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1/24 Airfix F6F-5 Hellcat "Kicked Up A Notch": New eBook Now Available!


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After building my Italeri CF-104 Starfighter, I took a break from modeling for a few weeks, to recharge my Modeling Mojo and also allow the parts for this new build to come in from all over Europe and the US, while researching all I could about the Hellcat.  While I usually build a prop after a jet, I wanted to try something a bit different from my prior prop builds and I also wanted to build a kit a bit better made than the last 4 kits I made, of the 1/32 Kitty Hawk F-5E, Kitty Hawk T-6/Harvard, Special Hobby Tempest Mk V and the Italeri Zipper.  While none of these kits were horrible (F-5E came close), I spent a lot of my time and effort to get these models lifted up to the average level first, before I could even dream of “kicking them up a notch” to the next level of detail.  This time I wanted a model kit that was good or great to begin with, so that I could concentrate on super detailing it instead.  After looking at many reviews of this kit and a few builds, this appeared to be the ticket, especially in big 1/24 scale. 


I have to admit, I’m not really a big fan of the Hellcat from an artistic perspective.  It has none of the graceful lines of the Mustang or Spitfire and looks a bit like a Pot-bellied Pig.  It was lethal though and accomplished its main mission, which was to shoot down and destroy Japanese aircraft.  According to the Kinzey book I’m using as my main reference, of 6,477 kills scored by Navy and Marine pilots, 3 out of every 4 were made by the Hellcat and they had a 19 to 1 kill ratio.  Pretty impressive Pig!  I built an A-10C Warthog for my son a few years ago that I wasn’t all that fond of at first either, but by the end when I got to appreciate how purpose built it was, I became a big fan and it is now one of my favorite models today.  I’m sure I’ll feel the same way about the Hellcat when I’m finished this model as well.


As usual, I bought as many aftermarket parts as I could as follows:


·       Airfix 1/24 Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Kit, A19004

·       Aerocraft Brass Landing Gear

·       Airscale Instrument Panel

·       ANYZ Spark Plugs and Wiring set, AN011, AN013, AN015, AN016, AN017

·       ANYZ Dials, Knobs, Switches and Cockpit Handles. AN028, AN029, AN030

·       HGW Seatbelts, 124511

·       Barracuda Diamond Tread Tires/wheels, BR24412

·       Eduard Wheel Bay Detail Set, EDU23035

·       Eduard Canopy Masks, LX006

·       DN Models Paint Masks for Insignias, Letters and Numbers

·       DN Models Paint Masks for Canopy, Wheels, Lights

·       Fundekals Grumman F-6F-5 Hellcat Decals

·       * A Boatload of 3D Printed Interior Details from Italy

·       Reference Book: Detail & Scale, F6F Hellcat, by Bert Kinzey and Chris Sakal


Here’s a few selected pics of some of this aftermarket, and a few explanations that go with them.  The Main Kit of course.  The box is huge at 26” X 14” and it has almost 600 parts!  More on the kit later.







Airscale PE Instrument Panel.  Pure precision like anything from Peter Castle, who wouldn’t take my money and refunded it!  While not all that surprising coming from Peter, the gesture is much appreciated, so I’ll try to do my best to make it look good sir.  No pressure!






Aerocraft brass landing gear.  I’m not sure if this is required due to the weight, but the casting is beautiful and strong, while revised resin gear doors are added, that accommodate the changes made to the brass detail which is slightly different than the kit parts.






ANYZ Engine Detail Set, which isn’t truly an actual set made just for the Airfix PW R2800 Double Wasp Engine, but a collection of ANYZ parts that are needed to super detail an already terrific looking engine.






HGW cloth seat belts and Barracuda resin wheels.  While the kit seatbelts are all plastic and so-so, the tires are 2-piece, so you will be dealing with seam lines down the middle of the diamond tread, which will be difficult to fill without making the tires smooth all around.






You can see quite a bit of the landing gear bays at this large scale, so the Eduard PE set should enhance them further.






DN Models Paint Masks.  I plan to paint all the big insignias and numbers, while any added masks are welcome for other hard to mask parts.  I have the Fundekals Hellcat decals coming soon, which will be used for all smaller items like stencils, etc.






Now a very big surprise!  Several weeks ago when I first started researching this project, “Giovanni” from Italy contacted me and said that he wanted to send me some resin parts for this new project.  I was hesitant at first, because I wanted to get going on this model and what if I didn’t like or use the parts?  After some back and forth by email, Giovanni sent me some pics of what was coming, which convinced me to stop my assembly of the cockpit parts and wait for what he was sending me.  Again like Peter, he wouldn’t let me pay for anything, including shipping by UPS which is expensive from Italy.  A few days ago, I received all these parts at my doorstep from “Adriatic Models”.  Adriatic doesn’t have a website yet, but Giovanni thinks they will by May sometime.  I will let you know when it's up.


Here is the rear wall behind the seat, which is apparently “Station 52 ½”, with the kit part on the left and the resin replacement on the right.  I was going to trim off the kit lines that look a bit too perfect and add my own anyway, while there are a few obvious changes like the detailed junction box and the big knobs on either side.  Since these parts are 3D printed, they need a light sanding, so rivet detail was not added as strong as the kit parts and I can easily add some Archer decal rivets once the surface is smooth.  This part also comes with 3 different headrest/shields, for a 3 series Hellcat, early 5 and late 5.






This is the firewall behind the engine, with the kit part again on the left.  Apparently the engine mount is a tube and not a rectangular recess, so if you’re a purist, you can modify the kit parts to go into these holes instead.  I’ll pass on this one, because engine mount strength is more important to me than accuracy.  Giovanni also tells me that that box on the lower right of the kit part shouldn't be there, because it was moved on all 5's.






