matches up with reference photos. The next step is to post-shade and weather the paint job with the Salt technique.
Preshading a model with dark panel lines for a multi-colour camouflage aircraft is a total waste of time. I always post-shade in this case. By now, my camouflage on the top surface is complete and I have sharpened all the camouflage spray lines. I now apply my post-shading onto the sand colour and medium green by spraying a thinned mix of dark green. I set my compressor to 10 psig and get the nozzle close up to the rivet and panel lines when spraying. In this manner, I am able to spray a very thin line. I don’t worry about messy lines and other overspray; in fact, I want to do that. Dirt and other grimy effects on a plane are never uniform looking.
Then, I spray a thinned mix of the base colour over my post-shading to soften the effect. At this time I can clean up the panel lines, or not, as I so choose for the effect.
Next, I want to create the faded paint chip effect using the salt technique. I brush on a thin layer of water onto the surfaces where crew might walk on. Before the water dries, I sprinkle coarse salt onto the wetted surfaces and let that dry. This effect works best on lighter colour areas.
Light and darker shades of the base colour are sprayed over the salt. The end result is apparent after washing off the salt: patterns of lighter and darker shades show up which simulate weather fading, adding interest to the subject. There’s more weathering to be done later before the model is finished.
The underside of the plane is painted in the light grey. I pre-shaded the panels and rivets with a dark grey and then I spray a thinned mix of the light grey.
Painting the metal panels on the American jets is generally very simple. It is nowhere as challenging as that of the Russian jets such as the Su-35. However, for a large scale as this model, I want to try to paint as many details as I can for the tail metal panels. Starting with the lower rear fuselage panels next to the jet exhaust nozzles, I cut circular tape masks to cover over the rivets and thin strips of tape to create the illusion of the creased panels in this area.
Several colours were used here: Dark Aluminum, Jet Exhaust, and blue and purple tints. The soft tinting is used to simulate a bit of the heat effect from the engine jet exhaust. I will apply a coat of Future to protect the Alclad paint from the weathering wash ahead. I’m sure once I apply the weathering wash, details will pop out and this area will look good.
As my original kit decal sheet was unusable, I had to purchase new decal sheets, at great cost, to support this build. I used Werner’s Wing 1:32 Vietnam Ace Capt. Steve Richie and Friends for Col. Old’s Markings and I used the stencils from Speed Hunter Graphics 1:32 Snub-nosed USAF Phantoms. Both decal sheets are excellent in both print and film quality, typical now of most decal sheets made today. I highly recommend them, however, both decal sheets I purchased did not provide all of the stencils that a Phantom had. Thank goodness the Vietnam Phantoms I’m doing appears to not have that many stencils and that save my bacon. Finally, I was able to get to the stage where I could put on the decals.
The kit’s canopy frames needed some embellishment to make them look respectable. Although I have a set of photoedge frame with hooks to use, I felt it would look better if I scratch build the rest of the canopy frame with styrene sheets. It took a bit of work to cut the hooks from styrene sheets, but it was worth the effort.
After placing all the stencil decals onto the bottom of the plane, I airbrush streaks of oil or hydraulic fluid leaks along major panel lines of the bottom. These aircraft they do get dirty on the bottom but one must be restraint when simulating it because if there’s too much intense staining/leaking then the aircraft should not be flying and the Crew Chief should be fired, right?
Despite Col. Robin Olds did not fly aircraft BuNo 64-0829 on Operation Bolo, I wanted to show this aircraft, which is his personal aircraft, in the configuration similar to the armament he would have fitted out for Operation Bolo, In Operation Bolo, the F-4s were wired up to use the F-105’s QRC-160 ECM jammer pods so that their electronic signature would appear to be flights of F-105 on a bombing mission over N. Vietnam. The QRC-160 was mounted on one of the wing hardpoints. According to Robin Olds in the book McDonnell F-4 Phantom Spirit in the Skies by AIRtime Publishing,
“For Operation Bolo, our Phantoms were configured asymmetrically with a fuel tank under one wing and a QRC-160 under the other, a centerline fuel tank, four Sidewinders and four Sparrows.”
Since this Tamiya kit does not provide me with a centerline fuel tank and an outer wing pylon, I tried to load it up with at least a similar equipment. Hence, I build up the kit’s QRC-160 and mounted it under the port (left) wing. Under the starboard wing, I mounted a typical triple ejector rack (TER) under the hardpoint. The kit’s TER is very basic so I improved it by simply cutting off the poorly represented sway braces and replace them with good ones from spares box and added the electrical cables. No bombs would be mounted on the TER since the mission is air combat (ACM).
I will be building up a set figures of Robin Olds from Verlinden Production to go with this model. Hence, to complete the presentation, I took one of the kit’s pilot head and carved out the head to obtain a helmet to sit atop the front windscreen.
Here’s the finished product.
I built five F-4 in 1:48 scale in the past, but building it in 1:32 is a pleasure because the sheer size of the model is a joy to look at and the large format makes it easy for painting and adding details. I am very lucky to have the chance to build this large scale Phantom. Despite the poor fit and challenges of this kit, it was a truly enjoyable experience. I don’t know how I’m going to go backwards in scale to finish off my four 1:48 Hasegawa F-4 still in the stash. Sigh..
Now that the model is done, I just have to paint up the figures to complete the theme for my display.
List of Aftermarkets used:
- Quick Boost F-4 Ejection Seats
- Aires F-4 B/C/D/N Exhaust Nozzles
- Eduard F-4 C/D Photoedge
- True Details F-4C-G Phantom II Wheel Set
- Air Master Series F-4 Pitot tube, ram air inlet and ADA Probe
- Werner’s Wing 1:32 Vietnam Ace Capt. Steve Richie and Friends
- Speed Hunter Graphics 1:32 Snub-nosed USAF Phantoms