Eduard 1/48 F6F-3 Hellcat
Aires #4356 Resin Cockpit
,Yellow Hammer Models #Y48-06
My tale of history focuses on U.S. Navy Ace David Mc Campbell. Most of us have seen the inspiring WWII color photographs of Commander Mc Campbell in the cockpit of his F6F-5 Minsi III with the panorama of kill markings or his Congressional Medal of Honor ceremony. He is an American hero that inspired me in my adolescence. Few know of his first two aircraft “Monsoon Mc Goon” and “Minsi”.
The aircraft featured in this build is Mc Campbell’s second Hellcat – “Minsi” and not the more photographed and famous Minsi II and Minsi III. As the Commander Air Group (CAG) of VF-15 on board the U.S.S. Essex (CV-9) he was in the forefront of the Pacific war. His first Hellcat, Monsoon McGoon was lost on 5-19-1944 with another pilot at the controls. His replacement aircraft, which was painted with the first “Minsi” markings, is the focus of this build.
There are very few photographs of this historically significant aircraft. The best one is a U.S. Navy Photo, # TR-10621 Essex Series U.S. Navy Department 27 October 1944 US National Archives. Since it is an action shot taken from the bridge as Commander Mc Campbell was preparing to hook up to a catapult and launch. It is not a crystal clear modeler quality picture. It is a good group picture of the VF-15 aircraft readying for launch. But, it is good enough to use to get many of the details right and shake off the “eggsperts” who spend too much time criticizing and too little time building models.
Eduard’s kit is tremendous value for the price. It features finely engraved panel lines, a highly detailed cockpit, wheel wells and landing gear, full twin-row radial engine, 3 cowling options, separately molded control surfaces and flaps, 2-piece canopy and external stores such as a centerline drop tank and under wing bombs. As we have come to expect from Eduard they produce kits which also include canopy/wheel masks, photo-etch parts (ignition harness, bomb braces, fins, fuse props, color etched instrument panel and seatbelts with harnesses and separate clear parts for the many lights found on the Hellcat. The kit comes with an excellent stencil and decal sheet for 5 aircraft. For an OOB build you will be delighted. At the MSRP retail price and when purchased from discounters’ it is an awesome value for the money eliminating the hunt for a variety of aftermarket enhancements. I followed the web chatter many months ago when the kit was first released regarding the shape of the chin scoop. Very interesting observations and comments. I did not see any need for an aftermarket resin nose as I did with the Hasegawa kit.
This model is much more detailed than its contemporaries from Hasegawa and Otaki/Arii. It is the gold standard, at least in 1/48th scale for F6F Hellcat kits. There are many areas detailed with out of the box components that would qualify as a senior super detailed build just a short time ago. None of the detail is beyond the reach of an average modeler if you take your time, sand, dry fit and follow the instructions. The instruction booklet is what every modeler wants and needs. Printed on high gloss enameled paper the details are clear and well illustrated. I did not find any problems with the assembly sequence. I deviated from it by adding the clear plastic parts after the kit was painted, mainly to avid masking some very tiny parts. The next one I build will have all the clear parts attached and polished before I paint the model since the final product will be even better.
What made this model possible was the use of the Yellow Hammer decals purchased about ten years ago from the now gone Meteor Productions. I also used Aves Apoxie Sculpt to hold the Aires resin cockpit in place since I needed a slow curing hold that would allow manipulation and final placement of the cockpit with a firm final setting hold. I also used a bit of Apoxie for a seam in front of the cockpit and to finish off the join of the Aires instrument panel coaming section to the Eduard plastic fuselage half. I purchased Apoxie from the Aves web site. The seam or gap in front of the cockpit was probably caused by the tight fit of the Aires resin cockpit rather than an inherent problem with the Eduard plastic. I am going to build several of these kits in OOB form due to the great included color etched and superbly moulded plastic parts. That will undoubtedly affirm there is no problem with the Eduard plastic in terms of any need for gap or seam filler.
I used an Aires Resin F6F-3 Hellcat cockpit. It is outstanding in detail but requires very careful cutting and constant dry fitting to ensure it will fit. You will have to grind away a great deal of plastic including trimming the rear of the cockpit around the armor plating area. Your reward will be a stunning cockpit. I had a mishap with a Dremel grinding bit that notched a corner of the armor plate and ruined this build for any IPMS competition. This one turned into a fun build with less concern about perfection and more of a focus on enjoying the build and learning from my mistakes.
