1:48 scale Eduard F6F-5 Hellcat
Here's my latest effort, Eduard's 1:48 scale F6F-5 Hellcat 'Weekend Edition' (which, ironically, took me six months to complete.) The Eduard series of 1:48 scale Hellcats were hailed as the best in scale when they were released in 2008. They are great kits, but after building one, I'm not convinced it's the best - but more on that later.
The kit features excellent surface detail and good-to-average parts fit. The wings and horizontal stabilizers are basically butt-joined to the fuselage, leading to some gaps along the left wing root, which I filled with Mr Surfacer 500. The kit has separate flaps and control surfaces, but has no provision to display them in any position but neutral. This just complicates the build, and creates extra seams that have to be filled and sanded. The Weekend Edition doesn't have the photo-etched and resin parts that come in the standard kits, so I bought a photo-etched cockpit set from Eduard, and a replacement seat and wheels from Ultracast. The kit wheels are way too thin. Unlike Hasegawa Hellcats, The Eduard kits come with two canopies, one designed to fit open, and another for a closed canopy - something all kit makers should do. The engine is good, but needs a wiring harness, which I added from thin wire. The kit prop is really poor, with soft or missing details, and blades that are too wide at the base. I replaced it with the excellent prop from an Arii Hellcat. The drop tank in the Weekend Edition is poor as well, with no representation of the prominent vertical or horizontal seam, and without the bracing straps provided in the standard kit. The fit of the forward tank brace piece was really bad, needing filling and sanding. I used thin strip styrene to replicate bracing straps and the horizontal seam seen on the early version of the tank. I added a small round photo-etched piece from the spare parts box to represent the fuel tank filler cap. You get two sets of HVAR's - the earlier 2.5 inch rocket with a 5-inch warhead, and the standard 5-inch rocket. Both sets are very well detailed, but the mounting pylons are molded with the rockets, and have little detail. I used the standard HVAR's on my kit, with the warheads painted olive drab, and the rocket bodies painted light grey.
I recently switched to acrylics, and boy, did I make a big mistake by not priming this kit before spraying the overall gloss sea blue paint scheme. While the Model Master paint sprayed beautifully once I arrived at the right thinning ratio, the finish was extremely delicate, and the paint would scratch off easily. I spent a few hours re-spraying scratches in the finish. Lesson learned - always use primer!
I kept weathering to a minimum, since the VF-27 aircraft I was modeling had been aboard Independence just a few months before the war ended. To recreate the ever-present exhaust stains, I used Tamiya Weathering Master sets, made for armor modelers.
The Eduard kit decals are outstanding, with walkways and full stenciling, and features a Hellcat from VF-20 deployed aboard USS Enterprise in October of 1944. I wanted something a little more eye-catching, so I chose the flamboyant checkerboard markings of VF-27 deployed aboard USS Independence in the final months of the war. VF-27 was famous for their earlier 'cat-mouth' squadron markings that adorned the cowls of their Hellcats. After their carrier, USS Princeton, was sunk, the squadron was sent stateside for a while, then re-deployed aboard USS Independence from June to August of 1945. The checkerboard tail and wing markings came from SuperScale sheet #481239. My main reference for the markings is an outstanding little booklet, 'Markings of The Aces, Part 2, U.S. Navy, Book 1, by Richard Hill. It was published by Kookaburra Technical Publications in 1969, and provides a detailed look at the markings and combat record of VF-2, VF-9, VF-17, and VF-27. Once everything was decaled, I airbrushed a coat of Testor semigloss clear coat over the model, which I think has more scale accuracy than a gloss coat.
Back to which is the 'best' 1:48 scale Hellcat:
Of the readily available 1:48 Hellcat kits, there are only two choices, if accuracy is a concern - the Eduard and Hasegawa Hellcat series. The Arii/Otaki kit, while still very good, lacks a decent engine and cockpit, and the Hobby Boss F6F suffers from a fuselage that is about 2 or 3 scale feet too wide, throwing off the accuracy of the canopy and everything in the cockpit. The old Monogram Hellcat, while accurate in outline, has no cockpit at all, and working landing gear and folding wings that are inaccurate and toy-like. Here is my breakdown on the plusses and minuses of the Hasegawa and Eduard kits.
Surface detail - both kits have very finely recessed and accurate panel lines, with counter-sunk rivet detail. Eduard does represent the 'lapped panel' effect on the fuselage, but you have to run a fingernail across it to tell it's there. I think both kits are even here.
Cockpit - Hasegawa's instrument panel accurately represents that the main panel is not attached to the central pedestal. The Eduard cockpit has soft detail, and does not accurately portray the left side panel. The gunsight on the Hasegawa kits are well done, but is represented very poorly in the Eduard kits. Overall, the Hasegawa kit cockpit is quite good, and includes a frame for the seat, and the hydraulic pump handle on the cockpit floor. Advantage Hasegawa.
Propeller - the Hasegawa prop is better, by a wide margin. The Eduard prop is very crude and inaccurate. Advantage Hasegawa.
Cowl - Eduard captures the subtle 'grin' of the chin scoop more accurately, and also provides parts for different versions. Advantage Eduard.
Landing gear and wells - The main gear struts of both kits are very good, but Eduard has a few more details, including small retraction struts and the lock-up hooks for the main gear struts. But Hasegawa's gear wells are deeper and more accurate. The wheels of both kits look a little thin, but Hasegawa's have a nice diamond tread pattern. Very slight advantage Hasegawa.
Canopy/clear parts - Eduard provides separate canopies for opened or closed versions. The Hasegawa kit canopy cannot be posed open. Advantage Eduard.
Drop tank - Hasegawa's tank is outstanding - accurate, well-detailed, with great fit. Eduard's tank is marginal to awful, depending in which kit you get. The Eduard tank has the curved mounting pylon of earlier versions, but no representation of the very prominent vertical or horizontal seam. The fit is poor, especially for the forward braces. The standard edition does come with photo-etched mounting straps, but these are absent in the Weekend Edition. Advantage Hasegawa.
Weapons - Hasegawa actually provides weapons in their Hellcat kits: early and late versions of the HVAR (high velocity aircraft rocket). The rockets are good, but the nozzles lack detail. The rocket pylons, on the other hand, are molded seperately and are very accurate and beautifully molded with petite detail. Eduard's rockets are by far better, especially the accurately presented nozzles. The pylons are molded to the rockets, and lack the detail of Hasegawa's. Eduard also provides stenciling for the rockets. Advantage Eduard.
Fit/parts engineering - Overall, both kits fit well, but Hasegawa has a better and more secure attachment of the wings and stabilizers. Eduard has separate control surfaces and flaps, but they cannot be posed deflected without modifying the parts. Extra work is needed here to get everything smooth and seamless. Advantage Hasegawa.
Decals - Hasegawa's decals are thick, though they do settle down with setting solution. But Hasegawa simply cannot seem to print the color white on their decal sheets. Everything white is a light cream color. Eduard's decals are terrific. Their standard Hellcat kits feature five sets of markings, and one set in the Weekend edition. Advantage Eduard.
To me, there is no clear winner of 'best' 1:48 Hellcat. Hasegawa and Eduard kits have different strong and weak points - you just have to decide which good points you like best, and which weak areas you can live with. After building both, I lean toward the Hasegawa kit as the easier build, and better-fitting overall. I hope my observations are helpful if you decide to build a 1:48 scale Hellcat.