Everybody probably knows that Eduard has a series of Hellcats available in 1/72. Everyone probably also knows that one of their competitors has released a similar series. The question arises as to which kit is better. In my opinion, the answer is a qualified neither. Both kits have strengths and weaknesses. I’ll be discussing those of the Eduard kit.
Please note first that this build incldues the following aftermarket:
- Eduard 73406 Hellcat Mk. II S.A.
- Eduard 72527 Hellcat Mk. II Exterior
- Eduard CX308 F6F Mask
- Quickboost 72349 F6F-3/5 Hellcat Gun Barrels
- Quickboost 72353 F6F-3/5 Hellcat Undercarriage Covers
- Quickboost 72348 F6F-3/5 Hellcat External Fuel Tank
- Quickboost 72337 F6F-3/5 Hellcat Exhaust
The Eduard kit is well cast in their standard slightly olive colored plastic on three sprues plus one clear sprue for the canopy parts. The parts are well molded with minimal mold seams and pushpin marks in places where you won’t have to worry about them during your build. Lots of parts on the trees won’t be used, since this kit also contains the parts to make an F6F-3. On this kit, holes are already opened in the underside of the wings for the 5” rockets so, if you don’t want them mounted, you’ll have to fill the holes or come up with mounts to install.
Let me preface this by saying that, although the kit is the weekend edition, I received several aftermarket improvement sets for the kit at the same time and used them during the build. I’ll talk about which ones were used where.
As is usual for these things, construction began with the cockpit. If built out of the box, the cockpit will look like a Hellcat cockpit, with the notable exception of the left side console. On the real aircraft, the panel had minimal structure under it, with the console area being open to view. The instrument panel and side consoles have dials and switches molded on and are perfectly acceptable as they are. I used the Eduard 73406 self-adhesive interior set in the cockpit. That set is for the British Hellcat Mk II, but the parts all appeared to be the same as the USN ones, so I went ahead. Man, I gotta tell you, some of those parts are tiny. However, when finished, the cockpit looks great. The left console looks just like the pictures I found of the real thing, including the wiring harness on the left side cockpit floor. I did replace the ‘towel rack’ bar over which the seat belts drape with an appropriately bent piece of wire rod. The piece from the Eduard set just wouldn’t cooperate and I wound up mangling it. Most probably my fault rather than an issue with the piece. The set (or a similar set for USN Hellcats) is definitely recommended.
The opening in the fuselage for the drop tank is flashed over and needs to be trimmed out before assembling the fuselage. The fuselage is molded with the proper overlapping skin panels which could be scary when gluing the two halves together. However, after adding the cockpit, the underside vent exhaust and the tail wheel assembly, it went together almost perfectly, requiring only very minor cleanup here and there. The fuselage immediately behind the cockpit is filled with two curved clear pieces that are to be painted over. This again allows Eduard to easily model the -3 and early -5 versions, which had windows in that area.
The wings have indentations on the insides for fitting the gun barrels, which are mounted on a wedge-shaped piece of plastic. Very clever and will ensure proper length of the gun barrels protruding through the wings. Again, one of the items I received was the Quickboost 72349 gun barrels. In this set, the gun barrels are separate pieces that could be added after all the manhandling I was going to be doing during painting, decaling and weathering. If you’re going to be using this set, I can give you a perfect bad example. I first made sure which of the resin wedges went into which wing. It does make a difference, because if you put them in backward, the gun barrels point decidedly downward from the angle of flight. After trying the wedges in their slots in the wing, I thought there was sufficient snugness in the wing to keep them in place without gluing, while still allowing a bit of lateral movement. This, I thought, would allow ‘wiggle room’ to ensure the holes in the wing and the holes in the wedges could be lined up at the end using the gun barrels. Well, I was half right and half wrong. It did allow me to line up the holes at the end. On one side, anyway. On the other, the wedge slipped out of the indentation and now rattles about inside the wing, after which I said some very bad things. I wound up super gluing the barrels into place without the wedge to back them up. I seriously do not recommend this method of installing the parts. If you use the kit parts, just be careful not to break off the barrels during handling. If you use the Quickboost parts, slip the barrels into the wedge to align it into the indentation, use a dab of superglue to hold the wedge in place, then remove the barrels until the handling is complete (insert face palm here). The gun barrels have the ends already drilled out and show nice detail under my magnifying visor. Recommended.
The exhaust stubs on the kit are molded into the cutouts in the fuselage and are acceptable as is. You might want to drill them out if you can for added realism. I received the Quickboost 72337 exhausts, so I decided to use them here. I shaved off the kit molded items and the QB parts fit perfectly in their place. They already have the openings drilled out, which I suppose is the whole point. Anyway, they look great in place. It was probably easier to use the Quickboost parts than to drill out the existing ones. Again, recommended as very useful.
The kit engine is pretty well detailed, with the parts keyed to ensure proper alignment of the cylinders and the gearbox. I used different sizes of solder to create the ignition harness and wired the engine. The cowling is in three pieces, two for either side and one for the cowling face. The two side pieces mated well but I had a small bit of sanding to do to get the face to match up with the side panels. There’s always a lot of controversy over the front view of any Hellcat kit, because it is so distinctive. Personally, I think this one looks pretty darned close. The engine has two stubs that stick out of two of the upper cylinders on the back row. These fit neatly into notches on the inside of the cowling pieces, perfectly aligning the engine with the cowling face.
