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Here’s my latest effort, Eduard’s 1:48 scale F6F-5 Hellcat ‘Weekend Edition’ (which, ironically, took me six months to complete.) The Eduard series of 1:48 scale Hellcats were hailed as the best in scale when they were released in 2008. They are great kits, but after building one, I’m not convinced it’s the best. The kit features excellent surface detail and good-to-average parts fit. The wings and horizontal stabilizers are basically butt-joined to the fuselage, leading to some gaps along the left wing root, which I filled with Mr Surfacer 500. It also makes getting the correct dihedral a challenge. The kit has separate flaps and control surfaces, but has no provision to display them in any position but neutral. This just complicates the build, and creates extra seams that have to be filled and sanded. The Weekend Edition doesn’t have the photo-etched and resin parts that come in the standard kits. To dress up the cockpit, I bought a photo-etched cockpit set from Eduard, a replacement seat from Ultracast, and painted the cockpit Tamiya NATO green. Not technically the correct color, but it looks good to my eye. New wheels came from Ultracast, too, since the kit wheels are way too thin. In photos, you often see Hellcats in the overall gloss sea blue scheme with aluminum or even white wheel hubs, so to add a bit of color, I painted the hubs Model Master Metalizer Titanium, to give a weathered and oxidized metal effect. Unlike Hasegawa Hellcats, The Eduard kits come with two canopies, one designed to fit open, and another for a closed canopy – something all kit makers should do. The engine is good, but needs a wiring harness, which I added from thin copper wire. The kit prop is really poor, with soft or missing details, and blades that are too wide at the base. I replaced it with the excellent prop from an old Arii Hellcat. The drop tank in the Weekend Edition is poor as well, with no representation of the prominent vertical or horizontal seam, and without the bracing straps provided in the standard kit. The fit of the forward tank brace piece was really bad, needing filling and sanding. I used thin strip styrene to replicate bracing straps and the horizontal seam seen on the early version of the tank. I added a small round photo-etched piece from the spare parts box to represent the fuel tank filler cap. Again to add more color, I painted the tank white. Photos indicate this was seen often, too. You get two sets of HVAR’s – the earlier 2.5 inch rocket with a 5-inch warhead, and the later 5-inch rocket. Both sets are very well detailed, but the mounting pylons are molded with the rockets, and have little detail. I used the later version HVAR’s on my kit, with the warheads painted olive drab, and the rocket bodies painted light grey. I recently switched to acrylics, and boy, did I make a big mistake by not priming this kit before spraying the overall gloss sea blue paint scheme. While the Model Master paint sprayed beautifully once I arrived at the right thinning ratio, the finish was extremely delicate, and the paint would scratch off easily. I spent a few hours re-spraying scratches in the finish. Lesson learned – always use primer! I kept weathering to a minimum, since the aircraft I was modeling had been in combat just a few months. To recreate the ever-present exhaust stains, I used Tamiya Weathering Master sets, made for armor modelers. These powders, applied with a make-up type brush and pad, give me greater control than doing applying stains with an airbrush. I also think it's easier to blend the colors to get the effect you want with these sets. It's hard to see in the photos, but for the antenna wires, I used my wife's hair. I've never had much luck stretching sprue - it always broke, and never looked in scale. To my eye, hair is just right for antenna wires. The Eduard kit decals are outstanding, with walkways and full stenciling, and features a Hellcat from VF-20 deployed aboard USS Enterprise in October of 1944. I wanted something a little more eye-catching, so I chose the flamboyant checkerboard markings of VF-27 deployed aboard USS Independence in the final months of the war. VF-27 was famous for their earlier ‘cat-mouth’ squadron markings that adorned the cowls of their Hellcats. After their carrier, USS Princeton, was sunk, the squadron was sent stateside for a while, then re-deployed aboard USS Independence from June to August of 1945. The checkerboard tail and wing markings came from SuperScale sheet #481239. The checkerboard markings on the sheet are for VF-46, but VF-27 was deployed aboard Independence at the same time and used the same checkerboard carrier ID markings. The only difference was VF-46 used a single small plane number on the tails, and VF-27 used the more common large plane number beneath the cockpit, and also on the upper right wing. My main reference for the markings is an outstanding little booklet, ‘Markings of The Aces, Part 2, U.S. Navy, Book 1, by Richard Hill. It was published by Kookaburra Technical Publications in 1969, and provides a detailed look at the markings and combat record of VF-2, VF-9, VF-17, and VF-27. Once everything was decaled, I airbrushed a coat of Testor semigloss clear coat over the model, which I think has more scale accuracy than a gloss coat. Having built a Hasegawa and Eduard Hellcat back to back now, I can say that neither kit has a big advantage over the other. Both kits have great points, and weak ones, but I think I prefer the Hasegawa Hellcats for overall ease of construction.