Now things start to get really confusing with all sorts of parts.  Giovanni has sent me several pics of where most of this stuff goes, but I’m still doing research and learning.  Note the 2 additional headrests, with super fine “towel bars” for the fabric seat belts.  I have left all the parts in their plastic cases for now, to protect them and avoid losing any.






More gizmos and more questions.  This is sort of like solving a complicated puzzle, but I can say this:  Each part is super detailed and quite strong.






Lots of little hand wheels and connectors, much like the ANYZ parts.  Of course I will only be using a few of these, so I will still have a great selection for "the stash" when I'm done.






Now some observations about the kit itself.  As mentioned above there are a LOT of parts, almost 600 of them.  Generally speaking, the parts look good to excellent and while seam lines and pin marks are still there everywhere, they should be able to be cleaned up without too much effort.  This kit is famous for it’s “oil-can” stressed panel lines on the fuselage and wings which I really like.  What I don’t like, is that all large parts are quite rough and require a lot of sanding, which is going to be very difficult to do without removing nice surface detail, like fasteners. 


Here’s an example of a fuselage part, which is typical of all the wing parts as well.  While I can sand this down, I have to be careful to sand it in an up and down motion, to reduce the removal of the subtle panel lines that are slightly raised ridges with rivets on them.






Other large surfaces with raised detail will be much more difficult to do.






After a sanding session.  Much better, but still not good enough. This is going to take a long time to do properly and explains why a few builds of this kit have rough paint.  Not this one if I can help it!






This is the rear of the firewall, so the upper pin marks will be hidden behind the IP, while most of the others need to be filled, which are pretty darn big.  Most of the other parts have the pin marks on the side that likely doesn't show, but the top of the main seat does.  Really?  So avoidable.







Build Strategy


This model comes in 4 configurations, although only the first 3 are mentioned.


1.     Flying, Wheels Up

2.     Standing, Wings Down

3.     Standing, both Wings Folded

4.     Standing, 1 Wing Folded


I plan on super detailing the cockpit and engine and when the Hellcat wings are folded, you can barely see into the cockpit, so with all the detail I plan to do in there, the wings must lay flat.  The gun bays on the wings can be exposed and are highly detailed, but after doing that on my Tamiya P-51D Mustang, I kind of regret it.  The open doors kill the contours of the wings and those panels are always in the way or falling off.  No exposed guns, other than what’s poking out the front, because I will have enough other detail in other areas already.


I also plan on building this model “Smart”.  For some reason, this model has many, many parts that go behind the seat wall and beneath the cockpit floor.  Without doing major modifications and opening up panels, you will never see any of it once you close up the fuselage.  I’ve seen several other builds of this kit where the modeler followed the instructions and added all this stuff, only to wave goodbye to it all later, which to me is a big waste of time and effort.  Here is a good example of it in Step 27.  All that stuff on the left behind the seat will be buried- and there’s lots more than this like radios and other items in Step 32, and Step 39- Step 41!  I’m not doing it.






For other areas like the wings, I will only add those parts that hold the guns in place, because all those cross members will never be seen again as well.  If you can't see it or need it for other construction steps, I'm leaving it out.






With a bit of a game plan established, I cleaned up and trimmed all the kit cockpit parts from Steps 1 to 39.  I didn’t glue too many of them together yet, for ease of painting and the fact that the Adriatic resin parts were coming soon.  This involved many hours of trimming and sanding, but nothing extraordinary, which is a nice change from my recent builds.






I got a good start on the Airscale IP as well.  Here are most of the parts, which attach to the clear kit Part R3 at the bottom.  I cut the optional acetate parts, which will be sandwiched between the IP decals and the outside panel to give the instruments a glass-like look.






All surface detail should be sanded off R3 before the PE part is glued to it later.






Instead of painting the PE parts and adding the decals first as instructed, I glued the main IP parts to R3 first for ease of handling.  After painting all the parts black, the decals will be added to the flat backings, the acetate will be added, then front bezels will be glued to the front.  Along the way I will using dull coat and dry brushing to make them look more worn and realistic.  Note that there is a handle slot on the lower left of the PE IP, that should be opened with a hot knife or similar method.






The decision to use the Airscale panel on the right side is a tough one, because to do so, you need to remove and save all the fine switches, then glue them back on later.  Good luck with that.  :rolleyes:






I decided to do it anyway, thinking I would find switch replacements someplace else.  I also filled in the gauge dial recesses, which do not align with the PE part perfectly.






Here is that right panel dry fit on the kit parts on the right, while the left panel has been glued to the kit parts which covers a big seam.  Holes were drilled for future knobs and switches, which I have now sourced from ANYZ, so what appeared to be a big problem with their replacement is now easy, so I’m glad I took the plunge.






The central console Part D34 under the IP was a bit trickier to decide, because the PE part isn’t wildly better, except at the bottom.  It’s also a bit different if that look is what you’re after.






For this one I compromised, cutting the bottom of the PE off and gluing it to the kit part with a little trimming to both parts.  I also sanded the interior of the gauge at the top, to prep it for a future gauge decal






So I’ve finally got this model on the go!  Having said that, this model is going to take a long, long time to complete.  Between distractions like a ruptured Appendix last Monday and a stay in the hospital  :o   and the fact that the weather is starting to warm up a bit, I expect this build will be at a snails pace until October, when progress should really pick up substantially like it usually does.



Another big thanks to Peter Castle and Giovanni!  You guys are the greatest, so I’ll try my best to make your parts really “pop” in this model for all to see.




Edited by chuck540z3
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