The Academy Curse


There are plenty of modelers out there who will start a project and, no matter how shitty or dispiriting it proves to be, will see it through to the bitter end.

I have a healthy respect for those who do…but it’s not something I particularly excel at. For me, modeling is a hobby. And while I like challenges, there comes a point where the enjoyment slips away and the bench sessions become drudgery.

And for some reason, Academy kits always seem to drag me into that drudgery.

I’d hoped that the F-4C Phantom would be a way to break the curse, but alas, here I am, teetering at the edge.

Why? Not because of anything big. Not because the kit has “defeated” me. But rather, because compounding annoyances have worn me down, and because of swirlings in the larger market.

Let’s go through those annoyances first…

The Cockpit is Bullshit

My first annoyance with the Academy F-4C was the laughably spartan cockpit. After reading the horror stories of the Aires cockpit set for this kit,  I stayed well away, but maybe I should have taken the plunge, or at the very least used the resin to create a hybrid cockpit of sorts. I mean…the kit pit has no sidewall detail. At all.

Aside from the absent sidewall detail, the side consoles and IPs are no great shakes, either.

Seriously – the old Hasegawa and even Revellogram F-4s put it to shame.

Strike one.

The Surface Texture

The entire surface of the Academy F-4 is covered in a slightly gritty texture that has to be sanded away. And I thought I had, but well into the painting process, it keeps popping up in places. UGH. 

Say what you will about the old Hasegawa kits, their polished plastic eliminates this as an issue.

There are also various mold lines along the single upper fuselage piece, kind of negating some of the point of having it in the first place.

Strike two.

The Separate Heat Shield is Bad Engineering

The titanium heat shield is one of the F-4’s most defining visual elements, and a veritable garden of delight for worn metal effects.

But look at where it meets up with the aft fuselage. It’s very precise, with lots of fine fastener detail.

Academy, following Tamiya’s stupid lead on this, makes the heat shield a separate, single piece. Well, multiple pieces if you count the upper portions around the tail.

Why is this annoying? Because the join is dicey and this is NOT an area where you want to be doing extensive cleanup.

When engineering a kit, it’s generally a good idea to try to put the joins in places where they aren’t going to cause any more headaches than they have to. This is why most cylindrical fuselages join side-by-side, rather than top-to-bottom. Easier to deal with a seam across the section of the top not taken up by the cockpit or the tail, than to deal with a seam down the entire side of the fuselage.

The same logic *should* apply to the heat shield. Both Hasegawa and Zoukei-Mura mold the fucker as part of the fuselage sides, and it joins at the bottom, where any cleanup work can be conveniently hidden by the arrestor hook.

Strike three.

The Intakes are Bad and Should Feel Bad

Most intakes on jet kits suck. Especially on American aircraft, because some dinglelord decided “hey, let’s paint those trunks white!”. Fuck that guy.

There are seamless intakes available to address this, but generally, they’re a pain to install vs. the kit parts. And since this F-4C was going to be rocking FOD covers, I figured I’d use the kit intake parts. What a fucking travesty.

The fit of these was bad. Leaving a step with the lower fuselage and necessitating cleanup on the upper fuselage sides.

It’s generally a bad thing when your kit intakes fit worse than aftermarket options.

Strike four.

The Main Gear Bays – Also Bullshit

Anybody who’s tackled an Academy F-4 knows that the main gear bays are a box of annoyance. Not only for the lack of location aids that could have easily been incorporated, but for the fact that they make you install the main struts before pretty much anything else. While I appreciate that this locks the struts in at a perfect angle, there are less bullshit ways of going about it.

Strike five.

No Navigation Lights

Many of the more visually interesting F-4Cs and Ds can be found in Air National Guard service in the late 70s through the 80s. And every single one of them has nav light strips on the nose, fuselage and tail.

These are not present on the Academy kit.

I eventually had to add them to my F-4, but it was a…fraught process.

Strike six.

No One-Piece Canopy

Zoukei-Mura and various Hasegawa F-4 kits provide not just the multi-piece canopy, but a handy single-piece option if you’re inclined to display your F-4 all closed up.

Now, it’s hard to be too rough on Academy here. A second, single-piece canopy is a rarity in the modeling world.

BUT when both of your main competitors are doing it, and you decide to put next to zero effort into the cockpit…

Strike seven.

None of these are deal breakers. Not really. But they’ve been chewing away at my thoughts and my patience throughout this build.

Honestly, I’d probably keep on pushing through, if not for things outside the kit’s control. Such as…

My Own Fucking Tastes

We all have our own tastes. And for me, growing up in the 80s and following Desert Storm on CNN and through trading cards, my taste in Phantoms has always run to the long noses – particularly the F-4G Wild Weasel.

