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DECAL REVIEW


Furball Aero-Design 48-061
Black Bunny VX-4 F-4J
1:48 Scale

vol_2_image

One of the most famous schemes carried by a U.S. Navy F-4 Phantom II was the Black Bunny. This sparked an on-again, off-again tradition of marking black-painted jets from VX-4 Evaluators with the Playboy bunny on the tail and were referred to with the callsign “Vandy 1.” 

The first of the black Phantoms was F-4J BuNo 153783, first painted in overall black to test the effectiveness of this scheme for nighttime low-visibility markings in 1969.  In 1971, the jet was marked somewhat differently and had the classic bunny head applied to the vertical stabilizer. Initially, Playboy threatened legal action for the unlicensed and artistically incorrect use of their copyrighted emblem. They eventually had a change of heart and sent to the Navy a pair of stencils with the correct shape and proportions of the bunny head. The F-4 carried the markings until 1987 until the F-14 took over as Vandy 1.  Various Tomcats held this role until 2004 including the last new-build F-14D, and recently, the bunny head has appeared on VX-9’s F/A-18Es.  The bunny lives on!

In this release, Furball Aero-Design provides decals for the two early incarnations of VX-4’s F-4J Black Bunny. Both schemes were flown on BuNo 153783.   The first has the original VX-4 overall gloss black scheme in 1969 with the large XF tail code, the blue bands with red trim on the tail, fuselage, and wingtips, and many, many white maintenance stencils. Here, the Modex, BuNo, tail code, and Navy markings were all in gull grey. The second gloss black scheme is again BuNo 153783 but as it appeared in 1972. It carried the first and unofficial bunny head on the tail and with blue bands with gold trim on the tail, fuselage, and wingtips. The airplane was still festooned with tons of white maintenance stencils.

The set is optimized for the 1:48 scale Zoukei-Mura F-4J, but by my judgment, I think they can be adapted to the Hasegawa or Academy F-4Js with very little to no trouble. I pulled out my Hasegawa 1:48 scale “Collector’s High-Grade Series” kit of Vandy 1 to compare with the Furball sheet. As one might expect, the Furball decals are light-years beyond the older Hasegawa decal sheet in terms of print quality, thinness of carrier film, and color accuracy.  The Furball sheet is also far more complete in terms of airframe stencil coverage including ALL the maintenance stencils, pylon stencils, and even warning placards on the inside of the speedbrakes.  

The quality of the decal design is outstanding, and the printing by Cartograf is technically impeccable. Colors are vibrant, in perfect register, and carrier film is very thin and exceptionally restrained. Of course, one always worries about translucent white decals on a dark background, but the white-printed decals are sufficiently thick enough to prevent that kind of problem. 

Many thanks to Furball Aero-Design for the review sample. You can find them on the web at http://www.furballaero-design.com/default.asp and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FurballAeroDesign

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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