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Academy 1/72 scale F-4J Phantom

A label on Academy’s 1/72 scale Phantom says, “Intuitive build, loads of details without having to glue.” Uh oh, a “snap” kit. That means few parts, simplified construction and oversized fastening devices, right?

Well, this isn’t your old-fashioned snap kit. It is, however, molded in four colors (gray, white, black, and clear), and all of the parts can be simply pressed together to stay without glue.

It builds into a well-shaped F-4J and, specifically in this release, Showtime 100, the triple-MiG-killing CAG bird flown by Lt. Randy Cunningham and Lt.j.g. William Driscoll on May 10, 1972.

The parts feature excellent, subtle recessed panel and rivet detail; there are three drop tanks and four each of AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles in the box. Six bombs and a pair of triple ejector racks for the inboard pylons also are included. The bombs were poorly shaped, so I didn’t use them.
The one-piece canopy is clear, but there is no option for open canopies. Both closed and opened sets of landing gear doors are included, though, and you have the option of posing the speed brakes open or closed.

The three-part ejection seats are well shaped, but there is no representation of harnesses and the characteristic face-curtain pull rings are absent. Aftermarket, here I come!

The breakdown of the parts is brilliant, with many seam lines along color demarcation lines. The one-piece upper fuselage arches from wing root to wing root, so there’s no seam to fill along the top. Intakes of Phantom kits are usually a bugaboo, but Academy’s are designed so you’ll never see seams inside. They fit well between the upper and lower fuselage components, too. The pins and tabs on the smaller parts fit tightly into their respective holes and slots, so you don’t really need to glue anything.

There are two complete sets of markings. For those who want to build the kit quickly and not paint it, a set of self-adhesive stickers is included. It provides “color” for a few areas, such as the white control surfaces that are molded in gray plastic. There are even gray(ish) stickers to cover the mounting holes for post-Vietnam ECM blisters on the sides of the intakes (I filled mine). I didn’t try the stickers so can’t report on their performance.

The waterslide decal sheet is beautifully printed and provides markings for Showtime 107 as well as 100 and a lot of stenciling.

Building was a snap(!), and everything fit well. The only problems I encountered were omissions and errors in the instructions. There’s a step showing how to paint the two tiny instrument panels, but they never show where or when the panels are installed. Also, the nose-gear lockup mechanism is included on the sprues but never shown in the instructions.

The color of the gray parts isn’t quite right for the Navy’s light gull gray, so I recommend painting everything. Also, Academy molded the leading and trailing edges of the wings into the gray-plastic upper-wing panels, so painting is necessary to get them right. I also painted the canopy frames as usual.

Then it came time to decal. Academy’s decals looked great but didn’t stick well and were impervious to a barrage of different setting solutions. On most flat areas, this isn’t a problem, but I couldn’t get the black wingtip decals to conform. Don’t even ask about the missile stripe decals.

The model looks fantastic. Since I left off the outboard wing tanks (molded with their pylons), as that was usually what the Navy did, the mounting holes are obvious. Academy doesn’t provide optional empty weapons pylons for the outboard stations.

I spent less than 20 hours on my Phantom. If I were to build another without painting anything, I could probably finish it in two hours. Don’t think so? Time me. Ready? Go!

Note: A version of this review appeared in the November 2015 FineScale Modeler.
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