Kit review of Nittos's SAFS Fireball.

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Starship Modeler: SAFS Fireball Kit Review

[My hat's off to you] By John Lester

Value for Price: 10
Quality: 10 (It doesn't get much better than this)
Detail: 10 (Nice detail and lots of it!)
Accuracy: 10 (Since it's an original design)
Parts Fit: 8 (Everything fits, but you will need to putty and file)
Ease: 9 (No real problems)
Instructions: 9 (Pictoral - with Japanese & English notes.)
Overall Rating: 10 (Great weekend project)

I picked up my first SF3D kit - the Fledermaus - on a whim (it looked cool and the price was right). I've been hooked ever since (even though the Fledermaus is the worst of the line, a fact I didn't find out until later).

When I heard Nitto had revived the SF3D line under the guise of "Maschinen Krieger:ZbV 3000" I was stoked. Finally I could get the kits and not pay collectors' prices!

The S.A.F.S. Space type "Fireball" is typical of the SF3D lineup. It depicts a space capable fighting suit, supposedly inspired by RAH's "Starship Troopers". Like most of the figures, it's 1/20th scale, which makes it about 4 inches (10 cm) tall when complete. Inside the sturdy box are well over 100 parts: several trees of hard beige plastic, another of polycaps, a bag of springs and wires, decals, instructions and painting guide/parts break-out on cardstock (which has holes punched for a three ring binder). Detail is phenomenal - easily on par with the latest of today's state-of-the art kits. With a light coat of paint they really pop out - especially the weld lines on various bits.

Despite the huge number of parts, assembly is quick and relatively painless. The kit is well engineered such that construction flows smoothly from sub-assembly to sub-assembly, with many of the seams falling along what would be panel lines on a "real" suit. An added bonus - the pictorial instructions are clear and easy to follow - how often do we see that in a kit? About the only real problem I had was the fit of the pieces. Everything fits tightly together - but almost every completed piece had a step between the halves that needed patient filing and a spot of putty. Compared with the trenches to be filled on any of ERTL/MPC's Star Wars kits, however, this is at best a minor annoyance.

Many of the parts are common with other kits in the line - so if you want him to carry two laser arms (for instance) you can grab one from the Gustav or Konrad. I did a small amount of customizing - partially by accident, as when I placed some of the external details in the wrong spots. Oh, well. I also added a brass wire, curved around the fuel tank on his back, to hide a goof I made with too much superglue. I should have left the bottom ends of the wires on the back of his feet (Step 5) hanging out - that way I could have masked them off when I painted the model. Live and learn. I did leave all the exterior springs off until the very last so they wouldn't get in the way while painting. I assembled the engine bells and fuel tanks, but left them off until the bulk of painting was done.

I had decided to do a vignette with this model - but I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do until I stumbled across a 1/20 scale figure of a young woman in my weekly hobby shop rounds. The idea struck me - why not have this heavily armed, heavily armored knight giving her a bunch of daisies (ah, spring, when a young man's fancy turns lightly to love ....). This meant I had an excuse to have the suit's lid open so the crewman's head is visible. It's a pretty funky face - and large enough that I could spend some time painting it up. I gave his face a base of PollyScale Flesh, painted the eyes, lips and teeth, then added shadows with an enamel wash (Testor's Model Master "Skin Tone Shadow Tint", which I'd wanted to try). Highlights were done with artists oils. I added a mic extending out from under the figure's helmet from bits of ultra-thin craft wire wrapped around a slightly larger wire. Before setting the head in place, I sprayed the ... um ... cockpit, I guess, with a light coat of TMM Euro I Green. I thought I had made it too thin - but this actually worked better than what I had intended, since the paint collected in the corners and crevices, making them a realistically darker shade than the panels. It also helped that this particular paint is the absolutely matte-est finish I've ever seen. The boxes on the sides of the cockpit were painted black. I used a CRT display decal from an old fighter jet kit on the box in front of the figure's face ( I was going to print a decal of a nude woman - as if the guy was using his X-ray vision in a non-tactical manner - but decided the picture would be so small no one could tell what it was - so what was the point?)

With the inside done I turned to painting the rest of the kit. I tacked the "lid" over the cockpit with thinned white glue and wiped down the rest of the model to get rid of any finger oils, dust, etc. None of the WW2 Whermacht-inspired schemes on the paint guide appealed to me, so I made one up. I gave the model a base coat of a dark green.

[The Box]


[Other side, with patch]

^The patch is from an aircraft decal sheet. I thought it looked pretty spiff.


^ Leave the engine assembly off until the bulk of painting is finished - it's a lot easier that way.

[Aw, look at that widdle face ....]

^ It was kind of macabre, painting a disembodied head. The detail is actually pretty good here - enough so to make it worthwhile to put extra effort in to the job.

I then cut irregular shapes from a photo-etched mesh screen (intended for tank engine grilles), held them against the model, and sprayed a light green. This resulted in patches that look like snake skin, a neat effect IMHO. I also shot random blotches and stripes of another green and a tan. When this had dried, I gave the model a light coat of Future acrylic floor polish, let that dry and added markings. I supplemented the kit decals (mostly the maintenance stencils and warnings) with a shoulder patch from an old airplane sheet and a rank chevron painted by hand. The kit decals went down without any trouble, aided by just a dab of MicroSol.

When the decals were dry I again wiped the model down to clear of any residues. Then I gave the completed kit several light coats of Dullcote to dull the finish. While that was drying, I painted the fuel tank a semigloss green, the engine bells steel (outside) and flat black (inside), and the rest of the details various metallic colors. When those dried, I superglued the entire assembly to the back of the suit. I then added the exterior springs. These were a bit of a chore to get on - I had to affix one end of the copper wire that runs inside each spring to the model, shape the wire, slide the spring over it and glue the other end. Sounds easy enough, but I had some frustrating moments.

At last the model was complete. Before popping the lid open, I gave the whole model a wash of dirty dark grey acrylic paint. Then, holding him upside down, I misted several shades of tan and brown enamel from the underside to simulate dust. Then, I popped open the lid and glued it in place. I also added a wire inside between the cockpit and inside of the lid. The electronics at the top have to have to have some sort of link to the main computer, right? I left the radar antenna off - it would only be in the way with the lid open. Lastly, I painted the inside of the periscope silver and made a lens using a drop of white glue.

With the figure finished, I turned to the vignette. A cheap pine plaque, topped with "ground" made of clay, became the foundation. The girl was in a sitting pose - so I dug up a length of brick wall (from a Tamiya diorama accessory) for her to sit on. I used a strip of .080 styrene plank to top it off . The all section was painted black, then drybrushed with two shades of reddish-brown to make the bricks pop out. I then used a wash of grey between the brick for the mortar, and dry brushed the top rail with more grey. The complete wall was set in ground I built up from resin and plaster of paris. I painted the street where the Fireball was to stand black, made a grey curb, then painted the rest of the ground brown. When that had dried, I covered the brown area with thinned white glue and sprinkled on some Woodland Scenics "grass" (found wherever model railroad supplies are sold), then added a few "bushes" from their larger tufts of "Coarse Grass". The woman was painted with a mix of enamels, acrylics and oils just like the soldier's face. After she was glued in place, all that was left to do was glue some dried flowers in the soldier's "hand" and step back and admire my handiwork.

All-in-all, this is a great kit. You can complete it in a weekend, making it a welcome change of pace from those kits you have to slave for weeks over to correct every last flaw. It also lends itself well to dioramas and vignettes - so why not build a few and let your imagination run wild?

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Last updated on 29 March 1999.