SR-71A Blackbird (Testors) after-action report

Total time building 793.25 hours (that’s about 33.05 24 hour days, 19.833 work weeks).

Begin date July 15, 2017; end date September 20, 2019.



Giant Spy Plane Kit #984 1/48 scale

True Details

Resin Cockpits #48487


Ejection Seats #S48012

Metallic Details

Engine inlets and shock cones #MDR4808

Grills and afterburner cones #MD4816

Lone Star Models

SR-71 Engines & Exhausts #10502

Fisher Model & Pattern

Wheels and tires #A-4806

K&J Magnetics

Rare earth magnets # ZD12, 1/16″ (1.28mm) x 1/8″ (3.18mm)

Caracal Models

Blackbird decals #CD48101

My Opinion

This kit was designed and produced back in the dark ages (Italeri, I think, cut the dies) and IT SHOWS. Gaps. OMFG, do we have gaps? Everywhere. And some of the gaps have gaps. Fit is foul. Sometimes knowing something sucks doesn’t help when it starts sucking.

The “detail” on this kit is equally notorious, which given that the Blackbird was TOP SECRET when the engineers went to take measurements (assuming they were allowed to take measurements) didn’t surprise me. It was obvious they weren’t allowed to get too close to the Blackbird. I knew going in that the details wouldn’t be there and that was damned correct.

True Details. What can I say about them… In general, they don’t impress me, and this time wasn’t an exception. I didn’t use the ejection seats they provided as they were incorrect. I used Pavla’s, which were also incorrect. I used the Pavla seats because those inaccuracies were easier to fix (relatively).

Metallic Details is interesting. Their PE parts are decent, I’m not especially impressed with their resin parts. After I had committed to scratchbuilding the landing gear bays, I saw that they’d come out with a resin set for that. Maybe they beat scratchbuilding the landing gear bays, though I like what I did better than what Metallic Details offer.

The build. It was a grind. Just under 800 hours spread over two years. GAH. And the further I got into this build, the more this thing fought me.

I had to modify the True Detail cockpits. Canopy details had to be scratchbuilt and some that didn’t fit just thrown out.

The landing gear and the landing gear bays were also scratchbuilt, and that took a lot of time.

Panel lines. Scribing panel lines on something that’s over 27″ long takes time. Rescribing takes more time. Rescribing the rescribed lines also takes time. Sanding wasn’t my friend. I’m beginning to rethink scribed panel lines. Are they better than raised lines? I figure both are equally inaccurate, just in different ways. I suspect that at some point in the future I’m going to end up filling recessed panel lines and sanding down raised panel lines, replacing them with lines that are drawn on. Sorry, but recessed panel lines are actually out-of-scale, y’know.

If a person has the skills and wants to invest the time, the finished product looks damned impressive (and in order to finish this thing, you will develop new skills); large, black, and sinister. It’s rumored that Hyperscale* is doing a new-tool kit of the ‘Bird in 1/48. If you really want one on your shelf (and ONLY one unless it’s a large shelf), wait for that one. This one takes a lot, A LOT, of time to build into something adequate.

This was also my first commission. I told him it was going to take a long time. His patience was definitely appreciated (and he seemed pleased with the result):


In closing, a shout-out to Bruce from New Zealand. About the time I was neck deep and sinking into the swamp of homemade decals, he informed me that Caracal was doing a new sheet of decals (the ONLY complete set of ALL BLACKBIRD MARKINGS in two different sets). That bit of information, without exaggeration, saved this build. My homemade decals were horrible. Thanks, Bruce…I owe you more than one! (For all the good that will do you!)

Its new home:

2020-08-29 13

*Two years after posting this, Hyperscale still hasn’t released their new-tool kit of the ‘Bird, though they say they’re still working on it…and I get it that doing ANY sort of work on this subject takes time. However, it seems that perhaps they’ve waited a bit too long. Revell Germany has just released a new-tool kit of the SR-71 in 1/48 scale! I haven’t encountered any build reviews of RG’s kit so I can’t comment on it. (And NO. I will NOT be building one!!)

2 responses

  1. Wayne, as we both know only to well, it’s a real ‘sow’s ear’ if a kit that will try and defeat you every step of the way. What you have ended up with is a beautiful accurate rendition of the SR71 17972. We have tackled this build in quite different ways and your final finish and detail is awesome. It would be so cool to be able to display yours and mine together- the ‘back then, and now’.
    I have to thank you for your tips and encouragement through my build (still not finished). I look forward to continuing more hilarious banter as we go through more builds!!


    1. Thanks for the kind words regarding the build. I would suggest you schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist SOONEST. That said…

      I found it to be quite the coincidence that we live on opposite sides of this rock, yet we’re both doing #972 after a record-setting run. Yeah, it would be great if we could get both ‘Birds next to each other, sort of like winged bookends. Can’t see that happening, though. New Zealand and New York. Not even close.

      I’m glad my Neo-hominid grunting is of use to you. But as far as “hilarious banter” goes, sorry. I’m far too reserved and dignified to engage in that manner.



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