Matchbox 1/72 Hunter T.66

 

The Hawker Hunter is one of the most successful British aircraft ever in terms of export popularity. This example is an Omani Hunter T.66 wearing the low-viz cammo scheme of the late '80s and early '90s.

The Hawker Hunter was a long-lived bird! This example is an Omani Hunter T.66 wearing the low-viz cammo scheme of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

The Hawker Hunter is, without a doubt, one of Britain’s most successful aircraft, both in terms of export sales success and longevity. The Hunter was a transonic design of the mid 1950s, and for it to have continued to serve for four decades tells a lot about the Hunter’s excellent durability, capability and upgradability. Hunters have been sold to clients, and then resold and resold again, sometimes passing on as “hand me downs” several times before finally being retired.

Sure, in a modern full-on war scenario, the venerable Hunter wouldn’t stand a chance; newer fighters and anti-aircraft systems would annihilate it. However, in less advanced theatres of war, where enemies might not have the newest equipment, its high transonic performance, maneuverability and toughness would put the Hunter in good stead. Indeed, this was the feeling of several nations that undertook considerable effort to upgrade their Hunters dramatically in the 1980s. This lead to the Swiss, Omani and a few other air forces, adapting the Hunter to carry advanced weapons, including Sidewinder missiles, and in the case of the Swiss machines, even Maverick missiles!

When I saw a picture of an Omani Air Force Hunter two-seater in Vol. 20 of the (greatly missed) Wings of Fame magazine, I was totally head-over-heels for it. There was this weirdly sedan-like Hunter (about which I knew nothing) with a menacing dark-grey paint scheme and two Sidewinders under the wings. As it turned out, the reason the Hunter looked so odd was because it was a two-seater, and the two-seat Hunter is side-by-side! This seems to have been a uniquely British predilection, as neither the Soviets nor Americans (at least after the epic fail of the TF-102) did this to conversion trainers.

Based on that picture alone, I knew I had to have a model of this plane. It was a Hunter T.66, which is an export version of the trainer. The biggest difference between that and the normal British version was that the T.66 had two gun pods on it, compared to the T.7’s single unit. Still, that wasn’t going to deter me, and when I finally found a T.7 kit, I was ready to get into making my Omani two-seater dreams come true!

The bulbous nose of the trainer Hunters is seen to particularly good effect here. Some don't like it, but I think it adds an air of sedan-like grace.

The bulbous nose of the trainer Hunters is seen to particularly good effect here. Some don’t like it, but I think it adds an air of sedan-like grace.

The Kit:

I’ve already reviewed the basic Matchbox Hunter kit in my Out of Box section. So, if you want to see the kit with which I started, I’d say CLICK HERE!

Building the Hunter:

As expected, the Matchbox Hunter is not an epitome of the kitmaker’s art. It’s basic, but it fits together pretty well. The wing/fuselage junctions, as well as the spine/fuselage junction are pretty good, but it’s a bit dodgy around where the nose goes on.  As for that nose, I crammed it full of lead pellets, since the model looks pretty tail-heavy. There’s lots of room in there, though, since the nose is extra wide and deep to accommodate the awkwardly awesome second seat.

Okay, so maybe it's not a Tamigawa kit. Maybe it's not even a Revell kit! Matchbox's aren't know for their fitting exactitude, and this view of the Hunter's assembly shows this rather well.

Okay, so maybe it’s not a Tamigawa kit. Maybe it’s not even a Revell kit! Matchbox’s aren’t know for their fitting exactitude, and this view of the Hunter’s assembly shows this rather well.

The biggest problem on the body is the tailpipe. Because there’s no separate nozzle, you can see right into the plane. I had built a nice blocker plate, but I had to punch this out during construction; you need to be able to run a stick up the Hunter’s nozzle (YOUCH! Don’t try that at home, kiddies!) to have some way to hold it for painting. The blocker plate interfered, so it was simply decided to mask the lack of engine by painting everything in the fuselage black. This is ghetto as all get out, but it does work!

Just as big a problem, but far more visible, is the fact that the Hunter’s intakes are hollow. Now, whereas you often see into the fuselage due to this problem, on the Hunter, things are reversed. The wing root intakes should let you see into the body (where the engine is), but there’s a solid “wall” there. However, looking into the intakes allows you to see right into the wheel bays! Well, okay, there aren’t “wheel bays” as such, but there are areas where the gear bays should be. That means you can look into the intake and see the ground below the wheels. That’s a family sized bottle of weaksauce right there.

