1/48 f-104c

I’ve decided it is time to create a build log of my current project: Hasegawa’s 1/48 F-104C in bare metal finish. I hope to log the build in full, but It will take me a few weeks to get the documentation caught up to my current progress on the model.

It has been my ambition for some time to tackle one of these century series beauties with a polished aluminum foil finish! Of course, the first step will be to finish the cockpit build, which has become something of a project on its own.

For references, I have collected dozens of images of the inner workings of several versions of F-104 (Primarily G, S and J), however, I have also been heavily reliant on the panoramic cockpit of the F-104C at the National Museum USAF (http://www.nmusafvirtualtour.com/cockpits/CW_tour/CW-22.html) Additionally I have on hand an old and dilapidated copy of Bert Kinzey’s F-104 Starfighter in Detail and Scale, which I have found useful mostly for its explanations of Starfighter variants, serial numbers, and instrument panel layouts. The 360 panoramic images of F-104 internal details located at http://vintagetin.net/F-104Starfighter/ have been quite useful as well.

As for aftermarket goodies, I am using several Aires resin kits: cockpit, wheel bay, and afterburner, as well as the Brassin afterburner set, and Eduard cockpit PE.

Anyway, I’m happy to get around to trying out the new forum. I will post some progress pictures over the next few days.




That’s looks an interesting build, I shall watch this with interest.
Always liked the sleek lines of the missile with a man in it, and it does look better in NMF.
Andy :slight_smile:

Thanks Andy! Yes, for such a popular modeling subject, I have seen precious few of these birds finished in late 50’s early 60’s colors. Thought I would fill the niche. :smile:

First things first: the cockpit.

I have been extensively modifying the 1/48 Aires F-104C/J cockpit kit, but before I get into that, I think I will give a quick review of this excellent resin upgrade set.

The kit details are crisp and highly accurate, fit is not too bad either. The most difficult step in assembly is the thinning of the inner wall of the stock Hasegawa fuselage, which is required for the resin cockpit side panels to fit.

However, I do have several major complaints. First, the cockpit floor is too shallow and lacking detail. Second, although this kit is listed as the cockpit for an F-104C/J, only the seat, primary instrument panel, and PE/film parts are correct for an F-104C, the other resin components feature details only found on later F-104 variants. I believe these parts were recycled from the F-104G kit :thinking: The worst offenders are the auxiliary instrument panels, which are from an F-104G, and quite distinct from the instruments of an F-104C. There are also one or two dimensional issues with the cockpit layout that I will touch upon in a later post, but these are easily corrected.

Overall, despite a few small issues (which I recognize most people would not get hung up on) I would definitely still recommend this upgrade, especially If you are building a G/S/J Variant. Short of scratch building the entire cockpit, the Aires sets are the best (and only?) path to an accurate F-104 cockpit.

Next post I will begin to document my modifications to the cockpit tub.

Cheers for now,


Time for an update!

Viewer discretion advised. :smile: The following images will document the eradication of just about every detail in the cockpit kit! It must get worse before it can be made better… :sweat_smile:

First to go were the instrument panel details ① ②, which will be scratch built later. I also corrected the surface slope of these panels, as they were much to flat in the Aires kit (see ③ below). Next I rebuilt and lengthened the throttle and flap control console ④ as this feature is undersized in the Aires kit. As a side note, I have been basing the dimension changes on proportions gauged from reference pictures and the T.O. 1F-104C-4 Illustrated Parts Breakdown manual.

Next I removed all details from the back wall of the cockpit ⑤. The detail here was actually pretty accurate; however, almost all the hoses, wires, and structural details were a bit thicker than they should be, resulting in an overly dense look to this area. Either way, I am quite looking forward to the challenge of building the rear wall details from scratch.

In this picture we see the unmodified floor and side wall details. The footrests ⑥ in the Aires kit extend all the way to the bulkhead, which is incorrect. The footrest assemblies are actually part of the cockpit escape hatch ⑦, and are much shorter. Also, the pockets ⑧ on the side walls are too narrow and will be rebuilt to the proper width.

