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Sword 1/48 scale General Motors FM-2 Wildcat/Martlet

Kit: No. 48005
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer: Sword, available from Squadron Mail Order, 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX 75011-5010, 972-242-8663, www.squadron.com
Price: $29.98
Comments: Injection-molded, 46 parts (3 resin, 2 vacuum-formed canopies), decals
Pros: Excellent cast-resin cockpit sides and seat, good vacuum-formed canopy, good fit
Cons: Soft detail on instrument panel, inaccurate cockpit floor, poor landing gear struts, cowl too long


By 1942, Grumman already had its hands full manufacturing F4F Wildcats and TBF Avengers for the U.S. Navy and the Allies. Then, in June, the company began setting up tooling for production of F6F Hellcats. To the rescue came the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors, with five East Coast plants to take some of the load. GM took over the Wildcat (FM-1 and FM-2) and Avenger (TBM) production, while Grumman built the Hellcat.

The FM-2 was the most-produced Wildcat version, with 4,777 built, 370 of them supplied to the British Fleet Air Arm. It differed from the F4F-4 by having a Wright Cyclone engine instead of the Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp, four guns instead of six, and a taller fin to help counteract the torque of the more powerful engine.

Although Monogram's old Wildcat kit had some FM-2 characteristics, Sword's is the first plastic kit to represent the last of the Wildcats. The plastic parts show fine recessed panel lines, but edge flash and mold seam lines require a lot of cleanup. The cockpit sidewalls and the seat are beautifully done in resin. Two vacuum-formed canopies (one is a spare) are well done, too. Decals are provided for a U.S. Navy FM-2 from VC-99 aboard CVE-75 USS Hoggatt Bay and a Martlet VI of 882 Squadron on board HMS Searcher.

It's too bad that Sword didn't provide a resin instrument panel, as the plastic one supplied is vague and without detail. The cockpit floor is inaccurate; the Wildcat didn't really have a floor, just foot troughs with the seat bolted to the rear cockpit bulkhead.

The nicely molded engine halves fit precisely. However, the pushrods are missing and need to be scratchbuilt from plastic rod or wire. The propeller cleans up nicely and has the look of the wide-bladed Curtiss products supplied on the FM-2. However, there is no propeller shaft, making it difficult to mount the prop on the engine. I made a shaft from steel tubing, drilled out the back of the propeller hub and the engine crankcase to hold the shaft, and used a spare nylon grommet from a Hasegawa kit to keep it in place.

Even after sanding the mold parting lines on the landing gear struts, these parts do not match the quality of the rest of the kit.

The cockpit sides fit the fuselage halves fine, but the floor was a bit wide and had to be shaved down. Sword has you mount the cast-resin seat into holes in the floor, but this made the seat collide with the control stick. I moved my model's seat back about 1Ú8" but had to adjust the position of the aft bulkhead to do it.

From there on, assembly was mostly a breeze. The fuselage joints matched perfectly; the upper and lower wing halves lined up with nothing more than cleanup of the edges. I didn't use any filler, and sanding seams was nothing more than a swipe with a polishing stick.

There are no spars or locating pins to attach the wings, making it difficult to establish equal dihedral. The horizontal stabilizers matched their mounting surfaces better than those in most kits I've built. No filler or sanding was required on the roots of the wings or the stabilizers.

Even after cutting the canopy from the sheet, it remained stiff enough to allow easy sanding of its edges. The prominent frame lines were easy to mask and paint. There is no simulation of the covered ventral windows in the fuselage.

I ran into some problems mounting the landing gear. The drawings don't show how the fore/aft brace (part No. 33) attaches to the rear of the engine firewall (29). Also, if you place the bulkhead mounts (22) so they fit the main struts (26), the bulkhead won't fit cleanly inside the fuselage.

Engraved lines on the gear-well bulkhead suggest the chains and sprockets of the landing gear retraction system. An underside view of how to mount the landing gear doors would have come in handy, but the view given leaves a lot of questions.

I had to grind away about half the thickness of the cowl to get the engine to fit inside. In the end, the cowl looks more like the one fitted to the Twin Wasp Wildcats, not the shorter one for the Cyclone-equipped FM-2.

I used Testor Model Master enamels for the gloss sea blue scheme and white unit markings. The panels around the exhaust stubs were covered with Bare-Metal Foil.

The kit's Techmod decals are ultra thin and fragile. I was careful to float each decal onto a puddle of water, which allowed sliding them into position. Once the excess water was blotted away, the decals grabbed and could not be moved.

Total time on this model was about 20 hours. Aside from the too-long cowl, I think the model looks great sitting alongside my Corsairs and Hellcats. Modelers who have a little experience with limited-production kits should add this one to their collections.

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