F-4S Phantom II: Part 2, Completion

Published: November 26th, 2017     
Product Image
Box Art
Reviewed by: 
Rob Benson, IPMS# 44038
Scale: 1:48
Company: Zoukei-Mura, Inc.
Price: $75.00
Product / Stock #: SWS48-05

I am honored and privileged to review a beautiful new scale model offering in the Super Wing Series from Zoukei-Mura, Inc. I also wish to extend a very deep appreciation to the IPMS/USA Reviewer Corps for choosing me to review the F-4S variant of the famous McDonnell Phantom II.

The kit was released on 26 JUL 17, following on the heels of a previous F-4J release in the same scale and series. This review is the second of two sequential reviews, including my adventures in completing the kit build. This final review dovetails with the previous IPMS reviews of the Zoukei-Mura F-4 kits. I am not a subject matter expert (SME) on the F-4x family, but I sure enjoy a well-designed kit and fun build, learning about the real thing as I go. The Zoukei-Mura F-4S does not disappoint!

Overall Summary

I very highly recommend this F-4S Phantom kit. The construction process was one of the more enjoyable model building experiences I've had. The extra details in the instructions add to the overall understanding of the actual aircraft during model construction. This is a welcome extra dimension to the kit, making the build experience much more than a scale representation of a famous jet. Everything fits well and there was very little need for seam filling anywhere. The surface detail is subtly engraved and part joining surfaces are nearly always done on panel lines. The kit produces a beautiful model out of the box, while still being an excellent base for add-ons and super detailing. I have a few walk-around images of F-4S 153851, a restored non-flying aircraft at the Palm Springs Air Museum (link in references), to compare to the kit subject (F-4S 153808) and the kit represents the full-size version exceptionally well, SME caveat included! The decal sheet is very thorough with unit markings and stenciling. The decals tended to be a little tricky on tight curves, seemed a bit thick, and had some adhesion problems. Kit options include a catapult launch configuration with an extended nose strut and angled tail surfaces. These option are for an aftermarket catapult carrier-deck base offered by Zoukei-Mura. There is not a folded wing option offered in the kit. Photoetched details, such as panels and seat harnesses, are available from Zoukei-Mura in an aftermarket PE set.

Specific features that I particularly liked were the engine assemblies, the intake design, the positive wing-tip, stabilator, gear door, retractor struts, and gear strut attachment points. All of these allowed a clean assembly with little guesswork.

This kit is an extraordinary value compared to contemporary peer kits, and I believe the aftermarket options do not take away from the kit, but only enhance the options available to the builder. I did not review any of the options per se, but the Zoukei-Mura website describes them in detail.

I will now look to purchase Zoukei-Mura kits for the expected quality and value, and less for the represented subject. Whether or not you have an interest in the what the kit represents, I expect that the fun of building the kit will be unsurpassed.

Construction

Steps 001 through 005 were completed in a previous review, just short of the fuselage fit test. The excellent fit described in the previous review continued through the rest of construction, with very tight seams and little need for filling. Most seams vanished quite well with liquid cement like Tamiya or Tenax-type. "Undergates", a style of mold engineering for styrene injection, are well designed for easy removal with minimal part damage. Do pay attention to the many warning and cut suggestions through the instructions. Many important attachment points and other aspects of the parts can look like flash. Look very carefully at the parts and heed the cautions in the instructions. I shamelessly admit I failed to do this a time or two. I became somewhat overcautious and found some extra plastic post-assembly that should have been removed. However, in many cases only a contest judge would notice the oversights.

