Tuesday, July 4

Construction Review: Andy builds AK Interactive's 35th scale FJ43 SUV with hard top

As it says on the tin, Andy King takes through his construction of AK Interactive's 35th scale FJ43 SUV with hard top. See it come together before paint & weathering in Pt I...

Construction Review: FJ43 SUV with hard top.
From AK Interactive
SKU: AK35001
1/35th scale
Price: 38,95€ From the AK Interactive Website
AK Interactive's new kit #AK35001 represents a 1/35th scale version of the hard top Toyota FJ43, probably one of the most popular variants of the Land Cruiser's history. The hard top could be easily removed or refitted as conditions demanded, but it was a most useful asset under cold, rainy or dusty weather, both for military and civil users along the many decades of service of the vehicle.

The Subject: The FJ43 pickup
The FJ43 is part of the famous FJ40 series of 4x4s produced by the well-known Japanese company since 1953. The J40 series was a tremendous best seller around the globe, helping to build the reputation of the Japanese brand worldwide due to its sturdiness, economy and reliability. It was used for decades for military and civilian duties, and still remains service in across many countries.
It has become an icon due to its popularity in many conflicts, even coining the term “Toyota Wars”. Fitted with weapons improved in many ways, it has proven its value as a capable vehicle in the most complicated terrain and tasks. This series had many configurations. Official and extra official ones. During the years, the models had many changes and updates and is possible to see many vehicles with different parts, seats, wheels, etc.
FJ40 is the short wheel base, FJ43 is the medium wheels base, FJ45 is the long wheelbase and pickup J40 series can be done in several types depending on wheelbase and year of production FJ40, FJ43 and FJ45 can be done with hard top and soft top and even topless and in several year batches 1958 to 1960 / 1961 to 1965 / 1966 to 1977 / 1978 to 1981 / 1981 to 1985, in soft top and hard top.
There were many of the FJ cruisers employed throughout the year. There is scope for many more types in this series from AK Interactive.
The Toyota FJ43 Land Cruiser 4x4 SUV proved very popular in third-world countries as a militarized 'technical' as it was much cheaper than an armoured vehicle and it had all sorts of weapons bolted on the rear from machine guns and mortars to Mil-24 helicopter rocket pods. This particular version has a hard top so was probably used more for carrying troops (or looted Iraqi gold).
The FJ43 existed in configurations that had anti air guns like DShK, 50 cal machine guns, zpu1, zpu4, zpu2, zu23 guns, 106 recoilless guns, B10 and B11 recoilless guns and many other rocket launchers such as Type 63 107mm.

The kit:
AK Interactive have been producing paints and weathering materials for a number of years now but have recently moved into injection-moulded kits. Some of their model kit range have come from other manufacturers such as the 1/48th scale MiG-21 PFM that was originally made by Eduard however the FJ43 Land Cruiser series is all-new tooling.
In the box you get seven sprues moulded in grey styrene, a clear sprue and a decal sheet nicely printed by Cartograf. Moulding quality is very good with no flash present however there are mould pin marks dotted around the model. These are mostly confined to hard-to-see areas but there are some under the front mudguards, the interiors of the side body panels, doors, roof and tail gate and will need filling unless you are having the doors closed.

The kit's features:
+ Over 170 plastic parts.
+ Decals for 3 painting/marking options.
+ Front wheels with optional steering.
+ Highly detailed interior.
+ Two different wheels options.
+ Different parts for multiple versions
+ Three decals & marking choices.

You get a choice of tyres that include heavy duty 'Continentau' ones and a civilian 'Runlong' type, obviously the names having been altered to avoid licensing issues from irate tyre company lawyers. I like this as you can mix and match the tyres to give some contrast on the model. 
Another good thing I like about the kit are the three steering racks included as one is moulded in the straight ahead position, one turned to the left and the other turned to the right which saves some chopping as you would on other kits to portray the front wheels turned to either side.
The three steering racks included (parts G21, 22 and 23)
The interior is pretty well detailed with decals supplied for the instrument panel; the chassis is adequate for what you can see however there is no engine included so if you want the bonnet up you'll need to source an aftermarket item. Speaking of aftermarket the Toyota logo on the front grill is missing (again probably due to licensing issues) however Macone Models in Spain come to the rescue here as they have a 3D printed one included in a set of resin wheels that are designed to replace the kit items (Ref.: MAC35614, and for a very reasonable sum too €12).
Three paint options are included:
The first (option A) in a two-tone scheme of sand and green from the 18th Mechanized Brigade, Iraqi Republican Guards from the first Gulf War during 1991
Option B is an overall sand coloured FJ43 from the 3rd Armoured Division 'Saladin', Iraqi Army again during the first Gulf War.
The final one (option C) being an FJ43 in an overall light grey and white scheme for a TV/Press vehicle during the 1980s. 
All the colour call outs including weathering and washes are from AK's own range.

No masks for the cabin glazing are included but there is a template on the instructions to make your own and for this I would strongly recommend making a copy on a scanner/printer in case you mess any up.

