The Grumman F4F Wildcat is an American carrier-based fighter aircraft in service with the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps and British Royal Navy in World War II. It was the only fighter available in the USN and USMC in the Pacific Theater during the early part of the war. It was outperformed in most categories by the A6M Zero but due to its ruggedness and newly developed tactics, it would claim an air combat kill-to-loss ratio of 6.9:1 for the entire war. 7,885 Wildcats would be built throughout the war even after newer and better fighters were introduced.
The F4F-4 variant of the Wildcat entered service in 1941 armed with 6 machine guns and a folding wing system. The F4F-4 is the definitive version of the Wildcat and saw the most combat service in the early war years.
Marian Eugene Carl was the USMC’s first ace in WWII. He began his career with VMF-211 and was re-assigned to VMF-223. In August 1942, VMF-223 was deployed to Guadalcanal, the first fighter unit ashore with the so-called Cactus Air Force. Over the next 2 months, Carl became the Marines’ first ace, running his tally to 16.5 victories. It is believed that 1 of his victories was against the Imperial Japanese Navy 27-victory ace Junichi Sasai. In 1943, VMF-223 returned to the Pacific. Carl would end his WWII service with 18.5 victories. He is the 7th highest ranking ace in the USMC.
My build depicts (eventual) Major General Carl’s F4F-4 Wildcat ‘White 2′ as she appeared in September 1942.
By and large, there’s no better kit out there than a Tamiya one. This one is no different. Made out of about 50 parts, this kit is unfussy, with very nice molding and sharp details. Options are simple: the canopy can be posed open and 2 external fuel tanks. The landing gear however, cannot be modeled raised. There are decal options for 4 aircraft (VF-41, VMF-223, VGF-29 and VF-22) and the instruction sheet is an 8 page foldout assembly diagram. As usual with Tamiya, color callouts are only for Tamiya paints.
I’ve actually started on this kit a few years ago so all the major parts have already been cut from the sprues. Before putting everything together though I decided to add details to the cockpit.
The cockpit was already sprayed in Interior Green previously but since I decided to add some scratchbuilt shoulder and lap belts, this was repainted. The pilot was supposed to be able to look down and out the belly ports for better visibility so I cut open the cockpit’s floor plate. The result wasn’t really visible after assembly but hey, ‘I know it’s there’. Everything else was built out of the box.
The 6 wing machine guns came modeled solid. I tried to drill out the barrels but I messed it up quite badly so I ended up cutting them all off, drilled through into the wings, and made my own machine gun barrels with 0.5mm brass pipe. I think 5 of the barrels stick out slightly too much but I’ll live with it.
After sanding off the sprue marks, the kit came together quickly without much fit problems and a minimal of seamline fixing. I read somewhere that the external tanks were only introduced in 1943. Since I’m modeling a Wildcat in 1942, I left these off.
Colors & Markings
With my WWII kits, I try my best to model an ace’s aircraft or one with some sort of historical significance. This kit will receive the markings of Marian Eugene Carl’s F4F-4 Wildcat. The decals come from Techmod, a Polish decal company. The decals are very well done and reacted well to Mark Softer. They aren’t as thin as something from Cartograph though. The instruction from the Techmod sheet also comes with color call outs. I followed this instead of the kit’s.
Wildcats during this period flew with a simple 2 tone camouflage of a bluish gray over light gray. To break up the monotony, I added a marble coat in between the primer and main colors to add some variation to the finish. Usually I’m quite haphazard with the marble coat but I was more deliberate and careful this time. The result looks good. The demarcation line was done with blutack but I sprayed quite close so the line itself was quite solid.
As usual, I did a panel line wash with thinned raw umber oil paint. Once that has dried I went easy with the weathering.
After unmasking the canopy I realized I made some mistakes:
Still, not a bad build at all. The Wildcat definitely has a presence: it’s not pretty nor graceful as a Spitfire but it definitely looks tough and can take a ton of punishment.
