Eduard 1/48 F6F-3 Hellcat
KIT #: 8221
PRICE: $34.98 MSRP
DECALS: Five options
REVIEWER: William Reece
NOTES:  

HISTORY

            Enjoying a 19:1 kill ratio the big, powerful and tough Hellcat is the most successful naval fighter ever built.  The Hellcat accounted for 75% of all US Navy aerial victories in the Pacific during World War 2 and produced an incredible 306 aces.  The Hellcat was relatively easy to fly for a high performance aircraft and easily maintained. The Hellcat’s landing characteristics were docile compared with its contemporary the F4U-1 Corsair.  Its wide stance and inward folding wings made it easy to handle on board carriers. Entering combat in the late summer of 1943, the Hellcat quickly established itself as the heir to the ‘Grumman Iron Works’.  The Hellcat was the backbone of the Fast Carrier Task Force that led the way across the Pacific during the latter part of 1943 through 1945. The Hellcat’s most celebrated moment came on June 19, 1944 at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, popularly known as ‘The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot’.  Hellcats intercepted four Japanese raids against Task Force 58 and swept nearly 600 Japanese aircraft from the skies.  In the end Japanese carrier aviation was virtually finished.  I’ve always wanted to build a ‘Turkey Shoot’ Hellcat and I was pleased that the Eduard kit featured decals for one from VF-1, flying from CV-10, USS Yorktown, my favorite Essex Class carrier.

THE KIT

            The Hellcat is my favorite fighter plane and I was excited with Eduard’s decision to release a new kit in 1/48th scale.  It would be easy to argue that Hasegawa’s 1/48th scale F6F is a state of the art kit.  By comparison the Eduard F6F-3 is superior.  It is well designed with a very comprehensive instruction sheet, two frets of color photo etch and a decal sheet with five aircraft that cover the range of the F6F-3’s combat life.  I really like the Eduard kits because they are complete, with nothing else to buy.  A new feature not found in either the Otaki or Hasegawa releases of the F6F-3 is the inclusion of a three piece cowling that covers all three variations used during the production of the F6F-3. Pay particular attention to which one the aircraft you’ll be doing uses.  There were many discussions on various modeling web sites about the ‘smile’ of the Eduard kit on modeling websites.  The consensus is that Eduard has gotten it as close as anyone is likely to come given the limitations of injection molding. The kit even includes a photo etched screen for the center air intake.

            The surface detail of the kit is state of the art for 1/48th scale and includes very fine engraved panel lines with beautiful rivet details. The fuselage is particularly nice and molded in cutouts for the windows behind the cockpit. The lapped panel effect along the length of the fuselage is very good and I took extra care during construction not to obliterate it.

            The landing gear is very well detailed for a 1/48th scale kit.  The struts have a good amount of detail and include links, doors, molded on brake lines and the gears that rotate the main strut into the wheel bay. I think the discussion about the length of the struts has been over done.  This could be fixed by the modeler if desired.  The tires however are too narrow for a fleet Hellcat and lack either checkerboard or block tread usually seen in photos.  Resin tires and wheels are almost a requirement.  This was the one knock I had one the kit that I couldn’t solve without going to the aftermarket. One could add a 0.015” piece of plastic sheet between the wheel halves to thicken them.  The wheel detail is fairly good and I like the two piece hubs that greatly simplify painting.   The prominent up-lock for the landing gear is provided in the wheel bay.  The remainder of the wheel bay is rather basic.  An advanced modeler could spend considerable time adding detail to this area.  Still it’s better than any previous 1/48th kit.

            The engine is well detailed with fine cooling fins and a multi part gear case.   Also included are a PE ignition harness, data plate and Pratt and Whitney logo in color. 

            There are two sliding canopy portions provided, one for a closed cockpit and the other slightly larger to allow it to be posed open.  This is a very nice touch.  A windscreen with the built-in bullet proof glass, appropriate for the F6F-3N and F6F-5 is also included but not used.  Clear lenses for the wingtip navigation lights, fuselage recognition lights and deck approach light are included.  Eduard forgot to include lenses for the blue formation lights located on the top of the wings near the ailerons.  Scribed concentric circles are there instead.

             The kit includes two nice bomb racks and two fire bombs with PE fins, fuses and sway brace fittings.  A 150 US gallon, centerline tank is also included. PE straps for the tank are a nice addition.  The tank does not have the prominent centerline seam usually seen on wartime Hellcats.

