Contributor-Funded Kit Reviews: Round 3 Selection Time!

I know, I know. It’s been a little while since Round 2. There are lots of reasons – like laziness, work, wanting to actually build things – but I also wanted to give a bit of time for new releases to somewhat refresh themselves. And have they ever – Round 3 may prove to be the most difficult vote yet.

Or like Round 1 and Round 2, one or two kits will leave all the others in the dust.

Housekeeping Stuff

What’s the deal with these reviews? Check out the REVIEWS PAGE, MANIFESTO and FAQ is you want to get up to speed.

Starting with Round 2, some changes have been implemented to the voting process. You can read up on them HERE. Basically – if you vote for the kit that ends up winning, some portion of those votes will be “retired”.

Want to contribute to the effort and get on board the Round 3 selection train? Visit the FundRazer link:

FRZR

Okay, okay, enough housekeeping. Let’s get on to the Round 3 contenders.

Round 3 – Fight!

Here are your tributes –

  1. 1/72 Airfix B-17G Flying Fortress
  2. 1/48 Airfix P-40B Tomahawk
  3. 1/48 Hobby Boss Su-27 Flanker
  4. 1/32 HK Models B-17E/F Flying Fortress
  5. 1/48 Kitty Hawk Su-17/22 Fitter
  6. 1/48 Meng P-51D Mustang
  7. 1/32 Special Hobby Yak-3
  8. 1/48 Hobby Boss Su-34 Fullback
  9. 1/35 Takom King Tiger
  10. 1/35 Tamiya M40
  11. 1/48 Zoukei Mura F-4J Phantom II
  12.  1/2700 Zvezda Imperial Star Destroyer

Voting is live now (Friday 11/25/16) – so if you’ve contributed, keep an eye on your inbox! And if you want to have a say, you can contribute HERE.

No.

56215932

It seems to pop up every so often.

Sometimes it carries the bland formality of a form letter. “Dear sir or madam”. Or a concerned older person worried there might have been some kind of accident. Or the morally righteous. Or those who “just don’t think it’s needed, that’s all”, which I always imagine being said in Martin Freeman’s voice for some reason.

I’m talking, of course, about the requests, demands, tut-tuts and head shakes regarding my use of expletives on this blog.

It’s tiresome. So here, once and for all, is my response:

Fuck You

Did you walk out of the theater in disgust when Matt Damon proclaimed “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this”?

Do you basically enjoy no stand up comedy of any kind?

You poor soul.

Fuck You

We have all kinds of actual, real problems facing us in the world. Big fucking problems. Climate change and income inequality and the precarious teetering of the world economy and the rise of far-right strongman nationalist governments around the world.

Oh well, better bitch about a few shits and fucks thrown around on a modeling blog.

Fuck You

Here’s the thing. In the most reductionist terms, I write for a living. And when I write for clients, I get to do super-fun things like adopt their brand voice and refer to their style guide and adhere to their messaging architecture.

I love it. But it can be a bit stifling.

That’s part of why I started this blog several years ago. Yeah, it was mostly my little corner of the internet where I could geek out about models, but it was also a sandbox. A place where I didn’t – and don’t – have to adhere to some other brand voice or editorial style. Where I can play and try things that clients are often too hesitant to go for. Where I can plan how I want, write how I want, and not have to balance an editorial calendar against the editorial calendars of five other divisions and six other agencies.

A place where I can do whatever the fuck I want.

So, in the words of the great Rage Against the Machine,

Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Tamiya’s New Tomcat – Not the Second Coming

1473787041021_tamiya_1_48_grumman_f14a_tomcat_61114_sincerehobby

NOTE: This is not a review per se. There will be no fondling of sprues or the like. Think of this more as an addendum – impressions from mid-way through the actual build. 

Since the first test shots emerged, Tamiya’s new 1/48 F-14A Tomcat has been praised to the heavens. Reviews have been almost universally glowing. And to be sure, it’s a fine kit.

