High Planes Bearcat Racer
In 1966 Lockheed test pilot Darryl Greenamyer won at the Reno air races in this highly modified Bearcat which was the start of a 4 year run of first place victories. On August 16th 1969, with a speed of 482.463 mph, he broke the world absolute propellor-driven speed record that had been held since 1939 by Germany's Fritz Wendel in the Messerschmitt Me209 V1. The Bearcat would be modified many times over the years and sport several different eye-catching paint jobs of which this 1966 blue and white scheme is my personal favourite. And I don't even like vodka....
I had no problems with the Bearcat's construction other than the usual minor headaches associated with a limited run kit. The plastic parts are very well moulded and sport fine recessed panel lines. So fine, in fact, that I knew they would disappear under the many coats of white paint needed to cover the lovely pale blue plastic so I decided to deepen them with a scriber. In contrast to many racing aircraft, Greenamyer doesn't seem to have bothered much with filling the panel lines and they are quite noticeable in photos so I considered the re-scribing to be a necessary evil.
The only other problem worth noting concerns the decals. Though they are beautifully printed and go down well, the markings for the horizontal stabilisers are not handed which means they will only work on the top of the right and bottom of the left stabs without modification. Fortunately this was very easy to overcome with a little experimentation. I floated the incorrect decals off the backing paper and let them soak for a bit to wash the glue off. Then it was just a matter of turning them upside down (obviously this won't work on decals that are more than one colour or have a white backing), placing them on some wet decal paper to "re-glue" them on the correct side and then applying them in the normal fashion. I also wish there had been more spare trim decal on the sheet as I had a hell of a time trying to match that metallic blue colour in order to paint the prop. In the end I used all the spare decal on the front of the blades and cobbled together the remaining bits for the backs. It's a bit of a patchwork affair but fortunately the decals blend together very well once they are dry and a clear topcoat is applied.
I removed the moulded on exhausts with a Dremel and then made new ones from heat stretched tubing. These and the pitot were the last items added. Exhaust and oil stains were airbrushed on with a very thin mixture of Pollyscale clear flat and dark gray and then finished off with brown pastel chalk. I was a little hesitant to add exhaust stains, fearing it would detract from the pristine racy look but almost every picture of this aircraft show it to have some staining and burnt paint behind the exhausts so I thought I should give it a bit of weathering. In fact, in some photos the dark brown exhaust trail goes all the way back to the rudder, making it look dirtier than your average combat aircraft. In the end I was quite happy with the slightly used finish - I think it kind of adds to the potent look of the aircraft.

I should mention at this point that I damn near ruined the model when I added a wash to the panel lines. My own personal preference when it comes to panel lines is to err on the subtle side. I'm not a big fan of pre or post shading, it looks heavy handed and unrealistic to me and I don't like overbearing black washes either. So I picked what I thought would be a nice medium gray enamel. Against the white paint however it ended up looking almost black and the panel lines were jumping out at me. It looked bloody awful in fact! My attempts to remove said wash met with failure and I was beginning to think a sad end was in store for the model. In desperation I applied a thin wash of Tamiya White over top of the gray and this had the desired effect. It took three thin coats but I finally managed to tone down the panel lines to an acceptable level. Whew!! Mental note: Medium gray is not the way forward on white paint....
White metal gear legs and a beautifully clear (but tiny!) vac formed canopy complete this high quality offering from High Planes. If I were writing for one of the major modelling magazines I guess I would finish off the article with something like "High Planes' Smirnoff Bearcat is a colourful and unusual addition to my collection and I highly recommend it". But I'm not so I won't. ;-)
Above left: Exhausts made from heat stretched tubing. Bit of a close-up here, obviously.
Above right: Completely forgot about that little ventral strake until the model was almost finished. Fortunately it was easy to add from strips of .005" plastic. I just scribed a line where it needed to go and then stuck it on with liquid cement. Tamiya White was brushed on to match the rest of the paint.
In addition to "Bent Throttles", the bi-monthly newsletter put out by The IPMS Racing & Record Aircraft SIG, main references used for this model were "Reno Air Racing" by Michael O'Leary (Motorbooks International) and WarbirdAeroPress.com which has excellent photos of this and many other racing aircraft.
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