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Trumpeter 1/32 F4F-3 Wildcat (Early) Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2007 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat (Early) Scale 1/32
Kit Number 2255 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Excellent detailing throughout Cons
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $69.95

First Look


The Grumman F4F Wildcat was the monoplane derivative of the F3F series. Designed around the standing carrier operations requirement, the F4F provided additional firepower, greater horsepower, and less lift as it lost the upper and lower wings of the F3F in favor of a fixed mid-wing configuration.

In keeping with the F3F legacy, all versions of the F4F retained the non-folding wing until the advent of the F4F-4 and General Motors-derivative FM series. The F4F-3 was the principal carrier fighter in the early days of World War II. It was initially considered inferior to the Japanese Zero until experience showed that what the F4F lacked in maneuverability, it more than made up for in firepower and the ability to take punishment. The F4F-3 was armed with four 50 caliber machine guns and a good ammo supply. These aircraft were lighter and more maneuverable than the later F4F-4s, but their fixed wings took up too much valuable deck space aboard the carriers.

When the F4F-3 entered production, it was supposed to be powered by the R1830-PW-76 engine equipped with a two-stage supercharger, but that engine was still having teething problems and Grumman was forced to power the initial block of F4F-3s with the -90 version of the engine. While the engine had a higher dash number, it produced less power. From an engineering point of view, less power also equates to less heat (usually) and the visible differences between the early and late versions of the F4F-3 were the smaller cowl flaps for engine cooling and a carburetor air scoop atop the cowling on the early version.

Here is the third installment in the Wildcat series from Trumpeter. The first, the F4F-4 was the first off the kit production line and reviewed here. This was followed up a little over a year later by the F4F-3 (Late) release (reviewed here). Now we have the early variant of the F4F-3 in this box and is truly an excellent 'yellow wing' subject.

Parts-wise, this kit shares most of the trees with the late variant F4F-3 release, but you'll see from the sprue shots a mold gate change for the different cowl flaps and an all-new cowling, also molded in clear as with the previous releases.

The kit is molded in standard Trumpeter light gray styrene and features the usual outstanding scribed details throughout the exterior surfaces of the kit. As usual with new Trumpeter releases, none of the parts trees have any residual molding flash. According to the specs, there are 267 parts in this kit among the six gray parts trees and the single tree of clear parts. As with the previous release of the Wildcat, this too has the photo-etched flight control hinges. The main gear and tail wheel tires are rubber.

The cockpit is nicely done, though as with the previous release, you'll need to go to aftermarket (Eduard) for seat belts. The engine compartment is still a work of art.

As with the previous release, this kit has the option of displaying the ammo and gun access panels open. Ammo trays are included.

Markings are provided for two examples:

  • F4F-3, BuNo 1850, VF-41, 41-F-4, USS Ranger, 1941
  • F4F-3, BuNo 1876, VF-72, 72-F-12, USS Wasp, 1941

Both aircraft are still wearing their pre-war identification colors with national markings in their 'neutrality patrol' configurations.

This is a another beautiful kit of the F4F-3 and I certainly hope that Trumpeter will consider adding additional parts in future releases to render the FM-2.

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!