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Initial review of the Revell 1/48 SR-71 Blackbird


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Presented for your pleasure is an "in box" review for the Revell 1/48 SR-71A kit. Here it is in text form. Forgive the lack of detailed photos of every parts tree, but it is pretty easy to find those images online currently via Youtube or other reviews. Mainly I tried to approach my review from how accurate things seem to be as opposed to just showing pictures of gray parts trees because you guys want to know if it is worth getting now or waiting for something later.
 
Revell 1/48 SR-71A. Kit number 04967. Length of completed model over 68 cms (over two feet, two inches).
Revell's kit is made up of 206 parts molded in a light cream gray plastic. A substantial display stand is provided and if used, it displays not one, but two of the Blackbird's J58 engines alongside the model. No pilot figures are provided, but I understand some aftermarket ones may be on the way soon. Packaging for the parts is very good, with dense cardboard for the box. The top and bottom fuselage pieces are individually packaged on a card back at the top of the box while the rest of the parts sit in the main compartment in several parts bags. Two clear parts trees are individually packaged for the windscreen, canopies and a couple other bits.
 
A forty page instruction book is provided. While it uses Revell of Germany's typical European style symbols and pictograms for the instruction callouts, the illustrations are clear and easy to read. Paint callouts are for Revell's brand of paint only. The last seven pages are dedicated to the decal instructions for the kit. A large decal sheet printed by Cartograf in Italy contains the markings. Marking options are provided for four jets, two in the high visability original white markings, one jet in the 1984 to 1989 low visability red markings, and a set for one of the jets activated by the Air Force in the 1990s. Decals are provided for the following planes:
 
61-7958 as used for record setting flights in July of 1978 (featuring a large white cross on the belly)
61-7955, Lockheed's primary flight test systems bird with the "Skunk Works" logo on the tail
61-7972 low vis as used on the March 6, 1990 record setting flight from Los Angeles to Washington D.C.
61-7967 as it looked for the very last USAF Blackbird flight in 1997.
 
Two sets of decal stencils are provided for both the high visibility white and low visibility red markings on the jets. Full cockpit instrument sets for the front and rear pits are provided on the decal sheet, allowing the modeler to minimize detail painting in the cockpit.
 
Detail on the parts is very crisp and looks good. But, how accurate is the detailing? I decided to take my kit down to the SAC Museum in Ashland, NE and compare it with Blackbird 61-7964 which is displayed on stilts in the museum's atrium under natural sunlight. I eyeballed the details and compared them with the kit and I was most impressed with what I saw. Over 90% of the details found on a real Blackbird are present on the kit, especially on the bottom. The two diamond shape RHAW antennas found just behind the nose are there. The large blade antenna found under the left side of the aircraft behind the cockpit is present. Two large pitot/antenna ports back near the engine nacelles are also present. Revell even managed to duplicate a flattened square area right in front of the nose gear bay. Two separate nose top halves and a common nose bottom are provided. You get a complete CAPRE nose and the top part of an ASARS nose. Modifying the nose bottom for ASARS should not be difficult though as it just involves filling some panel lines and scribing in a couple new ones. Those who still have their Testors SR-71 kits can also scrounge the clear camera ports if they wish to cobble together an Optical Bar camera nose. The nose pieces in this kit include the distinctive "pinch in" areas that I understand are part of an ECM antenna mounting. There is some debate as to whether Revell represented the shape of those properly, but if not, a little modeler skill can take care of that.
 
The cockpit layout looks accurate, albeit a little on the spartan side. This is not a problem if the canopies are down, but some detail can be added if you desire an open cockpit bird. Retraction shocks are provided for each canopy and on the ground, the crews also install temporary bars to keep the canopies from dropping prematurely. The front instrument panel and side consoles are very well molded with good detail. If you desire to paint the instruments rather than using the decals, they should do the job fine. The back cockpit is also very well done based on available references. But if you desire doing an early Blackbird as used for Vietnam overflights, the MFD screen up top should be replaced with what appears to be a radar hood in pictures of the period. Once again though, none of this is really noticeable if the canopies are closed. The shapes of the clear canopies look reasonably good, if a little barren on the inside with the front canopy lacking the flip up "sun visor" detail Testors has on their kit. Four piece ejection seats are provided for the Blackbird's unique escape system. Details look adequite although detail freaks will likely run to the True Details or Pavla seats designed for the Testors kits (which do fit according to other modelers I have consulted). I'm sure aftermarket parts sources will be along soon with tweaks for the cockpits, although I plan to see how much "old school" detailing I can do on mine.
 
