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TOPIC: High Planes 1/48 Rare Bear kit review

High Planes 1/48 Rare Bear kit review 6 years 2 months ago #3

  • aminne
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High Planes 1/48 Rare Bear kit review


The oracle sayeth “Posessed of a greater blayde,
The Bear can, yea, slay its enemies”,
And, forsooth, a blayde of wondrous breadth
Was given unto the Bear and it did become
Quite fearsome and a plague unto its foes.
David Ward, 1990 [4]

When High Planes announced that, after a gestation period of 10 years, they were going to release a kit of the Rare Bear in 1:48 I ordered one straight away knowing I still would have to wait several weeks for it to arrive.

Since I was (one of) the first to receive the kit I offered to write a review for the BT. Being a terribly slow builder I decided to write it in 2 stages: one describing the construction phase to be followed by a paint phase at a ‘later date’. The kit triggered a mild case of AMS in me, which didn’t help a speedy construction.

For those who always skip to the conclusion of the review: the kit is definitely worth buying, if only for the beautiful resin propeller and the crisp decals. It will build nicely out of the box, but you should be prepared to do a lot of test fitting and sanding. In this review I will focus on the extra steps I took to make this model more detailed.

When you open the box you find 3 sprues of thick light blue plastic so familiar for High Planes kits, 2 of these are the same as their other Bearcats. They have nice & thin engraved panel lines, ideal for modelling a racer. You will also find white metal landing gear legs, 2 vac formed canopies and nicely printed decals. New for me was a small bag containing resin parts, mainly for the huge P3 Orion propeller. The resin pars are nicely cast with only a few bubbles.

The instructions are Spartan, 1 big and 2 smaller blow up diagrams for construction. You need more information to build this kit, especially about details of the main and tail landing gear and the wing dihedral. The 2 pictures showing cockpit details are very helpful, as are the 4-view colour drawings on painting & placement of decals. There is very little information on the history of the Rare Bear.

Reno Unlimited Gold race
1988Shelton, Lyle456.8211
1989Shelton, Lyle445.8051
1990Shelton, Lyle468.6201
1991Shelton, Lyle481.6181
1992Shelton, LyleDNF
1994Penney, John424.4071
1995Penney, John465.1592
1996Penney, JohnDNF
1997Shelton, Lyle423.8093
1998Did not race
1999Did not race
2000Did not race
2001Air race cancelled
2002Did not race
2003Penney, John483.9422
RARA database [2]

The caption on the box mentions the 1999 version, which is odd because it did not finish the first heat in Reno that year due to engine problems and remained on the ground for the rest of the race. Comparing the decals with pictures & Taichiro Yamashita drawings show a very good match with the 1995 season when it finished 2nd in the gold race - The only omission was the 'Mel Happy Birthday' written on the tail for the gold race, but I can live with that ;) -. With a little decaling effort (for making different sponsor decals) the kit can be converted to any 1994 - 1998 scheme. For later versions you will also need to change the wheels.

Having build the High Planes American Jet I knew what kind of project to expect: a kit with correctly shaped parts which are not easy to put together. You need to do a lot of sanding & dry fitting, but the kit needs no major corrective surgery. Since I don't mind the first and find the latter very demotivating I was happy with what I found in the box.

The fuselage shape appears right to me. I don’t know the length of the Rare Bear, but the length of the fuselage without spinner matches the scale length given for a standard F8F-2 Bearcat (8.61 m) but it has a different cowling and a streamlined extension behind the rudder.

I started right away with sawing of the cowling form the fuselage halves and gluing the cowling halves together. - That’s right, on this rare occasion I did not start with the cockpit! - This enables you to create a clean round opening without the engine getting in the way. Since there is a narrow gap between the spinner and the cowling (leaving very little visible of the engine) I wanted the cowling opening to be completely round. This breakdown also allows you to position the crankcase and spinner in the centre of the opening. Another benefit is that it’s easier to fit the exhausts in the fuselage.


The drawings do not show the crankcase extender to be added to the front of the engine. You do need to fit this part wide side facing forward. Use plasticard or putty to ensure the diameter matches the diameter of the spinner.

I drilled out the exhausts themselves and made a small sleeve into which I could fit the exhaust (leaving them to protrude a fraction behind the lip), but leave the actual fitting until after painting the exhaust panel (highly polished metal).Then I modified the shape of the exhaust panel. The upper and lower edge should be parallel to the line of flight, a little sanding took care of this.


Next I started working on the wings. I sanded the gear bay top and the inside of the top wing to make the wing halves fit correctly. This is necessary because the wheel wells are very deep and go almost all the way to the top of the wing. They should be deep because there are some very large air ducts going through from the intake in the wing to the fuselage. As far as I can determine High Planes is the only kit (or aftermarket) manufacturer which got this right. The kit parts for the air ducts are OK when you leave the flipper doors closed, but I replaced them with parts made from putty.


The air intakes are a bit too large to my taste, they are rounded on the inside to ensure a smooth airflow. I filled the intakes with putty to open up later. I ended up sanding most of the putty out again which took ages, it would have been easier to line with plasticard before gluing the wing halves together and then sand them to shape. I then fitted the tips to the wings. These tips are too (thick and) large, to achieve the correct wingspan of 30,5 ft (9,29 m). I sanded them down to match the shape & size of Taichiro’s drawings.

The instructions mention that ‘the flipper door were normally closed’. Although this may be true for the Conquest racer, I could not find one picture of the Rare Bear with the flipper doors closed. Leaving them open means you can look into the fuselage where you should see air ducts, the rear of R-3350 engine, engine mount, oil tank, plumbing, etc. Lone Star Models has an aftermarket kit for the bay area but with shallow wheel wells and the wrong engine (R-2800). The easy way out is to close these doors, but I took the hard way (AMS remember?). This meant I had to scratch build bulkheads fore and aft of the gear bay and add scratch built items found in this area. You don’t need to super detail these items, just something to ‘fill the void’ was sufficient for me.


