It's always amazing to me the way that modelers will jump into the fray when it comes to after-market add-ons. A passionate builder makes a much-needed part for his own build, then goes into business selling the part(s) to others. It's a bit mad (why would you want to make your avocation your vocation?), but that's sorta the story behind Sierra Hotel
, a newish resin manufacturer fixing, improving or simply converting planes in 1/72nd, quarter and 32-scale.
I have been on a tear lately with the F-4 Phantom II, and ended up purchasing three of the four major Tamiya kits in 1/32nd scale on eBay at an attractive price. I built the Navy F-4J version
as a USMC "mud mover," and am holding on to the Marines kit for an F-4B Navy conversion with a set from GT Resin.
Currently I'm building the F-4E USAF version, but in service to the Israeli Air Force (IDF/AF). Why do things the easy way?
The Tamiya kits are generally good, but a little long-of-the-tooth, and need some work if they're going to be brought up to today's modeling standards. One conspicuous problem area is the intakes: the "suckers" on the Phantom II are seamless, whereas the Tamiya kit ones are not. One solution is to use intake covers so no one can see the insides, but otherwise most builders seem to go for AM seamless resin intakes.
what you get
The Sierra Hotel set includes two white resin intake sub-assemblies, along with two "splitter" plates (technically the "forward ramp") and two turbofan screens that go at the end of the intakes.
also includes a step-by-step guide for cutting the kit fuselage so it will accept the intakes.
These intakes are definitely not for the beginner modeler, as you will need to cut away an extensive section of the front fuselage on both sides (Sierra Hotel provides a detailed diagram for the surgery). If the fuselage is cut properly, the intakes slip right in with a minimum of puttying. The "splitter plates" then attach beneath the lip of the intakes. These are more-detailed than the kit parts and make the SH intakes stand out from the competition. The detailing on the intake vents on the splitter plates blows away the kit parts.
The casting is outstanding and so the fit is unproblematic. Nothing is more annoying than having to fill in extensive gaps or otherwise make a resin part fit properly. SH has done the prep work to make their intakes integral parts of your build, including an alignment lug to aid placement.
And unlike other seamless intakes I have used, the panel lines are correct, along with a corrected diameter CSD dome for the Air Force J-79 engine. And according to SH, "the inner forward wall with aft ramp is blended to the intake, providing correct bypass vent details and inner aft ramp surface corrected, or smooth."
Additionally, the set includes paper templates that can be used to size decal film in cases where color matching is required for planes with painted intakes.
The detailing is quite impressive: I have seen other intakes that ignore a key panel just behind the leading edge of the intake, so clearly Sierra Hotel
has done its homework. The white resin means you don't need a heavy primer coat when painting, especially since a majority of intakes were white or off-white. As pointed out, the splitter plates have more detail than the kit parts and are much thinner, so no sanding is required like with the styrene version.
The interior jet fans and covers are also well-cast, and complete the overall look. The only thing else you would need would be a pair of Sierra Hotel
's burner cans
. Again, these are a cut above the competition because they're complete: everything from where the thrust exits the engine itself to the cans and afterburner. SH not only insists they are the correct diameter (requiring some thinning of the opening is required). Again, unlike the competition, the set not only includes a rounded relief, but the "swirl cone" it fitted through the inner ring.
After-market upgrades aren't for everyone, and these aren't cheap. But a quick glance by a judge at a modeling event into your intakes will reveal whether they are the proper seamless configuration, or the incorrect kit parts with their obvious seams. And for rivet counters like myself, I wouldn't want to build this kit without giving it all the love I can.