Blue Thunder Helicopter

Published: December 11th, 2011     
Box Art
Box Art
Reviewed by: 
Scott Hollingshead, IPMS# 34786
Scale: 1/48
Company: Aoshima
Price: $42.00
Product / Stock #: 044926

From the 1983 hit movie "Blue Thunder" comes a 1/48 rendition of the helicopter used in the film, which shared the same name.  In the movie, the Blue Thunder was developed as part of project THOR (Tactical Helicopter Offensive Response), as the city of Los Angeles was preparing to host the Olympics in 1984.  The main character was Frank Murphy, as portrayed by the late Roy Scheider, and his partner was Richard Lymangood (aka JAFO), played by Daniel Stern.  One of the most famous scenes of the movie is when Frank puts the Blue Thunder in a 360 degree loop in order to dismiss his nemesis Col. F.E. Cochrane (played by Malcolm McDowell).

The helicopter that was actually used for the movie was a combination of a French Aerospatiale SA-341G Gazelle modified with parts to resemble an AH-64 Apache in the front.  According to my research, there were two aircraft used to film the movie, but there were also radio-controlled versions used for some of the flight scenes (such as the memorable loop).  I fondly remember seeing this film in the theater when it came out (it is sometimes tough to admit our age, but it was the first R-rated movie that I was old enough to go see), and when the opportunity came to review this kit, I immediately jumped on it.  I also happen to have the movie on my DVR, which was very useful during construction, as well as an excuse to watch it (at least in part) over and over again.

On opening the box for this kit, the builder will find ten plastic sprues (one clear, one gray, one black, one metallic, and the remainder in blue), as well as a base and a bag with hexagonal pipes along with screws, washers, and nuts.  There are also a decal sheet and instructions for the assembly and painting which are on a single sheet of paper folded into ten separate sections.  Although there is some English on the instruction sheet, these are for the overall information and colors needed, where an introduction on the first page on the Blue Thunder is entirely in Japanese.  The parts layout is nice on the sprues, as the interior (which is recommended as being painted Neutral Gray) are on a gray sprue, and the engine parts are not plated, but are a metallic color.

To my knowledge, the only other kit released of the Blue Thunder came from Monogram in 1984, and I picked up one of them at a model show a few years ago (of course I still have it in my "to build" stash).  The Monogram kit was in 1/32 scale, so it is a bit larger than the Aoshima kit, but the newer release has a much higher level of detail.  The Aoshima kit has over one hundred and twenty parts not including those used for the display base.

Construction of this kit was straightforward, and the instructions are mostly laid out in a logical sequence for the builder.  I only made some alterations in order to assist with the painting and masking (such as leaving off the rotor blades and antennas until the painting was complete).  The parts are nicely molded with very crisp detail, and only a couple of parts had any flash whatsoever.  The majority of the cleanup was to remove attachment points, which in many instances are on the inside surface of a part, helping prevent damaging any detail during their removal.  There is a nicely articulated base that comes with this kit, and there is an optional plug that can be installed in the attachment point on the bottom of the helicopter if this is not used.  A figure, 3/4 inch film cassette, and Harrison fire control helmet are included as extras, but I did not utilize them in this build.

During the construction, I did leave a few of the items off, as mentioned previously, which made the painting easier.  The canopy and data storage unit that fits on the underside of the Blue Thunder held in place without cement during the painting, which paid off big dividends during the final assembly, and made masking a much easier task as well.  The outside paint scheme is fairly simple, but there are two colors used, and there are sharp demarcation lines between them.  The canopy is rather large, so there was a fair amount of work involved with masking it (I utilized Bare Metal Foil, which although an expensive masking option, works well for me when it comes to sharp edges) and then removing the masks.  I will also comment here that the directions on how to apply the decals around the canopy are contained within the instructions at the step where it is installed, not on the paint and decal instruction page later on.

