1/48th Scale F-84G Kit #5951
By Bruce Craig.
Kit: Furnished by Revell-Monogram for Review. Retail Price: $20.75.
As did many modelers, I anxiously awaited this kit for review and building. As of 20 August, 1999, Revell-Monogram indicated their Pro-Modeler F-84G, kit #5951, would be released in September, 1999, at a price of $20.75. The price point held, but the release date was late October. I got mine on the third of November. Was it worth the wait, and how does it compare to the Tamiya kit?
Do I call this kit a Pro-Modeler (ProMod) or a Revell-Monogram (RevMon)? Different names, same company. To be consistent, I'll use ProMod.
I have bought six of the Tamiya 48th scale kits and built five. Three were backdated to D-model Thunderjets and one was backdated to an E-model; therefore, I have built only one Tamiya "from the box." I bought three of these new Pro-Modeler F-84 kits; in addition, after I purchased those kits, Revell-Monogram sent me a complimentary kit for evaluation and review on this site. This is a "first look" review of the kit, and the "build" is yet to come. I'll add more when the first one is finished. Here is my first impression of the kit, and some inevitable comparisons to the Tamiya version. Adendum: After this first part was written, I have completed the model, and the entire review is posted as of 19991228.
The kit consists of injection molded grey plastic trees for the main kit parts, a clear tree for canopy and lights, a "tree" of photo etched detail parts (primarily for the boarding ladder parts), and the decal sheet with decals for FS-43, F-84G-16RE 7 #51-10437, "Night Take Off" 58th FBW, Korea, July 1952, and for FS-325, F-84G-41RE #52-3325, 31st FEW, SAC, Nouassuer Air Base, French Morocco, Operation Longstride, August 1953. Another modeler who purchased one of these kits indicated he thought the decals for the Korean aircraft were too dark; I agree. The instruction sheet is typical of ProMod kits, and at initial inspection seems clear, concise, and correct, although I would use decals to create the canopy brace tapes rather than paint them on as per the instructions. Also see the Tamiya Canopy Fix page for more information on using decals to model the bracing tapes.
The first impression out of the box is that this is a nicely done kit. And, there is no question that the kit engineers took a different approach to designing this kit as compared to the approach the Tamiya engineers took. For one good thing, it is apparent that ProMod intends to release an E-model version of this kit, because they have made the unique-to-the-G-model parts as separate pieces, where Tamiya has all integrally molded with either fuselage or wing. Specifically, the auxiliary air inlets, the refueling doors in the left wing, and the round-style ejector (tailpipe) are separate pieces on this Pro-Modeler kit, which makes it an easy change to create the parts for the E-model. This, in my opinion was a good engineering decision, as there is so little difference from E- to G-model. Tamiya's choice to make these parts integral with the fuselage or wings means a whole new mold if they ever decide to create an E-model. On the other hand, it seems to me the four parts in question (to create the E-model) could just as easily have been included in this kit. It's only money -- and sales. I suppose the decision to make them separate kits is no different than releasing a bazillion "different" kits when the only difference is the decals and box art. In case you were wondering, I did a test fit of the auxiliary air inlet panels to the fuselage openings and, with some careful parts cleanup, they fit so well their panel lines are not discernable from the continuation panel lines.
A closer inspection and comparison to Tamiya reveals some interesting features. ProMod does not have a provision -- or parts -- to model the airplane with the weapons bay open as does Tamiya. ProMod's nose gear has more detail than Tamiya but has a parts break-out that appears to me will be a royal pain to correctly align and keep in place as well as be a weak point -- as in not strong -- with a tendency to break at the glue point. ProMod has interpreted the ventral fairing and the shape of the vertical fin differently than Tamiya, ProMod has the wing at a lower angle of incidence than does Tamiya, and the wing root fairings are different. I have to check each of these more closely, but my initial impression is that Tamiya's are correct and ProMod's are not. To be fair, these are not particularly visible to the casual observer, AND the jury is still out. ProMod does have the fuselage the correct length, where Tamiya's is five-scale-inches too short. ADDENDUM: see comments below on these issues, because, after taking measurements of the models, along with comparison to photos, it is the ProMod kit which is closer to correct than the Tamiya.
ProMod's canopy has the bracing tapes correctly engraved where Tamiya has the "extra" length on the center brace. Interestingly, the ProMod instruction sheet shows the incorrect "extra" length as on the Tamiya canopy, but at least the part is engraved correctly! ProMod bracing tape engravings better represent the width variations of the real tapes. ProMod canopy is narrower than Tamiya, has the correct access panel at the canopy tail which is missing on the Tamiya, but does not have the radiused "fairing" at the base of the canopy where it fairs with the fuselage as Tamiya does. ProMod's canopy is also slightly longer, and appears to me to be the correct scale length for the E- and G-model Thunderjets.
