Despite being the original Star Wars baddie fighter, the Tie Fighter was under-represented for many years in plastic model form. No licensed standard Tie was available until the 1997, 20 years after Star Wars was released! Today we're lucky enough to have several styrene Ties to choose from, in various scales. I've been on a bit of a Tie binge lately, inspired by the upcoming The Force Awakens release. Initially I had some trouble deciding which kits I wanted to build, and finding comparative info about the models was difficult. I try to stick with bigger models where possible, so I don't have any of the 1/72 kits from Fine Molds or Bandai, though I understand that they're really nice. I ended up buying most of the other kits and decided to write this comparison/review article to help others in the same terrible predicament.
Here I will compare and contrast these models:
Revell Tie Fighter
AMT/ERTL Imperial Tie Fighters
MPC Darth Vader Tie Fighter
MPC/ERTL Tie Interceptor
A quick overview of each of the kits. Please note that I haven't studied the Tie Fighter studio model extensively, so no rivet counting will be performed.
All right, let's get down to it! How do these models compare? Let's start with the wings (solar panels?).
Here's a picture of all 4 wings together (those are inches on the cutting mat for scale). Left to right we have the MPC Vader Tie, the MPC/ERTL Tie Interceptor, the AMT/ERTL Tie, and the Revell Tie. This clarifies the apparent randomness of scale a bit - they're all close to the same size. "Box scale" as they say, model manufacturers often make sci-fi models in whatever size fits nicely in the standard box sizes.
Here are some closeups of the standard Tie wings. I've read on the RPF that some believe the AMT/ERTL Tie Fighter got the wing shape wrong, but I don't see a problem (admittedly I haven't done any measuring to confirm). If that's the case the Revell wings are wrong too, as they appear to be identical in shape. Most of the detail is nearly identical as well, though I feel that the Revell kit is a bit softer and more toy like. The biggest difference here is the grill detailing. The studio model used KoolShade, which is now rather coveted by studio scale modelers as it's a pretty unique grill. The AMT/ERTL kit gets a lot closer to the right look here, primarily because the radial look better. AMT/ERTL has them recessed, while they're raised and rather thick on the Revell kit. I believe the real KoolShade actually had raised dividing lines, but the Revell kit just seems to blow them out of proportion. I feel that the AMT/ERTL kit captures the look better, and expect a very accurate appearance after spraying a semi-gloss black.
Now, moving on to the Tie variations, let's look at the Vader and Interceptor versions. Both have similar panel shapes and should have a matching grid texture. Have a look at the closeup on the grid detail (Interceptor left and Vader right). Both look reasonably accurate, but the Vader Tie detail is noticeably cleaner. The Tie Interceptor has some pretty obvious unevenness, which will hopefully be less apparent after painting, as it would be rather difficult to fix I think. I'm not sure how they make the molds for such things, but it's apparent that shortcuts were taken on the Interceptor. Also, look at that flash on the sprue! Yeah, American model companies kinda suck. At least the flash is on the sprue not the wing!
Next lets take a look at the hull parts. Left to right are the AMT/ERTL standard Tie Fighter, MPC/ERTL Tie Interceptor, and Revell Tie Fighter. Obvoiusly we have size differences here, with the Revell being notably larger at about 5.25" wide. You can see that the Tie Interceptor in the middle is slightly smaller than the AMT/ERTL Tie, but not a lot. Also note that the Tie Interceptor doesn't have a seperate top hatch. You can see some minor detail difference here as well. Different reference material or artistic license?
Here's a better view of the Revell vs. AMT\ERTL Tie Fighter hull. Primarily of note is the size, but also notice how huge the scribed lines are relative to the size on the Revell model. Why do model companies think they need to these canyons to science fiction models? (Moebius TOS Galactica AHEM!). Still, I do like the larger size of the Revell model. The second pic includes the Darth Vader Tie Fighter, which is notably larger still. I wish all the kits were in this larger scale! Also look at how crisp the detail on the Vader Tie is, as compared to the increasingly soft details on the more recent kits. I blame video games and/or the Internet.
I'll let the pictures below speak for themselves, just various photos so you can compare greeblies between the Revell and AMT/ERTL standard Tie Fighters. They're very similar, and both look to be closely matched to the studio model greeblies.
Here are cloesups of the hull of the ERTL Tie and Tie Interceptor kits. The newer Tie Fighter is definitely more detailed, though I do like the sharp look of the Interceptor.
The pilot figure that is included with the Revell model is the best of the bunch, despite being molded in some kind of rubber (presumably to avoid undercut issues?). The AMT/ERTL pilots aren't bad, and will look fine once obscured by the ship. I'm not sure which of these is proportionately to scale, as the Revell is nearly twice the size. I didn't bother to take a picture of the MPC Vader or the Tie Interceptor pilot, who is just a random pilot figure which should probably be tossed.
A few more things that I think are worth pointing out. A big difference between the AMT/ERTL standard Tie and MPC Vader Tie and the other kits is the cockpit "glass". These two include seperate frame and clear part, making it easy to leave off the clear plastic window to better match the studio model. Not sure how I'm going to pull this off with the Revell Tie or Tie Interceptor, short of perhaps making a mold of the part and filling just the frame with resin. The AMT/ERTL Tie could probably be adapted to fit the Interceptor.
We also have a very different bit of detail on the back window/engine/whatever it is. The revell model has a flat hexagon (which is what I always thought was there on the studio model), while the AMT/ERTL Tie has a couple of nozzles in the hexagon. I'm not sure which is accurate, or perhaps they both are representing different studio models. You can see these details, cockpit parts, and various bits below.
Sneak attack! I just picked up the new Revell TFA First Order Special Forces Tie Fighter build and play kit. I wasn't going to buy any of the build and play models, but a 50% off Michael's coupon tempted me into it. As expected it's toylike and not worth $20, but it's a bargain at $10. :) I'm not going to do a full comparison, but I had been curious about the size of the model, so assume others might be too. Below are the two Revell Tie wings side by side. The Force Awakens tie fighter is very close to the same size, but definitely an all new mold. The detail is good, possibly a bit crisper than the standard Tie, though that may be a trick of the plastic color. See for yourself in the closeup pic. Here's hoping the Level 2 TFA Tie will be even bigger!
That wraps up this Tie Fighter model comparison and review! I have plans to build up the Vader Tie in the near future, and of course the rest before I'm dead and buried. If I pick up any of the other kits (Bandai, Fine Molds, new Revell) I'll see about adding some info to this page if my wife doesn't kick me out of the house.