Having grown up and cut my
"modeling teeth" during the Vietnam War, I have an affinity for
the planes used during that time. So, when Trumpeter released their
A-7D model, it went straight to the top of my "things to do"
list. While the kit suffers from the inaccuracies and ambiguities that
Trumpeter is so infamous for, with a little work, it does build up into a
very impressive kit.
Being a modeler who has no idea
what "out of the box" means, I wasted little time researching what
was available for aftermarket kits. For the cockpit, I chose the Aires
set over the Avionix/Black Box offering, as my previous experiences with Black
Box sets have been somewhat mixed. This was my first time using an Aires
set, and it did not disappoint. Clean, crisply cast resin
parts, accentuated with photo-etched details, made this set a pleasure to
work with. The instructions were a little unclear in spots, but it
wasn't anything that would pose a problem for an experienced modeler.
In addition to their cockpit set,
I used the Aires avionics bays and wheel wells. Like the cockpit set,
these were exquisitely cast and easy to assemble. The avionics bays are
a must, but if I had to do it all over again, I would seriously reconsider
whether or not to use the wheel wells. It's not that I have a
problem with their quality or ease of assembly; they simply cannot be seen
very much once the airplane is complete. With a price of over $50 U.S.,
I have a hard time justifying the cost.
The last (and certainly not the
least!) of the aftermarket sets I used was the Zactomodels Correction Kit and
Seamless Intake. This set corrects the canopy and intake shape issues
suffered by the Trumpeter A-7 kits, and I cannot recommend the Zactomodel set
more highly. The instructions are clear and easy to follow, and the
set includes resin replacement parts for the nose cone, air intake,
intake lip, compressor face, and canopy frames. There is a vacuformed
replacement canopy and windscreen, and photo-etched canopy handles and rear
view mirrors are also included. This is the first time I worked with
anything vacuformed since I built a Graf Zeppelin back when I was about 11
(and it came out horrible!), so I was a little nervous. However, it was
a breeze to install, and the results are outstanding (even for me!).
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The model kit
itself was consistent with the other Trumpeter subjects
that I have built in the past. When you first open the box, you
are immediately impressed with the amount of sprues and parts inside.
However, once you start assembly, there are invariably a
few things that leave you scratching your head.
The misshapen nose, intake, and
canopy cross section are rectified with the Zactomodel set, and other
than that, the basic kit (not including the armament) does not have any
other real shape issues. The parts are nicely molded with
recessed panel lines and rivets, and the control surfaces are molded as
separate parts so that they can be assembled in the extended or retracted
position. However, the instructions don't explain this option;
they only show assembling them in the retracted position.
Additionally, the leading edge flaps don't have any pins or slots to
position them extended. The builder will have to eyeball
their position if he/she wants them extended, and the excess plastic
that is molded on the leading edge of the wings will need to be
trimmed back significantly. The seam at the front edge of the
underside of the main trailing edge flaps has a gap about 1/16" wide
which requires filling. Care needs to be taken with the join of the
fuselage halves at the rear of the fuselage where the engine exhaust
is housed. The plastic is very thin, making the join very weak and
prone to breaking (and re-breaking). Additionally, the pins holding
the armament pylons and horizontal stabilizers in place are very small
and subsequently quite fragile. The same can be said for the wing
tips if they are assembled in the folded position. There's not much
holding them in place, and I knocked one off towards the end.
The air brake can be
assembled in either the open or closed position. However, since
the air brake cannot be displayed open with the landing gear down, and the
landing gear can only be assembled in the down position, you don't have
much of an option! I found a few reference photos showing a parked
aircraft with the air brake slightly open, and I ended up assembling
it in this position. I had a few issues with the fit of the
fuselage halves along the bottom join between the main gear bays, but
that could be attributed to the fuselage being jam packed with resin
Other than the aftermarket
sets, the only real modification that I made to the model was opening the
gun gas purge door on the lower port fuselage. The door itself is a
separate part, so I cut the hole in the fuselage, scratch built some
interior detail inside the door and fuselage, and glued the door in the
open position. I did not use the Pave Penny parts for under the
nose, as I don't believe that this was used during Vietnam. I also
removed the two ECM bumps on either side of the intake lip, as
my Vietnam reference photos did not show these either.
The kit comes with an FOD
cover for what I believe is the angle of attack indicator located on the
port fuselage below the canopy. However, there are no provisions to
build the kit without the cover. If you don't want to use it, you
will need to fill the two rather large holes that house the cover,
then scratch build the indicator. One nice bonus is that the kit
also includes a set of wing fold braces in the event you decide to build
the model with the wings folded.
The airplane was airbrushed
freehand using Model Master enamels, and the only color I modified
was the medium green. I added some insignia yellow and Testors
green to brighten it up a little, which helps contrast it
against the dark green. After the paint was allowed to dry for
3 full days to ensure that it had cured, I gave the model a gloss coat of
Future to prepare for the decals.
I bought a set of Icarus
A-7E Stencils to compliment the kit decals. The stencils are
gorgeous and crisply printed, and they add a significant amount of detail
to the finished model, particularly on the weapons pylons. The
decals were sealed with a light coat of Future, and then a black wash was
applied to highlight the panel lines. I also used pastels for the
first time to weather the model, and a coat of Testors Dullcote was
applied to finish things up.
The kit comes with
an abundance of ordinance options, some appropriate for this aircraft, and some
not. However, I won't address this subject, as it is well documented
elsewhere. I chose to build my kit with a loadout that I thought was
consistent with a Vietnam mission. The twelve Mk 82's, two
MER's, and two TER's were taken from a Tamiya F-4EJ kit, as
the shape of the Mk 82 bombs that are supplied with the A-7 kit is not
quite right. The Mk 82's were detailed with an Eduard F-4 Armament
photo-etch set, and I added fuse wires that were made from thin electrical
wire. The four Mk 20 cluster bombs on the TER's were taken from a
Tamiya F-15E kit. The shape of the kit's external fuel tanks is completely
wrong, so these were replaced with a set taken from a Hasegawa A-4 Skyhawk.
Lastly, the kit's Sidewinder rails are completely inaccurate, so a set was
taken from the F-4EJ. The RBF tags were left over from the Tamiya F-15E.
I posted an online
build of this model on the ARC forums, and I wish to thank all who replied to
the post. Your encouragement and advice is much appreciated! The
link to the post is http://www.arcforums.com/forums/air/index.php?showtopic=137030,
and it has many in-progress photos that show some of the work that cannot
be seen on the photos in this article.
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