Bandai 1/144 HGUC FA-78-3[G] Full Armour Gundam 7th Ground Custom

Big guns and extra armour. What more do you need on a giant robotic war machine?

Big guns and extra armour. What more do you need on a giant robotic war machine?

If there’s one thing Bandai’s designers know how to do, it’s junk up a perfectly good-looking MS with all kinds of armour, guns, missiles and engines. They are the pros at this, and have been at it since 1983’s Mobile Suit Variation (MSV) kits first debuted. Since the first time the public got a look at the original “Full Armour” FA-78-1 Gundam kit, Bandai has continued to add extra equipment to lighter suits to make heavy weapons versions.

Generally, it’s not a bad idea to take a lighter-looking suit and add stuff to it. It adds an extra dimension to the kit and for anyone who loves variants, it’s an almost guaranteed “win”. So, while most times this works, sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on the base MS as well as how crazy the guys at Bandai are allowed to get. The Perfect Gundam is essentially a form of Full Armour (FA) Gundam, albeit one customized by a kid, and it’s only slightly over-the-top. Then, there’s the Alex, whose FA mode is really just a giant snowsuit; it doesn’t really follow the formula, since while it is “fully armoured”, it has no extra weapons and can’t even access some of its built-in weapons while wearing its fancy pyjamas. At the other end of the scale is the Full Armour Unicorn, which has no extra armour but a billion-and-a-half guns and missile pods.

Thankfully, for those who like to tread the middle ground, somewhere between the sublime and the ridiculous, there are a number of choices. One of the more obscure is the Full Armour Gundam 7th. This is from the “Battlefield Record UC 0081” game available for PS3. Since this is a game most of us in North America likely haven’t played, it’s no surprise that a lot of people didn’t know, and may not have cared, about the FA 7th. That makes it a good kit to review, then, doesn’t it?

Better to build than buy pre-made! Here's the FA-78-3[G] with the FIX Figuration Full Armour Gundam. It's an interesting comparison for both colouration and overall appearance.

Better to build than buy pre-made! Here’s the FA-78-3[G] with the FIX Figuration Full Armour Gundam. It’s an interesting comparison for both colouration and overall appearance.

The Kit:

The Full Armour 7th is a typical Bandai Gundam kit from the last 15 or so years. It is moulded in full colour and is very, very nicely done. I guess I must be getting jaded; I didn’t even take any pictures of the racks before I started working on this kit! I must have figured “Well, there’s not much to see here” since it was just like so many other Gundams. For that, I apologize.

However, I wasn’t wrong. The kit is moulded in full colour, with red, white, blue, yellow, dark grey and medium grey components. That may seem like a lot of colours, and really, it is. The reason for this is that the FA 7th looks something rather like a clown when it’s all put together. Well, either that or a walking quilt. There are different colours all over the place, and the entire Gundam looks like a patchwork of colours rather than a conventional Gundam wearing extra equipment and armour. You can see from the box artwork what I mean:

See what I mean? That's way too many colours and way too scattered about to make sense.

See what I mean? That’s way too many colours and way too scattered about to make sense.

See? That’s too much colour, and it’s too oddly dispersed to be effective. I think this is one of the kit’s main failings; it reproduces the mech TOO accurately! Given that this is an obscure MS to start, making it quite so childishly colourful doesn’t do much to enhance its saleability. Maybe that’s why I’ve not seen too many of these built up, at least not in my neck of the woods. And really, its’ a shame.  The kit itself has excellent detail and poseability is really excellent for such a bulky machine. Anyone who has built a current Gundam can expect more of the same from this kit.

Also, the instructions are very clear and precise, with lots of good (or bad, depending on your view) full-colour pictures of what the machine should look like when it’s done. All the joints are, of course, polycapped, and there’s only minimal build around.

Issues:

Now, while the kit is technically flawless, there are some issues I have with the design of the suit itself. One of these, clearly, is the colouration of the suit. This is no problem; they make jars of paint every day, so I can feel free to go to town on this kit. However, one physical feature of the kit that I don’t like is the “tail”. Like a number of other MSs, the FA 7th has a bulky “tail binder” system that includes extra fins, fuel and maneuvering thrusters. This is similar to the Sturm Booster on a Geberra Tetra, but uglier.

