One thing I noticed when I began this build (and which I missed in the In-Box Review) is that there are two sprues here, but though they are completely different, both are identified as “080 A”, moulded into a tab on the sprue. The instructions refer to them as A and B. This isn’t by any means a major problem, but it does perhaps indicate a certain carelessness in the making of the moulds for this kit. As you follow this build, you’ll realise that this isn’t the only issue with these parts…
Anyway, I start on this kit by attempting to improve the shape of the rear of the fuselage sponsons. These are completely the wrong shape so I start by cutting off the rear of the existing sponson.
Then, I create a new rear part of the sponson using plastic card and filler. The result certainly isn’t perfect, but I believe it is closer than the kit version.
Next I work on the cockpit tub. No real problems here and I don’t spend a great deal of time on detail given that this is obviously the wrong cockpit for this model of AH-64. The seats are a problem. They include harness shoulder straps, which is nice. But they also have distinct ejector pin marks right in the centre of the rear seat cushion, right between the straps. If you sand off the pin marks, you’ll lose the strap detail…
Before I join the fuselage halves, I check the fit of the cockpit, and I’m glad I do because it’s around 2mm short.
In the image below, you can also see just how bad fit between the fuselage halves is – look at the area in front of the cockpit and the mounting hole for the upper sensor module… I use filler to build up the front edge of the cockpit in the hope that this will help to hide the gap.
Then, I join the fuselage halves. Fit, frankly, is horrible. There are locating pins, but even using these as guides, the two halves just don’t match up – this is especially noticeable on the top of the nose, ahead of the cockpit. After lots of sanding and the use of a fair amount of filler, I end up with a fairly smooth join, but of course I lose all the raised panel lines and rivet detail in the areas where I have sanded the joins.
Then I assemble the halves of the engine pods. Again, these have locating pins and again, the top and bottom halves just don’t line up. This leaves a very noticeable seam between the halves. I’m going to sand and fill to remove this, but this also means that I’ll be removing virtually all the detail from the outside of the pods. Just take a look at the image below (and yes, I have used the locating pegs and holes to line the pod halves up). I really can’t remember the last time that I dealt with this level of fit issue, though I suspect it was around 1972…
After a great deal of filling and sanding, I end up with engine pods that look just about OK, though as you can see, they now lack surface detail on the outside. I have also added the undercarriage and the horizontal stabilator, which is tricky to fit straight.
I go on to add other bits and pieces to the fuselage, including the canopy and the underwing stores. I used filler to build up the fuselage ahead of the canopy, but more was needed at the rear of the canopy to cover a small gap. In addition, the Hellfire missiles really don’t look anything like the originals and the endcaps for the Hydra rocket pods fit badly – lots of sanding and filling is required to get smooth cylinders.
Final construction of the fuselage is completed and happily, I don’t encounter any further serious fit problems. I also construct the rotor head, blades and Longbow radar and these go together precisely and with no problems at all – hurrah! These are temporarily fitted, but I’ll be leaving them off until painting is finished. I also Ieave off a couple of small antenna that don’t seem to appear on operational versions of the AH-64D – I guess that these were perhaps unique to the prototype? As you can guess, I haven’t enjoyed this build at all but now, finally, I’m ready to start painting.
Masking the cockpit is less of a problem than it can be simply because the canopy comprises mainly large, flat panels. I go for several thinned coats of Vallejo Russian Uniform for the base coat. The instructions suggest olive drab, but I’m going for a British Army Air Corps version and these seem to be a lighter green (and current US Army AH-64s are painted grey, not green). I add some highlights and pick out details like the sensor panels and hydra rocket heads in a light grey and add the decals.
Finally it gets a grey oil wash to pick out details and make the whole thing look well-used. Most images of operational AH-64s show them with blotchy, discoloured and chipped paint. With that done, this Italeri AH-64 is finally finished. One thing I’m particularly disappointed about on the finished kit is that the pilot’s control panel is clearly visible, and is equally clearly the wrong panel for this model of AH-64.
After Action Report
If you want to build a small scale AH-64, buy one of the Academy kits. Or anything else at all rather than this, the kit that time forgot. I have read in other reviews that fit on this kit is “indifferent.” I disagree. Fit is only indifferent in the good parts. In many places, it’s utter crap. You’ll be left with the choice of leaving very visible seams, or sanding and filling which will remove much of the raised surface detail. Some parts, such as the cockpit, just don’t fit the opening in the fuselage.
I had initially thought of adding some detail here. The M230 chain gun, for example, lacks the distinctive protective cage fitted on all Apaches and the Hellfire missiles used by the British Army have distinctive markings for which decals are not provided. But really, I couldn’t be bothered given all the other problems I encountered here. By the time I finished just building this kit, I was losing the will to live…
I had been really looking forward to building an aviation subject for the first time in a number of years before I began this build but, as a wise man once said: “This is no fun, no fun at all.*” I’m not normally a giver-upper, but I really struggled to find the enthusiasm to finish this build. I have built some old kits since I re-started kit-building a few years back, but I haven’t come across anything quite this bad. Almost every single step of the build involved dealing with deficiencies in fit and mouldings that just don’t match.
Does crap fit and a lack of accuracy make you feel nostalgic for the kits you built as a kid? If so, you might, possibly, enjoy this one. Otherwise, I can’t think of any reason why you’d waste your money on this piece of shoddy tat. Avoid at all costs!
* If you care, it was Johnny Rotten, at the Sex Pistol’s last gig in San Francisco in 1978.