Tamiya 1/48 F4F-4 Wildcat Build Review
|Date of Review||December 2009||Manufacturer||Tamiya|
|Kit Number||61034||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Fit and finish||Cons||Canopy fit|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$29.00|
Arguably, one of the most iconic aircraft used in the Pacific Campaign has to be the Grumman F4F Wildcat. It can be said that the Wildcat was the only plane to blunt the totally superior Zero for total domination of the Pacific skies. It was initially rejected by the Navy in favor of the Brewster Buffalo if you can believe that!
Grumman went back to the drawing board and refined the design until they came up with the G-36 which came out fighting. Beating the Buffalo in every test, the navy approved the design and bought the little barrel with wings. It stayed in production throughout the war with different upgrades and fought with its more powerful Corsair and Hellcat brothers. It was liked by its pilots because of its ability to take an amazing amount of punishment and keep going. Easy to work on and because of its demure size, folding wings and short tail, more planes could be stored on a flat top carrier. Many famous aces and more than a few Medal Of Honor recipients used the Wildcat as their mount.
Completing another hole in my collection of naval aircraft, I choose the amazing little Tamiya 1/48 F4F-4 Wildcat. I have collected at least 4 of these little gems over the years and now is the time to build one. I am using Aries Wildcat cockpit with a photoetch set from Part and a Cutting Edge Propeller.
On a side note, I lost all the photographs I had of the cockpit except for this poor out of focused and bleached out photo so it is not a great representation of what the pit looks like when built up.
I held up on putting the rudder, elevators and tail hook on as step 1 calls for in the instructions. I wanted to reposition the elevators and the rudder will be red and white stripes so it is much easier to apply the decals with the rudder off.
By using the back edge of a new #11 Exacto blade I scored through the elevators until they separated from each other. Part photoetch comes with these little braces to put in-between the vertical stabilizer and the elevators. Small dabs of super glue got them back together with no problems. The fuselage went together next and is a perfect fit. Tamiya engineering can be just amazing sometimes.
Step 2 calls for the cockpit assembly which was completely replaced by the Aries resin cockpit. As usual, the resin parts got a cleaning with a light mix of water and Simple Green. A quick rinse in warm water and some compressed air got them ready to paint. My paint of choice for Bronze Green is Humbrol 88. I know it is not an exact match for Grumman Interior Green but I did match it to some photographs of a recent Wildcat restoration project at a museum. It is close.
I painted the fuel tank below the pilot’s seat white and the surrounding areas in the fuselage white while the upper sidewalls were detailed out. Black instrument panel, seat belts and photoetch foot pedals busy up the cockpit nicely. Most of this detail is lost in the small opening the pilot had to squeeze through.
Now it did take a little fitting to get the cockpit to sit right. The headrest was the toughest to get to fit perfectly. Some more fitting was needed to get the firewall/wheelwell bulkhead to fit properly. Just take your time and it will fit. When the assembly was finally ready to go into the bottom of the fuselage, I painted the front side white and the backside Bronze Green. The chains and other details got highlighted as needed and the very scary landing gear framing was painted white and superglued on. The whole cockpit assembly was first “tack welded” in with white glue so I could have a little time to shift and fit it into place. Once the white glue had everything in place, I superglued it firmly into position. This completed step 3 of the instructions.
Step 4 moves you onto the wings. I painted the bottom tub white and glued the inter-cooler into place after painting it silver. The wing halves got glued together and the oil cooler scoops got glued on. Tamiya liquid glue ran along the seams does a nice job of blending the scoops into the wing. I held off on the small glass windows, landing light lens, approach light and exhaust stubs until after final painting.
Step 5 is just putting the wings to the fuselage. The Aries cockpit caused the wing to not meet up with the fuselage right and extra work had to be done to achieve the proper clearance. In just a few minutes, I had a good fit. Time to move on to the engine.
