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Academy 1/72 scale F-8E Crusader "U.S. Marines"

Kit: No. 1615
Scale: 1/72
Manufacturer: Academy, imported by Model Rectifier Corp., 80 Newfield Ave., P.O. Box 6312, Edison, NJ 08837, 732-225-2100, www.modelrectifier.com
Price: $22
Comments: Injection-molded, 111 parts, decals
Pros: Accurate shapes, fine recessed panel lines, excellent detail in wheel bays, excellent fit, provision for raised wing, good selection of weapons, beautifully printed decals
Cons: Flaps molded in raised position, canopy must be modified to pose open, no harness on seat, stiff decals
Academy's new Crusader is a welcome arrival. Its accurate shapes and beautiful recessed panels are nearly a modeler's dream come true. Notice I said "nearly" - well, no kit is perfect.

Overall, the kit is excellent, with main gear wells that have more detail in them than most 1/48 scale kits. You'll also find a good cockpit and seat (but no harness), a separate speed brake with a detailed well, properly handed Y pylons for the fuselage sides, Sidewinder missiles, and, for the first time in this scale, twin Zuni rocket launchers. Also provided to make a U.S. Marines version are wing pylons with multiple ejector racks and Mk. 82 Snakeye bombs.

The level of detail and the parts breakdown is similar to the 1/48 Hasegawa kit. Academy provides underwing detail in the top of the fuselage, which is visible because the variable-incidence wing can be posed in the raised position. And therein lies the rub. When the Crusader wing is raised for take-off and landings, the leading- and trailing-edge flaps lower automatically. Academy molded the leading-edge flaps separately (because a different flap will be provided in J and FN versions), but there is no provision to attach them in the lowered position. The trailing-edge flaps are molded raised with the wing.

Since I think the Crusader looks cool with the wing raised, I opted to cut the trailing-edge flaps free and modify them to go in the lowered position.

The best thing about the kit is the fit, but to enjoy that benefit, I suggest you install the cockpit, long intake trunk, speed brake well, main-gear well, and tailhook compartment with slow setting glue so you can center everything as you close the fuselage. I had installed these items in the right fuselage half without dry-fitting the left half, so when I closed the fuselage, the bays were off center. Don't forget to poke through the flashed-over holes to mount the missile pylons, ventral fins, and afterburner cooling scoops.

I had to shave away a little of the inboard edges of the dropped trailing-edge flaps to get the wing to sit right. I left out the odd strut that holds the rear of the raised wing; it can't be seen anyway. The windscreen fit fine, but the canopy was a little wider than the fuselage. Even though it is molded separately, the canopy can't be installed open without some modification. The landing gear mounted sturdily in the detailed bays, but the bay doors cling tenuously to the bay edges without positive attachment devices.

Beautiful decals are provided for two U.S. Marines units: VMF-232 and VMF-333. Academy provides a decal for the yellow-edged black windscreen framing - a nice touch - but the frames around the center panel don't match the lines in the windscreen. My sample's decals were opaque but stiff, and none of my decal solvents seemed to have much effect.

But boy, the finished model sure looks right. I spent 23 hours on mine. It appears from the parts breakdown that later versions are to come, and I hope Academy considers modifying them for earlier types and maybe a recce version. Please?

- Paul Boyer

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