Matchbox 1/72 McDonnell Douglas F-101F/RF-101B/CF-101B “Voodoo” (Out of Box)

Know what you want before you ask for it. This is often advice given to kids. Sure, every kid wants a puppy, or a pony, or a pet dinosaur, but what are they supposed to DO with it once they get it? (Clearly, you would ride the dinosaur to school and impress your friends, so maybe that’s a bit of a bad example. The other two, though, it’s harder to say.) I’m sure there are a huge number of people, not just kids, to be fair, that don’t think a whole lot about life cycle management, support costs and potential future operational requirements when they ask for things. Heck, look at the typical “mid-life crisis” sports car purchase: just because you want to feel young and sporty again doesn’t mean the kids and their hockey gear are going to fit in that Viper you can’t afford! There are lots of examples where thinking of what you want NOW results in problems later.

When this situation occurs in the realm of national defence, however, the costs and inefficiencies can be staggering. Sadly, there are lots of cases throughout history where bad ideas, or an inability to see what’s coming in the near-middle term, have been given physical form. Duds like the Attacker, the Amiot 143 “multipurpose aircraft”, the Davy Crockett nuclear mortar and NEARLY EVERY Italian armoured vehicle of WWII prove that just because something seems useless doesn’t always mean it doesn’t get made. However, these are aberrations. There are many other weapons that have been cancelled at the prototype stage before costing untold sums of money or worse, lives.

One example of this was the McDonnell XF-88 Voodoo. This aircraft was designed to meet a 1946 requirement for a jet-powered penetration fighter. At the time, it was understood that jets were the way forward, and it was figured, rightly so, that a jet version of the Mustangs and Thunderbolts that had escorted bombers so well in the just-finished global conflict would be required. At the time, the logic was sound, and McDonnell created the XF-88, which won the competition. However, while it was being developed, reality happened. The XF-88 wasn’t much faster than an F-86, and experience in the Korean War had shown that a specialized “penetration fighter” wasn’t really going to work. Thus, the plane was cancelled. The USAF was wise enough to realize that their new toy wasn’t going to work out, and so they shelved it.

However, the Voodoo didn’t stay dead. There was a second requirement issued in the early ‘50s for a “Long Range Fighter”. A larger, improved version of the Voodoo was designed and proposed, and once again won. However, the development didn’t go well, and throughout its early life, the mighty ‘101’ was constantly being retasked as fighter, fighter bomber, nuclear striker and recon aircraft. It was like the USAF had wanted it, but now didn’t quite know what to do with it. It was like having a Hot Wheels track but no cars, or a jar of paint with no brush. It had to do SOMETHING, but the trouble now was figuring out what.

As we know, the single-seater Voodoos eventually found their niche as recon machines in the dangerous skies of South East Asia (SEA). Their strike and fighter versions faded quickly from service and memory. However, there was another version of the Voodoo that outlived even the –C and –G model recon birds; the two-seat F-101B and F-101F.  The two-seater Voodoos (Two-doos?) were chosen by the USAF when it became apparent that the troubles with the development of the F-102 would be more protracted than had at first been predicted. Thus, the two-seater Voodoo interceptor, The F-101B, was born.

Armed with nuclear-tipped Genie rockets and AIM-4 Falcon AAMs, the large and heavy Voodoo interceptor was quite successful. It had more powerful J57-P-55 engines (compared to the 1-holers) and looked different too. Not only was the front fuselage larger and rounder, it had a second seat and longer greenhouse. It also had no guns. The rotating weapons bay for the missiles was new, and the long afterburner cans simply stuck out the back of the existing airframe.

Because the F-101Bs ended up being the longest serving variant, and was also the only export success for the Voodoo (Canada bought around 130 of the planes in two batches, and they served until 1984), there have been many kits of the Voodoo. It is a very distinctive looking plane, and definitely has a “presence”. The fact that the real things were a blast at airshows also helped make them identifiable and popular subjects for styrene sellers. The Voodoo has been kitted in many scales, too, although I don’t think there’s been a 1/32 one. Yet…

Being Canadian, I can remember seeing our CF-101s at the early years of my going to airshows. They were loud and fast and had huge afterburners. I can remember Dad and I both loving to see them fly, and sitting with him waiting for them to land on “airshow Friday”. For this reason alone, the F-101B has always had a place in my heart. Of course, it’s not hard to find a kit of one. There’s an excellent Revell F-101B (have it), but it should come as no surprise that I was more excited to get my hands on the old Matchbox version of the plane! Yes, I do have my vices…

So, let’s see how Matchbox handled McDonnell’s fire-breathing beast, shall we?

