VF-1D Valkyrie Trainer / Orbot
Review by Showapop
1/72 Imai Macross VF-1D / Revell Robotech Changers Orbot
When I turned 15 years old all those years ago, some friends of the family had bought me for my birthday Revell’s Robotech model kit of Orbot, the USA re-boxed version Imai’s variable VF-1D Valkyrie. Due to many circumstances, I was finally able to complete the model kit a week ago, which just happened to be my 34th birthday! This is the saga of one VF-1D, changing modeling skills and one of the greatest Macross model kits series ever.
What prompted me to finally complete my long unfinished VF-1D is when a few months ago I bought Hasagawa’s 1/72 VF-1A/S Strike/Super Valkyrie model kit. I have been anticipating the building of the new Hasagawa kits for years and it was great to finally build one. I bought the Hasagawa kit, the photoetched parts, the display stand set and optional weapon packs kits. Then I pulled out my trusty x-acto #11 blade. But something lingered in the back of my mind. “I know, I can’t start this kit until I finish the last Valkyrie I started all those years ago”.
Back in the 1980’s model kit manufacture Revell was keen on the growing US market of Japanese related robot model kits and picked up the license to re-package some of Imai’s model kits. The bulk of the line was Fang of Sun Dougram, but a few Macross and Orguss model kits were thrown in for good measures. The model kits were released under one banner, most likely coined by one of Revell’s still nameless marketing employee. The name of the model kit line was called Robotech, which actually predated the Robotech TV series by at least a year. How the Robotech model kit line became the name of a TV series produced by Harmony Gold is another story for another review.
Robotech model kits could be bought at many shopping mall outlets such as Kay-Bee Toy & Hobby and Playco Toys stores. When Revell repackaged the kits they did not keep to the original names, paint schemes and decal placement as Revell decided to publish new instructions in English and photographed new model kit box art. Thus the VF-1D became the Viet Nam era camouflaged Orbot, the VF-1J Millia became Axoid and the VF-1S became Vexar.
I was indebted to the friends of the family who gave me the kit but for some reason, life has given me VF-1D model kits to build when I wanted to build a VF-1J, VF-1S or the even better VF-1A Hikaru from Do You Remember Love. As a kid, I thought that the VF-1D was the silly trainer version that got all shot up in the first four episodes of Macross. I had built four VF-1D's and quite frankly I am tired of building them. Even the Hasagawa limited release of their 1/72 VF-1D blows me out just thinking about it.
First off, if you have not experienced more than a few model kits I would flatly suggest you pass up building this kit. Although the VF-1D is a well-produced kit this is a very difficult and trying model kit to build. There are many seams to fill, many parts to easily confuse and assemble backward, and many complex and fragile parts to easily break or accidentally glue together.
Revell Robotech Orbot/ Imai Macross VF-1D come with the following: Set of sprues, 1x clear sprue, 3x rubber tires, 2x metal landing gear, 2x metal shoulder joints, 1x screw, 1x polycaps, 1x set of decals, 1x instructions, and 1x Robotech model one-sheet catalog. I do not know if the Imai VF-1D came with any other extra inserts such as an Imai catalog or stickers. The plastic parts are finely molded with recessed panel lines and the metal castings are solid with hard sturdy metal, not soft pewter type metal.
The designers at Imai had thought this kit through; two of the most fragile parts were cast in metal such as the landing gear and shoulder hinges. A screw is used to keep the many body parts together. For a nice added touch the wheels could be assembled with an optional choice of plastic injected molded tires or rubber tires.
The assembly of the kit can be broken down into three main components: 1) body assembly 2) leg and arm assembly 3) cockpit assembly. Although this is a variable model kit the cockpit needs to be pulled off and replaced with a shielded cockpit for the legs to attach to in Battloid mode.
The arm and leg assembly are the most difficult parts to assemble. Always remember to check and check again before you apply glue. I remember my friends and I building these kits when I was a kid. It happened more than once when we glued the wrong intake parts to the wrong leg parts. This was partly the fault of Revell as they attached the legs backward on the box art.
One feature I did not like on the kit was the kneepad armor in Battloid. That is one feature I love about the Battloid armor and was, until recently, consistently being left off toys and models of the Valkyrie and this Imai kit was no different. I am sure it would not be too difficult to scratchbuild that mod.
Be careful with only using just enough glue to attach these parts together. If the glue overflows into a joint, just forget finishing the kit, as it will be dead in the water with an unmovable joint. This happened to one of my arm parts, I broke it apart and now the parts fall off if the arm joint is rotated. This also happened with the gun pod as I put too much glue and it spilled over into the sliding joint and now the gunpod is glued opened. Special care is also needed when gluing the sliding fist parts into the forearm area.
