HASAGAWA 1:72 BREWSTER F2A-2 BUFFALO
Reviewer: Derrick Winters (rec.models.scale)
The Buffalo became the first monoplane fighter to equip the US Navy and one of the first all-metal (save for fabric covered control surfaces) monoplane carrier based fighters around the globe. It's main feature was one that conveyed a tubbiness although part of it was illusion. Deliveries to the US Navy began in 1939 and after it was determined that some 44 were surplus requirements, these were offloaded to Finland who successfully used the type in combat until Mid-1944. The F2A-2's were a second version of the Buffalo with more powerful engine, improved propellor and built-in flotation gear, which entered service in September 1940. Only a few squadrons operated the -2 version which was soon released for export, the third version was the main type used by US Navy and Marines. Brewster Buffaloes were known for their dramatic losses in the Pacific War against the Japanese, in particular at the Battle for Midway.
On opening the box you are presented with typical crisp, clean Hasagawa manufacturing with engraved panel lines and plenty of details on the surface. Nice quality kit. The fabric covered control surfaces could do with a slight sanding down but are otherwise perfect for the right look. The housing for the wing fold hinges is well down, the wheels and it's wells are small and fiddly but otherwise capture that unique look of retracted undercarriage - this is definitely a candidate to do an in-flight model purely for the side fuselage wells where the undercarriage so neatly retracts into. On a glance it looks like the distinctive shape in front of the cockpit behind the engine cowling has been reproduced very well - probably the most common fault in other Buffalo kits.
The Hasagawa cockpit unit is typical, very little detail but enough to at least make a reasonable representation yourself if you were to have the canopy open. Decals are supplied to spice up the instrument panel and the unique container for the life raft and roll bar are visible. The windscreen provides a small hole for the pilot's telescope sight to be fitted. Very fiddly this is to affix, but adds a bit more to the cockpit construction.
The engine cowling and fuselage assembly was pretty straightforward although care needs to be taken, in particular for the engine construction. The underbelly fuselage window is also included in the kit and a decal to represent the ribbing lines is also included to save you the trouble of going into hysterics while you negotiate paintbrushes to reproduce the intricate patterns. The tailwheel is also a separate piece and a bit of fine tuning is called upon to get this neatly into its alloted rear "compartment". The wings are straightforward to assemble and everything fits as it's supposed to, just remember to take a moment and step back to ensure the wings are positioned correctly before leaving to dry overnight.
The completed assembly looks accurate and matches the drawings I used for reference. The two examples that the kit will replicate are from VF-2 squadron aboard USS Lexington before US entered the war. Both have different markings which include prominent yellow striking bands, wings and fins to greet the eye. The one I chose, depicted as box-art, had blue band and engine cowling. The other is based with "Flying Chiefs" of March 1941 vintage. The only concern I have is the rough yellow colour mix call out by the instruction sheet which actually is not the same reproduction as the colour of the yellow bands, and these appear a touch on the light side as it is. Colour references give it a more bright and solid appeal which in my view was better reproduced with ModelMasters Chrome Yellow paint. I dispensed with the yellow bands and painted them in myself to get a consistent result.
Hasagawa have included some white underlay decals to position under the yellow markings and insignia. Since light coloured decals can often show bleeding problems this helps to eliminate them which is something that makes the kit a better product - otherwise you would have to stick the insignia decal on, then mask off the insignia and paint in the colours around it if you want a very good result. Certainly a chubby aircraft but not as tubby as you would think from the illusion of photos and looks good next to my US Navy Hellcats, Corsairs and so forth. A couple of extra bits in the kit that were unused indicate another version from Hasagawa may well be in the "wings".
Overall this is a very good kit and certainly highly recommended to get an accurate and nice reproduction of a unique design. All things considered if I bought the kit again, I would build it up and get some aftermarket decals to complete a Finnish example which saw extensive combat in WW2.