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Modelling On A Budget: Converting The F-14A Bombcat Model Kit To An F-14D

Article by Paul Nortness

In this article I will show you how to take Academy's 1:48th scale F-14A Tomcat "Bombcat" boxing and convert it to an F-14D model with no expensive aftermarket resin parts, just some spare parts from the bin and styrene sheet plastic.

Academy first produced the 1:48th F-14A in the mid 80s, and has reissued it as the "Bombcat". This new release is essentially the same model kit, but with airframe updates.

These updates make this boxing perfect for conversion to the F-14D (you can easily make a F-14B as well, just study your references to make the necessary changes). This kit retails for $40 USD, but can be had for much cheaper at many online retailers. Even at full price, it is significantly cheaper than Hasegawa's offering (and we get weapons with the Academy kit!)

One of the biggest obstacles we will face on this project is the cockpit. The F-14D cockpit is quite different from the F-14A depicted in this kit. The forward instrument panel varies quite a bit from other versions (those converting to F-14B can leave this panel as the A and B shared the same front panel). First and foremost, the MFDs are next to each other instead of vertical.

This is going to be a tough fix. Luckily, our good friends at Revell came to the rescue. I was able to order a panel from Revell's new F-14B kit (Part 141) for a small fee of $1.99 with shipping included!

f14 cockpit

This is the finished panel. The panel is in standard US cockpit color of ghost grey and instrumentation is painted black. I drybrushed a light ghost grey paint across the panel to bring out the detail. I used flat black on the MFD screens, and put Tamiya Clear Green over the black to give it that "glassy" look. I also like to put a tiny drop of Future Floor Wax on the instrument faces to simulate glass.

OK, so we have the front instrument of our new F-14D finished. Let's tackle the rear panel. This one isn't going to be as easy as ordering a part, I'm afraid.

This is a picture of the stock rear panel next to my converted panel. As you can see, it's quite different. We now have a MFD screen on the top of the panel, as well as a larger scope in the center, and the MFD is gone from the right side of the panel.

f14 panel

The first thing I needed to do was use my rotary tool to grind down the scope in the center.

Once this was done, I very carefully cut the MFD screen off the right panel with my razor saw. This is a very delicate process and needs patience.

f14 cockpit grinding

Start slowly at the base of the screen and move across the panel. The screen will be very thin once removed, so be careful with it! Measure the screen you just removed and notch the top of the panel with the razor saw to fit the screen. The new piece for the scope and the panel to the right was fashioned using the lid from a cottage cheese container (a GREAT source for spare plastic!) I used a standard hole punch to make the hole for the scope. The instrument panel on the right was cut from the unused front panel from the kit.

For added detail, I added a throttle from a scrapped Revell F/A-18C. I used the control stick from the same Hornet to add the LANTIRN control stick to the rear panel.

f14 throttle before f14 throttle after

Before we move on, I want to talk briefly about the ejection seats. The F-14D uses the NACES seats, which are different than the ones in the kit box. These new seats can be had very easily; mine were located in my spares bin. They can readily be found around the net as well (most model sites have a trade section where users can post needs and trade spare parts... very handy for projects like this.

The Academy Tomcat is one of the few out there that gives you the option to open the air vanes on the wing gloves. The pilots found these vanes did not work as intended, and soon after crews welded them shut. To make the build easier, I just glued them in place.

f14 air vanes

Here's another handy tip! The Academy Tomcat's wings were designed like the Monogram kit with gears that allow them to swing just like the real aircraft. The instructions call for adding the wings when you glue the fuselage halves, but having the wings there makes painting difficult. So, cut the gears off at the root and make a notch at the pivot point. This will allow you to paint the fuselage without the wings attached and then slide the wings onto the grooves later. Very helpful!

f14 wings