Sword 1/48 FM-2 Wildcat




$29.95 MSRP


Two aircraft


Eric Bergh





The FM-2 was designed as a follow up to the F4F Wildcat, and was produced by General Motors Eastern Division beginning in 1943. It was lighter than the F4F and carried a more powerful engine. The wings of the FM-2 carried only two guns each, but were reinforced to carry up a 250lb bomb or rockets on stub mountings. The lighter and more powerful FM-2 made it a perfect fit for use on the short decked escort carriers that were then being built in great numbers for both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters. Scott Van Aken's preview is here



   This is a multi-media kit, including 41 gray injection molded pieces, three urethane castings and two vacuum formed canopies. There was very little flash to be found on the injected parts and their detail is engraved. The urethane castings are for the seat, and for the cockpit's inside wall detail. Details were crisp and included lots of fine detail. The seat has nicely molded belts. Although the kit's instructions show a closed canopy, the vacuformed pieces are easy to cut free. (plus there is a spare, just in case!) The box art shows the plane with drop tanks, but they are NOT included in the kit. The instruction booklet is 12 pages long, dividing the assembly and painting into thirteen steps. Paint colors are called out as you go, although only color names are referenced, not FS or brand numbers.


 This was my introduction to limited production models, and it was an interesting change from the few cheaper, mass produced kits I have built so far. I built the FM-2 OTB with the addition of True Detail wheels, Aeromaster decals, Black Magic canopy mask and some Invisible thread and brass wire for the antennas. The cockpit details are sharply cast, so most of the work there went to trimming off the urethane castings and painting. This time I tried doing all the painting was with Model Master Acrylics. After painting the panels flat black and associated areas Interior Green, I picked out the details using a silver and a white colored pencil, with a few touches of Red paint as appropriate by following Kinsey's F4F Wildcat in detail photos. I added a dab of Future to the instrument faces which helped set them off. Before assembling the floor and seat, I cut away the floor on either side of the rudder pedal troughs. (FM-2's did not have the windows in the bottom of the fuselage like the F4F's but still retained the holes in the floor). When you assemble the rudder pedals, you need to supply a bit of rod to connect them to the center post.

After sub assembling the cockpit I painted and assembled the engine. It is pretty cleanly molded with good looking cylinder heads. I didn't bother to go the extra mile and add harness or rod details, though there is room in the cowl if you want to add it.

The detail of the Wildcat's unique landing gear is very good. I followed the kit's directions and prepainted the wheel well parts flat white, In his review, Scott mentioned doubts about the white, but it does show off the chain detail and interior mechanism well through the large openings on the sides of the fuselage. I picked out the molded-on chain drive detail with black. The lower gear struts were painted Dark Sea Blue (the exterior color for the plane I was following). By the time you have finished these sub assemblies, there isn't much left on the sprues!

Up to this point, I had been using Model Master Liquid cement... but when I glued everything together in between the fuselage halves I ran into a serious fit problem and had to resort to gluing it up bit by bit with Zap-A-Gap, accelerator and a lot of pressure!

Although I did dry fit the sidewall detail and the assembled cockpit and wheelwell parts to the fuselage halves several times, I still managed to have some fit problems. Maybe a misalignment of the firewall or landing gear bulkhead? Part of the learning curve I guess. With enough "urging" I got it down to a 1/16" gap on the bottom, just aft of the landing gear, which the zap-a-gap filled up nicely! BTW: I used an Auger Bit file, it is a small, fine file for sharpening drill bits that has teeth on the flat faces at one end and on the edges on the other. It is tapered at both ends too. VERY useful. (See Lee Valley Tools below)

I held off adding the tailwheel, arresting hook and wheels and went on to add the wings and elevators. The kit provides a couple of bumps for locating the 2 piece wings and solid elevators. I ended up filing off both the nubs and the mating surfaces. Definitely a superglue joint!


  After masking the gear and engine cowling, and filling the cockpit opening with Elmer's Tack (Orange "Bluetak") I  airbrushed (Badger Anthem #155) the exterior with Model Master Acrylic Dark Sea Blue. I was able to get away shooting it without thinning. (cleaned it out with ammonia).

I wanted to model a plane that flew off of my father's ship, the USS Steamer Bay CVE-87, a World War II Escort Carrier on which he was Catapult Officer. They had two squadrons onboard during the war, VC-90 and VC-93. By chance, Aeromaster's Hot Rod Wildcats, Pt. 2 includes decals for VC-93! They incorrectly note that VC-93 flew from the USS Petrof Bay in June of 1945. I discovered from the squadron's website that they moved from the Petrof Bay to the Steamer Bay at the end of May 1945! I found a picture on their website of FM-2 #9 flown by Oliver Dennett, so that's the one I used (turned the set's #6 upside down!) I found several photos of their planes on the website that do not show a cloverleaf on the wing (as shown in Aeromaster's drawing) so I left it off. I put Future down under the decals, then brushed it across the top. At first they wrinkled up, but they flattened right out and snugged down. A final coat of Future helped smooth out some of the dust on the paint.


Last but not least was the installation of the canopy, prop and bits (pitot tube, antennas, wheels and arresting hook) I cut the canopy to rough size with scissors, then cautiously carved it to size and shape with an Xacto knife and lots of trial fits. Not nearly as bad an experience as I had expected and the material looks a lot more realistic than the normal thicker clear injected ones. I tried using the Black Magic vinyl mask for the canopy frames. Great! It was lots easier than using tape, but next time I will spray the paint rather than brush it on... neater. The canopy was glued down with white glue which later dried clear. I drilled for the antennas and used brass wire for the rear masts. I used invisible thread for the antenna wire. The kit's wheels are in two pieces and not great, so I used the True Details wheels instead.

For a stand, I milled disk out of Birch, stain and lacquered it, then took a jpeg of the squadron's logo off the website and cleaned it up in Illustrator. That got printed out onto decal film and then applied to the wood. I then gave it a coat of Future. It came out fine until I set it outside to photograph. Within minutes it was bubbling up! At least the neighbors weren't home to hear my reaction! Guess I will try again, printing onto cardstock instead!


This kit was definitely enjoyable! It also gave me a chance to try several new materials and techniques. I think it came out pretty well, although I really need to move my airbrush away from the table saw! Building to a specific theme, ie: my dad's carrier, seems to help keep up the interest and get the kit finished!


F4F Wildcat, in detail, Bert Kinsey, Carrollton, Texas, Squadron /Signal Publications
USS Steamer Bay, CVE 87, http://home.comcast.net/~ivorjeffreys/steamer.htm
USS Petrof Bay, CVE 80, http://home.comcast.net/~ivorjeffreys/petrof.html
Composite Squadron 93, http://home.Comcast.net/~ivorjeffreys/vc-93.html
Auger Bit file, Lee Valley tools: http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.asp?SID=&ccurrency=2&page=32954&category=1,43072,43089

Eric Bergh

June 2002

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