Tamiya’s New Tomcat – Not the Second Coming

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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.

6828711084_0796688417_b

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.

33 thoughts on “Tamiya’s New Tomcat – Not the Second Coming

  1. just unsubscribed from this site, it was one of the few i still had an interest in, call me a grumpy old fool or whatever ya like

    enough is enough, this blog stuff is just powered by perpetual motion of ‘’finding’’ things to bitch about and make yourself appear ‘’clever’’

    FAIL

    Norman Long

    9 Oxford Terrace Strathdale Vic 3550

    0354441976 0401023358

    >

  2. Smacks of trying to find faults in order to appear to be clever in controversial, and then just making stuff up to back up a strawman argument .

    To use the kit metaphor, your case is badly engineered and doesn’t fit together. Nice try.

    • Strawman? Please explain how “the kit is very good, but not great” is a strawman.

      And I’d love to know what I’m making up. Am I making up the lack of wing control surfaces? Am I making up the disappointing detail in the cockpit and gear bays? Their 1/48 F-16 is demonstrably better in both regards. Is there a TCS pod hanging around in the box? I didn’t even touch the slight annoyances of the ejector pin marks or the extraordinarily average tires.

  3. Why all this hostility?
    I’m quite happy that anyone is putting in the effort to write about this hobby and comment on things that the companies bring to the market, how can they otherwise progress?

    In the end it all comes down to what you prefer and if you think that a certain company or one of its products are faultless and in no need of development, then take no notice of any “bad” reviews and continue with your business.
    Don’t let all your hate out, it’s just plain stupid…

    Keep up the good work Matt!

    By the way, where can I post a question about black basing? Since I’m from Sweden I want to build a JA37 Viggen in the classic green splinter camouflage. How would I go about to paint the marble layer?

    Have a nice one!
    /Per Ekström
    Stockholm, Sweden

  4. Sadly the assessment is spot on. I have been surveying my Academy 1/48 F4C recently with a view to a build and they have included extra parts for nose sensors and alternative tail planes and instrument panels . Would it really have been that difficult for Tamiya to do the same ?
    Beyond ‘Top Gun’ and knowing the F14 had GE engines in later marks I wouldn’t have considered myself an expert in the jet, but even after some cursory research I discovered the TCS variations and the later NACA gun vent. It would not have caused Tamiya any problems to include those parts.
    I have seen a Steel Beach later gun vent, and while they are to be congratulated for getting something out, the result is quite ‘soft’.
    I haven’t got round to handling the plastic yet so I can’t comment there ,but references to Revell plastic have me worried.
    Revell’s 1/48 EF Typhoon is headed for my bin because of its horrendous plastic (that and nothing fits)
    Maybe Tamiya have made a rod for their own backs with their previous superb kits and are now struggling to live up to or bettering these kits.
    That grumbling aside, I am looking forward to getting to grips with my first Tamiya kit in 2 years after experience in that time with Revell,Trumpeter,Airfix,older Academy and Kinetic.
    The Tamiya instructions alone will be a joy after Kinetics TLAR (that goes about there) instructions!

  5. Great blog… loved it, telling it as it is and quite frankly managing peoples expectations given the tsunami of hype this kit has created. I think some have missed that point… good on you.

    • Butch, this kit is far more advanced than all my built kits combined! And for now, I’m having a great time building this …. all that matter to me ….. nice pointers for Tamiya to keep on shooting for perfection …. meantime I’m super happy with this!

  6. So as a former Tomcat maintainer, I share your disappointment in the cockpit (spent a lot of time in the real one!) and the wheel wheel detail. I’m hopeful the aftermarket will pick up the slack. Steel Beach already has an excellent TCS pod and some other goodies out. Eduard has announced Brassin wheel for this kit. So fingers crossed.

    Also love the TCS pod pic you posted – a fine example of a shitty sealant job! I took a lot of pride in masking off the pod and not making a mess when I did one. Granted, the -8802 is nasty stuff to work with, it’s a two part sealant that has to be thoroughly mixed and applied correctly. The pic you posted looks like it was applied with a fricken canoe paddle and was definitely not masked.

  7. It may make you unpopular, Doogs, but your honest reviews are some of the most genuine I’ve found. Keep at it. Your info won’t prevent me from buying or building a kit. But it will give me a very solid idea of what I need to expect in terms of problems or extra work.

    I would only unsubscribe if you backed away from honesty in order to satisfy a fickle audience.

  8. Keep up the honest work by not Cookie Sewelling these reviews (he does a hell of a lot in-box, glowing review of armor).
    I have purchased a couple new Tamiya armor releases, the M4A3E8 and M10. They build great and easy, but the small detail is missing or crudely done like the grab handles just being solid fins. Dragon on the other hand has lots of small details, but you never know about the fit.
    A big positive about Tamiya kits is they keep the aftermarket guys in business by them producing these missing details.

  9. Thank you for taking the time to present an honest appraisal of the kit.
    I have been reading with tremendous interest; the ‘online builds’ of this model, by various leading Modellers’.
    Their appraisals have been unanimously ‘glowing’.

    I am not surprised that the kit possess some irritating faults.
    At least you have identified these faults; backed it up with evidence and offered a solution.

    Hopefully, the likes of Eduard and Wolfpack will release appropriate update sets, in the not too distant future.

