Phoenix Decals | #32009 F-14A VF-111
Reviewed by Darin Bellis
Searching for colorful decals for a recently acquired F-14A kit in 1/32, I ran across decals for F-14s of VF-111 'Sundowners' by a company I'd never heard of before; Phoenix. Throwing caution to the wind, I plunked down the asking price of $25.50 (USD) plus shipping and sat beside my mailbox for the quick 10 days it took the decals to arrive in New England, USA from Taiwan. The decals arrived packaged in a brown-paper envelope, and sandwiched between two layers of heavy cardboard. Unfortunately, this was not quite enough to completely protect them on their 12,000 mile voyage, and they did suffer from one bend as well as some dinged corners. Nothing that should hinder their use, though. Upon close scrutiny, the slightly bent areas of the decal sheets do not appear to be cracked at all.
The minor damage initially noted was completely eclipsed by 'wow factor' once the internal zip-lock bag containing the decals was released from the packaging. And, the deeper into the set I got, the more my eyes bugged out in awe. There are no less than 7 sheets included, with options for 4 aircraft:
- Bu.No. 161621 "Miss Molly" Hi-Vis, Small Insignia
- Bu.No. 160656 "200" Hi-Vis, Large Insignia
- Bu.No. 160674 "204" Lo-Vis, Large Insignia
- Bu.No. (unknown) "211" combination Hi-Vis/Lo-Vis, Large Insignia
Two sheets featuring the "Miss Molly" nose art as well as stencils are included. There are also separate white backgrounds for under the "Miss Molly". It appears as though there are enough marking, insignia and stencil decals to build a total of 3 models with just this one set of decals. Even then, there should be lots of leftovers for the spares bin.
As a bonus, the set also includes very nice pairs of pitot tubes and AOA sensors (2 of each) cast in white metal. These parts look very nice, with smoothly cast surfaces.
For as beautiful as the decals are, the placement guide is a huge let down. As can be seen in the images, the guide consists of a single two-sided A4 sheet in color showing the left side of all options, the right side of 2 of those options, and the top view of "Miss Molly" (which is the only option with the small insignia). There are also 6 tiny photographs of the actual aircraft, but these are so small as to be useless as any kind of color or placement guide. There are no numbers or letters identifying the decals, nor clear instructions on where to place the smaller stencils. The modeler is expected to place the decals in accordance with the profiles, but the smaller decals are invisible on the profiles. There are no details of what the inboard surfaces of the vertical stabilizers should look like. The color call-outs are a line of tiny 'sample' blocks with numbers for corresponding Gunze Mr. Color paints. No FS numbers or recommended mix ratios for the Mr. Color paints are supplied. On the plus side, the "Miss Molly" decals and their backgrounds are labeled 'L' and 'R'.
The recommended kit is the Tamiya F-14A. But I will be using them on the Revell F-14A, and don't foresee any problems - with the possible exception of the fin sunbursts. Even if there are indeed fit issues there, they should be easily overcome with red and white paint.
I've made no effort whatsoever to research the accuracy of the decals or the 'placement guide', and can not comment on this aspect at all. I'll leave that to those far more familiar with F-14s than myself (which includes just about everyone on the planet), should they so choose.
Final assessment is that the price is a little high, the placement guide is terrible, but the decals themselves are amazing. Worth the price? I think so. And, some surfing through image searches online has yielded more than enough information to make up for the poor placement guide. In that context, I'd highly recommend this set to anyone looking to build an F-14A of VF-111.
This decal set is currently available from the AFV Club store on eBay. Review sample courtesy of my wallet.
© Darin Bellis 2014
This review was published on Saturday, June 28 2014; Last modified on Wednesday, March 02 2016