Kit: Czech Model 1/48 FJ-1 Fury
Kit #: 4805
Injection molding with resin parts. Vacuform canopy
Decals: Two aircraft from VF-51
Date of Review:
Review and Images by: Scott Van Aken
North American's FJ-1 was it's first foray into the world of jet poweredaircraft. It was also it's first Navy fighter. This design was further modifiedto become the famous F-86 Sabre of Korean War fame. Built in 1945, it wasadvanced for it's time, but quickly taken over by even more advanced designslike the FH-1 Phantom and later the F9F Panther. It was recognized that theseearly naval jets would only be stepping stones to better aircraft so onlyabout 30 aircraft were produced. They were used to develop operational proceduresand tactics for Naval jet aircraft. Only one active squadron;VF-5A (later redesignated VF-51) operated the type and it was taken on onlytwo cruises. The aircraft that survived were turned over to the Reservesand flown by units at Oakland, Olathe, Los Alamitos and Dallas. By 1953 theywere gone from the flight line.
This is the fifth kit by Czech Model and each one looks better than the onebefore it. This one is typical in that it has a folded single-sheet instruction,and Propagteam decals. The instructions are more informative and providebetter construction tips than the previous sheet. The resin parts are alsovery well done, but typical for me with Czech Model kits, parts were broken;in this case the exhaust pipe. I do wish the resin parts were better protectedfrom damage other than being put together in a bag where the jostling andbumping from shipment causes the parts to come together and thus become damaged.As you can see from the below image, the sprue gates are much smaller, thoughthere are still injector pins that must be removed from the wings andfuselage.
What isvery nice is that two crystal clear canopies are provided so you can screwone up. One little thing about the canopy is that I believe the center panelof the windscreen should be flat where the vac canopy has that panel curved.I'll let the experts decide if that is correct or not.
First step for this kit is to remove the injector pin stubs and the blocksfrom the resin pieces. Whenever sanding resin, make sure that you do notbreathe the dust as it is a carcinogen. You can either sand or saw underwater or wear a filter mask to prevent inhaling the dust.
One of the first things that I noticed were that the wings were warped. Nota major problem, but one that needs attention. Imagine it is because of thesize of the parts. No other Czech Model kit has parts of this size and theydo a very good job of carrying out the molding, but still the wings are warped.Also noted were flash on many of the edges and some parts had incompletemolding. This was most noticeable on the fuselage where three of the sixgun ports were plugged and a couple of the intakes on the side were alsoplugged. It just means more work for the modeler to clean up these areas;the fuselage intakes being particularly difficult to dig out and smooth asthey are of a slit type.
Now on to the kit. Once all the parts were removed from thier resin carrier,the cockpit was built up. This is a complete resin assembly and is superblydone. Dry fitting showed that unlike the XP-77 built a few months ago, thisone fits very well. At this time the nose wheel well, intake and exhaustblanks were dry fit. These all fit very well, though the resin intake seemsto be a bit undersize to fit the opening. Nothing a bit of filler won't cure.The cockpit was then painted an interior green and set aside to dry. Thenose well was then glued in place with superglue. Again the fit is great.If you recall, the exhaust was broken (actually rather badly due to verythin resin), so that had to be repaired using a lot of superglue to preventan additional damage. It wasthen slid into place and superglued. The intake was next. The instructionstell you that you need to sand away at the top of the nose well to get itto fit. That I did and was able to get the top to fit beautifully. However,the bottom of the intake has quite a gap that will need filled once the fuselagehalves are finally glued together. There is a ton of space in the forwardfuselage for weight so a couple of fishing weights were glued in place tohopefully prevent any tail sitting.
Attention was then paid to other parts of the airframe. The wings were removed,cleaned up and glued together. The main gear wells have a rather rudimentarydetail in them and are not boxed in so this is an area that many of you maywish to add more detail. I left them as they were. Once the glue had setthe seams were cleaned up and the tip lights were cut off and replaced withcolored plastic. Tip tanks were next and glued together. Now you are probablythinking that I must have a screw loose. Why install wingtip lights if theywill be covered by tip tanks? Well, the FJ-1 flew as often as not withoutthe tip tanks and I am hoping that the tanks will be a 'press fit' and justslide over the tips so the aircraft can be displayed both with and withoutthem. Guess we will have to see how it turns out.
While the glue was setting on that, the cockpit from the instrument panelon up was painted flat black as per the directives of the day. The cockpitwas then given a dark wash and then drybrushed to bring out the details.As that was drying, the fuselage was worked on. Specifically the gun portswere dug out (those that were imperfectly molded) and drilled, the tail hookrecess also needed reshaping as there were blobs of plastic filling the recess.Then the cover plate was glued over the top as per the instructions. Oncethe cockpit was dry it was superglued in place and then the fuselage halveswere glued together. Overall the fit wasn't bad at all. I had anticipateda lot of problems, but it didn't happen. What I did find was that the intakewas a very poor fit. It turned out to be more undersized that I had thoughtand so a lot of filling and filing was needed to get even an acceptable fitfor this part. Also discovered was a slight short shot of one fuselage halfin the exhaust area, causing some consternation there as well. Nothing thatcannot be fixed by filler, but something that adds to the difficulty ofconstruction.