I used the kit engine which details out very nicely. The engine cowling got the cowl flaps cut off and the Part photoetch ones were put in place. I wasn’t real happy with my job in this area. The photoetch just didn’t want to cooperate with me! I took this time to put a photoetch hatch on the lower part of the right side of the fuselage. Small detail I know. The interior of the cowl got a coat of white and the engine firewall area was painted silver. A small dab of non-curing putty temporarily mounted the cowl while the engine stayed in the box. This completes step 6
I cleaned up the leading edges and painted the landing gear struts white on the upper half and the unusual black on the bottom half. That landing gear is really intimidating to me. But after fitting it together and seeing how it all works, it is a masterpiece of engineering. It is easy to reverse the direction of the main landing gear struts so make sure and pay attention to how they go on. Treat this assembly as a small model in its self and it will come out just fine. It got temporarily installed just so the plane would have something to sit on when painted. I left off the 58 gallon drop tanks that Step 7 tells you that you need. You might want them on your build so this is a good time to put them together but don’t install them until after painting is done.
During the final sanding and clean-up I noticed that I sanded off the gun barrels that protrude slightly out of the wing leading edges. So I drilled them out and used some micro tube to make new gun barrels. They got installed after painting.
Painting and Finishing
Vallejo paints were airbrushed on 70904 Dark Blue Grey for the upper color and 045 US Grey Light for the bottom color. The Light Grey had a pinkish tone to it and I got a bit worried that I didn’t mix it enough or that this was going to be an experiment in bad paints. But I was wrong. Once the grey dried, it was a perfect match. I went from skeptical to a huge fan of Vallejo paints. One thing you need to be aware of is that they come in an eyedropper style tube so you need to measure out exactly the amount you will need in your airbrush or you will end up wasting a lot of paint. You can’t put it back in the bottle once you eye drop it out. A coat of Future Floor Polish got the plane glossy and ready for decals.
I went around and around about what scheme to use. There are so many good ones out there. The definitive color scheme seemed to be the VF-41 from the USS Ranger scheme. It incorporates the red dot stars without bars, the red and white stripe tail that I wanted. I stuck with the box decals. If you use them you need to use a hot emulsifier like Solva-Set to get them to bed down properly. They are thick as far as decals go. It took a few coats of Solva-Set to get them perfect. Once dry another coat of Future and a flat coat of Model Masters Dull Coat got the plane in proper trim.
I installed the engine and landing gear at this time and turned my attention to the Cutting Edge propeller assembly. These needed some cleaning up and painting. A little weathering and white glue to be able to get the pitch set right on all three lugs helps. It is also time for those little things like the landing light and approach light, small windows on the bottom of the fuselage, exhaust stubs, pitot tube, tail hook, antenna and gun sight. I did paint the antiglare panel prior to putting the gunsight in and the front wind screen on. This follows step 8 and step 9 on the instruction sheet.
I used True Details Canopy frame set on the kit windows. I airbrushed them the same blue as the upper surface and then applied them to the glazing. It is easiest to put a small drop of liquid soap in a dish and submerge them like decals. It allows you to float the frames to place. Otherwise they want to stick to everything but what you want them to. I was disappointed to find the aft canopy does not want to sit down on the fuselage right. A vac canopy is a better choice. I actually got stress cracks in the upper canopy when I tried to push it down to its proper stance and glue it into place. I might replace it one day but not for now.
Some pastel chalk adds color and a little weathering to the Wildcat. I didn’t go overboard on paint chipping and oil stains. Since these planes got a lot of hard use in the harsh Pacific theater, you can weather it up to your hearts’ desire while still being true to the build.
I am very happy with the results. It was a fast build but it did slow down with the Aries cockpit and Cutting Edge Propeller. I think you could build a very nice kit right out of the box in a weekend with no problem. As with most Tamiya kits, the engineering is superb and the final results makes you look like a better modeler than you are. Don’t believe me? Build their P-47D and you will know what I am talking about. With the price of these kits in the 20 dollar range it is a bargain and well supported by the decals and aftermarket guys.