Eduard 1/48 F6F-3 Hellcat
KIT: Eduard 1/48 F6F-3 Hellcat
KIT #: 8221
PRICE: $31.95
DECALS: Five options
REVIEWER: Bill Koppos
NOTES: Kit includes masks and etched fret


             The general history of Grumman's big follow-up to the F4F Wildcat should be pretty well known to readers here, so I shall focus on the history of the particular aircraft I built. Many of my builds are spurred by the Osprey "Aces" series, and this was the latest. "Hellcat Aces of WWII" is number 10 in the "Aircraft of the Aces" series, and within is the story of Esign Ed "Wendy" Wendorf, a pilot with VF-16, the "Airedales", flying from the new U.S.S. Lexington. I love these first-person accounts, this one told by Wendorf  in fine style.

              4 December 1943 saw the first raids on Kwajelein Atoll, to soften it up for invasion. Ensign Wendorf was part of a three step escort for the bombers. Seeing no opposition, the group went down to strafe Roi airfield. After his first pass, Wendorf saw a low-flying "Betty" bomber, which he blasted into the sea. Seeking to rejoin his group, he spotted 4 Aircraft above him, and climbed to form up. As happened so many times, these planes he was joining bore red "meatballs" on their wings. Fortunately they were unaware of his approach, and as the Navy pilot neared he belatedly realized these were not friends. Quickly gathering his wits he lined up 2 of the Zeroes, burning one, and then another in succession. Finally alerted, the others split up and Wendorf followed one. The maneuverable Japanese fighter turned tightly and lost "Wendy", and in a flash the other was on his tail. Diving away failed to shake his pursuer, and Wendorf decided to pull a loop. As the enemy pilot followed him around, he realized this would not remove the Zero from his six, so he used a trick Ironically, this maneuver is described in another Osprey book, "Japanese Naval Aviator", as a standard move  used many times by the Japanese themselves. Hesitating in the loop, Ens. Wendorf flew inverted for several seconds, as the Zero pilot pulled madly through the loop. By dropping thru now, Wendorf was right on the enemy 's tail, and finished the dance by burning the Mitsubishi into the Pacific.

               Calming down, The victorious Hellcat driver looked around. Several other combats were going on, and he climbed to look for action. He found it. His Grumman was showered by sudden machine gun and cannon fire from an unseen attacker. Turning to look over his shoulder, a 7.7mm bullet bounced off his skull over his left eye. He described it as being "hit on the head with a 2X4 board". (I have read this description many times before.) His first instinct to dive out was a good one and shook his tormentor. Leveling out low, Wendorf took stock. Blood was all over, the "G" forces from the pullout spurting it everwhere. By pressing his hand to the wound he slowed the blood flow. Two options were available. One was to contact and ditch next to the rescue submarine on station. At this time the wounded pilot found his radio inoperative (due to unknown AA hits during the strafing run) so this option was out. The other was to find his ship and land. But would he run out of blood before he could accomplish this?  Now finding his compass also inoperative, he lined up on Roi's airfields and went for it.

                Luck was riding with Ed Wendorf. 45 minutes later he spotted a Carrier's wake, this being the "Yorktown", whose decks were full with a strike. The "Yorktown " pointed him in the "Lexington's" direction and he arrived overhead. Waiting while a previously crashed damaged  fighter was cleared, he now proceeded to land into the safety barrier with no flaps or tailhook, the landing gear having been blown down by compressed air. "Aces" has a photo of the battered Hellcat, nosed over the barrier at the end of the ordeal, looking very poorly but getting it's pilot home.

               Several things impressed me in this account. First of course was the incredible skill, aggressiveness, and coolness of Ed Wendorf. First in the way he handled the fight, then the return bleeding all the way, this was one cool customer. Thinking all the time, nothing could get him down. Next the willingness of the "Lexington" to land the smashed up plane to save a pilot. Then there was the quality of the opposition. There was still plenty of talent in the Imperial Navy at this point, but with pilots like Wendorf and the F6F hellcat, that wouldn't last long. Having read this story, I had to build the new Eduard Hellcat, and it had to be Ed Wendorf's "White 13".

