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Tamiya F4F-4 built as FM-1 Wildcat - 1/48


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Here is what I'm currently working on.  From everything I've read the kit goes together very well and easily:

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Of course I've decided to complicate things considerably by adding a bunch of aftermarket, including a wing fold set from Wolfpack that allows you to build the kit as the FM-1.   I happened to get very lucky and find this kit on eBay with all the aftermarket shown below, aside from the Wolfpack set, for under $50 with shipping from Greece of all places.  The Aires set alone, which has a ton of resin and PE components, retails for $55 or over, so I figured why not?

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The Aires set is a bit overwhelming, with lots of detail pieces, but a decent upgrade over the already nicely detailed Tamiya kit:

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The Wolfpack wing fold seems to be nicely done.  It might be tricky trying to add the Aires gun bays to the wings, however, given that the Wolfpack wings are resin and a solid piece.  Also, the FM-1 (built by Eastern) only had two guns per wing rather than three as with the F3F-4 Grumman version, so I'll need to modify the gun bays a bit which shouldn't be too difficult.

Couple of more pictures of the Atlantic paint scheme, including a picture of a FM-1 that is part of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum collection.  I'm in the DC area, unfortunately it looks like it's not on display at the moment (and I believe the museum is closed due to Covid).  Oh well.  image.jpeg.2f837e63a90ad8e6104eb11cd8cb8a25.jpeg

 

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I haven't gotten too far yet as I'm trying to come up with a sensible build plan with the various aftermarket, but quick question.  Is the underside belly of these planes completely rounded, or does it come to a slight ridge at the centerline?  I glued the two fuselage halves together last night, and am not sure if I should sand off the very slight ridge or not.  This is my first Tamiya kit, and I didn't know if the ridge is intentional, or if Tamiya gives a little extra material so that builders can sand things back.

Thanks in advance!

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Nice choice and quite a task with all the AM.

I'm not an expert and didn't quite catch which ridge you mean, but found some belly pics of a FM-2, I took in NASM Pensacola some years ago. May these help. Sorry for the bad quality of the pics, but light was very sparse in that section of the museum..

Cheers Rob

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Rob, many thanks for those pictures.  I should have posted photos, but here is what I'm talking about - the bottom halves of the fuselage form a sort of raised keel at the centerline.  I can't figure out if that is accurate, or perhaps that's just how the seam came together when I glued them.

 

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Been slowly making progress on the Wildcat.  I'd probably be halfway done with the build by now with the time I've spent if I was building this out of the box, but the Aires resin set is adding a ton of time.  A bunch of time was spent taking the parts off the plugs (and some of the plugs are fairly thick and hard) and repairing some of the parts that had cracked.  I'm not exactly sure why, but sometimes the CA grabs immediately, and other times, it just doesn't want to bond resin together at all.  Also, the instructions are pretty sparse, and being not all that familiar with things like the engine, engine mounts, firewalls, etc., I've been spending more time looking online to figure out how things are supposed to work.  But, it's been a fun learning experience.

Cockpit

The cockpit is going together ok so far.  I painted the interior using Vallejo US Light Green, which is supposed to match "Interior Green" (ANA611).  I added some of the cockpit PE details from the Eduard set - the nice thing about the PE set is that it is colored.  I need to touch up and add a little highlighting and shading, but so far is looking ok color wise.

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Where I'm having issues is with the fit, however.  The tub fits nicely, but the rest of the cockpit definitely is not plug and play!  The seat, for example, seems a little too big so I might try seeing if the Eduard PE seat is a better match.  The bigger issue is getting the side panels to fit properly inside the interior.  They keep pushing up above the canopy line, so I might need to do a little surgery.  Others seem to have the same issue so it's good to know it's not user error.

Firewall

The firewall is a lot more detailed than the kit plastic, but is 2mm wider at the horizontal line where those tabs are sticking out along the sides (well, one of the tabs snapped off).  Not exactly sure what was intended with them, but I'll probably have to cut them off to get the firewall to fit properly.  Next to it you can see the kit part.  I ended up assembling the framing to it because I couldn't for the life of me figure out from the instructions how the resin framing and other components were supposed to fit.  I found a log from someone building the 1/32 Trumpeter kit that helped immensely, so I think I'm good to go now.

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Engine

Been slowly working on the engine too.  There's probably 50+ parts when all is said and done.  I stopped here because I couldn't figure out from the kit instructions which way the cylinders (think that's what they are) are supposed to face.

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Life Raft

The Aires detail set has a lot of open panels to show off things like the engine, interior framing, and the life raft.  This went in fairly easily.  Had to cut the section out of the fuselage, then it was a matter of cutting and sanding back the base of the resin part so that it could slide up into area.  A bit of CA and filler, and everything is looking good.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks everyone for the kind words!

