Observations & Critique: More “Robotech-themed” than Robotech Product
Before we jump in, let’s get one thing out of the way for all of you trying to remember a cartoon from 30+ years ago; there were never any F-14 Tomcats in Robotech. This product is simply the application of the paint scheme from the VF-1 Veritech, a vehicle whose design is clearly influenced by the Tomcat, on a Tomcat frame. The model comes packaged in an appropriately-sized box adorned with a modern and attractive look. There’s a flip-top lid that has a nice retconning of the F-14 into Robotech lore by giving us an alternate history where the F-14 served as a test bed for new technologies for UN Spacy. Inside the box you get the F-14 model and:
1) 6x Phoenix missiles
2) 2x Sidewinder missiles
3) 2x external fuel tanks
4) 2x exhaust nozzles (reduced diameter from those on the plane)
5) Authenticity card
6) 3x closed landing gear doors (in the tray under the plane)
Underneath the tray that holds everything above you’ll find a second, smaller tray. Taped to the top of that tray you’ll find a little baggy that includes:
7) 2x Pilot figures (Or a pilot and a radar intercept officer if you prefer)
8) 2x standing pilot figures (with 2x metal plates to put their feet in so they will stay standing)
Once you open the tray you’ll find:
9) Display stand (3 pieces, a base, an arm, and an adapter)
and taped to the bottom of the cardboard tray the clamshell sits in you’ll find:
The Hunter/Fokker instructions allude to “provided tools” to be used for parts separation but I didn’t see any provided tools. I simply grabbed a toothpick. The instructions also talk about installing Sidewinders but you don’t get any in the regular release versions of this model.
The VF-1D trainer colors version of the toy has updated instructions that omit the language about included tools and sidewinders. It’s always nice to see a company fix issues along the way. Since the VF-1D is also released as a Macross product instead of a Robotech product, the story on the lid of the box has been altered somewhat.
The above pictures were taken from www.decultureshock.com and you should visit them for lots of great info on all Macross series and events. If you purchased the Macross-branded F-14 S (Focker) and J (Ichijo) variants from Winter Wonder Festival 2017, the goods you got weren’t exactly the same. Instead of a nicely decorated collector’s box, these extremely limited models came in plain brown boxes. The model was whiter with a weathering effect, the “chest” stripes on the Focker version split behind the cockpit, and UN Spacy wasn’t written under the wing. The contents of the box were also different. With these models you received:
1) 2x Phoenix missiles
2) 2x Sidewinder missiles
3) 2x external fuel tanks
4) 2x exhaust nozzles
5) 3x stored closed landing gear doors
Absent were the other Phoenix missiles, the display stand, the standing or seated pilot figures, and the authenticity card.
I’m not a collector of 1/72 diecast models but I understand it’s another thriving hobby and this might be an interesting cross-over piece. If you’re a child of the 80s and miss toys having a lot of heft to them, then you’re really going to enjoy handling these… they’re heavy! It will be interesting to see if these have what it takes to be a hot collectible. On the one hand, they’re an iconic fighter jet presented in heroic paint schemes and loaded with metal. On the other hand, collectors of real-world fighter jets might not be interested since they’re fictional paint schemes. Robotech and Macross collectors might pass since there never was a Tomcat presented in the original show. The 1/72 scale might help the model appeal to modelers but may be a turn-off to toy collectors who would otherwise find the completed nature of these models attractive. At 26CM, it would be tough to argue these aren’t large enough. The first incarnation of these models were S (Focker) and J (Ichijo) variants that appeared at Winter Wonderfest in Japan under an event-limited Macross license. Subsequent releases were under the Robotech banner until the event exclusive Trainer 1D which again was labeled as a Macross prodcut. The plan seemed to be to also produce weathered Max & Miria 1J types under the Macross brand at another Wonderfest but that plan was aborted, instead those weathered models were sold as Robotech-branded website exclusives. This is a fringe enough product where I won’t be hunting down the exclusives so I apologize for the lack of comparison pics. If you own any of the exclusives and would like to provide some clarity on any other differences, please provide a comment and I’ll make the appropriate updates! Below is the release schedule:
F-14 S Type, Macross Roy Focker custom, February 2017, 19,800¥, 10 units
F-14 J Type, Macross Hikaru Ichijo custom, February 2017, 19,800¥, 10 units