The Box:

The F-101B is a big plane. That means that it isn’t one that you can find in the original Matchbox lineup, or “purple range” of 1/72 kits. This model dates from 1980, and is one of the larger “red range” of kits. The “Reds” were usually either two-engined WWII types (like the B-25, B-26 and Wellington) or larger “fast jets” like Phantoms, Tomcats and the EA-6B. Given these stablemates, it can be seen that the Voodoo fits right into the crowd.

The box for the Voodoo is typical of the 1980-era boxes, with a white border and a large piece of artwork on the front. The artwork is very nice, but a bit simpler that some of the other Matchbox kits that I have, and definitely simpler than the armour box art. It shows an F-101B blasting diagonally across the box from bottom left to upper right, but the background consists only of a number of coloured blurs, or “speed lines”. Well, sort of. That’s the impression it gives at first, and certainly that’s what it seems like when you look behind the plane. However, at the front of the plane can be clearly seen a land of lakes and peninsulae.

These background details aren’t as colourful or as crisp as on some other boxes, but it works well. It gives the impression of speed and height both, and those are two traits the Voodoo interceptors would be very glad to have attached to them. The geography might seem odd, until that is you look at the Voodoo’s tail. The bright red band of the 119th Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard – “The Happy Hooligans”- runs across the width of the fin, just below the stabilizers. Clearly, the landscape below is meant to convey the lake-pocked areas that are so prevalent in that state.

The aircraft looks clean and is carrying only a pair of drop tanks. There are no missiles onboard this particular bird. The drawing is quite crisp, but still has that “Matchbox watercolour” look that makes the boxes of this era so outstanding, in my view. In the upper left corner is the unmistakable “Matchbox” emblem with its sunset rings, and the kit subject is spelled out in no small font next to it. This is what drew me to the kit, initially. This is a three-in-one! It can be built as an F-101F (as seen on the box front) as well as a CF-101B and an RF-101B.

It may not be as flashy as some, but the Voodoo’s box is still nice nonetheless. There are no weapons because the “F” was a trainer.

If, like me, you were not familiar with the RF version of the two-seat Voodoo, this can be quite a shock!

At the time, I only knew about the single-seat recce birds, and was surprised to find there was a two-place version as well. As it turns out, there were a handful (most sources say 22) of Canadian CF-101Bs that were converted in the US to a reconnaissance-type. Why? The Vietnam War was eating recon planes like a cat eats mackerel, and the US was worried it would have a shortfall of tactical recon assets. As it turns out, this conversion was not successful. The plane was disliked, and considered a “pig” by most. It was expensive to convert, run and maintain, and it seems to have been troublesome. They were only in service for three years, 1972-1975, and only with the 192 TRS of the Nevada Air National Guard.

The fact that this kit can build such an oddball machine immediately drew me in. In typical Matchbox fashion, they were offering something no other kit maker did; a chance to turn the successful F-101B into its least-illustrious, lowest-produced variant! Bravo!

One great advantage of the larger box is that there’s more room for art. On the one side of the box is a rear three-quarters view of the Canadian version that I clearly remember seeing at the London International Air Show when I was a kid. Well, almost. The scheme and markings are for an earlier version, but it’s surprising to me to see a Canadian version of something that’s not part of an aftermarket decal set or a special issue.

Here’s how the CF-101 looks. It’s nice of Britain to remember the Colonies in kit form, at least once in a while! Matchbox was usually quite good for this.

On the end flaps is the artwork for the RF-101B. Resplendent in its SEA cammo, this plane is just about done tucking up its gear as it launches. The flaps are still down and the nose is slightly pitched up. Oddly for a Voodoo, there are no ‘burners lit. The best part is the extremely unsightly blob hanging under the Voodoo’s otherwise clean nose. This inappropriately homely jowl is actually the recon camera bulge. It totally ruins the Voodoo’s clean lines, and looks like an amendment to an afterthought appended as an afterthought. In short – I love it!

“Personal remarks are never in good taste.” That’s what my Grandmother always said. Still… that nose pod is UUUGLY. Nice to see SEA cammo on a B-model, though!

The back of the box shows the full colour paint plan for all three schemes. It’s at this point you can easily see that the box is also one for international distribution, since there are a multitude of languages on the box. There’s also a very prominent “3”, which tells you that this is a three-colour kit! That’s how you know you’re in the big leagues, at least in the realm of Matchbox kits! Three colours? What could they be? Well, the three itself is very dark and foreboding, with black, grey and a very dark black-green. Sure enough, turning the box to the one side not yet seen reveals what the kit looks like without paint.

