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F7F-3N Tigercat

by "Bondo" Phil Brandt, IPMS 14091


Grumman F7F-3N Tigercat


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Bondo loves black airplanes! Especially weathered, dirty airframes with exhaust residue all over the place. The hectic early days of the Korean conflict produced just such a combination when VMF(N)-513 cloaked their powerful F7F-3N nightfighters in just such a color scheme, operating from PSP matting, with dirt blowing in all directions. The Tigercat profile and planform have always attracted this non-navy troop. The slim fuselage and humongous recip engine nacelles are purposeful and 'mean', a proper nightfighter look in my estimation.



Building an Accurate 1/48 Scale F7F-3N


Long before AMT released their definitive 1/48 injected kit, I had already purchased the quite decent Classic Castings all-resin kit which provided parts for all versions. I didn't start the kit right away, and the project was overcome by events, namely AMT's release. Initially AMT released only the F7F-3, so I converted the basic fighter to the -3N. In retrospect, this turned out to be a good decision because the later release of the AMT -3N had an undersized forward fuselage/radome.



The entire AMT fuselage forward of the windscreen was replaced by the correctly proportioned Classic Castings -3N resin version. This monolithic resin chunk also helped move the CG forward, but I still had to anchor the nosewheel to the base.



Turns out that in real life the Tigercat at rest would sometimes tilt back on its tail if the fuel tanks were not adequately filled, and there are pics to prove it!



The aft cockpit was cut out and interior detail-- Cutting edge had not yet done their very nice Tigercat cockpit sets--from the Classic Castings kit added to both cockpits. The aft canopy is the vacuformed one, also from the Classic kit. Yellow tapered rod antennas were added per closeup pics of the real thing. Note that the yellow color fades at the antenna base; it's not that Bondo forgot to paint the whole thing!



Tigercats often lugged napalm for night interdiction missions, so I used the same type external fuel tanks, painted in OD, that I saw being used as nape canisters in a Korean War pictorial publication. Standard rockets were also added to the model. Extra piping was added to the centerline external fuel tank.



Painting and Decals


I first shot the overall airframe in Midnight Black acrylic, then masked off various panels that were shot in Interior Black. Gear struts and wheel wells were done in dark blue per the practice of the day. The copious exhaust stains were done with two or three separately mixed shades. Light streaks of exhaust color were airbrushed over the stabilizer surfaces as well. Pastels work very well in simulating the filthy, dusty grime accumulated in combat conditions. My main weathering references were the excellent color pics in "Wings" Vol. 18, No. 5 (October 1989).



I also added very lightly brushed streaks over all flying surfaces. The aluminum skin poking everywhere through the chipped black paint was done with silver pencil. I noted that the hue of the squadron markings on decal sheets was much redder than the' bittersweet', or orangy-red shade in the color pics. The "WF" squadron markings were handmade, cut out of decal paper that had been sprayed with the proper custom mixed color. National insignia is from aftermarket sheets.





As Texas show goers know, Bondo doesn't like to just toss his contest entries out onto the Plain Jane white tablecloths that are used by most clubs. In this case I skipped my trademark base with a simulated aircraft panel held down by stainless screws for a very nicely cast aftermarket PSP resin base. Weathering here was done over a basic aluminum coat washed with OD, and stained by simulated oil drip areas under both recips.



Additional Images


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Review and Images Copyright 2003 by Phil Brandt
Page Created 07 January, 2003
Last updated 04 June, 2007

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