                  Eduard's newest release consists of a hard to open box containing  5 sprues of grey plastic, a clear set including closed and open canopies (will the "open" canopy part finally fit? Stay tuned.) The surface detail is excellent, finely done engraved panel lines including a perfect representation of the overlapped panels on the rear fuselage area. Any ejector marks are well hidden and sink marks nonexistent.  You also get a color-etched fret with instrument panels and seat harnesses, and a separate fret with engine wiring harness,  bomb fins, window framing and drop tank straps.  Then there's the masking sheet with superbly cut Kabuki masks that work beautifully. The Decal sheet covers 5 aircraft, all in all one hell of a deal for the $31.95 I got it for.

                    Upon close examination, the weak points were the cockpit sidewalls, propeller and hub, and tires, which are 'soft" on detail. The tires given are smooth tread, I could not find any pictures in my refs that had these. Too bad, cause the wheels are nice. A quick search of the web found no available resin replacements (sold out), so I figgered a lot of folks are buying these Hellcats. Enter my old Hasegawa Hellcat, the VF-17 "Essex" release, which has been in my stash for years. A quick look found the prop better than the kit's, and the tires were diamond tread. But the kicker was when I looked at the decal sheet and spied "White 13", Ed Wendorf's machine! There were all the numbers I would need, and the little "Airedale" was in the kit sheet. Add in the True Details cockpit set I had thrown in years ago with it's nice resin sidewalls, and I was in business!

                   Some shaving was involved to get my resin sidewalls in. Dry fitting was needed as I would use the kit instrument panel with it's pretty color etch. Many microscopic levers and switches are provided, some of which made it and some not. For the interior color I used standard Green Zinc Chromate. The green areas on the color etch did not agree, so I overpainted these and it looked better. Details were painted as per the "Walkaround" book on the Hellcat from Squadron-Signal. Only the lap belts were put in now, as I wanted to drape the shoulder belts outside the fuselage.  The side windows behind the pilot must be glued in now, carefully using liquid glue. These must be secure to prevent falling thru during masking later. If there's plenty of ventilation the chances of fogging are slim. I did not want to chance the inside braces (photo etch) messing up my windows, so decided to use Future all over to attach them. If you do this, have the patience to wait for it to dry, otherwise you will end up like me poking up through the drop tank slot (you did open that, right?) with a wire trying to get one back in place. Miracles DO happen, believe me. Oh, and DO remember to paint behind the headrest before you close up the fuselage. Mine is still unpainted as we speak. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.

                   The wings are next. They glue together kinda weird, with separate flap inserts  that I'm not sure are on seam lines. I just glued 'em carefully and let it go. The method of attachment to the fuselage for wings and stabilizers is great, with recessed areas in the fuselage making seam-free attachment possible. You can paint this baby with the stabilizers off no problem, which is good, because the white semicircles under them required by the paint scheme are much easier to mask this way. Choose which of the provided cowlings your aircraft needs, and glue these and the famous "grin" cowl nose together. The engine was wired using the etched harness, then painted aluminum with black wash. The landing gear is very well done, with the many parts delicately molded, including the pivot gears. Follow the directions carefully here. Well, fill those seams, mask her up and let's shoot it!

                     Looking at the profile of "White 13" in the Osprey book, it say there that the star/bar insignia originally had the 1943 red surround, which was duly painted out on the way to the Pacific. (No red was allowed anywhere on pacific A/C.) Looking at the crash picture shows this as a large light area underneath, apparently painted out with whatever blue was around. and not very neat. How to reproduce this effect? I decided to first spray the general areas to represent the overpaint with a mix of intermediate blue slightly darkened with sea blue. Then a random light overspray was done with sea blue. I then cut out around the star/bars including the red surrounds, then lay this over some masking tape and cut carefully around the decal, which will leave you with a full-size mask to put in the areas the decals go. If we cut off the red surrounds very carefully, the decals can be centered and will look like they have light blue borders.

