Following on from the detailed review I made for the De Agostini / JAL collection MD-90 in this, the first part of a new series, I'll take a closer look at the Boeing 737-400 from the same manufacturer but concentrate only on the mould itself rather than the entire model. As before this mould has been released as part of the JAL Collection series of magazines for the Japanese market, which seem to have been made by the new brand Jet Hut for De Agostini.
For smaller aircraft types the magazine includes two models, not one, and so issue 33 of the magazine included both a Southwest Air Lines and Japan TransOcean Air example.
DISCLAIMER: I don't know for certain if JetHut is going to turn into something and even if they do I don't know for certain they'll use the JAL Collection moulds, however there is a decent chance they will do both.
As I have said many times these JetHut moulds are not supposed to compete with first-line 400 scale brands and will be priced much cheaper than ordinary 400 scale models. This will come at a cost to quality so it is wrong to necessarily compare them directly to existing brands. Nonetheless, I will do that just to illustrate how near or far they are from usual 400 scale models.
737-400 IN 400 SCALE
To date the 737-400 hasn't had a great run in 400 scale. By far the most heavily used mould is the 2003 Gemini Jets version, also used heavily by Phoenix. Second comes the even earlier 2000 Dragon Wings version. More recently Phoenix has a 2013 mould and just recently Panda have produced a new mould in 2020 that so far has only been used a few times.
Above: Many Dragon 737s have very large landing gear
Below: The Gemini 737-400 is much better thought of
The new Panda Models mould looks like it is very good but I don't own one so it is the two older moulds above I will use as a primary comparison here.
JAL COLLECTION 737-400
The first thing that jumps out about the JAL Collection 737-400, as with several of their smaller moulds, is the size of the nosegear tyre. It gives the entire model a nose-up appearance and is probably a deal breaker for many. In its defence I would say that the model looks much better without macro photography and the tail-down aspect isn't as obvious when the model isn't under magnification. Nonetheless, if there was one easy thing to do to make the mould a lot better it would be to decrease the size of the nosegear.
The size of the nosegear doors and the gear leg are actually fine althougth the gear leg could be a little shorter too. Pleasingly the shape of the nosecone and cockpit region is good and I think better than on the older Dragon and Gemini moulds.
These JAL Collection moulds all share some standard cost-saving features and this 737 illustrates them all. The gear doesn't roll, there are no aerials, the mould is a cradle mount and the vertical stabliser is a plastic slot in. The wing seam is no worse than on the old Gemini and reasonably tidy.
The metal wings are excellently shaped and have a lot of great aileron and flap detailing. The engine pylons are also good and better than on the older Gemini. They hold the engines at the correct slanted upwards angle well.
I am less pleased by the engines themselves, which have a clear ring around them where the front has been added to the rear, plus a side seamline. Even so, the shape isn't too bad and from the front they look good, with nice fan detailing.
The underside of the model is clean and well shapped with the wells for the maingear nicely represented. The tail bumper is missing under the rear fuselage.
The rear of the fuselage is good although the tailcone is too square. As mentioned the tail is plastic, which as in the old Dragon mould, sometimes makes attachment to the metal fuselage rather obvious. It's shape is accurate however except it has the old fashioned all along its lower margin join and no free rudder.
Overall by modern standards this isn't a great mould. Having said that it does get the nose and cockpit region correct, which for me is probably the most important area of any mould. Interestingly in comparison to the old Dragon and Gemini moulds it compares quite well. I'd say it is superior to the Dragon, on par with older Gemini versions and slightly inferior to newer Gemini versions.
I am going to detract points as follows:
That gives a final mould score of 6 out of 10. Considering the source it is a good effort and in several areas, nose shape, engine pylons, wings and maingear very good.
SCORE - 6
The 2nd 737-400 in the pack, for JTA's predecessor Southwest Air Lines, shares the same characteristics as the JTA example. Both models display fine alongside other 400 scale models but could obviously be improved. The livery printing is surprisingly good for both models and the QC finish is decent as well. I suspect in a detailed review both would be scoring in the 20-22 range, which is no worse than plenty of standard 400 scale models. While the nosegear may be a deal breaker for many if this mould was used for the correct liveries and there was no alternative I'd be snapping it up.
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I'm Richard Stretton an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale models. On this page I take a detailed look at new releases.
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