Here the sidewall details have been removed. The next step will be to sand the wall surface smooth and re-etch the panel lines.

On the LH side the footrests ⑨ have been shortened and reshaped to match reference pictures. On the RH, the lower cockpit area has been sprayed with Mr. Surfacer 1200 to make any defects visible ⑩.

Well that’s it for this update. Next time I can promise a whole load of scratch building.

Until then :v:


Time to present some work on the footwell area:

The silver on the footrests is chrome Bare-Metal Foil. I’ve found that this stuff is great for adding realism to parts that are sheet metal on the real vehicle, both for the texture and to add a slight line at the edge of sheet metal pieces.

Here are some detail parts I cut from 0.005” styrene sheet. I then attached these parts to the sides and top of the parallel longerons that run along the length of the floor, see below. All and all, a quick way to really spice up the footwell of the cockpit, I think :+1:

Note the rivet detail on top of the longerons, and the re-etched panel lines on the cockpit side walls.

Here is a view from the opposite side. The white rectangle in the center of the floor represents the top of the UHF antenna housing, which is mounted in the escape hatch. I have not been able to determine if the “X” pattern is accurate for an F-104C (I think perhaps not) but in reality the C2 ejection seat covers this component much more completely than the Martin-Baker seat, so I am going to leave it. Below are two examples of this UHF antenna housing in an F-104J with Martin-Baker ejection seat (left) and F-104G (I think) with the ejection seat removed (right).




I love the detailing. :slight_smile:

1 Like

Thanks Mal, Detailing is what I do! If only I could figure out the art of painting :thinking: problem is I never seem to get that far on my builds… :sweat_smile:

Hi all :wave:

I added some details to the sidewall: duct openings for the climate control system, pockets, and the odd-shaped bulges in the sidewall paneling. These parts were constructed from 0.005” and 0.010” styrene sheet, then painted with thinned down Mr. Surfacer and sanded to smooth any defects.

I also replaced the control stick boot with a more accurate shape sculpted from Milliput. I should have added something into these photos for scale, but for reference the cockpit tub is about 1.5" long.

This image of an F-104C interior showcases all the details added above, and shows how much more there still is to recreate!

Finally, here is a shot of the cockpit with the C2 ejection seat dry-fitted to check the dimensions of the components I added. Looks good to me!

Well, thats it for now :v:

Hi all,

Stepping back in time a bit; work on the side trim panels has been progressing for many months, as I slowly gained access to improved reference material. The most notable issues with the Aires parts are shown below, but aesthetically my main issue with the parts is their general softness.

I can’t list a step by step build log, because I made more changes than I can remember, but I think the images below serve to document the process.

Below is a composite image of the trim panels: RH (top) and LH (bottom). These views show most of the features that I was attempting to replicate on my model. In real life these trim panels were thin sheets of fiberglass, so I thought it was important to incorporate all the join lines between the various panels (4 or 5 on each side).

The shaping of the real panels is much more complex than I have ever seen rendered in a kit or model. It took scouring dozens of sources to find views of the more recessed areas, but I am confident what I have here is quite accurate, although it was very frustrating incorporating some of the finer detail in this scale and it could have turned out a bit more crisp.

At this point I think these panels are 95% done. I still need to complete a little more sanding and touch up before priming and reattaching the detail parts removed in the first couple of steps.

That’s all for now, thanks for looking :beer:



A small update:

I have begun work on the instrument panels and surrounding structure.

I cut rectangles of 0.010” styrene and filed them to the precise shape of the four instrument panels. The final panels will be 0.015” thick, as I will add a layer of 0.005” styrene squares that will define the lines between the individual instrument boxes.

I have been quite nervous about this step of the detailing process, as the detail is very fine for 1/48 scale. I was not sure how much fidelity I would be able to achieve so I started small with the triangular panel on the LH side of the cockpit.

