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Grumman F3F Gulfhawk

by Gil Hodges


Grumman Gulfhawk


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Are you looking for something a little more colorful to put on the shelf? There's nothing quite like a show plane to fill the bill!

Test pilot (and stunt pilot) Al Williams flew "Gulfhawks" of various kinds from the 1930's through the late 1940s. He did so to demonstrate both the aircraft capability and the qualities of Gulf Oil's aviation products. He began with a modified Curtiss biplane, and then moved into Grumman products. He flew a 2 seat modified FF-1, the modified F3F of this article, and ended up in an F8F Bearcat. This model is Accurate Miniatures mixed media kit of his most familiar mount from the late 1930's, the F3F Gulfhawk. This is one of my dad's favorite airplanes, so I decided to build it and give it to him for his birthday.



Accurate Miniatures 1/48 F3F Gulfhawk


Accurate Miniatures is known for fine detail and their commitment to accuracy in scale. This kit is a limited edition version of their F3F series. It includes resin components to modify the wings, cowling, upper fuselage, tires, and tail cone. It also includes photo-etched flying wires and assorted details. The instructions are much more extensive than what's normally included in other manufacturer's kits. This is a big help to newer builders. In this kit, there is an extra set of instructions that shows where to deviate from the normal kit instructions, and how to do the conversion work.

The decals for the Gulfhawk are sharply printed and in register. There is a separate placement guide for them.



Assembly begins in the cockpit. There are no big surprises here. Everything fits well. I would mention that you can skip painting the O2 bottle molded beside the seat. It's practically invisible once everything's in place. Another noteworthy item is the clear instrument panel and it's decal. This worked out very well. I simply put a drop of Micro Krystal Clear over each instrument position, sprayed the panel black, popped off the dried Krystal Clear with the tip of a #11 blade, and applied the decal to the rear of the panel. It came out with amazing depth and clarity. More manufacturers should try this!

The basic fuselage assembly was straight forward, following the recommended sequences. The next step was minor surgery to remove the kit tail and put the resin tail cone in it's place. Also, the resin forward fuselage sections were substituted. I then ran into the one trouble spot in my kit. The resin upper fuselage decking that fits between the cabanes was a bit short shot in my kit. To get around this, I modified the normal F3F kit upper decking by filling in the gun troughs and grinding off the gun bulges. This worked well, but it did create one more problem. If you use the kit upper decking, be aware that the Gulfhawk windscreen will not mate to it without filling a large area just ahead of the windscreen. I found this out very late in the game and had to use white glue to fill the gap.



The landing gear on the F3F Barrel is complicated. The AM kit does a good job of reproducing this while keeping the assembly somewhat simple. The one thing that is trouble is the main gear door/fuel tank sides. The instructions say they'll fit. I found it took quite a bit of fiddling, modifying, and "blue" language to get them on! Still, the finished assembly looks authentic.

The engine is nicely detailed and goes together without any hitches. A photoetched wiring harness is included if you're so inclined. There is a small modification to be made. Two pushrods and the carburetor intake have to be removed and replaced with two simple pushrods. The instructions show how to do this clearly.

The assembly of the wings is the place where I decided to deviate from the instructions. AM would have you attach the top wing and then attach the bottom wings. This should work, at least in theory, since the cabanes are molded as part of the fuselage. However, when I test fit the upper wing, it was both skewed in the upper view and not level from side to side. Therefor, I resorted to the time tested method of attaching the bottom wings first, aligning them with the stabilizers. That then allowed me to gently "bend" the cabanes to get the upper wing aligned. The rest of the wing assembly was a breeze. I especially like the positive attachment features molded into the N struts. As is typical with biplane construction, the upper wing was left off until all of the painting and decalling was done.



Painting and Markings


The model was painted using Model Master gloss orange, thinned with lacquer thinner. It was then given 2 light coats of Future floor wax to prepare the model for decals. The decals went on well with the exception of the two for the cowling. Those did not even come close to fitting! This was not a matter of compound curves. It simply appeared that they were made to fit a smaller diameter cowl. I resorted to masking and painting the scalloping on the cowling. I then applied a thin black wash (I'd skip this if I had it to do over again). Everything was sealed with another application of Future.



All of the details and the upper wing were now added to the model. The prop was painted Model Master Buffing Aluminum. The kit photoetched flying wires were glued into position. These fit well, with the exception of one (of course). A little snip to shorten it solved that problem. The engine, cowling, canopy, tail braces, and tires, finished up the assembly sequence. The wing lights were painted and a stretched sprue antenna finished things off.





The result is the 4th "Gulfhawk" model for my dad's collection. He now has the 1/48 F3F Gulfhawk to compliment his Monogram 1/32 version. He also has the Curtiss "Gulfhawk 1" (scratch/conversion) and the F8F Bearcat "Gulfhawk 4" in 1/48. Now, where did I put that Glencoe Grumman Duck that I can convert to the FF-1?



Additional Images


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Model, Images and Text Copyright 2003 by Gil Hodges
Page Created 24 August, 2003
Last Updated 17 March, 2004

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