This black patch is to simulate the "hole" you'd see looking into the intake of a normal Hunter. Only Matchbox gives you walls where you need holes and holes where you need walls!

This black patch is to simulate the “hole” you’d see looking into the intake of a normal Hunter. Only Matchbox gives you walls where you need holes and holes where you need walls!

To remedy this constructional failure, I used Crayola Model Magic. This stuff is a light (very important for modelling) “clay” that can be moulded like Play-Doh, but that is far less dense. It also “dries” after a few hours (give it overnight) and can be painted. It’s a cross between foam and clay, I guess you could say. Anyway, I packed some Model Magic into the wing between the gear opening and the intake opening. I contoured it with the flat of my modelling knife, and in so doing formed not only a back “wall” for the intake, but a front wall for the gear bay! Two birds, one stone.

On the left is the wing with the Model Magic "wall". On the right is the original part. Anything is better than nothing, and the MM works well, and is light to boot!

On the left is the wing with the Model Magic “wall”. On the right is the original part. Anything is better than nothing, and the Model Magic works well, and is light to boot!

I applied a bead of Ambroid Proweld to the top and bottom of both sides of the mass of Model Magic, to hold it in place. As it dries, Model Magic shrinks a bit. They say it doesn’t but they’re wrong. However, when gluing Model Magic: BE CAREFUL! This stuff sucks up glue like a sponge, and HOLDS IT to the plastic. If your plastic is prone to melting, it will warp or melt at the interface with the Model Magic for sure. I learned this the hard way. However, if used sparingly, the glue will work fine, as it did here.

Here's the difference: on the left is the front view of the filled intake, on the right the empty one. Hollow isn't cool...

Here’s the difference: on the left is the front view of the filled intake, on the right the empty one. Hollow isn’t cool…

Once the Model Magic was dry, I was able to prime and paint it as with any other medium. I painted the inside of the intake white, and the back black, to simulate a hole. I also painted the “wall” of the fuselage black near the intake, and white near the gear bay, since it forms a part of both. When the wings went on, the effect was amazing! The intake really looked proper and the gear bays looked so much more complete. Sure, the method wasn’t super detailed or exact, but neither is this kit!

Looks okay from here!  The "black hole" on the fuselage side and the black on the Model Magic blend together nicely, giving a realistically hollow look!

Looks okay from here! The “black hole” on the fuselage side and the black on the Model Magic blend together nicely, giving a realistically hollow look!

Conversion to T.66

The Omani T.66 that I wanted to model, the same as the one I saw in the Wings of Fame, was a two-seater, with the new two-tone grey air defence scheme. This is one of the Hunters converted to take the Sidewinder missile. Of course, the Hunter T.7 doesn’t HAVE any such missiles with it, because it never carried them.  That meant that I was going to need pylons and rails to carry the weapons, the missiles themselves, and a few good photos of where it all fit on the plane.

The photos were easy, thanks to the magic of Google. I even found one that showed exactly where the rails and missiles sat; it was an underside shot with one missile on, and one off! It was if I had requested that picture be taken just for me! Even better, I found that if I blew it up just right on my screen, I could hold the model up to it, and it was exactly 1/72, giving me perfect alignment!

Finding missiles was also easy; I had several Hasegawa weapons sets, and took a pair of Sidewinders out of there. I had a bunch to choose from, but chose the ones that were closest to the ones in the photos I saw. I also took a pair of rails for the Sidewinders from my Japanese missile set; I’d need them to mount the missiles on the pylon. That pylon, however, was going to be a problem. There wasn’t an appropriately shaped pylon anywhere that I could find, so I had to come up with something on my own. It’s rare to have spare pylons left over, so the spares box didn’t help me out. However, I did have the pylons for the rocket pods!

I tried to get a feel for the correct pylon shape, and then cut down the rocket pod pylons to match. Once they were properly shaped, I drilled holes in the wing for the locating pins. The positioning came from my on-screen overlay, and was amazingly easy to transfer. I then glued the now-separate rails to the undersides of the pylons, and let everything dry. The fineness of the Hasegawa parts compared to the chunky Matchbox parts was telling; the Hunter’s parts felt like Duplo bricks compared to the fineness of the Hasegawa’s Lego.