Here you can see the boxy protrusion in the trim panel for the anti-G suit valve and the small instrument panel that contained:

  1. Trim and stability control panel
  2. Fuel control panel
  3. Auxiliary trim control panel

Overall I am quite happy with the result :partying_face: I will need to refine my methods for the larger panels to keep things as clean as possible. For example I used Tamiya extra thin to attach 0.4mm resin rivets to form the buttons of the panel, and the stuff made a real mess of the panel surface :roll_eyes: I had to add a layer of Mr. Surfacer 1200 and sand it down to cover the damage. In the future I will use some Testors blue glue. I also need to find a 0.4mm drill bit. The ones I have are #80s and they are just a hair too small, so that I really have to force the resin rod into the hole which often damages the surrounding plastic.

Below is a series of images depicting my process for the creation of this instrument panel:

Finally, here are the four instrument panels in their current state of completion. I think I will hold off on any more work on these until I have ordered some new drill bits… :+1:

That’s it for this week. As always, thanks for looking.



1 Like

Something a little different this week.

I built shoring out of basswood to support the model during construction, foiling, etc., as I think adding wheels and landing gear will be one of the later steps in the build. For that far off day when I finally join the fuselage halves!

I also thinned the walls of the fuselage in the cockpit area to provide clearance for the Aires cockpit kit.

Plus I finished the details around the throttle control stick and flap selector lever. The two in-progress instrument panels are dry fitted.

Cheers and Happy Holidays,



Much progress has been made in the past month! But, I have made some radical changes (I may have gone a little bit overboard in my pursuit of scale accuracy) and I feel the need to explain some of the thought process before getting the build log up to date.

After spending an awful lot of time looking at pictures like the one below, I came to the conclusion that the floor of my cockpit was not positioned accurately. In fact, it is so shallow compared to the real aircraft that after a few weeks of brooding I resolved to rebuild the entire cockpit floor.

Note: this discussion includes many references to the Frame Station (FS) 255 bulkhead and escape hatch longerons, see the below.

This is the crux of the issue: due to the thickness of the Hasegawa kit belly, the Aires cockpit tub was designed about 0.060” too shallow, presumably so that it would fit inside the unmodified Hasegawa fuselage; additionally, the Aires cockpit floor is essentially level, when on the real aircraft the “floor” (escape hatch) slopes backwards at about 3 degrees to the horizontal, or parallel to the belly of the aircraft, see below.

Now, this would not normally be an issue, as it should be impossible to tell that the tub was too shallow once the cockpit is closed up. However, this is a real problem for me since I have been gearing up to detail the area behind the ejection seat. In this area, due to the incorrect angle of the floor, the discrepancy between the current floor and the actual belly of the aircraft is over a tenth of an inch. Also, this whole area will be visible in my model as I plan on displaying the model with an open canopy and leaving the ejection seat removable to better showcase the cockpit detail.

If I were to leave the cockpit “floor” position as is, the FS 255 bulkhead would be about 15% shorter than it should be in scale. As a result, I would have to either curtail the bottom 15% of the details on the back wall, or squash all detail in this area vertically by 15%. Neither of these mitigation strategies appeals to me at all.

So with all that said, I hope you reading will have patience and indulge my obsession with this model. The way forward is to remove the existing floor and reconstruct it in the proper location.

Major surgery in progress… :grimacing:

This part I am saving for later. I will reconstruct and extend the seat rails.

Finally, the old floor is out. Unfortunately, this part will be mostly scrapped. I will rebuild the footrest pieces.

After removing the floor I created a brace across the rear of the cockpit. This brace maintains the proper distance between the two walls (0.555") and also serves to locate the replacement FS 255 bulkhead and ejection seat rails. The bulkhead is dry-fitted for this photo.

Starting to look a lot more like the pictures! :partying_face:

Cheers until next week :beer:



This is fascinating! I am in awe of your detail work. Cheers,

1 Like

Thanks Creading, I appreciate it!

:wave: Hi all,

References, references, references… I have too many of them.

