Special Hobby 1/32 F2A-2 Buffalo

KIT #: 32010
PRICE: $59.95 MSRP
DECALS: Two options: VF-2 and VF-3
REVIEWER: Bill Koppos
NOTES: Best limited run kit I've done. Includes resin and photo etch parts.

HISTORY
 

            The U.S. Navy saw the writing on the wall concerning the biplane configuration for fighter aircraft in the late 1930's. Brewster Aeronautical Corp., a budding company with good designers, offered a monoplane design, which with revisions, was accepted as the F2A-1. Fifty-four were ordered, but a monkey wrench was thrown into the works in the form of Finland, engaged in a battle with The Soviet Union which was trying to clip off a bunch of Finnish Territory. As the improved F2A-2 was already ordered, the U.S. Navy agreed to release 44 F2A-1's in response to Finland's desperate appeal for fighters. These aircraft arrived too late for the "Winter War" of 1940, but would write an incredible record in the "Continuation War" that followed.


           The F2A-2 used basically the same airframe as the earlier mark, but with a 1200 Horsepower engine that provided a boost in top speed to around 325 mph. The Navy ordered 43 of these, with an additional 8 F2A-1's bought up to -2 standard. After another delay while Belgium's export order was filled, the Navy Squadrons finally started getting their aircraft in September 1940. This was the Brewster fighter in it's top form. Still innocent of armor plate and fuel tank protection, it was light and handy, with a good armament and range. Operated by Fighting squadrons VF-3 (Saratoga) and VF-2 (Lexington), it's only real problems in service were with a weak landing gear and temperamental Cyclone engines. It seems the biggest problem with the F2A was Brewster itself, the factory being very poorly equipped for mass production, deliveries being very slow.


      Excuse me for a minute here,  back in the bad old days when I was working for the world's worst forklift company, I was sent to Long Island City do do a job. Long Island City being the home of the Brewster factory. I had read that Brewster had problems due to the location of their factory, being a cavernous  five story building with a large elevator going from floor to floor. LI City is extremely industialized and crowded, not a very good place for an airplane factory. Looking back, I remember this building I was in  being about 5 stories, with a large central elevator that was being dismantled. Hmmmm, I wonder? At any rate the laboriously assembled aircraft had to be transported to Newark, New Jersey for test flying. Compare this to say, Curtiss, where the finished product went right off the line outside to the airfield and took off in full view of the line workers!  


            For all that, the delivery dates of the F2A-2 allowed it to just sneak in to the colorful era of Navy aircraft, both squadrons having the "yellow wing" color schemes of the time. Overall light gray was adopted in early 1941.  This was the end of an era, as events and Grumman's Wildcat overtook the Brewster fighter.

THE KIT


              I've been waiting a long time for a 1/32nd Brewster. The old Combat models vacuform will never get built now.  Let me get the prejudice out of the way now, I LOVE this plane! Second only in mah heart next to the P-40. I've had all the models, all the scales. But this baby is big and chubby. Lately I've been gravitating to 1/32, finding them easier to work on and more impressive when done.


              Anyhoo, inside the large box, you'll find 9 sprues from large to tiny. One holds just the carrier (tail hook) tail cone. There's a clear, resin, photoetch, and instrument film. Molding is nice, with finely recessed panel lines, delicate sprue gate points, no sink marks. A couple of those molding lumps are in the way on wings and fuselage, but these can just be snipped off, except for one by the cockpit area. Obviously, more versions are on the way (YAY), the land based tail wheel is here as well as alternate propellers, and fuselage bottom windows, and windscreen. A British B 339 is in the offing. The clear parts are well done, if a little wavy in the sliding portion. The engine supplied is quite good, with pushrods supplied, only wiring need be added to look great. Photoetch fret includes instrument panel, seat belts,  some interior stuff and bomb racks.

CONSTRUCTION


                 OK everybody, construction starts where....?  Who said cockpit? The F2A has a main instrument panel and 2 small side panels, these were done using the supplied "films", painting the backs white first. Instructions call for aluminum interior color, details picked out with the usual black, like the resin throttles, and etched trim wheels. I slightly changed the location of the machine gun charging handles, and added some knobs and levers based on my scanty interior references. The rudder pedals have two really delicate brake lock handles on them, it's a shame they can't be seen when done. Further back, the seat and fuel tank are assembled, painting all areas, because remember this airplane has a ventral window, which will allow plenty of viewing from underneath.

                  Next comes engine stuff, adding spark plug leads made from fine copper wire, glued to the back of the ignition ring, and going into holes drilled in the plug locations. Aren't single row radials great? The rear portion is a nice resin part, attached to the engine framework and bulkhead. At the top of the rear bulkhead are the machine guns and resin ammo boxes. These fit nicely, too, and the ammo boxes look great. The machine guns were softly detailed, most likely because that can't be seen once the fuselage is closed. I toyed around with the idea of opening the access panels to show this area off. I even went as far as buying a wing mounted Browning MG set. Darn it, they didn't line up with the ammo boxes. As I was building this under a show induced deadline, I gave up the idea. Maybe on the next one.  Time to close up the fuselage. Surprise! The stuff fits! (Previous bouts with MPM limited runs have made me wary). It only took a small amount of bulkhead filing to get the fuselage halves to come together. The engine mounts actually hold the engine straight, and the right distance from the cowling face. Cowling extension and front were added next, and filling and sanding begun. Careful gluing can keep this to a minimum. By the way, this kit features locating pins, I believe the first I've seen on a limited run jobber. The canopy sills were lacking the sliding tracks, so I made some out of sheet styrene and put 'em in. 

