If there’s one thing the seemingly perpetual Mobile Suit Gundam franchise is good at, it’s reinventing itself. Since 1979, when the first MS Gundam TV series aired in Japan, there have been numerous re-imaginings, side stories and alternate universes created. In some cases, these spinoffs see the light of day as actual animes, while in other cases, they only exist as manga (comics) or ‘model stories’.
The Universal Century side story “Gundam F-90” is one of the latter. It was never made into an anime, but it does exist as a manga. As such, it is surprising that there are any kits at all made from this series. However, there are four models in the F-90 series, although that number is a bit misleading; three of the kits are the same core just with different weapons sets! Only one, the F-90 IIL, is different from the others.
One of the main ideas behind the F-90 series was that there would be a multi-purpose Gundam that could perform many different roles normally reserved for other types of specialist MSs. Thus, the actual F-90 Gundam itself is quite modular, and there are numerous hardpoints all over the mech for hanging different ordinance and thruster packs.
At first, this actually sounds like a practical and realistic idea. There have been some other mech stories that have done the same thing. However, to be honest, I really think it was done this way just so that Bandai could sell consumers numerous different kits without having to expend a large amount in tooling costs. Well, I can tell you this: it worked! When I had the opportunity to get my hands on all four of these kits, I took it, and I’m really glad I did!
The Guncannon III Concept
One of the problems, of course, with having three of the same basic kit is that you have three of the same kit! Given all the extras that these various kits come with though, there are many possibilities and opportunities to customize the core MS. However, I decided to take the whole customizing thing a little bit farther than just mixing and matching the Gundam’s accessories.
While I like the idea of having a general purpose Gundam, it just didn’t seem right that in the F-90 universe there were no non-Gundams. Sure, it’s a good marketing ploy, but it didn’t sit well with me. Upon looking at this particular kit, the F-90 A/D/S, I was struck immediately by an idea: I could make my own F-90 Guncannon!
In the original Gundam series, the main MS, the Gundam, is accompanied by two other suits; one is a Guntank, the other a Guncannon. The Guncannon is a suit designed primarily for long-range artillery support, and has two large cannons on its shoulders. Well, the F-90 A/D/S kit also has an option to fit two large over-the-shoulder cannons, among its other weapons options.
From this, the idea of creating the F-90 Guncannon began to evolve. It would be a simple matter to use the A/D/S’s large weapons arsenal to create a heavy fire-support type suit. However, the head was a problem. The F-90 has a traditional “Gundam” head, and the Guncannon should have something less distinctive; something that looks more general purpose and ‘cannon fodder’-ish is really required.
This is where the spares box came into play. I had a leftover head from the SF-91 G-Cannon Magna kit I’d picked up years ago. Seeing as the G-Cannon Magna IS a Guncannon-type suit, the head was perfect! Upon checking the size of the neck polycap with the F-90 A/D/S’s neck post, I was happy to find they were an exact match. Coincidence, or fate? (Cue spooky ‘70s pseudo-science music…)
The F-90 A/D/S Kit:
The F-90 A/D/S was, for its day (1990) a very advanced kit. There are a lot of features on this kit that are now taken for granted, and some technology which isn’t even used much any more. Some examples of this include the “System Injected” parts that have multiple different colours all moulded onto the same part, extensive use of specialized polycaps and many different colours of sprue all in one box. Thus, while it might not seem that special now, it was really something else when it first came out.
Since the A/D/S was the first kit in the F-90 series, it was given a deluxe treatment. It comes in what was, back in the day, one of the largest boxes ever to be used on a 1/100 kit. Inside, one finds a very large number of parts, including a separately bubble-packed rack for the System Injected components. This was, afterall, one of the first (if not the first) kit to use this new technology, and Bandai wanted to pimp it up but good.
In addition to the pieces for the base Gundam, there are parts for the A, D, and S variants of the suit. These include thruster packs, missile packs, single large cruise-type missiles, shoulder cannons, a big Vulcan-type multibarreled gun, fuel packs grenade clusters and various other greeblies. These come moulded in ‘appropriate’ colours, according to what the bulk of the finished part should be.