But now that I’m a ways into building one, I’d stop shy of calling it a great kit. Much less the OMG BEST KIT EVAR!!!! adulation that some heap upon it.

I know. There’s just no pleasing some people.

The Hedgehog

In his business books, Jim Collins goes on about the Hedgehog Model. You can read about it here if you want, but the TL;DR version is pretty simple. The hedgehog is really great at one thing – rolling up into a spiky ball that predators don’t like to bite. Businesses, by focusing on that one thing they do really, really well, succeed over the long term.

Tamiya’s hedgehog is fit. They may fuck up here and there on other things, but when you crack into a Tamiya kit you’re pretty much assured of truly wonderful fit (and the engineering that assures that).

Tamiya’s Tomcat is no exception. The engineering – and the fit that follows from it – cannot be disputed. Pieces slot together with authority and precision. There’s no guessing. There’s no hoping. Shit just fits.

And I’m not just talking about the fuselage or the cockpit – it extends to the wing glove pylons and the gear bays and the gear struts and the intake trunks.

From an assembly perspective, Tamiya’s F-14 is great.

But…

Beyond engineering and fit, Tamiya drops several balls with their Tomcat. They’re little things, but taken together they add up to a kit that falls just shy of greatness.

I’m going to address each, as well as offer up a few thoughts on how Tamiya – or the aftermarket – could address them.

The Wings

The Tamiyacat’s wings? They’re solid. Personally I’m fine with this, since unless the F-14 is literally on the catapult or landing, the slats and flaps aren’t splayed out. But it gets under some people’s britches.

Solution: This one is simple, thanks to Tamiya’s excellent spar tabs. Offer a “F-14 Premium Wing” set. Meng already does shit like this with their armor.

boxtop-interior

The Cockpit

Detail in the cockpit is…decent. And honestly, with what Tamiya’s been doing with their last several 1/32 releases, and what AMK and Eduard and Trumpeter and others have been pulling off in 1/48 recently, decent is a letdown. The knobs are clumsy and don’t really match up 100% to the real thing. The stock throttle is just a lump of plastic. The gauges on the instrument panels are tiny in their bezels.

Note: Seats and throttle are aftermarket

I mean…just compare it to Hobby Boss’ A-6E Intruder:

Solution: Despite the spartan nature of Tamiya’s efforts, engineering comes to the rescue here. Every single detail part is an insert that slots into the bare cockpit tub. The firewalls, the side consoles, the sidewalls, everything.

The door is wide open for aftermarket resin to come to the rescue. Now – the way the cockpit and the nose gear bay fit together and locate into the fuselage would be a nightmare to match in resin, but there’s no need for that. Just make new cockpit inserts. That’s probably too clever for Aires, but if Eduard isn’t already working on it, I’ll find a hat and eat it.

The Gear Bays

The gear bays – as with everything else – fit together wonderfully. But they commit the sin of completely ignoring the rat’s nest of plumbing you’ll find looking up an F-14’s skirt.

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modelgrafix-8-finemolds-f14-tomcat-25

Quite the difference, no?

Solution: Honestly, given the way that elements of the gear bays are integral to other parts, full-replacement gear bays will be a shit-ton of work. More work than I’d be willing to put in at least. But the separate pieces could certainly be upgraded, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Eduard try to tackle of some of this via photo etch (shudder).

Version Control

The F-14A went through several production blocks, with small-but-noticeable tweaks throughout. The main ones were different gun vents, the addition of tail stiffeners, ECM antenna bulges under the wing gloves, and the addition of the TCS chin pod. None of these were included in the kit, which is just fucking maddening.

Then again, Hobby Boss’ F-14A doesn’t have a TCS pod, either.

Right now, your only options for upgrades are either stealing shit out of another kit (like the Hobby Boss F-14B for the TCS pod) or buying some less-than-stellar resin from Steel Beach.

