Editor's note: Dragon Models USA is the Fine Molds Models Importer in the USofA but this review author provided his own kit, out of pocket, for this review. The kit is currently very difficult to find on the retail market.
- Superbly engineered kit, very little filling or correcting will be needed.
- Best kit of this subject ever released.
- Expensive, now increasingly hard to acquire. (I apologise for teasing you with the review)
- Instructions in Japanese (note: may not actually be a con if you *are* Japanese)
A pricy kit but you get what you pay for in this case. Given the cost and the fact that viable alternatives are around, this not for a casual SW fan or model builder. Instead, this kit is for somebody who wants to do a really nice job on a Y-Wing fighter with a maximum of detail and a minimum of grief.
Although I’ve done one or two sci-fi kits in the past I’ve never really identified as a sci-fi modeller until recently. Ushering me into this new territory were word of mouth reports on the quality of Fine Molds Star Wars kits. I’d noticed that they were the only mainstream kits from the SW universe actually made to a published scale, for example. Given all that—and seeing some of the work done by others I was finally drawn to whatever side of the Force Fine Molds inhabits.
Acquiring a copy of a Fine Molds kit is NOT cheap...as of this writing they’re still available in numbers, but often at angry mob, pitchfork and torch riot inducing prices. A copy of FM’s Tie interceptor (same scale, roughly the same MSRP as the Y-wing) is presently at my LHS for about $60 with torn plastic, and a damaged box. Hobby Link Japan seems to have the best overall prices for my (Canadian) money and shipping. Not knowing this at the time, I ended up buying my kit from EBay, which with shipping came to about $50...*sigh*.
Right off the bat, let me apologise for no having any in-box or in-progress pictures, but I didn’t decide to write this review until long after the build was finished. In any case, its contents are well documented elsewhere (see “other reviews”, below), and most of what I’d provide would be redundant. Anyway, what you get is 4 light grey spurs in two bags with one sprue of clear parts, a splendid full colour glossy sheet for a painting guide with three options, each from the original (“Episode IV”) Star Wars film, an A4 sized booklet with 20 step instructions.
Speaking of instructions, most of those provided in this kit are in Japanese—a severe oversight for such an otherwise top-notch kit, and apparently a normal thing for FM. Much of the problem is mitigated by the liberal use of pictorial content and the fact that most modellers will have plenty of experience with such kits. I managed to get through pretty well with a minimum of fuss, but if you’re desperate Hobby Link Japan provides English translations of the X-Wing fighter instructions which may prove insightful. What’s not translated there is the large block of text in the cover and first inside page - the one with the A-wing and B-wing fighters. The one that excited me with the possibility of some funky new kits in the future, however unlikely that could be.
Anyway, onto the build....
In keeping with tradition since time immemorial, constructions begin with the cockpit. Detail here is fairly standard for a 1/72 scale kit, featuring a tub with enough detail to satisfy most people, but never enough to do it for the true rivet counter. A pilot figure is included, along with appropriate helmet decals for each of the three craft you can model. I took some liberty here, replicating the big ‘bubble’ lights I saw in the film with dabs of Krystal Klear under lots of red and yellow painted dots. Oh and there’s a decal for the front control panel. I was a bit unclear on its orientation, so like a normal person I decided not to fret over it and just stuck it on any old way. It’s practically invisible once completed, anyway.
Main subassemblies are fairly straightforward. One is the fighter’s ‘head’, the other it’s Y shaped body. Each has a series of do-dads and gizmos to attach, especially the body, which seems to have more bits of individual pipe to attach than are to be found in many simpler SW kits (30+). The use of Tenax 7R with a Touch-n-flow applicator tool proved handy here and is highly recommended. When attaching the engine pod spars take note: on each nacelle one spar is keyed to a particular point on both the body side and to the round fixture on the end with the vanes. The other three can go just anywhere.
The head’s exterior should go together well, and did so without need for filler anywhere in my case. I did make a small error by misaligning one of the laser cannons (the gun barrels in the front—the ones on top are ion cannons). This was fixed with the persuasion of a toothpick shim.
When it came time to mate these two major pieces I was pleasantly surprised at how the zillion or so tubes from the body mated perfectly with the back of the head. Build carefully and hopefully this’ll be the case for you, too.
One last concern bothered me, and I consulted the forum at Fine Scale Modeler Magazine’s website about this. The canopy consists of two pieces: an opaque ‘top piece’ and a separate clear part underneath that bonds at the roof. This allows you to re-create the windowless studio models used in the film if you wish. Unfortunately I glued these two parts together (with Krystal Klear) first, and was worried that gluing the opaque portion to the head might create fumes that crazed the clear portion. Fortunately this didn’t happen, presumably due to the precautionary measures of a Future dip, using small amounts of glue and blowing liberally on the joints once found to clear fumes away quickly. Masking proved easier than normal for an aircraft given the nice big, clear demarcation between cockpit spars and windows.
