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Building High Planes Awesome 48th Scale Rare Bear

The Bearcat that became Rare Bear was a severely damaged wreck when discovered by Lyle Shelton in 1969. It had been abandoned next to a runway in Valparaiso, Indiana after it crashed there from a throttle-on torque roll in 1962. The airplane had been stripped by parts hunters, so Shelton found a fuselage, wing center section, landing gear and a right wing panel, but little else. Shelton bought the wreck and had the pieces trucked to Orange County and restoration began. One of the major modifications made during the rebuild involved installing a more powerful Wright R-3350 (from a Douglas Skyraider) in place of the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine that is standard for a Bearcat. A Douglas DC-7 propeller and cowl were used and Shelton bought the landing gear fairings and doors from the wreck of Bob Kucera’s Bearcat. Bill Fornoff loaned him a left wing panel and Gunter Balz supplied a rudder. The windshield and canopy were supplied by Edward T. Maloney. The rebuild was finished with the first flight on 13 September 1969. (Thanks Google)

Rare Bear has flown in many color schemes throughout its racing career, and this High Planes kit scheme depicts Rare Bear as it flew at Reno in 1995. These kits are limited run offerings, so be warned that there will be a bit more effort required to achieve a finished product comparable to more maim stream models. One unusual feature of this kit was the inclusion of the massive 3-bladed prop which was taken from a P-3 Orion and modified for use on this particular version of Rare Bear. Later it returned to the 4-bladed prop for some reason.

I wasn’t happy with the kit’s cowl, so I cut it off and replaced it with a corrected Bearcat cowl from Obsecureco Models in an effort to achieve the correct opening.

The vacuum-form canopy is a poor fit and requires a bit of work. I did not like the kit cockpit and replaced it with a resin cockpit from the spares box. The rest of the components were pretty straightforward. The next issue was the gold decals. I do not understand why, but when I cut the long pieces into two parts for ease of application, the gold changed shade showing where the cut was made. The cowl was going to be a big problem so I matched the gold as close as I could and painted the cowl ring.

Once the decals were applied, all that was left to do was paint and attach the prop blades. I used Alclad Chrome on the front and flat black on the rear of the blades. I can’t say I am thrilled with the results I achieved on this mode, but it will have to do as I am onto the next Bearcat for the Blue Angel project.

3 additional images. Click to enlarge.

13 responses to Building High Planes Awesome 48th Scale Rare Bear

  1. Don’t be disappointed in the results, Jack….it looks beautiful from here. Nice job! 🙂

  2. Great job, Jack ! MORE ! We need to see MORE racers ! Add more color to our shelves and to this site !

  3. What a Great looking Beast! All your extra effort payed off- Thanks for posting it a Jack

  4. Absolutely AWESOME!!!! Rare Bear is my all time favourite racer by far. You did a stellar job on this one. This must win a prize!!!

  5. Wow – looks like a feather being towed by a battleship screw!

    Very interesting subject, and nicely done knowing what you started with.

  6. Really cool build, Jack.

  7. Being personally aware of just how much work it takes with one of the High Planes kits, you have done a really magnificent job here with this kit, and have an excellent result.

    I remember seeing Rare Bear make the amazing dead-stick wheels-up landing when the engine gave out during qualifications at the Mojave Air Races in 1976. Fortunately the prop stopped in the “X” position, which allowed touchdown on the prop tips and the tailhweel, which saved him from totalling the airframe. He told me in 1997 that that P-3 prop was positively dangerous with the torque it produced, which was why they went back to a Skyraider prop.

  8. In any court it would be hard pressed to say that is not a beautiful model

  9. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this model in person and it’s every bit as beautiful as it looks in the photos. Amazing job, Jack!

    Got to see Rare Bear fly at Reno back in 1992, where she was beaten out for the Unlimited Class win by the P-51 “Strega”. If any of you ever get a chance to attend that event, do so. The noise of a gaggle of unlimited race airplanes screaming by is something every airplane nut has to experience.

  10. Nice work Jack, looks great, and you shouldn’t have said anything about the gold decals, I would have thought you did that on purpose to give it a little “in use look.
    I too, had the privilege of seeing it race in 08, had engine trouble all week, and finally pulled out of the final, mid race. I loved seeing it race, but I almost think it belongs in a museum at this point. Too much of a classic to risk racing !

  11. Always good to see Air Racers and especially one done this well.

  12. I’m definitely a fan of these racers, and this one looks just great, thanks for sharing it with us, Jack.

  13. I’m a big fan of the Grumman ‘Cats and this one especially. Fortunately for any enemies, few had to tangle with one of these! You did a nice job with the decal & paint issue.

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