There is no attachment point for the tail wheel in the fuselage, therefore I also made bulkheads for the tail wheel well. The instructions tell you to make 2 doors for the tail wheel bay, but omit to tell you to remove the single door from the tail wheel part.

Now, at last, I arrived at the cockpit. Since the canopy of the Rare Bear is much larger than that of Conquest 1 much more of the cockpit is visible. The cockpit supplied will benefit from extra detailing like throttle quadrant, air hose, rudder pedals and seat belts. I decided to add a Lone Star Models F8F cockpit, which means you have to remove many details to depict the Rare Bear cockpit. It took a lot of fiddling to make the parts fit, especially the fit between the (modified) High Planes instrument panel (top half) and the modified military cockpit. The resin casting of the LSM cockpit needed a lot of cleaning (air bubbles and globlets). I added some dials and switches to the instrument panel and added decals (from Mike Grant and Reheat).


After gluing the fuselage halves together there are a few details which need to be corrected. The simplest of these is to remove the ridge aft of the tail wheel and shorten this ridge in front to 24 mm. On the bottom of the fuselage you need to scribe a large (10 x 15 mm) access panel. Between the flipper doors you find 2 engraved exhaust ports. The Rare Bear had one in the center (hard to see because of all the open flipper doors B) ), so you need to fill the existing ports and scribe a new one.

Then it’s time to fit the main wings. To easiest way to make sure the wings have the correct dihedral, is to make a jig out of cardboard of plasticard. According to my references the F8F has a dihedral of 5,5° (centre wing), which works out to 7,5° (7 - 8°) for the bottom of the wing.

Since I wanted a radial thread I tried to fit True Details wheels, but these were too thick and too loaded, leaving the impression of a flat tyre. You need thin wheels which will fit between the legs and the gear doors. I thinned the kit wheels by sanding the halves and sawing of the brakes with a razor saw (to be thinned and added later). This also enabled me to create my own radial thread; place a UMM scribe tool horizontal on the table and rotate the wheel against it. Careful cleaning creates nice legs, but the strut brace is missing, so I made this from plastic rod. After that you can add a brake line, which runs along the leg and the strut brace. I also added a plasticard edge to the bottom of the gear doors to simulate the part of the door which fit inside the flipper doors.

Finally I arrived at the enormous propeller: a Hamilton Standard 33E60 hub (for a Super Constellation) with Hamilton Standard 7121A blades (for a P3 Orion). To me this is the best looking part of the Rare Bear and a good reason to buy this kit (The cool paint scheme was the second reason). Since the propeller is such a prominent feature I made every effort to create a very smooth surface: I had to correct one damaged blade and fill some small bubbles in the hub. After that I sanded and polished them.

Last thing remaining before painting is making a pitot tube and add a strip to the rudder trim tab. Until now it has been an very enjoyable project. It would have saved a lot of time had I decided to close the flipper door, and who would know? More on the Bear in my 2nd instalment....

1. www.warbirdaeropress.com
2. www.airrace.org
3. www.rarebear.com
4. Racing for the Gold: The Story of Lyle Shelton and the Rare Bear; Dell Rourk
5. Drawing Rare Bear Reno 1995; Taichiro Yamashita
6. Plans F8F-2 Bearcat Grumman Aircraft Nye USN Navy; L. Willis
Last Edit: 6 years 1 month ago by aminne.
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Re: High Planes 1/48 Rare Bear kit review 5 years 11 months ago #9

  • alleycat1
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Hi aminne. Thanks for the build/review. Always been interested in High Planes stuff. Looks like it's well worth investing in a kit or two.
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Re: High Planes 1/48 Rare Bear kit review 5 years 11 months ago #16

  • stuntflyr
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Hi Alex,
You're right about the pocket doors on the gear. They work just like a stock Bearcat, open on the ground, closed in the air. Conquest I was totally different.

Nice job on that old High Planes kit. They're a real challenge.

Your list of accomplishments for Rare Bear is far from complete, but I guess you probably know that. The airplane was built up from a wreck in 1968 to 1969, an R-3350-26 from a Skyraider installed with a DC-7 spinner, and prop and afterbody from a Constellation, and the flaps were sealed to the wing. It was 5th in '69, DNF in '70, 2nd at '71, 4th at San Diego in '71, 1st at Cape May in '71,, 2nd in '72 and 1st at Reno in '73, 1st at Miami in '73, and 1st at Mojave in '73. 2nd at Mojave '74, 5th at Reno after finishing 1st at 433 mph in '74, 1st in '75 at Reno, belly landing after a catastrophic engine failure at Mojave 1976 and retired until Reno '81.

I'll type more later if you want, getting late!


N777L Photos,
Able Cat, Chino, 1969. Able Cat, Chino, 1970. Phoenix I, San Diego, 1971. US Thrift 7 1/4 % Special, Miami, 1973. Phoenix I, Cape May, 1971.
Last Edit: 5 years 11 months ago by stuntflyr. Reason: Photo Captions...
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Re: High Planes 1/48 Rare Bear kit review 5 years 8 months ago #32

  • Caerbannog
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Nice build report - when will it be continued? I am really looking forward to it :-)
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Re: High Planes 1/48 Rare Bear kit review 5 years 6 months ago #45

  • HPMHobbies
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Hi Alex

I am reading the build with interest as I have been revising all the High Planes kits as time permits. I'll update the instructions on the Rare Bear kits so that it mentions the open main undercarriage doors.

Time permitting I'll see if we can make an insert to fill that rear engine void...

Take care


High Planes Models
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