The engine pods of this kit feature full intake and exhaust trunking. The details look accurate to available resources. Portions of the trunking and aft areas of the intake cones have some noticeable ejector pin marks. But they are situated so deep into the engine pods you will NOT see them when the model is built, even with a dental mirror. Even though the model includes two J58 engines, they are not designed to be installed in the model and it would take masochistic work to do it. Four sets of engine exhaust flame buckets are provided though, two for the engines and two for the plane with both featuring close to identical detailing. All previous Blackbird kits in the scales provided got these details wrong, molding the start of the flame bucket internals just behind the ring of open air bypass doors on the engines just under the tail. In reality the flame buckets set further up into the engines. Revell's 1/48 kit is the first one to represent these details properly and they look good, albeit a little simplified to keep the parts count low. Again, I'm sure resin aftermarket will be along for the detail freaks. But unless you plan to light the flame buckets (perhaps with a green flash LED representing a shot of TEB in the engines to start them) nobody is really going to notice any added details.
 
Gear bay details are reasonably busy with the basic details, although they lack some of the finer stuff. At least an attempt was made to match the shapes of the gear bay internals. One interesting bit is the gear struts attach in the nose and main gear bays almost exactly like the full size versions with retraction pivots. It seems while the kit gear doesn't necessarily retract, they allow the option for the modeler to potentially build the model with partially retracted gear more easily than in any other kit out there. This could be a problem though if you plan to display the model off its display stand as the stock gear might not be sturdy enough to support the weight of the model (one internet build I followed reinforced the gear, the second one I saw shows the stock gear with the pivots holding up fine). But if rod supports are added above the gear where they are out of view to make the assemblies more solid, I don't see any issues. There also shouldn't be any problems with the model being a tail sitter either. The gear doors fit nice and snug, in either open or closed positions.
 
An internal skeletal structure of sorts is provided for the model in the form of one full length spine section that runs from just behind the cockpit to the tail and a couple of width sections. These should help ensure that the model does not have any warp problems. The glue edges for the main fuselage sit mostly in the bottom below the chines rather than edge on. So any filling and sanding needed will be along relatively flat featureless areas.
 
Now for the record, I compared the Revell parts with the Testors kit (see the two pictures provided, the Testors parts are molded in black). Testors did a good job 35 years ago, but I doubt the Air Force was going to allow John Andrews the ability to take a tape measure to their planes while Revell likely had a chance to collect measurements from at least one Blackbird up close (likely the one on display at Duxford in the UK). Comparing the fuselages, the length is close between the two kits. The chine width on the fuselage is a little wider on the Revell kit and Revell also represented the SR-71's chine curve more accurately while the Testors/Italeri kit seems closer to that of the A-12. The chine width differences will also likely cause problems if someone wants to kitbash this kit with Testors YF-12 nose parts or Kiwi Resins' A-12 conversion. But I also have a feeling aftermarket sources will come to the rescue for those conversions. It might be possible to do an SR-71B though with the appropriate Testors bits as the parts dimensions seem close enough, although the aft cockpit instruments will likely need to be scratchbuilt or kitbashed if you plan to go that route.
 
Concerning what is not quite right to my eye, I only found maybe a couple panel lines on the bottoms of the engine nacelles that are missing and a couple round inspection access ports on the bottom rear near the central mounted control surfaces. Each Blackbird is a little different though and these features might not be present on all jets currently found on display as a few of the SR-71s found in museums (such as the one at Duxford) hadn't flown since the mid-1970s and had been in storage before being put on display. Plus each Blackbird likely has some unique panel patches found on them. aircraft 61-7964 seemed to have an few in spots, depending on what work was needed over its 20 year operational career. There are also four tiny pitot ports (one on top and one on bottom of each nacelle) just behind the engine intakes that are not present in the kit. I have a feeling Revell chose to leave these off since they would be so easy to knock off with a careless finger anyway.
 
