My opinion of the Wildcat changed forever back in the mid 1980s at the Biggin Hill airshow. While it had been one of my favourites since I first built kits of it in the '60s, I went to the show not even knowing a Wildcat would be part of the display. While many spectators were spellbound by the fast jets and the usual Spitfires, it was the little Grumman which stole the show for me, barrelling around the famous Battle of Britain airfield like an angry bumble bee!
So I was understandably excited when Eduard announced a new state-of-the-art 1:48 kit, and I have to say it certainly doesn't disappoint. I'm treating this review very much as a First Look, because I'm keen to dive in and actually build the wee beastie!
The kit arrives in a very attractive top-opening box and everything was in perfect condition when it reached me after two trips in the post (many thanks to Andy Brazier for forwarding it!). The runners and accessories are packed in re-sealable bags (watch out when removing the decals...) and the kit includes:
129 x grey styrene parts
26 x clear styrene parts
63 x photo-etched parts (some pre-coloured)
A sheet of die-cut washi-tape painting masks
Decals for 6 x colour schemes
(Note: I'd normally give a count for unused parts, but Eduard include an errata sheet that includes some of the pieces shown as "not for use" in the main instructions.)
As you'd expect with a new-tool mainstream kit, the moulding is beautifully crisp throughout, with no signs of flash or sink marks. Ejection pins have been kept safely out of sight as far as I can tell.
The exterior airframe surfaces feature neatly engraved panel lines and a mix of delicate raised and embossed rivets. Strictly speaking, this is something of a compromise, because the full-sized Wildcat is festooned with raised rivet and overlapping panels. Tamiya tried to fully represent the raised rivets on their '90s kit of the F4F-4 and the result has come in for a lot of criticism over the years for being overdone and a total pain to apply decals onto, so Eduard have probably been wise in taking the approach here - it's certainly a lot more "decal-friendly".
The control surfaces have a neat depiction of taught fabric covering, and the rib tapes don't look too obtrusive.
A quick dry-fit of the main parts is very encouraging. You'll need to spend a minute or two removing the runner attachments from the gluing surfaces, but everything's plain sailing after that. Eduard take a totally different approach to Tamiya and Hobby Boss by moulding conventional fuselage halves with no separate belly insert. I much prefer this because it eliminates any seams on the sides.
The wings are separate panels and Eduard have included an integral spar on the firewall to support them and ensure the correct dihedral. The firewall is a perfect fit, and taping things together shows how important the spar will be. There'll be no danger of weak joints at the precisely-fitting roots once they're cemented.
The tailplanes slot in tightly, so things look all set for an enjoyable build - "filler free" if you're careful.
A Few Details
Construction begins with a very comprehensively fitted-out cockpit. This being a ProfiPACK kit, Eduard give the option to go with moulded or photo-etched details in many cases and, depending on which route you follow, you're looking at around 50 parts in total. Highlights for me are the excellent pre-coloured etched instrument panels and equipment fascias, plus a multi-part seat harness (just lap belts or a full harness, depending on whether you're modelling an early or later machine). If you go for the moulded panel, Eduard provide pin-sharp decals for the instruments.
The only point I can see being really tricky is that the instructions indicate to carve away a moulded-on document pouch on the port cockpit side. There's nothing to cover the area and removing it will also take away the underlying fuselage rib, meaning a repair job, so I'd advise anyone unsure of doing the surgery to leave well alone. In fact, a period cockpit photo in Squadron's F4F Walk Around book shows the document case in situ, so I think I'll take that as good enough reason to leave it be too.
Engine Bearers & Undercarriage
The area in the open wheel well is a delicately detailed cat's cradle of struts. The chain mechanism for retracting the undercarriage is a separate part and much finer than the depiction in the Tamiya and Hobby Boss kits. The undercarriage is a more complicated affair than in either of the latter kits, using double the number of parts, but it really promises to capture the look of the original beautifully. Be very careful removing the components from the runners, because some of the attachments are as thick as the parts themselves - I recommend using an ultra-fine razor saw to avoid stressing them.
