Matchbox 1/72 Sea Harrier FRS.1

KIT: Matchbox 1/72 Sea Harrier FRS.1
KIT #: PK-37
PRICE: $3.00 (cheap) at a model show 10 years back
DECALS: Two options (RN and India)
REVIEWER: David Womby
NOTES: Modeldecal sheet #70 used


This is the last all-British designed and built fighter aircraft.

 The Sea Harrier or Shar is pretty well known – especially after its exploits in the 1982 Falklands War.  This particular aircraft – ZA175 – was delivered to the Fleet Air Arm in October 1981 and served in the Falklands.  This aircraft had one confirmed kill over the Falklands when piloted by Lt. Cdr. N. 'Sharkey' Ward of 801 NAS, HMS Invincible.  It survived the war and later was converted to an FA2 in the 90s.  It now resides in the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum in the UK (see ).

 Anyone wanting more history on the Sea Harrier has lots of sources available but a good overview can be found at: 


This was the first Shar kit ever issued back in 1982 and makes a nice little model.  It was reissued by Revell Germany at least once in the 90s when they still had rights to the Matchbox brand name.   Mine was this later Revell issue, so it is not moulded in the usual two colours of plastic used by Matchbox but all in light grey.   The panel lines on the wings were done by the famous Matchbox trench digger but the fuselage lines are a bit more restrained or at least less obvious.  The kit comes on two sprues – one is common with the Matchbox Harrier GR1 kit – wings, tailplanes, weapons, etc. and the second has the new fuselage for the Shar.

 The original Matchbox issue had decals for two grey/white Shars – one pre-Falklands Royal Navy machine and one from the Indian Navy.  There was a later Matchbox issue with the same Indian Navy decals but with an all grey Royal Navy machine.   I can’t remember what my Revell issue came with in the way of decals.

 The Esci/Italeri one is the best 1/72 Shar available.   The others (Hasegawa and Fujimi) may well be better than the Matchbox one, I don’t know.   This kit has very little detail but the basic shape looks accurate and it still looks surprisingly good when finished.   


I built this several years ago but from memory, it was an easy build.   Fit was good and seams needed little filling,

 I added a cockpit floor and a white metal seat but nothing else as in this scale there’s very little visible in the cockpit.  

 As for the exterior, I started by filling the blow in doors on the intakes as mine was going to be represented in flight.   I also filled the traditional Matchbox trench–like panel lines on most surfaces – especially the wings and tail planes!   I like to use auto body spot and glazing putty for filling and it did a great job on the panel lines and seams.  I also used Tippex ( it’s a brand of white typewriter correction fluid – everybody here remembers typewriters, right? ) as a filler for smaller spots and shallow panel lines.

 I added small plates at the inner ends of the tail planes from plastic card.   They aren’t quite the right shape but they do improve the look of the model.   I also added an airbrake with small strakes from plastic card glued to the fuselage.   It stands a little proud of the fuselage surface but conveys the effect of the closed airbrake nicely.  By the way – if you do this, note that the airbrake on the Shar is a bit smaller than the one on the Harrier GR1/GR3.

 The exhaust nozzles are designed to swivel (but not in unison like the old Airfix Harrier kit) but I left them off and added them after the fuselage was painted.

I had to make a couple of small intakes from plastic card on the upper fuselage.  I replaced the kit pitot tube with a pin!   Various blade antennae were added – the largest one is below the starboard front nozzle.

 Unfortunately, Matchbox did their Shar on the cheap!  As I said above, they made a new fuselage but used the wings and weapons sprues from the GR1 kit.   That makes economic sense but that left us with a Shar with no gun pods!  That was quite a rare sight in reality so I dressed mine with gun pods stolen from an Airfix GR3.  Matchbox did add some very poorly shaped Sidewinders to the Sea Harrier sprue but they are awful, so I mounted AIM-9Ls that I had spare (I think from the Monogram F-16XL) with suitable launch rails from plastic card attached to the Matchbox outer pylons.  I think I used spare set of old Hunter 100 gallon tanks on the inner pylons. 


This is an all over Extra Dark Sea Grey machine airbrushed with Gunze acrylic.   I sprayed it with Microscale gloss before decaling.

 I wanted a simple paint job using the all over grey camouflage from the Falklands but with the tail fin squadron markings that were not carried during the conflict.  I found just what I wanted for aircraft ZA175 on Modeldecal sheet 70 representing a post Falklands scheme.   At that time (I think it was 1983), she was serving in 800 NAS.   The decals applied easily and included many stencils that really show well on the grey paint.  The model was given a single finishing coat of Future.  The result may be a bit too glossy but I decided it was about right for a machine newly repainted after the war.   I also didn’t see much weathering visible in my reference photos so I left it clean. 



Is the Matchbox kit the best Shar model you can find?  No, of course not, but it looks like a purposeful Shar to me and was an easy build. 

This would be a suitable kit for a beginner but of late, I have been buying more old Matchbox, Frog and Airfix kits– nostalgia driven, I suppose, but they are such fun to build! 


Modeldecal 70 – Richard Ward who produced this wonderful series of decals included detailed drawings and photographs with each sheet.   I was content to use that for reference along with various old magazines I have from the 80s.

David Womby

June 2008

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