1/48 Wildcat Cockpits
Editor's note: This post is part of a series discussing 1/48 Wildcats by Tamiya (1994), HobbyBoss (2007), and Eduard (2022) from unboxing to final weathering. Along the way, I'll present an honest opinion of each kit and share a variety of tips, tricks, and techniques.
Similar to most aircraft builds, my Wildcats began their assemblies with the cockpit and I found the common starting point comforting because this is my first batch-build. From their instructions, the Tamiya and HobbyBoss kits appear to follow similar tooling approaches. Each kit features several bulkheads, a basic instrument panel, seat, and arm extensions. All the parts have nicely molded detail. Importantly, these are all-styrene kits. I consider these two kits as peers as detailed in my unboxing post.
Then there's Eduard. Their Wildcat has a cockpit that features a more extensive interior build-out and because it is a ProfiPACK edition, the cockpit will receive a healthy dose of photoetch. The mixed-media is something I'm looking forward to working with.
Tamiya's F4F-4 Wildcat
As mentioned, Tamiya presents a typical set of cockpit parts. I didn't see evidence of flash or undesirable ejector pin markings. Any seam lines were quickly dealt with using a standard hobby knife or sanding stick.
Once the parts were cleaned up, I began to hand paint everything with Vallejo acrylics. An initial priming coat of grey (70.992) was followed by white (70.951) pre-shading. Lastly, several layers of interior green (71.010) were added. Details were painted with a variety of colors. I used a fine-tip pen to create my own instrument panel gauges because there was no included decal. I should note that an actual Wildcat cockpit was not referenced. Instead, visual interest was my guide. I rounded out the first stage of painting with sponge chipping Oily Steel (70.865).
I proceeded to assemble the cockpit and found that the fit was excellent. To bring everything together, I applied a gloss varnish (70.510) and finished things up with Tamiya's Dark Brown and Grey Panel Line Accent Colors. In the end, I thought things went really well for a 1994 build!
HobbyBoss's FM-1 Wildcat
Like Tamiya, HobbyBoss also provides a very traditional cockpit layout. But unlike Tamiya, as I cut parts from the sprue I began to notice some flash, mold lines, and bulky attachment points. Additionally, some of the parts didn't appear as crisply molded as I initially thought, but there were standouts like the nobs on the radio. In sum, consistency and precision were not at the level I expected of a 2007 tooling.
Owing to its newer vintage, I opted to airbrush this kit. I started with a base layer of Tamiya's NATO Black (XF-69) and used White (XF-2) to highlight certain areas. Once the preshading was down, I sprayed Vallejo's Interior Green, and finished the base up in the same manner as the Tamiya build: hand painting details and applying sponge chipping. Surprisingly, HobbyBoss did not include an instrument panel decal either.
In terms of construction, parts fit was not bad, but it did require a "heavier touch" at times. Again, relative to Tamiya's crisp 1994 tooling, I was a bit surprised. On the weathering side, I once again used Vallejo's Gloss Varnish, but this time decided to use Vallejo's Game Wash Sepia Shade (73.200) and Black (73.201).
Eduard's F4F-3 Wildcat
From the outset, I could tell that the Eduard cockpit was a different beast. To start, this kit had the finest detail of the three Wildcats. If I need to nitpick, it would be with the sprue gates. I thought that some parts were molded with larger-than-necessary attachment points which required a time consuming "cutting and clean-up strategy'.
The other thing that required a bit of strategy was the plastic parts' preparation for the PE. To my delight, the already fantastic plastic, only needed basic cutting and sanding. After the PE prep, I painted the cockpit with an airbrush in a similar manner to the HobbyBoss kit.
Basic painting complete, I began to add the PE, and was particularly excited to work with a "fancy" instrument panel in real life. The only pieces of PE that gave me trouble were the seat belts. It was tough to get natural looking curves and sags with what are effectively small springs. Modelers should also note the seatbelts' instructed attachment to the cockpit seat. After posting pictures to Twitter, I was told that the seatbelts should be attached to the bulkhead just aft of the seat and not the seat itself. I haven't seen conclusive support for or against this, but it is something that rivet counters may want to investigate.
Here's where I should briefly discuss the pros and cons of the colorized PE. In the pros column, the PE is colorized so there is less to painstakingly paint, and assuming the Eduard artists researched the subject, it should give the build more accuracy. However, in the cons column, the PE is colorized and that means Eduard's interior green is not going to match my interior green.
Finally, Eduard's cockpit went together brilliantly, and I was extremely happy with the experience. I rounded out the cockpit build with the standard gloss varnish followed by an oil wash mix of Winsor & Newton's Black and burnt Umber Winton Oil Color.
Notes on washes
If you've followed along closely, you will notice that I used three different types of washes. Tamiya's cockpit received their enamel Panel Line Accent, HobbyBoss' received Vallejo acrylic-based washes, and Eduard's cockpit got a Windsor & Newton oil-based wash.
Tamiya: I find the enamel-based Panel Line Accent a little stark on the kit's white fuselage areas, but I think it worked well in the cockpit proper.
HobbyBoss: The Vallejo washes gave a nice effect on the kit, but my blend may be a bit too light. It is worth noting that applying an acrylic wash over an acrylic varnish is not forgiving because you wont be able to remove excess once it dries. Tide-lines can also become a problem. To be clear, acrylic on acrylic is not ideal.
Eduard: Lastly, the oil wash on Eduard's kit gives a nice feathered look and provides the most forgiving work process. Oils, over an acrylic varnish, are easy to reactivate and manipulate as you see fit.
A fair assessment of these three kits needs to separate the plastic and construction from the painting and finishing. By the first measure, Eduard offered the most compelling cockpit out of the box, albeit at a premium price point. Remember, it is a ProfiPACK edition. Between the Tamiya and HobbyBoss near-peers, I thought the Tamiya kit offered a more positive building experience.
As for painting and finishing, my preferred approach is airbrushing as found on the HobbyBoss and Eduard builds. The oil wash on the Eduard kit breaks the tie between these two. I find oils much more forgiving to work with than an acrylic wash. Unsurprisingly, hand painting the Tamiya kit did not lead to my best results. In a sense, it highlights how much value an airbrush can add.
In summary, a lot of work can go into cockpits. I could easily continue to add more depth, highlights, and texture. However! This work needs to be weighed against the visibility that these details will receive once the cockpit is buttoned up in the fuselage. With this in mind, I'm happy to call these cockpits complete, and I'm happy the internet will maintain this record of them in their exposed state!
Thanks for reading,
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