Build Report: Hobbyboss 1/48 Hellcat Mk. I (F6F-3)

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I’m not a huge fan of building radial-engined subjects, preferring inline engine builds instead for the most part. However, if I had to pick my favorite radial-engined kit to build, without a doubt it would be the Hellcat. I’m not sure why, really, just something about the look of the airplane always made an impression on me. And of course, my favorite naval scheme is anything in World War II Fleet Air Arm colors, so this Hellcat Mk. I really fit the bill.

I picked the kit up at Hill Country Hobby on a recent trip to San Antonio, Texas. It’s a great shop, and I highly recommend it if you are in the area. It’s a full service hobby shop with plenty of everything a modeler needs. Be sure to check out its consignment section, too.

Picking up any Hobbyboss kit is always a bit of a gamble. On the one had, you can generally be sure of a good fit, ease of assembly, and nicely cast detail. However, you never know if the engineering team down on Yuxing Road are going to be on their “A” game in terms of detail and accuracy.

The kit itself is very nice in the box. The casting and detail is top notch, with virtually no flash. The recessed panel lines are sharp and well defined, and not too large to be a problem, or too petite to be useless. I didn’t line up any parts with scale drawings, but overall it looks like a Hellcat. The one glaring knock on the kit that I did later read about was how wide the cockpit opening is. More on that later.

The cockpit is a fairly detailed sub-assembly, and looks busy enough when completed. I did add some Eduard belts to the seat to liven that up a bit. The cockpit slots neatly into the fuselage halves.

The kit features a lot of “Schr√∂dinger” parts, especially between the forward cockpit firewall and the aft firewall of the engine compartment. These can in no way be seen on the final product (unless you open that area up), so I simply left them out. (Or did I? Hmmm….) While the instructions make it appear that the engine must be mounted on them, it’s ¬†not the case at all, and the engine simply mounts to the front of the fuselage, and the cowl fits over it.

The fuselage halves went together nicely, with only a touch of filler needed to hide the seams.

The wings are broken down so that they can be modeled folded up. If you want to build them in flight position, you have to put all the parts together. The fit was decent- not perfect, but decent. Pay close attention to what part goes where, and test fit a few times. Hobbyboss did a good job of “busying” up the wing fold/wheel well area, but it means you’ll face a touch of fiddliness in assembly.

The engine is detailed enough for an out of box build, though if you are a radial aficionado, you’ll probably want to liven it up a bit with wiring, etc. Being more of an OOB builder, I simply painted it up, drybrushed it, stuck it on the front mount and slapped the cowling on.

With the airframe fully assembled, I started the process of painting.

I’m not sure why I like the FAA colors so much, but I do. The combination of colors really appeals to me. Aside from the wonderful MTO scheme, the FAA colors are my favorite of the wartime British markings.

I’d read on the interwebs that Grumman used “close equivalents” for the FAA colors, and that same source identified Olive Drab and Dark Gray as close enough. Not being one who needs much justification for using a color, and having those colors from Tamiya on hand, I declared my research “good enough” and moved on. (The thought of color conscious modelers fainting right now makes me smile. LOL)

The undersides were given a coat of Tamiya XF-21 Sky, and then that was masked off and XF-61 Olive Drab was applied in place of Dark Slate Gray. Next, Tamiya XF-54 or XF-63 was added for the Extra Dark Sea Gray- to be honest I can’t recall which I used. It was gray and dark, I do know that. With that on, dots of oil were added and streaked across the surfaces to provide some initial weathering. A Prismacolor silver pencil was used for the paint chipping, and then a gloss coat of Future.

The kit decals work very nicely, but the red is a bit bright. I went on with them anyway. I had noticed that other aircraft from the same squadron seemed to have their large and small side letter reversed, so figuring Hobbyboss didn’t do their research, I swapped them around. Of course, you know the rest of the story…. not long after that, I found a photo that showed that the Hobbyboss way was correct… and now I had them backwards.

Oh well….

After the decals came an oil wash, post fading and shading with my airbrush, and finally adding the fiddly bits. One note on the antenna- if you want the canopy open, you’ll need to relocate the antenna opening in the fuselage’s spine a bit aft.

Speaking of the cockpit opening….

It’s far too large. Too wide, to be precise. Unless, of course, Grumman produced an F6F-3W, as in Wide for those plus sized pilots who had a bit too much to eat. I measured it against an Eduard Hellcat. And while I don’t know that Eduard’s is correct (though I bet it is), the Hobbyboss cockpit opening is about 8-10 scale inches too big, and the fuselage is off about an equal amount. Of course, apart from the visual aspect of it, it throws a all of the other proportions a bit off. (I bet that seat is waaay to wide also…)

Now, to be fair, at three feet it looks fine, especially if you don’t know about the issue. So if that’s not something which bothers you, build away. Of course, if seeing that would drive you batty, you probably would want to opt for the Eduard or Hasegawa kit.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad build by any stretch. It went together well, and looks pretty cool when finished in these colors. It is disappointing that Hobbyboss (and Trumpeter) won’t spend a wee bit more time in their designing stage to simply make sure some basic measurements and shapes are correct.

I have learned my lesson. I’ll gladly build any Hobbyboss kit- as long as there isn’t an affordable option elsewhere. As in the case of this kit- a Weekend Edition of the Eduard kit would have been cheaper, simpler and more accurate. But to be honest, I sort of knew that going in.

But those colors….. the box top art got me. Warts and all.