We’ve featured custom LEGO kits by Brickmania many times over the years, but Dan Siskind‘s small business has grown considerably since the last time we reviewed one of the company’s kits. Most notably, Dan himself is no longer the sole or even primary designer — great LEGO builders like Cody Osell now contribute many of the custom designs to the company’s products. While Dan is best known for tanks, Cody has designed most of Brickmania’s airplane models, including the F-4C Phantom II we’ll be reviewing today.
Military jets are a popular subject for LEGO model-makers and represent a particular challenge with their swept back wings and curved fuselages — difficult shapes to recreate in bricks. But Evan M seems up to the challenge, presenting this fabulous minifig-scale F-4 Phantom, decked out in US Navy Vietnam-era livery.
Evan has made great use of some of the new angled tile parts to give the wings a smooth leading-edge, but there’s excellent brickwork all over the model. We’ve seen fimpressive LEGO Phantoms before, notably James Cherry’s astonishing 6,000-piece LEGO F-4 Phantom, but this is one of the best fast jet models I’ve seen at this sort of scale. The overall shaping and the model’s sleek lines are readily apparent in this side view, as is the smart integration of the twin cockpit pieces and the subtle angle up on the wing tips. Retractable landing gear and a full load-out too! Fantastic stuff.
Even though the North Vietnamese didn’t have much of an air force at the start of the air war over Vietnam in 1964, with Soviet assistance they were soon able to present US pilots with a few surprises. Their MiG-17 fighters were old-fashioned and only had guns as their armament. The jets were small, though, and well-suited to out-turn heavier US jets mostly optimised for higher speeds. Peter Dornbach has built the more modern MiG-21, known as the “Fishbed” in the West. This entered Vietnamese service in 1966.
Peter’s model has a retractable undercarriage, opening cockpit and a brick-built representation of the characteristic camouflage used by the Vietnam People’s Air Force. With its higher speed and two AA-2 Atoll air-to-air missiles the Fishbed was typically used in hit-and-run attacks. The US countered this threat using the F-4 Phantom II. This wasn’t particularly agile, but had powerful twin engines. Its crews were taught to use these as an advantage against the MiGs by manoeuvring in the vertical.
The particular example built by Evan Melick is “Showtime-100”, a US Navy F-4J flown by Randy “Duke” Cunningham and William Driscoll who put this tactic to practice shooting down three Vietnamese fighters during a famous mission in May of 1972. Added to their two previous victories, this made them the US Navy’s first and only aces of the Vietnam war. Like most US Navy aircraft from the time period, it had distinctive squadron markings, which Evan recreated on his model using a mix of brick-built patterns, custom vinyl stickers and water-slide decals intended for 1/48 scale models. Note his clever use of new 45 degree angled tiles to build studless leading edges on the jet’s wings.
Both jets are part of a Vietnam collaboration by about a dozen builders, including yours truly, which will be on display at Brickfair Virginia in a little less than three weeks.
The model is 1.2m long, contains around 6,000 pieces, and took James nearly 5 months to design and build. But beyond the impressive scale and the lovely custom stickering, it’s the smooth curves and the shaping of the various sections which make this creation stand out for me. I also really like the handful of studs left exposed, creating a feel of riveted panels around the intakes.
James managed to squeeze no less than 5 Power Functions motors inside the model, allowing the rudder and various flaps to be operated using a remote control. It was very cool to see these features “in the brick” in London last weekend, and I wasn’t alone in thinking it was a highlight of the show. Carl Greatrix – one of the best LEGO plane modelers around – spent ages examining this creation and pronounced it “Bloody good”. High praise indeed.
I’d heartily recommend a visit to James’ Flickr photostream to check out all the details of this amazing model in the close-up images, as well as photos of his beautiful custom-chrome P-51 Mustang model.
We have featured a fair few trains built by Carl Greatrix (bricktrix) in the past. More recently he turned his attention to cars. Apparently there isn’t much that he cannot do, as he has now built an F-4B Phantom II jet fighter and it is gorgeous. I have been following his work-in-progress pictures for weeks, eagerly looking forward to the finished model.
In the sixties and early seventies, the Phantom was the premier fighter aircraft in the US armed forces, serving with the Navy, Marine Corps and the Air Force. Carl’s model wears flamboyant markings typical for US Navy Phantoms. The markings of VF-161 Chargers, which was home-based in Japan as part of the Air wing assigned to USS Midway, were some of the most attractive ever to grace a Phantom and I applaud Carl for choosing this squadron. The model isn’t just good-looking, but has a lot of functionality too. It has opening cockpits, for instance, as well as a retractable undercarriage and moveable control surfaces. Although I actually like studs on a model and prefer my own aircraft models to be somewhat less reliant on stickers, it’s interesting to see Carl apply his typical style to this subject. The result is phabulous.