1/48 Tomcat Comparison

Gallery Article by Darren Roberts on Dec 14 2009

 

Above model is the 1/48 Revel F-14

Revell F-14
This kit is, in a word, hideous! It should not be confused with the much more recent Revell release, which is actually the Monogram kit. This kit is so bad that the box art isnít even of the actual kit. Revell used the Fujimi kit for the box art. Thatís how bad this kit is. The manufacturer doesnít even want modelers to see what this kit looks like! 

Cockpit (F-): Is there such a thing as an F-? In this case there is. The cockpit is essentially a slab of plastic with blobs of plastic for seats. There isnít even a control stick for the pilot. The instrument panels are completely flat and arenít even close to being realistic. The decals given for the instrumentation lacks much detail at all. The only thing that can be said thatís good about the cockpit is that thereís a throttle provided. 

Shape (D): Well, it at least resembles a Tomcat. The kit seems to be based off of early Tomcat drawings (see the notes about the Fujimi kit). The boattail area is much too narrow between the engines, and the speed brake is flat, lacking the hump in the middle. 

Surface Detail (F): Fine raised lines are present, but donít even come close to being accurate. The boattail resembles the standard shape, but the gun vent is the pre-production short muzzle with no vents. This combination never existed, especially with the Alpha probe on the nose, which is contained in the kit. I canít comment on the detail in the wheel bays because there are no wheel bays! Obviously this kit was designed with gear up construction in mind! The landing gear is very soft on detail, with the main gear being about half the size it should be, being that there are no main gear bays. I will say that the main wheels are at least passable. 

Fit (F--): And you thought an F- was bad! I donít know who engineered this kit, but they were on something when they did it. The seams for the wings, horizontal stabs, and tails are all in the middle of somewhere that they shouldnít be. For the wings, the seam is in the middle of the undersides of the flaps. The stabs have a large, square piece that fits up into the rest of the stab, and the tails have seams right down the middle of the rudders. Now, if the fit were good, it might not be that big of a deal. But the fit is absolutely horrendous, leaving steps and gaps that require copious amounts of filling and sanding. Oh, and remember what I said about the fine, raised detail? Kiss it good-bye! 

Ordnance (F): Iím not even going to comment. 

Pros: It has a throttleÖ..and wing glove vanes.

Cons: Everything. 

Overall Score: 1/10


Fujimi
F-14
This kit is just slightly less hideous than the Revell kit. It has absolutely nothing in common with Fujimiís excellent 1/72 scale offering. Why Fujimi hasnít scaled up that kit to 1/48 scale is beyond me. My example has a production date of 1995 and has some improvements added to the original release, which was in the late 1970ís.early 1980ís. These changes include the newer tail stiffeners and an alpha probe on the radome. They should have kept going on the improvements! 

Cockpit (D-): The cockpit is extremely rudimentary and inaccurate. It consists of a floorboard with molded in side consoles. The instrument panels are flat and decals are provided for the instrumentation. At least it has a control stick! The seats donít even resemble GRU-7ís, although they do have the face curtain pull handles. There is no rear decking behind the RIO, but instead has a set of ďblack boxesĒ. The only bright spot of the entire cockpit is a nicely done ďsissy handleĒ on top of the RIOís instrument coaming. 

Shape (C): The Fujimi kit has always looked a little odd to me. I finally figured out why. A friend of mine sent me a book with early Tomcat cutaway drawings. The Fujimi shape matches these almost perfectly. The drawings even have the black boxes behind the RIO. Fujimi must have based this kit off of those drawings. The forward fuselage is too chunky in height and too narrow in profile, having almost a triangular shape when viewing it from head-on. The boat tail is too narrow between the engine nozzles, which are extremely simplistic and are only available in the closed position. The burner can is also very simple, with no detail on the interior of the can and a simply molded flame holder. The intakes are too small and shallow. The airflow doors inside the intakes are molded in the down position, leaving almost no opening. Wheel well detail in the main wheel bays is non-existent, and the detail in the front bay is completely fictitious. 

