Phabulous Shamrock Phantoms: 1/48th ESCI F-4J Phantom II
Updated: Oct 7, 2021
The old ESCI/ERTL Phantoms do have some nice qualities about them, nicely scribed surface details and a correct shape however the cockpit is a comparative disaster with poorly fitting panels, decals for instruments (which aren't even correct) and ejection seats that don't come close to the real thing.
Notable Kit Features:
Proportionately scaled exterior dimensions and shape
Nicely scribed surface details
Poorly fitting cockpit with fictitious decals for instruments
Horrible ejection seats (buy replacements or build your own)
Nice glass fit is OK but not good
Exhausts are only OK (if you have spare - use them)
Sidewinders are questionable
I picked up the Fox One USMC Phantoms in S.E. Asia (Pt.2) decals (decades ago) that included the VMFA-333 Shamrocks MiG Killer. Maj. Lee "Bear" Lasseter & Capt. "Lil John" Cummings would represent the only all Marine crew to claim a MiG kill during the Vietnam war. Even better, this aircraft was adorned with a colourful tail stripe bearing the squadron emblems. The project kept getting put off for one reason or another until its turn finally came up. This build result remains one of my favourites in my collection of aircraft and has a prominent space in the display cabinets. I built this one in the 200th completed kit slot as my 100th kit was also slotted as a Phantom II, so I figured to continue that tradition. Hmmm, maybe I should start planning for which Phantom should take the slot for #300 :)
There is an audio recording available at the below VMFA-333 website, which documents this dogfight between VMFA-333 F-4s and North Vietnam MIG-21 fighters. It offers a rare Vietnam War air to air combat perspective. The audio has been transcribed giving the viewer an ability to follow along the pace of the battle.
VMFA-333 Association - Mig Kill Bear and Lil'John
You will need to do some work in the cockpit to have the panels meet the fuselage sides at least (or replace the whole thing) The rear cockpit is incorrect for a Navy Phantom (it should have sidewalls and not consoles)
The ejection seats need to be replaced as they aren't even close
There were some seams that needed filler along the spine and nose
There is a gap in the wing to fuselage join which has to be filled (preferably with some .020 sheet styrene)
Kit Additions / Modifications:
Replaced ejection seats with Wolfpack Martin Bakers
Third-party "USMC Phantoms in S.E. Asia" decals from Fox One (48-006)
Recommendation on this kit is a toss-up, hard to recommend due to its deficiencies but with a replacement cockpit and maybe exhausts (which some modelers seem to buy for kits anyway) you can make a good replica with this base. Having said that there are better options out there nowadays. In a more expensive price bracket, but far better are the Zoukei Mura, Academy and Hasegawa F-4Js. Note: Italeri rereleased this ERTL/ESCI series with some rework to the molds in the mid-2000 improving but not fixing all of the deficiencies however I have not built his iteration, so cannot comment on it as yet.
Completed build #200 - December 2016 using the 1/48th scale ESCI #4034 kit.
Feel free to comment or ask any questions - Keep on building what you want, how you want - Cheers