The landing gear fits snugly into position, with the attachment ensuring proper alignment. You are given two options for tires, smooth and treaded. After cleaning up the minor mold seam around the tires, you attach the tires to the separate wheels. This gave me the opportunity to paint the tires and wheels separately. I also added the wheel faces from the Eduard photoetch set 72527, another for the exterior of the Hellcat Mk II, but they’re not strictly necessary, adding a bit of detail. I left the tires off until after painting.
I also used several of the small parts from the exterior photoetch set in various places around the airframe, such as the vent screen under the fuselage, rails for the opening canopy, details for the tail wheel mechanism, landing gear locks and the surrounds for the fuselage position lights. The photoetch set includes fins to replace those on the 5” rockets, consisting of four fins per rocket. Each fin has to be bent and half of it curved to match the shape of the rocket. I did it with one set on a spare rocket I had. They looked good when finished, but were fiddly to do and get aligned correctly. I knew my nerves would not hold up to doing 24 of them so I went with the kit rockets’ fins.
For the centerline external fuel tank, I received the Quickboost 72348 set for the external tank with the horizontal flange. It comes with photoetch straps to mount the tank to the underside of the fuselage, along with two resin braces. I had to open the cutout on the bottom of the fuselage slightly to get the resin piece to fit, but only just a bit. The straps are very fine but are exactly the correct length. Naturally, my innate ham-fistedness made this a challenge but it looks great and very much to scale when finished. The exterior photoetch set has a flange to go between the two halves of the kit tank, along with associated straps and braces, but I went with the resin one from Quickboost.
I added the miscellaneous small parts (antenna, pitot, etc) and started on the clear parts. After selecting the correct windscreen and open canopy for the later -5 version, I dipped them in Future. After they’d dried, I masked them using the Eduard CX308 canopy mask set. It fit perfectly. I installed the windscreen and temporarily placed the unused closed canopy in place to mask the cockpit opening. These mask sets are indispensible. Highly recommended.
After painting the prop blade tips yellow, I masked them and painted the rest of the blades flat black. After these dried, I masked the blades ready to paint the prop boss. Almost all F6F-5s were painted in overall glossy sea blue and mine was going to be no exception. Out came the airbrush and the Mr. Color lacquer-based acrylic paint. At the same time, I painted the ‘open’ canopy and Quickboost 72353, the undercarriage covers. The Eduard external set has a set of photoetch gear doors with a rather ingenious template for holding the door and having openings you are supposed to use to bend out the curved portions of the gear door. Sounds more complicated than it is. I bent one of them using the template, but I couldn’t get it smooth enough for use, so I went with the resin set. I did add several of the smaller pieces from the external set to the gear, gear doors, and wheelwells. The set is recommended for the extra detail it provides.
I painted the 5” rockets olive drab then masked them and painted the mounts sea blue and the fuses aluminum. After letting the paint dry for a couple of days, I gave everything a good gloss coat and began decaling. The kit decals are for an aircraft from VF-83 on USS Essex. I used the national insignia and a few small decals from the kit sheet and they worked well with regular setting solutions, settling down nicely into the detail. Since this was going to be part of my VF-11/VF-111 collection, I purchased and used from Blackbird Models the individual aircraft markings of Lt. Charles R. ‘Skull’ Stimpson, the leading ace of VF-11 during WWII, on the USS Hornet. After decaling was complete, I gave everything a good wash down to remove the setting solution and gloss coated everything again to begin weathering. I used watercolor washes to dirty up the wheel wells, landing gear, wheels and tail wheel assembly. I also used some to tone the large white markings down a bit. I mixed some grey, brown, and smoke paint to create the exhaust stains as well as the gun stains. I then gave the whole plane a light coat of semi-gloss clear to show wear. I wanted the model to represent a heavily used plane that had just been reloaded during the attacks on Leyte.
I removed the masking canopy, took the masks off the opened canopy and windscreen and put the opened canopy in position. I added the resin gear covers, painted the formation lights and called it done.
Yes, it says it’s a weekend edition. Could you do it in a weekend? Yes, possibly, if built out of the box, and you had the whole weekend to do nothing else. Depends on how long it takes your paint to dry. As it turned out, I more or less built the Profi-Pack version, since it includes the photoetch, the mask, and a much larger decal selection than this kit. Plus I got to test out the Quickboost additions so I’ll know what I’m getting for my other Hellcat kits.
Is it the best Hellcat kit in 1/72? Until I build the competitor’s kit, I can’t say that for sure. It’s certainly an outstanding kit that goes together very well. It has a good level of detail and lots of options right in the kit, including rockets, bombs, and the cannons and radar used on the night fighter versions. It’s good value for money, looks like a Hellcat when it’s done, and was an enjoyable build. Highly recommended.
My thanks go to Eduard for supplying the kit, the masks, and the photoetch, to Quickboost for supplying the resin sets, and to IPMS/USA for allowing me to review them.