One final note: when handling the assembled kit, be sure to grab it only at points where your carefully emplaced pipes won’t be squeezed or damaged. I had a couple of minor annoying breaks due to handling that could have been avoided.
Three options for markings are provided, one for each of the three of the three “gold” squadron fighters in the first SW movie. I decided upon Gold Leader since it seemed to have the nicest looking decals, even if the blue stripes seem to show up a little more than from what I’ve seen of studio models.
After canopy masking the model was primed in Krylon grey from a big spray can (4 bucks for that, versus 11 for a much smaller can of Tamiya primer). From there I did a base coat of Model Master Acrylic Camo Grey, this hue being the one I’ve seen prescribed for Rebel Alliance craft. I must say it turned out well.
This kit provided me with a first opportunity to try so-called “salt weathering” or the “salt technique”, a means of creating artificial chips in paint. After my base coat of grey, I covered some patches in an off-black shade and others in tan. I wet these areas with a brush and used said tool to apply grains of salt as a mask. When the water dried out I painted a second coat of Camo Grey and brushed off the salt. Supposedly one is meant to be left with nice sharp little squarish bits of exposed paint underneath, simulating sharp chips from wear and tear. When I repealed the salt, though, what I got were soft little rounded freckles of black and tan, not the sharp chips I’d anticipated. I’ll have to try again another day; in the meantime I left the freckles be, since they were presentable if not desired. Black decals meant to simulate paint chipping are provided, but I avoided them like the plague, since in every model I’ve seen that used them they look fake. Thanks for at least trying, FM.
One other mistake I made in this phase was missing out on a prominent painting instruction. The opaque top of the canopy must be painted a blue to match the decals, but I’d assumed (given the vast decal sheet) that a decal would be filling this role, not paint. So my canopy remained Camo Grey; rivet counters will be horrified, but I’m not.
The main part of the decal application process was marred when, after a good coat of Future to prevent silvering, I started with the ship’s underside markings. Whereas the markings for my pilot’s helmet went on nicely, and whereas I’d heard very positive things about FM decals all round, markings started to disintegrate faster than a proton torpedo impacting on the Death Star’s surface. There’s probably a quirky bit of diction to describe the noise I made when this expensive, reputable kit’s markings self-destructed before my eyes, but I don’t know what it is. Suffice to say, I was utterly shocked and proceeded to run around in circles, considering possibilities. Had I heard wrong about FM decals? Maybe it was just a bad decal lot? Did *I* do something wrong?
In order to prevent utter catastrophe, I rushed my decals to the painting booth and covered them liberally in Testors Decal Set, a spray can full of stuff meant to keep such disasters from happening. It makes things harder to work with afterward (you have to cut decals very close because now the entire sheet is basically a single sheet of carrier film), but it can save one’s hide in situations like this. While this dried I considered possibilities and realized something—my water was contaminated from previous sessions use with both the salt for masking, as well as a minute amount of talcum powder for an unrelated project. Changing out the water and proceeding carefully from there I was able to finish things with minimal drama. The decals eventually settled nicely into every nook and crevice with liberal use of Solvaset and Micro Sol.
A coat of future went over my nerve-wrackingly applied decals and I was able to calm myself with various finished. Dry brushing with Vallejo Panzer Aces paints helped subtly demark the ship’s intricate plumbing, while an oil wash (W&N Lamp black in mineral spirits) really helped give the head and some other areas personality. Testors Dullcote made it all look just the perfect sheen of...well...beaten up Rebel Fighters don’t really have a sheen, and that’s what I wanted. Despite all the major flaws I was very pleased, and put it on display with its included stand. Next up will be a scratch built Death Star-ish base to really give it some context and ‘pop’!
It’s refreshing and enjoyable to build a kit where the only meaningful problems are caused by me, not compromised engineering or manufacturing QA. The parts melded extremely well, typically hid seams where they’d otherwise occur, and provided me with a superb level of detail in the end product. As a rebel fighter, and an older one at that, it makes a great opportunity to combine the appeal of an aircraft with the ‘personality’ and weathering inherent to an armour model. Just remember that manifold layers of subtlety in weathering produce a product superior to a single goopy layer of enthusiasm. Use lots of techniques if you like, but use them sparingly.
Is this the kit for you?
Well, the fact is that other SW kits, including the Y-wing, exist, and are by and large cheaper. I’ve not built them but understand them to be perfectly serviceable, even if they tend to be towards the kiddie/snap-tight end of the spectrum. If money is not an object compared to the desire for a mainstream scale, unprecedented detail and high end engineering, then this may be your kit. If all you want is a nice little SW subject in any old scale at with an eye to affordability, perhaps its best to save your money and look elsewhere.