                     NOW those of you who have read my previous reviews know that on each model, Koppos has to pull at least one giant brain fart. This usually involves the decals, and this Hellcat is no exception. If you have been building, reading about and decaling U.S. aircraft for any number of years, one would think we'd get familiar with the markings, no? You do know the Stars and bars marking is not symmetrical, don't you?  There is more circle sticking out the bottom than the top? Well, now you and I do. So I blithely applied the masks without paying any attention to this. When I finally discovered my F--- up while trying to apply the decals, it turns out I got lucky. Only one wing and one fuselage were wrong, a 50% loss rate. After my fit, out came the masking tape and paints to try and fix it. Trying to touch this up took some gymnastics, but I did it! I have gotten VERY good at fixing screw ups over the years, but believe me, thinking first would probably be better.

                     Confused? You should be. Looking at the photos might help clear it up.

                     The easy part was painting the bottom white, top non specular Sea Blue, and mid section and rudder/fin  intermediate blue, all Model Master enamels. Bottom panel lines were accented with thinned dark grey sprayed along them ( pictures show very dirty bottoms on these 'cats). The top panels were hit in the middles with lightened Sea Blue to break up the monotone. Having glossed the beast with Metallizer Sealer, the offending decals went down nicely with a little Solvaset, and showed their quality by not being ragged at all where they were cut. The white Hasegawa numbers had typical Hasegawa yellowish cast, but beggars can't be choosers.  A black acrylic wash was applied to all panel lines, especially on bottom, with oil streaks from the big R-2800 also added. Exhaust stains were done, the light grey sprayed and pastels for the dark edges. The white stains on dark paint was from the lead in the high-octane fuel, I just learned. Time for the fiddly bits.

                   Stabilizers can be installed now, glue carefully with a fine brush and it will be clean and seam-free.  The landing gear, as I mentioned, is very well done, and everything fits with little fuss. The Hasegawa wheel/tire assemblies had larger holes than the Eduard axles, so these were beefed up with styrene chips and filed to fit. Wheels are white and tires dark grey, the tread drybrushed with flat black. The Hasegawa prop needed the hole for the engine shaft bored out, this was done and the painted and decaled unit attached. For a change, the hub on this one is Intermediate blue. The windscreen and canopy (supposedly for the open position) were  masked using the perfectly cut set included. What a pleasure to use, making this usually bitchy job a breeze. Spray interior green first of course then the Sea Blue. The windscreen fit well.                   
                     Now the question-.will this canopy deviate from the norm and fit where it's supposed to? NO, of course, it still requires being pressed down to be correct in appearance. This is a constant problem on so many kits. The risk is run of screwing it up with glue or worse, cracking it while holding down on it. AAARRGG. he said again. This time I solved the dilemma by cutting small notches inside the canopy in the area that matched the raised molded in guide rails on the fuselage. This just holds the canopy down without glue and minimum stretch. Tedious, but successful. I had a Revell 1/32nd Zero I bought in 1969, which I remember had a canopy that snapped on and slid open and closed! C'mon, guys!

                   The shoulder belts were now glued to the crossbar over the seat and draped outside the fuselage as in photos.  From what I gather the drop tank provided is not proper for my machine, but I was out of gas and modifying Hasegawa's seemed too much work, so I lived with this. It was weathered to match and installed with the etched straps. I drilled four small holes in the fuselage to accept the straps as per photos, as no attachment points are given. The regular radio antenna was made from 2 pound fish line, and the cool whip antenna from sprue. Pitot tube and landing lights were done and she was rolled out into the Long Island sun just like her full sized sisters of long ago.

Well I now have a nice reproduction of an airplane flown by an American hero. Ed Wendorf, I admire you and all others like you. 2 days later the Hellcat went to Mosquitocon in New Jersey, where it flew off with the 2008 Theme award, "1943, prelude to Victory". Another Grumman Win.

Eduard's latest is a great kit. Except the small items mentioned, it really is a deal. Anyone with any kind of build experience can make a beautiful Hellcat out of this. I will certainly do an F6F-5 when it arrives in the fleet. 
                    Kit courtesy of Bill Koppos's seemingly endless hobby budget and lack of sales resistance.


Hellcat Aces of WW2 Barrett Tillman  Osprey Pub. 1996
Walk Around F6F Hellcat W.A. no. 9 Squadron Signal pub.1996
Imperial Japanese Naval Aviator 1937-45 Osamu Tagaya Osprey pub. Warrior #55

Bill Koppos

May 2008

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page