The only major modification I made to this kit was making the fist shields on the hands and the squared off fingers Do You Remember Love style. Sausage fingers on real robot era robots do nothing for me and it is a great and simple mod that improves the look of the kit. Unfortunately, the shields are too big to fit in the hole when they retract so I plan to steal some other fists from another Imai Valkyrie kit I plan to purchase soon.
As stated before the center cockpit capsule needs to be changed out when transforming from the Fighter/Gerwalk mode to the Battloid mode. The cockpit is finely detailed but the undercarriage wheel well is plain and is best to use some sheet styrene to spice up the look of the wheel well. The shape of the two cockpits is different to compensate for the minor scaling issues from the Fighter to Battloid mode.
I started building this kit when I graduated High School in the early 90’s when I felt that I could approach it with better skills. Another mod that I planned to do was convert it into Hikaru’s VF-1A DYRL style as the kit does come with extra parts such as the shortnose glass and standard chest plate. So I thought I would be cute and cut the long glass shorter and use that part to fill up the second seat space and use the short window as the main window. Very much my chop job was a nightmare. Not only that the VF-1A head I was going to use from the Bandai 1/72 Valkyrie kit was too thin looking for the body.
I used a dark grey Testor’s “primer” that was too dark for the light colored paint scheme. It was not a proper primer; just a grey color that I thought would work for the kit. That alone was another nightmare as the paint never really grabbed onto the plastic and up until the last day, paint still flaked off when I pulled the tape off.
The body part is straightforward but take special notice of making sure you do not glue parts that should otherwise move freely. The wings are capable of holding the missiles on pylons using polycaps but keep in mind it is near impossible to paint polycap material and it is just best to keep them unpainted. The missiles do come off the wings.
One of the best details of the model kit is the head, it is well molded and the front sensor glass area looks great when painted in clear green and grey. The only regret is that it is not on a ball joint. Otherwise, it looks accurate when use in both Fighter and Battloid modes.
For about 15 years I worked on and off again on my VF-1D. My skills improved over the years and I have not made those types of mistakes in many years, but at the time for every step forward I took on the kit it put me two steps backward. You live and learn. When I bought the Hasagawa kit I still had the sense to finish one Macross Valkyrie project before I started another. So I pulled out the Imai kit for one last push to finish the model. It seems in 2008 I had new tools and friends to help out.
The first step I took was to convert it all back to what the kit was intended for, as a VF-1D. So I took all the irrelevant parts off and put on all the VF-1D parts again. Also these days I am a part of a local International Plastic Modelers Society (IPMS) model building group and a fellow member was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule and vacumform a new canopy for me.
I finished the kit with Testors Radome Tan and a custom flat orange I mixed up using Testors flat yellow and flat red. Having built a few VF-1D’s DO NOT underestimate the black stencils on the chest area and shielded Battloid cockpit area. Take out a day to paint the intricate black stencils, as they are very time consuming to paint and to line up properly when masking. And whatever you do not use Comico's Robotech: The Macross Saga comics as a paint guide!
Another nice tool that was not available in the 1990s was the Internet. Macross World has a great gallery of classic Macross model kit box art and instructions. Revell left out all the decal and painting information in the Vexar instructions but I was able to use Macross World’s resources to complete the kit properly.
Once assembled the transformation of the kit is quite easy. The kit looks well balanced and appealing in all three modes. Considering this kit came out in 1983 it still holds up very well and is still the only 1/72 scale transforming model kit of a Valkyrie. Because of the thick paint application, many of the parts do not close properly like the cockpit to the body section and the top seam of the chest plate and back plate when it is in fighter mode. The vertical stabilizer backpack section does not hold well on the back in Battloid mode. Any idea of making it hold better would be greatly appreciated.
I am content that I was finally able to finish the kit after all those years. It is one of my most commented models I have on my display shelf although these days I could definitely build and paint a better version. I must have done something right as I was able to finish up the model in time of our regional IPMS model kit contest in Ontario, CA last summer and I was quite surprised when I took home the second place trophy in Sci-Fi category ( I displayed the model in Battloid mode at the contest, I did not finish the cockpit until a couple of weeks ago)!
The Imai variable Valkyrie kits are definitely worth picking up. In all reality, the first Valkyrie we see in Macross in Battloid mode is this VF-1D and it is must to have a representation in any form in the collection. Hobby Link Japan right now has the current Bandai reissues of the Imai kits of VF-1A and VF-1D for about 1700 yen. The Robotech boxed kits are surprisingly hard to locate unbuild these days and most of the boxes are crushed due to the thin cardboard that Revell used for all their model kits in the 1980s. My only suggestion is if you decide to build these kits is to double and triple check your parts before you glue them together and take your time when building and checking seams, although I do not think you will need to take 15 years time in doing so!
© Article and Photos Leonardo D Flores “modcineaste” and CollectionDX
|Posted 8 October, 2008 - 01:05 by Showapop|