Battle of the 1:72 Hellcats: Dragon vs. Eduard

Not often does it come to pass that as famous a fighter as the F6F Hellcat goes so long without a really great kit in 1:72 scale. The Hasegawa and Academy kits were okay; the Italeri kit was a big whiff. Now we have two contenders for the title of best 1:72 Hellcat, out on the market at almost the same time. We’re going to put them in the ring head to head and score it the way we did with the dueling Canberra PR.9s that came out a few years ago

And now, the contenders! In this corner, hailing from Obrnice in the Czech Republic and weighing in at maybe one pound, please welcome the Profipack Prowler, Eduard’s 1:72 F6F-3! And in this corner, from Tseun Wan in the New Territories of China and also weighing in at about one pound, say hello to the Hong Kong Hellcat, Dragon’s 1:72!

This will be a 12-round bout, with the mandatory 10-point rule in effect. The winner of each round will take 10 points, and unless there’s a knockdown, the loser of each round will get 9. Your judge, hailing from Alameda, California, is me.

The referee has issued his instructions, and here’s the bell!

Round 1. Box

Both kits have decent but not great art – Dragon has a photo-realistic painting of two F6F-5Ns flying in formation, while Eduard has a slightly more action-packed painting of a Hellcat with a Japanese aircraft slanting away in flames. However, that aircraft looks like no Japanese plane I could identify – it looks like a D3Y2 and a Ki-84 had a baby. But here’s the real deciding factor in the round – the Dragon kit has a top-opening lid, while the Eduard kit has a side-opening semi-floppy box. The art’s a letdown in both cases, but Dragon wins the round on structural grounds. Dragon takes the first round 10-9.

2. Surface Detail

Dragon sports some very fine and very nice surface scribing. How will Eduard counter? With the lapped panels it first displayed in its 1:48 Hellcat! It has equally fine panel details everywhere else. And now Dragon leaves itself open! Both aircraft have the electrical access panel doors on the starboard side of the aircraft – but Dragon erroneously replicates them on the port side as well! Oh, doctor! What a mistake! Dragon picks itself up and stumbles to the bell, but it’s going to be a 10-8 round for Eduard!

3. Fidelity of Outline

Compared to drawings, both fuselages line up nicely, and both capture the forward upper corner of the vertical tail accurately (a first for F6F kits in 1:72). The Dragon kit is slightly shallow, and the hinge line for the vertical rudder is a bit off, but the Eduard kit is right on the nose. At first, the cockpit seemed to be too long, but there’s an insert for the rear cockpit to allow you to do a -3 or a -5 from the kit.

The easy stuff’s out of the way, and here’s where we see Eduard really assert itself: on the cowling. Both kits offer three-piece cowlings, with two sides and a front piece as a means of capturing the Hellcat’s “smile.” Dragon leaves itself totally exposed – the front of the cowling has a flat front on the chin, and the vanes in the intakes are too close together. Eduard’s cowling intake is perhaps a bit narrow, but the vanes are in the right place – and Eduard gives three sets of cowling sides, for various exhaust arrangements. The cowling is a big problem for Dragon – make it another 10-8 round for Eduard! Can Dragon make a comeback now?

4. Ordnance

Both kits have rockets, and both are quite nice. Eduard’s are one-piece items, and Dragon’s (in keeping with the overall complexity of the kit) are two pieces, with the rockets and fins separate. The Dragon stubs (molded to the rockets) are better, so an edge to Dragon there. The bombs are good in both kits, with Dragon providing 500-pounders and Eduard supplying 250- and 100-pounders; both have mounting bands molded on, but Eduard uses photoetched fins, fuze propellers and anti-sway braces, pulling Eduard even. The tie breaker is the centerline drop tank, which came in three flavors. Dragon gives you a keel-less tank, with sway braces that wrap around the tank and a straight-backed pylon. Eduard provides a similarly keel-less tank with the curved pylon and photoetched sway braces. Edge, 10-9, to Eduard, although judges who like simpler builds might see this round going to Dragon.

5. Wheel wells and Landing Gear

Dragon gets its second wind here, leaping out of its corner with three – count ‘em! – three different sets of wheels and tires (radial, diamond and block treads). The struts are very detailed, with separate retraction struts, anti-torque scissords and even molded brake lines. The tail wheel struts have two halves, which trap a separate wheel. These are nicely detailed, but the lightening holes need to be opened. The gear doors are nice, but they lack the retraction struts. An added bonus: the kit includes single-piece retracted gear, just in case you want to build your Hellcat in flight.

Eduard has a much simpler main gear strut, with the anti-torque scissors molded on and the retraction struts part of a solid polygon at the top of the strut. The gear doors include retraction struts. As for the tail wheel, it’s much simplified and has a single part. There are two styles of tires, which each receive a center hub, which makes them easier to paint. Just the same, Dragon’s more detailed struts give it the edge. 10-9 Dragon.

6. Cockpit

Don’t go toe-to-toe with Eduard in this department. The cagey Czechs score with a color photoetched sheet that includes the instrument panel, seat belts (with the correct chafing pads and hardware), panels and switches. The plastic parts are quite nice, too – you could build the control panel without the photoetched parts if you wanted.

Oh, but Dragon counters, and does so to an almost absurd level. There’s a small photetched sheet in the kit – unpainted and just seat belts – but the plastic cockpit parts are quite nice. And Dragon doesn’t know where to stop; there’s former and stringer detail in the aft fuselage, and a firewall and engine mount with an oil tank ahead of the cockpit. The detail is extensive – and absolutely invisible once the model’s built.

