Reviewed by Brett Green
Leadership is a rare quality these days. Plotting the safe course, following the opinion polls, doing the conventional thing - these are the philosophies of current times.
Leadership is more difficult, riskier and potentially less popular. It requires the statement of a position that may not be conventional, but is sincerely believed. The actions of a leader reflect their beliefs. A leader puts his money where his mouth is.
Accurate Miniatures clearly adopt a leadership position in our hobby. This position can be seen not only in the undoubted quality of their products, but also in their bold choice of subjects. Accurate Miniatures march to the beat of their own drummer.
Before last night I had no interest in between-the-wars US fighters. All that changed when I opened the box of Accurate Miniatures' 1/48 scale F3F-2 biplane.
Accurate Miniatures' 1/48 scale Grumman F3F-2 joins the previously released F3F-1 and the brand new Gulfhawk.
The F3F-2 shares most sprues with the earlier kit. Careful planning has permitted the intermediate and forward cowls that house the larger Wright Cyclone R-1820-22, and the other parts unique to this later variant, to be supplied on a single small sprue.
The kit comprises 60 light grey plastic parts on four sprues, 4 clear parts, one small steel fret, one smaller brass fret, and a very busy decal sheet.
Instructions are typical of Accurate Miniatures style. They are laid out in 16 steps over 20 pages, with exploded views, explanation of parts and helpful hints for construction. If you follow the instructions you should have no problems building this model. Depart from the instructions at your peril!
I can find no flaws on any visible portions of kit parts. The surface detail is simply spectacular. Fabric surfaces look terrific, with very convincing tape effects. Some pour flow is visible on the surface of the "fabric" parts, but this will disappear under a coat of paint.
The fuselage is a work of art. Fine recessed panel lines are accompanied by a subtle beveled edge and tiny raised rivets. These combine to create a remarkable portrayal of the stressed metal fuselage skin. The vents on the forward fuselage are equally well rendered.
The rudder is supplied separately. The leading edge is rounded off and the inner surfaces of the fin are thinned out, permitting simple positioning of the rudder at any angle
Detail parts are equally good. I particularly like the bombs on their integrally moulded racks, dressed up with photo-etched parts.
The photo-etched ring-bead gunsights are almost microscopic. These are attached to larger mounting tabs that can be broken off the tiny parts after they have been secured to the model.
The interior of the aircraft is very complete. The instrument panel comes in the familiar clear plastic with decal instrument backing. The modeller may choose to paint the instruments if he prefers. Accurate Miniatures have put aside their aversion to photo-etched belts with the inclusion of a very nice etched steel lap harness. A decal option for this belt is supplied. A nice fuel tank is also supplied, complete with strap detail. What a shame it will be hidden forever in the recesses of the fuselage!
The Wright Cyclone engine is another high point, with its separate crankcase; exhaust assembly and brass-etched wiring harness.
The engineering of this kit is at once simple and breathtakingly clever.
Fuselage halves are moulded with the cabane struts in place. This guarantees the correct angle for the struts. The struts are topped by large feet that locate into corresponding recesses on the underside of the top wing. The resulting join should be very secure and will ensure a nice, flat top wing.
By the way, another indication of the careful thought that has gone into this model is that the ejector pin marks on the wings are on the inside of the strut locating recesses. Very clever planning.
Interplane struts and the lower wing look equally well designed. This will be a very solid little biplane.
The angle of the undercarriage is set using a similar engineering technique. The main gear legs are moulded onto a lower fuselage panel. A choice of flattened or unflattened wheels is presented.
All rigging is supplied, with the exception of radio aerials. These photo-etched steel parts are simply inserted in appropriate slots. Once again, follow the instructions to the letter and you should have no trouble at all.
The decal sheet offers markings for almost all of the 81 total F3F-2s built. However, the instructions only detail the scheme of one aircraft. A nice touch is the inclusion of a model paint cross-reference chart for all of the common F3F-2 marking colours - even those not part of the instructions' featured subject.
Some of Accurate Miniatures choices of subjects have had modellers initially scratching their heads. Yaks? F3Fs? The Gulfhawk - a one-off aircraft?
Any doubts dissolve upon opening the box. The F3F-2 is my second revelation from Accurate Miniatures. Both this model and the Yak-1 have sparked interest in new areas of aviation for me.
When such unique subjects are combined with beautiful quality and delightful engineering, the art of model manufacturing is taken to a new level.
Even if you have no interest in Grumman biplane fighters; or if you build in a different scale; do yourself a favour and get acquainted with this little beauty. I hope you will be as charmed by this marvellous model as I am.
Thanks to Accurate Miniatures for the review sample
Accurate Miniatures Kits are available at good hobby shops and mail-order houses
Review Text and Images Copyright © 2000 by Brett