ProMod has several separate parts to make up the cockpit and also the main gear well details. It appears to me ProMod's parts in both instances are better detailed than Tamiya's parts, and the seat harness in this kit will make a more realistic model as they are photo-etched rather than the decal furnished by Tamiya; however, the modeler must "scratch" build the belts from paper (or other material) and add the harness fittings. ProMod includes the hydraulic pump handle for the cockpit which is missing from the Tamiya kit. Also, like the Tamiya kit, the ProMod instrument panel is the E-model version that has the additional instrument at the upper left. Comparison of the fuselage parts shows considerable differences in interpretation of panel lines, access panels, and the details thereof. Ditto for the data decals to be used for these. In general, my first impression is that the ProMod decals are more "obtrusive" in that they are brighter colored and more heavily printed than Tamiya's decals. ProMod has the wing-tip tanks molded integrally with the wings, the weapons pylons are separate rather than integral as Tamiya did, there are no underwing auxiliary fuel tanks, underwing rockets and mounts are supplied for the Korean-service version, and the pylon and weapon are furnished for modeling the Mk 7 nuclear device.
Altogether, my "first impression" is that each kit, Pro-Modeler and Tamiya, has it's strong points and weak points. Neither is perfect, as both have "errors" as compared to the documentation I have available to me. I know Tamiya's offering builds into a very nice model straight from the box. I suspect this ProMod kit will also build into a very nice model straight from the box. There are many after market decal and detail sets already available for the Tamiya kit. I believe most, if not all, these detail sets could as well be used with ProMod's kit. However, the decals may be another story, particularly because of the different -- and larger -- shape of the fin on the ProMod kit; because these after market decals were made to fit the Tamiya kit, the fin decals may be too small to fit the ProMod kit. Addendum: After the preceeding was written, I used the decals from AeroMaster 48-408 on a ProMod vertical tail, and, indeed, the decals were too small.
I've got all the basic assemblies done, ready to do the first painting. There are two main caveats to consider. First, there are several "wide" runner connections to parts, and two particularly difficult ones to remove are the ones at the front edge of the vertical tail. These "wide" runners must be cut very carefully to prevent damage to the parts. Second, there are several very small and delicate parts, most notable being the shrink struts for the main gear, and the pitot tube. Care is in order when removing flash from these parts. Speaking of the pitot tube, Tamiya has "extended" the round shape of the pitot tube on their intake and provided a matching relief on the other half; their method provides maximum strength for this easily broken part. ProMod did not extend the round shape of the pitot tube, so it is only half-round where it intersects with the intake part. Also, the blend from round to half-round is not square, rather being rounded off, so there is a small gap on the right side between pitot and intake panel. I am doing this first build "from the box" so I have not replaced the pitot. It is very susceptible to being broken -- much more so even than on Tamiya's kit -- so I will use tubing to replace it on future ProMod builds.
Unlike in the Tamiya kit or other after market detail parts, the ProMod cockpit and aft canopy equipment bay are supplied in several parts. The detail on these parts is quite good for an injection molded kit, and except for the loop antenna dome, which is too small, are generally correct. They provide a better level of detail "from the box" than do the Tamiya parts, but not as much as do the available detail sets. I haven't checked any of the detail parts released for the Tamiya kit on the ProMod yet. I'll do that little task after this first plane is finished.
So far, I like the fit on the parts. I have found nothing that didn't fit as it should. My impression is that I have had to spend more time on removing flash from parts than on Tamiya, but even so, there is little flash present. I found only two parts with sink holes, both of them being the outer main gear well fairings which had a "wrinkled" effect on the outer surface. The only parts that I had trouble aligning were the outer auxiliary wing tank seams; when the rest of the wing parts were aligned, the upper tank overhangs the lower very slightly (this was present on both right and left tank). These slight mismatches will be very easy to clean up. I also had to spend careful time aligning the nose ring with the fuselage halves; I know why they call this material "plastic"! Then, I discovered I had forgotten to place my nose weight -- oooops!! I had to remove the nose ring -- fortunately the glue had not set completely -- and the gap was just enough for me to insert my weight. If you build without the clear plastic crutch provided in the kit, don't forget the nose weight! I'm ready for the first exterior painting, so more to come -- when more is done.
