Hasegawa 1/32 F4B-4
|Currently (2003) OOP|
|Scratch built cockpit|
One of the more beautiful airplanes from the Golden Era (early 1930s) was undoubtedly the Boeing F4B-4, the front line high tech Navy Pursuit Fighter and Bomber of the 1930s. For an airplane from that time, it was a streamline, purposeful and rugged design. The look of this airplane totally exemplifies the look of 1930 America along with Art Deco, The Rocketeer, and the Empire State Building. This fighter served in the US Army Air Corp, the Navy, and the Marines. Gregory (Pappy) Boyington flew the F4B-4 during his service with the Marines prior to his short stint with the AVG.
In 1928, the Boeing Airplane Company set out to build the top pursuit aircraft for both the US Air Corp and Navy/Marine air units. The result is the F4B-4. It is the final evolution of several revisions of the Model 83 and Model 89 airplane.
The Model 83 and Model 89 are essentially the same airplanes except for minor differences in landing gear and that Model 83 has an arresting hook. By the time the Model 83 was delivered to the Navy and the Model 89 was delivered to the Air Corp, the aircrafts were redesignated as XF4B-1 by the Navy and P-12 by the Air Corp. Both models were well received by the test pilots. The Establishments ordered full production. Foreign orders proved the aircraft’s superiority to the world.
The F4B-4 was the final revision of the X models. It had larger vertical fin area, an enlarged headrest and faired rollover bar. The fairing contained a one-man rubber life-raft and emergency supplies. The engine was a 550 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-16 Wasp radial air cooled engine. A pair of 0.30 caliber machine guns in the cowl trench plus the capability to carry two 125 pound under wing bombs complete the armament for this fighter bomber. The F4B-4 production totaled 92 aircraft.
The F4B-4 served the Navy from 1932 as their front line fighter until the Grumman F2F/F3F series replaced them around 1938. While no longer the front line aircraft, this type continued in the Reserve and Training units well into the beginnings of WWII.
When I was kid, I built and fly control line and radio control model airplanes. I used to ride my bike to the library and sign out those hard cover books on how to build model airplanes. Now that I look back to those days, those books are pale in comparison to the Webzines and model magazines of today. But, one thing that remained with me from those days is the memory of the fantastic pictures of a control line version of a F4B-4 in Felix markings. I always wanted to build one, but was not able to due to lack of money and information.
Time moves on. Then one day when I was in Uncle Bills Hobby Shop and I spotted several boxes of recently acquired rare model collection. In there is a Hasegawa F4B-4 in 32nd scale. Even though I don’t want to buy anymore models but, right there and then, I know instinctively I must purchase that model to fulfill my child hood dream.
The F4B-4 has been represented in 48th scale by Classic Airframes and in 32nd scale by Hasegawa. (1/72 fans can find the old Monogram kit rather easily. Ed) The Hasegawa kit is a kit from the early1980. The kit exemplifies the standard offering from Hasegawa at that time for their 32nd scale series. It has raised rivets and panel line details. Fuselage panels are actually raised panels that stands out above other panels (a really nice touch), complete with rivets all around where it belongs. The wings are fabric covered hence there are no panel lines. The parts are molded in light grey plastic. The molding is generally clean with very little flash to clean up.
Dry fitting was performed on the parts prior to assembly to assess the challenge that was to come. The fuselage halves fits together perfect, however, the gun trough deck will not fit cleanly atop the fuselage halves without some trimming and sanding. Each wings come in two halves; the top half have the bottom wing’s trailing edge molded in. This is terrible because this type of joint is very difficult to make seamless; even more so on a wing surface with raise and dips that represent a fabric covered surface. The vertical fin/rudder does not fit flush with the fuselage and it will require much trimming. Same for the elevator.
The kit box says it is a Collector Series model. Yeah, right. The cockpit has barely any details. The instrument dash is undersized and he instrument dial is not discernable, thus making it useless. The side walls come with some raised ribs that represent stringers and ribs. When compared with photographs of an actual F4B-4, it is insufficient. The seat in a real F4B-4 is a silver colored bucket. It does not have any seat or back cushions. The kit seat is modeled as a thick bucket with some cushion and lap belt details. The seat cushion molding detail must be removed. The side panel controls details are just a thin raised, featureless, molding to attempt to represent some kind of controls. These details are useless. The cockpit floor is plainly molded without any details. The floor does not fit well between the fuse lug and it leaves a large visible gap.
