Taming a Bobcat:
Building Pavla's 1/72 Cessna T-50

By Al Superczynski

Rather than taking up space with something previously covered in an earlier issue of IM, click here for a brief history of the Bobcat and the editor's in-box review of this kit. I have to admit that having now built this kit I disagree somewhat with the initial impressions but the proof is in the pudding and just goes to show the inherent limitations of an in-box review in general.

I elected to build the USN version but deviated from the instruction's painting guide since I couldn't find any photos of this specific aircraft with orange markings. The restored airframe at NAS Pensacola has a Willow Green fuselage band and cowlings so I went with that on my model. That said, I don't agree with the gray fuselage and used overall silver. I also think that the national insignia should have blue vice red surrounds but would be willing to change them given a convincing argument.

Basic Construction

I started by test fitting the major components and found right away that one of the nacelles wasn't wide enough, the supplied floor was both too short and too narrow, and the wings were a very poor fit to the fuselage at the roots. This was going to take a little effort....

After test fitting was completed I did the landing gear, prop, engine, cowling, and seat subassemblies and set them aside in a small box for safekeeping. The struts were cleaned up, the PE torque links added, and they and the main wheels and tailwheel/strut were sprayed with some old Alclad shade 1 aluminum, with the oleos brushed painted with silver printer's ink. I then brush painted the outer main hubs with Xtracolor Willow Green, and all three wheels with a very dark gray after filing slight flats in the main wheel tires.

Assembly of the prop blades to the hubs is made unnecessarily difficult by the complete lack of a positive locating system. I drilled holes in the blade roots and the base of the hub shafts, using short pins during assembly but it was still very tricky to get proper pitch and alignment. These parts should have been molded in one piece. I sprayed them insignia yellow overall, masked the tips, and resprayed with flat black.

The excellent resin engines were basically painted per the instructions with the cylinders getting a thin wash of diluted gloss black after drilling hole straight through to receive the prop shafts. Watch out for the delicate cylinder moldings! I broke two off and had to reattach them with super glue.

Interior

As usual, basic construction starts with the cockpit and interior. The vac-formed passenger windows were cut out separately and trimmed for the best fit possible after carefully slicing off the molding pips in the corners and polishing. They were epoxied into the fuselage using a slow-setting variety to provide strength and make sure they wouldn't fall out during later stages of assembly and given a heavy coat of Future floor polish. The pilot and copilot seats are very nice but very intricate and fragile brass etchings that must be carefully folded and assembled from two parts - definitely not recommended as a first attempt at working with PE parts! Since the mounting area to the floor is extremely small I glued the seats to small blocks of scrap plastic between their legs and later epoxied them in place after test fitting and determining the correct location. I've enclosed a pattern to cut some sheet plastic for the floor but as always it would be best to cut it slightly oversize and trim to fit your specific kit. Don't worry about the lack of location marks for the front and rear seats - there aren't any on the original kit part either.

The brass instrument panel is well detailed but it's pointless to even use the paper gauges supplied on the instructions, as they can't be seen after the model is finished. There's no positive location point for the brass panel and the plastic base doesn't fit very well and needs to be added and filled after the fuselage halves have been joined. The top edge of the brass panel doesn't match the curvature of the fuselage so a coaming needs to be built up between the leading edge of the windscreen and the end of the plastic panel. Whew....

The minuscule brass throttle console was simply beyond my modeling abilities and after a couple of futile attempts at folding it properly I made a new one from half round sprue cut to size, carefully sawed in tiny slots, and added throttle levers from stretched sprue topped with "knobs" of white glue.

The trailing edge of the vertical fin was almost as thick as the wings so before joining the fuselage halves I thinned it down considerably from the inside by scraping and filing. I then filled the seam in the cockpit ceiling and painted the entire interior with Humbrol Interior Green. I needn't have bothered with the filling since it can't be seen anyway. I painted the floor Testors gloss tan and drybrushed with dark brown to simulate a natural wood finish. The seats were painted interior green and embellished with bond paper belts, the hardware being simulated with silver paint. I used flat black on the instrument panel, drybrushed with dark gray. After a final test fitting I inserted the cockpit floor complete with rear bulkhead and seat and carefully ran super glue along all the joints. The instrument panel was left until later. I then drilled holes for the assist handles near the rear passenger windows and added them with brass wire.

I stuffed tissue inside the cockpit area to protect it from sanding dust and sludge, and then cleaned up the fuselage seams after letting the Ambroid liquid cement do it's work overnight. I did however use super glue on the trailing edge of the fin since I was afraid that plastic cement would damage the thin plastic. Leaving the protective tissue in place, it was time to start on the wings.

Wings and Stabilizers

The trailing edges are extremely thick so they need to be thinned down from the inside to preserve the detail on the ailerons. After much grinding, scraping, and filing of all three wing pieces I got the trailing edges thin enough to suit me. I then drilled out holes on the bottom wing for the landing lights and backed them with scrap plastic, filling them later with Testors Clear Parts Cement. I glued the leading edges and tips with Ambroid liquid cement, again being afraid to use plastic cement on the trailing edges for fear of damaging them. After another overnight wait I flooded the trailing edges with thin super glue from the inside at the wing root openings - I didn't want to risk deformation by using accelerator so did one side at a time, propping the wing so that the super glue would seep into the trailing edge joint but not flow back out the wing root. I still managed to damage the trailing edge of one flap but just cut the area away and super glued a chunk of sheet plastic to the void, reshaping it after it had set up. Only minimal clean up was needed on the rest of the trailing edge so I was able to preserve most of the exterior detail. On to the engine nacelles, the upper half of which is molded with the upper wing but which are provided as halves for each lower wing. The instructions have the parts numbered incorrectly so don't join #11 and #12! It's easy to see which halves are actually supposed to go together. I assembled the cowlings first so I could test fit everything and found that one of the nacelles was too narrow - I added a piece of sheet plastic to bring it out to the correct diameter. Pavla provides firewalls on the brass sheet but I chose to make some out of sheet plastic instead; I also made a pair to fit inside the cowlings so that I'd have both a good steady surface for mounting the engines and a positive location for the cowlings. After adding the lower nacelles, previously painted inside with zinc chromate yellow, I carefully drilled holes for the overlong landing gear struts.