I've completed the painting, and have started decaling. This first build is "from the box" so I'm using the anti-glare decals furnished with the kit (although those are not yet applied). I've used only Testors Decal Set, and the decals placed so far have gone down well, readily settling into the fine engraved details. I painted subassemblies before gluing the wings, etc., in place. Therefore, I test fitted the wings before painting. The wings have the "interlocking" tabs similar to what Monogram used on their F-84F, but the plastic is much softer and the tabs fit loosely, so even with the tabs which span the fuselage, the wings droop. In contrast, the Tamiya kit, although their tabs are quite short, are also a close fit into the fuselage attachment slots, and the plastic is more rigid; therefore, the Tamiya wings stay in place much better before -- and for -- gluing. I and another modeler have done some comparative measuring on the ProMod and Tamiya kits, and there are substantial differences in some dimensions, especially on fuselage width. The significance of this is not clear -- we don't know yet any accurate dimensions for these measurements on the real aircraft. I will post these measurements at a later time.
I completed the model on 26 December. I know, it was eight weeks in building. This is a hobby, remember?! Now to the nitty-gritty of the build, the good news, and the bad news.
On first look, the kit looks very good. The parts are cleanly molded and fit well; it appears to be a well engineered kit. However, upon building the kit, all is not as well as it first appears. There are four main categories of problems with this kit. First, there are some inaccuracies in this kit, but no more so than with Tamiya's kit. Second, although it appears to be well engineered, I encountered several things which made the build more difficult than it should be, and one which is, to me, a serious "model durability" issue. The third is decals which do not fit or are poorly conceived. Finally, the photo-etched parts are a combination of "great stuff" and "tear your hair out" -- partly due to incomplete instructions.
As mentioned above, the ProMod kit is narrower than the Tamiya kit. I have, so far, not been able to obtain measurements of real aircraft for the fuselage areas in question. However, based on my own photos, measurements, and observation of two aircraft, plus critical inspection of many photos and the factory specification for span at wing roots, I believe the Tamiya is closer to the correct width. However, the ProMod is closer on some other dimensions, so both have inaccuracies, and both have parts which are correct. I have made a photo-montage of the side view of a late F-84 in 1/48th scale, which I used to check profile accuracy of the various kits. Only one kit matches this profile, and that is this ProMod kit. I have used calipers to measure a number of dimensions on both kits. Although they measure differently, on most dimensions both kits are within reasonable allowance for errors in measuring and molding processes.
Generally, the ProMod measures closer on most dimensions to real aircraft which I have either measured myself or friends have measured for me. Specifically, the fuselage profile shape and length, and auxiliary tank dimensions are within one inch (converted to scale) of what we have measured, while the Tamiya is too short and incorrectly shaped in profile, and their auxiliary tanks are too large. The caveat here is, there were two sizes of tanks used on the F-84, and we don't know if the large or small tanks are on the F-84E my friend measured. The wings and horizontal tail parts on both are so close to my measurements (and to each other) that both are "right on" dimensionally so far as I can tell.
Both canopies are slightly too short, and both have differences in spacing for the bracing tapes; however, as these bracing tapes were manually applied, it is possible there were variations in spacing on the real aircraft. As mentioned above, Tamiya's canopy is noticeably wider than the ProMod canopy, and the ProMod is missing the fillet to fair into the fuselage sides, but has the additional panel at the tail which is missing from the Tamiya part. Also, the ProMod part does not correctly fit the deck area on the fuselage, and is "rocker" shaped more than the Tamiya parts, so the ProMod canopy sits too high at the back when posed open. An additional mistake on the ProMod kit is that the armor plate behind the pilot seat headrest is molded as part of the rear cockpit panel. The armor plate was mounted to the front of the canopy equipment bay and slides rearward with the canopy; the Tamiya kit has this part correctly done. If the canopy is posed open on the ProMod kit, this armor plate should be cut from the cockpit and glued to the front of the under-canopy equipment bay.
Other inaccurate parts on the ProMod kit are the main gear struts and doors. The struts angle too far forward, and, because of the incorrect angle of the struts, the gear doors do not align correctly with each other. I corrected this on my model by cutting the taper from the top of the strut parts, and by repositioning the upper main gear doors to align correctly with the lower doors. Also, the lower doors are not shaped correctly; the forward curve does not continue to the bottom edge, rather it tangents into a straight line which continues to the bottom edge. The Tamiya strut and door parts are correct, and the shape of their lower door is correct. As mentioned above, I questioned whether the ventral fairing extends too far forward. After inspection of many photos, I believe the ProMod kit properly represents the real aircraft, and the Tamiya ventral fairing is too short. Also mentioned above, the wing root fairing is incorrect on the ProMod kit, as it does not have the correct downward slope toward the front as does the Tamiya kit which has it correctly represented. Also see parts comparison page for photo comparisons of the canopy, fuselage, and main gear and doors.
