First Impressions: Five Star Model Super Upgrade Set for Dragon’s USS San Diego (CL-53)

It’s hard to build any accurate-looking 1:700 kit without delving into the mystical world of photoetch.  There are several big players in this field (Gold Medal Models, Tom’s Modelworks, and White Ensign Models to name a few) and a huge number of smaller companies.  Five Star Model out of China is one of these firms that apparently specializes in 1:700 ship detail parts.  I haven’t seen one of their sets before tonight but, now that I’ve cracked open their Super Detail Set for Dragon’s USS San Diego kit (Dragon 7052) I must say that “impressed” doesn’t even start to describe my reaction.

First, the packaging.DSCN7999Five Star’s (or FStar, as they call themselves) packaging is a crisp, tight box about the same size (though less thick) as an old VHS cassette.  Once opened, a good bunch of packing peanuts fall out, revealing the goodies inside.  I’ll get to those goodies in a moment, but first realize that this company has given you a compact, tightly sealed box, with contents securely taped to the inside of the box, and they still give you packing peanuts.  If this is the level of care FStar offers for all of their sets, I’d be surprised if they ever had any returns for damaged product.

OK, the good stuff.

Wrapped in a tight cellophane bag are five individually wrapped (yet another layer of protection!) frets of beautiful, thick PE with fine engraved detail and absolutely stunning craftsmanship.

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Fret A contains your armament.  20mm Oerlikon single mounts, twin and quad mount Bofors cannon, 1.1″ AA, and even early-war .50 machine guns are here, along with their mounting hardware.  This fret also holds some PE standards: ladders, cable reels, radar accessories, and davits.  Another nice touch here are portholes and doors – all finely and cleanly etched.

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Fret B is something new for me: full superstructure sides.  These replacement covers feature doors, portholes, speaking tubes, and vents – all etched in place.  I don’t know how well they’re going to go on (or how much styrene sanding will be required to make them look good), but I’m floored by the amount of detail that is built into this fret.  The etched metal grills on the deck pieces are just the icing on the cake for Fret B.

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Fret C holds some splinter shields to replace the molded-on variants of the same, as well as mast accessories, more watertight doors, and what appear to be fairleads (but are definitely not).  This is also the home to a whole ship’s compliment of ladders and additional watertight doors.

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Fret D is home to this set’s railings.  There are a number of varieties here, including some gorgeous offerings curved to accommodate the natural camber of the Atlanta-class hull; these also feature drooping chains for a more realistic effect.  In addition to railings, this fret holds the funnel grills and a bevy of floatation net baskets – a truly nice touch!

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Fret E, The final PE fret in this set contains deckhouse roofs, fairleads, life rings, and detailed turret bases.  Yes, something that will be all but invisible is provided here with lovely detail.

But wait, there’s more!  In addition to the above PE, FStar has included sixteen 5″/38 barrels and sixteen resin blast bags!

DSCN8005The only thing that would have made this better would have been two or three spares.  Oh well – I’ll just have to be careful.

There is one area of this kit that offers a strange dichotomy of good and bad: the instructions.  FStar has provided a parts list and three full color pages on high-quality glossy paper that show the finished product with helpful call-outs.  There are even absolutely wonderful assembly instructions for most of the armament:

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My only complaint for this setup is that it’s intentionally limited.  There are call outs for only about half of the PE, and the fun disclaimer on the last page reads “Please assemble the parts which are not mentioned in the instruction according to the sample pictures and real ship pictures.”  In other words, “for these pictures, we didn’t want to build every component that we made.  But trust us, they belong.  Just figure it out.

I’m not above independent research, but if FStar went to the trouble to create each piece so meticulously, you’d think they could have made call-outs for at least one of each piece as well.  Heck, I have no idea what C1 is, or why I was given eighteen of them, but I guess that’s going to be part of the journey on this kit.  Fortunately, it’s a journey about which I’m excited.

So, final thoughts before I start snipping frets?  Holy wow there is a lot of amazing potential with this set.  And what value!  I purchased mine secondhand for less than $30, but even retail price is only $36 at Free Time Hobbies.  Right now this set seems like it may be difficult to locate here in the States, but if this PE is indicative of the regularly-produced quality coming out of FStar, I will start hoping beyond hope that they snag a regular supplier on this side of the world.

In short: If you want to build an Atlanta-class, buy this set.  Buy it now.

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7 thoughts on “First Impressions: Five Star Model Super Upgrade Set for Dragon’s USS San Diego (CL-53)

  1. C1 are “floater net baskets”, and their arrangements on the ships varied widely. As generic items, it could be they didn’t even bother with researching their locations, and just assumed you could use a few as you saw fit.

    PS: the links to the larger versions of the frets all take you to Fret A, and you have to manually change the URL to get to the larger photo versions.

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    • Thanks for the info on C1! What, then, is D13? There is one pictured in the instructions, and I had it pegged it for a floater net basket.

      As for the pictures: I caught that soon after posting and fixed the error. Good catch, though!

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  2. After further review, I still think D13 are the floater net baskets. They’ve got the u-shaped side profile and are just the right size. I just got the Gold Medal Models Destroyer/Cruiser set in the mail, and it’s got a number of K-Gun racks that look pretty darn close to FStar’s C1 piece. How do you feel about that theory, Timothy? 🙂

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