This is one area where the kit does show its age, though. In a modern kit of this size, there would be many more separate pieces, so that the finished item would need very little painting (should you decide to be lazy). However, the A/D/S does not have this feature, and to get the final product looking right requires a lot of paint work; the decals provided just don’t quite cut it.
Like all Bandai kits from about 1988 forward, this one is a snap-fit unit. As is typical, the fit of the major subassemblies is reasonable, but significant gluing and sanding, as well as some putty, are required. Also, owing to the System Injection, there are a lot of parts that need to be different colours all attached to one piece. This means that there is going to be a need to do a lot of colour separation work on the finished piece.
Building the Guncannon III
There was nothing particularly noteworthy about the construction of the Guncannon III, or rather there was nothing above and beyond the normal problems and issues associated with the construction of an F-90 series kit.
The bulk of these issues center around the massive amounts of “build around” that can be found in these models. The worst parts are the legs, which have build around at both the knees AND the ankles! Just as on the F-90 IIL, the ankles and knees should, technically, be built and completed first, before the lower and upper legs can be built around them.
This, however, is just way more work than it is worth. Thus, I used the same work around as I did on the IIL. I cut out the tops of the mounting supports in the lower leg so the knee block could just be ‘popped’ into it when the lower leg and knee were done. This was quite easy, and is a trick I’ve used before. (In fact, a similar trick is needed for the ankle block!)
The elbows also posed a difficult problem in that the grey rotator parts had to be painted first, and then fit into the lower arm. Normally, this is fairly easy to do, but the lower arms have large projections that have to be painted, and there’s no way to mask or prevent sloppage the way it was designed. Also, there’s no work around, because the lower part of the elbow hinge is a polycap, and that rubber can’t be glued to anything and expected to stick! Thus, I filed down the flanges on the lower arms to allow the grey parts to be cleared when the entire assembly was completed.
Once these problems were tanken care of, the rest of the kit went fairly well. Because the Guncannon is a ground-type suit, I decided to panel over most of the verniers on the mech. Targets for deletion included the engines on the knees, the shoulders and even the backpack! In addition, it is strange for Guncannons to have beam sabers, so the saber holders on the backpack were also faired over.
Most of the covering over was done using sheet styrene, althoug the knee engines were just puttied in. Sheet styrene was also used to cover the inside of the leg-mounted missile packs and vulcan cannon magazine, which in the grand F-90 tradition, were completely hollow! Thankfully, these proved to be easy fixes, and ‘solidifying’ these components was completed without any real incident. The only catch was to ensure that I had a hole in the plates for the missile packs, since the ‘pylon’ that plugged into the leg polycap had to show through.
There were a couple of extra addions, besides the head, that were made to the kit. It was my original intention to mount a modified version of the F-90 shield to the mech’s arm. However, these plans didn’t turnout because there wasn’t enough room to fit the shield once the grenade packs were on. Thus, I went to the spares box and dug out a random piece to take the shield’s place. This new piece was made to fit into the mounting polycap on the mech’s arm, and is intended to represent an unused sheild mount. I quite like the look, as it looks like an empty pylong just waiting for something to be bolted to it.
One other addition was the left hand. The F-90 series hands are not the best on the planet, and are built for holding things. However, since the Guncannon III has no sabres, the hand would have to remain empty. This looked really stupid. Thankfully, I came across a spare left hand (Very rare; usually you only get spare rights!) from a 1/144 G-Gundam upgrade kit. Since the F-90’s are small mecha, I was hoping that in 1/100, the hand might fit and do the job.
To my great joy, not only did the hand’s balljoint fit into the polycap in the Guncannon’s wrist PERFECTLY, it was also nearly the perfect size! Thus, I was able to solve the problem of having nothing for he left hand to do. This is why I never, ever, throw any spare peices away.
Painting and Finishing the Guncannon III
The first Guncannon was red. However, since then, there has been no standard colour for artillery support suits. The F-91 and Gundam 0083 Guncannons are more subdued, however. Despite this, I decided I wanted the Guncannon III to be an homage to the original, and set my sights on doing an almost all-red paint job.