Having already determined that the wing root fit would be lousy I worked on it as much as possible before joining the wings to the fuselage and added a ledge of thick card inside the bottom of the fuselage on which to mount the trailing edge of the wing. After the wing was glued to the fuselage I was confronted with a wing root more than an eighth of an inch higher than the wing's top surface. The only thing to do was carve it away and fill the gap with scrap plastic and super glue. Ugh, what a mess! Make sure to get as strong a joint as possible and be careful of it while reshaping the wing root fillet - I cracked each side two or three times before I finally got it right. This was definitely one of the most difficult areas of the kit but the worst was yet to come.

After finishing up all the seam work on the wings and fuselage and rescribing lost panel lines I cleaned up the horizontal stabs and added them. As is typical for a short run kit they're just a butt joint. I drilled holes in their roots and in the fuselage and used short lengths of brass wire as reinforcements. Any gaps were filled with repeated applications of Mr. Surfacer 1000, the excess being rubbed off with a rag dipped in denatured alcohol. I then drilled holes for the antenna post and wires, the pitot mast, and the tailwheel strut.

Final Construction

It was now almost time to add the windscreen so I removed the tissue from the fuselage, added the semi-gloss black control wheels to the instrument panel, and epoxied it and the seats in place. I added a ledge of stretched sprue on the sides and rear of the cockpit opening to give a more positive mounting for the windscreen, then cut it from the vac-formed sheet, test fitting as I went along. After getting the best possible fit I removed a molding pip from the front, polished it out, and brushed a couple coats of Future on the inside. I laid a bead of slow setting epoxy along the ledges and set the windscreen in place being sure to get the best possible match at the joint lines, then used a Q-Tip dipped in denatured alcohol to rub off the excess epoxy from the outside surfaces before it set up. This one area proved to be the most difficult work on the whole kit - it would have been much easier if the windscreen had been an injection molded piece. Granted the vac-formed part is thinner but you can't see all that much in the cockpit anyway. I let this area set for 24 hours for maximum strength then worked the seam with repeated applications of thinned Bondo Spot Putty, typing correction fluid, and Mr. Surfacer, constantly checking the results with a quick application of silver Rub-n-Buff which can be safely wiped off with mineral spirits. I worked longer on this one area than any other during construction of this model!

After finally getting a smooth joint I used liquid mask to protect the clear areas, cut the excess from the frames, and sprayed a primer coat of interior green overall, both to provide the correct interior color on the canopy frames and to show up any defects that needed to be reworked. After I was satisfied with the final finish I smoothed out the primer with a fine Scotch-Brite pad, wiped the model down with rubbing alcohol, and sprayed several light coats of SNJ - left unbuffed it's an excellent match for the aluminum lacquer of the original. I also sprayed the cowlings inside and out at this time.

Painting & Decalling

I now sprayed the cowlings and a section of white decal paper with the Xtracolor Willow Green and wrapped the fuselage in the area of the green band with drafting tape on which I sketched the outline of the band. Once I was pleased with it's proportions and shape I removed the tape, cut out the pattern, and applied it to the back of my now green decal paper after it was thoroughly dry, using it as a pattern to cut the band from the decal (pattern included in this article).

I then hand brushed on a coat of Varathane water based clear gloss and was ready to apply decals less than half an hour later. I substituted Aerodecal insignias for the national markings since the kit decals fell apart when sliding them off the sheet and were ill proportioned anyway, the bars being too short. I broke all the rules when applying the kit decal's lettering. To keep them from shattering I slid them off glue side up on to a wet fingertip (not recommended for the faint of heart!) before gently pressing them into a pool of Superset setting solution on the model. They were nudged to their final positions with a wet brush, blotted, and allowed to set up for an hour before being given a light application of Solvaset. BTW, I use only distilled water for all model work, including decals, to prevent staining caused by chemicals often found in tap water.

After all the decals were completely dry I washed the model with a mild hand detergent solution, rinsed it, and gently dried it with a blow dryer set on low. The model was then sprayed overall with a light coat of Testors Metalizer Sealer and the window masking was removed and touched up as required. Yet another pattern (also provided) was made for the antiglare shield. It was used to outline the area with liquid mask which was then brush painted with Humbrol Olive Drab. Wing walks were added from flat black decal sheet cut to size.

Finishing

Final touches were the addition of all the subassemblies, antennae, and landing light lenses. The landing gear legs were shortened as required, butting up against the bottom of the top wing, so that the final sit of the model would match photos and drawings. The antenna wire was made from black stretched sprue inserted in predrilled holes and attached to the top of the antenna mast. It was made taut by the gentle application of heat from a cigarette but there are healthier alternatives for the nonsmoker! Wingtip navigation lights were applied with a glob of semi-dry Mr. Color transparent red on the port side and green to starboard.

Was all the effort worth it? It depends on how badly you want a Bobcat on your shelf. Despite its too short and therefore sleek-looking fuselage there's no mistaking the model for anything else, but the kit is a tough build and correcting the fuselage depth would be a major undertaking to say the least. Recommended but only to die-hard Bobcat fans who are advanced modelers.

Thanks to Pavla Models for assistance with replacement parts.


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