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Zoukei-Mura F-4J Phantom

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/48 scale plastic model aircraft kit
Zoukei-Mura’s initial Phantom has nice, crisp moldings. Features include optional clear parts — one-piece for a closed canopy and multipart for open — and a nice selection of stores, with four Sidewinder and four Sparrow air-to-air missiles, a centerline fuel tank, and two tanks for the outboard hardpoints. I wish the last had been molded separate from the pylons, as many Navy F-4Js in Vietnam omitted the tanks in favor of more weapons. And, for the first time in this scale, this kit provides accurate intake trunks.

The easy-to-build ejection seats look good, but no seat belts were provided.

The cockpit and nose gear share walls and went together without issue. Check the instrument panels: The kit provides two styles for both front and rear cockpits, probably for a future F-4S kit. I left the canopy release and emergency jettison levers (parts C9, 10, 11, and 12) until final assembly to prevent breakage or loss.

The spine insert (Part H14) eliminates awkward filling where the center seam crosses circular panels, but it requires a little work for a clean fit. First, I glued one side and let it dry. Next I spread the bottom of the fuselage to force the other side flush with the insert, then applied glue.

The kit provides two engines that will be largely hidden but need to be assembled to attach the intakes and exhausts. They fit perfectly inside the fuselage. There is a cradle if you choose to display one of the engines separately. You have to look hard for the cradle parts because they’re molded into the frames.

In Step 13, don’t forget to drill the appropriate holes in the lower wings for ECM antennas and pylons. The wings sandwich walls for the main gear bays; everything fit perfectly. Alignment of the main gear bumps on the upper wings is helped by a molded ridge that I sanded down for a flush fit.

When assembling the intakes and splitters, nip off the locator pin on the fuselage to provide some wiggle room during attachment. I blended the bottom of the intakes with the fuselage. These were the best-fitting and most-accurate intake and trunk assemblies I’ve seen on a Phantom kit.

Separate flaps are nice, but they can’t be posed in any position but neutral without modification. The leading-edge slats also are separate, probably to accommodate later versions. I sanded the ends of the slats for a better fit.

The fit of the gear legs and doors was trouble-free.

Cartograf decals provide markings for a single F-4J from VF-96 as flown by Lt. Randy Cunningham and Lt. j.g Willie Driscoll on May 10, 1972, when they shot down three North Vietnamese MiG-17s. The decals went down over a glossy surface without problems.

I spent 34 hours on Zoukei-Mura’s Phantom, and it is the best F-4 kit I’ve ever built.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the September 2017 issue.
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