My opinion is that the plastic on this model is very soft, although, in comparison, the Tamiya plastic seems as soft or softer! Even so, unlike the Tamiya kits, I encountered several times during building this ProMod kit that the soft plastic became an issue. Overall, be very careful when trimming runners from the parts, as it is very easy to trim too deeply into the part. Been there, done that. I suggest cutting the runner at the leading edge of the vertical fin leaving about 1/8", then use a razor saw and hobby knife to finish the job. That runner is very wide, and there is not sufficient room between the part and the "spread" of the runner to easily cut the runner with a hobby cutter; a chisel blade in a hobby knife might also work if the part were laid on a solid surface. I had a difficult time aligning the intake with the fuselage parts; the plastic is so flexible it was nearly impossible to keep all the curved surfaces aligned. I mentioned the wing alignment tabs above; the plastic is so soft they are virtually useless. The equivalent Tamiya parts align much better and are easier to glue into place. The nose gear well fairing doors are molded integrally with the gear well halves. I broke both off when trying to deal with masking for painting. I suggest they be removed early in the build, then glue them back on when painting is complete, just as is the case with the separate Tamiya parts.
To me, the most serious problem with the engineering of the parts on this kit is the nose gear strut. Unlike all other F-84 kits which have the main strut and braces as one piece, the ProMod kit has the braces molded with the nose, and the strut fits into a tab in the braces. This tab is far too small to provide a reasonable surface for either alignment of the parts or strength when glued. Also, the strut brace is slightly too long, and the lower end is not shaped to match the attachment point on the strut. The brace must be shortened and trimmed at an angle to properly fit and position the strut. The tailpipe is furnished as a single separate part, rather than as "halves" molded as part of the fuselage as on the Tamiya kit. It simplifies eliminating the seam lines, but it leaves an excess gap between the tailpipe and the rudder. Also, the flame holder must be inserted deep into the tailpipe; use a round plastic tube to push it into the tailpipe to avoid having it cock sideways during installation.
I do wish ProMod would have made the auxiliary tanks as separate parts, as did Tamiya; they made the pylons as separate parts, but why not the auxiliary tanks? Another point of interest for me is that two sets of auxiliary tank lights are furnished on the clear parts sprue, but only one set of landing lights. Considering that one of my landing lights took flight into the nether regions (I requisitioned one from another kit to replace it) I could have used an extra landing light. Those parts are small, so be careful ... !
I mentioned some aspects of the decals above. This critique is primarily a "take heed," a comment on the anti-glare panel decals, and some specifics about a few decals. First, I encountered the problem of trying to make the anti-glare panel decals fit the compound curves of the fuselage. I first used Polly S Decal Softening Solution #505401. Arrrgggg! Major meltdown! Fortunately, I applied the solution to only a small test decal, so didn't ruin anything. I tried Microscale Micro Sol, and that did the job without causing the decals to shrivel up like a salted slug. In addition, I used Testors Decal Set and Microscale Micro Set, all without problems. In my opinion, the anti-glare panel decals are useless. They are the wrong color, and they don't fit correctly. I just had to test those things for this review, so I again pulled out the requisition form and obtained another set of decals from one of my other ProMod kits. I cut pieces from the anti-glare panel decals to patch the areas which should have been covered by the decals but weren't. Generally, the nose decals either don't fit against the windscreen if they are butted side by side, or, if fitted against the windscreen, they overlap significantly. In either case, they don't properly cover the panel in front of the windscreen, so a patch must be added, or the area must be painted. I opted for the patch. The aft decals fit better, but in applying them, I encountered the one problem I found with the kit decals; once in place, they are difficult to reposition. That wasn't a great problem with the small decals, but it played havoc with these long but narrow decals. I got one to lay down in the correct position, but the second one just wouldn't cooperate, compounded by the need to have it conform to the compound curves (no pun intended). I had to add two patches to make reasonable demarkation lines.
I built the Operation Longstride version which has the diagonal blue-with-white-stars stripes on either side of the fuselage. These stripes meet at the centerline of the ventral fuselage. As the anti-glare panel decals did not fit correctly, the decals for these diagonal stripes were not long enough to extend from the anti-glare panels to meet at the center of the ventral fuselage. I again requisitioned the spare decal sheet and patched extensions to make them meet at the center. Needless to say, I recommend the mask-and-paint method to represent the anti-glare panels.