I also added many Eduard color zoom parts to the Aires resin. The use of additional bits from Eduard’s F6F kit etched further enhanced the Aires cockpit and engine. I started to add the Eduard F6F gun bay with a set of Aires .50 resin wing machine gun’s, but I had some difficulties folding the metal. Even though I was using an etched metal folding tool I decided to set it aside for another build. Why? I could see by allowing AMS to creep into this build it would take too long to build and for a first effort the Aires resin addition would be enough of an enhancement. Now that I have some experience with the kit it will be easier to complete and integrate more etched metal into the next build by reducing the time and complexity of the cockpit area.
1) I added a piece of bright aluminum foil to the Aires Gunsight. I also punched out with a Waldron punch and die set the Gunsight clear glass portion. I did this to get a thinner transparent piece but sanding it to the correct shape was not so easy. You may want to use the Eduard kit supplied gun sight glass. Note – the placement is the reverse of the illustration in the kit instructions. Based on photos from my references the gun sight glass is inclined similar to the front armor plated canopy windshield.
2) Formation and position lights - Testors chrome silver followed by a small dab of white paint in the center. For example on the tail light at the end of the rear fuselage tail cone, the fuselage spine lights, the wing tip lights and the three under fuselage lights which were painted with clear red, green and yellow. There are two fuselage upper spine lights one painted in white and one in clear blue.
3) I drilled into the two wing tip lights to replicate the colored bulbs inside of a transparent cover. This is how the real Hellcat wing tip lights appear. Using a toothpick I tried to get the mainly pigment portion from Tamiya clear green and clear red without too much of the transparent portion of the clear paint mixture (i.e. don’t stir the bottle first!) and dropped the dark pigment into the drilled out portion of the clear plastic wing tip lights. I kept them on the sprue to do this. Once they were dry I sanded all surfaces with the tri-stick sanding stick and polished it out a few days later when the clear red and green were thoroughly dry. It looks like the actual wing tip lights on the Hellcat. By using xylene or lacquer thinner with Testors chrome silver the hardening and drying time are significantly improved. Consider completing painting and attachment of the various clear lights before you begin final painting. This requires some careful painting. I chose to add them after the fact due to their small size. If you do this as I did it is very difficult to blend them into the wings or fuselage without affecting the paint finish. It would be easier to attach them, use a Squadron tri-stick to sand and polish the clear parts after they are attached as per the instructions. This requires careful masking but the end result will reward you with a perfect model including great looking wingtip lights.
4) I enhanced the Aires gunsight by attaching a bright metal foil disc obtained by punching a disc, using a Waldron punch set, from a Cadbury's chocolate candy wrapper. It looks better than the usual dab of paint.
5) The wheels are very nicely detailed. They require more assembly than most wheels which gives you an easier painting cycle. However, the drawback is the wheels have no tread texture. Since they are smooth and most Hellcats featured a diamond tread or occasionally block tread you may want to consider using a resin aftermarket wheel set such as those from Ultracast. Recent F6F Hellcat releases from Eduard appear to have a bonus component which is a resin wheel set with a textured tread. I used the kit plastic wheels and it required two applications of putty and sanding to eliminate the seam. The advantage of the OOB kit wheels is you obtain a nice hollow wheel hub. This is technically superior to the solid resin wheel hubs which we try to improve by painting the gaps between the spokes black but the limitations of the plastic moulding process limits the ability to put texture onto the rubber tire. If Eduard could find a way to mould a one piece tire with a diamond tread – you would not want to replace the kit parts with resin because the finished tire would be superior to a resin wheel because of the perfect spoke and realistic open space between the spokes on the wheel rim.