F-14 S Type, Robotech Roy Fokker custom, March 2018, $139.99, 2000 units
F-14 J Type, Robotech Rick Hunter custom, March 2018, $139.99, 2000 units
F-14 D Type, Macross Trainer colors, June – July 2018, 20 were available at a show in Hong Kong in June for $1050HKD, more were at SDCC 2018 for $150.00, 300 units
F-14 J Type, Robotech Weathered Max Sterling custom, June 2018 (?), $299.99 10 units (web exclusive)
F-14 J Type, Robotech Weathered Miriya Sterling custom, June 2018 (?), $299.99 10 units (web exclusive)
F-14 J Type, Robotech Max Sterling custom, June 2018 (?), $139.99, 2000 units
F-14 J Type, Robotech Miriya Sterling custom, June 2018 (?), $139.99, 2000 units
While I think fighter jets are super cool, and fighter jets that transform into menacing robots even cooler, I am not an aircraft buff. I’m not going to catch if details on this Tomcat are pulled from different variations of Tomcats and would never coexist in the real world. Standards for completed models tend to run a little higher for toys. There’s no ugly hinge for the canopy which does open to reveal a very nicely appointed interior with paint applications on the center and side consoles. The iconic black “vector thrusters” do look very Macross but are just black circle paint applications which is underwhelming for a completed model. On something with panel lines and rivet work this nice, you would expect some depth to a “vector thruster”. Having recently handled a “premium finish” Arcadia VF-1, I was surprised by the lack of paint applications on this toy. I’m more apt to believe that Arcadia and other toy manufacturers have gone overboard with their markings but I wouldn’t be surprised to find a few paint apps are missing. What is here is done very well; I especially liked the black paint applications on the exhaust nozzles and the detail work in the top airbrake for the actuators. There are no translucent plastic bits for lights (other than a lens on the sensor array near the front landing gear) but that’s probably to be expected given the diecast composition of the model.
The 1D convention exclusive is a thing of beauty. I love the beige and orange tones CW used. The updating of the ordinance was another excellent paint decision as the dark missiles go so much better than the gray ones from the earlier releases would have.
There were a couple design elements that were pleasant surprises. The landing gear have rubber wheels that spin freely. I’ve already mentioned the opening canopy but it’s nice that it can stay open on its own. There’s a hook to catch cables on an aircraft carrier that can be pulled down from the back of the craft and pegs nicely back into its raised position. The wings are geared together so that moving one automatically moves the other. The movement is fluid but stiff enough in the extended position that the wings won’t move when you swoosh it around your office or (wo)man cave. That said, the wings are made of heavy metal so if you take your F-14 fully inverted (take a Polaroid!) the wings will probably swoop back.
There’s a butterfly airbrake located between the vertical stabilizers which can be opened both above and below the craft. You won’t find functional spoilers or ailerons, but the rear stabilizers do pivot. In an ideal world the exhaust nozzles would be able to twist to open/close but at this scale and price point, swap out parts are understandable. I would have preferred the exhaust nozzles to screw onto the model. Instead they simply plug into place and the connection isn’t as secure as I would like but it is just tight enough to stay in place during handling. A dream model would include functioning landing gear bays rather than swap out parts for closed bays. The connection of the assemblies to the hardpoints under the wings and the external fuel tanks under the engines were both just good enough for display pieces but insufficient for handling. Out of the box it was almost impossible to get my J variant under wing assemblies to attach to the plane… it took a lot of force and things were broken (see durability section).
One cool feature I didn’t notice my first time through with this model (until a Youtuber pointed out my failure to mention it in the review) was that there are functional glove vanes on this toy. They are little canards that F-14A used for supersonic flight. If you remove the landing gear you can stick a toothpick through and poke the canards out. They slide back in with a simple press which could prove frustrating during handling.
The display stand requires fairly simple assembly, you’ll need a small Philips head screw driver. Unfortunately, the display stand doesn’t allow you to change the angle of the plane, only the pitch. The display stand also inhibits the use of the airbrakes and the cable hook which is kind of a big bummer since it seems like ‘coming in for a landing’ would be a great way to display this toy.
