Matchbox 1/48 FJ-4B Fury






See review


Scott Van Aken


1983 Issue


The FJ-1 Fury was a straight winged, 6-gunned fighter that was low on power, but had great handling characteristics. It was the Navy's first single-engined jet fighter and though built in very small numbers, helped formulate operating procedures for jets on US carriers. The FJ-1 was also the predecessor to the famed F-86 Sabre of the USAF.

Seeing the success of the F-86, the Navy decided that it wanted its own version so the FJ-2 became a navalized F-86. The original prototypes of the FJ-2 were virtually the same as the F-86 save for the carrier equipment and the use of four 20mm cannon vice the six .50 cal machine guns of the Sabre. A number were built and used, but the additional weight of the naval equipment, the stronger landing gear and folding wings took a toll on the performance of the FJ-2.

The next was an FJ-3 that was still recognizable as an F-86 though it had a larger wing, more powerful engine and repositioned canopy, similar to those on the FJ-2, to put the pilot higher up so that he could see the deck better during landing. The next and final version of the Fury line was the FJ-4. This was an almost completely different airframe from the F-86 and vastly different from the original FJ-1. It had a much larger wing, a taller fuselage, taller tail, and greater weapon carrying capability. It was missile capable like the FJ-3, but could carry more. The FJ-4 served with many units in both the Navy and Marine Corps. A number of them lasted past Oct 1962 when aircraft designations were rationalized with the various services and it became the F-1.


Matchbox has a certain reputation amongst modelers. One is for innovation and the guts to produce kits that are unavailable from anyone else. This is true of the FJ-4. Even today, the only other kits of this aircraft are in 1/72 by Merlin and Emhar. The Merlin kit is best forgotten and the Emhar FJ-4 can be built into a nice kit, but takes a lot of work. The Matchbox Fury remains the ONLY kit of this aircraft in 1/48. One would hope that a major kit maker will rediscover this aircraft and give us a nice, state of the art kit. 

Anyway, the Matchbox FJ-4 is like most other Matchbox kits. It is pretty easy to build. It comes in different colors (in this case, two greys and white) so you don't really have to paint the kit (right!). The panel lines on this kit are very petite and almost invisible. In fact, the kit scratches from all the parts being in one place are sometimes more visible than the raised detail. The control surfaces are either separate or well engraved. Most of the detail on the kit itself is 'soft'.

Cockpit consists of a seat and instrument panel (no decal, minimal detail). There is a pilot figure to fill the space. A nice touch is a full intake trunk, but good luck filling the seam! There is no wheel well detail. The wings can be folded, but there is no detail in the fold section. The tail hook can be positioned up or down. The rudder is a separate piece. There are three pylons for each wing that fit into a slot already opened for you. Underwing stuff consists of two Sidewinders and a drop tank per wing. The missiles are just shapes and best replaced from a Hasegawa Weapons set. The canopy is separate and can be displayed open if desired. There is also an in-flight refueling probe.  I know this doesn't sound very exciting, but frankly, there isn't much to get excited about as the kit is really pretty mediocre, despite the subject.

Instructions are the usual pictorial deal in 24 steps with no verbiage and only international icons to assist in assembly. Half of the instruction sheet is given over to painting and decals. If you recall from other Matchbox kits, all the painting info is in one place and not noted during the construction sequence. Generic color call-outs are given. There are some really great decals with this kit. I have never had any problems with Matchbox decals and they are a highlight of most of their kits. This one is no exception. Two very colorful aircraft are given. One is the boxtop aircraft from VA-126 at NAS Miramar in 1958. It has a large green tail band with a very nice stylized eagle on the fuselage side. The other is from VMA-223 at El Toro during the same time period It has a white band with a red lighting bolt in it on the tail and fuselage band. Both aircraft are in the gull grey and white scheme introduced in the mid-1950s to replace the dark sea blue.

It is a kit that is very difficult to find because it has never, to my knowledge, been reissued. As a result, it commands some pretty respectable prices, even considering what the kit is like. For those wanting a 1/48 FJ-4 Fury, it is the only game in town.

Review copy courtesy of me and my wallet! 

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