1/48 Fonderie Miniature

 Grumman F11F-1 Tiger

by Eric Hargett

--------------------

 

This is the long-nosed variant of the world's first aircraft-carrier based supersonic fighter/interceptor.  The F11F-1 served with the U.S. Navy for only four short years before being retired in 1961.  It's active military service was shortened primarily due to its lack of range and was eventually replaced by the more advanced F-8 Crusader.  The F11F went on to serve with the Blue Angels flight demonstration team from 1957 to 1969.  My kit represents an aircraft with the U.S. Navy's VF-21 "Mach Busters"  that served from 1957-1958.

This is the 1/48 Fonderie Miniature kit and is relatively inexpensive in comparison with the older Collect-aire kit.  Lindbergh produced a 1/48 F11F years ago, though the quality is poor and lacks a lot of the detail we have come to expect with modern kits.  The FM kit has a nice assortment of injection molded, photoetch, white metal, resin and vacuum-formed parts.  However, as with most limited-run kits, it has its share of problems.  A quote I found on the internet best described the FM kit as "...a classic example of very low pressure injection molding with many areas that are either short shot or full of ripples or other evidence of garage production standards, Maybe gravity injection molding would be a better description of the process followed by FM!".  Not a great introduction for building this kit, but I decided to give it a go.

Click on images below to see larger images

  

  

  

The cockpit, wheel wells, engine and tail hook assembly are resin and well detailed.  The surfaces of the fuselage and wings have finely engraved panel lines while the landing gear are nicely constructed of white metal.  The pilot seat is a very nice representation of the real thing.  But that is where the positives of this kit end.  For starters, the kit parts are plagued by flash that do not fit together well.  Many of the parts contain ripples or pits that need to be filled and sanded.  Some parts like the interior bulkhead that positions the two rear wheel wells against the fuselage cannot be used even with trimming and sanding.  I ended up just attaching the wheel wells directly to the fuselage which worked just fine.  Correcting the numerous mistakes in this kit involved what seemed to be an endless pattern of dry fitting, filling and sanding (although not always in that order).   Because of all the sanding required, several of the panel lines had to be rescribed.  Be sure to add lead weights to the nose or you'll have a tail sitter.  The cockpit instrument panel is photoetch, though there is no film for the instrument dials.  I used decals from my spares box as a substitute.  In addition, the throttle quadrant is missing from the cockpit which I replaced with one from my spares box.  I also wound very fine gage wire to simulate the oxygen hose for the pilot.   No pitot tube was provided, so I used a fine sewing needle instead.  Just when I thought I had tackled all the problems with this kit and was ready for the paint booth, I noticed flaking on several of the polystyrene parts, thanks to the 'gravity injection' process used to make this kit.   Well, it was back to filling and sanding.   The early Sidewinders provided with the kit were poorly molded and misshapen so I left them off.  Finally, it was time for painting.

Painting was perhaps the most straightforward procedure when building this kit.  Tamiya white primer followed by Tamiya flat white was used on the undersides and other selected portions of the plane.  Aeromaster light gull gray was applied to the dorsal surfaces followed by Model Master chrome silver for the leading edges.  Weathering was kept to a minimum since this aircraft saw limited service.  For weathering I used a combination of pre-shading, panel tinting, acrylic washes, pastels and oils.

I searched extensively for aftermarket 1/48 F11F decals, though none are available.  So rather than making my own, I used the decals provided with the kit.  They are thin and respond well to Solvaset.  I noticed a bit of yellowing on the decals which surprised me considering this kit has only been available for a few years.

The next step was preparing and painting the vacuum formed canopy.  The kit comes with two canopies (just in case you botch one).  The clarity of the canopy parts are okay though again plagued with pitting.  Several dips in Future improved their clarity though the windscreen portion of the canopy still contained many pits.    After trimming, sanding, and test fitting, it was discovered the canopy is too wide for the fuselage and looks awkward in the closed position.  With the canopy open, the improper alignment is not as noticeable.  Currently, there are no aftermarket canopies available for this kit, so if you want something different than what is provided, you'll need to make it yourself.  A semi-gloss finish was applied to complete the kit.

Its apparent that this kit is not for beginners.  Of the 30+ hours I spent on this kit, more than 2/3 were devoted to filling and sanding. Despite its inherent problems, this is currently the best 1/48 kit of the F11F.  Overall, I'm pleased with the result and it makes a great addition to any collection of early U.S. Navy jets.

Eric 

Click on images below to see larger images

  

Photos and text by Eric Hargett