Wednesday, April 29, 2015

ESCI 1/48th FJ-2/3

29 October 2016: It turns out that I was wrong about being wrong with respect to the FJ-4 horizontal tail so I revised the top view drawing at the bottom of this post. Thanks to maintenance manual data provided by Frank Truchi, a volunteer at the National Naval Aviation Museum, I now know that the production FJ-4 horizontal tail leading edge was swept at 35°. The NAA drawing of the horizontal tail is therefore accurate except for the span.  (Also see

Some people are desperate for a good injection-molded kit of the North American FJ-2/3 Fury, so desperate that they consider building the ESCI 1/48th kit. While I'm sure that a fairly accurate model can be built from it, some changes will be necessary.

The most notable errors are in the forward fuselage,
as detailed here:
Note that the ejection seat is located too low and far aft in the cockpit.

It fairs even worse as an FJ-3, because its inlet was even deeper. (And that scoop on the aft fuselage needs to be cut down and a recessed ramp added ahead of it.)
Note that the aft nose landing gear door is not wide enough.

Since the bottom of the sliding canopy has the distinctive "dip" of the FJ-2/3's at its forward end (added to allow the pilot to sit higher for takeoff and landing while closing and opening the canopy) and the inlet is an undersized version of the FJ-2's, it doesn't make for a good XFJ-2 out of the box either. The XFJ-2 had the standard F-86 sliding canopy with a modified windscreen for better over-the-nose visibility. For an overview of the North American FJ Fury family, see

However, even given its shortcomings, the kit has possibilities. Deepening the forward fuselage wouldn't be too difficult. "Impatient Pete" modified an F-86 with this cut on the way to an FJ Fury in an ARC forums post.

The bottom of the windscreen and sliding canopy could possibly be filed down to lower them to the right height. A F-86 canopy might be even better.

I don't have the kit so I can't say what has to be done to the wings, horizontal stabilizer, etc to improve its accuracy. For those details, see

While most of us are content to imagine the possibilities or hope for a new FJ-3 kit, Jon Kunac-Tabinor has not only sallied forth with the Esci kit, he is posting his progress here:

However, Jon is having trouble with the quality of Esci plastic and Bob Sikkel reports that the Esci wing has the incorrect sweep and aileron location. The desperate might want to consider another 1/48th scale alternative, a mash up of the Grand Phoenix FJ-4 and a Monogram F-86.  The FJ-4's fuselage was very similar to the FJ-3's (see Jon Krol's comments below and the following illustrations). Bob Sikkel also provided the following comparison of 1/48th kit inlets to which I've added photographs of the actual airplanes.
Somebody has measured the FJ-4 at Tyler, Texas as having an inlet width and height at the location of the inlet plug of 23".

The FJ-3 and FJ-4 fuselages were almost identical, except of course where it is obvious that they aren't as well as the small difference in downward angle of the 20 mm guns. While the main landing gear was very different, the nose gear appeared to be the same except that the shock strut was more extended at rest.
Note that the North American draftsman had to wing it with details like access panels, speed brakes, etc. (obvious when comparing the FJ-3 and FJ-4 side views) so there may be some variation in their location from the above. Your guess is as good as mine on the vertical fin: were the leading and trailing edges different or not?

The wings and horizontal tails were very different, which is where an F-86 kit is required.

Note the difference in span between the prototype and production FJ-4 horizontal tails:


  1. I suggest using the fuselage of a Grand Phoenix FJ-4 instad of doing major surgery on the ESCI fuselage. The GP -4 fuselage is actually far better to cut on than the very bad ESCI one.

    1. I've taken a look at that. The FJ-4 forward fuselage, back to the change in angle of the intersection of the sliding canopy with the forward fuselage, is very close to the FJ-3's including the windscreen. The 20 mm cannon aren't angled downward as much as the FJ-3's, however. The sliding canopy, top of the center fuselage, wing, main landing gear, and at least the vertical tail of the empennage of the FJ-4 require replacement, of course. An F-86 might work for that with some changes to the empennage and sliding canopy.

  2. Tommy,..... I believe they are just the same, not just very close. In fact I believe the -4 fuselage aside from the spine and the fin/rudder is exactly the same. Why would they have changed it to begin with? The -4 had the same engine as the -3. Here's my reasons for using the GP kit as a doner.

    The canopy is an issue. Very difficult to reproduce. The kit windscreen obviously will work fine. The bubble is the real problem. A Sabre one will work as the plex extends further back than the Fury's and the shape is fundamentally correct. The frame tabs or ears or whatever you want to call them and some addition to the frame need to be scratched. If you cut the spine off where it intersects that place where the canopy has those ears it should work fine.

    The fin/rudder, what I did on mine when I was hot on it. The -4 fin is just a -3's extended upwards. All the angles are the same. So I just trimmed the fin down to -3 height filled where I needed to with sheet then created a rudder also from sheet. It even had the ribs! I also was able to keep the lower fin to fuselage filet. You can keep it if you cut the fuselage spine carefully. An alternative is replace the upper vertical stab with one from an F-86. You will still need to make a correct rudder. Don't forget you need to keep the little bulges at the base of the fin. Perhaps an F-86D's fin/rudder might work.

    A side advantage of using the GP kit is it has a great resin cockpit. The -3 and -4 were very similar. The only real difference I can see, and I have all the Ginter Fury series books, is the instrument panel. The side consoles, the stick and the bang seat are all the same or at least close enough in 1/48.

    If the angle of the guns is a real issue you can fill them in and drill some new ones.

    For the flying surfaces ESCI actually got it pretty much right. The wings are good for an early -3 before the elimination of the slats but they do include the little mid wing fences of the later version. The drop tanks are accurate as are the weapon's pylons. The landing gear, while basic will work fine and the main wing gear bays are correct. You can also use the metal GP nose gear strut instead of the kit's plastic one as well as the GP refueling probe. They are much more detailed and sturdy. Another bonus of using the GP as a doner kit.