While that was drying, the tip tanks were sanded and, where needed, fillerwas added. This brings up a bit of a gripe I have with Czech Model kits.That is the panel lines. They are so fine that any sanding at all will obliteratethem. To add to it, the aileron, rudder and elevator hinge areas are justas faint. One would think that these parts of the airframe could be morepronounced. These may seem like minor points, but for these kits to improve,things like this are going to have to be addressed. Sure, these are shortrun kits. Sure, I could always go to building vacuforms. Sure, I shouldn'texpect the same level of quality as a main-stream kit. All valid points,but it isn't something that is beyond the abilities of these kit makers.
Meanwhile,back at the kit. There were a few bits that needed filler on the fuselageso that was taken care of. Looking behind the cockpit, there is a gapinghole. A bit of fiddling around with the canopy and the insert that fits init showed that if I wanted to open the canopy, this hole would be VERY visible.The only cure was to make a cover for it out of plastic sheet. In that wayif the canopy was to be open, it would look a lot neater. At this timethe tailplanes and wings were glued on. Both of these are butt joints. Shouldone desire, spars and pins could easily be made, but frankly the semi-softnessof the plastic pretty well ensures a good bond. The instructions show thecorrect dihedral for the wings and tailplanes. A touch of filler was usedat the roots to smooth things out a bit. For me, this kit was going togetherin record time. From opening the plastic to this stage was less than twodays!
While all this was curing, attention was turned to the tip tanks. Now I realizethat these may not be used at all, but no sense in not building them right.After the halves were glued together and smoothed out, the tips were cutoff and replaced with clear plastic. I believe that either landing lightswere placed here as photos I have seen of the tanks show a clear tip. Theclear plastic came from an old toothbrush handle. Once dry it was sandedto shape and then polished. The fins for the tanks are resin and they werecarefully scribed away with a sharp Xacto. Superglue was used to attach themto the tanks. I have been told that these tanks are not very accurate andthat the aircraft actually used old F4U Corsair drop tanks. Apparently, to'accurize' the kit tanks, you need to add the weld bead that runs for muchof the top/bottom length of the tank. Well, I don't know about that but thereis the info in case you want to modify the kit ones or rob a Corsair kitfor the tanks.
Next step was to trim the canopy. This was accomplished without the usualproblems as it seems the canopy was actually designed for this kit!! Afterthat it was masked off and set aside for painting. Painting is the next stepand Aeromaster Gloss Dark Sea Blue enamel was chosen (mainly because I hada bottle of it in the paint bin). The first part painted was the upper halfof the airframe. The cockpit was stuffed with tissue to prevent oversprayfrom getting in there. Once the upper was painted, I painted the wheel wells.It was tough to decide what colors to paint these. There is much photographicevidence on how Korean War era Navy aircraft such as Panthers and Bansheeswere done, but darn little on the FJ-1. Photographs of the time were notvery helpful as the gear doors and such were always in dark shadow. Aftermaking a few Internet Inquiries, I got a very nice response from Larry Websterwho helped move the New England Air Museum FJ-1 last year. He told me thatthe gear wells and nose gear doors were interior green and the main geardoors were Dark Sea Blue. This makes some sense as a period photo of an FJ-1showed the open gun bay to be chromate in color. Anyway, it would providea bit more color contrast than painting the whole thing Dark Sea Blue, sothat is how I went.
Once thepaint was fully dry, the landing gear were installed. Typically the fit wasn'tvery good with the gear having a much larger gluing surface than the slotsand holes provided. The holes in the wing were enlarged to accept the strutsand the nose gear was adjusted to properly fit. Superglue was used. Nextthe wheels were installed. The nose wheel fit very well, but the attachmentpoints for the main wheels are too short to fit in the wheels so some creativegluing was required.
When the kit was on it's gear it was time to attach the gear doors and thecanopy. I cut the canopy to allow it to be positioned open so all thecockpit detail could be seen. Non-fogging superglue was used for the windscreen,but I still managed to get some on the inside of the screen :( Thecanopy was also superglued on as was the insert. Now it was on to the decals.These are really super and very opaque. Even with the dark blue backgroundthere was no bleed thorough. The decals are super thin so require abit of care to use. You will quickly notice that most of them are oversizefor the aircraft. If they would have scaled them down about 15%, they wouldbe perfect. Doesn't make them unusable, just makes them look a bit odd whencompared to photos. A word of warning on the five angle of attack stripeson the lower nose. These must be cut apart before application or they willnot match up to the photo or instructions. Also, those eight half circlesall go on the trailing edge of the flaps. There were a few other decals thattook some deciphering to find out their location and I never did find outwhere the white 'T' or the four lines of lettering next to it went. All thedecals reacted well to Champ setting solution.
Once the decals were dry, the kit was wiped down to remove excess settingsolution then given a nice glosscoat. Unfortunately for me, I think my sprayroom was too humid as I was left with a slightly 'pebbly' surface and notthe smooth one I had hoped for. Nothing major as this is not a contest qualitykit anyway, but frustrating. Some of the really fine bits like the tail pitot(which I broke almost as soon as I removed it from the resin block) and thefuel dump (which was drilled out) were attached and final touchup was donewith a brush. Gear doors were cut and glued in place and the tail sectiongiven a piece of Bare Metal Foil matte aluminum.
Overall, I really liked this kit. For one, it is a subject I like, havingbuilt a Rareplane 1/72 vac and a Merlin 1/72 kit of this aircraft in yearspast. Another is that it is probably the best short run kit from the CzechRepublic I have ever built and it was finished in less than a week; a real light speedjob for me as it usually takes a month or two at best for me tofinish a kit from start to finish. I highly recommend this kit; especiallyfor those looking for their first short run model. It makes a great introductionto the genre.
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