1/32 Trumpeter A-7D Corsair II

by John McCormick

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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 parts.   

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. 

John

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Photos and text by John McCormick