The mainwheel and tailwheel are neatly moulded. The mainwheels have separate inner and outer hubs, while a choice of solid or inflated tailwheels is provided.
The P&W R-1830 looks good, and Eduard have included parts to cover the variations in magneto positions, air intakes and cowl flaps. There's no ignition harness provided, but adding this will bring the crisply moulded 5-part engine to life. The exhausts are moulded hollowed-out with convincingly thin walls. The propeller has a separate boss, but one thing I don't like is moulded guides for painting the tips of the blades - that does seem like a throwback to an earlier modelling era and out of place in a kit like this.
Six .50 guns are included on the runner - another sure sign that later Wildcat variants are planned. The barrels aren't slide-moulded, so you may want to open up the muzzles with a fine drill.
The clear parts are beautifully thin and the canopy can be displayed open or closed. There's the option for an early-style telescopic gunsight for one of the colour schemes and the canopy frames are crisply defined. The die-cut washi-tape masks will be a big time-saver, and it's the ideal material for masking as it conforms to contours excellently and doesn't leave any residue.
Instructions & Decals
The assembly guide is printed in colour as a glossy 16-page A4 booklet. It has to cover a lot of options with the kit's six colour schemes to cope with, and Eduard have clearly had to revise things slightly as more info has come to light, because a small errata sheet is also included. It underlines the point that there were a number of variations during F4F-3 production so, if possible, try to find references for any particular airframe you're modelling.
The illustrations are clearly done, and Eduard have included a number of useful "info-views" for items like the undercarriage to help ensure you get everything lined up correctly. Colour matches for Gunze Sangyo paints are provided throughout.
The kit comes with decals for an interesting selection of six colour schemes, offering everything from colourful pre-war style markings and the ensuing neutrality scheme prior to America's entry into WWII, plus variations on the classic early war USN camouflage:
A. F4F-3 Wildcat - BuNo. 1850, Lt. Charles Shileds, VF-41, USS Ranger (CV-4), December 1940
B. F4F-3 Wildcat - VMF-111, Army-Navy manoeuvres, Louisiana, United States, November 1941
C. F4F-3 Wildcat - Lt. Edward O´Hare, VF-3, USS Lexington (CV-2), Hawaii Islands, April 1942
D. F4F-3 Wildcat - BuNo. 4019, Capt. Henry T. Elrod, VMF-211, Wake Island, December 1941
E. F4F-3 Wildcat - BuNo. 2531, Lt. Elbert S. McCuskey, VF-42, USS Yorktown (CV-5), May 1942
F. F4F-3 Wildcat - BuNo. 4006 (4008), Capt. John F. Carey, VMF-221, Midway Island, June 1942
The decals are spread across three sheets and look to be excellent quality. The items are thin and glossy, and the registration is spot-on in the sample kit. Colours look slightly muted, which should give a nice "scale effect", and the slightly different hue used for the overpainted markings in Scheme E is a neat touch. As with other Eduard decals I've examined lately, there is noticeable excess carrier film, but I've found this has snuggled down perfectly and disappeared in use - just take care to avoid it folding over on itself.
Eduard's new F4F-3 Wildcat promises to build into a real gem and I'm really looking forward to seeing how many later marks join it in the range. In my opinion it's in a different league in terms of sophistication compared to the old Tamiya and Hobby Boss kits, and it's great to see this iconic fighter given the latest state-of-the-art mainstream treatment it totally deserves.
Eduard's MRP of just over £22 represents excellent value for money and is actually cheaper than the older models from most UK sources. Obviously, this being a ProfiPACK boxing, it's also more complicated than its rivals - perhaps pushing things a tad for newcomers to the hobby - but you can rest assured that a standard Weekend Edition will be hot on its heels, priced even more affordably.
Right, that's quite enough waffle - it's time to start building this little beauty!
Item #82201 is available now from Eduard - Price: £22.29
Many thanks to Eduard for the review sample.
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