MG Gundam complete

At this point, it’s as done as it’s gonna be. :) It’s time to party like it’s 1995!

I’m not sure exactly when I started work on this project… Maybe I’d been hoping to get it ready for Tekkoshocon, or maybe for Granitecon last year… But it was already pretty far along when I resumed work on it this summer. In the last update I had the basic paint colors down. Since that point, apart from a few details here and there, it’s just been gloss, decal, gloss, sand, gloss, wash, flat.

For the markings I used two of the dry transfers included with the kit – the “U.N.T. Spacy” mark (very much a 1995-1998 thing… That’s how they marked Federation units in the Master Grade line, up until the Perfect Grade Gundam introduced the “Earth Federation Space Force”/EFSF marking) and the red Pegasus on the front of the left shoulder. That was really about all the kit-supplied markings had to offer, since I wasn’t about to use stickers… The only other thing provided in the dry transfer set were red triangles. I also used markings from a few other decal sheets: Most of the “102” and “RX-78” and warning decals and so on came from the Gundam Decal “Real Type Gundam” set made for the Gundam v2.0. Not all of the markings were suitable for this build since my build wasn’t in “Real Type” colors. Others I left out because they seemed too silly… Like the long arrows, those marks never made a lot of sense to me. The Amuro mark on the shield and the “102” on the backpack came from an old decal sheet I bought from Peter Savin several years ago. The additional red Pegasus marks came from a Gundam Decal set for Earth Federation MS. The intake markings and probably a few other marks came from a Wave “X-Decal” sheet. I think I took a mark or two from an old 1:60 scale Votoms decal sheet as well. Finally, the red stripes on the ankles and skirt armor were from a sheet of red stripe decals. :)

I replaced the hands on this kit with Kotobukiya Pla-unit hands – the “Custom 1:100” type. For the price (around 500 yen) what you get with these sets is really nice… six static-pose hands, in different poses, that look almost as good as resin hands. There are some challenges when using them with Gundam kits, however: the “Normal Type” hands are best suited for larger machines, which is why I used the “Custom” hands here… But the “Custom” hands are made to hold really small weapon grips… They’re a perfect fit for Kotobukiya weapon sets but MG weapon grips are too big… So I had to modify the hands to hold the beam rifle and shield.

The shield on the stock kit has some fairly ugly features on the back side of the shield – a peg sticking out for connecting to the backpack and three pegs for the hand-grip to plug into… The idea of the hand-grip is that it’s supposed to slide in that track it’s in – I’m perfectly fine with it not actually sliding but those pegs had to go. Additionally, the shield grip itself was originally made of polycap material, so I scratch-build a replacement so I could paint it. The peg for the backpack connection I replaced with a polycap and a minus-mold plug… So I can remove the plug and insert a rod and connect the shield to the backpack… I have to be careful when doing this, however, because if I stick the peg in too far into the shield, it can hit the back side of the yellow “star” emblem and cause it to break…

I lit the eyes with two surface-mount red LEDs. In order to get the light to look right when it shone through the eye parts, I had to cut away the piece of clear plastic behind the eye visor that held it in place… So handling the eye visor during painting it was fairly fragile, and reinstalling it, it was a bit fiddly. It seems I have a minor light leak between the eyes and the face – I’ll have to fix that later… The eyes are painted clear yellow but actually light red… This is how they worked in the show. Because the eyes are clear yellow, they don’t show up so well when the LEDs are off – personally I think that’s actually a pretty good look for the kit. If the eyes stand out too brightly, it can make the head look kind of goofy, I think. The wires for these LEDs are routed down the back of the neck and into the chest cavity. I cut away a chunk of the core block so I could install a battery pack and microcontroller in there… Unfortunately the battery pack has gone missing, so for now, when you see photos of the eyes lit, the wires are in fact trailing out the back of the head and connected to clip leads that are run to a power source. Hopefully the battery pack and microcontroller unit I built will turn up soon – I worked too hard on that feature to have it wrecked by a simple thing like losing a critical part…

A somewhat simpler modification I did was to mount the “detail-up” parts – the little hooks and such that are on various places on the Gundam and its shield. These were an interesting feature of the early Master Grade kits which, sadly, did not last. These were bits of actual, scale detail – that they would include such things at all really reflects the difference in how they approached the subjects back then. Master Grades in 1995 weren’t really about “technology” or “articulation” – they were about delivering the best-looking Gundam model kits to date. That’s the approach that suits me best. I don’t care how well the kit moves if it’s eye-stabbing ugly like the 2.0 versions of the Gundam and Zaku.

This kit did feature some opening panels on the head, forearms, and lower legs – I disabled these and glued them shut so I could get a better fit on the parts and make the seam where the panel meets the rest of the body smaller than it would be if the panel were left operable.

Speaking of panels – another modification I did to this model was to re-scribe panel lines that were irregularly-molded due to draft angle issues… (Basically – a traditional mold for making plastic model kits is a steel mold of two halves. The mold halves come together, plastic is injected in, the top half of the mold is pulled off and the parts are popped out of the bottom half. This means that any detail on the kit must be designed such that the injected part can be removed from the mold. So when a part is in the mold, the sides that face “up” or “down” can get relatively clean detail that’s more-or-less perpendicular to the surface of the part. For parts that face sideways, detail tends to be skewed a bit to accommodate the molding process. In the case of this kit, panel lines on the front of the lower leg, for instance, instead of being a recessed line in a flat part, were molded as kind of a step, a change in the thickness of the part at the panel line.) This includes the sides of the knee armor, the front of the upper and lower legs, the shoulders, the arms, the panels on top of the head, and maybe a couple other places I forgot about.

For laughs, I pitted the MG Gundam against my 1:100 scale Zaku… Perfect for Gunpla’s 30th anniversary, I’d say… a kit from the beginning of Gundam kits (well, 1981, so their second year) and one from what is now the half-way point… The 1:100 Zaku is pretty goofy-looking, and I built it as a joke – but I think it’s a great old kit. I bought a second one, I want to try a build that’s a little less OOB and see what I can accomplish this time around.

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