Written by 6:40 pm My Builds

Completed : Hasegawa 1/72 McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II

Kit Info
Brand: Hasegawa 04101
Scale: 1/72
Media: Styrene
Markings: Yellowhammer YHD72-02 and Kit

The Subject
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather long-range multirole aircraft developed by McDonnell Douglas for the United States Navy. It first entered service with the Navy in 1961 and would eventually be adopted by the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air For0ce in various configurations. Production ran from 1958 to 1981 with a total of 5,195 aircraft built. It is currently the most produced American supersonic military aircraft in history.

The F-4J was an improved version of the F-4B for the US Navy and US Marine Corps with 522 aircraft built from 1966 to 1972. Upgrades include new J79-GE-10 engines, AN/APS-59 radar, AN/AWG-10 Fire Control System, larger main landing gear resulting in bulges on the wings, slatted tailplanes and expanded ground attack capabilities. Pilot Lt. Randall ‘Duke’ Cunningham and RIO Lt. (jg) William ‘Willy Irish’ Driscoll would be the Navy’s only two ‘Aces’ of the Vietnam War while piloting an F-4J.

Cunningham and Driscoll had each made their first two kills on separate missions. The subject of this build is an F-4J from VF-96 Fighting Falcons, BuNo 155800 NG-100, callsign Showtime 100, where the pair scored their third, fourth and fifth kills on 10 May 1972. It is generally believed that the fifth kill was that of ‘Colonel Tomb’, a mythical North Vietnamese flying ace who had 13 kills to his name. Showtime 100 was shot down by a SAM shortly after the fifth kill. The crewmen ejected over the Gulf of Tonkin and would be rescued.

Driscoll recounted this last mission on The Fighter Pilot Podcast. It’s worth a listen.

Wikipedia – Colonel Tomb
Wikipedia – Duke Cunningham
Wikipedia – William P. Driscoll
Wikipedia – McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II

The Kit
I’ve taken a look at the F-4E version of this mold way back in 2003. Take a look.

I’ve also compared this kit to the Fujimi and Fine Molds offering. Take a look.

The Build
This is one of my oldest Shelf Queen that I still had around. I started building it from 2008 but had stopped by 2011 after ruining the paint job: I was painting from too far with a very high psi so the result was a grainy mess on the kit. But this was a difficult build and I couldn’t bear to trash it so I kept it on my Shelf of Doomtm.

I don’t remember much of the build itself but the kit definitely has its share of ill-fitting parts which require multiple attempts of shimming and trimming to fit properly. There’s a reason why I’ve started and stopped at least 4 different boxings of this kit and am only finally able to finish this one.

As I was building a specific F-4J, that of the famous Showtime 100, there were some things to note:

  1. the ECM fairings on the intakes were left off
  2. the layout of the antenna blades were based on the Yellowhammer lineart
  3. the ‘arrowhead’ reinforcement plates on the stabilizers were removed

The biggest problem I had before I could continue was trying to strip the bad paintjob. I did what I could by first sanding and buffing down the whole kit. I also sprayed a wet coat of lacquer thinner to smoothen everything down. It’s not an ideal result especially since I couldn’t reach into places like the bottom where the rails meet the fuselage but I’ll live with it. If I was going to spend so much time on this I might as well build a new one.

I’ve since thrown away the box for this kit so I was missing some parts like the antenna and landing gear actuators. I’ve scratchbuilt the antennas with plastic plate and taken the gear actuators from another Hasegawa kit which I’m planning to build in flight and wouldn’t need the parts for. The weapons were from the Hasegawa Weapons set and I took a pair of empty outboard pylons from a Fujimi F-4 kit.

Colors & Markings
The F-4J during the Vietnam War was painted in the standard FS16440 Light Gull Gray over FS17875 Insignia White color scheme. I used Mr Hobby Acrysion Light Gull Gray and Acrysion Flat White for these. These were painted in light coats over a white marbling + black base.

Yellowhammer claims that their sheet was the most accurate on the market for Showtime 100’s last mission. The problem was the aircraft didn’t make it back to the ship and as usual, details like markings, specific loadout etc were more important to a modeler than the actual people who maintained or flew the aircraft so there is a lot of conflicting info on how Showtime 100 looked on 10 May 1972. In the end, I decided to simply follow Yellowhammer’s info. For the loadout, almost every source agreed on the weapons carried (AIM-9s, AIM-7s and Mk.20 Rockeyes) but there’s no consensus on how many Mk.20s (four or six) there were. Again I deferred to the info on the sheet.

The decals themselves were very easy to use but I have some complaints about Yellowhammer. A minor one is that the sheet only provides the main markings so I had to find the walkway and stencil markings elsewhere. I noted that VF-96’s F-4J walkways were black and the kit only provided gray ones so I ended up masking and spraying all the walkways and skunk tail. Yes it’s a lot of careful masking, but the results definitely look better than using decals.

The other (and more annoying) complaint I have is that the placement guide really needs work. For example they include two types of the triangle cockpit warnings but there’s no indication on which ones to use or why there were two types in the first place. There are also unused decals on the sheet where I couldn’t figure out the intended placements. There’s also no picture of the port side of the aircraft on the guide. Without any info on the stencil placements, I referred back to the kit’s instructions and used that as a guide instead. I put on about 90% of the stencils as stated in the guide. I looked at more modern iterations of the kit like the Showtime 100 kit from Academy and there looks to be a lot more stencils than what Hasegawa had provided.

The kit decals are on the thick side, have a satin sheen, are very old but thankfully hadn’t yellowed. They also still worked with Mark Fitter and Mark Softer. They dried on the thick side so after an overall gloss coat, I carefully buffed them all down with a sanding sponge.

Weathering began with my usual panel wash of diluted Abteilung Starship Filth. I found photos of Showtime 100 in February and March 1972 and they show a relatively clean topside but somewhat dirty bottom so I weathered accordingly with my usual oil paints.

After everything was given a final satin coat, I finally removed the canopy masking that has been there since 2008. The result was… discouraging. Looking back, I really should have re-done the canopy masking when I restarted this build. I didn’t do a good job with the masking at all then: the paint is too thick and there’s bleeding in a lot of places, especially on the windshield. The front canopy also seems to have inexplicably developed some blurring. Anyway, I fixed whatever I could using a hobby knife, Vallejo Airbrush Cleaner and even Mr Hobby Thinner. I then gave the canopy a brush of Future to get it to look shinier.

Once happier with the result, I then attached the landing gear with the inner doors of the main landing gear needing some modifications to fit properly. Last on were the ‘things under the wings’ where I worked outwards from the centerline tank. The tank’s integrated pylon needed some sanding down to fit properly. The weapons were mounted with cement and CA glue.

So after 13 long years (as of 2021) I’m finally done with this kit! Looking at the kit closely, I now notice all the bad workmanship on my part. I think I’ve definitely improved skill-wise since then. The pebbly finish due to my first painting attempt is also especially obvious (to me) on the bottom. In any case though, I can finally say I have Showtime 100 in my collection.

Build Log
Part 1 – Construction
Part 2 – Painting
Part 3 – Finishing

Build 07 of 2021

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