After putting this kit away over 12 years ago, I have once again picked it up and will finish it. At this writing, essentially all of the scratch building is complete. Below is the text I added to a website chronicling the build.
Although this kit is a newer release (1992 vs. 1960's - 1970's) than the Revell 1/32 kits I have done in the past, it is not much better in terms of sophistication, in fact in some areas it is worse. Exterior outline of the model is very good but that's where its attributes end. Interior and some structural details (struts, tires, prop, engine) are extremely lacking or grossly inaccurate. Unbelievably, the model includes an approach light in the port wing leading edge but no landing and taxi light underneath. Therefore everything from the kit except the basic airframe is going to get scrapped and new details or assemblies scratchbuilt. These areas include the cockpit, wheel wells and struts, wing gun installation, tires, propeller and engine. Additionally, I will build it up from the firewall forward and completely detail the inside of the cowling.
This kit does include the option of building it as a -3 or -5 variant. The most notable differences being the two are the bulge over the exhaust stubs, eliminated after aircraft. #1500 of the -3, the window aft the cockpit, eliminated after aircraft. # 2000 of the -5, a simplified windscreen and the addition of rockets and bomb hardpoints with the -5 (no bombs are included and the 2.75" rockets in the kit fall way short of the target in the detail arena) .
I chose to build the aircraft in the -3 configuration with markings for (then) LTJG Alexander Vraciu's No. 19 "Gadget", stationed with Fighting Squadron Six (VF-6) aboard USS Intrepid (CV-11 ) in 1943. Techmod does make an outstanding aftermarket decal sheet, which I will use.
Since I began this model, Trumpeter has since released their own 1/32 Hellcat. Although it is miles ahead of this kit in terms of sophistication, it will still fall way short of what I will accomplish with this rebuild. Some of that is the due to the limitations of the molding process, but a good bit is due to the Trumpeter philosophy that less is more and you should charge exorbitant amounts of money for it, plus the fact that no one would ever buy a kit with well over 3000 pieces in it!!!
I am deeply grateful to Alex Vraciu, CDR, USN (ret.) for all the help he has provided me during the building and research process, he has been a tremendous source of information that I cannot find in any other reference source and has provided me many first hand accounts of what it was like to be in the middle of the Marianas Turkey Shoot. As a former Naval Aviator with combat experience myself, I am in absolute awe of the accomplishments of these bravest of the bravest of warriors.
Sadly, Alex passed away on January 29, 2015, long before I finished this model.