On the original RX-77 Guncannon, the feet, hands and upper arms/shoulders are done in a colour similar to Gunship Grey. Thus, on the Guncannon III, I used Testors Model Master Gunship Grey acrylic paint on those areas. For the yellow bits, I used a heavily modified Badger yellow acrylic. The head was done with one of my standard mixed “Gundam White”s, which is a hodge-podge of Tamiya XF-2 Flat White, with some blue, purple and light greys thrown in for good measure.
The cannons and backpack were painted entirely in Virsago Black, and the vulcan cannon assembly was done using old Testors Model Master acrylic Euro 1 Green. This is actually a very grey green, and gave the vulcan an industrial look. To increase this further, the entire assembly was blackwashed using an acrylic wash.
If there is one colour I don’t like the thought of working with, it’s red. Red is one of those colours that covers poorly, takes forever to get right, and which usually is very delicate when it comes to sanding. To make matters worse, the red paint has to go over plastic that didn’t start as red!
Clearly, there was going to have to be some heavy-duty primering involved. I started by primering the entire mech as white as I could get it using Floquil Reefer White lacquer, which I got at Broughdale Hobbies in London. Even with the whole mech white, I still had my doubts as to whether or not Testors Model Master acrylic Guards Red would cover satisfactorally.
To improve the odds of getting a good result, then proceeded to primer the mech again, this time in red, using Floquil Soo Line Red. This is a very bright red, and I anticipated (correctly) that it, over white, would make the final coats of Guards Red very bright. If I had used a grey primer instead of the Reefer White, the final coats on the Guncannon III would have turned out more cherry red than fire-engine red.
Once the Floquil red was on and dry, I went at the mech with the Guards red. The result was exactly what I wanted, and the lacquer primer even helped to make the paint much more resistant to sanding and damage! (I’ll use this same tactic on my Saviour Gundam whenever I get around to it.)
For some subtle contrast, I decided to do the cockpit door, grenade clusters on the shoulders, missile packs and other minor details in Badger Milwakee Maroon. This, like all Badger acrylics, is a royal pain to handbrush, but cutting it with a lot of Tamiya Flat Base and thinning it out with some water/Future mix brought it to an acceptable state of usefulness. Just as a note, there is no maroon on the original Guncannon, but I thought it was cool, so I went with it anyway.
The ‘mechanical’ type components, such as knees, ankles and the beam rifle were done in Gunship Grey and they blackwashed with an acrylic wash. This made them look dirtier and more mechanical. This same treatment was extended to those verniers still used as engines, the grenade tubes and the entire vulcan assembly (gun and magazine both).
The rest of the mech was gloss coated in hand brushed Future, which took at least 10 coats to get to an acceptable level of shine and smoothness. Once the Future was finished, all that was left was final assembly.
Building the Guncannon III was a fun, albeit sometimes trying, task. It was really neat to take a Gundam and retcon it into a general purpose machine, and there was the additonal fun of deciding which accessories to use and where. As a note, the armament fit on the Guncannon III mixes at least two, if not all three, of the A/D/S version loadouts. One thing I found particularly strange is that the missile boxes I put on the legs were originally supposed to go on the arms! If you look at the instructions, you can see just how dumb this looks. I prefer my way…
I also enjoy the fact that this is a one-off kit (to the best of my knowledge), and that there is not another one like it anywhere in the world. Since the F-90 kits are now quite hard to get a hold of, going all out on this kit and making something NOT on the box had a certain appeal to it as well.
This really isn’t the best Gundam kit I’ve ever built, but it’s not the worst either. It’s not really suited for a beginner, at least not one who is trying to get really good results without a lot of frustration. You really need some experience to make the most of this model. However, that having been said, this kit is a good build and a good test of patience and skill.
The best part about this kit is that you also get a lot of spares that can be used on other F-90 kits (there’s that marketing ploy again…), Silhouette Formula 91 kits and even on the odd 1/100 V Gundam kit! Thus, this model really is a good value, despite its age and flaws.