Personally, I don’t really give a shit about the gun vents or other smaller details, but the TCS pod is a big one. It’s a large, prominent thing on the F-14, and many earlier-block F-14As were retrofitted with them over time.

tcs_right

Solution: Aftermarket seems to be the way to go here. Wolfpack is generally pretty on top of various block and mid-life update sets, and I’d expect them to have something put together for later F-14As as soon as possible. Until then – I’m stealing my TCS from the Hobby Boss F-14B.

The Fucking Plastic

For some reason, Tamiya decided to abandon their usual gray for a weird, light, creamy gray plastic that gives me PTSD flashbacks to Kinetic’s F-5B and Revell’s 1/32 Bf 109G-6.

Not only does this plastic present a real pain in the ass when it comes to photography and visual definition, it also seems to have trouble curing with Tamiya Extra Thin. I had a similar issue with Tenax on Revell’s 109G-6, and the only reason Tamiya gets away with it is the staggeringly good fit. You don’t have to worry about panels pulling away, so the weird slow curing thing isn’t a huge deal. But still…give me back my normal gray plastic.

Solution: Hope Tamiya gets back to the usual plastic for their next variant. And yes, I acknowledge that this appears to be the same plastic the 1/48 F-16 is molded in. By usual plastic I mean the wonderful, darker gray seen on most of their other kits, including their recent 1/32 releases:

Very Good, Not Quite Great

So there you have it. Tamiya’s put together a very competent F-14 that nevertheless doesn’t quite knock it out of the park. Maybe an infield home run.

Tamiya’s Next 1/32 Subject – New Factors Emerge

ki

It’s always great fun to dig into Tamiya’s release patterns and try to make some predictions about where we might be heading. I’ve written on this topic plenty of times before – most recently HERE – and the general precedents have been holding for some time. Broadly, in TL;DR terms:

  • New 1/32 subjects come in the summer of odd-numbered years. Spitfire in ’09, Mustang in 2011, Corsair in 2013, and Mosquito in 2015. So we’re due for something new this next summer.
  • Variants follow in even-numbered years  – with the exception of the Mosquito, which I’m starting to think won’t see a variant release.
  • Subjects all exist in some fashion in their 1/48 catalog. The only real exception is the Spitfire – and that’s an exception in variants, not in subject.
  • Tamiya’s 1/32 releases have been coming out in the same chronological order as their 1/48 releases, albeit skipping aircraft like the Dewoitine D.520 that would be a long-shot for 1/32 release.
  • Tamiya’s subject choices have been of iconic aircraft with enough detail potential and bulk to justify the $100-plus pricetags.

Based on these precedents, I’ve been predicting that 2017 will give us either a P-47 or Me 262. 

But…recent signs may point to that precedent shifting.

Highway to the…

Earlier this year, Tamiya dropped their first jet since their lauded F-16, a 1/48 Grumman F-14A Tomcat.

The kit has some minor frustrations in terms of detail and limitations on which F-14A production blocks you can build out of the box, but engineering and fit-wise, it’s a simply wonderful kit.

Now…it’s not likely…but it’s within the realm of possibility that they may stray from props for their next 1/32 kit, and drop a new-tool F-14 on us instead.

If you’re not aware, Tamiya has already done a 1/32 Tomcat – but the tool dates to 1980, making it nearly as old as I am. It’s generally regarded as Tamiya’s weakest 1/32 kit.

“But Tamiya never goes back and revisits old subjects” you might say. And that’s largely true, with one exception. Not so many years ago, they released two brand-new 1/48 A6M Zero kits to replace another ancient tooling.

So…it could happen.

Another Wrinkle

While most of the buzz around Tamiya this year has focused on the new Tomcat and 1/24 Acura NSX, they just very recently announced another 1/48 kit, set to release toward the end of the year – a Ki-61 Hien.

Print

Now this is pretty remarkable on its own – I think the last time Tamiya released two new-tool 1/48 kits in the same year might be the P-47 and Me 262 (ironic). But there may be more going on here.

Just look at the CAD renderings. output_011_2output_011

What the fuck is that?

