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1/72 Matchbox Phantom FG1

by Catherine Vickers

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I was keen to build an RAF Phantom, but the Fujimi kits were distinctly thin on the ground in the UK at the time, so the only real alternative was the old Matchbox kit which, in addition to the usual Matchbox traits of simplicity, relatively crude detail & heavily engraved panel lines, also suffers from mis-shapen nose contours & canopies.  John, my fiancé, had been experimenting with an old Matchbox kit & assured me that situation could be dramatically improved by fitting the radome from an Esci F4C/J & the spare canopies from a Fujimi F4M, so we went ahead & obtained a suitable kit from a mate in Felixstowe – thanks Julien.  We also bought the Aeroclub white metal detail set &John dug into his stash & came up with a variety of decals & the Fujimi canopy.  The Aeroclub set actually includes a vacform canopy, but as we’re both total vacophobes we thought the Fujimi canopy was the safer option.   After many months of muttering, John finally got organised, made a suitable mould & ran off a few copies of an Esci radome in glassfibre resin, so now we were ready to start. 

The main problem with the Matchbox canopies is that the frames are moulded as part of the fuselage & the clear parts are just the clear portions, but with spurious framework round the edges, so the first job was to remove the frames from the fuselage to open up the cockpits to the proper size.  I then dealt with the cockpit bath, adding a little detail in the form of a pair of Modeldecal panel decals, a scratchbuilt rear coaming & a stick of indeterminate origin that John found in one of his spares boxes.  The fuselage was then assembled, adding a couple of plasticard shims to the upper nose joint, widening it to fit the new radome, which was fitted with gap-filling superglue prior to a session of filing to smooth it into the fuselage.  The rest of the airframe went together without problem & a few sessions of sanding, rubbing down & Halfords automotive primer readied it for paint & also reduced the panel lines to more sensible proportions, the only other mod being to fill & sand the window in the port side of the canopy arch & scratchbuild the back-seater’s periscope from a disc of plasticard & an offcut of Contrail rod. 

Painting started with a few assorted shades of Alclad round the rear fuselage & stabs, which was then masked & Air Defence Grey scheme applied using Humbrol enamels.  A few coats of clear gloss & we were ready for decals.

The aircraft I chose to model was a 111 Squadron aircraft , which had been “zapped” by 43 Squadron, their neighbours at RAF Leuchars, who had painted a giant blue chicken on the fin.  The zaps were from a Modeldecal sheet , with the rest a mix of Modeldecal &  Xtradecal.  All went on well & were sealed with another coat of gloss. 

Once the aircraft had been decaled, I started on all the detail parts, using the landing gear & ejection seats from the Aeroclub set, the gear doors, Sparrows & wing tanks from the kit, with the tank pylons filed & sanded to a more aerodynamic shape, the same also being done with the inner pylons, which then had Sidewinder rails added from an Italeri F104 & Sidewinders from a Hasegawa weapons set.  Finally, the distinctly poor gunpod was replaced by a Fujimi  spare. 

Having fitted all the various detail parts, we gave the model a final flat coat,  then John razor-sawed the Fujimi canopy into pieces for me, I painted, matt coated  & fixed in place the 3 sections, filled the starboard side canopy arch window with Krystal Kleer & the job was finished.   

Whilst the kit will never be as good as the Fujimi ones, I think that the few simple alterations transform the appearance quite considerably & I’m very pleased with the finished product.  As an illustration of the differences, I’ve included a comparative photo of the finished model with an unmodified Matchbox kit nose. 

Catherine

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Photos and text © by Catherine Vickers 

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