Number 3 of 2018
I decided to model an ace’s Wildcat. In this case, it will be Marian Eugene Carl’s F4F-4 from September 1942 while stationed in Guadacanal. The decals some from Techmod, a Polish decal maker. The decals went on very easily and reacted well to Mark Softer. Markings are sparse and I was done quite quickly. After curing, I wiped it down with a damp cloth and re-glossed the kit to prepare for weathering.
The first step was to do a panel wash with raw umber oil paint.
I then did some filtering on random panels with the same color. You can see here that some of the decals did not comform 100% over the raised rivets on the fuselage. It’s something to look out for in future builds.
Gun port soot stains was done with Tamiya Weathering Master. Streaking was done with the same raw umber oil paint. I basically hit all the actuators.
Nothing too fancy.
After sealing the oil washes and streaks with a flat coat, I added the engine exhaust stains by freehanding black gray acrylic paint. Not sure if I overdid the opacity though.
I then added silver chippings with a sponge on the leading edges of the wings and the fuselage. I did a heavier chipping on the walkways.
Last on was the aerial. This is the first time I was doing it and I used a strand of my daughter’s hair for it. Lucky she has long hair eh? Anyway, I had to mess with it for close to an hour before it stuck in place. There’s actually a shorter aerial going from the antenna to the left fuselage. I decided to preserve my sanity and move on.
And I’m done!
Tamiya lives up to its reputation of having kits that require minimal seamline fixing and I’m onto the painting stage quicker than usual.
First up, I did a base coat of Tamiya XF-1 Black thinned with lacquer thinner. This is now I preferred primer since I haven’t been able to figure out acrylic-based primers yet. I find them too finicky and scratch off too easily.
Then I did the marble coat with Model Air Light Grey. I decided to do this more carefully this time by thinning the paint and adding Airbrush Flow Improver. The end result is less splotchy but you can still see areas where the acrylic paint acted up and spattered all over the surface. These were buffed with a 3M sponge to even out the surface.
I begin with painting the bottom with Vallejo Model Air Light Gull Grey.
I made sure to thin the paint a fair bit and sprayed in thin coats so the marbling still shows through.
After a day of curing, I started masking off the demarcation lines.
The top color is Lifecolor Non Specular Blue Gray. This was also thinned quite a bit and sprayed in thin coats so the marble coat shows through.
I’ve forgotten how easy it is to use Lifecolor, which mixes very quickly, thins very easily and spatters were minimized. I’ll buff these spatters out after the paint has cured.
Ancillary parts are minimal and while the main body is curing, I went ahead and finished them using botht eh airbrush and handpainting. I decided not to add the external tanks. I read somewhere that the Wildcat only started carrying external tanks in 1943. My Wildcat will be modeled as it appeared in 1942.
Glossing is next and then it’s time for decals and weathering.
My next kit is hopefully a straightforward build of the Tamiya 1/48 F4F-4 Wildcat. This was the workhorse of the USN and USMC during the first half of the Pacific campaign.
When I opened the box, I realized that I had already assembled most of the parts into subassemblies previously. This includes having already painted most of the interior with Interior Green and Futured the canopy. I began this build with masking the canopy. As usual it’s on the tedious side but I was done after an evening of faffing with 1mm masking tape and masking liquid.
The ejection seat is bare and Tamiya doesn’t include the seat belts in the form of a decal. While I don’t think they will be very visible, I decided to scratchbuild some shoulder harnesses and lap belts from 1mm and 0.4mm masking tape. I got this idea from my friend Soon Tuck of Spruecutters. After a re-basing of black and Interior Green over this, I handpainted the belts. They actually don’t look half bad. There is evidence that the Wildcat interior was a deeper green in color than the usual green but I’m going ahead with the usual hue.
While reading other people’s builds I found out that Tamiya molded the floor plate without any cutouts which allowed the pilots to look through for better visibility below the Wildcat. So I quickly marked out the areas and cut accordingly. Again these are probably not visible in the final build but at least they are (not) there.
Like most aircraft kits, the Wildcat requires some pre-painting before assembly but due to the way the aircraft is designed, there are more spots that need to be taken care of than usual.
These subassemblies were given a basecoat of black gray and painted separately.
The interior of the cowl and landing gear were sprayed with Light Gull Gray (instead of the instruction’s calling for white). These were also given a wash of black.
