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In-Box Review
US F4F-3s Wild Catfish
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by: Darren Baker [ CMOT ]

Originally published on:


When it comes to odd looking aircraft the F4F-3s Wild Catfish must get a mention. An F4 Wildcat with floats does look odd but at the same time interesting. The F4F-3s Wild Catfish came about as an answer to the need for airpower while island hopping in the Pacific during World War Two, the US Navy could ill afford to have their aircraft carriers tied to islands providing air cover and at the same time making for a very tempting target for the Japanese Forces. The US Navy had seen the Japanese use float planes for air cover to good effect, and decided to follow suit. In total 200 F4F-3s Wild Catfish were ordered, but as best as I can tell only 15 aircraft were converted judging by the limited information available, and none of these were used in combat as the Seabees did a fantastic job of building runways on captured islands in very short time periods for conventional aircraft to operate from.


The model is packaged in a cardboard tray and lid, which should be up to the task of protecting the product when in transit during these days of internet shopping. The sprues in the box are all individually packaged in heat sealed plastic bags, with some parts being further protected by foam wrapping. The model contents consists of;
  • 5 grey plastic sprues
  • 2 clear sprues
  • 2 small photo etched frets
  • A decal sheet
  • An instruction booklet
  • A decal placement and painting sheet
  • An advertising flyer


A look through the kit contents brought no major issues to my attention in the form of moulding faults other than a couple of shallow sink marks on the sides of the instrument panel, the model is free of flash and the ejector pin marks are placed in hidden areas of the model. Raised and recessed detail on panels looks very good and should with careful painting and weathering make for eye catching detail. There are a few flow/cooling lines present on some surfaces, but these do not look or should I say feel to have created any issues. There are a good number of unused parts in the model; this is good to see as armour modellers have so much spare plastic indoors that there fire insurance premiums have been increased and aircraft modellers should have to pay up as well. Of particular note when it comes to spares are 6 quite nicely detailed MGs, which I am sure, will come in handy for future builds.

The cockpit detail in this model looks to replicate the details on the real F4 Wildcat very well. There is the issue of the sink marks instrument panel to overcome and the seat harness is not replicated, but otherwise this is a well represented area of the model. Hobby Boss has provided a cockpit that with the addition of a harness should look very good; however having watched a few builds here on Aeroscale I suspect a large quantity of photo etch to find its way inside. Decals have been supplied for the instrument panel, as you would expect; however I am sure that a photo etched instrument panel will look better.

Hobby Boss looks to have done a very fair job of the fuselage detail wise. I do not know how much the panel lines were altered on the Wild Catfish, but from what I can see when compared to photographs everything visible looks a good match. The only part I am unsure about is the fuselage being in three parts, and depending on how good the fit is it will be hard to use filler and not damage the fine detail while sanding.

Radial Engine
The radial engine supplied by Hobby Boss is reasonable detail wise; however some wiring detail added by the modeller will lift the look of the engine to a higher standard, I suspect there is a photo etched set covering this aspect of the model already.

Flight and Control Surfaces
The wings on the Wild Catfish differed from those on the standard Wild Cat as they were not foldable; this aspect of the aircraft has been replicated by Hobby Boss in this release. The raised and recessed detail on the wings and tail has been well replicated and should as mentioned earlier look good when painted and weathered as long as the detail is not flooded. The tail assembly is good with all the needed detail provided for. Hobby Boss has provided the tail pieces from a previous release of the Wild Cat and you could if wished represent an early version of the Wild Catfish by using these parts and filling the two receiving holes on the underside of the model where the ventral fin locates. The rudder is provided as a separate part of the tail, and if this is set at an angle the two tail tip rudders must also be attached at an angle as my reference states that these were connected to the main rudder.

The clear canopy parts look good with very little distortion being created. The difficulty with these parts is painting; they will require either a very steady hand or a good set of masks to have them look right. Accuracy wise the canopy looks to be spot on from the few pictures of the aircraft available online.

Floats and Wheels
Hobby Boss appears to have really captured the lines of the floats well, in fact every aspect of this area looks to have been well captured. Looking through the limited number of images available the only omission I managed to find in this area is the control facets for the float rudders, these are completely absent on the model and will require some careful thought and skill to replicate from scratch.

There are far fewer parts to this model than some may expect, and so the instruction booklet is able to guide you through construction in clear and precise steps without covering the addition of fifty parts in a single stage. Looking through the instruction booklet I did not find any glaring errors set up to catch the unwary. I particularly like the fact that detail painting is called out during construction, and this is something I feel many modellers appreciate.

The decal sheet as you would expect is fairly minimal; however I have noticed that decals from Hobby Boss kits of late have a greasy looking pattern on them and I am unsure if this will come off when the decals are wet, if not how much it will show when the decals are sealed on the model.

The painting instructions offers two finishing options, but I believe them to be incorrect. All of the images of the Wild Catfish where the ventral fin is in place, the version that was to go into production and the version offered here, have blue rudders the same as the rest of the upper surfaces and the lower halves of the rudders on the tails are white and not blue. One of the finishing options provided gives you an aircraft registration number, and I was again unable to find any data to support this finishing option, if anyone reading this does manage to find supporting data please let me know via the thread linked to this review.


Built from the box this Hobby Boss model will provide an eye catching model due to how odd it looks; however those of you out there who beaver away scratch building parts and adding after market photo etch and the like have the possibility of a stunning and unusual model. This is one of those models that really catches your eye because it is so different. An American fighter stuck on floats will likely be thought of as a complete work of fiction, but it should or will get people talking. This model will need a harness on the seat, either scratched or purchased, the addition of a photo etched instrument panel and some wiring around the radial engine will lift the model further. Missing the control elements for the rudders is a let down on an otherwise good model, but it is not the end of the world. Accuracy of the model as a whole is hard to determine due to the lack of available reference.

Highs: A well represented cockpit that will be good enough for some and a great starting point for others.
Lows: Missing out the control lines for the for the float rudders is a letdown.
Verdict: This is one of those model aircraft that until now has been expensive to own, now that it is affordable I think it has great appeal.
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: 81729
  Suggested Retail: £28.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Oct 20, 2014
  NATIONALITY: United States

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About Darren Baker (CMOT)

I have been building model kits since the early 70ís starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70ís, I have had lots of opportunitie...

Copyright ©2021 text by Darren Baker [ CMOT ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


Thanks, Darren, for a very unusual subject.
OCT 20, 2014 - 05:28 AM

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