I love that the “ugly duckling” RF-101B is the main focus here. Well, that and the GIANT 3!!

All I can say here is: “hmh”. Like so many Matchbox kits, the unpainted Voodoo leaves a lot to be desired. The folks at Matchbox might like to talk about how you can get a good replica without painting, but they clearly weren’t thinking of this kit! The Green, black and dark grey are completely unlike any Voodoo paint scheme ever, and are really inappropriate for the two interceptors. It’s not quite as inappropriate for the RF, but it’s a far cry from right.

Sooo…. yeah. This is how the kit looks without paint. I think Matchbox missed the boat on the “not needing paint” thing here…

All I can say here is: “hmh”. Like so many Matchbox kits, the unpainted Voodoo leaves a lot to be desired. The folks at Matchbox might like to talk about how you can get a good replica without painting, but they clearly weren’t thinking of this kit! The Green, black and dark grey are completely unlike any Voodoo paint scheme ever, and are really inappropriate for the two interceptors. It’s not quite as inappropriate for the RF, but it’s a far cry from right.

The Kit:

Inside the (sadly) side-opening box are three sprues of typical Matchbox plastic. They are, true to the advertising on the box, moulded in dark grey, black and dark green. The colours are broken up such that the fuselage is green, the wings grey and the rest black. There’s a small clear sprue, too, which contains the front windshield and the rest of the cockpit. There’s also the instruction book and, of course, the decal sheet, which is surprisingly large, given that there aren’t any real stencils or anything other than national insignia and the Voodoo’s trademark grey patches for walkway areas over the intakes.

This is what you get. That big 3 wasn’t lying; it’s green, black and grey. It’s all typical Matchbox, too; for better and worse!

The plastic is typical Matchbox; it’s quite hard, quite shiny, and gives the impression of being thick and heavy. It “clinks” together when the usual sound that Matchboxes give off. The panel lines are something else, though. They are not the usual canyons one normally attributes to the legendary “Matchbox trencher”. Rather they are all raised, and they are surprisingly fine. They are not excellent, though, like those on a Heller. They are sparse, and there’s not a lot of detail that they represent. They also seem to be crude, in a way. They seem neither consistent in width nor quite straight. Still, for anyone with a steady hand and a roll of Dymo tape, rescribing this will not be difficult.

The “detail” on this wing chunk is typical of what’s on the kit. You know there’s going to be work involved in a Matchbox…

The canopy and windscreen are also typical Matchbox, in that they have lovely, bulky raised frames (a bit too bulky to be scale accurate). They are typical in another way; they’re thick with some build in distortion. This won’t be an issue, though, because there won’t be much to see on the inside. Looking at the cockpit redefines Spartan. There’s a tub for the seats, but there are no moulded in details on the “armrests”, or side consoles. As for the seats, they are as close to ejection seats as I am to Olympic speedster Usain Bolt. They look more like medieval torture devices, or some cruel version of those massaging recliners you see in the mall. They’re not the worst I’ve seen, but they are close. I don’t expect a lot from Matchbox cockpits, and I’m not surprised to see that they didn’t (?) disappoint.

This is the cockpit. All of it. Well, except for the seats. Note the rather undetailed ladders and disk-like wheels, too. Now THAT’S some M’box love!


Sit down, shut up and stop complaining about your back pain! Even I, likely among the greatest lovers of Matchbox kits alive today, can’t find anything nice to say about those seats. W.T.F….


No problem masking the frames on this one! It’s thick and full of distortion, but it is also strong enough to be used as a doorstop.

The rest of the kit is the same. The detail is minimal, the approach is brutish. The parts are largely shaped right, but that’s it; they’re shapes. There’s no surface detail inside the gear bays or doors, and don’t’ expect to see any compressor faces or flame holders when it comes to the engines. In an amazing nod to those who hate “hollow plane syndrome”, the intakes are indeed blanked off, although they are awkwardly divided on the lower wing. The airbrakes and flaps are separate pieces, and can be posed open or closed. I’m sure if you make them closed, there will be some good old-fashioned grinding needed to get them to sit flush with their surroundings.