The instrument panel and consoles were all handpainted based on the instructions although the dials were painted Gunship Gray to ‘pop’ them out.
I put the cockpit together after giving it a black wash and edge highlighted with a silver color pencil.
I decided not to modify the engine since it can’t be seen so I painted as per instructions. This was painted in Vallejo Air Metallic Gun Grey and then a drybrush of Vallejo Air Metallic Steel.
Once I have painted these, I quickly put the rest of the kit together. Sure looks like a Wildcat to me!
Being too smart for my own good, I decided to drill out the gun barrels on the wings. Of course I messed it up so I ended up cutting all 6 off and replacing with 0.5mm brass tube.
The fit has been excellent so far but we’ll see after I give this a shot of primer to check for seamlines. Hopefully I won’t have to spend much time on this.
Media: Injection Plastic
Markings: Cap Jempol Metal
The North American P-51 Mustang was an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II, the Korean War and other conflicts. Introduced in 1940, it would go on to serve with air forces around the world till the early 1980s with more than 15,000 being built. It was armed internally with 6 0.50 caliber machine guns and was capable of carrying up to 1,000 pounds of rockets and bombs on its wings.
Indonesia acquired P-51Ds from the departing Netherlands East Indies Air Force in 1949 and 1950. They would serve the fledgling AURI (Angkatan Udara Republik Indonesia or Indonesian Air Force) for the next decade.
PERMESTA (Piagam Perjuangan Semesta or Universal Struggle Center) was a rebel movement active in Indonesia from 1957 to 1961. Based in Manado, they fought the central government for fair division of economic and political power. In 1958 the CIA began covertly supporting PERMESTA by supplying B-26 bombers and P-51 fighters to form AUREV (Angkatan Udara Revolusioner or Revolutionary Air Force), weapons, equipment, funds and manpower in the form of CIA agents and merceneries.
On 18 May 1958, AURI pilot Captain Ignatius Dewanto, piloting F-338, a P-51D Mustang, shot down a rebel B-26 bomber over Ambon. The pilot, CIA agent Allen Pope, was captured alive, tried and sentenced to death (he was eventually released in 1962). His capture exposed the CIA’s involvement and they subsequently withdrew support for the rebellion.
This build depicts F-338 as she appeared during this engagement.
Tamiya has a reputation of producing shake and bake kits but they also re-brand 1/72 Italeri kits that are of various quality. This is thankfully the former.
By all accounts, this is a down-scaling of their excellent 1/48 kit. Details are very sharp, lack any noticeable ejector pin marks and are designed to allow for various variants to be built. This boxing allows you to build the WWII version. Even so, you are given different options for exhausts and canopies (which can be posed open). Externally there are only drop tanks but there’s a Korean War boxing of this kit that includes rockets and additional fuselage options. There are 3 marking options, all WWII era P-51s.
All in all, this looks to be a straightforward build.
Construction began naturally with the cockpit which had very good details for 1/72. Restraints are provided as decals. After a quick painting (Black Grey base, German Cam Bright Green as the main color, gloss coat, Dark Grey wash, drybrush with the silver pencil and then a flat coat), the 2 halves of the fuselage were cemented together, which hid all the detailed work. The lower wings come as a whole bottom span with a pair of separate upper wings. Such is the precision of Tamiya Engineeringtm that there are no gaps on the wingroots. The nosecone attaches to the body with a polycap but I decided to paint the blades separately from the nose. The exhausts were set aside to be painted separately and I decided not to attach the exterior fuel tanks to keep the lines smooth.
The canopy is designed with a separate frame which allows for easy masking. After masking with tape and masking liquid I attached it to the frame with Gator Glue. The whole thing was then cemented onto the fuselage. I won’t know if there was any smudging till the end of the build.
There is only 1 seamline to fix but it runs down the middle of the whole length of the kit. I paid more attention to the fitting on the top than on the bottom to minimize cleanup work. The intake on the bottom has multiple panel lines which the seamline cuts across. There’s also a small section that is inset that required multiple attempts to fix. I did the best I can and moved on.
