Because the world of Gundam encompasses so many universes and so many sidestories, it’s no longer a surprise when models of mecha from games, comics and novels pop up in Bandai’s main line. However, once in a while there’s something that’s so bizarre or obscure that it’s still not worth making a kit of it. While such instances are, thankfully, decreasing, there are still some mecha that don’t warrant a full HGUC release.
One such mech is the Wagtail from the game Advance of Zeta: Traitor to Destiny. The Wagtail is a heavily modified GM, and if it’s one thing that the HGUC lineup has already, it’s a load of GMs. Thus, the very cool, but rather unknow, Wagtail wasn’t going to see the light of day unless somebody scratch built it. Well, that was the case until Degenki Hobby offered a conversion kit for the RGM-79C as a bonus with its May 2011 issue!
The Kit and Conversion:
The RGM-79C upon which the Wagtail is based is a nice enough kit. It’s a typical HGUC and that means good part separation, good colour separation (if you don’t want to paint it) and nice detailing. This is the RGM-79C from Australia that is seen in the first few parts of the 0083 OVA, and it’s well-equipped with a machine gun, beam sabre and bazooka, not to mention the standard Federation “flat” shield. By this I mean the one without the dumb, gaudy star on it.
The instructions are typically easy to follow and give good views of the mech for painting purposes. Of course, for me, GMs are all about customization. I like to change details, weapons and colours on my “grunt” suits. There’s almost nothing you CAN’T do to a GM or a Zaku to individualize it. With that in mind, nothing I’ve ever done even comes close to the level of customization that the Wagtail conversion represents!
While the GM-C is a pretty “vanilla” suit, the Wagtail screams all kinds of awesome! It has a lot of different parts on it. The conversion kit gives you a single rack of white parts. Sure, that may sound boring, but here’s what it gives you:
New Lower Legs
New Lower Arms
New Beam Rifle
New Waist Armour/Skirts
New Chest Vents
So, you can see that it’s only a rack of parts, but it’s basically almost an all-new mech. You only need the upper arms and legs, the hands, thrusters, feet, visor glass, chest and the joints from the GM-C.
One think I was skeptical of was the fact that it is a conversion kit. Would it fit with the rest of the GM-C’s parts? Would the production be worthwhile? I mean, I was paying something like $30 for the upgrade kit (and the magazine, but let’s face it, the kit is the whole point) and I’d hate for it to suck. There are a lot of airplane conversions out there that suck terribly, and I didn’t want the mech equivalent.
Thankfully, that’s not the case at all. The parts for the Wagtail are beautifully moulded, with no flash or other “limited run” tell-tale features. The lines straight and crisp, the surface finish is excellent, and the best part: the fit with the Bandai parts is absolutely spot on!
Building the Wagtail is not very different from building any other HGUC GM kit. Sure, the parts are different and way more interesting, but the end result is pretty much the same thing. It’s not like the old LM (limited model) kits either; the Wagtail conversion has full articulation and the same level of detail as the normal GM-C onto which the parts fit.
One problem, though, is with the way in which the knee and elbow joints go in. A lot of the HGUC kits have it so that you build the joints, and then you build the arms (and/or legs) around them. This is because the joints have extension “bars” on the end of them, and these have posts that fit into holes in the armour. This is fine if you don’t paint. However, if you do paint (and really, you should), this is AN ABOMINATION. This is the kind of build-around you’d expect to see in an early 80’s kit, not a 2011 HGUC!
There is a very simple workaround, though. First, chop off the locating pins on the joint bars. So, strip the part clean where the knee/elbow “plugs” into the armour. What this means is that when you put the armour (leg or arm) together, there will be a channel between the peg receiving cylinders. This “channel” is where the newly cleaned peg will slide into. It also helps to cut down the one end so that it fits around the protruding receiving cylinders. This also helps to give you a “hard stop” at the end.
The problem with this is, as would be familiar to a real-estate salesperson: Location, location, location! Without the locating pegs (which have been stripped off) the joint bar can go in any time. . To prevent this, just glue some small sheet styrene “guide vanes” into place inside the armour. This will direct the joint bar into the proper place. Now, you can glue and sand the arm/leg/whatever and paint it perfectly. Only at the end do you have to insert the joint, and now it will fit without issue. The paint on the joint will also tighten the fit, so you won’t even need to glue it in!
There is also a problem with the chest vents; they come moulded on a piece that has to go into the body first. If you want to make life easier, do what I did: Cut the vents off of the mounting piece and put them in after they’re painted. They are of an untapered cross-section, so they’ll just slide right on in the holes in the chest armour!
The rest of the kit is straightforward, and won’t be a problem for anyone used to HGUC building.
Painting and Finishing:
The Wagtail is shown in the Degenki Hobby magazine in two very different colour schemes. One is blue white and yellow, and is very attractive. It does, however, require a lot of masking. Also, since this is the “cover mech” of the magazine, I consider it to be too common and famous a scheme. There’s also a more general purpose red and grey version, but that didn’t turn my crank either.
Therefore, since it’s such a rare kit, I figured I should do a totally custom paint job on it. I decided on Testors Model Master Acrylic Grey Primer for the base colour. It worked on two levels. On one hand, it is a nice light grey, similar to Light Ghost Grey. On the other, it gave the mech a potentially unfinished appearance, indicating that more customization could be coming, if the owner survived long enough to finish it.
However, I wanted something that was really vibrant, really “mech-like”, to set the primer off. I found it in a MMA colour called “Verdigris”, which is basically the blue-green colour of copper oxide. You likely know it from old rooftops, like those of Canada’s Parliament Buildings, or the Statue of Liberty. This paint is BRIGHT. Like Holy-moly-get-me-my-shades bright! It was the perfect 80’s mech colour, garish and bright, solid and exotic.
I used the Verdigris on the feet and chest and shield, as well as some other places, but just two colours wasn’t working I needed a greyish green, something between the two colours to unify the paint scheme. I found it in a grey-green I mixed for my 1/100 Gun Blastor. By using this colour for accents (like on the shield and skirts) I was able to show that the Verdigris did belong with the Grey Primer, and the overall effect was very nice! I washed all the mechanical bits and thrusters with Citadel Badab Black wash, to help contrast with the brightness of the paint.
I Futured the subassemblies so I could more easily outline them with a calligraphy pen, and then flatted the whole mech with Delta Ceramcoat Matte Urethane Varnish.
The Wagtail, which is really a Wagtail Custom (given the non-standard paint scheme) is an awesome kit. It is light years above the standard GM-C in terms of coolness and it exudes power. There are a lot more thrusters on it, and these, picked out in Jet Exhaust and Orange, really make the suit stand out.
It is not hard to build, and if you use the workaround I did, you shouldn’t have any problem with assembly at all. This is a rare kit, and worth doing well, but even someone with moderate experience would be able to enjoy it immensely. It might be a bit more difficult to paint simply because so many things are moulded into it (sabre hilts, engine exhausts, etc.) as opposed to being separate pieces, but that’s just something to improve your skills on.
I highly recommend this kit to anyone, but all I can say now is “good luck” on finding it!