            The kit also includes the forward leaning antenna mast seen on the first 909 Hellcats.  Though it’s not referenced in the instructions.  Strangely not included are the fairings for the inboard machine gun barrels of the first approximately 909 aircraft. 

            The decals are comprehensive and include markings for five Hellcats that cover the F6F-3s combat career and full stencils.  A first for any Hellcat kit is the proper national insignia for the upper left wing which was painted with a 1:1 mix of Insignia White and Light Gray with no blue border.  One marking option includes the short-lived Insignia Red bordered US markings.

            Eduard now also offers several photo etched sheets for this kit that were not available when I built my example.  These enhance an already good kit.

CONSTRUCTION

            Construction as usual begins in the cockpit.  The cockpit is rather basic compared to the Hasegawa kit and initially I was a bit disappointed. The molding is soft and certainly not crisp like a Monogram kit.  I didn’t care for the interior green color Eduard chose to use on the PE set included so I masked the black portions off and repainted the required areas with Testors, Model Master Acryl, FS 34151 Interior Green. I added a bit of black to this to tone the color down a little.  I scratched a new radio panel on the right side cockpit wall as well as the trim wheels and engine controls on the left side.  I attached the PE gauges to the plastic instrument panel and then used clear Acryl gloss to attach the instrument panel face to the gauge PE.  I thought it worked quite well and I’ll use that method in the future.  I replaced part G35, the seatbelt bar with a piece of 0.020” wire for a more petite look.  I also drilled small holes in the tops of the seat frame bars and added a chaffing pad to the bottom of the headrest which I painted black.  I gave the interior a thin wash with Bob Ross Midnight Black oil paint.  I used a silver artist pencil to show scuffs and chips in and around the cockpit and seat.  A nice Mk VIII gun sight is molded to the top of the instrument panel.  I really liked the fine details provided in the PE set.

             I painted the cockpit area of the fuselage interior with my mix of Interior Green. I painted the inside of the engine cowling and the remainder of the fuselage Light Gull Gray. Make sure to paint the area of the fuselage behind the cockpit visible thorough the rear vision windows Light Gull Gray (Grumman Gray). This also includes the back side of the rear bulkhead part E11.  I was not totally happy with this area and I added plastic strips to replace the braces, part PE34 and added a small bulkhead that would be seen through the windows.

             I fit the cockpit assembly in, glued it in place after opening the hole in the bottom of the fuselage for the drop tank.  I altered the tail wheel so that I could add it after the fuselage was finished.  I also opened the closed in area where the tail wheel would retract for more a more realistic look.  I then glued the fuselage together.  I also repositioned the hole for the antenna mast slightly to the right of the aircraft centerline where it was located up to BuNo 41294.

           I also filled the detail for the ADI tank located on the right fuselage side behind the rear vision window.  This tank was not fitted until BuNo 40634 with the advent of the R-2800-10W engine.

          I filled a panel line on each side of the lower fuselage near the wing root above the round inspection plates.  This panel should not appear on the F6F-3.

The lapped fuselage panels are very nice.  I put layers of masking tape on each side of the panel when sanding the seams to prevent damage. 

I used very little CA glue filler along the fuselage center seam along with a bit of Mr. Surfacer.  I used a blunt point needle to remake the lost rivet detail and a hobby knife blade to re-scribe the panel lines.  For the aircraft I was building I needed the second cowling option with the exhaust bulge but without the lower cowl flap.  I found the cowling required careful fitting to avoid a center seam.  The ‘smile’ cowling front fit perfectly.

            I filled the round holes on the ends of the elevators with CA glue and sanded them smooth.  This seems to be a feature of many Hellcat drawings and appear to be lightening holes in the metal elevator structure.  I could not find one photo of a fleet Hellcat where these holes were visible through the fabric.

            I assembled the wings and tail planes and set them aside.  Don’t forget to add the machine gun barrels before gluing the wings.  I cut the rudder trim tab free and positioned it turned to the left.  I filled the aileron trim tab on the right aileron with CA glue and sanded it flush since this adjustable tab was only on the F6F-5. 

