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Gary Brantley
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AMT 1/48 Grumman F7F-2N Tigercat “Big Bird”

July 7, 2021 · in Aviation · · 32 · 1.7K

The kit directions have a note that I started putting paint to plastic on July 16, 2020 and I finished the model July 5 of this year. During that time, I did manage to complete one other model that had been set aside, and also started two other kits, so the entire year wasn't devoted to this one...but it felt like it! 😉

I deviated from the instructions a bit. The main landing gear has five attachment points and the directions would have you fish the assembled, multi-part landing gear up through the wheel well opening. No sir, I couldn't see me getting that done without trouble. So, the assembled gear were installed through the top of the engine nacelles (much easier!) and then the nacelles were installed on each wing before they were attached to the fuselage. Of course, that meant they were in the way for the rest of the build. I did cover them with protective "spats" made from paper towel tube and they made it through with no drama to speak of.

I wanted the model to sit on her three wheels without the support of the kit-provided barrel and crate, used in real life service to keep the front tire on the ground when fuel tanks were empty. So, I added a lot of ballast into the fuselage, all forward of the main gear centerline. I knew that much weight would tax the plastic kit landing gear, so used a set of white-metal ones instead. The total weight of the ballast was over 75 grams and I just knew it would be enough. I was wrong. 🙁

The P&W R-2800s in the kit were quite nice and I added spark-plug wiring and few other doo dads that are pretty hard to see now. I didn't use the notorious rubber tires that came in the kit, instead using a resin set in their place. Eduard PE seat belts were used and I scratched up the canvas "sling" that served as the rear cockpit seat. The kit props are misshaped so I robbed an old Monogram Hellcat and Avenger of their props and used them. Paint was ModelMaster Insignia Yellow matte, and I used a semigloss clear-coat over that to replicate the somewhat glossy yellow paint used on the Naval Air Test Center bird from 1947 that I was doing for this build.

I found only one photograph of this NATC aircraft and it showed copious exhaust staining with heavy black soot blown back along the nacelles and wings.

Man, they must've been running those R2800s mighty rich! I would've liked to have airbrushed that soot but I just didn't trust myself to do that without problems, so it was all done with pastel chalks. Then I was afraid to seal the chalk staining with a clear-coat, so I left it unsealed being very careful not to touch it. I also used some Flory wash to highlight a few panel lines. I deleted all the guns as the reference photo shows none and I added small sensors seen in that pic to both sides of the nose.

I worried quite a lot about getting the tires all installed with the flat bottoms actually on the bottom, and still keeping them plumb. It is a difficult model to handle so I laid her upside down on a jig and used 30-minute 2-part epoxy to attach them to the metal gear stubs. Turning her over and setting it over the table, I adjusted and checked them several times and felt they were good to go. Next morning, I sat her on her "feet' for the first time ever and found that all three weren't plumb. Their flats were on bottom but there was no way at that point to adjust them vertically without catastrophic consequences so they are what they are I'm afraid. And, I fear they may splay out more as time goes by with all that weight on them. Since I ended up needing the barrel anyway, I should've not used any weight at all! Live and hopefully learn. 🙂

I took her to the Cameron airport today for a photo session. All in all, I guess she looks okay; not as nice as I wanted but it'll have to do. Thanks for hanging in this far, and thanks for your interest too. Cheers!

Reader reactions:
27  Awesome

22 additional images. Click to enlarge.

32 responses

  1. Nice work, this came out great looking. The second black and white shot I thought was the real plane...

  2. Gary, @garybrantley

    This build is INCREDIBLE ! I read where you put weight inside it and had trouble with the flat spots on the tires... I will have to go take a look at mine now and see what I did. I don't think I used the rubber tires because of what I read about how they eat into the plastic and cause failures. I did use the kit landing gear legs though.

    I will keep your landing gear building process in mind when I build the next one. Yours somehow reminds me of the "Beetle Bomb" Bearcat the Blue Angels used. The same engine and colors. It's amazing at how the exhaust staining shows up on a yellow plane isn't it ?

    The Tigercat is a beautiful plane, and your model looks just like the real thing. In fact, when I first saw the second B&W picture you posted, I honestly thought it was the real thing too...

