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F4F-4 Wildcat Early ProfiPACK (82202) 1:48


Mike

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F4F-4 Wildcat Early ProfiPACK (82202)

1:48 Eduard

 

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Grumman began development work on a new carrier-based fighter in the mid-30s, starting with the F2F, which was a biplane, but it and the successor F3F led to the basic shape of the Wildcat, minus two of the wings.  Initially, the new aircraft was outpaced by the Brewster Buffalo, and Grumman had to redesign their aircraft to carry a supercharged version of the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radial engine, and later on, new flying surfaces that gave it the needed improvement, receiving orders from the US Navy as a very sensible and prophetic backup-plan in case the Buffalo was a let-down.  Initial orders from France were delivered to the British Royal Navy after France fell before delivery, where it was initially designated as the Marlet. The US Navy would adopt the type in late 1941 after the Buffalo turned out to be a disappointment, although it was quite a manoeuvrable little aircraft that saw some service elsewhere.  Originally armed with 4 x 0.50 cal machine guns, the F4F-4 was introduced in 1941 with an increased 6 guns to improve the aircraft's punching power.  Although the armament was increased to 6 guns, the ammunition capacity was not, giving pilots less time with their fingers on the trigger, which was generally disliked by the pilots for obvious reasons. The extra weight from two more guns and the new wing fold gear also reduced performance, which could keep the pilot in harm’s way longer than with the early mark. 

 

It was the primary US Carrier fighter during the early years of America’s war, with production continuing until 1943 when they switched over to building the replacement Hellcat, but one factory continued to make Wildcats for the British Fleet Air Arm (FAA).  The Wildcat’s smaller size and slower landing speed was a boon on the typically smaller carrier that the British Navy operated in large numbers as escort carriers.

 

 

The Kit

This is a reboxing with a new sprue of this brand-new project from Eduard, and I can tell you with hand-on-heart, having already built the -3 that they have created yet another highly detailed and well-engineered kit, from which more variants will be forthcoming for us, the modelling public.  It arrives in Eduard’s modern gold themed top-opening box, and inside are five sprues in dark grey styrene, a clear sprue, a nickel-plated pre-painted fret of Photo-Etch (PE), a sheet of pre-cut kabuki masking tape, a large decal sheet, and the glossy instruction booklet with colour profiles in the rear pages.  Detail is exceptional, as we’ve come to expect from Eduard’s engineers, right up there with, if not the best examples of plastic models as of today.  There is some judicious use of sliding moulds to improve detail without increasing the part count unduly, the most notable being the rudder, which is hollow and ready for an insert during the build process.

 

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Construction begins in the cockpit, which takes over a page of the instructions and starts with the pilot’s foot boards that fit onto a Z-shaped bulkhead, and has the frame that holds the head cushion plus a pressurised bottle and two small PE parts hanging behind the seat.  The two mounts are added to the frame before fitting the seat, which is prepared by adding a small PE strip diagonally across the rear of the seating area, plus four-point belts with a comfort pad under the buckle and tabs dangling down behind the seat.  The instrument panel is integrated in another frame that encompasses a tank, which is bulked out by adding another part to the other side, then you have a choice of applying a decal to the moulded-in dials, or a two-layer PE instrument panel that is applied in three sections, complete with a fully pre-painted set of dials and surrounds, plus the shiny domed dial glazing finishing.  The side consoles are made up from a large number of parts, some of which are PE and pre-painted, then they are slotted into the rear frame and the instrument panel frame to create the cockpit’s tub.  The rudder pedals are based on a single styrene part that is decorated with PE parts added to the centre section, plus tiny little PE parts on each pedal, removing a little of the centre section before adding them.  This slips in behind the instrument panel and is joined by a long rectangular lattice panel representing the spar that mates to the front end of the foot boards, all of which fits snugly.  The cockpit is left to one side for a while so that the engine mount assembly and main gear bay can made.  This is based upon the firewall, from which a tapered spar projects from each side.  The engine mounts, a set of chains and the rear ancillary package of the engine are assembled to the front of the bulkhead, then a boxy divider for the gear bays with two supports is added to the underside, a clamshell-shaped tank sits in the top of the mounts, and a C-shaped air-box assembly that latches onto the sides of the mounts. 

 

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The insides of the fuselage have fine ribbing moulded into them, and this is augmented by a number of PE parts, and small rectangular windows with radiused corners in both sides of the fuselage, which are inserted from outside during closure of the two halves around the cockpit and engine mount.  There is a panel line on the dinghy pack bay that needs filling on the top of the spine, and another should be scribed lower down.  Underneath the nose is an insert that forms the space between the two exhausts and the exhausts themselves, which have deep hollows moulded into them for realism.

