Do you feel the need?
The need for SPEED?!
Ever since the 1986 blockbuster Top Gun catapulted Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw and their Grumman F14 Tomcat off the deck of an aircraft carrier and into action film folklore with Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone blaring through the speakers I have loved the movie and, especially, the F-14 Tomcat.
With twin engines, twin seats, and variable-sweep wings (they move – “Swing” in and out: Out-stretched for slower and more stable take-offs and landings; Swept back, like an arrow for getting places faster than the speed of sound), in my opinion, the Tomcat remains one of the sexiest pieces of aeronautical jet engineering ever.
Undeniably the coolest scene in Top Gun is in the opening minutes when Tom Cruise’s Maverick flips his F14 Tomcat upside down and flies very close to scare off the newly discovered “MiG 28” enemy fighter jet that is locked onto, and has spooked, his wing-man Cougar.
Maverick says “Greetings!” and flips the bird (gives the finger) to the enemy pilot, while Goose takes a close-up polaroid photo of the enemy aircraft from his RIO’s back seat (for military intelligence purposes).
I have long dreamed of recreating that “inverted” scene as a model diorama, but there were several hurdles in the way.
I had made a number of model Tomcats over the years in different scales (1/72, 1/48 and 1/144), but had never been able to find one with Top Gun markings until I was on my way home from my last trip to Auckland and stopped for breakfast in Taupo.
With the sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” on the horizon Airfix had re-released their original 1/72 scale movie kits and I grabbed this kit the moment I saw it in Taupo Hobbies.
I took my time building it slowly and carefully, not wanting to make any errors. It came together really easily and well! There were no problems from construction to painting.
I even masked and painted canopy lines for the first time ever, with the results far better than I had expected!
The decals went on without issue and, again for the first time, I sprayed clear coat over the plane to seal them and stop the decal insignia from eventually flaking off like has happened on a few of my older kits.
I even painted the figures with colored helmets to resemble Mav’ and Goose, tilting their heads back with pliers to look like they are looking (up/) down on the MiG’s pilot.
Aircraft anoraks will readily tell you that the “MiG 28s” in the original Top Gun weren’t MiGs, or even Russian at all – They were American Northrop F-5E (single seat) and F-5F (twin seat) Tiger IIs.
The continuity in Top Gun’s opening dog fight scene flips and flops a bit – The plane that Maverick sneaks up on is rather clearly a single-seat E variant from the distant shots:
But then, seconds later, as the inverted Tomcat and the “MiG” are almost canopy-to-canopy, the MiG has miraculously morphed into a twin-seat F-5F!
(We’ll forgive them – It was the 80s and lots of movies that tried to replicate Top Gun’s aesthetic made far worse errors – At least Tony Scott had the same model of plane…)
Try as I might, I was unable to find an Italeri F-5F – the ideal twin-seat kit for what I wanted, but I was able to get a single-seat “MiG 28” from Twitter friend Justin Ryan who had ordered some kits from Japan and kindly added a Hobby Boss F-5E kit to his order for me.
Once again, an easy uncomplicated build, paint and marking job had two elements of my dream diorama all set.
Now for the diorama itself!
I had seen a couple model recreations of the “inverted” scene online that used clear plastic rods as the supports for the planes, with the rods drilled into a wooden base and heated and curved up and around before slotting into the planes’ jet exhausts to give them a near-horizontal (the rods inevitably drooped under the weight of the planes along the long length of the acrylic rods), mid-air appearance.
But these displays were all open and uncovered – A disaster waiting to happen when it came to dusting, which they would inevitably need in short order.
So I started thinking of covered alternatives.
Boxes were too cumbersome and framing could block some angles of view or wreck the illusion of flight that in was trying to replicate.
So I considered a clear plastic tube, or perhaps the whole thing in clear plastic!
In Napier we have a plastic fabricating company called Classique Plastics who I previously used for the clear sheet on the front of my recycled Rimu Pint Sized Hero display case.
When I went to scope my.plans out they happened to have a cut-off of the exact diameter and length of clear tube I was after already in their stocks!
I asked for them to make an all-acrylic display I had planned amd sketched out, but they ended up being very busy with commercial jobs and after a few weeks I decided I wanted to try something different, as i was uncertain the plastic rods would hold the weight of the planes as I had imagined.
So I designed something more multi-media.
I bought a slightly longer than originally planned length of clear plastic tube from Classique (this alone was over $100, so I dread to think how much the whole thing in clear acrylic would have cost!) and went in search of some round Rimu and stainless steel rods.
The rods I couldn’t source locally, but found and ordered from Bay Hobbies in Tauranga.
I got recycled Rimu floorboard “plug” ends made to fit on a CNC machine by local woodworkers Stim Craftmanship.
I had one edge of the round Rimu trimmed flat so the display could stand by itself without rolling everywhere.
Then I took one of the plug ends to my father-in-law’s workshop and very carefully measured and drilled holes for the stainless steel support rods to fit into, making sure they would be close enough together to replicate the inverted scene from the movie, but not so close that the planes touched.
The results were pretty neat perfect:
I’ve been fortunate this year to have a very successful streak of crafty creations.
Aside from a few speed bumps along the way with this project everything went exceptionally well and i am really happy with the result!