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Detailing a Douglas F4D-1 Skyray "Ford", 1/48 scale

Part I

by  Gustavo Nuñez © 2001 Modeler Site

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When the small Skyhawk first appeared on the flying deck of the USS Ticonderoga, in 1955, the experts predicted that this was going to be one of the greatest planes in the US Navy fighters arsenal. The truth was that all the technical solutions, some of them very evolved at that time, were the result of all the experience accumulated with the Skyray. The Skyray was the carrier based airplane that had the time-to-climb record for several years. It could reach almost Mach 1 on the flight deck and it was capable of a roll rate of 800 degrees per second!. The arrival of other important fighters, such as the F-4Phantom, and the F-8 Crusader, forced the retirement of the "Ford" Skyray, in the mid sixties, from service.

I began with the Tamiya kit and had the plan of putting some extra detailing on it. This model depicts the F4D-1, TR-24 in service at the FLEET AIR GUNNERY UNIT (fagu), Pacific, in the NAAS at "El Centro", California, in April 1958. Although Tamiya provided decals for several versions, I rather used the ones by Cutting Edge, 48092 for the data, and 48089 for the version I chose for my model.

Modifying the kit...

Initially, my project was to build a good reproduction of the Skyray, with little modifications and adding some extra parts. As I was going on with the project, and studying the reference pictures, I realized that Tamiya made several mistakes. The conclusion is that I ended superdetailing the model and modifying many parts that I really didn't know the existance of, before beginning the building.

Here is a list of the added parts, and the modifications:


I discarded the original in the kit and used the resin one - #48121 - from Cutting Edge. Besides that, I upgraded the resin parts adding levers, cockpit sides, the HUD, wiring, and PE parts from the Eduard kit #48241.

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I replaced the instrument panel with the Eduard, modified the resin seat (which is like the one that comes in the kit), and made the ejection rails (the structure and the lightening holes). I also replaced the belt buckles and the levers in favor of the Eduard ones.


I detailed the inner parts of the windshield adding the reinforcement pieces that joins it to the aft part of the HUD. I added the sitck lever, the side handle, and the missing buttons.


Inside the canopy I added details such as the cushioning, edges, wiring, mirrors, instruments, side sprues, as well as the beacon light and antenna, on the exterior.

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I modified, deepened, and rectified all the air intakes and purge outlets in the kit,  I made some drilling that was missing, as well as the openings in the cannon barrels in both wings.


This version made me cover the original cannon openings in the kit. I used transparent acrylic to make the navigation lights in the wing tips, landing gears, and the fin.

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Control Surfaces

I wanted to put the wing flaps in different positions, something very common when the plane is on the ground, so I had to cut the ones in the kit. I put the ailerons in the down position because is not common for planes on the ground, to have them in a higher position than the one I had adopted for this model.

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This modification left the inner part of the wing open, so I had to make them from scratch. I had to adjust the thickness and profile of the inner moving parts and give them a triangular shape, in order to put them in the adequate position. I also added the inner structure to this parts, because they are visible. As I lowered the slats positions too, I had to modify the inert shape of them.


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I had to build the inner parts of the air intake; for this task I had to make a mold and used heated plastic sheet to make the parts. Then I built the whole assembly and installed it together with the air intakes and the first stage compressor provided in the kit. I thinned the air intakes and added the reinforcements between them and the fuselage. I replaced the small side intakes in the kit with ones that I've made with a different size and shape. I cut the inner exhaust parts and grooved them, because Tamiya makes them in a single piece. Then, I added a PE after-burner and I discarded the rest of the pieces in the PE fret, because they were for a pre-production engine.

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Part II > Here

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