Scratch Built Cockpit:
The cockpit in a bi-plane, and especially in 32nd scale, is highly visible. Hence, a whole new scratch built cockpit must be built in order for this model to make it as a “Collector Model”.
I started by adding filler strips to the kit floor panel until it fits between the fuselage halves without any gap. Using the photos of a F4B-4 found in the Walk Around section of ARC web site, I built the throttles and controls according to those photos and the Squadron/Signal book. The throttle quadrant was built up by using several layers of styrene sheets glued together and then sanded to shape. Raised nuts on the throttle quadrant were built by using nuts and bolts end parts from HO scale train parts. They look perfect for 32nd scale.
The radio boxes were made from left over resin stubs.
The instrument panel was built by laying out the panel details on a styrene sheet and built up in 4 layers. The instruments are acetate dials with a thick layer of white painted painted on the back to make details show up.
The rudder pedals have connector rods and bars coming up from under the floor. Hence, I cut open the cockpit floor around the rudder peddles to prepare the way for some rudder connectors. Connector rods are cut from styrene sheets and glued to the original kit peddles. The peddles are sanded to an arc shape that is evident on the real rudder peddle.
The most challenging part of improving this cockpit is to sand off all that crummy seat cushion details from the kit seat. I started by sanding down the seat thin so that it looks like a sheet metal seat. Then, I used chisels and chiseled away the cushions and lap belt. I finished off by wet sanding away the remaining details until everything is smooth and flush. That took about 2 hours to do! It was painful. A lap belt was added by making it out of tin foil sheet from wine bottle. The belt links was made from thin brass wires.
Generally the fit of the parts are poor and must require extensive dry fitting, trimming, sanding, and even addition of shims to minimize any gaps during joining.
For a bi-plane the challenge is to do the rigging. I made sure I pre-drill all the holes at locations where rigging would go and pre-install all the riggings into the fuselage before I glue the fuselage together. I set them in place with Cyno glue. Riggings used were 15 lbs fishing lines. When you make riggings, make sure you cut a very long piece because nothing could be worst and frustrating than a short rigging.
The bottom wings were glued onto the fuselage. However, the top wing is left unattached to the wing struts to enable easier painting and decaling steps.
CAMOUFLAGE & MARKINGS
The model was painted using Gunze paint. The silver colored wings were painted using Testor Metalizer’s Aluminum paint. The yellow on top of the wing was painted using Gunze’s Orange Yellow. I select a multi color (red and white) scheme from VF-6 aboard the USS Saratoga as shown on the photo in page 42 of the Squadron/ Signal book on the F4B In Action.
As far as I know, there are no after market decals for a 32nd scale F4B-4. Hence I have to use the kit decals. The decal sheet comes with markings for about 6 aircraft for the Navy and Marines. I was worried that the kit decals would fail me. I am happy that I was wrong, for the kit decals went on very nicely with Gunze’s Mr. Mark Softer.
The aircraft I chose to model is an aircraft from VF-6, Felix the Cat, shown in the Squadron/ Signal book.
The white on the decal was very old and was really off-white in tone. Hence, I masked and painted the white “- F - “ and the chevron bar on top of the wing. The aircraft’s serial number was pieced together using a numeral decal sheet to represent the aircraft shown on my reference book.
After completion of painting and decaling, I finally glue the top wing to the struts. At this time the remaining rigging can be inserted into the openings under the top wing and glued into place.
The gun sight used was a ring and bead type. Hence, I enhanced the kit part by adding a build up ring and bead for the gun sight. The bead was made from a grain of catalyst from a water conditioner cartridge glued atop a styrene rod.
There is no weather for this kind of aircraft since they kept them very clean during their service. However, as a model, some high lighting is still required to bring out the details. I mixed a mixture of dark grey and white enamel wash and washed around some selected panel and rivets.
This is the only game in town for a 32nd scale F4B-4. Although it was a challenge to build and the fit was less than exemplarily, any modeler with some basic skills can turn this into a good looking and accurate model of a beautiful Golden Era aircraft.
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