by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
The first of 2008's big new releases has arrived in the shape of Eduard's 1/48 scale Grumman Hellcat. An all-new tooling (forget some of the bizarre speculation you may have read elsewhere), the kit arrives tightly packed into a very solid conventional top-opening box. As we've come to expect from Eduard, the presentation is excellent, with all the sprues and accessories bagged separately. The kit comprises:
108 x pale olive styrene parts ( 1 unused)
17 x clear styrene parts (1 unused)
74 x etched steel parts - some pre-painted
A set of kabuki tape paintings masks
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
A colour-printed A4 instruction booklet
The parts are very crisply moulded and, as you'd hope with a new kit from one of the "majors", there's hardly a hint of flash. What ejection pin marks there are have been kept out of harm's way and the only sign of sinkage in my kit was on the blank provided to mount the etched instrument panels on.
Surface finish on metal areas of the airframe comprises finely scribed panel lines and embossed rivets, plus overlapped panels on the rear fuselage. The fabric surfaces have neatly depicted rib tapes.
Test FitSome of Eduard's recent releases have earned the company a rather unwelcome and ill-deserved "for experienced modellers only" reputation, so the Hellcat's designers have gone all-out to make the kit much more suitable for the average builder. Thus the parts count is reduced dramatically and assemblies are kept much simpler. The fuselage halves are quite thick, so there's no chance of flexing and the fit is very precise, despite there only being two locating pins.
Likewise the wings and horizontal tail, which clip together securely and feature spacers to maintain the aerofoil at the roots. The wings butt-join into recesses in the fuselage - the fit is snug, but not tight, and sets the correct angle for the wings.
Basic AccuracyPlease note: this is by no means intended as a "forensic analysis" - it's a broad comparison with photos and a single set of scale drawings.
The rumour mill has been in overdrive concerning this kit - fuelled in large part by people that haven't had a chance to examine the actual kit... So, where to begin? Well, for starters, it's not related to the Hasegawa kit in any shape or form!
The first immediately obvious difference is in the rear fuselage; Eduard's is longer and matches the scale drawings in AJ Press's Aircraft Monograph Vol. 20 much better. The flat fuselage section ahead of the fin is also more prominent than on earlier kits and compares well with photos.
The horizontal tail is an excellent match for AJ Press's drawings, as are the wings - although the ailerons are a little deeper on the upper side.
The Hellcat's leering chin intake is always a focus of attention and, again, I think Eduard have captured the look better than earlier injected kits. In particular, the intake is fuller and extends further vertically than on the Hasegawa cowling.
One point where Eduard's Hellcat does parallel the Hasegawa kit is with the landing lamp. As moulded, the kit features both the underwing and leading edge lamps. Referring to Detail & Scale Vol. 49, no Hellcat carried both lamps; the light under the left wing was only fitted to the first 272 F6F-3s and it was deleted from aircraft after BuNo. 08885. While I haven't found a photo to clarify it yet, the AJ Press drawings show a circular panel in the place of the lamp, so adding a ring of rivets and painting over the clear part may well be sufficient. The first 900 Hellcats built were also fitted with faired machine guns, so any aircraft with the underwing lamp should also have the gun fairings - and these aren't supplied in the kit.
A few detailsThe kit features a well-appointed "office" with a full pre-painted seat harness and a choice of moulded or etched panels. The Interior Green on the pre-painted panel is rather pale, but it should be simple enough to overpaint. Strangely for Eduard, the side consoles are moulded-only - and the throttles are rather over-simplified, so I'll definitely dress them up a bit in my build.
The engine comprises neatly moulded front and rear cylinder banks, a separate crankcase and magnetos, plus an etched wiring harness and manufacturer's decals.
The undercarriage is well handled. While the tailwheel is a one-piece moulding of the solid-tyred shipboard type, the main gear is quite complex with 8 parts per leg. The wheels have separate hubs and tyres - probably a sign that future versions will include different style hubs. The present kit has open-style hubs - often called "early" style, although they were equally seen on later aircraft. The wheel wells are quite deep and show decent detail for a kit in this scale.
There's a selection of stores:
1 x centreline drop tank
2 x M28 250 lb incendiary cluster bombs
2 x M29 500 lb incendiary cluster bombs
The bombs feature etched arming propellers and fins - there are no styrene alternatives provided for the latter, so these might be the one area of the kit that inexperienced models will struggle with.
The propeller is well moulded and matches the Kagero drawings precisely.
Lastly the transparencies are thin and crystal clear. The canopy has well defined frames and there's a choice of sliding sections to depict it open or closed.
Instructions and decalsThe assembly diagrams are clearly drawn in typical Eduard fashion, colour coded to showing glueing surfaces and where parts must be cut away. Paint matches are included throughout for Gunze Sangyo colours. Rounding everything off are a diagram showing the painting masks and a placement guide for the comprehensive decal stencilling provided.
Decals are included for 5 x colour schemes:
A. F6F-3, BuNo. 66016, VF-16, USS Lexington, Hawaii, September 1943.
B. F6F-3, BuNo. 25813, Lt. C.K. "Ken" Hilderbrandt, VF-33, Ondonga, December 1943.
C. F6F-3, BuNo. 40090, Lt. William C. Moseley, VF-1, USS Yorktown, June 1944.
D. F6F-3, BuNo. 40467, Lt. Alexander Vraciu VF-6, USS Intrepid, February 1944.
E. F6F-3, Lt. Richard E. Stambook, VF-27, USS Princetown, October 1944.
The decals themselves are thin and glossy and printed in perfect register with minimal carrier film.
Conclusion.Eduard's Hellcat looks a superb kit. While less complex than their recent releases, it upholds the company's reputation for attention to detail and accuracy - and the more straightforward approach promises a much simpler build that should appeal to modellers of all abilities. Although there's quite an extensive set of etched parts included, these can mostly be left off by less experienced modellers - the only exceptions being on the bombs. As far as I can tell, this is the most accurate Hellcat yet in this scale. Highly recommended.
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