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Build Report: Hobbyboss’ 1/48 F4F-4 Wildcat

Every now and then I’ll build something other than a Spitfire or P-40. 🙂 When one of Squardon’s catalogs a few months back had Hobbyboss’ 1/48 F4F-4 on sale for $7.00, I figured that was a good enough reason to build one of Grumman’s stubby little fighters.

Though this was not my first Hobbyboss kit, it was the first one from that manufacturer in 1/48 scale. All of the others I’d built were from their 1/72 scale line of WWII fighters, which had always impressed me with their ease of assembly and nice detailing.

Of course, the first question anyone asks me is “how does it compare to the Tamiya Wildcat?” Well, to be honest, I’m not sure- I’ve not built the Tamiya kit. I’ve looked at the sprues, and my recollection was that it was typical of Tamiya- very nice. The only advice I can give in regard to the Tamiya versus Hobbyboss kit is based on price and version. While Tamiya produces an F4F-4, Hobbyboss has the F4F-4, F4F-3 (in yellow wing and wartime markings), FM-1 and FM-2. While I am certainly no expert in the differences, Hobbyboss gets the nod if you are looking for a something besides the -4 model. The Tamiya kit, based on Squadron’s regular pricing, is a little bit cheaper, but of course, I got mine for $7!

Looking over the sprues for the 1/48 Wildcat, I was thoroughly impressed. All the parts were well cast, with sharp panel lines, virtually no flash, and crisp detailing. The instructions were clear and logical. It fit what I call my “perfect profile”: parts count in the 60-70 range, no fiddly p/e parts, well detailed and reasonably priced.

Assembly was simple and straight-forward, with one minor exception, which I’ll get to.

The cockpit assembly consists of several parts that comprise a nice looking unit. The floor has the “cut-outs” that some folks note is missing on the Tamiya kit. The detailing is nicely busy, with all sorts of knobs and gadgets to give a good representation of the interior. I didn’t check it against any photos, I just painted it how I wanted, which I think is more fun any way. 🙂 Once assembled, it makes a nice, sturdy little unit.

One of the “lovable” features of the Wildcat was it’s odd landing gear arrangement. Retracting into the fuselage, the gear was an assortment of struts and tubes and gizmos that present a challenge for manufacturers I’m sure, let alone modelers. Hobbyboss did a fine job of recreating the arrangement, base don looking over photos I took of a Wildcat in a museum. But assembly was a bit “fiddly”. Not difficult, and it all fit, but you definitely will want to test fit quite a few times before you commit any of it to glue. And the gear slips into a further assembly of tubing, etc., all mounted in a lower fuselage piece just forward of the cockpit. I ended up leaving the gear off until after painting. the only thing I would have changed, in looking back, would have been to test fit slipping the gear in before closing up the fuselage, so that I could make a few minor cuts and sandings to make sure it fit right. In the end, it all went in without too much trouble, but you will want to proceed carefully.

One note- I’d suggest gluing the landing gear doors on after you have the landing gear fully in place, with all it’s associated parts.

After getting the fuselage/gear bay assembled in the lower fuselage tub, it’s all mated to the upper fuselage halves. The fit is pretty good, with only a few swipes of a sanding stick to remove the the “glue burr” left behind by Tamiya cement. Again- test fit first!

Aside from the gear area, the rest of the assembly is almost too simple- it all just goes together. The engine looks nice and has a fairly logical assembly sequence. it’s reasonably detailed out of the box, and for folks who like going the extra mile, I’m sure it could really look nice.

The kit comes with two marking options. One is a training bird in the tri-color scheme. The other is Marion Carl’s blue/grey Guadalcanal bird, which is the scheme I chose. The decals are very good, with carrier film cut so close you actually have to use great care. For example, there are small numeral 2’s on the upper wings. Most decals have the  number against a square piece of carrier films. These decals, though, have the carrier film follow the outline of the decal- a nice touch. But it does mean they must be handled with care to avoid folding. (Ask me how I know this….;) )

For paints I used Pollyscale, USN light gray and USN blue/grey. Once I painted the the basic colors, I began weathering with oils and a silver pencil. I tried to simulate the variations in shading with white and burnt umber oils, applying random splotches all over the aircraft. I then blended them together with a diluted spray of the base colors. I thought this worked pretty well. I’d seen forum member Steve Budd (Dances with Wolves) do this in most excellent fashion on a Spitfire Mk. V he is working on, and I tried to replicate his efforts. I must say, I fell far short of his example, but I was pleased anyway with the final result.

Once the painting was done, all the fiddly bits were installed, and I called it done.

This was definitely a fun build. The Wildcat is a great little fighter with a neat history, and it’s nice to have it on the shelf. I’d recommend this kit to any modeler.