|KIT:||Meicraft 1/72 Grumman FF-1|
|PRICE:||$15.00 when new|
|NOTES:||Very short run. Company Out of Business|
When the Loening Aircraft Company was sold, in 1928, its chief designer, Leroy Grumman, started his own company to continue building airplanes for the US Navy. The FF-1 was the first product of fifty-plus-years of partnership between that company and service. It broke new ground by being the first enclosed cockpit, retractable gear, stressed metal skin navy fighter. Despite superior performance in all aspects except climb rate, it served operationally for only a year and half with a single squadron aboard the USS Lexington. Lot’s more info is available on various Web sites; some is, shall we say, “enlightening”. One source claims the Grumman could land on water. I guess in a way it could; but it wouldn’t be taking off again very soon thereafter. A pristine survivor hangs in the Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola.
In the 1980s a few companies enjoyed brief and limited success offering experienced modelers unusual subjects as vacu-formed kits. The difficulties of working with this medium led to its demise; but a half dozen mostly one-man-show pioneers in low tech injection molding picked up the thread. Merlin, in Britain, was the first, soon followed by his countryman Pegasus. In the US, the call was answered by Twelve Squared, Beechnut and its successor Allied Research North, and Meikraft.
OOB – Straight Out of the Box, building did not apply to their products. Their lack of expensive high pressure injection equipment and tooled metal molding demanded patient work with shaping tools, and a well stocked spares bin. The degree of this dedication varied between brands, and among the issues of a particular company. Meikraft’s quality generally nudged the higher edge of the envelope.
The accompanying photos show what you got for the then “luxury sedan” price of $15 - $20. Meikraft had a thing for orange plastic. Perhaps he bought out what Monogram had left over after they churned out their run of Gulfhawks and Albatrosses. At least it wasn’t as waxy and resistant to sanding as other firms’. The two sprues of the kit are very different. The one containing the fuselage is sharply defined, with petite surface detail, but a grainy texture that would be hard to remedy without loss of that detail. The wings sprue is thicker and has a shiny but undulating surface texture – like choppy water. Fixing that while preserving the scalloped ribbing would take many hours with a half round file and sandpaper wrapped dowel.
Three vacuformed canopies came with my kit, by accident or intent; none of which appears to be acceptable. One would have to use them as a starting point to pour a male mold, modify that, then suck a replacement. Wheels are OK but struts, engine, and prop would have to come form the spare parts box. Meikraft’s decals were always excellent, and these appear to continue that trend, despite their age. Instructions are a full page exploded view on one side with a detailed history and marking guide on the reverse
It’s buildable, but why bother. MPM has a 1/72 Fifi still in production, in their new “improved technology” long run series. The MPM kit, unlike this one, is in every way up to civilized standards, including even an injected canopy.
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