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1/32 Tamiya F-14A Tomcat 

converted to an F-14D Bombcat

by EJ DeVivo

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As we escort the Tomcat off the carrier decks and usher the Hornet aboard, one cannot help but get teary eyed at the thought of bidding farewell to this legendary fighter. It seems as if the United States Navy is accelerating it's retirement every time I turn around with Boeing turning out the Super Hornet off the assembly line so fast.

 Don't get me wrong, I love the Hornet.  It's just not the Tomcat. I think the beefy F-14 made the movie Top Gun more awesome than the F-18 could have.  That is of course, if the Hornet was flying in 1986. The Tomcat is an American icon, sort of like the Chevy Corvette or Harley Davidson.  Some analogies I like to make are like this. If the Tomcat were a car, it wouldn't be a nimble sports car. It would be a brutish loud as hell muscle car with glass packs the whole nine yards. If it were a pro-athlete it would not resemble a baseball or tennis player, but a huge linebacker ready to plow anything in it's path. I think most will agree the F-14 or rather the "Tomcat'" is the best known fighter in America for it's name while probably the F-16 is better known for it's number. In 1995 my girlfriend (now lovely Wife) stepped into my Corvette for the first time which had an illuminated tangerine instrument cluster. "Wow, it look's like an F-16 in here." But she somehow knew Tom Cruise flew a Tomcat.

 Nuf said onto the kit.

 I bought this kit about 2 years ago and it sat in the closet of future build projects for all that time. To be honest, I lacked the testicular fortitude to build this kit. It was my first 1/32, and I've got to say that's its different from 1/48. Painting is more difficult because you have to figure out a way to hold the beast. Also, the kit is old. Once completed with some good detailing it's stunning but you will need to purchase an aftermarket resin cockpit and certain ordinance if you wish to build a Bombcat as I did.

Kit: Tamiya 1/32 scale F-14A Version 1994.
 Aftermarket items used:
 - Teknics cockpit and airframe conversion set
 - Cutting Edge Lantirn pod and adapter
 - Verlinden "Remove before flight" tags
 - CAM decals

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The office.  I'll speak in detail of this because it interests all. I used the awesome Teknics F-14 B/D custom cockpit set and let me tell you that this is truly THEE cockpit to use for this kit. The switches and dials are so nicely raised and your provided with a nice sheet of photo etch brass. I have the Black Box set for another F-14 project which by the way is stunning in it's own right but what really sets these two resin wonders apart is the way the Teknics goes together. The pieces are more solid, and just sit nicer on the tub. They are like blocks that fit into place.  Little to no effort in manipulating the way the cockpit and RIO cockpits lay on the tub. More important, you are given the option of building a Bombcat as your  provided with the PTIDS screen and Lantirn control stick. The only modification I made were to the ejection seat handles. They looked a little bulky so I used brass wire in lieu of the resin. I also added a wire going from the RIO's control box to the canopy. Nice touch I thought.

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By the way, get ready to sand.

 I used Model Master interior black for the side panels which I find goes on amazingly well. It applies so smooth as gives a perfect flat appearance.  The switches and dials were painted with Tamiya Alluminum and the CRT screens were painted with MM gloss black with about two coats of future to give a nice glass like finish.

 The HUD (Heads up display) I have my Wife to thank for this although not intentional at all. She actually has little to no tolerance for my obsession however one night I was in the crafts store with her  and don't ask me why I was there I just was and by accident I stumbled across these large rolls of vinyl material. Black, grey, red clear yellow green. When I saw the Black and grey I stopped dead in my tracks and thought,, intake covers!!!!! When I looked at the clear green and yellow I said to myself, HUD displays!!!

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My good friend Doug at the Hobby Super Store once told me that when you really start become obsessed with his hobby you tend to look at things different. How true that is. How many times when visiting Home Depot do we walk past electrical wire and think, wow landing gear wires. Now I'll get to the intake covers later on but lets  talk about the HUD. First I took a piece of green vinyl with a pair of surgical scissors and cut a small piece and placed it on the already positioned HUD frame. Using a straight edge and a razor, I now cut the desired size and shape which by the way came out perfect the first time and glued it to the frame using white transparent glue. I used the same technique on a Hasegawa 1/48 Tomcat along with the BB cockpit and it came out exquisite. 

 This kit is a lesson in patience. There are stages of this model when the sanding, grinding and fitting get tiresome and frustrating but the end result is worth the wait. Some mornings I would walk through the garage and gaze at the previous nights work and wonder what did I really accomplish? 

 One regret is that I should have taken more digital images when the kit was in its raw build stages, so that if any newcomers come on board to ARC and need reference it could have helped.

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I used a variety of Tamiya acrylics to achieve the finish as I really like the way they 'bite' onto the already primed model. They also provide a nice flat finish which I like on Naval Aircraft.  This particular aircraft is usually depicted in light ghost grey but you know what, I don't believe in exact replication. I enjoy simulating much better. By the way, VF-31 does in fact have one or two of these in the dark ghost grey so there!!!

 Weathering methods employed were a combination of pre-shading, spot shooting and panel line washes. Pastel chalks were used in certain areas but not much as I have grown to dislike them for a variety of reasons.

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Converting the airframe was no picnic, but not the nightmare I thought it to be. I used model master jet exhaust for the cans. 

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Two things that I enjoy detailing the most on military aircraft is the cockpit and landing gears. The Tamiya kit gives you a nice gear, main and nose. I used fishing line for the hydraulic/brake hoses and weathered the gear using pastel chalks with a some water and dishwashing liquid. I applied this method in the areas where the crew would normally grease. The rest of the weathering was achieved through enamel washes. 

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My own website will be up and running soon. It will be a place for modelers to visit and learn different techniques. I will post more pictures of this particular Tomcat plus the Hasegawa  F-14D I'm building now. This kit I'm taking step-by- step images and will discuss in detail.  The intake covers were made with vinyl.

If any of you are struggling with intake covers, please feel free to email me and I will show you the way.

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The guy talking on the cell phone is my pal Doug from the Hobby Superstore where I live. He has taught me a lot of stuff over the past few years and I can't thank him enough. This dude actually taught me to airbrush over the phone, no joke. He builds RC cars, and airbrushes ladies nail polish on them. I laughed at first but the end result is breath taking.  The images aren't that great, but you can see some of what the other guys who frequent this place build.

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EJ's big cat in the window. Nice Tamiya by Danny, same kit as mine..

 

My other cats.

   

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Sadly the time is drawing closer than we think to say farewell to our Tomcat.  Operation Iraqi Freedom is probably the last time we will see the Tomcat fly in anger. During OIF, I recall watching CNN as the camera crews were aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. The newscaster was talking to one of the pilots as an F-14D sat on the catapult in the background about 2:00am.  They were situated in the middle of the sea and the darkness seemed hauntingly eerie. Watching the F-14 barrel down the carrier deck and light up the Indian Ocean with  it's huge GE-110's afterburning flames  was an incredible sight to behold..

 The F-14 was from VF-31 and the camera crew also got into VF-31's briefing room. Of what I saw was a banner on the wall of Felix carrying the bomb with the rainbow behind, much like what's on the tail of this kit.  Well, that inspired me to model that squadron. The pilot being interviewed spoke of dodging SAM's for what seemed to be the longest 7 minutes of his life. The F-14's launching that hour were looking for any resistance from MiG-25's.

 Evolution..  Sad but true.  Now I guess this is how the F-4 Phantom guys felt.

EJ

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Photos and text by EJ DeVivo

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