Here's an odd mix! A combination of Matchbox and Hasegawa parts gave me the Sidewinder rail I needed! Gotta love those weapons sets!

Here’s an odd mix! A combination of Matchbox and Hasegawa parts gave me the Sidewinder rail I needed! Gotta love those weapons sets!

The cannon packs were somewhat more difficult to work with. Firstly, there is only one cannon on a T.7, so I had to make a new one of similar size and shape. I’m sure a more talented or better-equipped modeller could have crashformed or recast something based on the pod I had. However, those weren’t options for me. The only real choice I had was to make a blob of Aves Apoxie Sculp and sand it down to size and shape.

This is going to take some doing... It's clear which is the kit part, and which the Apoxie Sculp one from this angle. Getting them to match took several iterations.

This is going to take some doing… It’s clear which is the kit part, and which the Apoxie Sculp one from this angle. Getting them to match took several iterations.

Secondly, the cannon on the T.7 looks different that the one the good folks at Matchbox gave me. The muzzle brake, such as it was, in the kit has no hole in it, and it is very square, looking more like the brake on a tank gun or sniper rifle than an aircraft gun. Thankfully, the spares box is always open, and after a bit of a dive, I determined that I could use the cannons from the 37mm Flak pods on the 1/72 Fujimi Ju-87G to fill in for the guns on the Hunter. The cannons come moulded in halves, which was perfect, since I needed the barrel to butt up to the fuselage. With a bit of cutting and tweaking, I had two cannon barrels installed!

Well, all things considered, it doesn't look too bad, eh? the Fujimi Stuka cannon seems right at home - on both sides!

Well, all things considered, it doesn’t look too bad, eh? the Fujimi Stuka cannon seems right at home – on both sides!

The Omani single-seat Hunters are equipped with new electronic warfare (EW) installations on the lower rear fuselage, near the airbrake. However, the two-seaters do not seem to have this installation, so that was one less thing I had to worry about.

Painting and Finishing:

What really drew me to the Omani machine was its paint scheme. Despite the age of the airframe, it looked absolutely menacing in its two-tone grey air defence scheme. Obviously, this is what I wanted to emulate with my model. After doing some colour tests, I found that, as always, Testors Model Master Acrylics (MMAs) would do the job. The two colours that corresponded to the photos I’d see were F-15 Dark Grey and Gunship Grey.

This is one angry looking bird! I love the aggressive and modern cammo scheme the Omanis chose for their remaining Hunters. The white AIM-9s just add to the package.

This is one angry looking bird! I love the aggressive and modern cammo scheme the Omanis chose for their remaining Hunters. The white AIM-9s just add to the package.

Most of the plane is actually F-15 Dark Grey, and it proved easiest just to hose down the entire airframe with this colour first. I then masked off the bottom of the plane along the appropriate line. The Gunship Grey cammo on the Hunter stops right at the same “top-bottom” demarcation one would see on a plane with a differently coloured underside, so I could only assume that a similar approach was taken on the real thing! For the “blobs”, I laid out large pieces of very wide Japanese masking tape on some waxed paper, and then cut shapes out of it. I peeled these off the “backing” and applied them to the fighter to shield the F-15 Grey.  I then airbrushed on the Gunship Grey and that was that.

Once unmasked, the plane was sanded to bring down the masking edges, and all the panel lines were darkened with a sharpened mechanical pencil. I still like this approach as opposed to a wash, since it will always be equally strong in all lines, and you don’t have to worry about puddling! The plane was then Futured and sanded again, before decals were applied.

The markings on a modern Omani Hunter T.66 are not very numerous. I used ejection seat stencils from the spare decal sheets I have lying around, but of course I had no Omani symbols or numbers. I downloaded a picture of the Omani Air Force crest, and after some photoshopping I got it so that the centre was hollow, leaving only the blue shield. I then pasted this picture into MS Word and also used the Arabic Fonts to type out an appropriate number in Arabic. I printed my decals using Testors Ink Jet Custom Decal System, and voila! Instant obscure markings at a fraction of the cost of aftermarket! I love having this ability; to be able to create markings like this takes practice, but it’s something I encourage everyone to try and play with… you’ll never want for oddball markings again!