I've made some progress over the last couple of weeks.  The kit is fairly simple and my guess is one can put it together in about a week.  The Aires set is probably going to double the time building this kit, at least for me.  I'm still fairly new to plastic models, and this is my first super detail set that I've worked with.

Engine

Here's where I am with the engine.  I calculated that there were 90 individual pieces when all was said and done, including the resin detail parts and the individual rods that you had to cut and add (I used thin plastic rod) :o  Thankfully the Aires set includes a PE ring containing all the ignition wires that made things fairly easy.  At this point, I painted with Vallejo Metal Color Duralinum, and added a black wash.  Still need to paint the ignition wires, rods, and center cap, add a little grime and highlights, etc., but I think the engine is looking fairly nice.

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Cockpit

The cockpit components from the Aires set are really nice when it comes to detail.  Here are some of the pieces after painting and washes:

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Warning!  The fit of the cockpit set is terrible!  Apparently others have had similar complaints, so this is not my typical case of user error.  The instructions essentially have you build the full cockpit, then insert the consolidated cockpit into the fuselage.  The parts fit together cleanly outside the fuselage, but when you try to fit everything in, you run into bad fit problems. The tub fits perfectly fine, but the side panels and frame for the seat are off.  Am definitely glad I test fitted things in advance or I would have been in for a nasty surprise.  Instead of assembling the cockpit completely and popping it into the fuselage, I'm essentially modifying and gluing things like the side panels, seat frame, and instrument panel separately into the top half of the fuselage, then will pop the tub into the bottom half.  A little frustrating in that this stage has taken hours but I think I have a plan forward.

 

Bottom of fuselage/firewall/engine mount area

Between the Aires set and the Wolfpack wing fold conversion, there won't be much left of the original kit.  First, here is what the kit provides for the bottom of the fuselage and wings:

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This is what you end up with (with the Aires firewall and landing gear support included).  The wings come off to add the Wolfpack wings, and the front of the fuselage where the engine mount comes off for the Aires details.

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The Aires instructions leave a lot to be desired.  For example, they suggest that this section of the build comes after the cockpit, but for a variety of reasons, especially with the poor fit of the cockpit parts, I think it's better to nail this section down first before installing the cockpit.  Speaking of fit, the firewall doesn't fit very well - it's got two winged tabs on either side that make it too wide to fit into the fuselage without surgery to the fuselage.  Since those pieces aren't going to be seen, I just went ahead and removed them.

I still have to include the framing and fuel tank pieces, but I think I've finally worked out a plan on how all these parts fit together and things are coming along.

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For colors, I understand that the interior fuselage was painted Interior Green from the firewall back, and "white" from the firewall forward.  I'm using Vallejo US Light Green for the green sections.  Rather than use "white" I'm using Vallejo gray primer which actually comes out like an off white with a grayish hue.  I think that would be a better base than white, I can detail with washes and white highlights as need be.

Landing Gear

Tamiya has you essentially assemble the landing gear as one piece that is added later in the build.  Aires does it a little differently, with the bottom frame already attached to the firewall, and the top halves of the landing gear legs assembled against the firewall early in the construction.  So, I needed to cut off the top halves of the kit parts, and drill holes into the tops to accept the Aires parts.  Wasn't too bad, but the Aires instructions don't make any mention of this.

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I should say that while I've been critical of the Aires detail set, it's quite nice aside from the fit issues and fairly rudimentary instructions.  The parts are very crisp and the resin used is pretty robust.  I read a build log where someone used the KMC resin cockpit set for this kit and the resin was so fragile, the parts were crumbling during assembly.  Not the case here, though you certainly need to be careful.  I'm not sure if Aires offers this set anymore, but it does pop up on eBay here and there.  

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If you guys don't mind, I had some questions I was hoping you could help me with.

1.  I'm not sure what you call the ring on which the engine is mounted (see below), but does anyone know or have any recommendations as to what color it should be?  The inner side facing the firewall is white I believe, but I'm thinking the outer facing side should be some kind of metallic color.

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2.  The Aires set has you cut out panels in the cowl and replace them with PE and resin parts.  I started doing that here:

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I cut out the panels along the kit part's panel lines.  The Aires PE part doesn't seem to fit though.  I'm wondering how it's supposed to attach.  

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In the picture above, it looks like these PE parts are supposed to be sort of an under frame onto which the actual panels would be riveted onto.  If so, should I glue it into the cowl from the inside?  And if I do so, should I thin down the cowl from the inside to accept the PE so that it fits flush with the rest of the cowl?  The kit plastic seems fairly thick, and possibly thicker than what a fuselage panel would be.  I worry if I just glued the PE directly from the inside without thinning that the kit plastic would look too thick.

3.  I plan on displaying this model with the wings folded.  The Aires detail set has gun bay detail parts so you can open up the gun bays on the model.  Would the gun bays ever be open on a plane if the wings were folded?  I've seen folks do that on various models, but wasn't sure if that was technically accurate.  

 

Many thanks in advance!  

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