BuNo 155800 NG-100, an F-4J, callsign Showtime 100, from VF-96 Fighting Falcons, was the aircraft flown by Pilot Lt. Randall ‘Duke’ Cunningham and RIO Lt. (jg) William ‘Willy Irish’ Driscoll when they scored their third, fourth and fifth kills to be the Navy’s only two ‘Aces’ of the Vietnam War. For this reason, the aircraft is a very popular subject with historians and modelers.
Problem is, the aircraft itself was shot down after that fifth kill so there’s not much historical info of how she looked like on that faithful 10 May 1972. Needless to say, there has been endless research on it but no definitive answers to a few particular things. Of particular debate was the accurate loadout and whether there was a mig silhouette painted on the leading edge of the tailfin and kill marks on the splitter plates.
The decals I have comes from Yellowhammer and is dated 1999. It claims to be the ‘most accurate’ Showtime 100 sheet in the market. I’m not sure how right the claim is but I decided to just follow the info presented there.
The decals look slightly yellow on the sheet but it turned out that it was the sheet itself that had yellowed. The markings look fine on the model and went on very easily. The sheet lacks stenciling but my main complaint is that the instructions weren’t clear. For example, there were 2 sets of canopy warning markings but no indication of why and which ones were correct. There were also decals left on the sheet that I couldn’t figure out where to place them. On top of that, the instruction didn’t show the port side of the aircraft.
Since Yellowhammer didn’t include the stencils, the placement guides also didn’t show them. I ended up using the kit stencils and based the placement on the kit instructions and also from the Academy F-4J ‘Showtime 100’ kit. The kit stencils were thick and old but worked fine once given some Mark Setter. They also dried to a satin sheen unlike the Yellowhammer ones.
I then handpainted the details like the lights on the wingtips and tail. I also handpainted the trapezoidal shapes on the leading edge of the wings. I then carefully thinned down the stencils with a 3M sanding sponge.
Next was a misting coat of satin coat and then a panel wash using diluted Mig Productions Starship Filth oil paint.
I found photos on the internet for Showtime 100 in February 1972 and it shows that she had a relatively clean look.
The bottom was somewhat dirty though! I also noted a small dark gray rectangle just aft of the nose in this photo which wasn’t in the Yellowhammer sheet. I followed Yellowhammer on this one and left that section as is.
The bottom area near the exhausts were given some staining using Starship Filth.
I also weathered the bottom of the stabilizers and the centerline fuel tank but left the top side as is. The way that I do my panel washes already tends to add random staining on the surfaces anyway.
The canopy masking has been on since 2008 so it was with some trepidation that I carefully removed them. They were quite stiff and took some effort to remove. The canopy didn’t look good at all. Paint seepage, bad masking and wrong painting methods were very obvious. The pilot’s canopy also appears to be blurry for some reason that I can’t explain.
I fixed whatever I could with my usual arsenal of knife, toothpicks, Vallejo Airbrush Cleaner and even Mr Color Thinner at one point. I then carefully handpainted parts of the frame that needed the colors back. I also brushed Future on the clear pieces to get some of the shine back. The result is below which I’m not really happy about but it’s as far as I’d go without pulling everything off and re-doing.
The landing gear proved to be fiddly but with careful alignment and going slow, they attached with little issue.
That is, except for the inner main gear doors which have very (very) little surface to attach to the wheel well. The actuators were also too long. In the end to help get a more solid connection, I added small rectangle pieces of plastic plates that sit slightly aft of the actuators. It’s totally not accurate of course. But 1) it’s at the bottom and no one will see it and 2) I’d rather it attach properly than have it fall off after some time. I also cut the actuator shorter so the doors will fit in the vertical orientation. Note the empty outboard pylons which weren’t included on the Hasegawa kits: these were were a Fujimi F-4.
GASP! It’s finally looking complete! One more step to go!
The stores were very carefully and slowly attached starting with the centerline tank. The tank’s pylon needed some sanding to fit properly though. Next were the AIM-7s, the AIM-9s, the the TERs, then lastly the Mk. 20s. These were attached variously with thick cement, thin cement and CA glue.
And Showtime 100 is finally done after 11 years!
I believe this is the fourth time I’ve built this Hasegawa mold and is the only one I’ve finished.