AMT 1/48 Grumman F7F-2N Tigercat “Big Bird”
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 Tigercat 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!
22 additional images. Click to enlarge.