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Monogram 1/32 Grumman F3F-3 Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review March 2017 Manufacturer Monogram
Subject Grumman F3F-3 Scale 1/32
Kit Number 5835 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Classic kit Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look


Grumman entered the naval fighter business with the FF and the F2F biplanes. The F3F was a further improvement of the series featuring a longer fuselage and greater wing area to counter problems discovered in the F2F. While the F3F-1 was entering production, the US Navy was already looking ahead. They issued a contract to Grumman to integrate the supercharged Wright R-1820 Cyclone engine onto the F3F airframe. This required a complete redesign from the firewall forward, but the result became the F3F-2. The new engine raised available power to 950 hp, and while it only represented a 25 mph increase in airspeed, it raised the service ceiling to over 30,000 feet. The F3F-3 was almost identical to the F3F-2 save an uprated version of the R-1820 engine. If you'll look carefully, the silhouette of the F3F-3 continued into the F4F Wildcat but replaced its biplane wings with a mid-fuselage-mounted monoplane wing.

We've recently looked at four classic between-the-wars 1/32 kits from Hasegawa which provide a nice cross-section of subjects including the BF-2C, P-12E, P-26, and F4B-4. Two other kits are out there to round out the early fighters including the Williams Brothers 1/32 F11C Goshawk and this classic kit from Monogram - the 1/32 Grumman F3F-3. I remember this kit in the mid-1960s blue box and how easily it assembled (especially if you didn't rig the airframe) and its distinctive working features. The blue box kit was already a reissue but I wasn't old enough to appreciate 'complex' kits until the mid-1960s.

Remember the Phantom Mustang? This was another 1/32 scale classic that featured motorized landing gear and propeller that worked by push-buttons on the display stand as well as mechanical toggles for the underwing bombs. All of this was housed in a clear airframe that let you see some simplified details of the aircraft inside. Monogram had engineered some great kits in those days that captured the imagination and inspired me to get my pilot's license.

The F3F-3 was another of those fascinating kits as it also had some working features like a movable propeller that you could pull out to engage the gear mechanism inside and you could raise and lower the landing gear depending on which way you turned the propeller. The kit also featured a sliding canopy and movable elevators. The kit was originally released in 1960 as the Grumman Gulfhawk (kit PA58) which is now a collector's item. Fortunately, Monogram had periodically reissued this kit into the 1970s and the combined Revell-Monogram reissued it again in 1998 - the edition we're examining here.

The kit is molded in gray styrene and presented five parts trees plus one tree of clear parts. These kits were produced using minimal sprue trees so while this kit was still protected in its shrink-wrap, many of the parts had shaken loose from their trees over time. Nevertheless, you can see that despite its age, this kit does a better job at replicating the look of fabric-covered wings than many contemporary kits and the kit and instructions are designed for ease of rigging as well. If you're considering building the fighters of the 1930s listed above, this would be the best kit to start with to understand the rigging side of the equation.

If you build this kit straight out of the box, you'd have a nice-looking model, but with the variety of information now available in print and online, you can do some detailing in the cockpit and in the cowling to add further fidelity to the project. If you wish to forgo the working landing gear, you can also apply some attention here as well.

Markings are provided for four options:

  • F3F-3, 1445, VF-5, 5-F-1, USS Yorktown, 1939
  • F3F-3, 1451, VF-6, 6-F-15, USS Enterprise, 1940
  • F3F-3, 1446, VF-5, 5-F-2, USS Yorktown, 1939
  • F3F-3, 1447, VF-6, 5-F-3, USS Yorktown, 1939

Note that while the kit was originally released as the Gulfhawk, Monogram did replace the cowling to depict the F3F-3 but the upper wing span remained the same as the Gulfhawk. You'll need to make the wingspan 32 scale feet and you'll also need to revise the cockpit as well. The kit retains the DF loop behind the pilot's head as fitted to the Gulfhawk but the F3F-3 has a headrest there instead. You can use the virtual cockpit tour of the F3F at the National Museum of Naval Aviation to get other details that will need to be scratchbuilt.

This kit provides another subject in the 1/32 scale 1930s fighter fleet and the era of the yellow wings. If you're not a yellow-wing modeler, remember that the F3F-3 remained in service during the first years of World War II wearing the blue over gray camouflage as it served as a training and liaison aircraft stateside.

I built one of these out of the blue box when I was in my teens and had kits off and on in my collection over the years, but now it is time to see what can be done with this kit and some better skills acquired since that first time.