Here’s my latest build, hot off the bench – Hasegawa’s 1:48 F6F-5, the “10,000th Hellcat” boxing. The Hasegawa kit can be made into a fine model straight from the box, but I made a few additions and corrections. Good points are excellent parts fit, accurate outline and shapes, finely recessed panel lines, early HVAR’s, and a drop tank. Drawbacks are a canopy that cannot be posed open, average cockpit detail, very basic wheel well detail and off-color decals. Anyone who has built a Hasegawa kit will be familiar with their baffling inability to print the color white on their decal sheets. On an all-blue airplane, the yellow-tinted markings will stand our starkly, so aftermarket decals are a must. Here are some of the corrections and additions I made during construction: I used a True Details cockpit, but soon regretted that decision. The parts fit poorly and threw off the fit of the fuselage, necessitating extra filling and sanding. I used two different Eduard photo-etched sets to add details, including a new instrument panel, rudder pedals, ignition wiring harness, landing gear and gear well details. Once assembled, the cockpit was painted Tamiya acrylic NATO Green. The “grin” of the Hasegawa chin scoop on the cowling is a little off, so I replaced it with a new cowl from Quickboost. Most people will be fine with the kit part, but the resin replacement also features opened cowl flaps, which gives a more animated look to the finished kit. I also added a small section of micro screen to the inside of the chin scoop. I cut away the flaps and replaced them in the lowered position with a CMK resin set. If you do this, you’ll need to scratch-build a well for the flaps, too. The kit machine gun barrels feature holes for cooling vents. They look good, but are incorrect. Gun barrels of F6F’s were in solid metal sleeves. I should have replaced them with styrene rod, but I got lazy and left them alone. For the wingtip navigation lights, I cut away the plastic, and replicated bulbs with small sections of thin styrene rod, painted red and green. I used Micro Krystal Kleer to make lenses for the lights. I made a towing bracket under the tail hook with a small section of wire bent to shape. To display the canopy open, I used a Squadron vac-formed canopy to replace the too-thick kit part, but used the kit windscreen. I painted the simple overall sea blue camouflage (FS #15042) with a Model Master spray can. Warming the can in a sink of warm water helped the paint to spray more evenly. Overall gloss sea blue aircraft can be rather drab, but there are ways to add color to this scheme. It was very common to see overall sea blue Hellcats sporting white drop tanks, holdovers from the previously used tri-color camouflage scheme, so that’s how I painted mine. Also, photos indicate that -5 Hellcats could have either sea blue, aluminum or sometimes white wheels. I painted my wheels Model Master Metalizer Steel, to replicate a weathered and oxidized aluminum look. The rockets were painted Tamiya Medium Grey, with Olive Drab warheads and Steel fuses. I finished the rockets with stencils from an old Pro Modeler decal sheet for US bombs and rockets. Finally, I used strands of my wife’s hair to rig the antenna wire. To recreate the exhaust stains on the fuselage, I used Tamiya Weathering Master sets. These are primarily used to weather tanks and armor models, but work well for aircraft exhaust stains. They are powders in different colors, and applied with a small make-up brush applicator. For the exhaust stains, I used soot, light sand, and rust. I’m not skilled enough with an airbrush to recreate these stains, but the weathering powders look good enough to me. The aircraft I was modeling was new and well-maintained, so I kept additional weathering to a minimum, with just minor paint chipping here and there. The aforementioned kit decals were not pure white, so I made my own geometric wing and tail carrier ID markings from a solid white decal sheet. The numbers, stencils and stars and bars came from various Super Scale sheets. The markings are for an F6F-5 from VBF-87, deployed aboard USS Ticonderoga from May through September of 1945. The squadron entered the war late, but did see combat while making strikes on the Japanese mainland during the final weeks of the war.