Arma Hobby General Motors FM-2 Wildcat USS Rudyerd Bay (CVE-81) 1/72 Scale

This FM-2 Wildcat from Composite Squadron 96 (VC-96) was finished in the late-war overall Gloss Sea Blue scheme.  It flew from the Casablanca-class escort carrier USS Rudyerd Bay (CVE-81) during the Okinawa campaign in April, 1945. Other than correcting the curve of the wingtips this was built out of the box.

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Arma Hobby General Motors FM-2 Wildcat Build in 1/72 Scale Part III

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Wildcats on a stick! Here they are primed and re-scribed, ready to begin painting. The rudders and elevators are molded separately, I have attached them with random slight offsets.

 

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Here is the beginning of the Atlantic scheme of Dark Gull Gray over White. The White is masked off with putty and tape. The front windscreens are attached at this point to check the seam which was good.

 

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The graded scheme gets the same masking treatment. The foam protecting the cockpit is packing from Eduard aftermarket sets, something which you just knew would be useful for something someday.

 

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Painting is done and a gloss coat applied in preparation for decals. Notice I have put on the wheels, I try to put on as many parts as I can before the clear coats to ensure an even finish. In addition, the clear will act as a weak adhesive and solidify the glue joints a little more.

 

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The overall Gloss Sea Blue scheme is the easiest. I have added antenna wires from 0.004” Nitenol and IFF antennas from 0.005”. Outside of the rounded wingtips the build is OOB.

 

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All three finished models together.  Arma includes six marking options, there are variations of these schemes plus a Royal Navy Wildcat VI in the Temperate Sea scheme which is very attractive.  I should have bought one more kit!

Arma Hobby General Motors FM-2 Wildcat Build in 1/72 Scale Part II

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The landing gear on all Wildcats is complicated and there is really not a painless way to represent the intricate strut arrangement. I followed Arma’s instructions and had no major issues, but you do have to proceed carefully. Here is the first step with the firewall and internal bracing mounted.

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Here it is with the fuselage closed up. Technically there should be engine accessories protruding into the gear bay, but the view is obscured by the strut assembly so it would be very difficult to notice.

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This is the stage in the construction which is causing some confusion amongst modelers, I would advise studying the instructions carefully and making sure the arrangement of these parts is clear before proceeding. Part A18 is molded flat and has to be bent down to the proper angle, as can be seen by comparing the upper left and upper center assemblies here. Parts A11 and A12 are molded with a connecting bar which must be removed before the ends can be joined, seen in the lower left and lower center of this picture. In the end you want everything to look like the assembly on the right.

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The gear struts snap into place from below, the fit at the rear of the well was tight on mine but I was able to press it in (firmly) with a little MEK. The main gear legs (parts A28 and A29) mount to the firewall and then there are three attachment points to each leg for the struts. Just follow the instructions and let the glue set up firmly and you’ll have good alignment and a surprisingly strong assembly when you’re done.

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A valid criticism of this kit is the shape of the wingtips, they should be more rounded than they are molded. I was hoping for an out of the box build but felt obliged to fix this with some plastic stock. If you don’t want to go that route you could get an improved profile by rounding off the front and back edges of the wingtip.

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The engine from the front. The cowling will sit about a millimeter too far forward if you don’t do something, and this will be apparent as the exhaust stubs will protrude too far past the cowling when viewed from the side. I shaved off the mounting ridges inside the cowling and thinned the trailing edge which allowed the cowling to be pressed back enough. An easy fix but a trap for the unwary.

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Fit of the parts is excellent.  I used a little Mr. Surfacer 500 along the fuselage seam lines to counter the tendency of the seams to draw in when using thin glues.

Arma Hobby General Motors FM-2 Wildcat Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

