There seems to be a lot of competition for Asian airliners even when they are relatively obscure. After all, Thai 737-400s are hardly the sort of model you'd expect to be a major seller and yet there have now been 9 models of Thai 734s produced or announced. It is certainly interesting that very soon after Miniature Models announced a pair Phoenix has announced three (albeit all in the old colours). As for Miniature Models they are apparently not a retailer but I am told they are a new producer starting out using Panda Models' moulds but hoping to move to their own in the future. I admit some scepticism as to whether that happens but the recent pair of Thai's give me an opportunity to look in detail at the Panda 737-400.
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Each review is to split into three key areas:
The Panda Models Boeing 737-400 was announced way back in November 2019 but took some time, almost a year in fact, to actually appear on the market and I admit that to me the initial releases (frighters and air force examples) were not exciting. To date there have been 8 releases (four of which are exclusives for others) using the mould and only two cover more mainstream 737-400s.
Hopefully Panda will get its game together as the 737-400 has not been well represented in 400 scale with less than 100 releases most of which use the old, but passable Gemini Jets mould, which is still in use today updated with aerials. Phoenix also have their own mould, which although dating from 2014 I have a very low opinion of.
The other moulds in circulation are obsolete versions from Herpa and Dragon Wings - best ignored. So the arrival of a new Panda mould is very welcome, especially as it is superb and clearly the best made to date in the scale by a country mile.
It is not an exagerration to say that this is one of, if not the best, 737s made in 400 scale period. The shape of the nose profile is perfect and the rest of the fuselage no weaker. The tail region stands up to scrutiny with the tail bumper in place, nicely squared off tailcone and a very well fitted stabiliser.
The nosegear is spot on although the nosegear doors may be a little large at their rear margin. The maingear is just as good and together they hold the fuselage and engines at the right height above the ground. It could be argued that the maingear tyres may be slightly too large but if they are it is only by a fraction.
The engines have the characteristic flat bottom and slight upward tilt perfect. They attach to an excellent set of wings. Finishing off the model are four aerials (two above and two below) which are well shaped and sized.
There are no real complaints I can lay at the door of this mould. It is vastly superior to the ugly duck nosed mess the Phoenix version is (used for the other Thai 737-400s in this scheme) and as good as anything any other brand has produced.
SCORE - 10
PAINT & LIVERY
Thai introduced their new livery in 2005 with the introduction of their A340-500/600s and although it was the death of another classic cheatline scheme the newer livery is elegant and classy. By this point only five of the original ten 737-4D7s were still with Thai (the rest had transferred to Nok Air aside from one destroyed in a terrorist bombing).
Initially the new Thai livery used a metallic purple paint colour but this proved expensive to paint and maintain and the colour was swapped out to a matt purple shade. This however occurred after most of the 737s were gone and I'm not sure the remaining two aircraft received the duller purple.
The Thai scheme features the traditional wai symbol on the tail in gold, magenta and purple, which are the liveries three main colours. The model shows the colours beautifully, especially the gold in the fuselage banding, which shimmers in the light wonderfully.
Positionally the fuselage bands cut through the windows in exactly the correct places and curve around the fuselage expertly. The tail logo and flag are accurate and the registration is present under the port wing and above on the starboard.
The aircraft name 'LOP BURI' sits under the Star Alliance logo and the small anti-glare mask ahead of the cockpit is well printed and sized. The rego sits on the nosegear doors and the main title font is accurate and the titles sized well. There are no issues to report at all with this scheme it looks superb.
SCORE - 10
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
The printing on this model is up to the usual high standards. For anyone who thinks I'm biased towards Panda and NG Models I hold up this kind of printing quality as proof of their impressive skill. The printing is very detailed and holds up well under magnification with details like the shading on the Star Alliance triangles.
The base print template for the 737-400 is excellent and contains a high level of detail printing. Add on the symmetry and sharpness of the livery, especially where the fuselage bands meet at the roof and under the tail, and the model looks gorgeous.
Of course if you look hard enough there is always a fault to be found and on this model I would say the nosegear tyre hub is too light grey in colour and the starboard nosegear tyre has a large tyre tab on it. Additionally the starboard engine isn't fitted to the pylon as nicely as on the port side. Very minor criticisms but enough to dock a point I think.
SCORE - 9
I'm not going to change the mind of those convinced I am biased towards certain brands and frankly I don't care about them. The quality of this kind of model speaks for itself and is something that certain brands just can't, or won't, match. Panda are making very high quality models and my only criticism of them is they are not making anywhere near enough and not the right models for me. I could have reviewed either the Boeing House Colours or Piedmont examples, which I also own, and I can see they would have scored highly as well. Panda have proven that they can consistently make models as well as anyone.
FINAL SCORE - 29/30
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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