Down from the F-4G, my preferences fall toward other long-noses such as the F-4E, German F-4F, and even the recces like the RF-4C.

I’ve also got a thing for the slatted wings and low-viz schemes, which puts the F-4S in play.

But generally, the shorties don’t excite me as much.

And I’ll admit, I’m fucking pissed that Academy seems to have just done the unslatted, short-nosed Phantoms and called it a day.

The same has been true of Zoukei-Mura with the F-4J. But with the release of the F-4S, they’ve opened up a window of hope.

There is Another…

Perhaps the biggest sapper for me, however, was the reveal of Zoukei-Mura’s forthcoming F-4C.

I’m already a fan of several of the engineering approaches ZM takes with their F-4J and S – including actually doing the cockpit justice, molding the heat shield as part of the fuselage, and having a more sane intake design. But if you look closely at the test build photo, you’ll see position lights. These are optional, so those looking to build a Vietnam-era C can still go to town, but they’re also available for those looking to build a late 70s/80s Phantom.

So, What’s My Plan Now?

For now, I’m going to set the Academy F-4C aside. I’m not about to chuck it yet. Instead, I’m planning to tackle a Zoukei F-4S and see what I make of it. If I enjoy it, well, I’m going to keep the decals planned for the Academy ready to go for the ZM F-4C.

And so for now, I guess, the Academy curse holds.

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Looking forward to hearing about the ZM build. And the PS-770 – awesome!

  2. John says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I built the Eduard boxing of the C/D, and it was a big box of disappointment. For a newer kit the fit in the places you mentioned was unacceptable, and those seams on the fuselage…

  3. Greg says:

    Can you try and do a review without using the word ” fuck” ?

    1. Doogs says:

      Why the fuck would I do that?

      1. DanTheBuilder says:

        Don’t change a fucking thing Doogs. 🙂 I can’t stand it when people use a swearword every sentence but your pieces bring the point across just fine and when you use booboo words it’s in a functional way I would say!

      2. Ron says:

        The word “fuck” is an acceptable industry term in this new millennium. It conveys a sense of seriousness towards the subject at hand. For those that do not like it, I’d only suggest you put your ‘big-boy’ pants on and put down that pussy metrosexual coffee-house caramel latte and give the word a try…….you may be taken more seriously by the real mean around you.

      3. Mediocre Model Builder says:

        Ah now come on – Doog’s dislike of the kit I understand. Your dislike of the people complaining about the swearing I understand.

        But what the HELL is wrong with a Caramel Latte?!!

  4. Steve says:

    I stalled on mine during the paint phase as well – a phase I rarely stall at. Just one minor thing after another until I completely lost interest. I kind of hoped that by following your build I would be inspired to dig mine out of its box and have another go at it but your latest post not only made me laugh but also extinguished any spark of inspiration that may have resulted in your completed build. Thanks for saving me the aggravation.

  5. Tonio says:

    I think you’re just too lazy and unmotivated, don’t blame Academy for that. There is nothing you cannot fix with a bit of scratch-build, surface primer and detailing. Just basic modelling skills.

    1. Doogs says:

      Please point me to any single place where I said the issues I have with the kit can’t be fixed.

      Oh, wait. I didn’t.

      Unmotivated? Sure. Lazy? When I’m unmotivated, quite. And as stated in the post, the thing that seems to sap my motivation is the compounding effect of small annoyances.

      Is Academy to blame for those annoyances? Who else would be responsible?

      Is Academy to blame for my reaction to the buildup of those annoyances? Nope. That’s on me.

      1. Inq says:

        I think someone fed the troll… 🙂

        And it was a fine review; thanks for posting.

  6. Buddy says:

    Soooo, yer having a tough go on this one. Tell ya what, if you decide to shelve it. I have a thought, send it to the local Boys &Girls club or YMCA or some local kids day school. The joy the kids will get from pounding the living bijous out of it would be priceless.

    Then the teachers/instructors/councilors will have a teaching moment showing that to clean up the mess, is fun and will benefit all mankind all over the world—–Except at Academy’s world design center.

    Boy I crack me up ;-))

  7. John says:

    I have the Zoukei F-4J and Academy F-4B, F-4C, and F-4J boxed by Eduard ( Good Morning/Evening Da Nang and two of the hippie Rhinos) with all the Brassin, photoetch, and Furball decals. Tasty.

    I understand the blahs you feel toward the Academy plastic.

