Manufacturer: Accurate Miniatures, 100 Centre St., Charlotte, NC 28216-4064, 704-391-1176.
Kit: No. 3413-0200
Comments:Injection molded, 72 parts (17 photoetched), decals
Pros: Excellent detail, near perfect fit, decals enable any F3F to be modeled, photoetched rigging included
Cons: Adding photoetched rigging can be tricky
Accurate Miniatures announced its 1/48 scale Grumman F3F kits some time ago, but they are worth the wait! These portly, colorful, aerobatic, Navy and Marine biplanes with retractable gear were favorites of mine since I was a boy.
The kit is well packaged with separate plastic bags for all the sprues and a false box bottom to protect the clear parts and decals. The light gray plastic is crisply molded and flash-free. Two frets of photoetched metal parts are provided: A thin one for the seat belts and engine wiring harness and a thicker one for the parallel, flattened rigging wires, bomb racks, and the tiny ring-and-bead gun sights. The thorough decal sheet is well printed and provides markings to enable you to model any of the 57 F3F-1 produced. Options include a gun camera for the top wing and bomb racks with bombs. You have your choice of decal or photoetched seat belts and two different decal instruments to go on the clear plastic instrument panel. Both normal and "weighted" tires are given, and the latter are flattened with the proper camber in mind.
The 20 page instruction manual carefully explains all 16 assembly steps, and the drawings and markings diagram are helpful. I like the recommended paint list. Accurate recommends you consult your references when it comes to marking your F3F - I recommend Squadron/Signal's Grumman Biplane Fighters in Action.
The engineering and the fit of parts are outstanding. The cabane struts are molded to the fuselage at the correct angle. The complex landing gear is easily assembled because the landing gear A frames are molded to bottom plates at the correct angle. The cockpit interior and engine are beautifully detailed, and both fit to the fuselage with no problems.
The minute ring-and bead-sights are etched to large holding tabs to make them easier to glue into the slots in the tubular bomb sight. These tabs are then twisted off after the super glue has set.
I painted and decorated the model at this point. Although the decal sheet provides markings for any F3F-1 made, you must mask and paint the cowl, wing chevron, and fuselage bands if they were used on the aircraft you choose to model. I chose the colorful neutrality-patrol markings from the carrier USS Wasp.
Assembly of the lower wings, stabilizers, and rudder to the fuselage was simplified by excellent fit. I was pleasantly surprised that there were no problems attaching the upper wing to the cabanes struts and the N struts between the wings. The only real glitch came in using the photoetched metal rigging. They represent the flat wires and provide accurate spacing of the double flying and landing wires. It's probably best to glue only one end of each wire and let the other end "float" in its hole, as my flying wires were slightly bowed. Accurate cautions to make sure the slots for the wires are clear of glue-softened plastic and paint, so maybe I wasn't careful enough.
The finished model is a handsome addition to my collection, and the building experience was a pleasure. I recommend it to any modeler who has experience with biplane models and photoetched parts. I spent about 38 hours completing this kit, much of it in masking, painting, and decaling.