    So you see there's a lot of up side to the adventurous that might want to tackle it and I think it would be far easier. I did at one time a long time ago but I used the old Matchbox kit. The GP or the Hobby Boss kits were still a long way off when I tried my conversion. I do however have a gut feeling someone is working on a plastic Fury. We got the Cougars, the Banshee's have been announced, a 1/32 Tiger is coming out so a 1/48 one can't be far behind. What's left? It has to be the Fury.

    One thing most people do not realize when comparing the Fury to the Sabre is that the rear fuselage on the Fury is much beefier than the Sabre. That's one reason the Fury's completed using any F-86 fuselage. It just doesn't look right. The -4 is far and away better.

  3. As you may well know, the OOP Collect Aire -3 Fury is the best one by far. It is resin and very accurate.......and now very expensive. But it is fiddly to build and I have had a couple but sold them. I hate resin kits.

  4. Just a quick note on using the Grand Phoenix kit's fuselage vs the Hobby Boss's. The rear empennage of the HB kit is not as accurate as the GP kit. However if one has a HB kit, it also has a nice cockpit, bang seat and nose gear leg all in plastic.

  5. Just a quick observation. I may elaborate on my comments later but it appears I may be mistaken about the FJ-4's fuselage being the same as the -3's save for the spine and fin. I do have a derelict Collect Aire -3 Fury and I have just compared the fuselages. Accepting that both are reasonably correct in length at the water line, the -4 is slightly longer, perhaps at the most 1.5 feet . If that is indeed true then I would look for where they modified the fuselage on the -4. It seems the logical place would be where the fuselage break is. I think North American added some length here because of the broader chorded wing they installed.

    Upon checking with the Ginter books they list the FJ-3's fuselage length as 35.61 feet. The FJ-4 is listed at 36 feet 4 inches which would translate in tenths to 36.33 feet. So according to the books using data from North American the difference in fuselage lengths is less than a foot.

    1. The SACs show the FJ-3 length as 450.4" from the tip of the nose to the aft tip of the horizontal stabilizer; the comparable length on the FJ-4 is 435.6", so overall, it is actually shorter than the FJ-3. The difference is that the FJ-4 horizontal tail is located farther forward. (The 35.61 foot FJ-3 length is only from the tip of the nose to the end of the fuselage; it does not include the stabilizer.) I need to check some station diagrams to be sure that the FJ-3 and FJ-4 fuselage lengths are the same, though.

  6. Yes, that is the water line measurement because there is another measurement in the Ginter -3 book that gives the overall length tip of the nose to the rear most part which was horizontal stabs at 37.55 feet.

    I don't believe the overall length difference is due to the horizontal stabs being farther forward, it is because they are shorter and the tips do not extend aft as far as the -3's.

    1. It appears to be a bit of both as well as a difference in sweep angle, if the North American drawing is correct.

  7. Tommy, thanks for that overlay of the side view of the two fuselages. It really illustrates just how close the two fuselages are. I've been wanting a 1/48 scale kit of the FJ-3 for probably 20 years at least and have attempted several kit bashes with the ESCI wings mated to a better Sabre fuselage. It never did look right. Finally a light went off in my head after buying and looking at the Matchbox Fury. That finally led me to trying it with the Matchbox FJ-4 kit. I thought at the time except for the spine and fin they looks suspiciously alike. Your overlay pretty much confirms that. And also, thanks for the overlay of the top view. I hadn't fully evaluated or appreciated the difference in sweep of the horizontal stabs although I did suspect it might be so. I can't tell you how many times I've read over the years that the FJ-4 had a much deeper fuselage and that it was longer. All of those folks were wrong and I don't understand how it could have been missed for so long.

  8. Hi Tommy, the FJ-3 build stalled but then gained lift and is going well. One thing is puzzling me re the leading edge slats though. On some pics the slats appear to have 5 small fences, but on others they don't. And these are early winged slatted airframes too. Any ideas?

    Jon Kunac-Tabinor

    1. Jon, see The small fences were introduced to provide for proper barricade (not barrier) engagement on straight-deck carriers. See for the difference between the two types of barriers and the barricade. I thought I had done a post on these leading edge devices but apparently I didn't.

    2. I just did a post on the fences. See

    3. Oops - missed the second part of your question. You have sharp eyes. It turns out that the FJ-2s and the first production FJ-3s did not have the fences. These were subsequently added to those airplanes, certainly early on in the case of the FJ-3: I have a picture of an early FJ-3 in the Bureau Number range of those early unfenced airplanes; it has fences but they appear to have a zinc chromate color, i.e. before being finish coated with corogard.

    4. Tommy, the small barrier fences were not added until the later mark with the cambered leading edge wing where the leading edge slats were removed. The wings on the ESCI kit are early wings with the leading edge slats. ESCI did include the large mid wing fences for the later mark but they are incorrect for the ESCI particular wing. You should fill in the slats if you were going to build a late mark using those fences. Since Jonners is building an early -3 he should leave the wings clean with no fences at all.

  9. Looking through my Ginter books on the -2 and early -3 Fury's, whether or not an aircraft had the small wing fences seems to be a mixed bag. There are photos showing FJ-2's with and without them. A similar thing with the slat wing -3's. I think you can safely say probably all later cambered wing -3's had the small fences installed at the time of build. Those Fury's with the slatted wing, both -2's and 3's may or may not have them. That might lead me to suggest the addition of those fences on the earlier aircraft were a depot level mod. As the aircraft passed through they were added with the available parts at that time. I think also it may have even been possible that some aircraft never received the mod at all.