Custom Aero Minatures (CAM) 1/32 scale F-4B conversion kit.
By Mike Wilson

Intended to convert the Tamiya F-4J or C to the earlier B, the kit consists of 12 resin parts and in my estimation falls well short of what other after market manufacturers are producing these days. CAM is to be congratulated for even trying this size of conversion kit but for the price I wish theyíd have completed the job.

Most of the resin parts are adequately done, however the main reason this conversion falls short is the lack of the necessary parts to convert the lower wings from the wider tired J to the narrow tire B configuration. The J and C have bulges on the upper and lower wings while the B has flat wings. To produce an accurate B, the bulges must be removed, which the new wing panels accomplish for the upper wing. However, they havení t included any parts to convert the lower wing. CAM has included flat gear doors but expects you to place them on a curved surface, the same is true of the speed brakes, in fact my speed brakes were missing a portion of the forward mounting tang. The resin upper wing replacement parts are an unknown at this time, "iffy" could be used to describe them. In a good effort to make an accurate upper wing, CAM has produced a very warped and in my opinion, brittle part. The surface detail is rough and indistinct especially in the trailing edge flap area. Only time will tell if theyíre useable. I hasten to add that when I requested a set of upper wing replacements, CAM was quick and cheerful in their positive response.

CAM has also failed to notice that the B rear cockpit is slightly different than the J and totally different from the C. CAM doesnít include any parts to make the rear cockpit conversion. Also not included are the Navy style inboard wing racks or Navy style Sidewinder launch rail adapters. You canít really make a B from CAMís kit. To do so, youíll need both a J and C kit, mix the parts from both and do a goodly amount of imagineering. The steps required to achieve an accurate B will be costly in both time and money but when itís the only game in town, you play it.

On the plus side, CAM has included the nose I/R seeker with ECM bulges, the forward vertical stab ECM antenna, narrow B type wheels and tires and as previously mentioned, flat main gear doors and flat though incomplete, speed brakes.

The instruction sheet consisted of a 4X51/2 sheet of paper printed on one side with an explanation of why the lower wing parts were not included and a warning to do proper research regarding ECM antenna configuration. A very small side view of the F-4 with areas circled that indicate where the resin parts go is included. The rest is left pretty much to your imagination. Perhaps CAM could also mention that the kit doesnít contain all the parts required to do a proper conversion..

CAM produces a large and colorful line of decals, which along with the B conversion kit and a great deal of extra effort will enable me to build the F-4B in the markings Iíve wanted for 25 years!. Thank you for that CAM.

As previously stated, CAM has not included some of the parts that make this a true B conversion, (a fact I didnít know before I bought it). When I received my kit, I took a good look at it and wondered why I just didnít return it and do my own conversion work. Iím still asking myself that question but it was my choice to keep the kit. If CAM wishes to advertise this as a B conversion, they need to include all the parts required to complete it, not SOME of the parts The kit is pricey at $49.95 not including tax and shipping. Mine was about $59.00 by the time I got it.

RECOMMENDATION:

Very conditionally recommended to very experienced modelers who have the ability to overcome kit shortcomings and arenít afraid to put in a lot of extra effort. Rating 3 out of 10 because of the fact that this no where near a complete kit to accomplish what they advertise and a general lack of quality. I wonít buy another until they provide all the parts to do a proper B. Disappointing, incomplete and expensive are the words I would use to describe CAMís effort.

It seems that CAM was more interested in keeping the price down than producing a complete kit. I would gladly have paid more to have a complete kit. You could draw this parallel: A major kit manufacturer produces a kit but leaves out the lower wing and cockpit because to include it would move the retail price to a level where no one would buy the kit. Would you buy such a kit if you knew this fact beforehand?.

Builders note: As an aside, Iíve been modeling about 50 years and have seen plastic models go from toys to art. I enjoy major conversions as well as scratch-building. This review is only my opinion. Other modelers may find this kit to be just what they want. My advice is to check it out before you buy. I didnít and was disappointed and thatís my fault. Iíve never written a review before but felt this needed to be written. I wish it could have been a positive one.

Mike Wilson 12-15-00