Other issues with the decals are: Location of some decals is not clear from the instructions because the drawings do not match the model, for example decals #73 and 78; decal #24 does not match the panels on the model -- cut it into three pieces and apply them separately; instructions call for two #52 and #79 decals, but only one of each is furnished; and, decal #66 is specified in two places, but a panel only exists in one place.
The Photo Etched Parts
The photo etched parts are primarily for the seat harness fittings and an access ladder, also including an optional speed brake part to substitute for the furnished plastic part, if desired. Anyone who does super detailing will welcome the seat harness fittings, and, indeed, they are very well done. The problem is in the instructions. The drawings show general information about how to make the belts and the fittings. However, there are no dimensions given for either length or width of the belts, and no patterns are furnished. How wide and how long are the belts supposed to be? The shoulder belts are 1mm wide, and the lap belts are 1.5mm wide. I ended up making them to be too long, so I don't know how long they should be. Although they look quite good in my model, they are too long. See photo.
As for the ladder, either make a jig, or get one of the parts cutting and folding tools, like for example, the Photoetched Parts Workstation from The Small Shop, or both. Also, the instructions state to fold the braces on the steps to 90 degrees. If you do, they won't match the angle of the ladder sides. The correct angle is 70 degrees, so bend them at 70 degrees in front and 110 degrees in back.
As mentioned, both a plastic and a photo etched exterior part are included for the speed brake. I used the photo etched part, and it is a very nice alternative to the plastic part. It must be bent, but careful bending fits it to the plastic backside with no problem. It is a more difficult part to install than the equivalent Tamiya part which has a slot and tab arrangement. I misaligned mine, but it was my error, and I elected not to risk breaking the deployment hydraulics, so did not remove it to reposition it correctly.
The Good Stuff
I've stated my concerns; what do I like about the kit? For a "from the box" build, I like the cockpit as several pieces, but the "deck" in front of the instrument panel is more correct on the Tamiya kit. However, if super detailing with a resin cockpit set, this feature is not relevant. I like the provision for alternate parts for the E-model (which I presume ProMod will release in the future). It takes a bit more time to install the fuselage panels and the refueling door part into the parent parts, but they fit well. The decals were printed well, although, as with decals from other vendors, the interpretation of colors varies. Which vendor's colors are correct? Everyone's eye is different! Generally, the kit decals go down well, and look good. Parts mostly fit very well with little or no cleanup or filler required. I put plenty of glue on the fuselage halves, and had to fill only minor seam lines on about 1/.3 of the join after removing the excess "ooze" from the seam. The only parts I had to modify for correct fit were the main gear struts and the upper doors, plus the nose gear strut brace.
Overall, I found this kit to be more difficult to build than the Tamiya kit, and, if one is new to modeling, I would have to recommend the Tamiya in favor of this ProMod kit. On the other hand, the fuselage and auxiliary tanks are generally more dimensionally accurate than Tamiya while some details are not correct on the ProMod but are correct on the Tamiya. To build a really accurate F-84, one would have to kit-bash parts from each, and given the subtle differences in each, that might be more than one would want to tackle. If you have the desire to build an F-84G, either kit is a good choice. Which is more important to you, price (ProMod) or the extra detailing which the weapons bay allows (Tamiya), ease of building (Tamiya) or slightly more accuracy (ProMod)? I will build more of each, and I just may try that kit bash to combine both. But not today. Addendum: Again, I've given in to my "Masochistic Modeler" reputation and have kit-bashed a "correct" F-84G by combining a Tamiya kit with a ProMod kit, along with aftermarket resin and photo-etched parts. Frankly, I like the results better than either kit as they come from the box. It was not an easy build, as I used the ProMod fuselage as the starting point. Because the Tamiya fuselage is slightly wider than the ProMod fuselage, and all the aftermarket resin parts are sized to fit the Tamiya, I encountered a substantial amount of work removing subtle amounts of material from (especially) the cockpit tub and the gun bay parts to get them to fit into the ProMod fuselage. A How-to about that kit-bash will eventually show up on this site. But not today ...
The Dimension Table
Dimensions are given in inches as either measured on an F-84E, or as converted from 1/48th scale as measured with dial calipers on a completed model. Dimensions missing from the "Real" column were not measured on the full-sized aircraft. Note that there may be some error in measuring (a) the real aircraft because I had no assistant to hold the tape, plus I rounded to the nearest 1/8", and (b) the models due to parallax error, and that the final model dimensions may differ from mold dimensions due to parts assembly and plasticity.