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First Look Review
148
F-4EJ Kai Phantom II
F-4EJ Kai Phantom II ďPhantom Forever 2020Ē
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by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

Background
Zoukei-Mura is celebrating the companyís 10th Anniversary with a special limited edition kit of the F-4EJ Kai in a spectacular paint scheme marking its retirement from service with the JASDF this year. See the News item HERE for full details of its release and the special bonuses included.

This review is very much a First Look, being based on a pre-release set of parts which Zoukei-Mura very kindly provided. The decals are still being prepared at the time of writing, while the assembly instructions that I have are a print-out - but I'm assuming the content is correct for the finished product.

The Kit
The kit arrived in a very substantial top-opening box. Zoukei-Mura sent the sample in their standard F-4E box, which is a perfect fit for the parts, so I'm guessing it will be used when the kit is released - albeit with revised box-top artwork as shown at the top of the page. All the runners are sealed in individual bags, and everything reached me in perfect condition.

The kit is spread across an impressive 15 runners, and comprises:
230 x grey styrene parts (plus 205 not used)
13 x clear styrene parts (plus 2 not needed)
Decals are being custom-printed by Carograf

Over 200 parts not used? - thatís simply because the kit shares runners with previous versions, and the bulk of the unused parts are from a formidable selection of underwing stores which arenít needed for the special anniversary colour scheme.

I have very limited experience of Zoukei-Mura kits - and I've never had the chance to examine one of their Phantom series, so I was particularly keen to see what the quality is like. Basically - it's superb. The moulding is beautifully done, with no signs of flash or sink marks in the sample, and very light ejector pin marks. I will say, though, a couple of the pin marks on the cockpit floor could have been hidden if they'd been positioned better. As it is, though, they should be straightforward to deal with.

The surface finish and detailing is excellent throughout, with crisp panel lines and fasteners, plus delightfully subtle embossed rivets in places. Interior detailing is equally crisply done, and areas like the cockpit and wheel wells are really packed with "eye candy". More on that below.

The grey styrene used is great to work with; easy to carve and sand, with no tendency towards brittleness. It reminds me very much of the material used for WnW kits.


Test Fit
Considering the size of the kit, it was a surprise to find very few locating pins on the main airframe parts. There was no need to worry, though, because everything lines up perfectly - even without any of the internal assemblies to give rigidity. The large underwing section also forms the base of the forward fuselage and the fit is exceptionally good - as are the wing roots. On the basis of the quick test fit, it looks like it should be perfectly possible to build the kit with little or no need to resort to filler.

The only flies in the proverbial ointment in the sample kit are the horizontal stabilisers. These can be set at three angles and have wonderfully thin trailing edges - but mine are moulded slightly bowed. Hopefully they should straighten out OK (Iíll try taping them to a flat surface and using very hot water).

A Few Details
Construction begins with the cockpit and nosewheel well, which form a combined sub-assembly. The cockpit is very comprehensively fitted out and comprises almost 50 parts. Each ejection seat is constructed from 6 pieces with plenty of detail - but it's a shame that seat harnesses aren't included, because rather they stand out by their absence.

The side consoles and instrument panels for the F-4EJ Kai are included on a new runner specific to the version and are finely detailed. The instructions show that decals will be provided, but I don't have these to comment on yet. The panels feature prominently raised details, so I predict using patience and plenty of setting solution to get the decals to snuggle down tightly.

The nosewheel well under the floor is equally packed with detail - but itís basically all integral on the sides and roof. With careful painting, it should really pop out.

This version of the Phantom features a new nose-cone with external strakes which give quite a distinctive look.

The engines are simple but well detailed - again, itís mostly moulded integrally, but the crispness of the detail will really repay careful painting and highlighting. Of course, the engines will be entirely hidden once the kit is complete, but Zoukei-Mura include parts for a pair of simple display stands. Interestingly, the parts form the rims of two of the runners, which is quite a novel idea. The stands are only intended as temporary holders for the engines, and you will need to fit the engines in the kit to complete it.

Leading to the engines are full-depth intake ducts, which attach to a very sturdy bulkhead. How much of this will be visible on the completed model is questionable, but it will certainly add rigidity to the fuselage and wing centre section.