Tamiya typically doesn’t go in for exposing the engines in its 1/48 inline props – I can’t think of a single one honestly – but there you have it, a Ka-40, the Japanese license-built version of the famous German DB 601.

output_010

Why does this matter?

Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe Tamiya’s just stepping up their 1/48 game.

Or maybe they’re twin-tooling and since they’re already doing something in 1/32, may as well put a simplified version in the 1/48 kit.

So…could Tamiya be ramping up a 1/32 Ki-61? Maybe?

Let’s Throw Some Odds

So…the way I see it, there are four distinct possibilities in play for Tamiya’s next 1/32 kit. But what’s the likelihood of any one of them happening? At this point, fuck if I know, but I’ll throw some numbers out anyway:

  • P-47D Razorback – 35%
  • Messerschmitt Me 262 – 20%
  • F-14A Tomcat – 10%
  • Ki-61 Hien – 15%
  • None of the Above – 20%

Bring on May 2017!

 

1/35 Takom Type 69-II – Part 1 – The Build Up

type69-iipt1My taste in armor subjects has evolved substantially since I got back into the hobby – away from World War II and toward the tail end of the Cold War. Judging by the kits that have been arriving on the scene over the last few years, I’m not alone in that shift, either.

Newcomers Meng, Takom and Rye Field have been leading the charge, and Trumpeter has not been quiet, either, rolling out a very nice assortment of Russian T tanks and their associated platform extensions, as well as all manner of heavy launch trucks, missiles and artillery. Tamiya’s focus on WWII Sherman platforms seems a bit out of place, and meanwhile Dragon keep churning out German subject after German subject.

For some reason over the summer, I got a bug up my ass to build Takom’s new Type 69-II. Now – this is not a very good tank. It’s a Chinese knockoff of the Russian T-54/55. But, it was used extensively by the Iraqi Army (and destroyed extensively by the Allied forces in Desert Storm). And that puts it right in my historical sweet spot. Besides, fun weathering challenges are always welcome around here. So it was off to the races.

Initial Construction

It can be easy to confuse Takom and Meng. Both are new on the block, and both seem to have a hard time staying out of each other’s way in terms of new subjects. I would definitely have to give Meng the edge when it comes to engineering, detail, precision etc. They bake in all kinds of goodies like excellent workable tracks, workable suspension and so on. But…to date I’ve completed one Takom kit (their Leopard C2) and gotten another into paint…more than I can say for Meng.

Takom’s approach is…simpler. The Type 69-II lacks workable suspension, and the tracks supplied with the kit are the frustrating glue-and-wrap indy links that I just refuse to work with. The road wheels could benefit from larger mounting points and poly bushings instead of the nubs you have to glue them to.

The road wheels themselves are a source of frustration, too. Takom put all kinds of ribbing on the “contact patch” area of the tires, and that has to be sanded down. They also came close to greatness by molding the rubber portion separate from the wheels themselves, but then threw it all away by putting the wheel rims on the rubber “ring” portions. Ugh.

But once you get above the wheels, things improve, and I would say the upper hull and turret remind me quite a bit of old-school Tamiya armor. That is to say, it builds fast and it builds easy.

As such there’s just…not much to say about it.

Masterclub Tracks

Glue-together indy links are just something I refuse to deal with, so I opted for some metal Masterclub tracks. While they are nice and easier to work with than Friuls, thanks to the use of resin track pins, my set came with flash for miles. This cost me several nights and nerve endings in my thumbs removing all of the excess.

Once the tedious buildup is done, though, they look pretty slick.

Note the overdone ribbing on the wheel contact patches

Light Scratchwork

Beyond the general build-up, the specific Type 69-II I’m aiming at has a few touches that aren’t included in the kit. Thus…scratchbuilding!

t69

The first is the replacement light guard. If you look at the tank’s right fender, you’ll see the curved, diamond-plate guard that is standard on these things. The left guard looks to be something of a DIY replacement.