 

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In a change from the -3, the wings are next, and as they’re mounted mid-fuselage, they’re totally separate from each other.  Each one is made from upper and lower halves, with a small insert with PE mesh parts wedged inside the bulged fairings on the underside before the two halves are closed, and the ailerons are added to their position near the tips of the wings.  The elevator fins are simple two-part assemblies each, and they’re attached to the tail via the usual tab and slot method, at the same time the wings are slid over their spars.  The elevators are moulded as one piece, and clip into the rear of the fins either side of the rudder fin, and are then locked in place by adding the rudder panel, which has a slide-moulded triangular hole inside, which is filled by adding an insert before gluing it in place.  The very rear of the arrestor hook is slipped inside the fuselage with a clear light above it, and a clear light is inserted into the leading edge of the port wing and outlined by a PE strip.

 

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The engine is built up before adding the wings, and we get both banks of the Twin Wasp engine as separate parts, plus push rods and the bell housing that has the drive-shaft projecting from it.  All it needs is some wiring for the spark plugs unless you’re going to get yourself some aftermarket for it.  I spent a few minutes with some lead wire for my build.  The cowling is standardised with the cylindrical section made from two halves, adding a lip to the front that has the intakes moulded-in, all of which fit together brilliantly.  The finished engine and cowling are glued to the front of the fuselage while the wings are being added, and it’s worth noting here that the wings are the main new parts, with more panel lines, rivets, appliqué panels and the prominent wing-fold lines.  The instrument coaming gets inserted in the front of the cockpit, with a choice of PE ring and bead sight or normal sight, depending on which decal option you choose.

 

The landing gear has been relegated to later in the build, as even though the struts and retraction jacks are buried deep inside the fuselage, it’s perfectly possible to leave them off until the end.  Each leg is made of three parts with scrap diagrams showing how they are arranged, and once the glue is dry and they’ve been painted, they are inserted deep into the fuselage, the cylindrical top ends mating with cups that are moulded into the firewall.  They are then buttressed by more styrene parts, the diminutive fixed tail strut is made up of two halves that trap a choice of two styles of wheel, and the main wheels are each made of a single tyre and two hub halves that slip over the axles at the bottom of the main gear legs, with a pair of small inner doors added to the centreline while the fuselage is inverted – don’t forget to add exhaust staining to these parts during painting, as I did.

 

The final page finishes off the build with the canopy, starting with a choice of two windscreens, which have a small PE rear-view mirror added inside before being glued in place.  There are two canopy parts depending on whether you want to depict the canopy slid back over the spine or not, the latter slightly widened to fit over the spine against the sharply forward-raked antenna.  There are masks for all the included canopies included on the kabuki tape sheet, but only for the exterior, and I’m now seriously besotted with the Tface masks that allow the modeller to paint the interior frames too.  The model is then finished off with a number of tiny clear lights at the wingtips; three gun barrels in each wing leading edge; forward-raked antenna on the spine with a clear light just behind it; barbed pitot probe in the port wingtip leading edge; the single-part prop that has stencil decals supplied with an additional spinner; two bomb shackles under the wing for some options that I decided to paint a dark metallic shade, and a single PE aerial under the fuselage depending on which decal option you have chosen.

 

 

Markings

There are six decal options in the box, spread over one large sheet.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • BuNo.03417, Lt. Stanley W Vejtasa, VF-10, USS Enterprise (CV-6), October 1942
  • BuNo.5149, VF-3, USS Yorktown (CV-5) & USS Hornet (CV-8), May/June 1942
  • Ens. Thomas W Rhodes, VF-6, USS Enterprise (CV-6), Early August 1942
  • Ens. Benjamin F Currie, VF-5, USS Saratoga (CV-3)/Guadalcanal, Autumn 1942
  • Ens. Hamilton McWhorter, VF-9, USS Ranger (CV-4), October 1942
  • OTU VFB-8, Daytona Beach, USA, 1944

 

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The decals are printed by Eduard and are in good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.  It’s worth remembering that as of 2021, the carrier film from Eduard decals can be coaxed away from the printed part of the decal after they have been applied, effectively rendering them carrier-free, making the decals much thinner and more realistic, and obviating the need to apply successive coats of clear varnish to hide the edges of the film.  It’s a great step further in realism from my point of view.  I tried them out on my F4F-3, and they worked brilliantly, with some minor aspects to watch out for.  Have a look at the link to my build in my signature strip if you’re curious.

 

 

Conclusion

As you might have already guessed, I built the F4F-3 when it arrived and thoroughly enjoyed it, so please accept my apologies for the asides dotted through the review.  It’s a cracking kit, and this one looks to be more of the same.  The detail added to the new wings should come up brilliantly under paint and a bit of realistic-looking weathering, so don’t hold back.  Your modelling mojo will thank you.

 

Extremely highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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