    Two thumbs up my friend, and I definitely clicked the "Liked" button. 🙂

  3. Wow, an absolute beautiful build, Gary.
    It is that Louis and Bob indicated that the second picture is your build, otherwise I would not have noticed that.
    She looks very realistic.

  4. Profile Photo
    Walt said on July 7, 2021

    That is a great looking plane and you did a beautiful job on that kit. Maybe a long build but when it comes out so nice, it just has to be worth it!

  5. Great job on this!

  6. What an amazing build, Gary!
    Truly, it turned out magnificent! Great engine sooting.
    Loved reading your build "adventures" too!

  7. That is one good looking Tigercat.

  8. Slicker'n Goose Grease. Beautiful build. The tires look fine. I recognize those "weights",
    115 grain and 230 grain, correct?

  9. My goodness, 75 grams! I will definitely avoid weighting efforts on my build. This however, is a gorgeous build. Yellow looks good on this, and like Louis said, reminds me of the oft seen yellow Bearcat.. but I like this better! Well done, Gary.

  10. Thank you all for your kind compliments and wonderful comments! I do so appreciate your encouragement and support; we all know that we are our own worst critics and it's important, and gratifying, to hear other's opinions and views on our work. Getting finished with a model, especially one that has challenged and perplexed us, is a most satisfying feeling isn't it? And with the end of one build, another soon follows with the same high hopes and expectations. 🙂

    Again, thanks to all of you great iModeler members! 🙂

  11. Well - I was already a fan of the Tigercat, but seeing it in this bright livery was a real treat, and you did a terrific job on the finish. What a great-looking model! Well done.

  12. Gary, This looks wonderful, I really like the very attractive paint scheme, and your paint finish looks excellent. Like a few others have mentioned, I too thought the B&W photo was the real thing.

  13. Hello Gary, My compliments on an extremely well built Tigercat. Your choice of markings and paint job certainly make that fine model stand out. Well Done !

  14. Thanks to Greg, Terry and Jim for your kind comments gentlemen! I sure do appreciate them! 🙂

  15. Nice work. In fact, the main gear wheels do splay out like that, so you're OK.

    Great work here.

    • Thank you Tom@tcinla. Your encouragement along the way was so helpful! And I appreciate that comment regarding the main wheels. That does make this old modeler feel much better! 🙂
      Glad you like her sir!

  16. One of the sleekest looking Grumman cat's. Beautifully done!

  17. Turned out great, Gary. That thing sure needs nose weight. I put a resin nose on mine and ended up loading the forward nacelles with coins.

  18. Robert @roofrat and John@j-healy, thanks for your wonderful comments my friends! Those are such nice things to say about my Tigercat. She came out better than I would've expected at so many points along the arduous journey to completion. 🙂

    All of your kind comments and compliments have really made all the teeth-gnashing and nail-biting (I would say hair-pulling too, but, well... 😉 ) worth it at the end! I do appreciate them all so much! Gary

  19. Man that's nice. The background on your photos fits perfectly. Did you get hassled by TSA for being the apron?

    • Thanks David @Thevid! It's hard to beat that natural light (and I really suck at indoor pics 😉 ) and what better setting than an airport, right? No, I've been going out there for almost 30 years now for photographs and have never had a problem. I've talked to city police officers, our city manager and aircraft owners and they all enjoyed seeing what I was doing.

      I've also used another small town airport in nearby Rockdale, Texas, where they have a really cool old WWII-vintage Quonset-type hanger. I'll be taking my next set of pics there I think; just waiting for the right day/weather for my Meteor and an Hs-129. It can be seen to pretty good effect in the linked article below, as well as several others in my modeling blog here.

      One of the things I like best about using the airport is the ever-changing sky out there. It's always different each time! 🙂 . Thanks again for your comments!

  20. Beautiful looking Tigercat, sir. Like others have mentioned, saw this and my first thought was of the F8F "Beetle Bomb".

  21. For all your troubles and teeth gnashing she really looks good Gary, especially in yellow. Likewise I went with metal gear on my build as the kits gear look too fragile to hold up under any added weight. Got lucky as she isn't a tail sitter and didn't use any bullets as well. Job well done Gary.

  22. Sure did, added lead weights until I thought it couldn’t take anymore. Then stuffed some more in the engine cowls. Got lucky

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

  23. Sorry for coming late to this. Lovely bird!

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