6) Wing guns – there is a replacement set of (late) wing guns from Quickboost Resin which could give you a contest winning model. They are an improvement over the kit supplied plastic mainly due to the provision of open gun barrels. The Eduard kit has a tapered barrel which requires you to file the tip flat and try to drill out the barrels. I gave up on that approach due to the small size. I have in the past been able to do this with other gun barrels in 1/48th scale but my experience with this kit leads me to favor a resin replacement wing gun barrel set. I am pleased with the plastic barrels, they are superbly moulded and look nice but the resin replacements will be a nice detail encasement. Based on past experiences with similar resin replacement parts, thin resin gun barrels can come bent or warped as a byproduct of the post resin casting curing process. A straight plastic kit set of wing guns are superior to a well detailed but bent or crooked resin gun barrels. Make your choice and enjoy.
7) When modeling the F6F-3 there is a small metal support bar across the rear windows. Eduard, as a testimony to their getting the best F6F Hellcat in any scale released have provided this on the etched metal fret. I attached it, after it was painted zinc chromate green and thoroughly dry, using a liberal amount of Future floor polish. I applied the future with a brush, placed the etched parts on the clear rear windows and set the finished part out onto a sunny window for a few days to allow the part to thoroughly dry and harden. The finished window looks great.
8) The Aires resin cockpit is amazing in detail. I was working from a few cockpit photos and the cockpit photos from the F6F Hellcat In Detail and Scale book (volume 49). You will be truly impressed with the accuracy of detail Aires has embedded in their resin cockpit. Even the fuel tank that sits behind the cockpit is provided. Although you can only see a tiny portion of it after the fuselage halves are joined it is a nice detail touch. But, be aware the placement has a big impact on construction if you are not careful. I suggest adding the fuel tank after you paint it and after the cockpit is securely in place because the F6F rear fuselage taper is significant and the tank placement is not well explained nor shown on the Aires instructions. Just a fraction of an inch of incorrectly placing the resin fuel tank behind the cockpit on the resin ledge and you will not be able to close the kit fuselage parts. Another area you have to finesse is the area where the top of the resin cockpit attaches to the fuselage plastic. This will require some artful putty and sanding due to the proximity of a small and finely cast Gunsight. Take your time and be careful and you will be rewarded with an awesome cockpit. I used the kit supplied color etched seatbelts and a few other etched bits to enhance the resin cockpit. There are a few Eduard and Yellow Hammer decals used in the cockpit area and cockpit sill which adds a great deal to the finished kit.
9) There is a small whip antenna on the upper spine in the reference photo. I added this using guitar wire due to its strength – they are impervious to accidents (almost!).
10) Since the decals were about ten years old I tried attaching them using Future floor wax as a liquid setting agent. It works well and can avoid the potential shattering of old decals if you spray paint the decals with a very thin coat of future and allow it to thoroughly dry before applying them. Then with a brush I apply future to the designated spot for the decal and apply the decal while brushing on a small additional amount of Future on the top surface. This helps decals snuggle down and conform to irregular surfaces as well.
11) Weathering - Mc Campbell’s aircraft was very weathered and I liberally added stains and layers of varied shades of the aircrafts tri-color paints to simulate the repainting that occurred on the actual aircraft.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
I used Aeromaster Navy Blue enamel and Gunze H015 Bright Blue toned down for the upper surfaces and Gunze Flat White for undersurfaces. For the engine I used Testors enamels. Testors dullcoat was used to create the final finish. I added some weathering around the markings and some surface areas along with diluted black and brown along panel lines. I also used Testors chrome silver for chipped paint and wear on the starboard entry-side wing area and wing walk.
Decal national markings came from the Yellow Hammer decal sheet and stencils were from a mix of YH decal and kit decals. Only one Eduard kit decal appeared incorrect and that was stencil # “AA” Water. It is mis-spelled “WATTER” on the stencil sheet. The kit decals are so well printed and thin I will be using them in a future build.
It was a very enjoyable project that I have been intending to do for many years. I have a number of Hasegawa and Otaki kits in the stash with resin and cowl corrections that will take a while longer to build since I want to spend my limited model building time to get a few more Eduard Hellcats built.
Thank you Eduard for providing such value at a great price. The kit was fun build and a definite conversation piece at modeling events.
F6F Hellcat In Action, Squadron Signal Publications # 1036 by Jim Sullivan 1979
F6F Hellcat, Volume 49 In Detail and Scale, Squadron Signal Publications # 8249 by Bert Kinzey 1996
Walk Around F6F Hellcat Squadron Signal Publications # 5509 by Rich Dann 1996
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