A fixed tab was located on the right aileron and I used 0.010” plastic sheet to make one.  I re-established the rib tapes with coats of primer when painting the aileron.  The Hellcat I was modeling did not have the landing light under the port wing and I filled the seam with Mr. Surfacer.  Most Hellcats should not have this light.  I was not impressed with the fit of the flaps which are provided as separate parts.  I think they’re provided in order to get a sharp trailing edge.  I wish I had spent more time fitting them to get a good joint.  Next time I’ll assemble them to the top half of the wing to get a clean seam.  I used Mr. Surfacer and CA glue to fill the gaps.

            I painted the engine with Testors, Metalizer Stainless Steel and gave it a wash with Bob Ross Midnight Black.  I painted the pushrods semi-gloss black and the gear case and engine block Engine Gray.

            I was not impressed with the propeller.  The blades seemed thick and perhaps shaped too wide near the hub.  I sanded the blades to be a bit thinner and sharpened the trailing edges. The bolts on the hub were very poorly done so I cut twelve pieces of 0.020” plastic rod to length and cut notches in the hub and glued the rod into place. The result was a much improved propeller hub.  I painted the blades Polly Scale, Steam Power Black with Insignia Yellow tips.  I primed the tips white before applying the yellow.  The center hub was painted Intermediate Blue after masking the blades.  Since my Hellcat flew from the Yorktown, CV-10 it needed to have the prop dome painted green.  For this I used Interior Green with a bit of Sea Blue added to make the green a little more vibrant.  I’m pleased with the results.

            Next I moved on to the landing gear which I assembled to get the alignment correct but left the legs able to be removed from the wings for painting.  Pay particular attention to the details of construction and you’ll be rewarded with perfectly fitting landing gear.  I drilled lightening holes in the oleo scissors. I used True Details checkerboard tires.

I took some time to sand away a great deal of the bulges on them to prevent them from looking too flat.  I sprayed the wheels white and used a circle template to make a circular mask and then painted the tires a color I call ‘Soft Black’, which is a mix of several different grays and Polly Scale, Steam Power Black.

  I drilled the lightening holes deeper in the tail wheel strut and added one near the top that Eduard left off.  The kit tire is the proper solid rubber one usually seen aboard aircraft carriers.

            The centerline tank is missing the vertical seam usually seen on Hellcats until very late in the war.  I used some 0.020” X 0.020” Evergreen strip that I thinned on one side and glued it along the center of the tank.  The strip was flexible enough to conform to the complex tank.  I think the result is quite good.  I purposely didn’t fill the area where the tank meets the fuselage as photos show a gap in this area.  I scribed a filler cap into the tank with some brass tube of the correct size that was sharpened on the end.  This also makes an inexpensive punch.

I cut a notch in the oil cooler outlet door; part G2, to clear the tank seam to match photos of full scale Hellcats.

COLORS & MARKINGS

Painting:

            At this point, I stuffed tissue into the cockpit and masked it. I sprayed the bottom of the model and landing gear using Polly Scale, Reefer White. For the upper surfaces I used Aero Master Acrylic, 1046 Intermediate Blue and Aero Master Acrylic, 1044 Sea Blue using a Badger 155 Anthem and a Badger 100 GF airbrush.  I mix in about 25% Polly Scale, Clear Gloss with my flat colors and thereby avoid a gloss coat before decaling.  This always gives a smooth finish.  I masked the demarcation between the Sea Blue and the Intermediate Blue with masking tape pulled slightly away from the surface and used a thin mix of the colors to get the blending between shades.  For this I add Liquitex, Airbrush Medium to add body to the paint and to prevent spider webbing and runs.  I used a semi-circular paper mask underneath the horizontal stabilizers.  I used the included canopy masks and sprayed the frames interior green before painting them Sea Blue.  They preformed perfectly and gave sharp, crisp canopy frames.  Make sure you use the mask for either the open or closed sliding canopy since they’re slightly different in size.  I masked off the wing walks on the upper wing surfaces according to reference photos and sprayed them with my ‘Soft Black’ mix.

             I attached the stabilizers and wings. All fit perfectly.  I used a bit of white glue to fill a slight gap between the wing and fuselage.  Then when it was dry I wiped it with a damp cotton swab to smooth it in.  I sprayed the joint Sea Blue to hide the white glue.  I then sprayed the classic Hellcat exhaust stains using a mixture of Light Gray and Tan.  I mixed a slightly lighter shade of Sea Blue and randomly misted some on the upper surfaces to fade and break up the monochrome blue color of the model.