The build log from the first review continues here with step 006:

  • Step 006:
    • The fuselage halves fit together very well off the sprues. Dry fitting the cockpit tub per instructions showed minimal fit issues.
    • Look carefully at the inset drawings to see the final positions of the manual canopy unlock handles (C-9, 10).
    • Note that the seam aft of the RIO station between the fuselage halves will be covered by a part H-4 later in step 8.
  • Step 007:
    • Look carefully at the inset drawings to see the final positions of the manual canopy unlock handles (C-11, 12).
  • Step 008:
    • I left G-2 off until after painting.
    • Suggest attaching H-4 first, then H-14.
  • Step 009:
    • I began considering weight for the nose here, to balance this big model. No info on the instructions, and I could not find any suggestions on the website.
    • I strung together 3 6-gram lead weights on copper wire through the nose opening before cementing the nose on. This will allow me to add later weight if needed, and the weights themselves will not place too much stress on the joint.
    • M-7 has a center brace in the intake, if you mix up parts M-7 and D-21. Two D-21s are on the sprue tree.
  • Step 010:
    • I left G-21 off until after painting.
    • The fin tip is added here.
    • The drag chute door, A13, has some interior structure, should you wish to have it hanging open for detailing.
  • Step 011:
    • The engine is assembled here. All of the part fit very well with no problems at all.
    • I did not build the display stand for the engine, but I am going to take a careful look to see if it may be possible to have the engine can be easily removed from the completed kit.
  • Step 012:
    • The intake ducting is very solid. I painted the duct interior gloss white before assembly.
    • I glued the two duct parts together first using the solid braces between the ducts. Next I applied liquid cement on the outside of the pipes, hoping that the cement would fill the seams enough on the inside. No joy in that department!
    • I did not cement the engines into the ductwork at this time. I hope to have some wiggle room later.
    • I did have fun playing with metal finishes and toning as a base for final finishing
  • Step 013:
    • Part 13 is all drill-outs for later part attachment.
    • I marked the drill hole locates and labeled them on the inside.
    • The locates have the right size bit diameter to help prevent someone like me from rushing to disaster.
    • The first half of the drilling is for AN/ALQ antennae, using a 1.0 mm drill bit. Some of the locates are oval in shape; drill the end out, then trim up into an oval shape with a sharp knife.
    • The second half is an optional step, depending on if you hang the missiles and/or fuel tanks. The drill bit size here is 1.5 mm.
    • If you are going to put the access ladder on (I did not), I think this is a good place to complete the recess and access hatch details for the ladder on the fuselage.
  • Step 014:
    • Very much to their credit, Zoukei-Mura found a mistake on the initial run of the instruction manual. Part M-6 is not used, if the forward AIM-7s are mounted.
    • I immediately discovered that the engines are tightly mounted in this step, without later "slide-out" removal options. There could be some modifications possible, to allow the engines to be removed for display. The mounting is so well engineered that I abandoned the idea of any modifications.
    • After dry-fitting the engine mounts, I cemented the nozzle end locating tabs first, since the forward tabs were much easier to see for placing in the sockets.
  • Step 015:
    • Very straight forward assembly, snug fit, with minimal prep!
    • I am really appreciating the ability to cement from the inside on many subassemblies. Having inside access for using thin cements and cyanoacrylates (CA) to wick into seams is a major plus.
    • Sprue attachment points are generally not in critical fit areas, like leading edges.
    • Part I-4 is a small add-on fairing on the wing top surface. It is slightly more squared-off on the forward end, based on the locating scribes on the wing top. I used a small dab of thick CA to hold the part in place for positioning, then sealed it down with thin cement.
  • Step 016:
    • Same process as 015, on other wing, no problems!
  • Step 017:
    • I had a little bit of trouble getting the gear actuator in place, with a very snug fit.
    • Be sure to orient your view of the model with the perspective shown in the instructions. Many of the very clearly illustrated inset drawings are looking up, as if you were standing under the aircraft. Very cool, but can be a bit confusing if you rush. Don't ask how I know this!