The fancy footwork by Dragon is interesting, but its lack of visibility means it can’t be considered by the judges. The round goes to Eduard, 10-9.

7. Engine

The two kits are fairly evenly matched here, although the Eduard engine cylinders look a bit on the thin side. Dragon gives you two banks of cylinders and a separate crankcase, which then attaches to a backing plate that includes exhaust stacks and to which a simple accessory section attaches. Again, this detail will be invisible once the model’s assembled.
Eduard provides two sets of engine banks, with a photoetched ignition harness and a separate crankcase and magnetos. Oh, Eduard is getting cocky now – look at this! A photoetched data plate and a tiny Pratt & Whitney name plate! That’s just egregious! Eduard scores in this round, 10-9!

 8. Propeller

Both kits do a decent job of capturing the hub detail, but he Dragon prop lacks any taper to the blades. Whole the prop looks nice, it’s just not as correct as Eduard’s. Eduard, 10-9.

 9. Clear parts

Dragon has a set of open and closed transparencies with the F6F-5-style windscreen, and they’re very nice, but the closed version has the earlier version of the sliding canopy. Eduard provides both the F6F-3 and F6F-5 styles of windscreens, plus two sliding canopies (one open, and a narrower one for the closed position) – but they’re of the later style. Neither kit gets it exactly right, but Eduard takes another round, 10-9.

 10. Instructions

Both use exploded view drawings, and while Eduard uses color to illustrate its decal schemes, Dragon doesn’t really need the full color treatment (both options are all glossy sea blue). Dragon has a more difficult assembly process to illustrate, and its instructions do a good, clear job of it. Dragon takes this one, 10-9.

11. Decals

Dragon gives you two options: planes from VF(N)-41 on Independence and VF(N)-76 on Hornet. Notable by its omission is ace Bruce Porter’s “Black Death.” There’s a notable quantity of white data decals for these all-blue planes. Eduard gives you five options, include several obvious ones: namely, Alex Vraciu’s “Gadget” from Intrepid and Richard Stambook’s sharkmouthed VF-27 plane from Princeton. Also included in Ken Hilderbrandt’s “Joan II” of VF-33 at Ondonga in 1943, William Moseley’s VF-1 machine from Yorktown and a plane off Lexington and VF-16. Extra versions of the tiny squadron logos are provided – a great bonus if you build these Navy subjects. I would have killed for a VF-16 “Pistol Packin’ Airedale” logo when I built my last Hellcat 10 years ago! Eduard takes this round soundly, but not with a knockdown, 10-9.

12. Extras

Here’s where Dragon asserts itself. The kit has folding wings, for goodness sake – which, if you want to build a folded-wing Hellcat, should count for a number of points. They’re done well, and there’s plenty of detail. The Dragon kit also has separate ailerons and a separate rudder. The F6F-5N components are well done, right down to the gun insert in the wing with the open-ended flash suppressors; adding these without breaking them during construction should be a challenge. The Eduard kit also has the guns provided as an insert into the wing, and it also includes a set of pre-cut masks for the clear parts. There’s even an F6F-5N wing pod – so I guess there will be an Eduard night fighter soon. Even so, you have to give it to Dragon – folded wings? Too cool. Round goes to Dragon 10-9.

The final score

We have a unanimous decision – really, it’s not that close. Eduard takes this contest 116-100.

Both kits are major improvements over the past 1:72 kits, but Eduard scores with a better cowling, interior, engine and propeller.


Next Aces Symposium: May 23 in Belmont

The next Fighter Aces Symposium being held by the Northern California Friends of the Aces will be on May 23 at the Hiller Museum in Belmont, California. This time, the theme will be “Aces with Wings of Gold,” although it could also be “Hellcats Against the Rising Sun.” The scheduled aces on the panel are:

CDR Clarence “Spike” Borley, VF-15 (5 victories)

LCDR Fred “Buck” Dungan, VF(N)-76 (7 victories)

CDR Ralph Foltz, VF-15 (5 victories)

CDR Chuck Haverland, VF-20 (6.5 victories)

After the aces speak about their exploits, there will be an autograph session. Even the folks in the audience tend to be fairly interesting people!

As always, if you want more details on the event, e-mail the NCFA at

Raising the Jolly Roger over San Carlos

Another aces symposium has been announced by the Northern California Friends of the Aces, this one on November 9 at the Hiller Museum in San Carlos. As was the cast last fall, this one will focus on Navy aces, and the focus is very sharp: the theme is Aces of VF-17 and VF-18, the “Jolly Rogers.” The men on the panel are scheduled to be Charles Mallory (10 kills), Billy Watts (8.75) , Bill Hardy (6.5), Ted Crosby (5.25) and Jim Pearce (5.25), all of whom were Hellcat aces. As always, the local club is planning a display; Cliff Kranz is building four Hellcats, he says, and he’s the kind of modeler who’s likely to finish them. I think we’ll do another Navy Aces display; that’ll give me a chance to break out my Alex Vraciu F6F-3 and the FM-2 of Joe McGraw (which I was supposed to be building for the navy aces event last October…!). If any other Bay Area modelers would like to participate, let me know.

The event’s at 12:15 at the Hiller Aviation Museum; for more information you can e-mail the Northern California Friends of the Aces.