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Accurate Miniatures 1/48 Grumman F3F-1 Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 1999 (Updated July 2011) Manufacturer Accurate Miniatures
Subject Grumman F3F-1 Scale 1/48
Kit Number 3413 Primary Media Styrene, Photo Etch
Pros Very easy build, beautiful detail Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $34.98

First Look


As naval aviation was getting more firmly established in the 1930s, the Grumman company was already establishing itself as the builder of Navy fighters. From the original FF-1 to the F-14D Tomcat, with names like Wildcat, Hellcat, Tigercat, Panther, Cougar, and Tiger distributed in-between, the Grumman Corporation became synonymous with Naval Aviation.

In the mid-1930s, aviation in general was in transition from biplanes to monoplanes, and from fabric-covered structures to metal-skin. Engine technology was also rapidly evolving, with twice the horsepower available than 10 years earlier. In the area of engine technology, there were also two schools of thought. Liquid-cooled V-blocked engines, and air-cooled radial engines. While the USAAC was favoring liquid-cooled engines, the Navy stayed with radial engine technology, as radial engines withstood battle damage better than their liquid-cooled counterparts, and were lighter without all of the associated radiators, plumbing and coolant.

The F3F-1 was the natural outgrowth of the FF-1 and F2F series of fighters.The F3F incorporated lessons learned from the earlier series: improved retractabe landing gear, stretched fuselage for greater stability, and greater fuselage diameter to house the Pratt & Whitney R1535 twin-row radial engine turning a three-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller.

First flown in March 1935, the XF3F-1 encountered a number of problems that resulted in the loss of the first two prototypes. These problems were worked out and the first operational aircraft entered the fleet in January 1936. A total of 34 F3F-1s were produced, and even as these aircraftwere being built, further refinements were already underway that would lead to the F3F-2, F3F-3 and the beginning of the F4F Wildcat.

While never seeing combat, the F3F series was responsible for training the generation of pilots that would later lead combat squadrons into the Second World War. In the air, the F3F was superior in a dogfight than the F2A Buffalo or the F4F Wildcat. The only way the monoplane pilots could successfully nail an F3F was to hit and run - using the monoplanes' superior speed to advantage. As they would later learn against the A6M Zero, if you tried to turn with the F3F, you would get your tail waxed!

The long anticipated F3F-1 kit has arrived from Accurate Miniatures! If you've never opened an Accurate Miniatures box before, you will be amazed at the attention to detail inside. The parts trees are individually sealed in their own bag (one bag contained two trees). There is a false bottom in the box, which when removed, reveals the protected clear parts, the sealed decal sheet, the sealed photo-etched parts, and the 20-page instruction booklet.

The kit is molded in light grey plastic, with an interesting mix of engraved panel lines on the fuselage mixed with very fine raised rivet detail. The stitching and rib tape are represented on the wings with raised detail. There isn't a spot of flash anywhere, nor are there any pin ejector marks in areas that will be visible. The detail is so fine in this kit that the handholds on the lower wingtips are open, as are the lightening holes on the pilotís seat frame.

The fit of this kit is spot on. If there is any filler required in construction, I'll be very surprised. The transparencies (canopy and instrument panel) are perfectly clear.

As a sidebar to this review, the first 200 examples of the F3F-1 are autographed by the kit designer, Natasha Yushkevich. This is evidently Natasha's first project for Accurate Miniatures, and all I can suggest is that they keep her aboard! This kit is truly a work of art!

F3F-1 If you are as hopeless as I am about detailing your projects, one of your first thoughts is to locate some aftermarket detail sets and decals so you can do your own unique machine. When you look at this kit, there is nothing that you'll ever need from the aftermarket world. The photo-etch sets provide engine ignition wiring, seatbelt, and RIGGING! If you've feared having to rig a biplane in the past, fear no more. The rigging is all photo-etched parts that literally drop into place. This technique will no-doubt ripple throughout the biplane kit community. Also included are your choice of round or weighted tires!

F3F-1 The decal sheet is another blow to the aftermarket world. There are enough markings on this decal sheet to do any of the F3F-1s that ever flew, and any USN or USMC squadron that flew them. If you are planning to build any other pre-WW2 Naval aircraft in 1/48, the decal sheet alone is a must-have!

This kit is a welcome addition to the workbench. As with every Accurate Miniatures kit that has preceded the F3F, this kit raises the industry standards for kit quality. And in keeping with Accurate Miniatures subject philosophy, this kit fills a major void in the 1/48 fighter line-up. Ifyou build post-WWI US Navy biplanes, this kit will look great parked next to the Classic Airframes F4B, F11C and SBC kits. If you've been reluctant to tackle any sort of biplane before because of rigging phobia, this kitis for you!

The dry-spell from Accurate Miniatures is over, and we are in for a fantastic year! Following this kit will be the F3F-2 and three B-25s in 1/48, as well as a 1/72 Il-2 Shturmovik. And those are just the kits they had on display at Chicago. I can't wait to see what comes next!

Thanks to Accurate Miniatures for this review sample!