Drew Hatch is back with one of the most talked about kits to come out recently, Eduard’s 1/48 F6F-3 Hellcat. It’s been the talk of many a message board. I guess it proves any publicity is good publicity, because as far as I can tell, it’s flying off the shelves like…. well like Hellcats off a carrier deck! Let’s see what Drew has to say, now that’s he’s held the plastic in his hands, and see how he judges it!
When Eduard announced they were releasing a new tooled 1/48 scale kit of the Hellcat, a collective ‘thump’ was heard over the modeling community. That “thump” was all the Hasegawa kits we had going back on the shelves. The anticipation was severe, as were our expectations for this kit following on the heels of their Me-110 series. Let me say, I’m not disappointed!
On June 30 1941, the US department of defense placed a contract for two prototypes –the XF6F-1. Working from the companies successful F4F wildcat, they set out to best themselves with the design. The aircraft first took to the air just less than a year later, June 26 1942. This first Hellcat was fitted with the Wright R2600-16 engine producing 1600 horsepower turning a Curtiss Electric three blade propeller. This was quickly changed in favor of the Pratt and Whitney R2800-10 producing 2000 horsepower and was fitted with a Hamilton Standard propeller. This was the most significant change to the initial design as it affected the entire aircraft. Grumman was notorious for keeping its designs simple and not changing the original design. The Hellcat was the least changed fighter design that served in WWII with only two operational variants produced. The first production Hellcat entered squadron service in March 1943. The rest, as they say, is history!
Over 12,000 Hellcats were produced with only 270 lost to enemy aircraft while claiming over 5100 kills. It was the highest scoring fighter of the war. The Hellcat carved its name in history during a fighter sweep over the Island of Truck in the central pacific. The Hellcat and its pilots were credited with shooting down over 100 enemy aircraft with a loss of only four Hellcats. The Hellcat further raised its status during the “Marianas Turkey Shoot” with Hellcat pilots downing over 350 enemy aircraft. At the war’s end, the Hellcat and its pilots held an astounding 19:1 kill to loss ratio.
Eduard’s new kit comes in with a bang. It has all the bells and whistles one could ask for. Molded in Eduards standard of gray/green plastic, I have found no sink marks, flash or molding flaws. Weighing in with 123 parts, 82 etch on two frets (one in color), a set of canopy and wheel masks and a gorgeous five color option decal sheet beautifully printed by Cartograph of Italy. Some of the highlights in the kit are the separate control surfaces including flaps, ailerons, elevators and rudder. The engine cylinders have excellent detail and will look great with the etched wiring harness installed and placards on the crankcase.
Three different cowls are included incorporating the different cowl flap and exhaust blister combinations found on the various production blocks (great idea by Eduard to silence the rivet counters!) (I guess it’ll take more than that to silence them, based on the buzz…. yet still they buy it…. hmmmm…. Ed.) Stores options include the distinctive Hellcat centre line drop tank and two sizes of bombs for the wing pylons. However there is no provision for rockets in this kit. A feature that I hope is changed for their release of the British Hellcat Mk I / Mk II forthcoming.
The highlight of the kit is the (technically correct!) lap jointed fuselage. At first glance the fuselage appears to have recessed panel lines indicative of every other kit. Not so on this Hellcat. The ‘steps’ are very slight and were almost impossible for me to measure with my dial caliper measuring in at apx .002 thick. Although I bet some will undoubtedly say: “It’s not to scale!” and go running and screaming in terror into the cyber world, I think the effect is subtle, well executed and will look excellent once painted. Another great touch is the inclusion of two instrument panels. One blank for the color etch and one detailed should you decide to paint your own.
There are a couple of things that stand out immediately with this kit. First are the wing and horizontal stabilizer attachment points. Both fit into recesses in the fuselage. There are vertical supports molded onto the centers ensuring the correct spacing, but leaving me with a question of strength and alignment. Only time will tell if there is a problem here or not. A colleague questioned me about the shape of the fuselage just aft of the cockpit, indicating there may be a ‘bulge’ affecting the overall shape. I looked at my references, which have a cross section of that area. Looking down the kit fuselage, I eyeballed it over and could not find any erroneous errors. It looked correct to me. The separate wheel hubs are always a great touch, except in this kit, the hubs have to be installed from inside the wheels before assembly.
Eduard has once again produced the instructions in their now standard magazine style incorporating a brief history, parts map, 7 page assembly sequence and six pages of color profiles and marking guide. All the decal options included in this kit are tri-colored carrier based aircraft.
Eduard’s Hellcat is the real deal. You get more than what you pay for. I’m eager to start this kit (as I am all my new acquisitions) and hope to keep it on the top of the to do list long enough to start building it.
Drew Hatch has been an avid modeler since he was a teenager. Taking a modeling hiatus while flying in the Canadian Armed Forces, he picked it up again when he met his wife. They’ve been married ten wonderful years. Drew’s interests are naval and Canadian aviation, with an emphasis on the Pacific War. (Along with the slight detour into N. Africa during WWII.)