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Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat


S u m m a r y

Catalogue Number: 02223
Scale: 1/32
Contents and Media: 223 parts in light grey and clear injection molded plastic; metal shafts for ailerons and flaps; rubber tires; photo-etched parts for control surface hinges; markings for one aircraft
Price: USD$44.97 from Squadron.com (pre-orders)
Review Type: FirstLook
Advantages: Worthy subject in this large scale; good quality moldings; adequate detail in most areas; ambitious workable features including all control surfaces and wing folds; nicely detailed cockpit parts; thin, clear and accurate transparent parts.
Disadvantages: Serious discrepancies of outline, profile and details compared to published drawings, reference photos and available kits; inaccurate "full floor" in shallow cockpit; large number of recessed rivets on the wings; squared-off leading edge of rudder.
Recommendation: Only recommended if outline accuracy is not an issue.


Previewed by Brett Green

Trumpeter's 1/32 scale F4F-4 Wildcat will be available online from Squadron.com




Trumpeter's new 1/32 scale F4F-4 Wildcat comprises 223 injection molded parts in grey plastic and clear styrene (including a clear cowl), rubber tires, a small bag of metal rods, a photo-etched fret with hinges for control surfaces and an acetate sheet with printed instruments.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

I was quite surprised by the large number of recessed rivets in the wings. The remainder of the parts were more subdued in this respect, with crisp, recessed detail on the fuselage halves.


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Control surface textures are a little exaggerated though, with prominent raised ribs on the elevators and peculiar, capsule-like shapes representing fabric texture on the rudder. Light sanding will improve these areas.

All control surfaces are movable, including the flaps. Each control surface is connected using a metal rod and photo-etched hinges. It will be interesting to see how these work in practice. Curiously, even though the rudder is hinged, it is sharply squared off at the leading edge. Some modification will be required.

The wings folds are also workable. These are hinged via a single styrene pin inside the wing, so care will be required when handling the model and operating the wing fold.

The cockpit shares the error of most other F4F kits, in that it has a solid floor. In this large scale the problem will be more obvious. However, the cockpit also contains some nicely detailed parts. Quadrants, boxes and cases are all supplied separately so there is ample potential to complete a superdetailed cockpit without a floor and with some scratchbuilt structural detail added to the lower half of the fuselage.

Detail in the engine is not bad, but we are presented with only short intakes for the intercoolers. Adding wiring detail on the engine will be worth the effort as it will be quite visible in this scale.

The clear parts are really very good. They are thin and clear, and the shape of the canopy parts is accurate.


Comparison to Drawings and Other Kits

Even while the kit was still on the sprues, something did not look right when I examined the fuselage and canopy parts. This impression was reinforced by diagrams in the instructions. At first I thought that the windscreen angle was to steep, but I could not quite put my finger on the source of the problem.

I decided to scale-up the 1/72 scale drawings in Bert Kinzey's 2000 edition of "F4F Wildcat in Detail" to both 1/48 scale and 1/32 scale. Please note that I did not rely purely on the comparisons with a single set of dramatically upscaled drawings. I also tested the important discrepancies by checking photographs and the shape of other Wildcat models.

My conclusion is that there are serious discrepancies between the drawings and some fundamental shapes on this model. Further comparison with photos and the Tamiya 1/48 scale F4F-4 suggests that there are some real problems with the outline of Trumpeter's kit. The diagram below indicates the areas of discrepancy between the side profile drawing and the kit fuselage/rudder:



The main problems are:

  1. The rudder hinge line is located approximately 3mm too far aft. However, the rudder itself is close to the correct size, and the leading edge of the fin is in the correct position. The effect is that the vertical tail is noticeably too wide.

  2. The access hatch is in the wrong position and is the wrong shape

  3. The fuselage spine should be almost a straight line, but a noticeable downward curve has been added near the canopy.

  4. The nose is as much as 6mm too short in height, and does not taper steeply enough to the engine cowling. As a result of problems 3 and 4, the canopy line has been altered to suit these new shapes. This means that the angle of the canopy, which should be angled upward almost in line with the fuselage spine, is almost flat. Interestingly though, the shapes of the windscreen and the sliding canopy section seem to be very accurate. They just look odd because they will be mounted at the wrong angle.

  5. The top cowl intake is squared off, not angled forward as it should be.

  6. In addition to these outline and dimensional problems, the cuffs on the propeller blades appear to be proportionally too long. The diameter of the propeller assembly is close to correct though.

The image below shows the actual Trumpeter fuselage laid over the scaled-up plans:



The wings are also too short in span by a total of around 10mm, although this is not as noticeable as the fuselage contours. However, each aileron is also 5mm short. The shape of the wingtips is also wrong:



I compared the Tamiya 1/48 scale Wildcat fuselage to the 1/48 upscaled drawings. Conformance between the drawings and the Tamiya kit in the areas of the fin, the fuselage hatch, fuselage spine and the nose was much closer:







Trumpeter's 1/32 scale F4F-4 Wildcat qualifies as my biggest disappointment in a plastic kit for many years.

Their USS Hornet, Mi-4, 1/48 scale MiG-15s; added to earlier releases including the MiG-21 family and MiG-19s - not to mention their armour kits - indicated that a new plastic star was rising in the East. Some of these kits had specific problems, but other model companies make mistakes too, and many of us expected to see steady improvement in subsequent releases.

Trumpeter's controversial 1/24 scale Mustang had a few profile inaccuracies and some silly mistakes and tooling shortcuts, especially around the nose, cockpit and the canopy. I am sure we all hoped this was just a hiccup.

However, this F4F-4 Wildcat is a poor omen for future large scale Trumpeter WWII releases.

Trumpeter has the capability and the golden opportunity to revive the segment of our hobby devoted to large-scale WWII model aircraft. Hasegawa and Tamiya has already responded to their competition with each company having recently released acclaimed WWII kits in 1/32 scale - Hasegawa's marvelous (and relatively inexpensive) Bf 109G and Tamiya's breathtaking A6M5 Zero.

If Trumpeter wants to earn a reputation as a top-tier model company along with Tamiya and Hasegawa, they will have to take a good hard look at their initial research. As a modeler, it is extremely frustrating to see a subject like the Wildcat, with so many restored examples available for examination and abundant reference sources, botched so badly in fundamental areas.

There is no doubt that Trumpeter is capable of producing a high quality model kit. Some extra research time spent at the beginning of the process, together with a post-tooling review, would improve the chances of getting a high quality and accurate model kit. 

So, after the analysis, does Trumpeter's kit look like a Wildcat?

I suppose so, but it will be noticeably distorted in some key areas. I do not consider myself a "rivet counter", and Trumpeter's F4F-4 is not without merit. Even so, I cannot recommend it to modelers who want an accurate kit straight from the box

I sincerely hope that it is not too late in the development process to see a newly-tooled fuselage and rudder for the forthcoming Trumpeter 1/32 scale F4F-3 Wildcat.

Now that would be a commitment to quality!


Text and Images Copyright 2003 by Brett Green
Page Created 21 February, 2003
Last updated 15 August, 2003

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