                 Moving to the wings, first the gear bay formers are put in, they are individual resin pieces and look good. I left out the plastic kit machine gun barrels as I would replace them with copper tube later, and put the halves together. Another different feature of this model is, all other Brewsters I've done have the bottom wing half as one piece, including the fuselage bottom. This makes for 2 tough seams to fill fore and aft. The recent Classic Airframes ones are a real pain in the patootie, with their weird assembly sequence.  These wings are just butt joints, and fit well. Careful with the glue, and job done. They are molded nicely and the dihedral came out spot on. Nice, Special Hobby.     

      The life raft container behind the pilots seat is next,  the nice etched direction finder installed, and the rollover cage.  Note, the plans call for the container to be aluminum, but it should be black. Of course I found this out after it was too late.   Now, the rear canopy area. I wanted this to look right as it is a signature of the Brewster's looks, and decided to fair it in to the fuselage correctly, even if it meant extra work.

 The in progress pics show this area, and the sanding involved. The clear panels were masked off using Tamiya tape, the interior and wheel wells and ventral window stuffed with tissue, and to the paint department.

COLORS & MARKINGS


                 Decals are provided for 2 "yellow wings" airplanes, VF2 from Lexington, or VF3 from Saratoga. Testor's small jar flat white first, as I was doing the Saratoga "Felix the Cat" version-always loved that one. Wing stripes, upper cowl, and tail feathers are white.  These were masked, and the upper wings done with Testor's flat yellow with a "tech" of red mixed in, to make the Orange yellow wing tone. Upon masking the wings, the rest was hit with Alclad Aluminum. The body was not natural metal, but painted Aluminum laquer. I've grown to love Alclad, the stuff is not nearly as fussy as has been said. Easy to use, tintable with enamels, and FAST drying, it really simplifies jobs where Aluminum is involved. The stripe and tail tapes removed, I coated the whole thing with Testor's Metallizer sealer, which I use as a gloss coat, for decaling.

                 The decals say "Special Hobby" on them, but are probably by this "propagateam" outfit. (Where did they get that name, anyway?) Whatever, they are very good, the first decals I've used that really did not require a setting solution. They are quite thin, and a little delicate, but really settle down nicely. This is important, as half the decals are skinny border stripes for the wing chevrons, cowl and tail. A real problem could have been where they cross right over the wing gun bulges, but it wasn't that bad after all. Felix the cat and his bomb came out perfect!

                  Now all panel lines were accented with "sludge wash", of course the overall look being kept clean, as this was an immaculate peacetime baby. Another gloss coat covers all, this coat being "dusted" on, for a semi-gloss finish.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION


                 Things to do-  Landing gear, painted and attached. The locating point is fairly obvious and strong. The retraction struts are next, the attachment point for these being vague, but I attached them where they seemed to go. The important thing is to keep the main struts slightly raked forward, and wheel legs vertical. Check reference photos first here. I added little pivots to the area where the struts go to the main legs, as per photos. I also made up brake lines from wire, guessing where they run to the rear of the main legs. At the bottom to the wheels, it changes to some neat 2mm rubber tubing (Used for bracelets) my kid found at the craft store. Makes perfect brake lines. 

                  Propeller, and spinner, the prop tips being the old red, yellow and blue, that takes a bit of time to spray. When installing this assembly, do not use the spacer the plans say to use, as this would hold the blades way too far out. I made a shaft from sprue, and glued it right into the spinner back plate, this will give you the proper distance. Always keep an eye on those references.  Now,about that canopy. Here's where things got interesting. I masked the windscreen, belly glass, and sliding portion and painted them. Why can't these manufacturers ever give you a sliding portion that fits over the back part properly? Here I was with nice clear canopy parts, that sat too high. Dare I try a miniscule amount of glue to hold it down? NO! I can hear the shouting. Well, you were right. The area in question blobbed out and fogged up. Arrrgggh! After cleaning and polishing   the ruined area, I finally glued 2 little sprue pins to the inside of the canopy track and corresponding holes for these under the rear transparency. THAT was fun. But it sits right and most of the screwed up area is hidden.

                 Final bits-the tube gun sight was hollowed out, and a drop of white glue placed in either end for lenses. (Ah, the stuff you can see in 1/32nd scale!) I added two small sprue bits to represent the iron back up sights. 2 .50 cal barrels were cut from brass tube, cut to length, and slid into the wings.   Pitot tube, landing lights, antennas and wire (2 pound fishing line) finished the project. 

CONCLUSIONS


                I was pleasantly surprised by this build. Previously I had done the Pac Coast Macchi 200, and Spec Hobby Polkarpov I-16. Both had some real bad wing fit and  other problems, making them more of a wrestling match than fun. But the big Brewster went together nicely, the only real dicey area being the landing gear. This is definitely the best of the MPM family yet released. Yep, I got her finished the day before the show, she's on her way tomorrow. I even sprung for the Just Plane Stuff 1/32nd carrier deck, lying dusty on the local hobby shop's shelf,  and squeezed in painting that up, too. This should come in handy when the promised Trumpeter 1/32nd TBD comes in. I would recommend the F2A-2 to anyone with some experience, who likes the big ones.

October 2006

Bill Koppos

REFERENCES

 F2A Buffalo in Action    Jim Maas  Squadron publications
 Brewster F2A Buffalo  Andre Zbiegniewski  Kagero publications

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