The F7F-3N was the most numerous of all the Tigercat family, 106 being passed on to Naval and Marine units between May 1945 and June 1946, differing from its forebear, the F7F-2N, only in regard to the incorporation of the SCR-720 radar in a re-designed nose. The first ‘kill’ credited to the Tigercat came on 1 July 1951, when Capt E В Long and radar intercept operator (RIO) W/O R С Buckingham, of VMF(N)-513, in their F7F-3N ‘red 14’ successfully intercepted and despatched a North Korean Po-2 ‘Bedcheck Charlie’. The F7F-3N soldiered on with its night air defence, interdiction and ground support missions, providing sterling service until 1952 when it was replaced by such aircraft types as the Douglas F3D-2.
I was first alerted to Octopus kits after visiting my local model shop and ended up walking away £13.99 the poorer, but in possession of what looked like a very nice Tigercat kit! Octopus hail from the Czech Republic and their tooling is very similar to that found in MPM and Sword kits.
The kit itsself comes in a rather flimsy envelope style box. Photo 1 Contents include a very nice, well drawn, twenty-three step construction guide, plus painting/decal plan, throughout which, on all but one occasion, Octopus point out where the modeller will have to add scratchbuilt items or purchase other Pavla offerings if they so wish. Two items that are not noted are the T antennas and pylons located on the inboard portions of the wings. Also included are two decal options, one vacform canopy set, (front and rear), some sixty-three grey plastic parts and eighteen resin items of Pavla origin. Photo 2
Quality of these parts varies. The plastic parts need cleaning-up, whilst the resin detail parts, (with the exception of all the blowholes in the rocker covers of my engines), are very nice.
Steps 1 to 5 in the instructions deal with the construction of the various resin and plastic parts that make up the cockpit and nose bay. The cockpit/nose bay are not however sandwiched between the fuselage halves until Step 8. Dry fitting these parts showed very poor fit and it was obvious that a slower approach was going to be needed.
Other than removing the rudder for a more animated position later on, preparing the cockpit parts involved trying to get the basic fit of the resin cockpit structure. Photo 3 shows how the rear of the resin part, as well as the sides of the fuselage halves need reducing, (shown in black). The length difficulty is due to the rear cockpit wall forcing the resin part forward, which interferes with the fit of the instrument panel.
Even this measure proved futile and it boiled down to needing to remove a good 2mm off the front of the dashboard coaming in order for the instrument panel to fit in line with the resin part. All this was unfortunately ‘just the beginning’!
Photos 4 and 5 show how the internal structure has been built up slowly to try and get the best fit all around. This required, amongst other things, reducing the thickness of the cockpit floor to clear the nose bay structure and cutting a ‘shelf in to the nose halves for the nose bay side walls to sit on.
Life Colour paints were used for the internal colours. This was my first experience with them and I didn’t do too well brush painting them on. They spray beautifully, but I wasn’t going to get the compressor out to do areas I would hardly ever see again!
Note: a good 3rr(m is missing off the bottom of the dashboard. The starboard resin detail has been removed for clarity and in Step 8, the drawing shows rudder pedals that are neither referred to as kit parts or scratch built items.
Step 6 deals with the fit of the plastic prop blades to the resin hub. Check your references to decide whether or not your machine had ‘clipped’ blades. Photos 6 and 7 show both the preparation of these parts, using brass fuse wire for extra strength, and the finished item respectively.
Step 7 deals with the painting of the engines. Photo 8 These paint-up very nicely and apart from the blowholes, are very nice items – as are the seats.
Step 8 brings the two halves of the fuselage together – after whatever method you have used to construct the internal detail. However, before the two halves come together, the modeller is instructed to pack the remaining space in the nose with an undisclosed amount of weight!
Again the fit is poor – Photo 9 showing the amount of filling required. It was sometime after this, whilst looking down the length of the fuselage that I noticed that the pilot’s headrest is not moulded squarely on the rear wall! Some filler was applied to make it look a little wider on the offending side – (seen before and after in Photos 10 and 11).
Before leaving Step 8 and the fuselage parts, let me just say that I was glad that
I had removed the rudder, as the break in this otherwise dark aircraft’s colour scheme by the Zinc Chromate rudder leading edge is very welcome. Photos 12 and 13
Steps 9 to 11 deal with the construction of the main gear bay parts. As with cockpit and fuselage, the fit of the parts is very poor. Photo 14
The instructions advocate the reducing in thickness of the gear bay roofs but this proves insufficient when it comes to trying to get them to fit to the
wings in the following Step. Either cut away the appropriate area of the lower wing or reduce the height of the frames that the roof rests on inside the gear bay walls. I chose to do the latter.
Steps 12 and 13 cover the joining of the wing halves and location of the gear bays and the ‘power eggs’. It is regrettable that no detail is given for inside the oil cooler and carburettor intakes. I had no clear photos of these features and so chose not to represent them but I now wish that I had.
One other thing to look out for is the trailing edges, which are rather thick and warrant reducing. Photos 15 and 16
Mentioned in a later Step is the locating of the triangular fairings that jut out at the back of the wings and form the top of the nacelles. The fit of these parts is also poor. Photo 17
Steps 12 and 13 instruct the modeller to increase the inboard length of the landing flaps with a triangular wedge 1mm thick. It is however best to wait until you are confident you have the correct 6 degrees of dihedral before you measure the amount of extra flap you need.