    Your build of the Academy F-4 shamed me into getting busy with my Eduard F-4B. I had set it aside for almost a year. Yes the Academy plastic has it’s quirks and flaws. Some of these quirks require extensive test fitting before committing glue. I found it’s the tabs on the lower wing where it joins the upper fuselage need trimming so you won’t have problems when you put the front of the intakes on. Trim the small tabs and the step goes away. That’s how it worked for me. I had to find this out the hard way.

    As for the cockpit upper sidewall detail. I didn’t care. Seems dark in there, but on the cheap you can use some strip styrene. Maybe on my next build? The Aires sets are really nice, but man you really have to be from Themyscira to win a battle with Aires products. The other option is the Eduard Brassin F-4J cockpit. Drop fit. Fantastic detail. Eduard rulez.

    Zoukei-Mura does have the upper sidewall details . . . marred by ejector pin marks. Sorry to dash your hopes. However they’re nowhere near as bad as the ejector pin marks on Tamiya’s 1/48 F-16 family. Clean those EJ pin marks up if you’re going Goya with dark washes or filters to pop details.

    I’ll be building both manufacturer’s kits and correcting and enhancing as I go along. (Looking at Zoukei’s burner cans right now.) The Eduard kits were a bargain at $75 and free shipping! I also have the Hypersonic Models enhancements . . . which I highly recommend if you pose the canopy open and the air scoop corrections.

  8. Brian Scott says:

    Dude you are flat out a fucking dick fucking fuck tard. You took a model i did a few years ago and ripped it to pieces. I hope you enjoy your fucking hobby you worthless piece of shit . Fucking how dare you take someone else’s work and rip it. You are as worth less as the assholes on hyperscale. . FUCK YOU !!!!!!!

    1. Doogs says:

      Fucktard and worthless are both one word, not two.

      As to your model, it was one among many posted to demonstrate what I was referring to re: exaggerated panel line shading. And all of them were led off by this:

      “Now, I hate to speak ill of others’ work. And that is in no way my intent. But…I have to show examples of what I’m talking about. I’m not commenting at all on the quality of the build or even the rest of the paintwork, which in many of these examples is quite high indeed. I am only showing them to illustrate this technique/style of shading panel lines. If you’re getting upset reading this and want to get all defensive and butthurt about it, that’s okay. One of the examples I’m going to show won at the IPMS Nationals this year, so clearly there is some subjectivity at work.”

      Yes, clearly ripped to pieces.

  9. 80wise says:

    An honest build review. I like it!!!

  10. Jeremy E. says:

    Again, another great review and you hit the points perfectly. As you know, I too am building an Academy Phantom and have brought up similar frustrations with this kit as you have pointed out.
    In regards the heat-shield area of the Academy kit and the multiple part construction, I found on mine, that the small top part that goes under the tail, was wider than the bottom portion and created quite a step. I was able to spread the bottom to reduce the step somewhat.
    I’m going to push through and complete the -B model I’m working on. Hopefully, just hopefully, this will prepare me for tackling the -J kit that I have purchased more AM goodies for than any other kit I’ve done, just to make some areas visually more appealing.

  11. Zach Pease says:

    Yeah I was gung ho for these kits when they first hit but held off buying them. Glad I did at this point. ZM Kits aren’t shockingly more $$ and seem much nicer.

    Also as another 80’s kid I totally hear you on the long nosed phantom thing. Late Navy (n’s and S’s) are an exception and so are RN Phantoms (EDSG & white scheme). Personally I have the Revell long nosed phantom in the Stash with decals to do a Greek E. Love the weathered Greek phanotm.


  12. Sean F says:

    You’re post actually made me realize I too was fed up with all the little frustrations present in the Eduard/Academy F4…For $80, I would expect things to be engineered just a little better. The main gear on mine is still not quite right, and that wing/intake/fuselage join was no fun at all. And I swore after building the 1/32 Tamiya Corsair and 1/48 F-14 I was going to stick with well engineered kits from now on and my first build after those gems is this!
    I’ve actually put it aside to build a 1/48 Tamiya Corsair that’s been on my shelf to long. I’m going to try the black basing thing and some other weathering. Nothing to fancy, just want to do something simple and that goes together quickly with out a bunch of fuss.
    I’ll get back to the Phantom after I finish the Corsair. By then my memory of the build up of frustrations will have faded enough that I can get it done. In reality, the hard part is almost done! The painting and finishing is what I like the most anyway.

  13. Jorge says:

    I’m a little late with my comment I guess, just found this blog a couple of weeks ago.
    I’ve build this kit (a “B” actually), and I’m 100% agree with the review, yes, everything is buildable, and fixable (I’m trying to build monogram’s prowler…) but for a new kit, well, it should be better.
    In the other hand, amazed me some people’s reactions to some coments and expressions, this still a hobby right?, don’t like your models to be seen and mentioned, don’t show them…

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