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Build Report: Hobbyboss 1/48 F8F-1 Bearcat with Starfighter Decals markings

Built with:
For this build I used Starfighter Decals “F8F-1 Bearcats in USN Service” (Stock# 4805), available from the Starfighter Decals website. Mark Tutton is the man behind Starfighter Decals, and he does top-notch work, as I certainly saw with these Bearcat decals. They went down perfectly, and what impressed me the most was how opaque the yellow decals were when placed over the blue paint. There was no “shine through” at all- the color was bright and vivid.

Starfighter Decals has some great sets for a wide variety of aircraft, and if you’re into the older Monogram 1/72 scale aircraft, you’re probably already familiar with their work. They’re printed by Cartograph, so you know the quality that brings to the build!

Thanks Mark for such awesome decals!

When I was a kid, I loved reading about World War II aviation. If there was a book about the subject, I read it. I read everything in my school library I could lay hands on. I went to the public library, and exhausted those books too. And on occasion, I was able to acquire books for my small but growing collection, most of which I still have today. (Plus a few more I’ve purchased as an adult…)

One of my favorite books was a coffee-table sized book called “In the Cockpit”, by Anthony Robinson. The book detailed flying aircraft throughout aviation history from a pilot’s perspective. Everything from the Blériot IX to the F-4 Phantom was covered. One of the stories related in the book that always entertained me was about the F8F Bearcat.

The Bearcat pilot told of being at a Navy airshow after the war was over, and the USAAF flew in a P-51 with the words “Fly Army Air Force” in bold letters on the side. After the show, the P-51 was taking off to leave. The Bearcat pilot decided to have some fun. So he waited behind the P-51 until it was well into it’s takeoff roll, and having held on the brakes with the engine opened up, he let go and took off after the P-51, which was just beginning to lift off. The Bearcat quickly caught the unsuspecting Mustang, and flew several barrel rolls around him before the Mustang pilot fully realized what was happening.

I always thought that was a great story, and while the Bearcat was never at the top of my favorites list, I was happy to see Hobbyboss release a modern-tooled version of this US Navy fighter, and decided to give it a go.

The kit is very typical of Hobbyboss. Very nice moldings, great engineering, and excellent fit are par for the course with their most recent releases. If Hobbyboss has a shortcoming, it is usually with regards to accuracy of shape. For their Bearcat, the most common criticism I’ve heard has to do with the profile of the cowling, and the cowl opening itself. I’ll let the individual modeler decide how much of a problem that is for them, if at all. For me, I found the build to be quite enjoyable and without problems. (If you do have concerns about the shape, my guess is you’re a modeler who knows how to fix shape issues, and is probably quite used to doing so.)

This is not one of Hobbyboss’ “Easy Build” kits that have been recently released. The box is full of parts with plenty of detail. The cockpit is reasonably appointed, with good detail given, though a resin upgrade if available certainly would dress it up more. The area aft of the engine, visible through the wheel wells, has some detailing, though an aftermarket set would certainly do a lot to better replicate the “business” of the real thing. Still, it looks good OOB.

I painted the interior with a homemade mix of Tamiya XF-4 (Yellow Green), and Flat Black, which made a close approximation to “ZC Green”. The engine is a bit simple, with the detail a bit “squared off”. However, so little of the engine can be seen once the cowl is on that it’s not too much of a problem. From a foot away it looks pretty much like a radial engine.

Assembly is quite simple, with no outstanding fit issues.. You will want to do some test fitting along the way, especially in joining the fuselage. There are quite a few components stuffed into the fuselage, so making sure they are lined up for a good fit will give the best result.

Parts are provided to slice open the wings for a folded-wing version. However, I chose to leave my wings as-is, in the unfolded position.

The clear parts are very clear. The sliding portion of the canopy does have a seam line on it, so it can use some sanding and a Future dip to correct this. The parts are a bit thick, so if you’re into vacform canopies, you may prefer one of those.

The kit comes with two sets of operation markings, one for a post-war Bearcat in fleet service, and another for an all-yellow show plane called “Beetle Bomb”. This aircraft was part of the early Blue Angels performing teams.

I chose to look elsewhere for markings, opting for a Starfighter Decals F8F set. (See sidebar.) I though the blue and yellow scheme looked really cool… it did not come with the pain of doing an all-yellow scheme like the Beetle Bomb (I’ve always found yellow difficult to work with in large amounts), and was not the bland all-blue of the typical Bearcat.

I started by painting the wings yellow, using Tamiya Flat Yellow. I followed that up with some post shading with shades and tints of the base yellow  and then followed up with a highly thinned “blending” coat of the base color. After masking off the wings, the same technique was used, using Pollyscale Sea Blue as the base (Testors- you killed the wrong paint line!), and various Tamiya blends for the shading/fading.

As this particular bird was used for ordnance testing, I did not do too much to dull the finish, or to weather it. I added some paint chipping here and there, and gave it an oil wash for the panel lines. I used a shade of yellow oil paints for the wings, and a tint of blue paints for the fuselage (with a dot of raw umber thrown in to dull the blue a bit.)

The decals performed flawlessly. The settled down very nicely, and responded very well to my favorite setting solution, Solvaset. (Well, second favorite setting solution… Pollyscale was my first…) As I normally do, I lightly pulled the tip of a new #11 blade through the decals after they had dried, and added more Solvaset, to really get them settled in. I’ve found that no matter how well decals go down, they always look better when you actually slice them along the panel lines, and add more setting solution. Nothing else works quite a well in my experience, even with the best decals.

I finished off by adding the final bits, landing gear, gear doors, and the prop, and called it complete.

I had a lot of fun building this kit, and I hope to be able to get another one in before to long. While the kit does have it’s critics (which are not unwarranted by any means), it is a fun build, and gives you a finished model that looks like a Bearcat- ready to take off and fly a barrel roll around anything!