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Grumman F4F-4 Widcat

by Toby Nelson


Grumman F4F-4 Widcat


Tamiya's 1/48 scale F4F-4 Wildcat is available online from Squadron 




The Wildcat has been covered in many different sources, so I won't go into it's history here. I will, however, recommend Rich Dann's excellent book "F4F Wildcat in Action."

Tamiya's 1/48 Wildcat is an excellent model--simple, easy to assemble, and easy to paint. The only real inaccuracy, as others have pointed out, is that the cockpit floor is solid, representing a later Wildcat. Also, the canopy is too thick to pose in the open position.


With this model I decided to use the Dangerboy Wildcat wing fold set. This set replaces the entire wing, and is really simple to use and strong when finished. Lone Star Models issued the set for a while; last I heard, Mike West was selling the molds, so hopefully it will be available again soon.





I started with the cockpit. I cut away the sides of the cockpit floor so you can see through the belly windows. I also used an Ultracast resin seat. The rest of the cockpit was box stock, as the kit's cockpit has excellent detail.


I painted the cockpit with Testor's Model Master Acryl Dark Green (FS34096)--supposedly this is close to the "Bronze Green" used in the Wildcat's cockpit. I then airbrushed a coat of Future floor wax, let that dry 48 hours, then applied a Payne's Gray and Ivory Black oil wash. I usually don't like to use straight black as a wash, as it's pretty harsh, but the green was dark to begin with.

I wiped off the excess wash with a q-tip soaked with turpentine. The cockpit was dry brushed with light green. The raised dial detail was brought out with a white Prismacolor pencil. A couple of coats of Polly Scale clear flat finished the cockpit.

After gluing the fuselage together, I started to work on the wheel wells. The kit wheel well is pretty bare, so I made some engine mounts with styrene rod. I scratch built a oil tank for the top of the wheel well from sheet styrene and tubing. The oil tank hides the fuselage seam very nicely!


I then started the resin wing center section. This cleaned up easily; it really is a beautiful casting. Some carving work was needed around the front of the wheel well area to make everything fit. The inside of the wheel well was painted white and weathered with a Payne's Gray wash like the cockpit (Rich Dann thinks the wheel wells were Light Gray, but the white with Payne's Gray wash looks pretty close).



I glued the wing to the fuselage using 5-minute epoxy. The wing/fuselage fit was really good. I filled in a small gap on the upper side of the wing/fuselage joint using Milliput. Milliput is nice because you can wipe away the excess with a wet Q-tip before it dries, ensuring that the surface detail remains intact.



The panel lines around the lower fuselage were rescribed. The tail was glued on, a couple of bumps were added, and the model was ready for primer and paint!



Painting and Markings


The model was washed with soap and water, and the wheel wells and cockpit were masked off with masking tape sealed with white glue. The model was primed with Floquil Gray Primer. When the primer was dry, the model was rubbed down with fine steel wool.

I used Polly Scale acrylics for the color coats. I tacked on the cowl with white glue while painting to ensure that the blue/gray demarcation would be consistent. I used a Vega 2000 airbrush with the pressure set to 20-25 psi.



I then masked off the exposed wing structure in the wing fold and painted it Polly Scale interior green (not sure what the correct color would be, but I think it looks good).

The model was coated with Future, and left to dry 48 hours. Some Superscale decals were used (I had a bad experience with Tamiya decals a couple of years back and swore never to use them again). Another coat of Future, and a Payne's Gray wash was used for the panel lines. The wash looks a little more prominent in the pictures than it does in person.



The model was then coated with several light coats of Polly Scale flat, resulting in a nice dead-flat finish.



Final Construction


The landing dear was assembled and glued on the model using 5-minute epoxy. The epoxy is strong and allows time to adjust the landing gear. Much care was taken to ensure proper alignment; the wheels of the Wildcat are real close together, so any misalignment really throws the whole airplane off.



I painted and assembled the engine earlier, while I was waiting for one of the paint coats to dry. The kit engine is really great out of the box, and only requires careful painting and weathering (look at those little ignition wires!).


The engine and cowl were glued on. A Squadron canopy was used for the sliding section, but the kit's windshield was used.

I used a MV lens for the landing light, and some CMK resin lights for the wing tip and fuselage lights. These look really great, and I feel help set the model apart.

The outboard wing sections were glued using epoxy. The outboard wings pretty much self-align, but there are a couple of degrees that they can be moved around. The little stabilizing bars for the wingtips were made with brass wire.



I made a base using an Eduard carrier deck section. It was a lot of fun painting and weathering the carrier deck. I made a frame for the deck out of basswood. I used some KMC wheel chocks (long out of production).

Although the wing fold is pretty sturdy, I didn't want to take any chances, so I glued the model to the carrier deck. There aren't many places to pick up the model otherwise, and attaching it to the base really simplifies transportation.





A couple of months after I finished this model I took it to the IPMS Nationals in Oklahoma City. Unfortunately it didn't place (it was competing against approximately 40 gazillion other models in the "1/48 single engine prop" category--that's the last time I enter in that category!).

After the contest I was talking with someone and he said, "Toby, you're Wildcat looked great but you need to fix the ailerons." I had glued both ailerons in the up position. Well, I know that usually one aileron is up and one is down, but in the case of the Wildcat when the wings were folded both ailerons were up. The Wildcat at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston, Texas shows this, as well as numerous pictures. I probably should have mentioned that on the card next to the model...

Regardless, I was happy with the model, especially since it took me only about a month to make it. It is on display at Hobby Island in Houston.


Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images: 

Model, Images and Text Copyright 2004 by Toby Nelson
Page Created 19 May, 2004
Last Updated 19 May, 2004

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