Eduard 1/72 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Weekend Edition (7457), In-Box Review and History

Czech company Eduard began producing kits back in 1995, though they’re probably best-known for their photo-etch and detail add-ons for existing kits. They now offer a range of injection moulded 1/72 aircraft kits covering subjects from World War One and Two as well as post-war jets. Many of their kits come in two editions, Profipack and Weekend.

The Profipack Edition kits include lots of PE parts (often coloured) as well as cockpit masks. The Weekend Edition kits (which are notably cheaper) contain the same injection moulded parts but lack the PE and masks and often have more limited decal options. From the late 1990s, the company switched to using a computer controlled high pressure injection moulding approach called LTM which ensures that their kits have surface detail that’s said to be right up there with the best.

This kit was released in 2011 in both Weekend and Profipack editions (though even if you go for the Weekend Edition, you can still buy the PE and cockpit masks separately). As regular readers will know, I do like a bargain and when I saw the Weekend Edition of this kit on sale for just over €8, well, how could I resist?

But it wasn’t just my natural Scottish parsimony that prompted this purchase (well, not entirely…). I don’t really care for tiny PE parts and the F6F canopy looks pretty simple to paint, so I was very happy to go for this edition just to find out whether Eduard mouldings really are as good as people say. I’ll take a look at the kit in a moment, but first, let’s briefly remind ourselves of the history of the pretty wonderful F6F.

History

When the United States found itself at war with the Japanese Empire in December 1941, it’s main navy fighter was the Grumman F4F Wildcat. The F4F was pretty good, but it had a major problem: the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. The A6M proved to be a better aircraft than the Americans (or anyone else) had anticipated, and it was clear that US Navy pilots would need something faster, able to climb more quickly and more manouvrable if they were to be able to fight the Zero on equal terms.

F4F-4 Wildcats on Guadalcanal in 1942.

Chance Vought were already working on just such a fighter, the mighty F4U Corsair. But development of the F4U was taking longer than expected due to a number of issues including limited visibility and awkward spin recovery. Grumman were also already working on a successor to the Wildcat, the F6F Hellcat. This was similar to the Wildcat in general appearance, but replaced that aircraft’s narrow, hand-cranked undercarriage with wider, twin-leg hydraulically operated gear that rotated through 90˚ before retracting to the rear.

A rather battered F6F-3 in an unusual variant of the three-colour scheme on the Solomon Islands in 1943.

In the first prototype, the F6F-1, this aircraft was fitted with the 1,700hp Wright R-2600 Twin Cyclone 14-cylinder radial engine. It wasn’t bad, but then someone had the bright idea of installing the 2,000hp, 18-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine that was also used in the F4U and the P-47 Thunderbolt. In this form, as the F6F-3, the Hellcat had the performance and the manouvrability to take on the Zero.

A colour wartime image showing a pair of F6F-3s in the three-colour scheme introduced in 1943.

The F6F-3 was formally adopted by the US Navy in 1942, though it was still regarded as an interim solution only to be used until the F4U was available in numbers. It entered service with the USN in early 1943 and over 12,000 were built. In total, F6Fs destroyed over 5,000 enemy aircraft, achieving a 19:1 kill ratio and accounting for 75% of all enemy aircraft destroyed by the USN in World War Two – not bad for an interim design! Late model F6F-3s were adapted to carry rockets and bombs and the only major variant, the F6F-5, differed only in having a slightly more powerful engine, more armour and a strengthened airframe. This was truly the fighter that won the Pacific Air War. 

What’s in the Box?

In the top-opening box, you’ll find three spues moulded in fairly dark grey plastic, one transparent sprue, two decal sheets and a full-colour booklet with instructions and painting guides.

On  examining the main sprues, one thing that stands out is the sheer quality of the surface detail. The outer skin of the F6F fuselage was constructed from lapped panels, and these are very nicely replicated here.

The engraved panel lines and rivets are also beautifully done without being overdone. My only concern is that brush painting may tend to fill this detail in – very thin coats will be required.

Cockpit interior detail also looks very nicely done. The instrument panel is supplied in two versions – one with flat surfaces for use with the supplied decals and one in 3-D if you prefer to paint the panels.

Even the mainwheel tyres come in two versions – one with tread and one without.

The single, circular transparent sprue also looks good.

Two alternate windscreens are provided (though I believe the one on the right is probably appropriate for an F6F-3).

There are also two versions of the separate sliding portion of the canopy, with a thinner alternate that can be shown in the open position.

There are two decal sheets. One includes national markings, other main external markings, harnesses and instrument panel decals. The anti-slip panels used on the wings on two of the colour schemes are also included.

The other decal sheet includes a plethora of tiny stencils.

The instructions seem very clear and include colour images showing four different schemes. All feature variations on the three-colour scheme with Sea Blue on the upper fuselage and the tops of the wings and tail planes and Ensign White (an off-white/very light grey) on the undersides. These are separated by a band of Intermediate Blue. All the colour scheme images are well done, detailed and each includes a short history of the particular aircraft depicted.

Would You Want One?

Yes. If you want to build an F6F in 1/72 scale, I’m really not sure you could do better. This doesn’t cost a great deal (even when it’s not on special offer, you can generally find this Weekend Edition for south of €12), the surface detail is exquisite and the detail in areas like the cockpit, engine and undercarriage looks very good. I’m not aware of any accuracy issues (for example, the distinctive cowl and chin intake of the F6F, a problem in many other kits of this aircraft, is done very nicely here) and the decals and painting guides look very detailed. I’m not sure what else you could ask for from any aircraft kit in this scale. And, IMHO, don’t think that the Weekend Edition is somehow second-best – you still get the same outstanding moulding, I really don’t feel that cockpit masks are essential here and you don’t have to faff about with tiny bits of PE.

Is this the perfect F6F in 1/72? Well, you can’t show the wings folded as you can on some other F6F kits and the engine cowling cooling gills, flaps and all control surfaces are integral parts and can’t be shown deflected, so perhaps not. But what you do get looks very good indeed.    

If for some reason you don’t fancy this F6F kit (and honestly, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t choose this one…) there are, as you’d guess, plenty of 1/72 alternatives. Oldest of them all is the Airfix F6F-3/5, first released all the way back in 1967. It isn’t terrible but, unsurprisingly, it just isn’t up the standard of more recent kits in terms of detail. Matchbox released a 1/72 Hellcat in 1973, but I don’t know much about this kit and, as far as I’m aware, it’s no longer available and hasn’t been re-boxed by any other company. Hasegawa released a 1/72 F6F-3/5 back in 1980, and it’s a pretty decent kit though the cockpit is fairly simple and the Academy F6F-3/5 released in 1992 is either a re-box of or at least very similar to this Hasegawa offering.

Italeri released a 1/72 F6F-3 in 2001, and this has also been re-boxed by both Revell and Tamiya. This isn’t a bad kit, but it is said to have some minor accuracy issues. Cyber Hobby also released a 1/72 F6F-3 in 2011 and it seems to be a very nice and well-detailed kit and probably the closest in terms of detail and accuracy to this Eduard offering (and it has the option to show the wings folded and separate control surfaces). But it does generally cost more than twice as much as this Weekend Edition…

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Eduard 1/72 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Weekend Edition (7457), Build Review – coming soon

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