The paint scheme of a homebuilt airplane is limited only by the imagination of the designer and the skill of the artist. When Mike Quatacker of Porterville, Calif., chose the design for his RV-8, he worked outside the limits of imagination — then artist Augie Cervantes took airbrush in hand and took the design from idea to reality.
The result is “High Roller,” a striking green and gold airplane with gambling inspired accouterments such as playing cards and dice.
Like so many other people, I circled the airplane several times because it looked as though the playing cards were moving under the paint as if they were being shuffled. According to Quatacker, I’m not the only person to stop and stare at his RV.
He says he was going for something unusual. He definitely got it.
He has time in airplanes, helicopters and ultralights. He also has flown in aerobatic competitions which, he says, is where the name “High Roller” comes from.
“It’s named High Roller for the aerobatic rolls done at high altitude,” he said. “No, it wasn’t won at a card game and I’m not a gambler!
“I bought the RV-8 as a quick-build kit. With the help of RV guru Frank Hutchins, the airplane was completed in 2003 and has been rolling along every since,” he added.
Like many builders, Quatacker was in a quandary when it came time to pick a paint scheme.
“I spent a lot of time trying different schemes and colors. I flew the airplane around for about a year with no paint, and when people asked me what I was going to paint it, I told them ‘I’m going to paint it green with a purple and yellow stripe,’ the looks of disgust on their faces were priceless,” he recalled. “I wanted to incorporate some kind of aerobatics into the name so I decided ‘High Roller’ would be neat. Then I decided to go with the play on words with the gambling theme and incorporate the ‘rolling’ dice on the nose, playing cards on the tops and bottoms of each wing and the poker chips spread throughout. So, with a roll of the dice, I ended up with the ‘High Roller.’ In regards to the card motif, I didn’t want to do a cliche four aces or a royal flush, so I decided to go with a four out of five card royal flush with jokers wild.”
If you ever get a chance to see Quatacker’s “High Roller” up close, take your time walking around it. From every angle, you see something different. There’s a depth of detail here that is not usually found on airplanes.
“I wanted something eye catching and a lot of detail,” he explained. “When I flew the plane to Oshkosh I was asked multiple times whether the designs were vinyl stickers or paint. One particular gentleman was 100% positive that all of them were stickers. To set the story straight, it is all paint with several hundred hours of airbrushing all the fine details.”
Once the design was settled on, Quatacker had to pick the colors. He knew he didn’t want an airplane that blended in with all the others, so he chose automobile paint colors, Midori Sour and Extreme Green of the hot hues color line, to get what he wanted.
“Most people say they hate the color green but they love it on my airplane,” he said. “Once they slow down and start looking at it closely they really admire all the fine intricate work. Then a lot of them will come back with friends and say ‘My friends HAD to see your plane!’ Then the whole story of how the paint scheme originated starts all over again! It makes all the years and work put into it well worth it.”
The RV-8 also is custom on the inside, according to Quatacker.
“Along with the smokin’ airplanes smoke system, I have King radios, a KMD 150 GPS system, and I plan upgrading to a glass panel soon,” he said. “Other upgrades on the exterior are the Grove Aluminum polished gear legs, Todd’s Tinted Canopy, and the custom painted 3-bladed MT Prop.
Although touching airplanes is frowned upon at air shows and fly-ins, it happens. Quatacker doesn’t mind it when people touch the “High Roller.”
Admiration isn’t the only thing Quatacker brings home from fly-ins and air shows. The airplane has also won awards for Outstanding Workmanship and best RV paint award at AirVenture Oshkosh and the Champion Custom Built Award at the Arlington and Copperstate shows.