Honestly most of my temptation to jump down the rabbit hole of super detailing this F-104 has been spurred on by my discovery of the various manuals available for this aircraft. There are flight manuals, maintenance manuals, parts manuals, structural repair manuals, electrical manuals, etc. But not just one of each, no… there are manuals for each variant of the F-104 developed over its 46 year operational history.

I became a little obsessed with the topic a few months ago, and scoured the internet for additional source material. I now have a pretty decent sampling of the manuals that exist for the F-104 A, B, C, D, G, and S, and this array of information has given me an excellent, although one-dimensional, understanding of the myriad ways in which these variants differ from each other. It has also caused a few headaches due to information overload and the occasional contradiction between different sources.

Naturally, once I had detailed information about all the structures and systems of the cockpit, I just had to go and build them… :sweat_smile:

The escape hatch, or cockpit lower access hatch as it is also known, is the first component I have built from the ground up since familiarizing myself with the T.O. 1F-104C-4 and T.O. 1F-104G-4 Illustrated Parts Breakdown technical manuals.

Here is a rundown:

The first graphic is from the Structural Repair Manual T.O. 1F-104A-3. It shows the features of the initial production run of F-104A and F-104C aircraft fitted with downward firing ejection seats, and the hatch is therefore referred to as an “escape hatch”. In the second panel, from the Structural Repair Manual (T.O. 1F-104G-3), the F-104G “cockpit lower hatch” features updated footrests, a larger rectangular aperture in the belly for the UHF antenna, and weight saving perforations in the inner skin web. The third panel shows the Illustrated Parts Breakdown (AA 1F-104S-4) view for the F-104S “cockpit lower access hatch” produced in the 70s’.

The hatch for the F-104C is something of an amalgam of these three images, as it has the original footrests, the perforated inner skin web, and a UHF antenna with the double cross pattern shown in the third image.

Off to the workbench…

The first step was to carve away excess material from the kit part. Then the part was cut in two, the portion under the cockpit, and the portion with the wheel well bay opening.

Next, I shaped frames and longerons from 0.020” styrene sheet, before gluing them into a square frame. I set this frame into the kit part with Milliput and carefully adjusted its position and orientation until the longerons were positioned correctly (see my previous post).

Here all four frames have been added, FS 196.5, FS 206, FS 232, FS 243. After the initial framing with 0.020" styrene sheet, the rest of this part was built up using 0.005" sheet styrene.

Building the new footrests. I built these up from the originals I harvested from the Aires kit. Sorry for the potato cam.

Potato cam again. I tried using a “better” camera with macro, but the lens wasn’t getting enough light. Here is the escape hatch after addition of rivet detail and part of the inner skin web. Rounded corners of the web were made with Milliput.

And finally here it is with one footrest dry-fitted. The whole thing was done up with several thinned coats of Mr. Surfacer and sanded to fill gaps.

Until next week, thanks for stopping by!



Taking a look now at the 20mm M61 Vulcan exhaust port. This feature was retrofitted on some F-104As and was made a production feature thereafter.

All photos used for reference purposes:

On the Hasegawa kit this aperture is the wrong shape. :face_with_monocle: I cut out the larger hole and added some detail with 0.005” sheet.

Also the above image made it clear that the UHF antenna is too narrow on the Hasegawa kit. The edges should extend to be in line with the edges of the nose wheel bay at Butt Line 8.5 L/R (BL 8.5). This means that the UHF antenna should be about 17” wide in 1:1 and about 0.350” wide in 1:48.

I carved out the port for the UHF antenna to the correct width. Length was :+1: to begin with. I will need to rework the rivet detail around the edge of the UHF antenna, but this is probably for the best as the stock rivet detail was oversized and was lacking 2/3 of the rivets.

Progress has been made on the UHF antenna as well.

