1/72 Monogram F8F-1 Bearcat

by Fernando I. Moreno Villa

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The First Fighter Squadron of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), later renamed as the 514th, was initially created with 25 Grumman F8F Bearcats.  This particular airplane was part of the second batch of 18 F8Fs received in May 1956.  South Vietnam operated about 68 aircraft of this kind until their replacement by Skyraiders and Fennecs in the early 1960’s, in the initial stages of the Second Vietnam War.

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THE KIT

This is the vintage kit of Monogram, something difficult to find nowadays.  It has excellent surface detail with fine raised panel lines. Something amazing is the accuracy in shape and measures to the real bird. However, as expected, it has the limitations of the molding technology of the age: Only a seat and a crude control stick as interior details and no wheel bay. Also, the motor piece was not of the same shape and size of the fuselage and if assembled as is, you would see through.  

CONSTRUCTION

Starting in the cockpit, I built the side control panels with plasticard. I painted the seat belts and buckles which were nicely molded on the seat. Then I corrected the problem of the motor internal cover using another plate of plastic, sanding it until it acquired the rounded shape that matched with the fuselage halves. Using more plastic pieces cut to the required shape, I made all the cover plates for the empty wheel bay. Later, I went to the rudder and stabilizer flaps, cutting them down and placing them in different position. Molded machine guns were replaced with medical needles cut to the size.  Finally I used copper wire for the break lines, added the launch rails and drilled the bottom of all unguided rockets to make them look more realistic.

PAINTING

After doing some research I found a wonderful site with detailed information and pictures of the aircraft that belonged to the Republic of Vietnam.  I preferred the all metallic version of the F8Fs, based in the aircraft identified with the number 95338.  This is the first time I tried to do different shades on metallized surfaces and I applied the tip of using wet newspaper to mask the panels.  It worked well but you must be very careful and fast.  The entire surface was covered with Non-Buffing Aluminum Metalizer and later, I painted the darker plates with Steel Metalizer.  I left the internal wheel bay, interior canopy frame and landing gear in Silver, which was used as primer for the entire aircraft.  

DECALS

The upper surface and fuselage roundels came from the Heller T-28 Fennec kit, which proved to be of very good quality being soft, matt and easy to handle.  Then I had to print the remaining roundels myself, placed in the lower surface of both wings.  Numbers were printed over clear decal paper for laser printers and the remaining markings in color inkjet over white Testors’ decal paper (Thanks again Carlos!). 

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WEATHERING

I preferred to have the plane with moderated weathering, so I applied very thinned black paint with my airbrush in the motor exhaust area to create the smoke stain effect.  

CONCLUSION

In spite of the age of the kit and all the scratch required, I liked the final outcome and I’d recommend this kit unless you have the most recent Hobbycraft kit with engraved panel lines and wonderful decals for the Royal Thai Air Force.  

REFERENCES  

  • The South Vietnamese Air Force 1956-1975 website. www.vnaf.net  

  • The Air Combat Information Group website. www.acig.org  

Thank you all and regards from Monterrey , México.

Fernando

Photos and text © by Fernando I. Moreno Villa