The mainwheel wells are quite simple, but the walls boxing them in show some nice crisp detail.

The jet intakes are each 7-part assemblies and a test fit of the main part shows it matches the fuselage contours perfectly. Iíve built some jet kits where the intakes are devils to blend in neatly, but that certainly doesnít look likely here.

Thereís a choice of opened or closed exhaust nozzles and both are very nicely moulded, and the titanium underside of the tail section is well represented with a slightly ďquiltedĒ look.

The flaps, ailerons and leading edge slats are all separate, and Zoukei-Mura have included two styles of slats with subtly different camber.

There are alternative nosewheel legs to depict the strut either compressed or extended, and the wheels themselves show excellent detail on the hubs. The main gear is similarly well detailed and the undercarriage will repay time spent on careful painting and highlighting. The tyres are moulded ďunweightedĒ, so Iíll file slight flats to represent the bulk of the aircraft.

The canopy can be displayed open or closed, and the clear parts are simply superb - absolutely crystal-clear and free of any flow marks.

As noted above, the kit comes with a really comprehensive selection of ordnance, but almost all of it will be heading to your spares box because itís not carried on this special retirement paint scheme. The aircraft is only fitted with drop tanks and pylons, but Iíve included photos of the rest of the stores for anyone interested in other boxings in Zoukei-Muraís F-4 series.

Rounding everything off is a nicely detailed boarding ladder to add a touch of extra interest.

Instructions
The assembly guide provided for the sample kit is just a print-out, so itís not truly representative of how the finished instructions will be presented. I imagine the finished product will take the form of a 40-page booklet - perhaps more, by the time the painting guide is included. From the print-out itís clear it will be extremely comprehensive, though, with excellent illustrations and numerous views from other angles to clarify points. The notes for each of the 40 stages are printed in Japanese and English, and the captions are very helpful and informative. Colour matches are provided for Vallejo and Gunze Sangyo paints, along with FS matches where appropriate.

I canít comment on the exterior painting instructions or the decals yet, so Iíll add an update to the review once Iíve received them. Meanwhile, keep an eye on my Blog in Aeroscaleís new Forum HERE as I get underway building this beauty.

Conclusion
Even in this pre-release form, Zoukei-Muraís F-4EJ Kai is a beautifully moulded and presented kit, packed with detail and extremely well engineered. Itís a reasonably complex model but, based on the test-fit outlined above, plus the initial assembly Iíve done of the ejection seats and cockpit, it seems set to be quite a straightforward build and Iím really looking forward to it as my first project for Aeroscaleís new site. Iím very grateful to Zoukei-Mura for giving me the chance to examine and build the model ahead of its release.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE
SUMMARY
Highs: Excellent engineering and moulding. Highly detailed and well-fitting. Superb quality clear parts.
Lows: The stabilisers are slightly bowed in the sample kit. It's disappointing not to see any sort of harnesses on the otherwise well-detailed ejection seats.
Verdict: This review is based on a pre-production set of sample parts, so there might be minor changes by the time the kit is ready for release in January 2021. For this reason I haven't given a percentage rating, but I am hugely impressed by the kit as it stands.
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: SWS 11
  Suggested Retail: 6,800 JPY by Pre-Order
  PUBLISHED: Nov 10, 2020
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 88.37%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 91.78%

Our Thanks to Zoukei-Mura Inc.!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)
FROM: NO REGIONAL SELECTED, UNITED KINGDOM

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright ©2020 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.



Comments

Hi all Follow my progress in the Blog in Aeroscaleís new Forum HERE as I get underway building this beauty. All the best Rowan
NOV 10, 2020 - 08:16 AM
Great review Rowan, it does look a very tasty kit. I will look forward to you building something without a prop. Andy
NOV 10, 2020 - 09:26 AM
Dohh! I KNEW there was something missing! All the best Rowan
NOV 10, 2020 - 10:34 AM
Dohh! I KNEW there was something missing![/quote] Not missed by much - F-4E was the first to have the the emergency ram-air turbine deleted.
NOV 13, 2020 - 12:13 AM
   

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