by: Mitko Nikitov [ ]
Introduction The F-4 Phantom II is something more than a legend. It needs quite a lot of books to gather all the information about the plane, its features, its records and its service. It does not require any introduction what so ever, since any aircraft fan gets to know its distinctive shape and its story in their very first attempts to learn anything about aviation.
The Phantom is one of the most loved and respected airplanes, also, one of the most modeled ones. It is available in all scales and from many companies with almost endless variations in color and options. The best I’ve seen so far is the Zoukei-Mura J and S versions, and now, they are giving us another perspective of the bird, a land-based option, with some additions compared to the already released carrier options.
C-variant differences: The F-4C can be easily recognized by anyone just looking at the camouflage scheme. Contrary to the gray-ish appearance of the carrier based planes that Zoukei-Mura gave us, we have an earth tone camouflage here, with a checkered tail, and high-visibility markings typical for the period.
Other differences that are featured with the C-model are the engines /nozzles most importantly/, cockpit differences, nose strut and main wheels being changed and the refueling method used for that plane switched – boom refueling here, not drogue one like with the J/S versions.
Instruction sheet: We have a booklet, that is black and white in appearance, with many additional info supporting each step of the build. The ones that Zoukei-Mura include in their 32nd scale kit are altered version of that, mostly in color and simulated worn effect, but in general, the contents are similar.
There has been no compromises with the knowledge embedded, nor with the way that Japanese maker give the info to the builder. Everything is done with firm logic and supplied with notes, so no guessing is needed, nor information is lacking. Even the most-green modelers can learn enough about the Phantom, simply from reading the instructions and can step into the expert zone if they use the Zoukei-Mura Concept Note. Be sure to check that out at Zoukei-Mura’s website. It is an almost-mandatory tool for every Phantom model builder. Perfectly suited for ZM kits.
Grey Sprues: The plastic that Zoukei-Mura offers for their kits is pleasant to work with. It is flexible enough, but not too soft to create any issues. The engravings are represented by recessed panel lines and rivets with different appearance, especially behind the nozzles. That of course is one of the most important areas of the Phantom. Too bad, that this was made in two halves, since metalizer paints are to be used there and any potential seams could cause troubles while painting.
The detail all over the kit is consistent, nothing is missed nor distorted in any way. The assembly process is straight forward and the fit is good. That last statement is based on their J-type building experience. Many of the sprues are identical, but not everything is completely equal of course. Overall, the building is a pleasure for the J and I believe here it will be exactly the same.
Concept Note that Zoukei-Mura offers for the J/S can be used very successfully here too. With that said, I have to add, that ZM offers a lot of aftermarket stuff that completes what we have on those sprues here and it is beyond satisfactory.
Comparing this kit to Academy and Hasegawa, I found that the plastic is more pleasant for the eye, especially if you put Multi-Colored Plastic from Academy kits next to ZM. It simply looks more professionally made here. Everything here is sharper, crispier and made with love and understanding of the subject.
Quality of the clear sprue is very high. Transparency is good and it is a pleasure to work with those parts. The material is very forgiving. We have two options – opened and close canopy. First one is made from separate details and the second is one piece solution.
Thickness is according to the modern standards and there is no light and image distortions when you look through it. Comparing that to Revell’s new tooling kits it amazes me how big of a difference there is in between. Although new kits, both show absolutely different perception from the manufacturer, how things should be done.
Decal Sheet: Decals are produced by Cartograf. They need no introduction and that is somehow relaxing information, seeing the vertical fin checkered decals, which cover the whole fin. That is risky business, especially for 48th scale Phantom. Other than this, there is no overly large decal pieces, but there are tons of technical markings and stencils of different kind. This is standard for F-4 birds, so it doesn’t come as surprise. Again, the fact that the best decal maker in the World produced the sheet is comforting info.
We have high-visibility markings, typical for the period. The checkered tail can be masked off and painted too, which I trust it might be slightly more attractive, but also time consuming. Of course, there are aftermarket companies that offer different variations of decals for quarter scale Phantoms, so the fact that there is only this version included won’t be a big issue. At least not a huge one.
Conclusion: Zoukei-Mura provided the best Phantom in any scale up to this moment. USAF F-4s are absolutely fantastic weathering base and with all the detail featured on the plastic here, the options are practically limitless. The higher price /compared with other kits available/ is totally justified. If you want to build a Phantom, Zoukei-Mura gives everything from one source: Concept note, nearly perfect kit, aftermarket and additional options. Phantatstic model!
Shape-wise this is the best Phantom available. Plastic material is superb. Engines are included, detail is constant all over and at the highest level seen in 48th scale. Very sophisticated instructions, bringing additional knowledge. Weapons are very good looking, clear parts too. Version included shows attractive subject with distinctive vertical stabilizer.
Sole painting option. This is one of the let downs for F-4 kits from Zoukei-Mura. At least two options are needed in my opinion. Resin wheels and eventually cockpit are the other thing that I would suggest. Instructions could’ve been made in color. Tail section behind the nozzles from Academy offers more logical approach considering the metalizer paints to be used.
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