It is also well worth taking the time to replace the navigation lights and even gun camera, with clear Perspex – you will not be disappointed. Photo 19
The completed wings, (with lots of filler around the gear bay joins), are then, together with the tailplanes, attached to the fuselage in Step 14.
As mentioned, Steps 12 and 13 cover the sandwiching of the resin engine parts inside their plastic cowlings and the joining of these power eggs to the wing/gear bay. Two things must be considered at this point. The crank case detail on the engine is straight up and down and does not follow the 6 degree dihedral; and, the exhausts really need representing, as they will be seen! The tubing from low amp electrical wire is ideal. Photo 20
Steps 15 and 16 concern the construction and fit, (including scratchbuilt nose door supports), of the tricycle undercarriage. Two things are of note here. The oleo leg is of insufficient length to give a proper ‘tail down/nose up’ attitude – to prevent ‘prop strike’;
and, with all the weight in the nose, the nosewheel rear support strut would be better off replaced by a length of brass rod. Both these above two points have been incorporated into my nose gear.
Photo 21 Also seen is a length of rod, or a ‘spike’, protruding from the bottom of the nose wheel; even with the nose packed with lead, as well as the rear of the engines, such is the weight of the thick plastic used for this tooling that the model still ended up being a tail sitter! The only thing to do was drill a hole in the base I was to display the model on and secure the nose down by the above method!
Steps 17 to 20 concern the construction of eighteen individual undercarriage parts plus doors. It is here that some good photos of the real aeroplane would have come in handy as it is unclear where the ends of a number of hydraulic arms exactly end up!?!
As far as preparation goes however, the main concern is in regard to the oleo leg wheel shafts. They are simply too fragile and do not even conform to the diameter of the wheel’s location hole! These features are best replaced by stronger components. Photo 22
Photos 23 and 24 show various aspects of the completed undercarriage set up. (Note: Lowering the gear bay roof to clear the aerofoil of the lower wing has had the knock-on effect of ‘lowering’ the undercarriage. As a result a slightly bigger gap exists between the wheels and gear bay doors than was seen in photos of the real aeroplane).
Steps 21 to 23 concern the addition of any kit parts that are left and the locating of scratchbuilt or after-market items.
Photo 25 shows the resin Mk 8 Gun sight and also a rear view mirror that I chose to add. Apart from the rear hood having the ‘bulged’ head clearance feature, the canopy parts are otherwise fine. (The rear hood also needed reducing in length by 1mm to fit).
Photo 26 shows the location of the Mk 9 Rocket Launchers. Grooves in the plastic indicated their position. Similar grooves are also present to the rear as used on some types; these location grooves were smoothed over. Octopus advocate the purchase of a Pavla set but I was content to scratch build my own zero length rails.
I know the F7F-3N was armed with 20mm cannon but I couldn’t help using the Aires exquisitely detailed.50 cal resin barrels to represent the Tlgercat’s armament which should really have smooth barrels. Photo 27
In Photo 28 the drilled-out ejectior chutes can be seen, as well as the T antennas. This area could also be home to a pylon for drop tanks/ordinance, but I didn’t fit any to my model.
Finally Photos 29 and 30 show a simple ‘breather’ tube on the drop tank and an even simpler rendering of the tail hook respectively. Going back to the drop tank, the sway brace should have been modelled a lot better – but I was getting rather tired by this stage in the project.
Octopus wisely provides a decal option for both a Non-Specular Black aircraft and a Gloss Sea Blue machine. It was this latter aircraft that I wanted to model as I already had a black F4U-5N Corsair. The model was therefore given a few coats of Xtracolor X121 Gloss Sea Blue over the Halfords grey primer and set to one side for a few days.
However, just when I thought I was nearing the finish line I had a major setback. The Octopus decals were far too thin; brittle; unable to be moved over the surface of the model to their correct position, and simply did not react at all to setting solutions!
I had very few appropriate alternative markings for the F7F Tigercat in my spares box and the only option my limited spares allowed was for an overall black machine after all – which is greatly thanks to the Italeri F4U-5N Corsair kit! So my completed model ended up in the matt black livery and markings of ‘white 2’, tail code WF, of VMF 513(N). How appropriate that VMF 513(N) was called ‘The Flying Nightmares’!
Having first sprayed my model in Xtracolor X121 Gloss Sea Blue, the opportunity now presented itself to gently rub down the overall Matt Black acrylic paint in certain places, with micromesh, to reveal the former colour. Exhaust staining was also applied using Humbrol 71 Linen and pastels. I am not a great fan of taking photos in direct sunlight but such conditions proved advantageous to showing off more clearly the weathering effects mentioned. Photos 32 to 34 and Photos 35 to 39 overleaf.
little annoying but why moan? It’s good old fashion modelling and after all where are the alternatives? A friend has a RVHP conversion set which includes a F7F-3N nose for the Monogram kit. I think it is up to the modeller how the model ends up looking and if you are blessed with detail photos from one of the surviving warbirds then I am sure you could do a much better job than I have. I must admit that I am very surprised at the lack of references available on this machine. I would have thought a Walk Around, InTech or Detail in Scale volume would have been available a long time ago?
As for the cost – okay for the same price you could get a very crisp Hasegawa tooled model, but you don’t want a Dinah – you want a Tigercat Night Fighter, so you go and buy this kit and work hard to get your monies worth.
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