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AMT/Ertl Star Wars Darth Vader's Tie Fighter

May 02, 2015

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AMT/Ertl Star Wars Darth Vader's Tie Fighter

AMT/Ertl Darth Vader's Tie Fighter

Manufacturer AMT/Ertl
Building hours ~70

Also see


Airfield Models ( AMT/Ertl Star Wars Darth Vader's Tie Fighter

I'm not going to state this as a universal truth but just what I've learned from my experience with licensed products.  These products were usually one of two types.  The first is licensing from a company that will not tolerate anything having it's name on it that's not first quality.  Rejects are not to be sold and must be destroyed or returned to the company.

Back in the day when I was a screen printer, this was the way Disney operated its licensed products.  If a shirt had any defect with either the shirt itself or the print we were to destroy it.  We weren't allowed to sell it as a first quality second or anything else.

These were fairly expensive products because there is a per-product license fee that we incurred that was passed along to the person buying the product.  I don't remember what Disney charged but I remember that we paid $1.00 per shirt for NCAA licensed shirts.

Other companies weren't so particular about quality as long as we paid the licensing fee.  In order to sell a shirt at the same price as other shirts we would use first quality seconds which meant the shirts cost less and we could sell them at a comparable price to first quality shirts.  The lower priced shirts offset the cost of the license.

So basically you can buy high-end licensed products that are expensive or low-end licensed products that cost about the same as similar products that aren't licensed but higher quality.

I've noticed with licensed plastic model kits the kit quality usually leaves a lot to be desired.  I haven't built many licensed models so again, I can't say that all licensed kits are poor quality but every licensed kit I've built without exception has been poor.

Testor's acrylic paint and non-toxic glues comes with the "Plus-Pack" version of this kit.This kit is one of them.  The details molded on the parts are soft and inaccurate.  The parts fit is horrible.  Darth Vader looks like a cross between Yoda and Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis in Spaceballs).  He even has horizontal slits in the lenses on his helmet which weren't present in any Star Wars movie.  It's a good thing that he's small and barely visible inside the cockpit.

The kit comes on four gray sprues with separate hull-halves and separate solar panels.  There is also one clear sprue that has the cockpit windows and optional display base.

This version of the kit also came with Testor's acrylic paints and a tube of Testor's non-toxic glue.  I didn't use either of these items because I like the glue I use and I'm not familiar with Testor's acrylic paints.  You don't get much and if you have to repaint something you won't have enough.  In fact, I doubt you'd have enough light gray if you spray the model.  The kit comes with the worst excuse for a paint brush of all time.  It's not even good enough to use as a glue brush.  In fact, I can't think of one good use for it so I just tossed it out.


Building AMT/Ertl Darth Vader's Tie Fighter

AMT/Ertl Darth Vader's Tie Fighter Kit SpruesI began as I always do by degreasing all the parts and putting them in a dish rack to air dry.  I then removed all the parts and did necessary clean-up work (remove flash, fill mold knock-out impressions, etc.).

I glued the Darth Vader halves together, the inner solar panels to the main panels and joined the cockpit instrument panel.  I then sprayed all the cockpit pieces with light-gray Tamiya acrylic.

Darth was sprayed with flat black that was lightened slightly with some flat white.  I brushed his helmet, gloves and boots with lightened gloss black.

The solar panels were sprayed with gloss black Tamiya acrylic that had some gloss dark blue added.  The blue gives the panels a sort of iridescent look in certain light.

I sprayed the inner portion of each hull half with flat black.  I wasn't sure what would be visible when the model was assembled so I made sure to spray more than what I thought was really necessary.  The flat black looked like it might be too stark so I went back and sprayed a light mist coat of steel.

I added various touches of color inside the cockpit using Testor's Model Master colors intended for auto brake lights and turn signals.  These are tinted clears with a little metallic thrown in to make orange, red and similar colors.  I also used small amounts of silver on some of the conduit and a touch of brass here and there.  Basically I just fabricated colors to break up the monotony.

The cockpit was assembled and glued in the lower hull half.  There are a few other pieces that are glued inside the hull halves before the hull is joined.  These parts didn't fit well.  The hull halves were a horrible fit and required a lot of repeated sanding and filling to get rid of seams.  In one case I had to glue a thin piece of styrene on the hull to bring a part flush with it's mating part.  When the hull was ready for paint I sprayed just the seams to ensure no more filling was needed.  Of course there were some defects so I filled and sanded some more.  When the hull was actually ready for paint I put it aside and went back to the solar panels.

Masked Darth Vader Tie Fighter solar panel.I masked the black portions of the solar panels to prepare them for painting the framing light gray.  As you can see in the photo it's not particularly difficult to mask these areas but it is very time-consuming.  Be sure to use low-tack masking tape so the black doesn't come up with the tape and also be sure the edges of the tape are burnished well.

The hull, upper hatch and solar panels were sprayed with light gray acrylic.  I allowed the paint to dry 24 hours and then sprayed them with gloss clear.  I applied a heavy dark gray oil wash to everything except the black frame for the front cockpit window.  I gave the wash an hour to set up and then used a cloth moistened with turpentine to remove the excess.

The wash was given a week to dry and then given a coat of flat acrylic clear.  Finally I dry-brushed using light grays and white.

The masking was left in place on the solar panels throughout this process.  The masking tape was carefully removed using a toothpick to lift a corner and a sharp tweezer to peel the tape off.

At this point I did my random contrived colors thing.  Mostly I used silver on some conduit outside the hull and on the laser guns in front of the fighter below the cockpit.  I painted over the dry silver paint with turn-signal red.  The red is translucent so a silver base gives a nice effect.

I allowed the paint several days to fully harden before I moved along to final assembly.  The upper hatch is meant to open but that means adding it before the hull is joined which makes it a painting nightmare.  Because of that and the awful rendition of Lord Vader I chose to glue the hatch shut.

AMT/Ertl Darth Vader's Tie FighterThere is an option to either display the model on its landing gear or put it on the clear display base.  I chose to use the base and put the landing gear in my spares box.  I've never seen a clear display base that I liked so I painted it flat black.  The lettering is carefully brushed using Testor's gold paint.  When the paint was dry I gave it a heavy coat of flat clear acrylic.

The base isn't very sturdy so I suggest if you use it that you pick the model up by the hull and not by the base.  The model isn't very light when it's complete and I can see it easily breaking off the base if it's tilted when you lift it.

The end product is nice but it's a lot of tedious work getting there.  This model wasn't much fun to build but it's about the only game in town.  I don't keep up with what's offered by various plastic kit manufacturers but it appears that AMT/Ertl has a lock on Star Wars models.  I think MRC makes some as well.

If you're really interested in this genre of model then it is a good idea to check out various sci-fi model forums to learn more about building these type models and maybe finding other manufacturers who kit them or make after-market parts.

Also see



AMT/Ertl Star Wars Imperial Tie Fighters
AMT/Ertl Star Wars Darth Vader's Tie Fighter Photo Gallery

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