Classic Airframes 1/48 J2F-1,2,2A,3,4 Duck






five aircraft


Tom Cleaver


Short run with vacuformed canopy


The unique integral fuselage/float hull design that was the identifying hallmark of the Grumman Duck first appeared in the 1920s with a sing-engine biplane amphibious aircraft designed by Grover Loening. Loening was later bought up by Grumman Aircraft, which obtained the rights to the design. The Duck was essentially the Loening amphibian with a bit of an aerodynamic clean-up and more power, in the form of a 790 h.p. Wright R-1820-30 engine. The Loening aircraft was originally designed to compete with the Vought Corsair series as a catapult seaplane with additional amphibious capability and the ability to carry two additional passengers in the float below the cockpit, for rescue purposes. The later Duck was used in this capacity of scout by the U.S. Coast Guard, aboard several of the larger coastal patrol cutters used by that service in the 1930s and through the Second World War. Generally, the Navy operated the Duck as a station hack and air rescue airplane, while the Marines did operate it in the land-based scouting role.

The Duck probably became best-known during the war for rescuing downed fliers and survivors of ship sinkings in the Solomons, where its ungainly shape became a welcome sight for men floating in the shark-infested waters of "The Slot."

Handsome is as handsome does, as they say. I well remember seeing Frank Tallman take his J2F-6 (admittedly with an additional 700 h.p. out front) and do a full aerobatic routine with it at the Reno Air Races for several years in the early 1970s. (Me too, it was very cool! Ed) Watching him do Cuban Eights and even Hammerhead Stalls was quite an experience, though the best of all was watching that airplane crawl over the top of a loop a couple m.p.h. over stalling speed on a warm day with a high density altitude. The show was put on several hundred feet higher than someone in a Pitts Special would do it, but the big deal was that the airplane could do it at all.


There have only been two other kits of the Grumman Duck released that I am aware of, the first being in (approximately) 1/50 scale from Ideal in the late 1950s/early 1960s that has been recently re-released by Glencoe, and a 1/72 scale J2F-6 released in the late 1960s by Airfix, which I have seen in and out of availability over the years. The Ideal/Glencoe kit makes up into a recognizable approximation of the original, while the Airfix kit provides a good outline and enough other accuracy that if one takes the effort to clean up the kit and provide the missing detail, a nice model can result.

This new Duck from Classic Airframes is an excellent kit. It is accurate in outline and detail, to the point that the wings actually have the proper airfoil section. The metal fuselage is done with engraved panel lines - had it been a Tamiya release (dream on!), it might have had the raised rivet detail that exists on the real thing (Fighter Rebuilders at Chino is restoring one now, and I can assure you it is a mass of raised rivets). In 1/48 scale the result here is more than acceptable. The fabric detail of the wings is very realistic, and is some of the best I have seen in any kit.

The engine and cockpit detail are in resin, and of excellent quality. In fact, the good cockpit that you can create here leads to my one complaint about the model - that the canopy is a one-piece injection-molded item. If you "Future" it, it will be acceptably clear, but this is a model that cries out for a vacuformed canopy that can be cut apart and posed open; I shall be pulling out my trusty Mattel to finish this project.

Since scanning the parts, I have assembled the wings and test-fitted the fuselage. I recommend you take a sanding stick to the inner surfaces of the trailing edges before gluing the wings together. Since they are already pretty thin, a small amount of effort will result in very accurate-looking wings and tail surfaces. The fuselage has the best fit I have found yet in a Classic Airframes kit. Overall, the model is quite simple for a biplane.

Decals are provided for an airplane of Marine Scouting Squadron 3, based at Bourne Field in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1940, and a station hack from Pensacola in 1938. Additional decals are provided to do hacks from the Canal Zone, NARB Alameda, and a second Pensacola airplane. Given that the Duck's only bit of color is the yellow upper wing, and the markings are simple, there is really not a lot of variation - the Marine airplane with its red cowling and red-white-blue rudder stripes being the most colorful version.

I strongly suggest SnJ Aluminum paint for the metal surfaces, i.e., the fuselage, vertical and horizontal stabilizers, landing gear, floats and interplane struts (these were all painted with aluminum lacquer on the original and do not have different shades of natural metal), with something like either Gunze-Sanyo Aluminum metalizer or Testor's ModelMaster Aluminum (non-buffing) for the fabric-covered wings, rudder and elevators.


Classic Airframes are to be commended once again for bringing us a model of an airplane that will never be touched by Tamigawa. As with most limited-run kits, it requires a bit more modeling skill and patience than is needed to finish a mainstream kit, but the quality level here is the highest yet on what has been a rising level in recent C-A kits, and the result will be a good-looking model that will elicit comment just by its overall look when completed.

Thanks to Classic Airframes for providing the review copy. Your support is much appreciated.

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