Nesmith Cougar Fuselage

Updated 5/25/2021

This page will walk you through the restoration of the Cougar fuselage from bare frame to finished product.

It's time to dive in with both feet. I stripped off the fabric, which was actually still in really good condition, but I needed to get at the steel tubing to clean up rust and make sure that the structure was still sound. This stage is kind of like demolition day on a home remodel. You tear off the old covering and see what surprises you have underneath.

A grinder with a wire brush attachment cleans up the tubing very nicely, but it does take a while to get it all done. One down side is when those little wires fly off the brush, go through your clothes, and impale themselves in your flesh!

You've got to admit, I get full use out of these rotary brushes!

The fuselage is almost ready for paint and the garage is full is dust from the wire brushing. I still have a few areas to clean up but the steel tubing is pretty clean. I'm going to weld in a new bottom center stringer since the old one is not useable. I'm also welding in new frames for the rear windows that will have a triangular design. I'm changing the attach points of the aileron control linkage to a lighter but stronger design. And finally I need to design and fabricate new seat frames.

Tom "Rex" Pyrde spent a full day helping me prime and paint the fuselage. I cleaned and polished the firewall. It's looking better.

Floorboards are in. Baggage shelf is framed. Now I'm working on stylizing the door and window.

I've spend way more time on the seats than anticipated. I tried retrofitting lawn chairs but it didn't work so I built new seats from scratch. Welded steel frames with aluminum pans and 3 different densities of foam. I sat on it and watched a movie in the living room. It should be fine for a few hours in the air.

One done, the other started. The upper back support is removable to access large items in the baggage area.

9/5/16 - Well it's been a busy summer with work, travel, and getting the Aero Commander ready for Airventure, but now I'm finally back to working on the Cougar.

The fuselage is covered and ready for primer. I used 2.7 oz cloth and 3M Fastbond Latex Contact Adhseive. I've used this glue on other projects. It's economical and easy to use.

Here is what it looks like in primer. I brushed on 4 coats of thinned Gliddon Gripper and sprayed on 2 more, sanding with 220 grit dry paper between each coat.

If you look very closely you can still see faint brush streaks in the sanded primer. Those will disappear after a couple of coats of color. The primer has filled the fabric weave and smoothed the edges of the reinforcing tape. Some people like to build the paint up enough to totally make the tapes disappear, but I like to keep the finish a little lighter.

The yellow is on and almost ready for wet sanding and the trim colors.

I did encounter a problem on the top. It may be hard to see in the picture but the colors separated and pooled in the low spots on the top surface. I suspect that I did not stir the paint enough and applied it too heavy. One more well mixed, lightly sprayed coat should fix it.

I only found one run on the sides. Here you can also see the "orange peel" texture of the paint surface. This will all sand out and be as smooth as glass.

I was happy with the yellow so I masked off the fuselage and started on the trim colors.

10/23/16 - It's always exciting when you pull the masking off and see what you've got.

The fin after spraying white, masking checkerboard, and spraying black.

Unmasked. I sprayed a light coat of white after masking to seal the tape before spraying the black. It seemed to work as there is very little bleed under the tape.

The number "75" is hiding in there.

There it is! I clearly did not seal the tape well enough and have a lot of bleed thru. This will clean off when I sand and polish the paint.

Sanding and polishing done. I got a little carried away on the sanding and will have to touch up the white a little, but it's looking pretty good.

I sanded through the black in a couple spots but that's an easy fix. More disturbing are the spots where the masking tape lifted the yellow. That has never happened before and I need to figure out what happened.

Here's a good look at the gloss after sanding and polishing. Very smooth and shiny.

I got the Fuselage back home from the hangar, cleaned up, and mounted the engine.

Lots of checkerboard on the cowl.

Looks okay from a distance, but the black paint did not go on well and needs more work. Still, it's starting to look like the drawing.


Stay tuned for updates as the restoration continues.