Cartograf decals are provided, they are the best!
The box art was the first thing that caught my eye as I could see scope for so many weathering possibilities so I pushed the boat out and bought the kit. After looking at the contents it seems to be a really nice kit in the box but as ever the proof is in building it so the bench was cleared and I started cutting plastic.
I must mention that fellow modeller Scott Gentry very kindly gave me permission to use the snag sheet he made while building the same model and to Pat McGrath who passed it on to me. Thank you both!

Starting with the tyres then, the chunky looking ones are in two halves while the other type is in three sections so as I wasn't sure which type I would be using, I glued together both sets as the hubs could be fixed in place after;
I must admit I preferred the look of the 'Continetau' tyres so these were chosen but before the hubs were glued into place I altered the last letter (U) on all the tyres and with a modelling chisel changed it to an 'L' to fully give the name of a very well-known German tyre manufacturer.
The chassis was next and this is a fairly straightforward assembly, the only extra work I did here was to add 1.7mm discs to the joints on the propeller shafts, drill out the end of the exhaust pipe and hide the join lines on the silencer by stippling it with liquid glue and an old paint brush.
The front axle was a bit fiddly and I found it easier to glue the springs onto the chassis then fix it into place before messing about with the hubs and steering rack.
 It's not really clear on the instructions where part G9 locates and I initially glued it to the chassis cross-member however on the steering rack there is a small cut out for it so that is where it actually goes.
The mounting brackets for the front suspension struts (parts G16 and 17) are numbered incorrectly and need swapping over...of course I would have known that if I had actually read the correction sheet included in the kit. Duh...

This is what the front suspension should look like.
After only a few hours the chassis was virtually built and really I could have added the front and rear bumpers at this point but these were fixed in place later.
With the chassis done I could start on the body but after reading the snag list mentioned above, I deviated from the instructions at this point as Scott pointed out that the lower body seemed to be slightly too wide and made the upper body flare out. Having a think about it I assembled parts E44 and E45 but instead of gluing them to the floor (part E26) I sanded the edges of each one slightly then glued them to the body sides (parts E1 and E7). After taping the body sides to the floor I fitted the upper cabin and roof (for which I jumped ahead to step 26 in the instructions for the assembly sequence) and checked to see if the body flared out. 
Luckily it didn't;

This also allowed me to fit the bonnet (or hood) and windscreen frame, however this threw up another issue as the frame would not sit properly. This was due to some plastic in the windscreen hinges that needed removing;

This was duly removed with a modelling chisel and scalpel...
The windscreen frame was a much better fit although before it was finally fixed into place the mould-pin marks were filled with superglue as they are quite prominent. The rest of the bodywork details such as the gear stick and handbrake were added although I did alter the latter to depict it as 'on'. The instrument panel was left off to aid painting later on along with the seats and steering column but I did fix the pedals in place, I also filled in and sanded the mould-pin marks in the front cab floor;
The body sides were not glued to the floor in this shot.
Part E30 was glued into position under the floor panel but needed super gluing and clamping to get it to sit flat.
With the body virtually built, other details were taken off the sprues such as the seats, seat supports etc, assembled and left to one side for painting. I think AK dropped the ball here, as it seems they missed out a part on the interior as although E15 fits on the right hand side.
There is no corresponding part on the other side but there are locating strips so you'll have to fill the area with a bag or something.
The front fenders were fitted but as Scott Gentry's snag sheet points out, the locating tabs need removing otherwise you end up with big gaps where the fenders fit the body sides. Of course I read this AFTER I fitted the fenders so I either have some filling to do or remove them completely, cut off the tabs then refit the fenders.

The worst fitting parts are the rear doors as they are too short in height;
You only have a couple of options here, either shim the doors top and bottom or in my case have the doors open. One thing I have noticed in the photo is the rather chunky moulded-on door handle so I may replace that at the same time I'm messing with the front fenders.

That was pretty much it for the build so I Blu-Tacked the wheels on, dry fitted the chassis to the floor and the roof to the body sides then had fun moving it around for the following photos without it all falling apart.

A quick walk around of the kit put together so far...
To be honest that was a very enjoyable build and for the first time probably since I was a kid a model has gone together in a weekend. Yes I could have gone to town on super detailing it but for me this model was more about the painting and weathering as that is what really caught my interest in the kit, especially with the striking box art.

There were a couple of tricky areas, especially when fitting the cab sides and roof but then isn't every kit like that? Personally I think this is a great effort for AK's first venture into injection moulded kits and it will be interesting to see how their Land Rover and Unimog kits shape up.
Meanwhile the FJ43 has been broken down into sub-assemblies and will be sprayed when the paint I've ordered turns up (another first for me as my builds usually take weeks, allowing plenty of time for stuff to arrive);
Keep a look out for part two which will cover the painting and weathering.

Andy King

This kit and the wheels from MacOne are now available on the on the AK Interactive Website