    I believe that Tamiya were remiss in not providing the option for leading edge slat and trailing edge flap extensions.
    This has deterred Modellers’ who wish to pose their model in the catapult launch phase, from purchasing the kit.

    The kit ejection seats are not ‘works of art’ either.
    Though adequate; it appears that the majority of the cockpit could benefit from resin update inserts and new ‘bang seats.’
    The cockpit being a main focal point on any F-14 model!

    Let’s see what the aftermarket industry comes up with?

    Regards.

    Albury, New South Wales.
    Australia 🇦🇺

    • KASL is already working on replacement wings. We shall see. I still think the ideal situation would be for Tamiya to do a Meng-style supplemental release. Hell, toss in a cat-ready nose strut as well and call it a day.

  10. Incorrect Aim-9 version and lack of belts is a pain for me, otherwise it’s a damn good kit, let’s see how it stands against the AMK when it hits the street…

    • But they have decals for belts!

      In all seriousness, I fully expect to replace any ejection seat in any kit i buy with resin, so I’m not too burned up there.

      As for the AIM-9s – the ship I’m building is carrying AIM-9L/Ms so I’m good there, but yeah it’s a frustrating thing. Fortunately resin missiles have become far more prevalent over the last five or so years and (I think) most versions of the AIM-9 are now covered.

  11. After everything’s said and done, is it worth the $70 or so I’m seeing it going for at the discount sellers? Not a big jet guy, but would like to do a Tomcat. Unconcerned with accuracy – just looking for something that will actually get built and make it to the shelf in my lifetime.

  12. Thank for sharing your thoughts. Different view than usual interenet fights who’s the best Tamiya or AMK.
    Tamiya’s “Hedgehog” is fit, but I think also a good balance of details to be rendered vs detail that may be ommited.

  13. I plan on doing mine in-flight so the omissions that Doog has pointed out don’t really bother me much. But, if I were going with an on the ground build you can bet I’d be a bit annoyed by the items that have been pointed out here.

    I think this review was an honest look at why the kit isn’t quite “the best thing ever” but I also don’t think there’s ever a point where I get the impression Matt hates it, either. His colourful comments may come off to some as hating on the kit, but he’s looking for areas that need improvement and focusing on those aspects alone. I see nothing wrong with that approach.

    Maybe something that could be mentioned is how it stacks up to other kits though. It’s an early F-14A. It’s not an F-14B. It’s not an F-14D. It’s not even a mid to late model F-14A. This is a very specific kit of a very specific time frame for the Tomcat. Yeah, I think that’s a cop out on Tamiya’s part, but just look at how they released the F-16 and all the variants that were separate boxings – unless you got the Aggressor kit, no single box had everything needed to build more than one variant. If Tamiya wants to maximise their potential sales on this kit, surely covering other models of the Tomcat is on the radar?

    Back to how it compares with other kits – I’ve got experience with the Hasegawa kit and nothing else. I’m sure everyone would agree that it’s the best Tomcat out there, despite its flaws. But only if you want to build an early F-14A or are prepared to look elsewhere for the parts needed to do something else.

    Anyway, thanks for the honest look and opinion on this kit! I’ll be going into my build well informed and that’s invaluable in this hobby.

  14. Doogs,
    You mention that the throttle and seats are aftermarket. What brand?

    Thanks for the honesty, and – as always – stellar work.

  15. Hey Doogs!

    I agree with you on the lack of detail in the cockpit (really just the throttle, dials, gauges, and knobs) and the wheel bays. After seeing their F-16, that’s what I was expecting. The other thing you didn’t mention (or at least I didn’t catch it) was that the chaff/flare dispenser isn’t very convincing. Everything else is great, though. In regards to the wings, I love the solid wings after struggling with so many Hasegawa kits trying to get the parts to fit. KASL has taken care of the wings for those that want everything hanging out. That lack of TCS is simply marketing. It’s like Revell releasing the PBY-5 first so people will buy it, then later releasing the PBY-5A, which is the one everyone really wanted. The TCS will come. The lens is in the clear parts. I also appreciate your candor on the Steel Beach parts. I’m learning every time I do a new part. It’s just me in my basement. The TCS you referenced is actually discontinued. I released a new part that is more accurate and gives you all three options (TCS, bullet fairing, and IR). It’s not Aries quality, but once installed and painted, it looks very much the part. I had trouble casting my first set of NACA replacement parts. I’ve found some new RTV and resin that has made it much easier to cast. I also just released a throttle for the cockpit. I’m about to release a B conversion as well. I would be happy to send you a set for your use if you’re going to build another Tomcat.

    • Wow! That was very informative. Maybe if you provided some constructive criticism, I might be able to improve the product. I will be the first to say that it’s not Aries or Eduard quality, but I hardly think it’s crap. Most modelers find it to be useful and economical. It’s not my living by any means, but rather it’s simply an extension of my hobby and to provide some useful pieces to fellow modelers. I would be very interested in your input into what you disliked about the resin.

    • Actually, all the Steel Beach stuff I’ve had is fine, some of the Aires stuff I had to either correct/ throw away as it just wasn’t right…

    • I replied poorly. Let me start over. I’m sorry you feel that way. I would be very interested in what parts you purchased that you weren’t happy with. I continue to try and improve my product so it’s useful to as many modelers as possible. I apologize for my sarcastic beginning in my first post.

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