is celebrating the companyís 10th Anniversary with a special limited edition kit of the F-4EJ Kai in a spectacular paint scheme marking its retirement from service with the JASDF this year. See the News item HERE
for full details of its release and the special bonuses included.
This review is very much a First Look, being based on a pre-release set of parts which Zoukei-Mura
very kindly provided. The decals are still being prepared at the time of writing, while the assembly instructions that I have are a print-out - but I'm assuming the content is correct for the finished product.
The kit arrived in a very substantial top-opening box. Zoukei-Mura
sent the sample in their standard F-4E box, which is a perfect fit for the parts, so I'm guessing it will be used when the kit is released - albeit with revised box-top artwork as shown at the top of the page. All the runners are sealed in individual bags, and everything reached me in perfect condition.
The kit is spread across an impressive 15 runners, and comprises:
230 x grey styrene parts (plus 205 not used)
13 x clear styrene parts (plus 2 not needed)
Decals are being custom-printed by Carograf
Over 200 parts not used? - thatís simply because the kit shares runners with previous versions, and the bulk of the unused parts are from a formidable selection of underwing stores which arenít needed for the special anniversary colour scheme.
I have very limited experience of Zoukei-Mura
kits - and I've never had the chance to examine one of their Phantom series, so I was particularly keen to see what the quality is like. Basically - it's superb. The moulding is beautifully done, with no signs of flash or sink marks in the sample, and very light ejector pin marks. I will say, though, a couple of the pin marks on the cockpit floor could have been hidden if they'd been positioned better. As it is, though, they should be straightforward to deal with.
The surface finish and detailing is excellent throughout, with crisp panel lines and fasteners, plus delightfully subtle embossed rivets in places. Interior detailing is equally crisply done, and areas like the cockpit and wheel wells are really packed with "eye candy". More on that below.
The grey styrene used is great to work with; easy to carve and sand, with no tendency towards brittleness. It reminds me very much of the material used for WnW kits.
Considering the size of the kit, it was a surprise to find very few locating pins on the main airframe parts. There was no need to worry, though, because everything lines up perfectly - even without any of the internal assemblies to give rigidity. The large underwing section also forms the base of the forward fuselage and the fit is exceptionally good - as are the wing roots. On the basis of the quick test fit, it looks like it should be perfectly possible to build the kit with little or no need to resort to filler.
The only flies in the proverbial ointment in the sample kit are the horizontal stabilisers. These can be set at three angles and have wonderfully thin trailing edges - but mine are moulded slightly bowed. Hopefully they should straighten out OK (Iíll try taping them to a flat surface and using very hot water).
A Few Details
Construction begins with the cockpit and nosewheel well, which form a combined sub-assembly. The cockpit is very comprehensively fitted out and comprises almost 50 parts. Each ejection seat is constructed from 6 pieces with plenty of detail - but it's a shame that seat harnesses aren't included, because rather they stand out by their absence.
The side consoles and instrument panels for the F-4EJ Kai are included on a new runner specific to the version and are finely detailed. The instructions show that decals will be provided, but I don't have these to comment on yet. The panels feature prominently raised details, so I predict using patience and plenty of setting solution to get the decals to snuggle down tightly.
The nosewheel well under the floor is equally packed with detail - but itís basically all integral on the sides and roof. With careful painting, it should really pop out.
This version of the Phantom features a new nose-cone with external strakes which give quite a distinctive look.
The engines are simple but well detailed - again, itís mostly moulded integrally, but the crispness of the detail will really repay careful painting and highlighting. Of course, the engines will be entirely hidden once the kit is complete, but Zoukei-Mura
include parts for a pair of simple display stands. Interestingly, the parts form the rims of two of the runners, which is quite a novel idea. The stands are only intended as temporary holders for the engines, and you will need to fit the engines in the kit to complete it.
Leading to the engines are full-depth intake ducts, which attach to a very sturdy bulkhead. How much of this will be visible on the completed model is questionable, but it will certainly add rigidity to the fuselage and wing centre section.
The mainwheel wells are quite simple, but the walls boxing them in show some nice crisp detail.
The jet intakes are each 7-part assemblies and a test fit of the main part shows it matches the fuselage contours perfectly. Iíve built some jet kits where the intakes are devils to blend in neatly, but that certainly doesnít look likely here.
Thereís a choice of opened or closed exhaust nozzles and both are very nicely moulded, and the titanium underside of the tail section is well represented with a slightly ďquiltedĒ look.
The flaps, ailerons and leading edge slats are all separate, and Zoukei-Mura
have included two styles of slats with subtly different camber.
There are alternative nosewheel legs to depict the strut either compressed or extended, and the wheels themselves show excellent detail on the hubs. The main gear is similarly well detailed and the undercarriage will repay time spent on careful painting and highlighting. The tyres are moulded ďunweightedĒ, so Iíll file slight flats to represent the bulk of the aircraft.
The canopy can be displayed open or closed, and the clear parts are simply superb - absolutely crystal-clear and free of any flow marks.
As noted above, the kit comes with a really comprehensive selection of ordnance, but almost all of it will be heading to your spares box because itís not carried on this special retirement paint scheme. The aircraft is only fitted with drop tanks and pylons, but Iíve included photos of the rest of the stores for anyone interested in other boxings in Zoukei-Mura
ís F-4 series.
Rounding everything off is a nicely detailed boarding ladder to add a touch of extra interest.
The assembly guide provided for the sample kit is just a print-out, so itís not truly representative of how the finished instructions will be presented. I imagine the finished product will take the form of a 40-page booklet - perhaps more, by the time the painting guide is included. From the print-out itís clear it will be extremely comprehensive, though, with excellent illustrations and numerous views from other angles to clarify points. The notes for each of the 40 stages are printed in Japanese and English, and the captions are very helpful and informative. Colour matches are provided for Vallejo and Gunze Sangyo paints, along with FS matches where appropriate.
I canít comment on the exterior painting instructions or the decals yet, so Iíll add an update to the review once Iíve received them. Meanwhile, keep an eye on my Blog in Aeroscaleís new Forum HERE
as I get underway building this beauty.
Update - Decals
Right on schedule, a fresh package arrived from Zoukei-Mura
containing colour print-outs of the exterior painting/decal placement guide and the decals themselves.
The immediate reaction upon seeing them is twofold:
1. It's a really fantastic colour scheme, and
2. There are simply masses
of stencil markings! A quick count shows around 350 individual stencil decals to apply, so be prepared to devote multiple sessions over the course of a week or so to the task.
The decals are simply gorgeous! That's something we've come to take for granted with Cartograf's products, but these really are outstanding. In terms of printing quality, the decals are just what we expect from Cartograf - beautifully thin, with pin-sharp registration and minimal excess carrier film.
What isn't apparent in the photo at right of the main decals is that the darker blue is printed in metallic ink which changes from deep blue to an almost "electric" blue, depending on how it catches the light. Similarly, the gold stars "light up", depending on the angle they're seen from. And, of course, this is looking at the decals flat on their sheet - once they're applied to the contours of the kit, the effect should be amazing.
Even in this pre-release form, Zoukei-Mura
ís F-4EJ Kai is a beautifully moulded and presented kit, packed with detail and extremely well engineered. Itís a reasonably complex model but, based on the test-fit outlined above, plus the initial assembly Iíve done of the ejection seats and cockpit, it seems set to be quite a straightforward build and Iím really looking forward to it as my first project for Aeroscaleís new site. Iím very grateful to Zoukei-Mura
for giving me the chance to examine and build the model ahead of its release.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE