1/144 Revell Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat

box art (33.5kB)

Introduction

This Revell Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat is one of a series of old 1/144 scale model kits, some of which recently got re-released as 'Micro Wings' series.

There is a choice of several 1/144 scale Wildcat models: apart from this Revell F4F-4 kit, Bachmann 'Miniplanes' series included a decent 1/140 scale F4F (also released by Hasegawa in the late 90ies) and Sweet did a series of beautiful late-type Wildcat kits.
In 2013 F-Toys included a number of prepainted F4F-4/Martlet IV (the model depicts a Wildcat V) trading models in 'Wing Kit Collection' Vol.10 and Avioni-X made a couple of pre-assembled prepainted die-cast F4F-3 models.
As usual the Sweet kits are in a league of their own but are of the Cyclone powered, tall-tailed FM-2/Wildcat VI type.
The trading models are nice (better detail than the Revell kit but prepainted, showing some seams and F-Toys painted some F4F-4 models in F4F-3 color schemes). Apart from that the trading models have become hard to find by now.

This 'Micro Wings' F4F-4 kit is generally accurate but lacks some details (undercarriage leg details, pitot tube, aerial mast, cockpit details) and has a few raised lines that should be rescribed.
I built one of these Wildcat kits before and converted it to an F4F-3.

Open these 'Micro Wings' boxes very carefully: the canopy is small enough to slip through the safety holes in the polythene bag, so make sure the carpet does not swallow it (smilie :o) ).
After opening the box I put the canopy in a separate small sealable bag.

Shelf Oddity released a set of photo etched upgrade parts for the Sweet FM-2 kit (set SO214410), most of these parts can also be used for an FM-1/F4F-4.

Replacement decals were made by Japanese MYK Design, set A-26 'Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat' and A-224 'F4F-4 Wildcat "Doolittle Raid - Battle of Guadalcanal"' (no longer available), however the decals in the Revell kit are accurate.


Construction

Revell 1/144 F4F-4 parts (44.5kB) shrink marks on F4F-4 cowling (13.1kB) As usual with kits from old patterns, the first thing to do is to carefully trim any flash (at the rear edge of the canopy, along the propeller blades and at the tips of the landing gear wishbones) and fill any shrink marks (in this case a small mark on top of the starboard wing and some marks on the side of the cowling and the port fuselage).
Also plug the hole for the stand using either the tip of the stand or a tapered piece of stretched sprue.
The Revell Micro Wings kit comes with 4-view painting instructions based on accurate scale drawings (apart from the separate propeller drawing which shows uncuffed blades). The scale of the drawings works out to 1/165 so these drawings are too small to be used for checking and correcting shapes.

F4F-4 dimensionsactual
(m)
1/144
(mm)
kit
(mm)
wing span11.5980.480.0
length overall8.8561.560.5
prop diameter
(Curtiss)
2.9720.620.6
track1.9613.613.0
tire width6in1.060.5
wheel+tire diameter26in4.64.6
MLG leg+wheel height loaded
(ground-edge recess)
1.6611.511.0

main landing gear angled 8.5 degrees forward compared to centerline (through prop axle to tip of tail).

All planned modifications to the model:

wings

wing oil coolers drilled open (6.8kB) Only thing that needs to be done to the wings is opening the intakes and exhausts of the oil coolers using a 0.9mm drill bit and a pointy knife to change the holes into a D-shape. Drill at an angle to create a small recess in the wing in front of each intake and behind each exhaust.
For an FM-1 the outermost ejector port in the lower wings needs to be filled.

misaligned wing slot (11.1kB) Do make sure to test fit the wings to the fuselage halves before adding any other parts to the fuselage as the slots are a bit too tight for the mounting tabs. Trim the lower edges of the slots from the inside of the fuselage to make sure the wings can be set at a dihedral of 4.5 degrees.
The slot for the lefthand wing (right on the pictures) is slightly too high up the fuselage. To correct this, cut its lower edge down and attach a piece of thin plasticard to the top of the lefthand wing tab.

corrected wing slot (19.5kB) Carefully trim the front and rear edges of the mounting tabs and the upper and lower edges of the slots to make the wings fit.
After assembling the wings, drill 0.3mm holes for the guns in the leading edges, all holes are 0.15mm above the centerline of the wing.
Add a pitot tube to the port wing.


main landing gear

In the kit the main landing gear consists of a leg and a wishbone on each side, however the actual gear has a more complex setup (that even all 1/72 scale Wildcat kits, apart from the 2015 Airfix kit, fail to represent correctly !).
The angle of the wishbones in the kit is correct for an empty or lightly loaded aircraft.

landing gear wishbones (9.3kB) fuselage with main landing gear wishbones (14.3kB) Start by cleaning up all of the flash that covers the edges of the wishbones on part 7.
The picture on the left shows two sets of landing gear wishbones (pt.7) one with flash (top) and one cleaned up (bottom).

Please note that there is an error in the instructions. For some reason Revell never figured out the proper way to fit the main landing gear.
Granted, it looks like the patterns were modified as there is a pair of ridges on the upper side of pt.7 but there are no matching slots in the lower fuselage. This was already the case with the original Revell release, so I'm not sure Revell is to blame.

The old instructions (kit H-1026) tell you to fit the legs (pts.8) to the wishbones (pt.7) first, then fit the assembled landing gear to the underside of the fuselage, leaving the modeler guessing where on the legs the wishbones should be attached.


fuselage with main landing gear fitted (10.9kB) fuselage with main landing gear fitted according to new instructions (10.3kB) Apart from that, fitting the landing gear to the underside of the fuselage makes the wishbones sit too low (picture on the left), making the wishbones join the legs at the wheel hub, whilst they should join the leg just above the edge of the wheel rim.

The new instructions (kit 04933) are even worse as these tell you to fit the wishbones to the inside of the wheel wells, which does not fit at all (picture on the right).


fuselage, ridge cut away, beam being cut (19.4kB) The proper way to fit the landing gear is to cut away the ridge between the wheel wells and fit the wishbones (pt.7) in its place. With the real thing there is an I-beam to which both pairs of wishbones are attached, the model needs a similar beam to attach the upper wishbones to.
The ridges on pt.7 are 1.0mm apart, the thickness of the large number '26' tab is 1.0mm, so this tab can be used for making the beam.
Sand the top edge of the '26' tab flat and square, then cut a 1.5mm wide strip off of the top of the tab, cut the length of the strip to 5.0mm.


fuselage, beam and pt.7 fitted to fuselage (18.8kB) Sand the rear edge and the points where the beam touches the fuselage so that the angle of the beam with the fuselage centerline is 8.5 degrees.
Drill two 0.8mm holes in the side of the beam at its centerline, one at 1.5mm and one at 3.5mm from the rear edge.
Attach the beam to the fuselage using viscous glue, making sure the beam is centered and properly aligned.

remove these notches (8.7kB) To set the landing gear legs at the proper 8.5 degree angle, the location where the top of the legs are mounted needs to be changed.

First remove the two small notches at the top of the wheel well in both fuselage halves.

Flatten one side of a piece of sprue and cut a groove in the flattened side. The groove should be 0.7mm wide and 0.7mm deep (the square tips of the landing gear legs should fit snugly in the groove).

correcting the angle of the landing gear legs (15.0kB) Use some stiff cardboard to cut a triangular shaped template with two of its sides at a 16 degree angle, then fold the tip at a right angle to the centerline of the template (note that the wing slots are at a 0.5 degree incidence, so we only need 8 degrees on either side of the template).
Dry-fit pt.7 to the beam and insert the folded tip of the template into the wing mounting slot of the fuselage halve.

mark position of landing gear leg (15.0kB) Then place the landing gear leg on pt.7, line up the leg with the side of the template and mark the position where the top of the leg meets the fuselage. Cut a slice of the grooved sprue and glue it to the inside of the fuselage with the groove lining up with the marks.

Repeat the procedure for the other side of the fuselage, making sure both landing gear legs end up at the exact same angle.


The doors fitted to the lower wishbones are also more complex than what is depicted in the kit: carefully cut down the doors on pt.7 to 1.0mm.
Once the kit doors are cut down it is time to add more details to the lower wishbones, I added a diagonal tube and a cross bar on each side.
For the main wheel doors, cut two pieces of curved plastic sheet (6.0mm radius, same as the lower forward fuselage) of 4.0mm length, 4.0mm width and trim these to match the cut-out in the fuselage halves. Make a curved cut-out matching the outline of the tire (4.6mm diameter) in the outer edge of each door. Cut a disc of 10.0mm diameter out of plastic sheet, cut each disc in halves, cut ...mm by ...mm pieces and fit the pieces to the inner sides of each door. Fit the curved doors at a 138 degree angle to the edge of each cut down door.

main wheel width (15.0kB) The main wheels look a bit skinny, cut the wheels in halves, insert a 0.6mm thick plasticard disc of 4.6mm diameter and sand the wheels to shape after curing.
After widening the wheels, clean up the main gear legs. The legs are too fat but once trimmed down to scale thickness they would be too fragile so I only trimmed down the slanted section and turned its cross section into a 'T'-shape.

...
Stretch a piece of sprue to a thickness close to that of the wishbones on pt.7.
...
Finally fit the legs (pts.8) to the fuselage and the wishbones.


fuselage

The fuselage needs a bulkhead added between the cockpit and the wheel bay to avoid see-through.
The raised lines for the rudder and trim tab hinge lines need to be rescribed and the ribs need to be sanded down.

rudder details added (10.3kB) Details worth adding to the rudder are the hinges and the hole in the rudder where the tie rod for the elevators passes through.
I used the tip of a JLC saw to rescribe the hinge lines of the rudder and the outlines of the trim tabs on rudder and elevators and to scribe the tiny rudder hinges.
After rescribing, the leading edge of the rudder needs to be rounded along the hinge line and the ribs can be sanded down.
I used a 0.8mm drill bit to drill the hole for the elevator tie rod, then used the pointy tip of a nr.11 knife blade to turn the hole into a triangular shape.
After carefully taping the fuselage halves together I used the JLC saw to cut the gap between the rudder and the lower fuselage and to square off the tip of the tail.

I will deal with the differences in the contours of the top and bottom of the rudder halves once the fuselage halves are joined together permanently.

inside of tailfin (10.0kB) Reduce the thickness of the tail fin by carefully sanding the insides of both halves as indicated in the picture (darker violet means more sanding, lighter means less).

tailwheel mount (12.0kB) To improve alignment of the fuselage halves the top of the mounting pin in the upper rear fuselage and the top of the tailwheel mount should be sanded down a bit. For the tailwheel mount on the picture I made a cut with a JLC saw to show exactly what material needs to be removed.

On most F4F-4s the lower cockpit windows (indicated in the kit by recessed rectangles behind the wheel wells) were clear, so either paint the rectangles with a dark glossy paint to suggest a window or cut the rectangles open and fill with Kristal Kleer or fit a bit of curved clear plastic.

forward bulkhead (18.2kB)

Add a bulkhead behind the wheel bay from a piece of plasticard measuring 8.6mm x 11.0mm and cut the corners off until the shape matches the inside of the fuselage.
Since I plan to build several of these Revell Wildcat kits, I cut a template out of card stock.
Note that the lefthand and righthand insides of the fuselage halves differ in shape slightly, so the bulkhead is not symmetrical.


forward bulkhead fitted (12.4kB)

I made a new radio mast out of some thin copper wire which I flattened slightly between a pair of flat nosed pliers.


cockpit

F4F-4 cockpit with scratchbuilt parts added (18.5kB) The kits cockpit is empty, so I added some basic details from scratch: rear bulkhead with headrest, instrument panel and seat. With the canopy closed other details won't be visible.

The instrument panel can be cut using the upper part of the template for the wheel bay bulkhead.

The seat can be cut and folded from a strip of thin plasticard 4.0mm wide and 7.0mm high for the seat and backrest, folded at 4.5mm height. Cut a 2.0mm by 4.0mm strip and cut that diagonally for the sides of the seat.

For the small bulkhead above the back of the seat, cut a piece of card 4.0mm wide by 5.0mm high and cut the upper corners until the shape matches the inside of the canopy. Cut a piece of sprue of 2.0mm diameter, round the edges and cut a slice of about 1mm thick and fit that to the bulkhead as a headrest.
Note that there should be a small gap between the lower edge of the bulkhead and the top of the seat.


cowling

With the cowling, four things need to be improved:



propeller

propeller, marking the cuffs (18.5kB) The kits propeller has blades with a broad chord from tip to root, so it can be made to look like either a cuffed Curtiss Electric prop or a Hamilton Standard prop with uncuffed blades.
US Navy F4F-4s and FM-1s usually flew with cuffed Curtiss Electric props but the equivalent Royal Navy Wildcat V usually flew with uncuffed Hamilton Standard props.
Note that most surviving Wildcat 'warbirds' currently fly with uncuffed Hamilton Standard blades (airworthy Curtiss props have become rare), so better not rely too much on pictures of airworthy survivors for accuracy.

The painting instructions include a frontal view of a Hamilton Standard propeller without cuffs which can be used as a guide for reshaping the blades.

Better save the propeller for last as it is fragile and will become even more fragile after modifying.
To make the blades look like those of a Curtiss Electric prop, make a template by drawing concentric circles of 3.2mm (a), 9.2mm (b) and 20.6mm (c) diameter on a piece of cardboard, then punch a hole in the center of the circles for the prop axle.
Circle (a) marks the inner edge of the cuff, circle (b) marks the outer edge of the cuff and circle (c) marks the tip of the blade for reference. Use this template to mark the edges of the cuff on each of the blades.

propeller, after reshaping the blades (8.6kB) The second picture shows the propeller after sanding the blades into the shape of a cuffed Curtiss Electric prop.
propeller, after building up the blade roots (19.0kB) The blades on the kits prop are flat all the way to the shaft, so add a 1.0mm by 1.0mm piece of 0.2mm thick half-round stretched sprue to the front of each blade root to represent the hub.

propeller, after adding sprue to the rear (13.9kB) Since the blades are rather thin they are prone to breaking, so better add some thin half-round stretched sprue to the rear of the blades as well. Make sure the sprue runs from the shaft all the way to about 1mm beyond the inner edge of the cuff.