    • I broke off the door end of the cylinder by accident, but will reattach later with the door (successfully done later on).
  • Step 018:
    • After careful, and minimal cleanup of mating surfaces, the fuselage was joined to the wing assembly.
    • The 18 g of lead weight added to the nose in step 009 is plenty to hold the nose down on the gear.
  • Step 019:
    • I held off part G-2 on the bottom of the intake for post painting.
    • The "bellmouth pitot tube", part D-19 fit in the correct place without difficulty.
    • Part H-5, the DECM fairing, snugged down nicely with extra-thin cement.
    • The fit is very snug when you attach the intake to the fuselage, particularly on the pin sticking out from the fuselage. However, the fit is excellent, and I believe this is one of the best engineered intake assemblies I've seen.
    • You may wish to try assembling D-4 and D-1, the splitter plate/intake vane parts onto the fuselage first, then putting the outer part A-17 on.
  • Step 020:
    • I held off part G-2 on the bottom of the intake for post painting.
    • The "bellmouth pitot tube", part D-19 fit in the correct place without difficulty.
    • Part H-6, the DECM fairing, snugged down nicely with extra-thin cement.
    • The fit is very snug when you attach the intake to the fuselage, particularly on the pin sticking out from the fuselage. However, the fit is excellent, and I believe this is one of the best engineered intake assemblies I've seen.
  • Step 021:
    • The tail pipe seals have solid gluing surfaces on the fuselage, but narrow quickly downward. There is a small half socket on the end of each seal that fits on to a pin on the fuselage bottom on each side. This allowed me to gently hold the seal in position without gluing my finger to the plane!
  • Step 022:
    • The exhaust nozzles fit so snugly that I decided to leave them off until the end, to reduce "masking anxiety."
  • Step 023:
    • Extend flaps and aileron options here: I chose to have these in the raised position. I like having positive support for surfaces like these, and to drop the flaps and ailerons requires trimming off the locating tabs. Bu there is enough play in the tabs that the surfaces can be tweaked about a degree to allow separation for a good visual effect.
  • Step 024:
    • Same as 023 on the other side!
  • Step 025:
    • The slat actuators are keyed; they fit in the right place if you remember to not trim off the locating tabs.
    • There is no folding wing option, however scratch building a fold using the kit parts should not be too difficult.
  • Step 026:
    • There is no folding wing option, however scratch building a fold using the kit parts should not be too difficult.
    • I left the slats off until after "big" painting of the entire model.
  • Step 027:
    • Same as 025 on the other side!
  • Step 028:
    • Same as 026 on the other side!
    • I left the slats off until after "big" painting of the entire model.
  • Step 029:
    • I left the arresting hook off, for later attachment, again avoiding possible masking problems.
    • The hook latch is fairly delicate, but I did attach it here.
  • Step 030:
    • The stabilators fit well with no significant trimming. The leading edge slats look as they should.
    • I will not install the stabilators until later, since the metal painting will be more effective (I hope).
  • Step 031:
    • Nose gear strut options are found here.
    • There is a longer extended strut for use with a catapult-launch configuration. I am not using this option so I assembled the regular strut, part E-5.
  • Step 032:
    • A 0.8 mm is drilled out from the back of the nose gear forward door for a blade antenna mount
    • Clear landing and approach light are installed from the back of the door. I also left these off for final assembly, again a masking consideration.
  • Step 033:
    • I deferred installation of these parts until after final painting.
    • The parts cleaned up very nicely, and dry fitting went very well, with no problems in final assembly.
  • Step 034:
    • I deferred installation of these parts until after final painting.
    • The parts cleaned up very nicely, and dry fitting went very well, with no problems in final assembly.
  • Step 035:
    • I deferred installation of these parts until after final painting.
    • The parts cleaned up very nicely, and dry fitting went very well, with no problems in final assembly.
  • Step 036:
    • Note that the formation (slime) lights are very closely attached to sprue C, they have no number tag, but the locations on the sprue are shown on the directions. If you built the ZM F-4J, you will not have seen these lights, even though the sprues are labeled for the J model. I tried to sand the lights' backing thin enough, but sanded the end off of one with a little too much enthusiasm. I decide to just use the decals, although the slight bit of relief under the lights might be a nice visual effect.
  • Step 037:
    • Nothing tricky here, no problem attaching AN/ALQ antenna.
    • Make sure you put them in the correct place and orientations. The instructions are quite clear.
    • Part H-26 uses hole drilled in an earlier step
  • Step 038:
    • Straightforward installation of the catapult bridle hooks
    • Part D-17 saved for later.
  • Step 039:
    • I left these parts off until post painting.
  • Step 040:
    • Attached HUD to console cover,
    • Left attachment to fuselage until after windscreen
  • Step 041:
    • Locating tabs on the fixed canopy are a nice touch.
  • Step 042:
    • I held off attaching the refueling probe until after big painting.
  • Step 043:
    • The monster center drop tank assembly presented no difficulties.
    • The fuselage pylon is very nicely done.
    • I held off attaching the tank until after big painting.
  • Step 044:
    • The underwing drop tank assemblies presented no difficulties.
    • I held off attaching the tanks until after big painting.
  • Step 045:
    • The AIM-7s assembled easily with solid attachment points for the fins.
    • Mounting diagrams show the proper outward and down orientation of the square length-wise fairing on the missile.
    • I chose the AIM-7F markings, since the kit represents an F-4S from 1981. The AIM-7M did not go into service until 1982, according to a couple of sources.
    • The missile decals were problematic. I couldn't get them to stay wrapped around the missiles. Microscale solutions didn't work, and Solvaset fragmented the stripes. I went with some aftermarket decals I already had.
    • I left the missiles off until post-painting. They mounted very snugly!
  • Step 046 & Step 047:
    • The AIM-9s assembled easily with solid attachment points for the fins.
    • The pylon assembly was easily done, although there are right and left configurations to pay attention to.
    • The missile decals were problematic. I couldn't get them to stay wrapped around the missiles. Microscale solutions didn't work, and Solvaset fragmented the stripes. I went with some aftermarket decals I already had.
    • I left the missiles and pylons off until post-painting. They mounted easily on the pylons before I glued the pylons under the wings.
  • Step 048:
    • This is not an assembly step really, just a front and back view for the final configuration.
  • Step A &B (p. 30):
    • Option details!
  • Painting:
    • Painting was done with a mixture of Testors, Tamiya, and Vallejo acrylics, mostly per spec from the color decal placement and painting guide. Metallic areas were painted with Vallejo Metalcolor acrylics, using a variety of tones.
    • No problems with paint adhesion cropped up, whew!
    • Leaving many parts off as long as possible really helped with masking.
  • Decals
    • Cockpit decals went on earlier in previous steps.
    • Decaling was started after major painting, but before attachment of most exterior details. Read this as less for me to damage during decal application!
    • Decals are logically clustered on the carrier sheet, with stencils, instrumentation, and unit/national insignia in separate sections.
    • The stencils are laid out very clearly, in numerical order.
    • White "VF-161" decals are provided, if you paint the black fuselage stripes and do not use the long black decals with the lettering already on.
    • Missile stripes were quirky. All missile marking seemed thick and reluctant to take the tight curl around the missile body. The brown stripes seemed to adhere well at first, but sprang back overnight. I opted for aftermarket missile markings that I had on hand.
    • The decal did seem a bit thick, and did not respond well with Microscale solutions.

Conclusion

I very highly recommend this kit! It is the best Phantom II I've worked on. Anything I've documented that seems negative really is very minor and does not detract from the excellent value of this kit. A seasoned detailer will be pleased with the platform, and a less experienced builder will be very pleased with the result.

Most of us tend to have interest areas or themes that guide our kit choices. But now I can say I will buy a Zoukei-Mura kit for the experience, no matter what the subject!

Thank you Zoukei-Mura and the IPMS Reviewer Corps! As always, it is an honor to be part of the team.

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