F6F-3 Hellcat

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Kit Manufacturer
Out of Box (OOB) or Modified
Rating (1-10 10=best)
F6F-3 Hellcat Otaki/Arii
8 1/2

The F6F Hellcat was a further evolution of Grumman's successful line of Naval fighters. While the Wildcat held the line in the Atlantic and the Pacific, its bigger brother with a new R-2800 engine was undergoing testing. When introduced, it not only proved to be bigger, more powerful, and tougher than the durable Wildcat, but gained a reputation as an "Ace maker" due to its wonderful handling characteristics and powerful armament (of 6 .50cal machine guns.)

Arii makes a nice little kit of the Hellcat. Released years ago by Otaki, it set the standard for many years, eclipsing Monogram's Hellcat (with raised panel lines, and accuracy sacrificed for the then-standard "features" of rotating wheels, retractable landing gear, and folding wings.) Hasegawa's current offering surpasses the Arii, but at more than twice the cost, and not by all that much detail-wise. Arii's kit features nicely recessed panel lines, a clear canopy, a workable (though not highly detailed) interior (which can be rectified by a resin detail set) and with small exceptions very nice fit. It includes decals for one aircraft, and (this is something I have yet to figure the logic behind) a color sheet with two *other* aircraft (a later US Navy aircraft, and one from the Fleet Air Arm.) Decals for these are not included. (As a side note, they did the same thing with their Spitfire VIII kit.)

The molds are showing a little bit of age, with some slight alignment problems between them shown on a few items in my sample (the pitot tube being the worst.) Overall, fit and assembly is quite nice, with only a thin gap on the bottom of the fuselage and the bottom of the wing joins needing any attention from putty. The wings themselves were slightly misaligned - the gun ports in the front lined up, so I'm not sure what happened here, but the lower edge of the wingtip stuck out about 1/16 of an inch - just as far as the wing bottom stuck back from the area of the fuselage where it meets up. But yet, the panel lines lined up...

There are not many problem points in this kit. On my sample, there was a ridge on the back of one side of the area that the horizontal stabilizer meets the fuselage. A little sanding work took care of it, but there seems to be some stress showing in the plastic. A bit of trimming took care of that, for now, but the problem *is* there. ALso, for you detail hounds, the area right behind the cockpit is completely empty - the "quarter windows" will let you look into the big, empty fuselage. I'm not sure, but I believe there's supposed to be some radio equipment back there. I'd scratchbuild it, but A. I don't have pictures of the area, and B. I'm just building this for my own enjoyment. The resin detail sets may address this area. Some may also be put off by the engine face, instead of having a "full" engine. It actually doesn't look half bad, and after all, it *is* buried in the cowl.

Before it sounds like a kit you should avoid - trust me, it's not. The assemblies go together beautifully - I didn't need any putty on top or through most of the fuselage, or on the wing (again, outside of the join.) And the fabric covered control surfaces are very nicely done. Looking at the plastic, they come off as being a little more "satin" than the surrounding areas, not overly heavy.

Assembly is really quite easy - close to Hasegawa in simplicity and fit. The cockpit (with sidewall 'panels') can be a little fiddly, but gets together nicely. The detail hounds that want to replace it with a resin cockpit won't mind, and the detail's not easily seen given its positioning, so even with the (nicely clear) canopy closed it'll do fine. THe parts come together quite positively, no fiddling around is needed (again, save for the underside of the wing and smaller points mentioned earlier.)

One fit point did come up, and that's with the cockpit canopy. The canopy ended up a bit off center, no matter how I massaged it to fit. It's not bad, but it does need to be paid attention to. Some clear plastic, clear cement, or something similar can be used to build the area up.

PAINTING. This has one thing many modellers hate - a large area of white to be painted. I used two different brands of paint - Gunze Sangyo Aqueous for the white underside (and landing gear legs, doors, and the like,) and Model Master Acryl for the intermediate and dark sea blue areas of camoflage up top. Given time for the Gunze to dry, all the paints work well together. Gunze's white paint goes on very nicely and covers well. I free-sprayed the camoflage with an Aztek 470 airbrush. The propeller hub was finished with Rub ' n Buff on a paper towl, then the blades were painted with Testors black.

WEATHERING. I didn't do much - exhaust staining with pastels, which sort of hides the "dip" in the dark sea blue top camoflage more than I'd anticipated. Some staining was done on the underside of the wing aft of the gun barrels.

DECALS. I can't say much on these - an oil of some sort had managed to get onto the decal sheet, which prevented one of the national insignia from coming off. Fortunately, it was the first one I tried. The red borders on the kit supplied insignia seem a little off, and a little thick. These were replaced with Microscale blue bordered insignia (the red borders didn't last long anyway.) The biggest problem came with the (kit supplied) "00" numerals, and made me glad I'd used aftermarket decals. The white 00 seems somewhat translucent - a problem with several white decals. The Microscale decals didn't have this problem. Still, with a mix between the two, it doesn't look that bad.

Final impressions? There are some minor, but not catastrophic, fit problems. For the price, you get a decent kit that seems accurate in overall appearance. It doesn't fall together like a modern Hasegawa kit, but it doesn't take much work to get a very decent looking replica. Add some nice Microscale or Aeromaster aftermarket decals, and you've got a great model of the early F6F-3 Hellcat.