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.