Without building the model, the overall shapes found on the model seem good. But around the area of the aft air bypass doors on the nacelles, there should be a slight "boat tail" indentation where the bypass door section mates with the aft section of the nacelles which then flare back out to the full width again. It is very hard to spot in photos, but noticeable if you get close to an actual jet. Some careful fine sanding can represent this subtle shape change. But even if you don't address it, most people (including modelers) won't likely notice or care about it anyway.
 
EDIT: While building my model, I have discovered that Revell actually has included the slight "pinch in" around the vent doors, or what I also call the "boat tailing". But the shape changes are very subtle. The fact that they included it at all is welcome news though.
   
Overall, I really like what I see. It looks like Revell has done a good model and it is appears to be worth the wait. Building it out of the box, a great replica should be possible, or you can really take it to town if you wish. Now... I just have to build it!
 
Review kit courtesy of my wallet!
 

One final note, The kit number for the Revell USA version of the kit will be RMX-85-5720. The Revell of Germany kit has 206 pieces while the Revell USA version will only have 170 parts. The Revell USA version will NOT have parts trees for the display stand or the exposed J58 engines. These are parts trees "I" (x2) and "K". So if you want the stand and engines, get the RoG kit (RVL 04967). If you don't mind not having the engines, the Revell USA kit will likely be the better choice for you. At this time, I do not know if there will be any different choices regarding the decal options of the Revell USA kit.

 
 
 

unboxing 1.jpg

testors comp 1.jpg

testors comp 2.jpg

Edited by Jay Chladek
typo in title
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  • Jay Chladek changed the title to Initial review of the Revell 1/48 SR-71 Blackbird

Excellent review Jay, thanks. One question: are the inlet spikes fully modeled? By that I mean the rear taper back to the supporting shaft?

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2 hours ago, habu2 said:

Excellent review Jay, thanks. One question: are the inlet spikes fully modeled? By that I mean the rear taper back to the supporting shaft?

Yes they do have a taper going back to the support shaft. Not that you can see all that much as once you get maybe 1/8" into the inlet, you can't see anything further back. But it seems to be all there. There are some ejector pin marks on these pieces, but they can't be seen at all in the assembled model.

 

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9 hours ago, Jay Chladek said:
...

One final note, The kit number for the Revell USA version of the kit will be RMX-85-5720. The Revell of Germany kit has 206 pieces while the Revell USA version will only have 170 parts. The Revell USA version will NOT have parts trees for the display stand or the exposed J58 engines. These are parts trees "I" (x2) and (K). So if you want the stand and engines, get the RoG kit (RVL 04967). If you don't mind not having the engines, the Revell USA kit will likely be the better choice for you. At this time, I do not know if there will be any different choices regarding the decal options of the Revell USA kit.

 

 

 I remember when Revell announced a "de-contented" boxing of the An-225 kit for the USA market, but never saw it in the flesh.  I wonder if this SR-71 USA version will actually see light of day?

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28 minutes ago, habu2 said:

 

 I remember when Revell announced a "de-contented" boxing of the An-225 kit for the USA market, but never saw it in the flesh.  I wonder if this SR-71 USA version will actually see light of day?

It will. The box lid and parts trees have been seen at US shows. Plus it is I would say the most legendary and mythical model subject out there since Revell did the first YF-12A kit in the mid 1960s from only a few photos. While not a lot of kits have been done, they usually have remained in demand.

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I bought this kit and did a mini review a couple weeks back. This review is more in-depth and better but the bottomline for me was lack of overall detail i.e. panel and fastener detail which lacks “oomph”. This coupled  with the “basic-ness” of the cockpit/canopy area and landing gear caused me to loose enthusiasm. I hate, HATE being negative but for a beloved subject like this I expected more. That’s not to say that modelers can’t build a nice replica, they can but contrast this to recent ICM products for example and the picture comes in to focus.

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Given the (only) alternative I guess the only real question is, is it better than the Testors kit? And is it worth the price?  
 

I have several unbuilt Testors kits in the stash so, for me, the bar is fairly high. 

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It sounds like it’s definitely better than the old Testors kit.  But whether it’s worth the high price is another question.

 

If it’s true that the US Revell boxing will delete the stand and engines, and sell for a lower price, that might tip the balance.

Edited by Dave Williams
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I believe the Revell USA kit will be lower priced. But for me the factor that helped tip the scale towards acquiring the kit now is the current increase in model kit prices across the board due to raw materials and logistics shortages (plus the port supply chain issues) brought about by the pandemic.

