Monogram 1/48 TF-104G






See review


Peter Marshall


Maintrack TF-104 Conversion



I still hate doing this bit, what am I, a modeller or a historian?  Iím sure most people know the Starfighter, itís got a long and well documented history and an unfortunate reputation in various parts of Europe. Try here:  for a pretty comprehensive history (that page is part of this site:  which looks good, wish I had found it before I made the kit, I could have got the serial number right:-) or here for a set of songs about it (actually an excellent album, if you like that kind of thing, and I do.  I never got to see Bob Calvert do them but Iíve seen Hawkwind do most of them over the years :-): 




This was started for the Century Series contest a while back, and while the other three I was making were finished in time, this one took a bit longer.  I think youíll see why!  Basically itís Monograms old F-104G kit that has appeared in several boxings over the years, raised panel lines, adequate (define adequate!) cockpit detail, average fit, this release having quite an impressive decal sheet covering four aircraft (Canadian Tiger (which I did it as years ago), German Luftwaffe, Dutch and USAF (which is really a Luftwaffe training a/c)).  But the decal sheet isnít of the highest quality (I used some on one of the others I was making and they were out of register, thick, covered in that grey goo you get on some sheets and generally nasty), it might be age, it might not be.  This release was in silver plastic, you get the a/c, pilot figure, wing tip tanks, two things I think are supposed to be Sidewinders and a recon pod (I think itís a Orpheus?) that is basically a blob.  Though Iíve never seen the real thing, so maybe itís an accurate blob.... 

To sum up?  Since the release of the Hasegawa kit, this kit is swap meet bound, if it doesnít hit the bin first.  But I wasnít going to cut up a nice Hasegawa Starfighter to stick Maintracks unpleasant resin bits on so for a fiver ($7.50) I can live with it.  The Maintrack conversion really isnít up to even the Monogram plastic, thereís a faint attempt at detail, the fit sucks and the interior and seats are a laugh.  But I bought it years ago and figured if I didnít make it before Hasegawa sort their molds out and do it properly it would just go to waste...  And Scott had this contest, see.  So I had spare underwing tanks from the Black Box cockpit (used in the Hase F-104S), various bits of the Eduard set (used on the other mono F-104G) and a Daco stencil sheet Iíve been saving for this conversion (if in doubt I do Belgian markings.  Dunno why, just become a habit).  Oh, and a nice set of Aires Lockheed C2 seats (which the Belgians used, while most air forces fitted the Martin Baker GQ-7A seats which is what the Maintrack set (tries to) represent).  So off we go!




Just for fun we started not with the cockpit but with the saw, removing the front fuselage.  This was done in easy stages, cutting the bottom off first and gluing the Maintrack part to it while using the upper fuselage as a guide to make sure it was properly lined up.  Lots of superglue!  When that was well cured, I took off the top fuselage and attached the resin part using the bottom section as the guide this time.

Then it was the usual cockpit bits before the upper and lower fuselage could be joined.  The Mono kit tubs were used (there was a spare one from the other Mono kit, it got the Hasegawa cockpit from the kit that got the BB set :-) with the built in seat rails and the bottom of the tub cut out of both to make room for the Aires seats.  The Eduard set has four different sets of instrument panels for various models of F-104, I had already used the right one in the F-104G so I used another couple in this a/c without worrying too much that they werenít ďquiteĒ right, certainly better then the kit bits.  Also used Eduard side panels as well.  The area between the cockpits has some structure to mount the seat on and the rest is covered by a canvas sheet affair, this was built from some bits of plastic rod and channel section and the cover simulated using humbrol putty.  The rest of the a/c is a pretty simple build, not many parts, close the airbrakes, add the tail section, attach the u/c (not the wheels at this stage), filler, filler and a bit more filler for the nose to resin to resin to main fuselage areas.