With the prop fitted, the blades touch the edge of the cowling so I also added a spacer ring to the rear of the prop (but its diameter turned out a bit too large...).

propeller, before and after modifying (14.3kB) Apart from reshaping the blades, the tiny propeller boss needs to be replaced with something more substantial: a 1.5mm long cylinder of 1.6mm diameter to which a 1.5mm long rod of 0.8mm diameter is fitted.
Drill a 0.8mm hole through the center of the 1.6mm diameter cylinder, enlarge the rear part of the hole to 1.1mm, cut off the small tip of the original prop boss, fit the 1.6mm cylinder over the prop boss then insert a 2mm long piece of rod of 0.8mm diameter into the hole in the front of the cylinder.
After the glue has cured, cut the rod down to a length of 1.5mm and round off its tip.
The new propeller boss looks large and so it should.


Small details

A lot of small details are missing from the Revell Wildcat kit:

Adding these details will really bring the model to life.


Conversions

This F4F-4 Wildcat kit can easily be converted to other marks:

Mark:convert:
US Navy/US Marines
F4F-3 earlyfill wing fold lines; fill outermost shell ejector port in each lower wing panel; add long pitot boom to port wing; add protruding gun barrels; narrow tires
F4F-3 latefill wing fold lines; fill outermost shell ejector port in each lower wing panel; add long pitot boom to port wing; add protruding gun barrels; remove the intake on top of the cowling
FM-1 earlydoes not differ from F4F-4, apart from interior colors
FM-1fill outermost shell ejector port in each lower wing panel
Fleet Air Arm
Martlet Mk.IIIfill wing fold lines; fill outermost shell ejector port in each lower wing panel; add long pitot boom to port wing; add protruding gun barrels
Martlet Mk.IVreplace cowling with one from a Revell SBD-5; add 1.5mm extension between nose and cowling; convert propeller to uncuffed Hamilton Standard prop
Wildcat Mk.V(identical to FM-1) fill outermost shell ejector port in each lower wing panel

Painting

The aircraft depicted on the kit decal sheet is an FM-1 (not an F4F-4 !) that was serving with the Carrier Qualification Training Unit at Glenview in 1943. A picture of this very aircraft can be found in each of the books listed below, other pictures in the series, such as one in the online WW2DB linked below, identify it as an FM-1.
The kit decals are well printed and accurate.

For the color scheme I picked a very pale gray rather than a true white.

The main landing gear legs of most Wildcats were painted semi-gloss black with only the hub caps painted in fuselage color, but with some the legs were entirely (re)painted in the same color as the lower fuselage.
The main wheel bay and the upper part (above the wishbones) of the landing gear legs of Grumman built Wildcats was painted 'Grumman Gray' primer (equivalent to ANA.602 Light Gray/Fed.Std.26440).
The main wheel bay and landing gear of Eastern built Wildcats was usually painted Interior Green (ANA.611/FS.34151) although with aircraft finished in the ASW schemes or in overall Dark Sea Blue the wheel bay and main landing gear legs were completely painted in the lower fuselage color.

F4F-4 cockpit interior was usually painted in a blueish-green Bronze Green, I found Humbrol 88 Deck Green to be a reasonable match (the actual color is somewhere between FS.24050 and FS.24052).
Main instrument panel, dashboard shroud and gunsight are a very dark gray.
FM-1 cockpit interior was initially painted Interior Green (ANA.611/FS.34151), but late production versions appear to have been painted Dark Gull Gray (ANA.621/FS.36231) including the instrument panel.

Engine colors also differ between early and late Wildcats as early on the cooling fins on the cylinder walls were painted satin black, later on these were left bare aluminum. Due to the thin fins and the dark surroundings, the difference between bare aluminum and black is hard to see though.
Satin black (or Gloss Engine Gray ANA.513/FS.16081) crankcase, satin black pushrod covers and cylinder heads, Engine Gray gearbox and magneto, 'silver' wiring harness.

Paints (to be) used
upper fuselage, overallHumbrol Authentic HU-4 Non-Specular Sea Blue ANA.607
fuselage sidesHumbrol Authentic HU-5 N.S. Intermediate Blue ANA.608
lower fuselageRevell 371 pale gray (Non-Specular White ANA.601)
F4F-4 landing gear, wheel bayHumbrol Authentic USN-5 Grumman Gray (FS.26440)
F4F-4 lower landing gear, engineHumbrol 85 Satin Black (FS.27038)
F4F-4 cockpit interiorHumbrol 88 Deck Green (Bronze Green)
FM-1 cockpit interior, landing gear, wheel bayModel Master Acrylic E5973 'Zinc Chromate Green'
tires, dashboard shroud, headrestHumbrol 32 Matt Dark Gray


References



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