 

Atlantis and Round 2 are doing about a 15% increase in prices on their kits across the board. Revell USA may have to do the same and RoG stuff already has seen a price spike among importers which make it all but impossible for the brick and mortar hobby shops to maintain pricing of stuff at the levels they were two years ago.

It is always going to come down to a personal choice as to whether to get the new "latest and greatest". It was no different when the Tamiya F-14s came out, or the F-4B. Do we push aside the Monogram/Academy/Hasegawa efforts on those airframes which we have collected for two, perhaps three decades or more? Or do we push those aside in favor of the new thing?

 

In my own personal case, I don't have a complete Testors 1/48 SR-71 currently in my stash, just 90% of one. My last complete kit I sold when I knew this was far enough along that we would finally see it. But I do have a complete YF-12A kit. I will still keep the YF-12 and may build it after I get the Revell finished. I have just begun work on the Revell. I just noticed on the parts tonight that there are a couple flashed over holes on the engine nacelle bottoms that correspond perfectly to where the ventral fins for the YF-12 and SR-71B/C trainers go so it does appear that Revell is hedging their bets to "eventually" do those versions. But at the same time I don't feel like waiting more years before we see Revell do a YF-12.

So that leaves the option of either doing a kitbash of Revell's kit with the proper Testors YF-12 parts, ir building the Testors kit. One of my relatives who works at a hobby shop has promised me a Revell USA Blackbird when they hit as a belated holiday gift, so that one will likely become my SR-71B conversion using the Testors parts I already have to convert.

 

Until then though, I am going to enjoy this model since it is IMHO currently the best kit of an SR-71 currently available detail-wise in any scale. In a couple years we may have something better if the announced Hypersonic kit lives up to the hype from its developers. But right now it is still currently vaporware while the Revell kit is here and available... for a price. If it is one thing current events over the past two decades have taught me, don't necessarily wait for tomorrow since tomorrow as you know it may never come. And I am not getting any younger.

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Thanks for the review, really complete.

 

I build the Testors SR-71A last year, obvously had to re scribe thw whole thing and a lot of corrections but it's really impressive model when finished. In the other hand, i buyed the new Revell SR-71A Blackbird, very nice kit, with a correct shape of the front part of the fuselage (that is one of the worst flaw of the testors, but not the only one), fine detail on the molds, detailed engines and support for the "on flight" option, but, i would like to see a better detail on the front fuselage, for example, no rivets at all; im the other hand, may be more nose options (removable) for the kit (according with different arrays/missions type) and the decals may be would be from key missions birds more than "record" aircraft and could be include crew figures; but the perfect kit doesn't exists. And thanks to Revell for this effort, i really hope the other variants be launched too by Revell using this new tool as basis (A-12, YF-12, M-21).

 

Regards

 

Edited by Wolf_el_Real
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Jay, may I please ask you to compare the height on both the Revell and Testors kits' upper fuselage halves? I infer the height on the former one ought to be higher than on the latter one? I think the depth on both kits' lower fuselage halves should be nearly the same.

Your review is quite thoroughly done, thanks!

Cheers,

 

Gwen

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5 hours ago, Gwen Phoenix said:

Jay, may I please ask you to compare the height on both the Revell and Testors kits' upper fuselage halves? I infer the height on the former one ought to be higher than on the latter one? I think the depth on both kits' lower fuselage halves should be nearly the same.

Your review is quite thoroughly done, thanks!

Cheers,

 

Gwen

The Revell cockpit section has significantly more height than the Testors kit which is a welcome step into the right direction. So far, so good.

However, it's not quite there either, the near the front it's missing about 2mm, in the middle and back about 1mm in height.

More significantly though, the front cockpit/canopy is about 4mm too short, the aft one about 3mm and the whole section is missing about 2mm in width, which accounts for the lack of the characteristic lateral bulge around the cockpit section.

J

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12 hours ago, Wolf_el_Real said:

Thanks for the review, really complete.

