But it is the best you will find in this scale, and is indeed a fine kit of this timelessly beautiful aircraft. There are six schemes to choose from, and I decided to go for the Mk74 Singapore Air Force version as a welcome change from the usual two tone RAF schemes!
I had read many complaints about the cockpit on this tooling. I decided to keep an open mind and proceeded with the cockpit as per the instructions. The instrument panels are very well represented and came up really nicely with some dry brushing and blobs of colour and glass. But the real problem is the seat and the associated depth of the cockpit. The seat fits just fine, but it is plainly a 1/72 scale seat and the depth of the cockpit tub matches it. Often one can live with minor issues of this type but this is unforgivable. It just looks absolutely stupid. The rest of the cockpit is in the correct scale, however, and so some corrective work was necessary.
I found a suitable replacement Martin Baker resin seat in my stash, but of course there was no where near enough depth in the cockpit tub. I know that after market cockpit tubs are available to fix this problem, but I was on a schedule and a budget! So I resorted to some major plastic surgery to remove the cockpit floor and build new side walls to lower the whole arrangement. The control column also needed extending but in the end this worked pretty well.
The next challenge is one that plagues all dual intake, single engine plane kits (e.g. the Harrier) and that is how to represent the intakes that flow into a single central duct. Italeri (or rather Academy, whose tooling this is) present you with an arrangement of duct panels that need to be glued into a coherent unit that sits between the fuselage sides. This took some care to get the individual parts lined up but I got there in the end and this piece then sits in the fuselage and the intakes stick out ready for the wings to be placed over them, which I suspected would be a recipe for some serious alignment and seam issues - and I was not wrong.
The nose wheel bay is a single part that sits under the cockpit and there are two versions, depending on the mark you are building. This, and the nose cone, were stuffed with lead shot before attaching since I know that the Hunter is a notorious tail sitter and I was taking no chances. I had to do some tricky adjustments to allow space for my newly deepened cockpit tub but there is just about room if you are careful.
The wing sections went together next with no problems, in fact the fit of the undercarriage bay walls is a magnificent piece of kit engineering. But now came the hard part - the wings are designed to now slip over the protruding intake sections. As expected, much effort was required to get the intakes lining up properly and the wing roots flush with the fuselage. If I was designing this kit, I would do a "top and bottom" fuselage rather than a side by side, this would eliminate most of these problems. But much sanding, wiggling and filling later everything was in place.
Flaps and ailerons are mercifully separate parts and I chose to display flaps down since I think it adds interest to any model aircraft. The tail went on with no complaints, as did the fuselage "under bumps" but as usual, I left off the small parts until after painting.
The only areas requiring significant filling were the wing roots although I gave all suspect areas a dribble of primer to be safe. The fuselage seams were particularly tricky to get rid of as well, and much re-scribing was needed after a major attack from the sanding sponges. Canopies masked and installed, and we were ready for the paint shop.
The instructions call for the underside to be painted light grey, but this is misleading. The actual colour is basically off white, so I mixed up a batch of white with a few drops of buff, and used that. Once masked off, then began the normally tedious process of Blu Tack masking the topside for the three colour camouflage scheme. In practice, this was not too onerous, the biggest problem was getting the right colours. I used dark earth for the brown, but I had real trouble matching the two greens used by the Singapore scheme and used two or three variants before I was satisfied that I had the right colours. A coat of Klear later and it was set aside to dry.
Once cured, decaling began. The decal sheet is superb, and contains some excellent detail but the down side is that it takes an age to get through them. Unusually, the Singapore scheme contains no wing markings. But the decals performed flawlessly and settled down with a dab of Micro Sol. More Klear to seal them in and another drying period later, I washed the panel lines with black oils. The panel lines are perhaps a little deep and wide but whilst it may not be totally authentic it does help to add interest to the final look. I finished the whole thing off with two coats of satin.
Next, on went the undercarriage. This is a rather complex and delicate part of this kit. The undercarriage details are superbly represented, but the pay off is a lot of careful effort required to get everything in place and strong enough to support the model. I also installed the air brake in the "deployed" position to add more interest.
So there we have it, a kit with some flaws, and one huge one to boot, but with perseverance these can be overcome and it does indeed build into a beautiful model of a beautiful plane.