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F4F-3 Wildcat airplane model (early)

19 Mar
2012

F4F-3 Wildcat airplane model (early),model airplane magazines

Initial impressions of this kit were positive – a large sturdy, top-opening box, with colourful artwork. Inside, things got better. Six sprues were individually plastic wrapped, with no flash. Wings and fuselage had very finely inscribed panel lines and rivets, and the most delicate parts were protected. The windscreen and cowling were wrapped separately, suggesting these would be different for the various HobbyBoss Wildcats. There were large clear instructions, and a full colour painting and decaling guide. None of the early Wildcats I could find were like the kit. Some had different cowlings; none had a gunsight which went through the windscreen; and none had drop tanks, which were introduced in 1943. I’ll give HobbyBoss the benefit of the doubt and accept that the earliest F4F-3s, like the aircraft on the box top, had cowlings as provided and gunsights through the windscreen. Option 2, however, is actually a F4F-3A variant, which needs some work to produce an accurate replica. So be warned, find some good references, and decide at the beginning which option you’re going to make. I decided on the F4F-3A, because I had found a useful reference photo. Better by first fixing the cockpit separately to the upper fuselage. The only filler I used was where the tub joins the rest of the lower fuselage and near the tail.

The engine is also nicely detailed, and, after a coat of matt black, responded well to some dry brushing with aluminium for an oily look. I left the engine and the cowling off until after painting, so as to save effort on masking. To make the F4F-3A, I removed the two lower (intercooler) intakes from the front of the cowling.

Construction F4F-3 Wildcat model  

F4F-3 Wildcat airplane model (early),corgi model aircraftThe cockpit has ten parts, is well detailed, and only needed some tape lap belts to bring it to life. HobbyBoss has correctly modelled the cockpit without a floor, permitting a view through to the windows in the bottom of the fuselage. I ignored the suggested colour of interior green, as these aircraft were bronze green in the cockpits and Grumman Grey elsewhere internally. The instructions are not clear on how the ironmongery within the wheel well goes together, so dry-fitting first is advised. Once in the right place, it is surprisingly strong, and is supposed to be glued inside the lower fuselage tub with the cockpit assembly. I found it all fittedTamiya’s F4F-4 has its lower wings connected to the fuselage. Hobby Boss has gone for separate wings, presumably to assist with the manufacture of other variants, however, the supporting tabs on the wings are very small, and I used superglue to give some strength to the wing-to-fuselage join. There is no guide on the correct dihedral, so care is needed when lining things up.

F4F-3 Wildcat airplane model (early),scale model planes

Whichever option is chosen, the holes in the wings for the drop tanks will need to be filled. The photos suggest that F4F-3As also had a bomb rack under each wing, but I didn’t have anything suitable in the spares box. The ailerons are neatly moulded, but the ribs on the rudder are a little crude and needed some sanding down. The landing gear is another complicated construction, not helped by imprecise diagrams. Again, once assembled, it is strong, but the parts are delicate and the plastic is quite brittle, so care is needed. It fitted firmly within the wheel well, but the finished model looks to sit a little high, so some shortening of the undercarriage may be required. Finally, it was time to deal with the canopy. Although it is quite thin, the sliding hood cannot be fixed in the open position. Instead of the ‘through windscreen’ version in the instructions, I used the reflector gunsight provided on the clear sprue and filled the hole in the front of the windscreen with PVA glue, assuming it would dry clear. The Eduard mask said it was for a F4F-4, but it was also correct for the early F4F-3s.

Colour Options

F4F-3 Wildcat airplane model (early),model hobby shops

HobbyBoss provides two options. The early F4F-3 proper is a colourful aircraft from USS Wasp, with bright yellow upper wings. Option 2, my choice, is a F4F-3A of US Marine Corps squadron VMF-111, in overall Light Gull Grey. This aircraft’s dull finish is enlivened by large red crosses, which were specially applied for exercises in 1941. Paint colours are from the Mr Hobby and Mr Color ranges, which meant nothing to me, so I used an aerosol Humbrol acrylic Light Grey 64 instead. The decals went on very well over a few coats of Klear. For option 2, watch out for the type numbering on the rudder, which needs to be amended from ‘F4F-34’ to ‘F4F-3A,’ if your eyesight and hand are up to it.

Conclusion

HobbyBoss has produced a finely detailed kit, which really captures the look and feel of an early Wildcat, but do not seem to have done their homework properly on the options included, and some of the more intricate construction would benefit from clearer instructions. Overall, it’s a good kit, with lots of potential, but it is not a straightforward build and you need to do your research.

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