Surface Detail (C): The forward fuselage is very nicely engraved, although it is a bit deep. The rear fuselage and wings, however, are all raised lines, and not accurate at that. Itís a bizarre combination. The main wheel bays have zero detail, while the front bay has at least a little ribbing detail. The landing gear is thin and spindly, not nearly coming close to the Tomcatís beefy-looking gear. The front gear doesnít contain the two small catapult bar struts on either side of the oleo. The wheels are acceptable and are molded in halves. The chin pod is the ďbulletĒ fairing and is molded onto the plastic. Fuel tanks are provided and are acceptable. Wing glove vanes are provided. The probes on the side of the fuselage are mediocre at best, and the one right below the canopy sill on the starboard side is completely the wrong shape. 

Fit (C-): Overall, the fit isnít too bad. The two major problem areas are where the forward fuselage assembly meets the rear assembly, and where the clear parts meet the framing on the canopy along with the fit of the windscreen to the nose. 

Ordnance (F): The missiles in this kit are horrible. They look like they were molded in the 1960ís! The Phoenix pylons are too short and rounded and look funny when put on. I left them off. The only shoulder pylon provided is for the Phoenix, so your choice of loadout is either 6 Phoenixes and 2 Sidewinders, or 4 Sparrows under the fuselage and a Sidewinder and Phoenix on each of the shoulder stations. 

Pros: Good ďsissyĒ handle on RIOís coaming, radar unit that would make for a good base for scratchbuilding, separate stabilators, pilot figures, and ÖumÖandÖ.wellÖthatís about it. 

Cons: Too many to list. 

Overall Score: 3/10

Click on images below to see larger images

  

  

  

1/48 Fujimi F-14

  

1/48 Italeri F-14

  

1/48 Academy F-14

  

1/48 Monogram F-14

Italeri F-14
This kit falls around the mid-line of all the 1/48 scale Tomcat kits. There were two versions released covering the A and the B. There is an A+ boxing, but I believe it has only the A parts in it. This review will cover the A kit. The B kit is essentially the same, but with very, very poorly and inaccurately done GE nozzles included and really weird engine fairings. 

Cockpit (C): The cockpit has raised detail for the side consoles and the instrument panels. Unfortunately, the detail is completely fictional. The instrument panels are undersized as well. The control stick is a joke, but at least there is one. The seats resemble GRU-7ís, but strangely so. The instrument shrouds, however, are quite nicely done. In fact, they may be the best looking shrouds of all 1/48 scale kits. 

Shape (C+): The overall shape is pretty good, but it looks ďthinĒ in some areas, especially the forward fuselage. However, putting the Phoenix pallets on helps out. In the end, itís not too bad. 

Surface Detail (B-): The entire kit is engraved, if somewhat a bit deep. While there are areas of inaccuracy, the overall effect is nice, especially if running a wash through the panel lines. The tails lack detail and look simple and plain. The gun vent is very shallow and doesnít represent the standard grills very well. Wing glove vanes are provided. Landing gear is fairly well done, but the wheels are simply unusable. They donít look like anything ever put on a Tomcat. Iíve always thought that two of the most important things about the overall look of a model are the seats and the wheels. The Italeri kit falls short on both counts. However, if they were replaced, it would make the finished kit look much better. Engines and nozzles are so-so but passable. Only the closed position is provided. 

Fit (B+): I didnít encounter any major headaches with fit on this kit. Everything went together pretty well. The only thing keeping it from getting an A is the fit of the forward fuselage area to the rear. This seems to be a problem on all Tomcat kits that are broken down like that, though. 

Ordnance (C): The kit comes with 2 AIM-7 Sparrows, 2 AIM-9 Sidewinders, and 2 AIM-54 Phoenixes. All are decent, but nothing to write home about. 

Pros: Fully engraved detail, good instrument coamings, overall decent kit. 

Cons: Seats and wheels womp, no fuselage air flow probes provided. 

Overall Score: 6/10



Academy
F-14
This kit is a copy of the Monogram kit, but with some additions, such as a positionable speed brake, engraved lines, external fuel tanks, and a TARPS pod. It could have hit the mark that Monogram just missed, but there are some inexplicable changes to the molds that ruin what could have been an otherwise outstanding release. 

Cockpit (B): See Monogram. 

Shape (B-): The biggest problem with the Academy kit is the schnozÖerrÖ.nose. Essentially, Academy used the Monogram kit as a guide, but somehow, someway, made the nose much too thick and round. Aggressively using a Dremel tool on the bottom of the fuselage/radome helps, but not completely. 

