Building a Hypothetical Grumman F8F Seacat

Gallery Article by H. Davis Gandees on Apr 9 2018



1/48 Grumman F8F Seacat

I have had an affliction for the Grumman Bearcat since watching four of them take off in formation from NAS Miami as a young boy. Unlike the stiletto-like P-51 Mustang, the Bearcat looks more like a mace with its blunt radial engine nose and overall stubby shape. However, the Bearcat is arguably the best piston engine fighter ever produced. 

A fellow modeler brought to my attention a 1:72 "Seacat", built by Dutchman Kees Kuyper. Kees is famous for his concoctions of "combi" aircraft into colorful interesting works of art. I knew I had to build a "Seacat" in 1:48 scale.

My Seacat would represent a fictitious float equipped Bearcat variant that would provide protective cover for Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of Japan in November of 1945. It would have an underwing radar for detecting kamikaze aircraft or suicide boats seeking to destroy the invading troop ships. With a Tiny Tim missile under the port wing and two 20mm cannons, it would be a formidable threat to the remnants of Japanese forces. A large fuel supply in the float would allow it to loiter for hours over the fleet. Retractable wing floats would reduce drag and enhance maneuverability.

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Two model kits would be required. My old standby 1:48 Hobbycraft F8F-2 Bearcat that I am familiar with along with the floats from a very old 1:48 Monogram OS2U Kingfisher and some scrap box parts would be the basis for the model.

As usual, the cockpit was the first step. It was unmodified except for Eduard PE seatbelt/harness and an added radar screen. A styrene ring was attached where the gunsight mounts, and the lens painted Tamiya clear orange over Testors chrome silver to replicate the radar gunsight. 

The first step after mating the fuselage halves was to cut an opening in the lower wing center section for a piece of streamlined aluminum tubing for the float pylon. 

Having some knowledge of seaplane design, I positioned the pylon on the center of balance and aligned it with the float hull step. This was accomplished with 5 minute epoxy allowing time for adjustment. A fillet of putty at the fuselage and float attachments finished it off. 

The wing floats were attached to styrene struts that would be in the down position, and channels were cut into the lower wing to facilitate them folding up as wing tips to reduce drag.

To compensate for the large float, I used a spare Bearcat vertical stabilizer that was attached to the lower fuselage for yaw stability. Gear doors were closed up, although they could be opened for maintenance access.

The original Bearcat design drawing had a prop spinner that looked good, so I adapted a P-51 spinner and a cut down F4U-4 prop that clears the float. A brass rod hand rail was added to the starboard side of the pylon as well as a mooring cleat at the bow. 

The model was given two mist coats and a third wet coat of ModelMaster enamel F.S. 15042 Gloss Sea Blue. Decals were then applied including 2 kill markings from the scrap decal box. A nylon thread antenna was attached from the tail to a styrene insulator on the starboard fuselage. A post-it-note protected the painted surface while attaching. 

A gorgeous True Details Tiny Tim missile was added to the port inboard pylon and a radar pod fabricated from a scrap box drop tank was attached to the starboard pylon and an electrical cable from the pod into the wing. Two, 20mm cannon barrels with flash hiders were turned from styrene tubing using a sanding stick and Dremel on slow speed. 

The two unused gun ports and breech blisters were deleted. The beaching gear from the Kingfisher was attached to the float and the model was completed. 

The Seacat receives a lot of attention at contest and has won a 1st and 3rd place in the Open Aircraft and Miscellaneous categories.

Seacat originator and new modeling friend, Kees Kuyper is given full creative credit for the Seacat, a brilliant idea! The Seacat is an interesting addition to my Bearcat collection. 

Modeling is not just building models. It's a global hobby of like-minded friends!

H. Davis Gandees

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Photos and text by H. Davis Gandees