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Arma Hobby is beginning to make a name for itself by releasing subjects which have been long overlooked in 1/72 scale. On my bench are a small batch of just such a subject – the FM-2 variant of the Wildcat. This version was produced by General Motors so Grumman could focus on Hellcat production and was produced in greater numbers than all the other marks of Wildcats combined. The FM-2 had a more-powerful Wright 1820-56 Cyclone engine, a taller tail, and a four-gun foldable wing – in other words Arma will need a new tool for the fuselage and wings to kit the earlier F4F Wildcats.
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Here is the main sprue. All details are crisp and sharp. Panel lines are recessed, but there are a few panel lines missing so check your drawings if such things bother you. The engine features separate push rods. There are two propeller bosses and you have the option of mounting up to six rockets under the wings.
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The second sprue has two drop tanks, the FM-2 often carried an asymmetrical load of only one. You get two types of wheels and the elevator is molded separately from the horizontal stabilizer. This boxing is the “Expert Set” which contains PE and Kabuki tape masks, a welcome touch. The clear sprue contains the windows under the fuselage which were used on the F4F Wildcats, so a little foreshadowing of things to come there!
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The sprues are designed to stack! I assume this was done to help Arma with their production or packaging, but it sure is convenient if you’re building these kits in batches. But that’s just crazy talk!
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Construction begins with the cockpit. I actually hate that phrase because you read it too often, but here it is true. I drilled out the limber holes behind the seat. The PE fret includes a replacement part for the instrument panel but I saw no advantage in using it so I stayed with the plastic part. The other PE parts were useful and not overly fiddly so they were added.
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Here are the cockpits all painted and washed. Arma does a good job with decals for the various panels and placards which is a nice touch. Their decal labeling is also thoughtful – cockpit decals are marked DC, rocket decals are marked DR, engine decals are DE, etc.
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The PE for the engine and firewall is useful and fits well. The landing gear retraction mechanism on all Wildcats was driven by a “bicycle chain” type linkage. The engine PE is nicely done and will save time in wiring.
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Here is the engine all painted and washed.  Arma has included decals for the prominent placards on the engine, a nice touch.

Don Gentile’s North American P-51B Mustang “Shangri-La” Color Photographs

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P-51 B/C Mustang kits in 1/72 scale all have had some nagging inaccuracies, usually in the cowling and / or leading edge of the wings. Modelers have long awaited an accurate kit, and now Arma from Poland has announced a new tool offering. Given their previous releases and the CAD renders, hopes are high that their kit will fill the void. In anticipation, I have begun researching the high-backed Mustangs. One of the more interesting and better documented subjects is Don Gentile’s “Shangri-La”.

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Major Dominic “Don” Salvatore Gentile was one of the leading American aces in the European Theater. Ground kills were credited to a pilot’s totals in the ETO.  Including those some sources credit Gentile with thirty victories. Here Gentile poses for the press in his cockpit, Shangri-La displays twenty-one victory symbols.

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Crew chief John Ferra helps Gentile with his seat harness straps. Several details are visible in this photograph. Gentile’s P-51B was serial number 43-6913, coded VF-T. Gentile volunteered for the RCAF and flew Spitfires the RAF’s Eagle Squadron, scoring his first two victories during Operation Jubilee.

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Photographs from the starboard side are comparatively rare, the press preferring to include the artwork and scoreboard painted on the port side. Note the white recognition stripe on the wing, and the unpainted edge of the flap. The flaps and inner wheelwell doors on the P-51 were held in position with hydraulic pressure. When the engine was off the hydraulic pump was off and the pressure in the system dropped, causing the flaps and wheel covers to droop when the aircraft was parked.

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Gentile poses by the nose. The ragged edge of the red paint on the spinner presents a quandary for modelers – an accurate depiction can be mistaken for sloppy modeling. Fortunately there is a way to avoid the issue in this case as the spinner was later painted entirely red as can be seen in the first photograph.

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Gentile with his wingman John Godfrey. An ace in his own right, Godfrey named his Mustang “Reggie’s Reply” and was credited with 16.33 victories.

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Another view from the same series of photographs, this one showing the identification stripe on the wheel cover and the red wheel hub.

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A beautiful color profile of 43-6913 by aviation artist Claes Sundin. If you are not familiar with Sundin’s work, you may view samples and order his books here: http://luftwaffeinprofile.se/

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The Press were very interested in Gentile’s accomplishments, and he played up the swashbuckling fighter pilot image. Returning to Debden from the last scheduled mission of his combat tour on 13APR44 the Press were waiting and Gentile put on a show, making several low passes for the photographers gathered below.

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Gentile miscalculated his height and his propeller struck the ground. Shangri-La was destroyed, but Gentile walked away. 4th Fighter Group CO Colonel Don Blakeslee grounded Gentile on the spot.

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Back in the U.S. the public affairs types were not yet finished with Gentile. He received a new “Shangri-La”, this time a P-51D, and went on a War Bonds tour. This aircraft displayed a wrap-around checkerboard on the nose and thirty victories.

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Gentile in his dress uniform poses with his P-51D. Gentile survived the war but was killed in January 1951 while flying a T-33 Shooting Star trainer.