F-338 sported a uniquely curved antenna blade on the spine that needs to be scratchbuilt. The markings for this P-51 is from Cap Jempol Metal (literally Metal Finger Print), a local decal maker. The instructions include a template for the antenna that I used to make with 0.5mm plastic card.
Painting & Markings
First, I painted the landing gear bays the same way as the cockpit. After curing, I stuffed them with blutack to prepare for the rest.
Vallejo Black Gloss Primer serves as a base with Vallejo Metal Color Aluminium as the main color. I decided to vary the color of the flaps, elevators and a few other random panels so I spent 1.5 hours masking off the panels and only 5 minutes of painting with Vallejo Metal Color Dull Aluminium. I can’t say it’s accurate to do this sort of variation, but I think it adds some visual interest. After I removed the masking tape I noticed I manage to scratch off some of the aluminium color so I went back to repair those with more masking and spraying.
I also painted the antenna, gear doors and struts with Aluminium in the same way. The tires were sprayed with Black Grey and then I used a circular template to spray the wheels Aluminium. The exhausts were based with Black Grey and handpainted Metal Air Gun Grey.
F-338 carried a striking shark mouth noseart with a uniquely patterned black nose. The instructions provided templates for the shape of the pattern which I transferred onto masking tape. I then masked the rest of kit and sprayed Black Grey for the nose. The rudder has a checkerboard pattern over a white color so I sprayed Dead White on it. The nosecone was Game Color Bloody Red and the prop was Black Grey with handpainted Game Color Sun Yellow over a base of Game Color Dead White for the tips. The completed nose is then attached to the fuselage with a polycap.
To prepare for decals I sprayed Vallejo Metal Gloss Varnish over the entire kit. Of course disaster would strike at this time. The bottom had some slight orange peel and the port side on top had some problems. I fixed what I could by stripping the paint there, sanding down then repainting. The fix doesn’t look that great (the gloss pooled) but I decide to learn and move on.
Confession time. The markings in the sheet are for F-324 and F-328. Except for the unit number, F-338 shares the same markings as F-324 (F-328 has a solid red tail and no sharkmouth). However, F-324 requires the prop that’s only included (part C1) in the the Korean War P-51 boxing. After chatting with Mr. Cap Jempol Metal (how’s that for service?) I decided to build F-338 instead, which was a more historically significant aircraft anyway. F-338 has the standard prop blade and canopy (D3) with the bent antenna. I just needed to mix and match the numbers on the sheet to get ‘F-338′ (’38’ is included as a standalone on the sheet).
There’s actually no photographic evidence of the checkerboard pattern on the rudder of F-338 during the engagement. There’s however an undated photo of it with a checkerboard rudder but no sharkmouth. There’s also a photo of F-324 that shared the same sharkmouth and it has a checkerboard rudder. There are currently 2 P-51Ds mocked up to look like F-338 which don’t sport the checkerboard pattern in museums but their markings aren’t based on any historical evidence. Absence of other evidence, I decided to just assume F-338 at that time shared the same colors as F-324. Besides, it looks better with it.
Most of the decals came as 2 parts so they required aligning properly and have no carrier film. All in all though, very straightforward. They are thin, are in good register and react well to Mark Softer. I managed to still tear some (especially on the nose) but these were easily patched up with paint. I then brushed on clear gloss to seal them in after wiping them with a damp cloth.
The bottom of the starboard wings has landing lights which I handpainted with transparent paint. The bent antenna and the landing gear were then attached along with their doors with super glue. I somehow managed to lose the light inside the gear bay though. The wingtip lights were then handpainted with transparent blue and red. Last to go as usual is the masking tape on the canopy. I cleaned up any bleeding with a toothpick and then brushed Future.
I decided to finish while I’m ahead and forgo panel lining, which might react negatively with the finish. Or worse, I’d screw something up again.
This was a really fun build especially the part where I researched on F-338 and finding more about the shootdown itself. The build was also relatively mistake free but as usual, I wasn’t careful towards the end. I finished this kit just in time for 17 August 2016 which is Indonesia’s Independence Day. Hopefully this will become an annual trend for me.
Number 10 of 2016