The paint applications are generally very good. I had only one spot where things looked a little off with perhaps a touch of overspray. I now have three copies of these toys, and they are worlds apart in build quality. My Fokker version had two issues. First, the top airbrake isn’t flush with the deck, one side is recessed in more than the other and this problem is exacerbated when the airbrake is lifted.
Second, there’s a small gap where the nose section of the plane meets the body. Those were my only problems with that toy and I was very happy with it. My 1J Hunter variant had many more issues.
Continuing the list: Third, the small missile connected to the assembly that goes under the wing popped off when I struggled with attaching that assembly to the plane. I thought “Oh, I’ll just plug that missile back in” and runner that goes with the missile broke off the assembly. A little glue fixed everything right up but learn from my lesson, if the little missile pops off just go straight for the glue. Eventually that missile popped off my S variant and the extension the missile attaches to broke off the first time I tried to install it on my D variant so just know, the assembly the small missile attaches to is a durability nightmare and you’re probably going to need to glue it back together.
Fourth, the little antenna immediately aft of the cockpit fell off my 1J and 1D variants when I flipped it upside down… it’s probably glued in place poorly and it looked like Calibre Wings noted that this was caused by the plastic clamshell and they’d change the design of the clamshell for future releases but the shell looks the same on my 1D and the problem persists. I don’t think the clamshell causes the issue, I think it’s the poor glue as that problem undermines other areas where plastic is connected as nearly every place glue is involved has had some failure on at least one of my three models at this point.
Fifth, my pilot’s seat was loose in the cockpit when I received it. It slots into place, but the connection isn’t as tight as it should be and there might be a dot of glue that once again proved incapable of adhering. Sixth, the little, pointy sensors are rubbery plugs, including the one on the nose, so you don’t have to worry about them snapping off during handling but you do have to worry about them falling out. The front pitot on my J variant came free so often I glued it in when I was gluing in the antenna that had come loose and the missile assembly that had broken.
Seventh, the glue that connects the missile to the pegs that hold the missile in place can also fail… as with other items where the glue fails, a new touch of glue should resolve the matter. Eighth, smudges appear on the wings which CW has noted is due to the material between the wings and the body and say can be cleaned with lighter fluid while they search for a more permanent solution for future models (it has not been a problem on my 1D or even 1S toys). Ninth, the J variant rattles when you shake it… the nose is a separate piece from the main body and while they’re so solid you wouldn’t know their two pieces on my S variant, it’s very clear on my J. Excluding the adapter that attaches the stand to the toy, the display stand is metal and feels very sturdy.
The Fokker and Hunter releases seemed like QC roulette to me while my 1D version was much more solid overall and only really suffered from the very fragile missile assemblies and persistent weak glue issues. I really like my Fokker and Trainer versions but my Hunter custom is a comedy of issues. Assuming you get one with a bit better build quality or you don’t mind having to do some minor fixes, this is a great-looking and hefty F-14 Tomcat model rendered in paint schemes you love. If your love of the VF-1 comes from your love of the F-14 then this may be a great item for you…. Provided you don’t mind it being 1/72 scale. If you collect 1/72 diecast models and love Robotech or Macross, this seems like a logical item to add to your collection. If you’re more of a toy collector this might be a tougher purchase to rationalize. The connections and build quality of the accessories don’t live up to high-end toy standards. If this were a toy I would have been extremely let down by the amount of gluing I’ve had to do after only moderate handling. It’s really frustrating to own a model that is composed of so much metal but doesn’t hold together well due to poorly managed plastic bits. It would be cool if all the Macross planes could be rendered in similar models but the Robotech license ensures that, at best, we’ll only see a VF-1 follow-up. Fortunately, Calibre Wings has teased the idea of doing a VF-1 someday and, based on this effort, I really hope they do… though I’m lukewarm on this particular effort there’s enough good stuff here to make me eager to see what a second effort could mean. They showed off a prototype at SDCC 2018 so it may be a reality sooner than later. If you have the kind of office where you can park a Tomcat without getting too many sideways looks but have always been reluctant to bring in a transformable toy, this might be a great way to find out who catches the Robotech reference… but you might find yourself gluing parts back on and picking up missiles from the ground if anyone ever tries to pick it up and take it for a “whoosh”.
Original review date April 15, 2018
Updated May 1, 2018 – added description of the glove vane feature.
Updated August 5, 2018 – added content for D type release