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High Planes 1/48 Nemesis Racer Build Review

By Kelly Jamison

Date of Review August 2005 Manufacturer High Planes
Subject Nemesis Racer Scale 1/48
Kit Number R4802 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Beautiful detail, nice fit throughout Cons
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) Approx $15.35


The most successful aircraft in air racing history, Nemesis dominated its competition by winning 45 of its 48 air races from 1991 until its retirement in 1999. Piloted by and designed by Jon Sharp, it won nine consecutive Reno Gold National Championships and 16 world speed records for its class including the 3 km mark of 290.08 mph and the 15 km mark of 282.58 mph set in 1998.


Nemesis was built in 1991 by Dan Bond, Steve Ericson, Cory Bird, and Jon Sharp. It is made of pressure molded graphite epoxy foam core sandwich and is powered by a Continental O-200, 100 horsepower air-cooled engine. It was the first in history to be built entirely of pressure molded, carbon fiber reinforced plastics, carbon fiber roll over structure, natural laminar flow wings. All of these innovations earned the team the 1991 George Owl Trophy for design excellence.

In 1996 Jon Sharp won the first competition in which Nemesis was entered, the famous Gold Race at Reno, Nevada. It was the first aircraft since 1947 to win on its maiden race. Nemesis went on to win 30 consecutive races and set two national qualifying records. Nemesis also set new world speed records for Group 1 aircraft during August of 1993 at 277.26 mph and again 283.75 mph three years later.

Nemesis was retired in 1999 and donated to the National Air and Space Museum. It is on display at the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport for all to see.

The Kit


The instructions are a single sheet of paper. One side has the history and the colors you will need to complete the kit. The other side has an exploded view of the plane with all the parts clearly drawn. The kit is really easy to build so written instructions really are not necessary. There is a drawing of the cockpit area to help you. With the smoked windscreen, it is hard to see into the small cockpit so you can detail to your desire.


The plastic is done in a light blue low pressure injected style. There are no locator pins to aid in alignment. It didn’t seem to be much of a factor. I clip the wings from the plastic tree and then put some sand paper on a small sheet of glass. Get some 400 grit sandpaper and put it on the glass. I started to sand each wing half thinner to give a good sharp trailing edge. Vac kit builders use this technique to get good clean seams. I did the same for the wheel spats and got a nice flat edge with the fuselage halves using this borrowed technique. It always looks like it snowed on my desk right after sanding.

Paint the interior color a gloss black and then dry brush very light silver cross hatch pattern to help the look of carbon fiber. I found out later that the car model guys use a decal of carbon fiber that would have worked perfectly. Had I only known. Now with the cockpit, you can scratch build the cables, and behind the instrument panel which sits slightly in front of where the cockpit canopy clamps on the real thing, so you can see the backside of the instrument panel. With a little more work you can show the canopy off the aircraft exposing the tiny cockpit.

Since I was showing the cockpit closed, I didn’t worry too much about detail of the interior. I painted the rear bulkhead a dark orange. It took a bit of reshaping to get it to fit tight into the fuselage. The floorboard was painted silver. Again, the instructions give you a good idea of how you need to paint the individual parts that need to be scratch built if you go all out in the cockpit area.


Quickly it was time to glue the fuselage halves together. I like to use liquid glue and “zip” glue the halves by gluing the seam at the nose and slowly run liquid glue along the seam as you press the two halves together. When you press together, the soften glue will squeeze out the seams and look just like a weld. When the plastic is cured, it is easy to sand off and makes the seam disappear. Since this is such a small model, I decided to go ahead and sand the seams now, before gluing the wings on.

The wing top and bottoms got glued with superglue. If you use liquid glue or try the zipping technique I talked about earlier, it will melt the thinned edges of the wings. Superglue is the best method to keep this from happening. I used superglue to put the wings on too and Mr. Surfacer filler to fill in the gap between the fuselage and the back end of the engine cowling. I build a small jig to make sure the wings stayed flat. It was really easy to smooth all the filler out with the wings and fuselage using 400 grit sandpaper.

Use Tamiya liquid cement for the tail planes and the same little jig I used for the wings to keep the tail horizontal too. All seams got sanded down then I glued the two landing gear legs on the fuselage. This was tough. You have to make sure they are exactly at the right angle. The directions have a great diagram to help you. If they are not right, they will make the wings not look level. You more adventurous types might want to cut off the molded in tires and add some wheels from another kit. I left the molded ones on.

The wheel spats are made by gluing two halves together. Liquid glue got them together and a few minutes later, they were sanded smooth. It took some time to get the wheel spats at the right angle to the ground and in line with the rest of the plane. This is probably the hardest part of the build. Superglue is the best bet for this area to for strength. I used Mr. Surfacer to fair in the joint between the spats and the landing gear leg.

Painting & Finishing


I used a white primer to see any imperfections and fix any mistakes. A good wet sanding with Tamiya 1200 grit made the plane ready for paint. My paint of choice for gloss white is Tamiya Acrylic paint. I thinned it out about 30% with alcohol and took my time painting thin coats. After it dried, I put a coat of un-thinned Future floor polish. The Future helps to give it a super glossy surface for the decals to adhere to. The decals went down great and Solva-set got everything down perfectly. Another coat of Future finished off the exterior.


I am very glad the fine folks of High Planes put two vac-u-formed canopies in their kit. If you mess up the first one you can learn your lesson and hopefully not mess out the second one. I dipped the canopy in Tamiya Liquid Smoke and a Future mix. You have to wick off the excess or it will pool up in the corners and not be a uniform coating. I actually used Future to glue the canopy down to the fuselage. It does a great job.

Now the spinner got a coat of white paint when I painted the rest of the plane. I used Testors Gloss Black for the graphite propeller and it got glued on with superglue. And I was finished.


Nemesis Nemesis
Nemesis Nemesis

This kit was a pleasure to build. I was struck at the size of it compared to other 1/48 scale kits I have built. 1/72 scale guys will be right at home with this kit. There is not much in the way of research you can do short of visiting the Udvar-Hazy museum and taking pictures yourself. The instructions do a good job on what colors you can use and a little imagination might work in your favor in the cockpit area if you so wish. About the only person who can say you are wrong is Jon Sharp himself. I went with what the directions say and it seamed to work out just fine.