The second is the smoke pipes. These go into a box welded/bolted to the exhaust, and extend forward to the front of the tank. The idea, from what I can gather, is to direct smoke from the exhaust forward as sort of a poor man’s smokescreen. Anyway, it’s a cool detail I couldn’t resist tackling.

The light guard was easy enough. Just strips of evergreen cut to approximate size and then trimmed up.

The pipes were a bit of a different challenge. I decided early on I wanted to use metal tubing – but the elbows were a concern. Nobody makes elbows this small, and bending and cutting metal tubing at such sizes is beyond my abilities/patience. So I opted to use styrene rod.

My first attempt – cutting rod at a 45° angle, reversing it at gluing it – looked alright, but didn’t match the curvier elbow typically seen with piping.

Unsatisfied with that, I went back, heated some styrene rod over a candle, and then smash-bent it on the edge of some shelving. Much better. A few cuts, some drilling out of the ends, and I had my elbows.

To make the elbows look a bit more authentic and replicate the flanged ends, I wrapped some Aizu tape around and then locked it in place with some extra thin super glue.

With that and some rather unremarkable work to add in a few additional details, it was time to move on to the main event – painting.

In Part 2, I’ll be walking through what will be the fairly involved paintwork for the Type 69-II. Even though it’s a monotone finish, there’s going to be a lot more to it than just spraying Sand and calling it a day.

 

Kits that Need to Happen

I know I’ve written something like this before. But some recent subject-hunting has pissed me off all over again. So here are some kits that should exist (or exist in a higher quality tooling than the cartoon trash that’s technically available today).

In no particular order.

1/32 Allison-engined Mustangs – That’s right, the P-51, P-51A, and A-36. Make it fucking happen. While they were completely  eclipsed by the Merlin ‘Stangs, these early variants tore shit up in North Africa and Italy and deserve better than the Hobbycraft kit you can’t even find anymore.

1/32 Curtiss P-40F and P-40L “Desert Hawk” – Speaking of North Africa, Hasegawa makes a P-40E, P-40M and P-40N, which is great if you get all excited about the South Pacific and CBI theaters. But in North Africa and Italy, the Merlin-engined P-40F and L were the mounts of choice for the USAAF until P-47s and P-51s came onto the scene.

1/48 RF-4C Phantom – Recce version of the F-4C with a modified nose to hold the camera goodies. Like most recce aircraft, the RF-4C stayed in service well after most other Phantom variants were sent to the boneyard or the scrapyard. It also played a significant role in Desert Storm, and would be a simple extension for a kitmaker with an already solid F-4C Phantom. Cough…Academy…cough.

1/48 F-4G Phantom – What’s cooler than a Desert Storm-era recce Phantom? A Desert Storm-era  Wild Weasel Phantom. The Hasegawa offering is dated and sad.

1/32 Spitfire Mk.Vc – Jesus. Why does everyone always make the wrong Spitfires? The Vb is interesting, but when you start going on a hunt for Spitfire Vs, it seems that at least half of the really great references that show up are sporting the C wing.

1/35 AH-64 Apache – I know people bitch about helicopters in 1/35 scale and not 1/32 (aside from Revell), but get over it. Between Academy and Trumpeter and Dragon that’s what we’ve got. And one thing we don’t have in that scale? The best helicopter gunship in the world.

1/48 or 1/35 Kamov Ka-52 “Alligator” – Helicopters in general are egregiously underrepresented in kit and aftermarket selection – and Russian helicopters in particular get far too little attention. This twin-seater would be an awesome subject to build, but alas…no dice.

1/48 Su-25 Frogfoot – Yes, there’s a Revell kit. And it’s…not great. We can do better. I’d be stunned if Trumpeter or AMK or someone doesn’t have this sucker in their roadmap.

1/32 A-4E and A-4M Low-Viz Decals – Yes, I get it. 1/32 jets get the absolute shaft when it comes to decal selection. A lot of the great 1/48 players like Furball just don’t even touch 1/32. But to date, guess how many low-viz marking options exist for 1/32 Scooters? That’s right – ZERO.

