Hobby Boss
1/48 F6F-5 Hellcat
Kit Number: 80339
Reviewed by  Roger Rasor, IPMS# 34117

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MSRP: $34.00
Website: www.hobbyboss.com Review kit provided by Lucky Model: www.luckymodel.com

The Grumman F6F Hellcat has been a popular subject among model kit manufacturers for decades. Recently, Hobby Boss joined the crowd when they released two 1/48 Hellcat kits, one to build the F6F-3 and one to build the later F6F-5. Both kits include most of the same (if not all) injection-molded parts and therefore share the same plusses and minuses. The following is a review of the F6F-5 kit.

In the colorfully illustrated 2-piece box, the modeler will find 2 sprues containing 6 clear parts and 5 sprues containing 112 parts molded in a soft gray plastic that is typical of the plastic in most kits currently manufactured in China. A foldout instruction sheet provides easy-to-follow assembly steps in black and white line drawings and includes some color call outs for certain internal components.

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The plusses: Everything looks great in the box. Sprues are separately bagged and delicate parts are protected by a foam wrap. The molding is top notch with only a couple of minor sink marks that are easily filled and sanded out. Parts have crisp details, with finely engraved panel lines and recessed rivets, and there is very little flash. There is a wealth of internal detail, the parts generally fit together quite well and most panel lines align nicely.

[review image] The decal sheet provides markings for two aircraft, an instrument panel, and prop blade markings. They are crisply printed and well registered on thin film that almost disappears when applied. The colors are vivid and the decals respond well to a setting solution (I used Gunze's Mr. Mark Softer). A separate full-color card that illustrates the exterior colors and markings of two USN aircraft is included. Markings are provided for:
  1. F6F-5 #19 of VF-9, flying from the carrier Lexington for raids on Tokyo in February 1945.
  2. F6F-5 "Minsi III" of Commander David McCampbell flying off the USS Essex in late-1944.

An attractive feature of the kit is the option of building the model with the wings spread or folded. This is the first 1/48 scale Hellcat kit that I am aware of that offers this feature without resorting to aftermarket parts. The wings can be placed in the folded or unfolded position during assembly by inserting one of two styles of wing inserts, one with straight spars for spread wings and the other with the spars molded in the folded back angle to align the folded wings correctly. The canopy can be posed in the closed or open position and the tail hook also can be positioned closed or extended. The minuses: The biggest one is that the fuselage shape is not accurate. The cross section is too wide, so the cockpit is too wide, the spine is too wide, the seat is too wide, the instrument panel is too wide and the canopy is too wide. How wide? Check out the photo below of the Hobby Boss Hellcat fuselage (on the left) compared to the Hasegawa Hellcat fuselage (on the right). Many modelers focus on the accuracy of the Hellcat cowl 'smile', but that's the least of the issues with this kit. The Hobby Boss F6F cowling tapers too much from back to front (see overhead comparison photo below of the Hobby Boss fuselage below the Hasegawa fuselage).

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Beyond that, the center-line fuel tank has shape problems and lacks the vertical weld seam and the support straps that were used on the actual tank, no machine gun barrels are included to fit into the openings in the wings and the wheels have a superficial tread that will likely disappear when the center seam is lightly sanded off.

[review image] Adding to these conspicuous shape and detail problems, Hobby Boss includes a number of unnecessary detail parts that no one will ever see after the model is completed. They include oil and air tanks, frame members, engine bearers and engine back head details that only the builder will know are in there after things are buttoned up. In addition, all internal fuselage ribs are molded in place…again inside the fuselage where no one will ever see them. It seems a bit odd that so much energy went into including so many unnecessary details in a kit that has so many accuracy issues.

Modelers who are not concerned about the inaccuracies may enjoy building the kit, as it does go together fairly well, most major panel lines align nicely and the plastic is easy to work with. The cockpit is replete with details, and assembling it goes smoothly, but I just couldn't dismiss the shape issues, especially that extra wide seat, the supersized instrument panel and the bulbous spine behind the cockpit, as I completed the assembly.

It appears that the kit designers and instruction sheet artists gave little thought to painting and finishing the model. If you follow the kit instruction steps exactly, you will find yourself capturing a fully assembled engine and a plate with delicate exhaust pipes, along with a totally assembled cockpit tub and engine bearers, within the fuselage halves as you close things up. This can lead to a misaligned engine when the cowling is attached and make painting the nose of the assembled fuselage a difficult task with the exhaust pipes already in place.

I recommend that anyone building the kit alter the assembly and installation sequence for the engine. By leaving off part number E37 - the engine back head detail - it is possible to close up the fuselage halves with the cockpit tub, tail wheel assembly and tail hook in place, and later add the exhaust pipes, engine and cowling to the fuselage through the hole in the nose of the fuselage after everything has been assembled and painted. And…oh, yes…you may also decide to just leave off all those parts that no one will ever see when you assemble the cockpit and engine bay parts (these would be parts #A9, #A17, #E13 and #E39+E40).

As I said, the kit is a fairly easy build. Most everything fits with little hassle (except aligning the engine, and fitting the windscreen), and the plastic was easy to sand, rescribe and polish for painting. I used Tamiya liquid cement to assemble the parts. A little putty was needed to smooth out the seam along the underside of the fuselage where the wing attaches, but none was required anywhere else. The folded wings lined up nicely, and the landing gear plugged into their respective spots firmly. On the other hand, the windscreen is a little oversize, so getting it into place required repeated dry-fitting and adjusting to conform to the recess it is supposed to fit into.

The two paint and markings schemes are both late war USN overall Glossy Sea Blue, which allows a modeler to paint and decal most of the model in sub-assemblies. That's the way I did it. I mixed some Tamiya acrylic hobby colors to closely match the ANA 623 (close to FS15042 in an old Federal Standard color book I have) and applied the kit decals with no problems whatsoever. As a matter of fact, they might actually be among the best kit decals I've ever used. It's unfortunate that some of them are also a little oversized…the prop blade decals, for example, are sized more appropriately for a 1/32 scale model and much of the stenciling would look better on a 1/32 model also.

I chose to finish the model with the wings folded to help hide the rather wide fuselage. I attached the two bombs, but decided to plug the holes in the wings with some stretched sprue and leave the rockets off. It just seemed safer to stow the aircraft that way, since it will probably spend the majority of it's days somewhere below, out of sight, on the hanger deck. Here are some photos of the finished model.

My thanks to Lucky Model and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to build and review this kit.

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