There is an antenna on the bottom of the aircraft that attaches from the inside, and I managed to break it repeatedly during final assembly.  I will likely replace it with stainless steel tubing at some point later on.  Although Aoshima recommends mixing Flat Black and Blue paints to obtain the underside color, I chose to go straight out of the bottle with the darkest blue that I could find.  In the movie, it looks like a dark blue, but there are photographs on line of the helicopter (I am not sure if it was the movie or television series aircraft), and the underside was black on it.  I did elect to seal my topside paint with Model Master Metalizer Sealer, which produced a semi-gloss and almost slightly metallic effect similar to the "real" Blue Thunder.  The decals for the most part reacted well to Micro Set and Micro Sol, but there were a few stubborn ones that needed a drop of Solvaset to remove any "silvering" completely.

I utilized Model Master Acryl Insignia Blue (outside upper surfaces and sides), Dark Sea Blue (underside), Neutral Gray, Interior Black, and Insignia Yellow.  For the Seats and cabin heat shield, I used French Uniform Green from the Vallejo Panzer Aces line of paints.  I used Model Master Metalizer Non-Buffing Aluminum for the rotor assembly, and, due to seam clean-up on the engine exhaust, I used Alclad Base Black and Chrome to repaint it.  I recently received Italeri's new Steel paint and I thinned a couple of drops of it with Model Master Acryl thinner to brush paint the ammunition chutes and rotor blade attachments.  This paint went on very well with a brush when thinned slightly.  This new paint comes in a bottle that is a slight variation from what companies like Vallejo and Andrea use for their acrylic paints.

For my hits of this kit, I will again mention the level of detail and crisp moldings, as well as the overall fit of the parts.  The canopy and rotor blades actually hold tightly in place without the use of cement, and as I mentioned, the data storage compartment can also hold without cement well enough to allow for painting, but I did permanently attach it later on.  The decals are nicely done and can be used for the interior control panels, but I opted to paint mine as the detail was molded in and easy enough to paint.  I watched and froze a short piece of the movie that showed the interior several times while I was working on that area, and the folks at Aoshima did a nice job of replicating the movie helicopter's interior.  I also appreciated the individual decals for the canopy frames, as it would be difficult at best to install anything else around the front side windows which are fully framed in red.

My only misses were the seams on the fuselage and engine exhaust, a canopy gap (if gluing it in place), and some difficult to see decals.  As my friend Ralph would say, "It requires you to model."  The real trick is on the underside of the aircraft, as Aoshima gave it a texture similar to cast steel, so cleaning the seam will require fixing the texture once complete.  As I mentioned earlier, cleaning the seam on the engine exhaust removed the metallic paint, so I needed to do something there.  Based upon the movie, I went with the Chrome paint, which is slightly brighter than what Aoshima used, but I think the overall effect is good.  If gluing the canopy in place, there is a gap at the top rear that will need to be dealt with, but I left mine alone.  The other issue that I had was that some of my yellow decals, as well as a couple of those in red, were difficult to see once applied.  I do not know if this was because of the colors of paint that I used or not, but once sealed, a few essentially disappeared.

Overall, I would highly recommend this kit to anyone wanting to add a Blue Thunder helicopter to his collection.  The kit builds well and looks just like the real thing once completed.  I would suggest watching the movie again (or again and again) when building this kit for the reference value, as well as watching a movie that is fun to see from time to time.

I would like to thank the folks at Dragon USA for providing this kit to the IPMS for review, to Steve Collins who recently took over the Review Corps from John Noack for selecting me to do the build, and to you for taking the time to read my comments.

  • Cockpit 1
    Cockpit 1
  • Cockpit 2
    Cockpit 2
  • Cockpit 3
    Cockpit 3
  • Cockpit 4
    Cockpit 4
  • Net paint
    Net paint
  • Left side
    Left side
  • Right side
    Right side
  • Nose closeup
    Nose closeup
  • Inflight 1
    Inflight 1
  • Inflight 2
    Inflight 2
  • Inflight 3
    Inflight 3
  • Topside detail
    Topside detail
  • Underside detail
    Underside detail
  • Data storage unit
    Data storage unit
  • Rear view
    Rear view
  • Exhaust detail
    Exhaust detail

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.