by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
The Grumman Widgeon has been a favourite of mine almost as long as I've been modelling; one of the earliest Airfix kits I bought, way back in the 1960s, was their 1/72 scale Gosling (the British name for the Widgeon) when I was about 6 years old. It's just one of those aircraft that "look right" and it's always been a personal dream to fly in a Widgeon one day.
Dreams of flying are one thing; 'till then I'll have to make do with a model, so it was a particular delight to receive a 1/48 resin model of the Widgeon from M. Meissonier at Signifer, courtesy of our own Jean-Luc Formery.
A little backgroundThe Widgeon was the military utility version of Grumman's 4-5 seat G-44 commercial amphibian. It went into service with the US Coast Guard as the J4F-1 in 1941 and with the US Navy as the J4F-2 a year later. It also served with the USAAF (as the OA-14) and the RCAF and Royal Navy (as the Gosling) and more than 200 aircraft were built.
In military terms, the Widgeon can hardly be thought of as a "heavy hitter" - it could only carry a single 200lb depth charge mounted under the starboard wing and, even with a reduced crew of two, couldn't maintain altitude on one engine when fully loaded. Perhaps surprisingly, despite it's seeming unsuitability as a maritime patrol aircraft, the Widgeon actually did score a success in 1942 when a U.S.C.G. aircraft sank a German submarine in the Gulf of Mexico.
After the war, the civilian G-44A appeared, incorporating a number of improvements and the aircraft has enjoyed a long life in a number of guises - including French-built aircraft and the updated Super Widgeon.
The KitSignifer's Widgeon arrives in a very sturdy top-opening corrugated cardboard box. The smaller parts are in a separate plastic bag and everything is well protected with polystyrene foam chips which kept all the kit safe in transit. The kit consists of:
8 x main airframe parts cast in a blue-grey resin
74 x detail parts cast in a toffee-coloured resin
2 x vacuform windscreens (one is a spare) and a clear sheet for side windows
9 x metal pins and various diameters of metal rod
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The first impression is of how heavy everything is and it's soon clear why; the blue-grey resin which the main parts are cast in seems especially dense and the wing is a superb one-piece casting, complete with cowlings in place, while the fuselage is largely one-piece, but with an open base to allow interior detail to be added. The parts feature very finely scribed panel lines which put a lot of injected kits to shame. The surface detail throughout is quite exceptional, with beautifully depicted grills, louvres and fasteners.
The wing is a very impressive casting; it's distortion-free and the built-in dihedral on the outer sections will save a lot of painful line-up. The mould must open at rear and this has meant the the trailing edge is a little thick; no problem, a quick test showed that the resin sands easily and a sharp edge soon resulted. (A word of warning: Work with plenty of ventilation; apart from the usual safety precautions about working with resin, this blue-grey variety absolutely stinks when you sand it!) The only other clean-up needed on the review sample's wing is a slight roughness around the base of the integral cowlings.
The other major component is the fuselage, which comprises a one-piece upper shell with a separate cabin-floor / fuselage bottom. This unusual design removes most of the major clean-up work and there is just a casting stub along the waterline on each side, plus small lines to remove under the extreme nose and tail.
The separate rudder and tailplanes are nicely detailed and have impressively thin trailing edges, while the floats are excellent, with detail around the attachment points usually absent in kits.
Test FitThe wing simply drops into the opening in the cabin roof with minimal fuss and clean-up. It sits perfectly square when viewed against the tail-fin, which bodes well for the look of the finished model. The fit is a little loose front and back, so a slice of styrene will probably help to fill the gap. Turning to the fuselage, once the parts are prepared, the floor inserts well enough into the opening and sits squarely against the internal marks. Viewed from the exterior, the fit is best described as "fair"; there is prominent joint which will need careful filling and the panel lines re-scribed. Describing it actually makes it sound a more painful job than it really is; a mixture of talcum powder and cyanoacrylate should make short work of the gap and it shouldn't worry experienced builders.
Detail PartsThe smaller pieces are cast in an unusual toffee-coloured resin which seems to be something of a Signifer trademark. They are very glossy, which gives the impression that they are going to be rather brittle but, in fact, they are proving quite flexible and I've suffered no mishaps in cleaning them up. The parts are well cast, with just one or two very small bubbles which are quick and easy to fill. The most difficult parts to cast are obviously the propellers, because Signfer have thoughtfully included a number of spares to overcome a problem getting the tips of the blades to form correctly.
The cockpit / cabin is well kitted out with an impressive instrument panel and radio equipment rack. The seats are nicely done with integral harnesses. The fuselage interior walls feature some simple rib detail and some rather nice stowage straps. The previously mentioned floor sits against an indentation on the sides and provides a solid base for the internal detail. The crucial thing is that the foundations for the undercarriage housings match up with the openings in the fuselage sides - they need to be right because a complicated set of interior parts have to line up and interlock here.
Other smaller parts include a very neat anchor and exhaust pipes etc., plus various parts for the undercarriage. The undercarriage! This should be fun to build! The main legs are cast in resin with a metal insert, while all the auxiliary struts need to be bent to shape from the metal rod provided - 7 parts in all for each side. Why so much metal? Remember, this is one heavy kit! I've no doubt it'll be the heaviest model in my collection. Signifer provide full-size cutting guides and dimensions for all the wire struts.
As on the original aircraft, the kit's only only evidence of the Widgeon's warlike role is the provision a single depth charge and rack.
Clear PartsThe vacuformed windscreen is very clear and thin and Signifer thoughtfully provide a spare in case of accidents. The windscreen lacks any framework, so you'll have to represent this with tape or decal strip. The side windows are provided as a sheet of clear styrene along with a full-sized template.
InstructionsThe to be honest, the instructions are rather idiosyncratic. At first glance the set of 7 A-4 sheets looks very promising, with fairly clear diagrams and minimal bi-lingual French / English text, but the assembly sequence shown is haphazard at best, darting back and forth between internal and external details in no particular order. The information you need is all there - but it takes some finding. I would recommend that you study the instructions carefully several times to form a clear mental picture of how best to tackle the assembly.
Decals are provided for two aircraft:
A US Navy machine in classic Sea Blue, Intermediate Blue & White camouflage
A US Coast Guard aircraft in overall silver, plus spectacular cheat lines and tail stripes.
Surprise, surprise! I'm definitely definitely going for the latter scheme...
The decals themselves are thin, glossy and beautifully printed in perfect register. Like the rest of the instructions, the painting and decaling guide needs careful study with it's unusual way of showing the colours and decal positions. There's very little in terms of internal colour guides - the instructions simply state "fawn" for the U.S.C.G. aircraft - so you're your own in determining the actual colour and whether the US Navy aircraft was similarly finished.
ConclusionThis isn't a kit for inexperienced modellers, but anyone used to working with resin and metal will enjoy the opportunity it provides to build something really spectacular. It's a kit which begs to be built and I couldn't resist starting construction in the course of checking the parts for this preview! Look out for a full account of the build later this year.
The Widgeon is available direct from the manufacturer and costs 60,00 € in Europe and 50,17 € overseas.