Surface Detail (C+): The kit has engraved panel lines, but unfortunately, most are fictitious. They do give a good starting point for extra surface detailing, if one desires. The tails are devoid of any panel lines at all, except for the rudder lines. The front fuselage lines are completely made up, but it really doesnít matter, as they all get sanded off anyway because of the next area. 

Fit (C): See Monogram. 

Ordnance (B+): Included in this kit are AIM-7ís, AIM-9ís, AIM-54ís, and a TARPS pod, which is a nice touch. Most are copies of the Monogram kit, but with a bit less detail. 

Pros: Engraved lines, decent cockpit, open and closed nozzle option, external fuel tanks, open speed brake. 

Cons: To large forward fuselage/nose section, fictitious panel lines, tricky fit. 

Overall Score: 7/10


Monogram
F-14
When this kit came out in the 1980ís, it was a quantum leap over any other Tomcat on the market. The detail was outstanding in an injection molded kit. This kit has been much-maligned in recent years, but comparing to modern moldings is unfair. This is one of my favorite kits, and Iíve built over 50 of them in my modeling years. 

Cockpit (A-): The cockpit is extremely well executed. While not perfect, it stool looks great after some painting and dry-brushing. At the very least, it looks ďbusyĒ. The GRU-7 seats were better than any other kit seat on the market, and they still look decent even by todayís standards. 

Shape (A-): The Monogram kit, like most from this company, captures the lines and look of the Tomcat very nicely. The nose on recent reissues has shown itís age and taken on a Coke-bottle look, but 5 minutes with a sanding stick and itís taken care of. 

Surface Detail (B+): The raised lines are excellent and mostly correct. The nozzles are decent, although the burner cans are a bit shallow and narrow. The only thing that could make the surface detail better would be if the lines were engraved. 

Fit (C): One thing Monogram is not known for is great fit. The Tomcat is no exception. The parts break-down leaves one scratching their head, wondering just what the kit designers were thinking. The intake/fuselage fit needs copious amounts of filler, and the engine tunnel/lower fuselage fit leaves a sizeable step, needing lots of filling and sanding. Some short-cuts can be taken that help these areas, though, and the fit is not insurmountable. 

Ordnance (A-): This kit contains some of the best, if not the best, AIM-9ís on the market. They are outstanding. The AIM-7ís are attached to the pylon, which makes painting hard. There are also no external fuel tanks. Overall itís a very good set of ordnance. 

Pros: Great detail, low price, outstanding ordnance. 

Cons: No fuel tanks, wheels arenít correct, no ECM blisters for Block 135, fit is tough. 

Overall Score: 7.5/10

Above model is the 1/48 Hasegawa F-14

Hasegawa F-14
This is the ultimate (so far) Tomcat kit, but itís not without itís short-comings, one of which is price. However, you get a lot of plastic for what you pay, and you can find deals more often than not that are very reasonable. 

Cockpit (B-): One area that Hasegawa has had trouble with is the cockpit area. The Tomcatís cockpit is okay, but the fit of all the separate panels is tricky, and if not done properly, can create fit problems. The seats are nice, but lacking in some detail. It looks good when painted and dry-brushed. 

Shape (A+): The overall look of this kit is very pleasing. Is it perfect? Probably not, but the niggles are so small that they arenít even worth mentioning. 

Surface Detail (A+): Fully engraved with seemingly every fastener and rivet in place, it just screams for a good wash to bring out all that fantastic surface detail. The wheel wells are a bit weak, but even then, they arenít ďbadĒ. It also has clear navigation lights, which is a plus. 

Fit (C): This is the area that the Hasegawa kit suffers the most in. Itís over-engineered, which creates problems in many areas. The intakes are a problem as are the multi-piece wheel bays. The fit of the forward fuselage to the main fuselage is also tricky, requiring shims and patience to get it right. Oh, and a bunch of filler with a good dose of sanding afterwards. 

Ordnance (F-): Ordnance? What ordnance? Enough said. 

Pros: Outstanding detail, overall excellent look. 

Cons: Tricky fit, no ordnance, high price.

Overall Score: 9/10

Darren Roberts

Photos and text © by Darren Roberts