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Airfix Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat

Review of this big 1/24 scale aircraft kit with outstanding detail
Matching the full-size Hellcat’s robustness and heft, Airfix’s 1/24 scale Grumman F6F-5 is loaded with detail and options, including four complete marking schemes. The kit comprises more than 570 parts and manages an astounding level of detail solely with injection-molded plastic, including a full set of seat belts.

The fuselage goes together the same way no matter what build option you choose, but an early decision is required about folded or spread wings. Careful study of the instructions helps keep track of options and assembly sequences. There are ejector-pin marks on a few visible surfaces, understandable in such a large, detailed kit.

All parts required attention to remove seams and true mating edges. Test-fitting was essential — this is a complicated kit, and good part fits and alignment was critical. None of the work is hard, there’s just a lot of it!

Despite the loaded cockpit, fuselage assembly went quickly and easily. I omitted all of the parts aft of the rear cockpit bulkhead as they can’t be seen I was worried they might affect the fit of the fuselage halves. I found the fit of the front bulkhead to be a bit vague, worrisome given the wealth of detail that will rely on good alignment and placement.

Clear plastic supplies optional instrument panels, one with molded dials and one smooth. Individual instrument decals are included and fit well.

The engine is remarkably detailed. In fact, at times it felt as though I were building a Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine kit that happened to have some Hellcat parts included. Part fit is so good here that I used almost no glue. Airfix includes comprehensive instructions for adding ignition wiring to the beast. I had trouble using copper wire as suggested by Airfix, so I ended up using solder instead — good thing, as snaking the intake and exhaust pipes through the tight confines required nudging wires and the solder performed brilliantly. I had trouble with the fit of the oil tank because it interfered with the firewall when using the tabs on the rear support frame; I cut them off and reinstalled the tank assembly after the engine was fully mounted.

Incredibly, all of the internal ductwork fit like a glove. When installing the engine and accessory bay cowl panels, follow the sequence in the instructions; it works perfectly and the upper accessory bay cover sets everything in place.

Mini models in their own right, the wings feature fully detailed fold mechanisms, gear wells, and gun bays. The fit of the wings is complicated by numerous internal ribs, many of which in retrospect are unnecessary and impede a clean fit. Done over, I would leave out anything not directly visible through the wheel bay or open gun bay, including trimming rib noses away where they are not seen. Separate, robust wing spar stubs support straight or folded wings; Airfix correctly suggests trimming them for a smooth fit after assembling the wing internals. The separate control surfaces fit well but be aware that the cockpit controls are fixed and can’t be posed to match control surface deflections. The complicated wing-fold mechanisms are complicated assemblies and I ended up with something out of alignment enough to interfere with the fit of the outer, spread wing. I gradually trimmed the structure where the center section and wing meet until they matched correctly. The small auxiliary gear doors have tabs that don’t fit behind the gear leg, so I removed the locator and glued the door to the lower wing surface.

From the full ordnance selection included in the kit, I selected 5-inch rockets. Unfortunately, they were bowed in my kit and the fins fit the bodies poorly. I wish the rocket stubs had been provided separately as these were often mounted whether or not rockets were carried.

I painted the camo with Testors Model Master dark sea blue, the cockpit with Mission Models US interior green, and the engine bay with Mr. Color interior green.

The decals went on great with setting solution, although the large decals are a handful and can tear if you aren’t careful.

I spent a total of almost 88 hours taming Airfix’s Hellcat. The detail is wonderful, and it certainly has shelf presence – just make sure you have a (large) sturdy shelf!

Note: A version of this review appeared in the December 2019 issue.


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