The F-4D was the logical and expected continuation of Zoukei-Mura’s Phantom line. With the first option the F-4J release a little over a year ago, Zoukei-Mura started a new stream of 21st century tooling of the legendary aircraft.
Shortly after F-4J, the S-version followed not long after, with the USAF F-4C came to life.
The F-4D, the newest member of ZM’s Phantom family was in reality an upgraded C-model. It featured new avionics, laser guided weapons capabilities and was produced for about 24 month period. During that time, around 800 pieces were produced, some of which were later converted into Wild Weasel variants and some later on were sold to South Korea and Iran.
According to some sources, Iran still uses locally upgraded F-4Ds up to this date, which is phenomenal for a jet produced in the late 60s. The Phantom is undoubtedly a legend and most importantly, this kit is on its way to becoming one as well.
Zoukei-Mura’s boxes are always theme oriented. The Japanese maker somehow manages to catch the essence of the subject and design the box around it. With the F-4 line, we have a US flag segments, that are wrapping the sides of the box.
On the top, a pair of climbing F-4Ds is drawn, both armed with fuel tanks and missiles. A South-East Asian terrain with cumulus clouds can be seen behind and that’s just about enough for every Phantom fan to fall in love with.
The box is the standard for the ZM Phantoms, not overly thick and in dark blue colors, with luxurious materials and glossy appearance. It is just enough to get your heart pounding and your hand reaching for your wallet.
Instructions, markings and decals
The instruction sheet is black and white in color, which is diverse from what we get in Zoukei-Mura’s 32nd scale kits. It is not a bad thing per se, although it could’ve been done a bit more vivid. It looks somehow sterile, but don’t let that fool you.
Information-wise, this booklet is a state-of-the-art instruction sheet. There is thorough description of all the steps and additional information supporting everything displayed inside. The possible options are referred to with abundance of information and if you are reading carefully, margin for error is minimized to its limits.
There is a lot to be read through while building this kit, but this is useful for the modeler too, since besides giving you the steps dissected, you can learn a lot about the aircraft itself.
Special attention is put on the geometry of the F-4 which is quite specific, with anhedral and dihedral angles, proper placement of the engines and the nozzles too.
In addition to that, few possible options are described, including deflected stabilizers, flaps, landing gear and so on.
So far, Zoukei-Mura’s Phantoms came with only one paint scheme per kit. This time there is an improvement. We have two and both are from the early 1970s. Both are Vietnamese camouflages, standard for the era. The difference is, that one is with black bottom, while the other is with light gray one. It might not seems like much, but in fact they do appear to look quite differently. Besides black belly Phantoms are not as popular, which in my opinion makes this option the preferred one.
Decals that comes for those two options mentioned are made by Cartograf. For fellow modelers long enough in the game that is enough information. However if you still wonder why, well Cartograf are the best company in the World producing decals.
The Phantom features numerous technical markings all over and especially with black belly, decal film has to be thin or else the risk of silvering is huge and thus – the option to ruin one perfectly looking model. Luckily, with that decal maker that option is minimized and we have nothing to worry about.
The decal sheet, as with the previous versions, is about A4 in size. This time though, since the F-4s show modest markings in shape and size – Zoukei-Mura managed to squeeze two options in it.
Of course, the D-version by itself can present numerous other possibilities, but this is an improvement over what we had so far from the Japanese maker.
The plastic parts are made from grey plastic, dark-ish in color. As for the material, from my experience I can assure you that working with it is effortless and pleasant experience. Especially sanding it.
Despite being marketed as a new tooling, this is the same tooling as the J, S and C Phantoms, with added sprue dedicated to the F-4D specifically. That is not an old tooling of course, since the first ZM F-4 came around just about an year ago.
The sprues show consistent detail all over, rivets and panel lines which seems correct, as well as overall clever engineering. From experience I could add that the fit is wonderful too.
The nozzles seems to be a bit thick-ish and the wheels to be lacking some details. Tires especially. Luckily for us, there is resin add-ons for those available.
On the other hand, the cockpit, which is usually the weakest link in most of the kits, alongside with the seats, here are in great shape. In my opinion with few painting tricks, any experienced enough modeler can turn the parts included into a piece of art and the need of aftermarket can be eliminated easily. Just some seatbelts can be added, but price-wise that is a drop in the ocean, especially when the seats and the tub are good enough.
Engines are greatly detailed and it is a tough decision to embed them into the completed aircraft. Luckily they can be left aside and displayed.
There are two canopies – one divided into segments and one-piece canopy. Since some might want to display the Smokey Joe in flight, the second one will help a lot, because quite often alignment of the separate pieces can create some issues.
The separate pieces on the other hand allow for displaying the cockpit in an on-ground display of the model, revealing the details of the cockpit.
In both options, clear parts show superb transparency, good detail with visible lines and accurate riveting. Also, the thickness of the molding is pretty great, considering the scale.
HUD parts are a bit thick for the scale, but those can be easily exchanged for something made from scratch materials and even though not perfect, I don’t believe it is something that is worth mentioning.
Everything, besides the lows described. Best jet in quarter scale. Best Phantom in any scale. Perfect collector’s item, since the J-type is already sold out.
Instructions are black and white only (So what?), thick nozzles, tires are with weak details. Price is a bit on the higher end. Markings are two, but very similar. No photo-etch. Hard to get in some parts of the World. J-type is already sold out.
Overall, I believe that this kit is a slight improvement over the previous F-4s released by Zoukei-Mura. Even though only with a sole new sprue added and two options for markings instead of one, the kit is a further step in the right direction.
Price-wise it is on the higher end, but in my opinion this is not only the best 1/48th scale Phantom, but the best Phantom in any scale and the best 48th scale jet kit out there.
So I believe those small steps are essential. There is no wide range of markings as seen in Eduard’s Limited Edition Academy repacks, nor numerous re-issues of the same plastic with minor differences in various boxes like Hasegawa’s F-4s. Still, this is the Phantom that stands out and it provides with a better option compared to the competition.
F-4E is in the works and hopefully soon enough, we will get to see reconnaissance versions too. That will dethrone Hasegawa’s line and will eliminate all of the Academy’s attempts as a competitor on the Phantom scene. Even though more expensive and hard to find, Zoukei-Mura Phantom is unbeatable. If you are F-4 fan, this kit is mandatory and in all its variants.
A video review of the kit by Mitko can be found here
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