When Aftermarket Attacks: Building the Meng F-106A Delta Dart, part 1

I’ve had the F-106A on my to-build list for years. Literally, years! In 1989, I read an article about the type’s retirement from the Air National Guard which featured several photos of an F-106A in a retirement scheme, one of the last three ANG F-106s (all were with the New Jersey ANG). I decided I wanted to build that plane. A few years later, I ran across a decal sheet from Expert’s Choice featuring that very aircraft (plus markings for a New Jersey ANG F-102B). Little did I know that the art for that sheet was done by Jennings Heilig, a friend of mine! Subsequent research on the subject has revealed video of the final ANG flight’s take-off, which has proven very useful in building a model. But back to the saga…

The years progressed and then, way back in 2010 or so, I started work on the old Hasegawa kit, and I re-scribed an example, carefully replicating the sea of oval access panels below the wings and the quilt-work of panel lines on the fuselage and upper wing. I was contemplating doing a detail set for the kit, with a new cockpit, a repositioned refueling receptacle, new nose bay, intakes… Basically, a whole new model. By 2014, after Meng released an F-102, I threw the whole mess away, hoping we’d have a new F-106 sometime soon. In 2016 I got my wish.

The Meng kit – the answer to my prayers and the cause of my Hasegawa kit’s demise.

The Meng F-106 is an impressive model, with a full missile bay, both styles of canopy, both styles of underwing fairings, a full complement of Falcon missiles (and their boxes), a Genie missile (and a handling trolley), positionable electronics bays in the nose, a gun pod (and the gear doors to accommodate it) and more. Meng also marketed a resin upgrade to the cockpit and to the exhaust/wheel wells. I snapped those up, too.

At first, all seemed will. The Meng aftermarket sets were packaged in extremely sturdy boxes, and each part was in its own tiny bag. The cockpit set had instructions inside the box, while the exhaust/wheel well set had instructions printed on the back of the box.

I started out by painting the rather nice ejection seat. This is the late-model seat, which was perfect for what I planned on building. I painted the seat using the various references available on-line, plus Bert Kinzey’s F-106 Delta Dart in Detail & Scale and the old (1980) Famous Aircraft of the World magazine about the Delta Dart. The seat came out pretty well, I thought!

The Meng resin seat is rather nice – good detail, crisply presented and easy to paint.

Next came the painting of the cockpit tub. This is where things became weird. Using the same references, I looked for areas where colors like red or yellow might be used after a gray dry-brushing had brought out the details. I was astonished that nothing matched the illustrations or photos. Worst of all, the throttle assembly – a rectangular unit inset into the left side console – was missing. Infuriatingly, the kit itself had this feature; it lacked the detail, but the structure was all there. I thought, perhaps I can pitch the resin tub and stick the resin bang seat in the kit tub, then detail the sidewalls. Nope – the seat was far too wide to fit the kit tub.

Grumbling, I made a new throttle assembly, with one long piece of .010 styrene and two shorter pieces at the height of the console all laminated together and sanded to shape. A couple of small knobs made of ting cross-sections of wire were added, and the assembly was cemented in place on the left sidewall. The throttle handle itself will be added toward the end of the build. Then, all the spurious detail was painted and/or adjusted to be a little more accurate.

Throttle assembly, mid-scratch-build. Scratch-building to fix aftermarket is less than enjoyable…

The rest of the resin set was equally disappointing. The sidewalls were inaccurate, and were thrown away; a little switch detail added to the kit sidewalls was perfectly adequate. The avionics bays were nice, but I didn’t want to have the bay’s open; nothing spoils the lines of the F-106 worse than those elephant ear-like doors.

I turned my attention to the exhaust/wheel bay set. To my consternation, none of the main wheel bay parts fit. In fact, to use the non-fitting center section of the bay, you’d had to decapitate the lower wing, which would mess up the structure of the model. And, again, the detail was pretty general – it didn’t look much like my photos. The nose wheel bay, however, was quite nice and matched the photos very well, so I painted it Convair interior green (not the screaming neon green of “interior green,” but a deeper color shown in the photos) and picked some details out in silver and black. Fitting the nose wheel bay and the cockpit tub took a lot of futzing about, but eventually they were both installed, with minimal gaps. The instrument panel was built using the late-style photoetched instruments, but the pedestal was glued to a piece of .010 styrene, allowing me to adjust its position in relation to the fusleage. The goofy tub placed the instrument panel in the wrong place, so some adjustment would be needed when it came time to close the fuselage halves.

Once placed, the tub/seat look OK…

Only F-106 jocks will ever know how scrambled the side console detail is!

The exhaust parts were also unusable – they were too small in diameter to fit the kit’s tail pipe, and the detail on the flameholder was inferior to that in the kit. So, for about $30, I got a seat, a sub-par tub, the nosewheel bay and an insert for the rear of the canopy. Not a bargain, and the parts made what should have been a fun build into a hassle.

Next time, we’ll look at something slightly more positive: the intakes and the detailing of the wheel bays.