1/48 Hasegawa F-8J Crusader

by Marv Mays



As I was preparing to start yet another build, I was looking for a subject that I had not yet tackled in kit form and that would be a good project to practice some scratch-building techniques I had been reading about online.  After weighing my options and rummaging through my stash, I chose to build the Hasegawa 1/48th scale F-8J, thinking how cool it would be to add a colorful 1970's Navy Crusader to my collection.

This first modification I made to the kit was to correct the fuselage halves and canopy to allow the model to be displayed with the canopy in the open position.  Hasegawa engineered the kit with canopy tabs that are too small, and because of this, the kit’s canopy is not able to swing open. I first gained knowledge of this error from an online article (located here) which detailed exactly how to tackle the problem.  The correction amounted to first creating a paper template for properly sized canopy hinge tabs using an F-8 scale drawing.  Using the template, I routed out slightly enlarged cavities in the two fuselage halves with the help of my Dremel tool and a tiny router bit.  The same template was used to cut out new canopy tabs from sheet plastic.  Once the undersized tabs on the clear canopy part were sliced away, the newly-created tabs were cemented on, completing the modification.

The second task was to scratch-built the under-wing engine duct using plastic sheet and tubing. Using the Aires resin replacement was an option, but this build was all about picking up some new scratch-building skills, and the relatively simple shapes and details found in this area made it a great part to try to create on my own.  I used the kit-supplied part as a sizing guide and went to work while referring to photos of a real duct and the surrounding details.  For my first major scratch-building effort, everything went surprisingly well and I was very pleased with the final result.

Gaining confidence from the successfully completed engine duct bay, I decided to go ahead and cut the wings and build the model with them in the folded position.  No aftermarket wing-folds exist for the 1/48th scale F-8, so I knew this had to turn out well in the end or I’d have to purchase a second kit to acquire replacement wings, making my decision to slice off the wing tips an expensive mistake.  After a week of careful work with tiny pieces of plastic sheet and rod, the wing-folds came together and I could not have been happier with the results.

This was the extent of major scratch-building for this project as I was feeling the need to move on. At this point, the construction phase picked up steam.

To build an accurate F-8J, the instructions note to shave off the "-H" fairing on each side of the vertical tail, to make room for the "-J" fairing.  This is a relatively easy modification and only took a few minutes to complete. 

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Canopy Correction


Scratch-Built Engine Duct


Fuselage Crammed Full of Plastic

Aftermarket resin items I included in the project consisted of the Cutting Edge speed-brake detail set, and their replacement F-8J cockpit set.  I really love the detail in the replacement speed-brake parts, but I have to say the cockpit lacks realistic detailing on the rear bulkhead. I think much more could have been done to achieve a realistic bit of detailing in this area.  Looking back, I now wish I would have cut the bulkhead away from the resin tub and built up more accurate detail bits.

After test-fitting the cockpit tub (it fit wonderfully right out of the package), it was airbrushed Dark Gull Gary (FS36231) and the consoles hand painted with a base of Interior Black.  Knobs and switches where hand-painted with various colors as shown in my photos of actual F-8J cockpits.

The ejection seat was airbrushed with a flat black base and hand-painted details were added as per photos of the real thing.

Next, the intake trunk halves were glued, puttied and sanded to achieve a seamless interior.  This always seems to become a lengthy process of "putty, sand and repeat", but the kit parts do mate well and a seamless intake can be achieved with a little effort.

After fitting the completed intake trunk, the resin speed brake bay and the freshly-painted cockpit to the starboard fuselage half, I shortened the engine exhaust by grinding away some of the rear of the engine tube (kit part # A6). This is another fix that was described in the on-line article I had read prior to starting this build.

Continuing on with the construction, I noticed the roof of the kit-supplied forward landing gear bay includes a set of deep injector pin marks.  I covered them with a very thin square of plastic card which worked satisfactorily and moved on to closing up the fuselage.

Not a lot of putty and sanding was required to prepare the model's exterior for painting due to the very small number of main exterior parts and the really nice fit throughout. 

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Roughing Out The Wing Folds


Corrected Exhaust Length


Basic Painting

I painted the model using Model Master enamels.  The gear bays, flight control surfaces and lower fuselage were airbrushed with Flat White to build-up color, then Gloss White (FS17875) to create a smooth shiny finish.  The upper fuselage was then masked and given the same treatment of Light Gull Grays (FS36440 and FS16440).

After the main exterior colors were painted and had dried, the nose anti-glare area and canopy were masked and painted Flat Black (FS37038).  I was tempted to go with the slightly lighter "Interior Black" color (to allow for scale effect), but since there were going to be black decals applied close to the nose, I was concerned the difference in color would look odd.

Next, the tail area was masked and airbrushed with a custom mix of Model Master Silver Chrome Trim, Exhaust, and Interior Black.  Once complete, slightly darker mixes of these colors were sprayed freehand to create bands of simulated heat exposure and to eliminate the monotone silver appearance.

The squadron decals were taken from Aeromaster sheet # 48-403.  Though this sheet was created before the Hasegawa F-8 series existed, the “made-for-Monogram” decals fit the Hasegawa release quite well. Only a few decals were ever-so-slightly oversized.  The maintenance stenciling was custom designed in Adobe Illustrator and printed on my Alps Micro-Dry Printer.  I used walkaround photos of the F-8 from various sources (both on-line and in book form) to create authentic maintenance data.  Micsoset and Microsol were a tremendous help in getting the decals to settle into all of the lumps and bumps of the F-8.

After basic decaling was complete, the entire model was sprayed with a light coat of Future Floor Wax to seal the decals.  Once this had dried for a couple days, I enhanced the engraved panel lines with a wash of dark gray craft paint mixed with water and a drop of dishwashing soap (to aid in removal of the excess). Once this was complete and had dried, the model’s Light Gull Gray and Anti-Glare Black areas were shot with a coat of Testors Dullcote mixed with a little talc (for an extra flat finish).  I was careful to go around the squadron markings to allow them to retain their shiny appearance.  I feel this adds a little extra “realness” to the completed model.

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Decal Process


Panel Wash & Weathering


Final Assembly


Completed Wing-Fold

After all of the coatings had cured sufficiently, the final assembly commenced.  Landing gear, gear doors, wings, wing tips, flight-control surfaces, ejection seat and canopy were all glued on using cyanoacrylate.  A replacement probe was created from an electric guitar string and was fitted into the hole in the nosecone.  Lastly, the fuselage-mounted position lights were hand painted using Model Master Acrylic transparent colors and glued onto the airframe using MicroClear adhesive.

I didn't build-up any special ordinance for this particular jet.  I suppose I could have added freefall bombs, some Sidewinders or even some Zuni rockets, but I felt this one just didn't need it.  The F-8 is after all “The last of the gunfighters”…


Photos and text © by Marv Mays