This first attempt was based off a drawing I have for an F-104C UHF antenna. This part was built up using 0.045” and 0.020” sheet styrene. Too late I realized that the drawing was of the actual antenna, not the antenna shroud I should have been referencing. Take two was based off the F-104G/J/S UHF antenna housing, which is the only style I have seen photos of.

Quite happy with the result! :tumbler_glass:

:wave: Thanks for looking,


1 Like

Lotta nice work going on here Marty - watching with much anticipation!
Cheers- Richard

1 Like

Hi Richard,

Thanks for following along. Believe it or not this build began as an attempt to finish a model in a year and thwart my usual tendency to get bogged down correcting errors with out of date kits. I picked a modern kit with lots of aftermarket options, and a subject I knew I could stay excited about.

Well its been about a year now and I’m still only halfway done with the cockpit! That’s where OCD will get you. But I will say that this has been a most enjoyable and rewarding modeling experience so far, and I am thoroughly committed to seeing it through. Progress may be a bit slow at times but I think I can promise a steady stream of updates in the future.


1 Like

Greetings from Starfighterland!

The escape hatch is complete! Many changes were made since the first post detailing escape hatch construction. Frame 243 was reduced in height and modified to have a flat region in its center. Somehow I forgot to add this feature in the first iteration. The flat is critical as it provides clearance for the seat rail support struts which will project into the area directly above Frame 244.

I hate rework, and as usual this change necessitated redoing some perfectly adequate details :unamused: in this case the rivet detail on top of the frames and longerons. This took an hour or two, but I’m satisfied with the result as the rivet lines turned out cleaner the second time around.

Next the footrests were attached, calipers providing clamping force during gluing. These were tricky as their alignment had to be checked in all three axes (they are actually mounted horizontally level, not parallel to the longerons or belly of the escape hatch).

Some work was completed on the fuselage structure between FS 184 and FS 195. This will be almost impossible to see when the cockpit is closed up, but I felt like adding the detail, as it wasn’t much extra work. Footramps were made from 0.005” styrene and attached in the “up” position. These parts were hinged and spring loaded as best I can make out from my references. They appear to have functioned as a bridge between the back of the footrests and Frame 195. I supposed they stopped the pilot’s heals from slipping into this gap.

The UHF antenna is ready to install, although I think I will keep it as a separate part until after painting the cockpit interior. Also, I scratched the belly light fixture and glued it into place. This rear compartment in the escape hatch will be covered with a thermal insulation blanket (I will make with foil) but I was not aware of this when I first added these details.

Sheet metal details were replicated with strips of Bare Metal Foil.

Riveting done on the underside of the escape hatch. Did these freehand with a needle and a round pointed diamond file :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:10/10 would not recommend.

Frame 244 was cut from 0.005” styrene, as usual. Almost like working with paper; to think that the real part was made from 0.072” (0.0015” in 1/48 scale) 7075-T6 aluminum. Makes me miss scratch building tank interiors… much thicker structural bits.

This frame is in the original pattern from the F-104A to F-104G. Planes with the Martin-Baker ejection seat were modified with a new design for Frame 244.

Frame 244 and 255 have been installed at their respective frame stations. The longerons connecting the two frames were scratched from four separate strips of 0.005” styrene. Dimensions for these structural bits were calculated using the excellent isometric drawings sourced from the F-104C Structural Repair Manual. (T.O. 1F-104A-3).

A bit more rivet detail has been added here, most of this riveting was inferred from exterior pictures of this area. The struts on top of the longerons are for attaching the ends of the ejection seat rails. I had thought this structure would be a real PITA to construct, but it actually came together in just a few hours. The most time consuming part was the riveting, which was added more as an exercise in completeness than anything else, as I doubt it will be visible when the cockpit is closed up, even with the seat removed. It sure looks cool right now though!

Here it is!

The entire cockpit floor is complete. Eventually I will need to add the insulation blanket that rests over the structure between FS 232 and FS 243, also the ejection hatch retaining bolts (4), and the duct and shroud that attach to the gun exhaust port; but, for now I can finally set this part aside.

Thanks for looking! until next time :beer: