16 December 2014

FJ-1 Fury – Valom Model Kit Review

1. Introduction
Aircraft: North American FJ-1 Fury
Model kit manufacturer / country: Valom / Czech Republic
Scale: 1:72
Catalogue number: 72075
Release time: February 2014

Basic information on the FJ-1 Fury is available in Wikipedia (link) and will not be repeated here. For more detailed information on the aircraft see books [1], [2] and [3] listed below in the "Reference Data" section.

2. Kit
2.1. Box
The box is rather large (32 x 20 x 3.5 cm), sturdy and top-opening. Plastic, resin and photoetched parts are packaged in separate zip-lock plastic bags. The boxart is passable, but the artist's rendition of flight deck tractors has nothing to do with reality. The black band around the Fury's intake is, too, the product of the artist's imagination (see [5] in the "Reference Data" section).

2.2. Instruction
Instruction is printed in on three A4 sheets, one in color and two in black & white. Guidance on both building and painting is clear and detailed. A useful table is provided that lists model paint numbers and corresponding FS codes.

2.3. Plastic Parts
The kit contains one frame of light grey plastic parts. The molding quality is excellent: the surface is smooth with thin panel lines and exceptionally fine rivet imitation.

Overall, the accuracy of parts is very good. A claim (voiced on certain Internet forum) that the fuselage is too fat (too barrel-shaped) is, I believe, baseless, as can bee seen from my rough comparison of respective kit part and historic photograph. There are two minor issues, though:
1) Fuselage tail cone of the Valom kit is not accurate: it is ~2mm too short (refer to attached photo comparison; in scale the fuselage must be 145.7mm long whereas the kit part is 143.5mm long).
2) Air brake panels on the kit are placed ~1mm too low (refer to attached photo comparison).

In terms of detail the kit is very respectable and provides for a well detailed cockpit, landing gear, wheel wells, intake and exhaust. Resin and photoetched parts will be covered in the next sections (see 2.5 and 2.6), but here I will particularly mention good detail on landing gear doors and separately molded air inlet and exhaust center bodies.

There are some complications that, I presume, arise from the short-run technology employed by Valom; namely:
 - The proposed way to attach wing and horizontal stabilizer parts to fuselage is very inconvenient: neither pins nor slots of any kind are provided. If you follow the instruction, the resulting joint will be extremely fragile. It would be advisable to devise and install some spars, preferably metal ones.
 - Exhaust pipe is supposed to be assembled from two parts (two half-cylinders), complicating the task of removing the seam line on the inside.
 - A number of small scoop-style air intakes, although accurate in terms of their placement, do not have any depth on the Valom's fuselage. You are on your own here.
 - Signal light triplet (red, green, amber) on the lower aft fuselage is missing on the kit. These lights should be exactly where the seam between the two fuselage halves runs. Thus this is, again, a task for your scratch-building skills.

2.4. Clear Parts
Clear parts are provided to build the canopy in either open or closed position; thus, very generously, we are given two canopy sets. The transparency of plastic is excellent and the shape is accurate. Tiny transparent parts are also included to make covers for navigation lights installed in the FJ-1's drop tanks, as well as for the tail position light. Unfortunately, there are no clear parts to imitate wingtip navigation lights (which are visible when the tanks are not installed) and the landing light in air intake's lower lip.

2.5. Resin Items
A number of resin items are included; these are as follows:
1) Main wheel wells and nose wheel well – all having very good and accurate detail, considering the scale.
2) Seamless intake channel – a most welcome part, and sadly absent in many other good kits.
3) Main wheels – crisply molded but, unfortunately, lacking tread pattern and fine "ribbed" detail along the rim.
4) A number of tiny miscellaneous parts – gear leg struts, wheel brake calipers, pitot tube and a couple of small fairings.