With the decals on and Futured in place, I applied two different shades of ground up grey pastels to the model. I used a darker shade over the Gunship than I did over the F-15 Dark Grey. Instead of the Tamiya Craft Cotton Swabs I sometimes use, I found that a cut down #0 paint brush worked better. For the larger panel lines of the Matchbox kit, the brush allows for better blending; Tamiya swabs make too sharp a line. This is good for smaller scale or more finely-detailed models, but Matchboxes, Frogs and Hellers all demand something a little bit more brutish.

Here's a closeup of the new cannon pack, all painted and pastelled. The pastels ad good depth, and break up the surface well.

Here’s a closeup of the new cannon pack, all painted and pastelled. The pastels ad good depth, and break up the surface well. You can see the intake “hole” is still working as an effective illusion, too!

I applied the pastels over the paint once it had been given a light coat of Delta Ceramcoat Matte Urethane Varnish.  I thought it would be easier if the pastels had something to “grab” onto. Once they were on, a light dusting of the same varnish sealed them in place. In some ways, this worked well. The pastels did go on more smoothly. However, it was much harder to make minor corrections to them. They really did stick to the matte surface better; whereas I could literally dust them off with a paintbrush on a glossed surface, there was little save a wet Kleenex that would move them from the Matte. I suggest sticking with a shiny surface for pastelling; it’s a little bit easier and a lot more fun!

Disaster Strikes!

Just after I painted the plane, it decided to fall over. Thankfully, the paint was dry, so no harm no foul, right? Well, gravity is a much crueler master than that! The plane decided not to fall only over, but completely off the table. Accelerated by Newton’s hateful 9.8 m/s^2, it hit the floor 3 feet below. Unfortunately, the Hunter is very nose heavy, thanks to the lead in the nose. The result was a sickening crack!

A cursory inspection revealed that the canopy had cracked. After creating a cloud of curse words that would make a sailor blush, I simply remasked the canopy to be dealt with later. When I unmasked the canopy, I found the crack ran right along the shoulder of the unit, right through a front panel. There’s little one can do with a broken canopy, except for using Future to glue it back together, and then buffing it up when all’s dry. That’s what I did, and while not perfect, I at least do have a clear canopy on one side! Since the two-seat Hunter is a rare bird in kit form, there weren’t a lot of places I could go to get a spare canopy; I’ll have to live with the results. However, I can impart this wisdom to all modellers out there:

DO NOT try to hold up a lead-filled plane with a small piece of Styrofoam! Also, don’t do that near a table edge, because the results are less than ideal.

If you look at the "shoulder" on the canopy,  you can see the crack that resulted from the Hunter's tumble. I'm lucky the canopy was masked; that prevented it from shattering, and left me with something to repair!

If you look at the “shoulder” on the canopy, you can see the crack that resulted from the Hunter’s tumble. I’m lucky the canopy was masked; that prevented it from shattering, and left me with something to repair!

Conclusions:

Matchbox made some really neat kits of some rather obscure aircraft, and in many cases there aren’t any newer mainstream kits to replace them. The two-seat Hunter is one such plane, and I’m glad I was able to find one. The kit is very basic, and not for those who want something ultra-detailed out of the box. For those with a penchant for superdetailing, the model is a nice blank canvas, though.

The good thing about the Matchbox Hunter is that it is very adaptable. With some work, inspiration and imagination, it can be made to look as nice as much newer, more advanced kits. Just like the Hunter itself, this is a model that ages well and provides a good basis for updating.  It’s a nice kit and generally accurate (although the gear doors are TERRIBLY inaccurate), and it’s easy to build.

The lack of detail continues into the cockpit. Some tape seat belts do add some life, though!

The lack of detail continues into the cockpit. Some tape seat belts do add some life, though!

This is a good kit for a beginner who wants to quickly build a kit and get some experience. However, it’s also a good kit for someone with a fetish for the unusual. It’s not a good kit for someone who is used to a shake-and-bake masterpiece like those from Hasegawa and Tamiya. So long as you know what you’re in for, though, the Matchbox 2-in-1 Hunter is a great find for builders and collectors alike!

Seen from below, the bright white contrasts satisfyingly with the leaden grey of the rest of the plane. The dual Sidewinders give the plane a huge increase in firepower!

Seen from below, the bright white contrasts satisfyingly with the leaden grey of the rest of the plane. The dual Sidewinders give the plane a huge increase in firepower!

 

 

 

 

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