I’m not a tail booster fan, in general. I rarely use any kind of back-mounted booster equipment, and on the FA 7th, it just looks like junk. To make matters worse, it’s really not that well-moulded. By that, I mean that Bandai cheaped-out on the auxiliary parts of the tail. There is a central booster with four ‘wings’; however, these outer wings are moulded so as they look “hollow”. This is one thing on a toy, but something altogether different on a mech kit.

Thus, I decided to ditch the tail assembly altogether. It’s bulky, ugly, cheap-looking and takes up display space while not adding anything cool to the kit. That might have solved the design issues, but it still didn’t solve the “Look me! I’m a possessed clown wearing a Crazy Quilt (and likely nothing underneath)!” paint job.  However, ditching the tail did help me focus on a better colour scheme. With the tail gone, there is no pretext of space maneuvering, and so I decided to build the Gundam as a ground-type Full Armour unit.

There ain't no tail on me! The [G] Custom doesn't need the ugly and bulky tail binder, and the result is a much more pleasing kit.

There ain’t no tail on me! The [G] Custom doesn’t need the ugly and bulky tail binder, and the result is a much more pleasing kit. Yes, it would plug into the polycap you can see.

Colour Me Good:

I found some line art for the mech and tried a number of different combinations. I wanted something that hadn’t been done yet, but surprisingly, that’s not as easy as it sounds. Green and grey; done. Grey and blue; done. Blue and white; yep. I was getting a bit cheesed off, and then my brother had an idea. “Use the same colours as your Surcouf” he said. Hmmm… Virsago Black, Olive Drab and Red? Okay. After playing with the line art a bit, I decided to swap the Red for British Crimson, which is more of a maroon colour.

Thus was born the paint scheme for my take on the FA-78-3. Given the changes, I decided to call it the FA-78-3[G] Ground Custom.

The build of the kit was so straightforward as to really be unnecessary to describe. Like with all modern HGUCs, it is a snap kit. However, I always glue things to prevent them from coming apart later and I used Ambroid ProWeld for this model. What few seams there were sanded very easily, and there were absolutely no problems in putting together any parts of this kit. The build was almost so easy as to be boring, so I’ll say nothing more about it. Good job, Bandai; no one makes ‘em like you do.

While still colourful, the more 'earthy' palette chosen for the [G] Custom makes the Gundam look much tougher and more realistic.

While still colourful, the more ‘earthy’ palette chosen for the [G] Custom makes the Gundam look much tougher and more realistic.

Ground Custom Rising:

Knowing what colours I wanted to use was only half the battle; deciding what should be what colour was more difficult. It was made harder by looking at the pictures on the box and in the instructions. With the wild mish-mash of colours presented therein, it was hard to tell what was extra armour and what was supposed to be the Gundam underneath. However, it was easier to see when I looked at the kit. There it became apparent what should be extra armour and what should be ‘base’ MS.  Often on FA-type kits, the armour bits are moulded separately and attach after the base Gundam is done. However, that’s not the case on the FA 7th; in its case, the armour is moulded right in.

I decided to use Virsago Black (a mix of Gunship Grey and Aircraft Interior Black) for the base MS, and to make the armour Olive Drab. I used the British Crimson for accents. All paints were Testors Model Master Acrylic (MMA) colours. For the ‘mechanical bits’ like joints and weapons, I used MMA Schwarzgrau, a dark grey that is lighter than the Virsago Black, but darker than Gunship Grey. It’s a very handy colour.

All ‘mechanical bits’ were given a wash of Citadel Nuln Oil to highlight the details and to make the components look a bit greasy and worn. The main shoulder cannon, however, is too big and blocky to just leave in a single colour. Thus, I painted parts in the Olive drab and British Crimson; the idea was to make the gun look like it was also wearing armour. Normally, this isn’t something you see on FA-type suits, and I liked the results.

One thing I found odd about the FA 7th is that there were places where there wasn’t any armour, but there were smaller raised details. This is particularly apparent on the lower legs. My thought was that these were actually attachment points for armour, but that the armour wasn’t fitted for some reason. Thus, I decided to paint these parts in MMA Steel and give them a Nuln Oil wash. This gives the mech a somewhat “incomplete” look, but at least these features make sense now. I also did the same on the shield. It seems that the bottom half of the shield has extra armour applied to it, but the top half doesn’t. here again, there were two random squares on the upper shield; these would be insufficient as armour, so I painted them Steel and decided that extra applique armour would attach there.

This closeup on the leg shows the "frame" I'm talking about. Since it looks like mounting hardware, I painted it as such.