 Decals:

            I wanted to do a ‘Turkey Shoot’ aircraft, so I applied the decals using the kit option.  This Hellcat from VF-1 was flown by Lt. William C. Moseley who scored two kills during the ‘Turkey Shoot’.  He was later listed MIA over Iwo Jima on July 4, 1944. The decals preformed perfectly and settled down into the detail well using Micro Sol.  I’m glad Eduard took the time to get the colors of the markings right.  After letting them dry overnight I washed the kit gently with soapy water on a cloth to remove any decal glue and solvent.  I altered the ferry number decal on the left engine cowling to read a more legible 090.  Since these numbers were painted by hand I thought that both sides would not be identical.  The only photo of this airplane, taken from the island of the Yorktown, shows the right side of the aircraft with the number as Eduard depicts it.

            After I was satisfied with the decals I sprayed a mixture of 50% Polly Scale, Clear Flat and Clear Satin on the model.  I think this mix gives the impression of painted metal better than either flat or satin will.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

Before I moved on to final assembly I gave each panel line a dark wash with either Bob Ross, Midnight Black oil paint (a brownish black color) for the upper surfaces or a medium gray oil wash for the bottom.  I use a 00000 liner brush and run this mix into each and every panel line.  It’s not as tedious as it sounds and highlights the panel lines without overpowering them.  Using the kit supplied F6F-5 frameless canopy, I cut the armored glass panel from the canopy and shaped it to fit behind the windscreen. When I was happy with the fit I used white glue to attach it to the shroud in front of the sight.  I am very satisfied with the results.

      I painted a thin coat of Tamiya, Clear Green on the gun sight glass and glued it into place.  The main windscreen fit perfectly as did the sliding portion.  Eduard could not have done this any better.  The fit was impressive.  I didn’t care for the dome shaped lenses supplied for the fuselage spine blue and clear lights so I shaped some clear sprue into a teardrop shape, cut them off on a piece of masking tape to keep them in place and glued them to the fuselage spine in the appropriate places.  There should be a clear light just below the trailing edge of the rudder.  I used one of the kit’s fuselage light lenses for that and painted it glossy white.  There are concentric circular panels on the tops of wings near the ailerons.  These should be dark blue formation lights.  I drilled depressions into the wing surfaces and filled them with Tamiya, Clear Blue.

I also painted the bulbs of the wing tip lights the appropriate Tamiya Clear color along with the Red, Green and Blue recognition lights on the fuselage bottom.  Eduard left a little notch inside these lenses to simulate the bulbs.  A nice touch.  I added the two IFF antennas on the top and bottom of the fuselage using old tooth brush bristles that I painted silver.  I inserted them into size # 80 holes I drilled with a pin vise. 

I strung the radio antenna using 0.003” monofilament fly fishing line.  I attach the long run of the antenna first using thin CA glue.  Next I attached the antenna lead from the main wire and pulled it down to the insulator on the side of the fuselage.  I don’t get too worried about everything being taught.  After the CA has fully set I use a hair dryer set to low heat to tighten everything up.  I added an insulator using white glue painted white and I painted the antenna wire with Testors, Burnt Iron Metalizer.  I added some minimal chipping along the top of the cockpit sill and on the foot and hand holds with a silver Prismacolor pencil.

CONCLUSIONS

            Eduard’s new Hellcat is a winner.  I really like Eduard’s concept of a complete kit with photo etched parts and high quality decals.  I like not having to fuss with aftermarket details or even decals to get a unique and attractive model right out of the box.  The fit and engineering of the kit is very good with no big issues.  It was an easy build without a lot of filling needed.  I was initially unimpressed with the cockpit but with careful work I was able to produce a cockpit that is very good by kit standards.  I was unhappy with the kit tires and replaced them.  Some detail items such as the propeller needed addressing but the overall impression of the kit makes it a superior product.  The surface detail, especially the panel effect on the fuselage is finer than any other Hellcat in this scale.  An F6F-5 kit has been announced and a Dual Combo kit, featuring two Hellcats and markings for the Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm has recently been released by Eduard. I will definitely add more Eduard Hellcats to my collection.

            While it’s not the perfect kit, Eduard has raised the bar a few notches with the addition of this kit to their line.  With the application of modeling skills and some enjoyable efforts this kit makes into the best 1/48th scale Hellcat available.  I have a nice Hellcat on my shelves and enjoyed building it from start to finsh.  It’s hard to as for much more.

            Thanks to me and my hard earned hobby money for the review kit.  

William Reece

September 2008

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