Trumpeter 1/32 F4F-4 Wildcat




$49.95 MSRP


one option


Tom Cleaver




     There are numerous articles here at Modeling Madness about the Wildcat, which provide all the information one could want regarding the history of Grumman’s first monoplane fighter.  The F4F-4 is the “classic” sub-type, the airplane that will be forever associated with the carrier battles of the first year of the Pacific War and the defense of Guadalcanal.


      The screams that arose around the world in February 2003 on the release of the first version of this kit could be heard without the aid of electronics, particularly coming as it did on top of the release of the equally-inaccurate 1/24 P-51D Mustang.  The kit was such a complete failure that Squadron Mail Order canceled its order for the kit and refunded pre-orders.  As is usual, arguments were thick and fast between those who think we should touch our foreheads to the floor as we pray to the east for anything they deign to produce, and live by the mantra “Looks like a (fill in this space) to me,” and those who think that it’s just as easy for a company to “get it right” as it is to “screw the pooch,” and that modelers who are going to spend in excess of $50.00 deserve a product into which the manufacturer put a modicum of respect by creating something that resembles the original in more than merely being a monoplane.

      To their credit, Trumpeter heard all these criticisms and pulled back the kit.  They spent over six months re-working the molds to correct the outline faults of the airframe, with the result that when Brett Green of HyperScale received a pre-release kit and compared it with drawings that are generally acknowledged to be accurate, the kit was close enough to be quite acceptable. 


Editor's Note: Rather than inundate you with many small images of the kit's sprues, I've chosen the revised fuselage sprue as representative of the entire kit. 

      In their releases since, including the recent Curtiss P-40B and MiG-3, initial inspection of the kits shows that they appear to have “learned their lesson” about doing adequate research before committing the plans to molds.

      In fact, as I look at the kit on the sprues, I can find only one thing to fault them on: general surface detail.  The Wildcat was not flush-riveted overall.  It was in fact only flush-riveted on the leading one-third of the wings.  Additionally, the aluminum panels on the fuselage were lapped as well as riveted without flush rivet heads.  This is something Tamiya got right with their 1/48 kit, and the lack of these details is particularly noticeable in this scale. That said, it appears the model will look “close enough” under a coat of paint, from a distance of one foot.  But a 1/32 model should be capable of close-up viewing.

      Additionally, the pilot’s seat looks nothing like a Wildcat seat; one hopes the aftermarket people will deal with that - but the seat is not so difficult a shape that in 1/32 a modeler could not scratchbuild a replacement.

      Past these items, the kit can be commended for getting a more accurate look to the “fabric effect” on the control surfaces than one usually sees even in Tamigawa kits. The rib-tape effect is a bit overdone, and a modeler seeking the most accurate final look will want to sand down the rib tapes. The out-of-the-box builder will find these surfaces likely look quite acceptable under a coat of paint.

      Speaking of paint, the color callouts in the instructions are completely wrong.  The F4F-4 was not painted Intermediate Blue, it was painted Blue-Grey on the upper surfaces.  Additionally, the lower color will be best represented by using Light Gull Grey, while the cockpit should be painted Bronze Green with the wheel well and interior of the cowling painted a light grey (I’ll be using Tamiya “Sky Grey” here).

      The 223 parts in the kit look like they will make up into a well detailed model, with a very nice R-1820, while the modeler who wishes to will be able to pose the control surfaces by use of the now-standard Trumpeter rod and hinge system.  The six .50 caliber machine guns look accurate and have open barrels. The wings are separated and can be made to fold, according to the instructions.

      For me, the place a 1/32 kit has to look good is in the cockpit. As mentioned, the seat is a tosser, but the rest of the parts will result in a good-looking cockpit with attention paid to painting things right.  Given the layout of the Wildcat cockpit, seeing that a lot of the detail isn’t that easily visible even in this scale, spending the $20 for a resin cockpit the aftermarket folks will be charging is something only the convinced “resin head” needs to do.

      The decals are nothing to write home about, but then the markings of the Wildcat were pretty generic originally.  The decals provide markings for the Wildcat flown by Joe Foss at Guadalcanal (actually, nobody at Guadalcanal had their own airplane - as Joe once said at an AFAA convention, “you jumped in the first one that worked, every mission”).  The lack of markings options should not be a problem, inasmuch as several aftermarket decal makers have already released sheets.  This one will be finished in the markings of the “hangar queen” at Espiritu Santo that was used as a “photo backdrop” for Marion Carl at his press conference upon VMF-221's return from their tour at Guadalcanal.



      It’s not the Tamiya Wildcat pantographed up, but Trumpeter’s Wildcat’s not bad (or even close to bad).  On its own merits, the kit qualifies for a solid B+ for design and overall execution, that grade advancing to a solid “A for effort” for Trumpeter’s willingness to admit they made a mistake and work on “getting it right.” It’s definitely superior to the ancient Revell kit in this scale.

 Thanks to Stevens International for the review copy.

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