Then it was time to put the canopy in place to protect the interior from the spray job.  It was at this point it turned out that either I had too much original nose (donít think so, it was as per instructions and any less and the sections wouldnít have matched and there really would have been a LOT of filler needed to blend them together) or the canopy supplied is WAAAY too short.  And very flimsy.  And not very good quality.  And Iím moaning again....  Anyway, this meant I was going to have to fix the (for me) unfixable and make a new one or compensate for it.  So I decided I was going to have to open the canopies (less obvious that they donít fit, spread the gaps out) and move the windshield part of the canopy back a bit, which involved raising it slightly to clear the HUD and filling the gap at the front, bits of plastic card and filler did the job, quite subtle I think.


 And a bathe in Future improved the canopy to the point where I began to think it might be useable!  I masked the canopy outside and then NEARLY cut all the sections out, just leaving them partially attached and then masked the inside.  The reason for nearly cutting them out was I didnít want to handle them too much after painting, as flexible as they were I could see the paint flaking off.  Then the canopy was held in place with white-tack (like Blu-tack but, duh, white) and itís onto:





Iíve had the Daco sheet for years, intending to do the two seater Belgian scheme.  I think it looks kinda pretty.  It was painted using a mixture of Humbrol (Green 117 (FS 34102)) and Xtracolor (Green X110 (FS 14079), Tan X102 (FS 10219) and Grey X140 (FS 16622)) paints and as I hadnít the bottle to rescribe the thing I tried preshading the raised panels lines first and then with the real colours I took it slowly and tried to avoid painting the preshaded lines at all and then when the main paint job was done, where the panel lines were too wide or too obvious, I misted over them lightly to tone them down. I know I should have masked it to get a sharp demarcation but I prefer doing it freehand.  Just impatient I guess.  If I could get a better line out of my Badger I would be happy...  So the edges are a bit soft and the scale overspray is grossly large but I think it looks OK.  Personal choice..... As Iíve had several recent experiences with decals silvering (despite Xtracolor being glossy to start with) and with the Humbrol being a satin finish I gave the whole thing a coat of Xtracolor Gloss and so onto the bit I (usually) enjoy most, the decals!




The Daco sheet is ..... comprehensive?  Nearly 200 numbered decals (often two or more of each number), good clear instructions, details of the differences between the single seater and the two seater, the camo a/c and the bare metal ones, very nice job, wish I had scanned it before I cut it up.  But then I came to use them, and they have the grey goo.  I hate that, is there ANYTHING you can do about it?  And they silvered.  Well, some of them did.  And to be fair, with repeated applications of SuperSol and a sharp scalpel most of the silvering went away.  But not all, and it did increase the already significant time needed to apply all the decals.  With an even glossier finish and maybe an application of future on the multilayer decals I might not have had that problem.  But who knows?  Anyway, two or three days saw the decals applied and having decided I was going to have to live with the silvering they were then sealed with a coat of Xtracolor Matt varnish.  The final bits of construction consisted of the canopies being removed, unmasked, separated, detailed and installed (that quick sentence covers most of an evening!), wheels, Eduard burner can (we wonít talk about the time taken building THAT particular item, something like 90 small fiddly bits of brass there!) and underwing tanks attached and weíre done.  The day before club night.  And I only had to stay up till gone 3am twice in the days running up to it :-)





The Monogram kit is still viable in these days of the Hasegawa kit only if youíre after a quick, cheap build and something to stick markings on.  Or to cut up like this one.  And the Maintrack conversion is a starting point, nothing more (I havenít seen more than a picture of it but the TF conversion from Gerry Asher at FOX 3 Studios can only be an improvement).  The Daco sheet is nice and comprehensive but has some application issues leaving the Aires seats as the best part of this sorry tale.  But it looks pretty, and until Hasegawa get their finger out itís still a rarity in 48th.






I donít have any books on this subject so I would like to thank all the people in the Century Series yahoo group who kindly rallied round and provided me with scans and photographs of the cockpit area and other details when required.  I couldnít have done it with you all guys!  Thanks again.

July 2003

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