Modellers' interest in the Wildcat has experienced a much-deserved boost over the last few years with the release of superb new-tool kits by Arma Hobby and Eduard in 1:72 and 1:48. So, the timing's perfect for Richard Franks to cover the aircraft in his latest Airframe & Miniature volume for Valiant Wings. As the name of the series suggests, the books appeal to aviation enthusiasts and modellers alike, with a mass of information packed into each volume. In the case of the Wildcat, some 208 pages offer a very complete package that includes background reference material, excellent model builds and a comprehensive "walk around" section.
Things begin with a handy Preface - actually a very useful 22-page historical overview of the Wildcat's development and service, from its pre-war inception through to the very end of WWII. The chapter is richly illustrated with period photos of the Wildcat throughout its career and includes a useful list of production numbers and BuNo. allocations for each variant.
Evolution is divided into three chapters, 23 pages in all, and outlines each of the prototypes and variants with concise descriptions and profile drawings, plus reference photos in most cases. It's very useful for checking the equipment and armament details of all the standard Wildcat versions, along with airframe changes where they occurred - and there are also the "odd-balls" like the Wildfish floatplane fighter and even crop-spraying conversions to inspire anyone who wants to build something to turn heads at a model show.
Starting with the obligatory caution about the pitfalls of declaring absolutes about colour schemes from vintage photos, in Camoflage & Markings the author presents a very informative 31-page guide to the development of Wildcat paint schemes and markings throughout its career with the US Navy and other nations.
The chapter is illustrated with high-quality profiles by Richard Caruana, while original photos and painting diagrams, plus a stencil placement guide, complete this very useful reference. There's certainly plenty of inspiration for Wildcat modellers, from the colourful pre-war US markings, through the standard wartime US and Royal Navy schemes to some less frequently seen options, like the original French Aéronavale export colours and desert camouflage if you want your Wildcat to stand out from the crowd.
Next comes an 18-page overview of Wildcat Kits, with detailed reviews of many of the more commonly available ones. Having so many reviews grouped together like this works nicely as a handy comparison guide for choosing which represents the best option for you in a given scale.
Building A Selection features a quartet of model builds by Steve Evans and Libor Jekl in three scales. Steve and Libor do a great job and their builds will serve as excellent guides for anyone tackling the kits.
Airfix's 1:72 F4F-4 - by Steve Evans
Arma Hobby's 1:72 F4F-4 (with upgrades) - by Libor Jekl
Eduard's 1:48 ProfiPACK F4F-3 - by Steve Evans
Trumpeter's 1:32 F4F-4 - by Steve Evans
Building A Collection covers a lot of the same ground as the earlier Evolution section, but this time there are 22 pages of excellent isometric drawings by Juraj Jankovic, backed up in many cases by period black and white photos. Each drawing is annotated with detailed notes that point out the specific features and changes with each version of the Wildcat.
The format works excellently as a ready-guide for modellers, but I've long wished it could be combined with the Evolution material into one reference section. My doubts about the value of splitting the material were confirmed for me when I used this book to check details to review Eduard's new FM-2 recently, and having to cross-refer between two sections soon became slightly irksome.
In Detail will be the instant focus for super-detailers, with 48 pages of photos and original servicing diagrams devoted to the following sub-sections:
Engines, Cowlings & Propellers
Cockpit & Canopy
Mid & Aft Fuselage
Wings & Control Surfaces
Undercarriage & Arrestor Hook
Armament, Ordnance, Drop Tanks, Rockets & Sighting
Radio & Camera
There are some modern colour photos of preserved Wildcats, but what I really like about the coverage is that it relies primarily on original vintage sources to ensure accuracy as far as is possible. The quality of the old photos obviously varies, but they are well reproduced here to allow the maximum detail to be discerned, and each is accompanied by a clear and informative caption, often pointing out features that you might otherwise miss.
Completing the main content of the book are 15 pages of Appendices that give an overview of Wildcat kits, accessories and decals that have been produced through the years, plus a bibliography of further reading.
Last, but certainly not least, tucked inside the back cover is a fold-out set of 1:48 Scale Drawings that cover all the main Wildcat variants. From a modeller's point of view, I wish the drawings could be presented as a loose sheet in a flap, so you don't have to damage the book by removing them, but doing this would probably raise the cost of producing the book.
This is another excellent reference book from Valiant Wings that will be equally useful for anyone wishing to super-detail their Wildcat kit, or to simply check that they've got the details and configuration correct for any given variant. As with other books in the series, the book also contains plenty of content that will appeal to aviation enthusiasts.
Airframe & Miniature #22 is available now from Valiant Wings - Price: £26.95
Many thanks to Valiant Wings for the review sample.
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