In its day, the F-104 flew for more than a dozen countries.
Italeri's 1/32 scale F-104 is, to my knowledge, just the second release in this scale (the first, which I also built, was from Hasegawa in the 1970s).
The first thing I noticed when I opened the box was the over-scale engraved panel lines. The moldings themselves were OK, though some (such as the landing gear) were a little clunky and needed quite a lot of cleanup. Then there were the ejector-pin marks: Most were hidden after assembly, but some were still visible inside the gear doors, on the cockpit’s walls, inside the tail section, and inside nearly every door or cover.
OK, now for the positives: You get two gorgeous sheets of decals with markings for 10 aircraft: five Italian plus one each for German, Canadian, Greek, Belgian, and Dutch aircraft. I chose the Canadian markings because I like natural metal; the others wear camouflage except for the gray Dutch jet. The second sheet of decals is mostly stencils for the plane, weapons, and fuel tanks. If you like stencils, this one’s got ’em!
You also get four fuel tanks; two sets of wingtips and two wing pylons (the configuration I chose); two AIM-9L Sidewinders; 2 AIM-9B Sidewinders; and two Sparrow missiles. All come with appropriate rails and pylons with all the stencils.
Two different ejection seats, a Martin-Baker and a Lockheed, come with appropriate photoetched-metal seat belts. Make sure you use the correct seat for the aircraft you choose. The cockpit offers the option of an instrument panel with molded relief, which is pretty nice, or a photoetched-metal instrument panel. (Same options for the side consoles.) But you will have to sand the detail off the kit’s instrument panel; the panel decals are fitted to the photoetched-metal panel. The reference booklet that comes with the kit is handy for cockpit and engine details.
The engine looks pretty complete for having only 15 pieces. It comes with two exhaust nozzles for the J-79 engine, the early 24-petal nozzle and later 16-petal nozzle. Again, know which version you are modeling. I used the color photo on Page 22 of the reference booklet for a painting reference.
The kit comes with a separate tail section, so you can display the engine and tail section on kit-supplied dollies, display the engine in place in the fuselage, or just button everything up.
Steps 1-10 deal with the cockpit and various options like the ejection seats, molded instrument panels and side consoles, and photoetched-metal options. The ejection-seat rails (parts 27C and 28C) have little tabs on the back that need to be trimmed off to fit properly to the rear bulkhead. Instructions call for the rails and rear bulkhead to be painted red, but they should be dark gull gray.
Step 11 deals with the landing gear and the engine-intake trunking. Flash and molding ridges on the main landing-gear struts (Part 20B) require a lot of cleanup. You also need to deepen the locator holes to accommodate parts B19A and B19B (gear linkage). Once everything is cleaned up, the whole assembly goes together nicely.
The fuselage halves come together with the option of mounting the engine in the fuselage or leaving it out for display (which I did). Before joining the fuselage halves, be sure to drill appropriate holes for rocket rails or strakes for your particular version. Don’t forget the formation lights.
In Step 17, Part 9C needs some blending once it’s glued in place — no filler, just some leveling. In Step 20, you can pose the avionics bay open or closed. If you want it open, leave parts 55C and 56C off until the end of assembly and painting. The same goes for the Gatling gun.
Steps 21 and 22 present two choices for the intakes. Again, know your version. In Step 23, you have the option of installing the speed brakes opened or closed. I closed them, but I should have posed them open because the fit was kind of sloppy. The leading-edge slats and landing flaps on the wings can be positioned up or down.
As the tail section comes together — and I’m getting tired of saying this — be sure of your construction options for alternate parts. If you pose the model with the tail section off, you’ll have to use photoetched-metal parts 11 and 12 (bulkheads for the rear of the fuselage and the tail section).
In the main gear bay, choices include wide or narrow wheels (regular or bulged) and gear doors that can be posed open or closed. Steps 32 and 33 offer a choice of ventral fins, strakes or no strakes, and a choice between the 16- or 24-petal exhaust nozzle.
The rest of the assembly deals with weapons, fuel tanks, pylons, and rails. There’s a boarding ladder that I didn’t get around to putting together, but you’ll get one, too.
The decals were great and went down perfectly.
The kit has a few minor discrepancies, but nothing serious. It took me about 27 hours to complete — not bad! It was a fairly easy build after dealing with cleaning up the parts, and I can recommend it to intermediate modelers who have built a few kits. Just remember that there are lots of options for all the different versions. Study the instructions, decide which version you want to build, and choose the appropriate parts. Then go to it!
Note: A version of this review appeared in the July 2014 FineScale Modeler.