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.
- random filters to the panels
- streaks on the actuators with raw umber oil paint
- gun port soot streaks with Tamiya Weathering Master
- engine soot streaks with acrylic black gray color
- sponge chipping with silver paint in random spots all over the kit. I did heavier chipping on the wing walkways
- added an aerial with a strand of hair from my daughter
After unmasking the canopy I realized I made some mistakes:
- I had to spend some time to fix the canopy as some paint had seeped under the masking tape. The resulting canopy is not as clear as I’d hoped
- apparently I had previously obliterated one of the belly lights during the sanding phase so now the belly only has 2 lights instead of 3
- I had also sanded off the wingtip lights. Dang
- there are 2 clear windows on the belly but they don’t fit perfectly. Tsk tsk Tamiya.
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