 

I build the Testors SR-71A last year, obvously had to re scribe thw whole thing and a lot of corrections but it's really impressive model when finished. In the other hand, i buyed the new Revell SR-71A Blackbird, very nice kit, with a correct shape of the front part of the fuselage (that is one of the worst flaw of the testors, but not the only one), fine detail on the molds, detailed engines and support for the "on flight" option, but, i would like to see a better detail on the front fuselage, for example, no rivets at all; im the other hand, may be more nose options (removable) for the kit (according with different arrays/missions type) and the decals may be would be from key missions birds more than "record" aircraft and could be include crew figures; but the perfect kit doesn't exists. And thanks to Revell for this effort, i really hope the other variants be launched too by Revell using this new tool as basis (A-12, YF-12, M-21).

 

Regards

 

I know what you mean. The lack of rivet detail I concur may put some modelers off, but at the same time after having spent enough time under our SAC Museum aircraft the real plane almost looks a bit too junky looking up close with the tiny fasteners (almost). I also don't see the prominent hinge screw attachments used to fit the nose to the airframe. Relatively easy to add admittedly, but still more work, especially when it appears they added the nacelle cowling attachment fittings on the bottom and made them look good.

 

I just received the 1/48 Caracal sheets today. I was going to use my Afterburner set, but as is typical, I can't find the bloody thing when I need it. The Caracal sheets can be ordered direct as they are in stock and both sets are VERY complete with a large variety of uniquely painted jets in both high vis and low vis markings. Probably the only missing markings I would like to have seen are the Camel mission markings found on 980 when it flew the three bomb damage assessment flights over Libya after El Dorado Canyon. But 980's tail number is present in set 2 since it had the Pub Dart tail art during its final days in the UK before coming home.

 

Personally, I'm leaning towards doing 979 "Night Witch" with its beautiful chalk artwork on the tail. But I have plenty of markings to choose from. 

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On 1/7/2022 at 11:40 PM, JeffreyK said:

the near the front it's missing about 2mm, in the middle and back about 1mm in height.

More significantly though, the front cockpit/canopy is about 4mm too short, the aft one about 3mm and the whole section is missing about 2mm in width, which accounts for the lack of the characteristic lateral bulge around the cockpit section.

 

Hi Jeffrey! Happy New Year.

Wow... no wonder why the forward fuselage on the Italeri kit looks so squashed at the front. I've been in conversation with an Italian modeller who advised adding 2mm in height to the forward fuselage (front and rear cockpit area), but it seems that it needs even more than that?

Looking at the transition of the shape of the chine from aft to front; something has to be modified there as well on the Italeri kit. :hmmm:I mean, the slope doesn't look to be constant when it reaches the front cockpit.

Ah, the Italeri kit... bugger. :bandhead2: Correcting the nose/forward fuselage is such a drag.

Any news about the release of your Sled kit, hun?

Cheers,

 

Gwen

 

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You want to see squashed go have a look at the old Monogram 72nd kit it looks like it was run over by a steam roller.

Glad someone finally got the chine the right width.

Grabbed a pile of Revell kits on the basis that a bird in hand and until the hypersonic kit is actually out this is the best Sr-71 ever done. Given revell stuff goes quickly and in many cases almost impossible to find get em while you can.

When Hypersonic comes(if) along you can always sell them off..

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One little tidbit I would like to pass along, Revell did a nice job approaching the flame bucket areas of the J58 engines. The use a common set of parts that both go in the engine nacelles on the plane and inside J58 display engines. The internal trunking is a one piece section with a slight cone and the details molded into it. The forward end is one piece and slots on. The cone has a slight taper which gives the inside a forced perspective, looking longer than it is and it makes painting and weathering this area a breeze. And you don't have to worry about filling a couple seams on the inside of a tube as might have been the case if a more traditional molding method had been used.

To date, only Cutting Edge had tried doing that flame bucket detail in resin with its detail parts for the Testors kit.

 

Here's a couple images of the back end of a J58 on display at the SAC museum. The kit gives a matte white color to paint it. But I am probably going to go with something with a slight tan shade instead. And I will gloss coat it before adding some detail washes in spots to pick out the detail.

 

 

20211228_160823.jpg

20211228_161020.jpg

20211228_160904.jpg

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Just to let you know, in the Research Corner I have added pictures of the SR-71 on display at the SAC Museum near Ashland, NE. This is the plane I referenced for my review.

 

 

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I have begun a Work in Progress thread on my build. You can follow along here:

 

 

Work is progressing a little slowly at first, but it will gain speed as I go on. I started my work on the engine nacelles first instead of the cockpit and fuselage.

 

 

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