2.6. Photoetched Items
A small set of photoetched parts comes with the kit. The quality of etching is excellent and you get all the most needed parts. Good dashboard and spoked front wheel are especially worth mentioning. A film with finely printed dials accompanies the photoetched dashboard.
Two minor notes, though: firstly, do not use part # MP14, as no photograph of VF-5A FJ-1 confirms its existence; secondly, part # MP15 is supposed to imitate a fuel dump tube, therefore you might want to replace it with something tubular in cross-section.

3. Decal
There are two decal options provided:
A) U.S. Navy. BuNo 120359 / S114. VF-5A, USS Boxer (CV-21), 1948. Pilot - LT J.Ritchie.
B) U.S. Navy. BuNo 120350 / S101. VF-5A, USS Boxer (CV-21), 1948. Pilot – CDR Pete Aurand, squadron CO.

Unfortunately, as it is often the case with out of the box decals, there are inaccuracies.

Variant A:
1) The unit code letter "S" on the decal is nor accurate. Firstly, it's size is too large for use on the aircraft's wing. On a real S114 the wing's "S" takes exactly 50% of the chord, therefore, it should be 11mm scalewise. The "S" on the vertical stabilizer is as tall as 51% of the rudder, therefore it should be 12.75mm tall in the scale. On the decal, all four "S" letters are exactly the same size and are 13mm tall. Secondly, on VF-5A Furies the "S" codes on the wing and the vertical stabilizer have different proportions. The proportion between the thickness of white horizontal bar and the height of the empty space inside the S's bend on a real S114 is 1:2.35 for the "S" on vertical stabilizer and 1:1.35 for the "S" on upper wing; it is, however, 1:2.2 for all four "S" letters on the decal.
2) Representation of figure "4" in modex "114" is not accurate on the decal: the "tail" should be more pronounced.
3) The font used to represent pilot names on the decal is wrong. In reality it is much more elaborate. However, given the scale, thin gold letters with thin black borders would not be easy to print.

Variant B:
4) Digits in modex "101" have incorrect proportions on the decal: they are too tall (this is evident when one looks closely at the "0").
5) I cannot locate any proof that the "VF Design Desk" legend has been carried by an operational FJ-1 belonging to VF-5A / VF-51. There is a photograph that shows both Cdr Aurand and this legend, but little else of the aircraft can be seen; definitely not enough to be certain that it is indeed BuNo 120350 / S101.

4. Alternatives & Aftermarket
Alternative FJ-1 model kits in the 1:72 scale are all very elderly and long out of production: RarePlane (# unknown; vacuform), Rarejets (# unknown; vacuform), Pegasus (# 3007; plastic), Siga (# 72012; plastic).

The appearance of the Valom's modern kit have brought us some new FJ-1 aftermarket as well, namely (as of December 2014):
1) Vacu-formed canopy from Tasman Model Products (# TA203).
2) Small photoetched set from RES-IM / Eduard (# 72032) that includes pre-painted cockpit details.

5. Conclusion
 - Good overall accuracy.
 - Good out-of-the box detail, including cockpit, landing gear, wheel wells and air intake channel.
 - Smooth surface, very fine panel and rivet lines.
 - Excellent molding quality.
 - Photoetched and resin parts included.
 - Very fair price (E16 in early 2014 at Martola.pl).
 - Some minor accuracy issues, namely: fuselage tail cone ~2mm too short; air brakes placed ~1mm too low; less than satisfactory detail on main wheels.
 - Inaccurate decal.
 - Inconvenient attachment of wing and horizontal stabilizer to fuselage.
 - Lack of clear parts to imitate wingtip navigation lights and landing light.

All in all, I believe the Valom's offer to be the best FJ-1 kit that exists today in terms of accuracy and detail.

6. Reference Data
[1] North American FJ-1 Fury | Naval Fighters Series # 7 | Ginter Books, 1983
[2] FJ Fury | In Detail & Scale Series # 68 | Squadron/Signal Publications, 2003
[3] FJ Fury in Action | Aircraft in Action Series # 103 | Squadron/Signal Publications, 1990
[4] An excellent photo walk-around: link
[5] A collection of fabulous historic photographs of VF-5A FJ-1s: link
[6] Some useful notes by Tommy H. Thomason: link