Surprisingly, the canopy can be built open or closed. WHY? No clue.  It’s literally the dictionary definition of “Nothing to see here…”. However, be that as it may, if you DO take the plunge and super-detail this, then you can pose the canopy open and attach the two crude, over-thick boarding ladders. The ladders are included, but look a lot more like fences than ladders. They just glue to the side of the plane, too. Not their best extra. Also, there are inevitable sink marks on the kit, so some putty is going to be needed there. No worries, you already know that if you’re building a Matchbox, you’re going to need to take out shares in your favourite putty brand!

Instructions and Decals:

The instructions are large, but are like all Matchbox instructions; clear, easy to read and simple to follow. The brutishly, almost cartoonishly simple nature of the bulk of the kit is well conveyed by these instructions, and there’s really no one who shouldn’t be able to follow them. Like all Matchboxes, this kit was intended for those newer to the hobby, and thus complication has been minimized.  Somehow, they manage to drag out the assembly for 12 steps, but nothing in there is difficult at all; to look at. There will undoubtedly be some pitfalls waiting… there always are!

There are the usual separate paint plans for components, such as the seats (again, why bother?), landing gear and exhausts, among others. I would always suggest a book or the internet for the final word, however. In addition to the paint plans on the back of the box, there are separate decalling plans for each of the three variants as well. The instructions are simple and solid, like the model they are shown assembling. There’s really not much else to say.

You can see how simple the kit is from this instruction page. I love that there’s a paint plan for the seats – three colours no less! EPIC!

The decals are, like most Matchbox decals, complete, but Spartan. You do get decals for the three versions, and a couple of general warning stencils, but that’s it. For me, that’s enough. I don’t feel the need to stencil everything on the plane. Some do. If that’s the case, you’re going to need to get some aftermarket stencils or dive into the spares box on this bird. One thing is for sure; if you’re going to do a Canadian Voodoo, you’re going to want to get some kind of aftermarket set – the decals in this kit only do an early version. There were quite a number of versions, and I’d suggest getting the excellent “Belcher’s Bits” sheet – you can do any Canuck bird you want with that one!

The decals are nice, in register and of good colour. However, they’re also a bit simplistic. Not really a surprise…

Still, I expect the decals provided herein will be just like all other Matchbox decals, and is excellent! They tend to be tough as nails, thick and vinyl-y, but also capable of conforming to any surface you can put them on. They seem to like Future a lot, and I can’t see any reason that they’ll give trouble to a modeller choosing to use them. Like the kit, they’re a bit simplistic and maybe even brutalistic, but they do the job when it counts!

This is where you put the decals. It is nice to have a separate plan for each variant.


The Voodoo is one of the iconic fighters of the cold war, and as is the case with so many, I tend to find the two-seater is more attractive. Thankfully, the Voodoo was a long-serving and important airframe, and the modeller’s choice of Voodoo kits is significant, for both styles.

Like all Matchbox kits, the Voodoo is a relatively simple kit in terms of part count, and is among the least-detailed in terms of panel lines and other surface detail. The kit is, in many ways, crude and unrefined, and will not satisfy those looking to “build the real thing”. However, to me, that’s the charm of it. It’s a big kit (for a Matchbox), and it’s a hulking, brutishly unrefined replica. But, the real Voodoo can hardly claim to with the “subtlety prize” for aircraft design, so in a lot of ways, Matchbox’s kit does the real subject justice rather nicely!

The kit is simple enough that anyone can build it without much trouble, even if it was the very first kit they’d ever tackled. Yes, it is that simple. Yes, that simplicity comes at a price of both accuracy and refinement. However, that’s what I like about it. Even if you’re a great modeller with lots of experience, there’s something here for you. There’s an almost blank canvas that you can really go to town on and make your own. There’s lots here to practice the basics on, too; sanding, gluing, puttying… they’ll all be here in abundance, so if you’re trying to teach someone else, this is a great trainer kit, too.

Is this the best Voodoo kit ever? No. Is it the best in 1/72? No. Is it the best two-seater? No. But, it IS the only RF-101B, and it IS the only one that’s a Matchbox, with all the good and bad that entails. If you’re looking for the last word on McDonnell’s tricky hot rod, go somewhere else. Matchbox doesn’t serve your kind. If you’re looking for a simple, fun model that will still look good when you’re done, or you want the challenge of seeing how you can wrestle an old dog to the ground, then you’re in.

For my money, this kit is awesome. Clearly, it has issues and limitations, however, it has a lot of heart and like Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree, it just needs some love.  For a great retro modelling adventure, this Voodoo is a perfect place to start; I know I’m excited just looking at the parts! I encourage everyone to give it a go, especially if you like Cold War stuff FROM the Cold War!

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