This closeup on the leg shows the “frame” I’m talking about. Since it looks like mounting hardware, I painted it as such.

Unfortunately, this kit doesn’t come with a beam sabre. It has two hilts, but no blades. Thankfully, there are always spare blades in with other kits, and I used one of those. The beam fit perfectly into the FA 7th’s hilts, so all I had to do was paint it. I gave the beam a light dusting of Mr. Surfacer white, to make it a bit more opaque, and then applied a heavier coat at the base, where it is “hot”. I then overcoated the entire beam in a Future/Pigment mix. This mix contains Interference Violet and Interference Gold from the Jacquard Pigment sets, usually used for stamping and scrapbooking. These make excellent pearlized paints, though, and give the beam a “coating” of energy on the outside.

This angle shows the "hot" end of the Beam Sabre very clearly. Thank goodness for spare blades!

This angle shows the “hot” end of the Beam Sabre very clearly. Thank goodness for spare blades!

All engine nozzles were painted orange inside and MMA Jet Exhaust on the outside, and then given a Nuln Oil wash. I prefer this for engines; it makes them look a bit used, but still stand out without being too stark. I used a very light yellow (same as on my Cavalier) for the Feddie cross on the shield and arrowhead on the crotch. I painted all sighting units, including those on the shoulders, head and guns in MMA F-15 Dark Grey, which made them stand out. To get the reflective blue of the sighting optics, I applied Tamiya Clear Blue over Bare Metal Foil. They really stand out this way!

"Stare into my eyes!" The almost hypnotically deep blue of the reflector sights is a stark contrast to the drab colours on the mech itself.

“Stare into my eyes!” The almost hypnotically deep blue of the reflector sights is a stark contrast to the drab colours on the mech itself.

When I was done, the entire mech was first flatted using Delta Ceramcoat Indoor/Outdoor Matte Urethane Varnish. This gives a dead-nuts flat finish. However, I prefer a semi-gloss finish on a completed kit. This is achieved using a Future-augmented mix of Delta Ceramcoat Indoor/Outdoor Matte Urethane Varnish; the amount of Future controls the amount of shine. I find it best to apply two coats.  The first inevitably dries spotty, with varied sheen across the surface of the kit. Once it’s dry, though, the second application should be put on until the surface of the mech is actually ‘wet’ with it. It will sink into the original flat coat, and once it’s dry, it gives a nice satiny finish.

This view shows both the wash on the gun and the orange in the thrusters. It's little details that make the difference.

This view shows both the wash on the gun and the orange in the thrusters. It’s little details that make the difference.

Note: While it is safe to apply heat, say in a dehydrator, to most paints, it is NOT a good idea to do so for anything containing Delta Ceramcoat Indoor/Outdoor Matte Urethane Varnish. I don’t know why, but if you apply heat to force it to dry faster, it will dry much shinier than it should. Thus, if you try to rush either the base flatting or the semi-glossing, you’ll get a sickly slick-looking finish more applicable to some kind of tentacle hentai figure than a Gundam.  You’ve been warned. Now, if you want a “porn shine” Gundam, then you can just ignore this…

Conclusions:

The FA-7th is an obscure mech that has a lot of potential, but it’s let down by an odd colour scheme and a dumb tail. Thankfully, as modellers everywhere know, if you don’t like something you’re always free to change it, and doing so made this kit from something that was a solid ‘meh’ into something I’m rather fond of.

As a kit, the FA 7th is excellent, and save for those cheap “hollow” parts on the binders, there’s nothing wrong with it. Sure, it would have been nice if it had had a beam sabre, but that is easily rectified. Everything fits well and goes together as it should; there’s nothing here that a beginner couldn’t handle. This kit is actually perfect for any modeller, even if they don’t normally build MS kits. It’s a great canvas for modification and painting, so more experienced modellers can enjoy it, but it’s straightforward enough that newcomers to the “dark side” of mech building will be able to get a good result right off the bat.

Overall, then, I would say that this is another great HGUC kit from Bandai. If you see it and you like it, grab one. Don’t let the weird colours throw you off; it’s a solid kit with a lot of potential, and it’d even make a good toy, it’s so solidly built.

Every now and then, I wonder if I have too many Gundams (I have somewhere around 150 still to build). Then, I look at a kit like this and think “nah”. They’re just too fun and interesting to stop building. If you try this one, you’ll see exactly what I mean!

 

 

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