I had been promising to build an F-104 for my father, a retired aerospace engineer, but could never get the proper motivation to build the lawn dart. About two weeks from his birthday I decided that I would finally dig into Hasegawa’s oft-lauded 1/48 F-104c and do a simple canopy closed type build for him as a gift. Three weeks later, only a week after his birthday, he had a reasonable representation of an interesting aircraft for his collection.
Like I’ve often stated, most online reviews are hyperbolic, either drastically over or under reacting to the quality of a kit. The reviews of Hasegawa’s Starfighter are no different. I have read that it was one of the best kits, ever. It apparently would fall together with no issue, even under the intense magnification that points out all flaws that appear under a natural metal finish. It isn’t that, exactly, but it’s not bad, at all. In fact, it’s a quite good and enjoyable kit, with a few flaws that can be addressed with minimal effort and skill.
The cockpit is quite simple and Hasegawa provides decals for the instrument panels. These don’t actually match the contours of the side panels, but look convincing enough with some Solvaset. The ejection seat is wholly too over-simplified and I opted for the Quickboost seat instead. Some paint and a wash, and the seat is a stunning and visible addition to the kit.
The fuselage and wheels bays go together very well. The first problem comes from the intakes. Try as I might, the intakes had a minor step that would require some shaping and re-scribing to deal with. There is some detail that I obliterated and could not reproduce quickly, but luckily a great deal of that will later fall under the Star and Bar decals and won’t be noticeable. Another issue is the turtle deck insert that also had an unavoidable step between it and the fuselage. This also took sanding and filling, and some minor detail obliteration, but ended up reasonably well.
The wings come with position-able slats, ailerons, and flaps. One of my wings came with a broken wing tip pylon that required acquisition of replacement parts and explains most of the week long delay. Once assembled, however, they fit perfectly and can be left off until after paint, without any fear of needing to fill and sand. The wing tip tanks also fit perfectly onto the wing and are almost snug enough to not require any glue. Almost.
Once assembled, primed, masked, and slightly polished, I decided to use Tamiya’s AS-12 silver spray right from the can as a base. This is an exceptional product. It goes down wonderfully, dries quickly, and appears to be exceptionally durable. On top of that, I masked off several individual panels around the exhaust to attempt to reproduce the multi-colored hues of my reference photographs and sprayed multiple colors of Alclad in different locations (aluminum, dark aluminum, white aluminum, anodized aluminum, steel, and burnt iron). The effect is convincing enough for me.
Now I was ready for markings. The worst part of this kit were the decals. I don’t know if it was simply a matter of them being almost 15 years old, but they were thick and resisted both Solvaset and Microset. The curved markings for the nose band and the shock cones in the intake were terrible. The nose band was so bad that I decided to simply mask and paint that instead of risking an issue with such a visible part of the aircraft. At this point I decided to abandon the stock Starfighter used on the box art and found a line 104 from the same unit that wouldn’t require the garish stripes on the back of the fuselage or on the nose.
One of the final steps was to button up the canopy. I should have mentioned earlier that the canopy left about a 1/32″ gap between it and the glass covering the turtle deck making it unusable in the closed position. Instead I posed it open and used Eduard’s PE for the canopy rails. And, that makes me even more thankful for the Quickboost seat.
I finished it up with the prominent pitot tube from MasterModel, put in the resin intake covers with Eduard “remove before flight tags”, the various other probes, and called it finished. This was a quick and an enjoyable build of an historically important aircraft, and a perfect gift for a retired aerospace engineer.
And this reminds me of my favorite joke about the Starfighter, at least as it pertains to its initial troubled service with the Luftwaffe.
Q: How does one go about getting a Starfighter?
A: Buy a couple acres and wait.