So I started on the Bearcats.
Here are the sprues for the Academy version. Evidently I had built one of these kits in the past and I threw the leftovers in this box so I have multiple cowlings and I also had an Eduard color p/e set for the cockpit so a bonus. The kit is very nice overall with petite recessed panel lines and a little bit of rivet detail around the cowling area. Multiple piece canopy if you want to display it open. The biggest critique with this kit is the shape of the cowling. It is a bit too squarish in profile. I searched for a replacement cowling in various websites but none were to be found. I do have a Cutting Edge replacement cowling for a F8F-2 that is slightly different from the -1 so I will save that for another day. The academy kit is billed as a -1 or -2 with some different parts to use for the cowling and the tail. Decals are provided for 2 -1s and 2 -2s. My research showed that there is more to it than that, but the aftermarket world is not providing any remedies that I could find. The biggest drawback is a difference in the windscreen. On the -2 the windscreen has a shallower, longer slope to the top of the canopy. Neither Academy nor Hobbyboss provide for this detail. Leftover from a previous build are some Cutting Edge decals. In the picture below it is the blue/red/yellow F8F-1 that I will be using.
Below are the Hobbyboss sprues. More parts giving greater detail in some areas. Again, this kit has very nice recessed panel lines with accompanying rivet detail throughout. Not overly done in my opinion. This kit provides parts to fold the wings if one chooses. It will involve cutting the wings. I will be doing mine extended. Decals provide for 2 different aircraft both -1s.
Close-up of the Academy fuselage. Cutting Edge states that the exhaust area on this kit are more like the prototype. I am leaving them as is. Rivet detail on the front half of the fuselage. Clean molding very little if any flash. The bottom of the fuselage is part of the lower wing. This arrangement can lead to step at the joint at the rear of the lower wing/fuselage joint. Test fitting the fuselage showed no alignment or fit issues.
Hobbyboss fuselage. Again nice panel line detail, rivets along the whole fuselage. More correct exhaust area. Wing is inserted into slots and fit very well. Hobbyboss has the sprue attachment points on the mating surfaces of the fuselage so care must be taken to remove them flush. Minor flash on some parts. Test fit shows no problem areas.
Comparison of the cowlings. Left: original Academy -1 cowling, middle: modified Academy cowling, Right: Hobbyboss cowling. About 20 minutes of sanding to get this shape. I used some drawings I found on line use as a guide for the shape and it matches pretty well.
View of fuselage compared to drawing. They both match very well.
This is where I am at now.
As you can see the major part of the build is over. Now for the painting and little parts. More to come.