1/32 Late-Variant Corsairs – Look. I love Tamiya’s F4U-1 and -1A Corsairs. There’s something lithe and lethal about the WWII-era Corsairs for sure. But I also dig the hell out of the chunkier post-war, Korean-era Corsairs. The Corsairs that transitioned from dogfighters to bomb-chucking, rocket-slinging close air support badasses. And don’t even talk to me about Trumpeter’s shitty F4U-4. We can do better. And better should include F4U-4Bs, F4U-5Ns, AU-1s and a French F4U-7 just for giggles.

There won’t be a second 1/32 Tamiya Mosquito

notamiyamossie

 

Back in April, I posted a lengthy analysis of Tamiya’s 1/32 release patterns (LINK). If you have’t read it yet, I highly recommend it to at least get a sense of what the precedents are.

In that post, I put forward three predictions (among others):

  1. We would not see a new 1/32 Tamiya kit this past summer
  2. A second Mosquito variant – likely a B.IV or NF.II – would be announced this fall, likely at the All Japan Hobby Show
  3. The next 1/32 subject will be announced in April 2017, shown publicly at the Shizouka show in May, and released later in the summer

The first has borne out. But it’s the second I want to talk about.

Because I’m starting to think we’re not going to get a second Mosquito kit. That the FB.VI will be a one and done.

Why?

Because the All-Japan Hobby Show, the show where Tamiya unveiled its last two 1/32 “variants” – the F4U-1A and the Pacific Mustang, has just come and gone.

It was a busy show for Tamiya. They showed off not only their new 1/48 F-14A, but their new 1/24 Acura NSX, a new Kawasaki Ninja H2R bike kit, and an out-of-nowhere new-tool 1/35 M40 Big Shot that, honestly, looks really damn nice.

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But…there was no Mosquito B.IV or NF.II in sight.

Now…it is possible that Tamiya is waiting. Maybe to let their F-14 and other new releases have the limelight.

The Spitfire XVI was first announced, after all, in November 2010, well after the late September timeframe of the F4U-1A Corsair and Pacific P-51.

So it’s totally possible that we could turn around tomorrow, or two weeks from now, with word of Tamiya’s next Mossie.

But I’m starting to doubt it.

It’s time to consider that maybe – and maybe even probably – there will not be another Mosquito.

Seems impossible? Seems absurd given how little tweaking it’d take?

Well where’s that 1/32 F-16D? Where’s that F4U-1D Corsair? Spitfire Mk.V or Mk.XIV?

Tamiya has a shitty history with filling in variants – they’re like the anti-Dragon. We’ve known it for years. Where’s the obvious late-block P-47D with the tail fillet? Where’s the early-block P-51D without it? F4F-3 Wildcat? Any of the four-bladed Corsairs?

The signs are there in 1/48 scale, in 1/72 scale, in older 1/32 kits (look at the Phantom family…).

Tamiya sucks at variants, and they very rarely go back to “fill in”. The only instance I can think of is the retooled 1/48 Zeros – but those were replacing some of Tamiya’s oldest efforts.

Where does that leave Tamiya’s 1/32 efforts?

It leaves them exactly where they are now. Tamiya’s Zeros, Spits, Mustangs, Corsairs and their Mosquito are among the best kits on the planet. If we only get one Mossie variant it’s not going to change that.

And next summer, we’ll get something new to salivate over.

I’m still predicting either a P-47 or Me 262 if the established precedents hold.

If they don’t?

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tamiya veer away from World War II. Whatever they do – it would be in keeping with their general approach though – a highly popular subject that would sell at volume and that would be sufficiently large and complex enough to justify a pricetag well north of $100.

If they’re going to left field us like that, I think the smart money would be on a new 1/32 F-14A Tomcat. Similar to the one-two punch of new 1/32 and 1/48 F-16s back in 2007/8. Their current F-14 dates back to 1980 and is far and away the weakest of their 1/32 lineup. And it’s honestly hard to think of another jet that would sell at a similar level of gangbusters.