The Chance Vought F4U-1 Corsair is one of the most-iconic airplanes of World War Two. Its up-swept wings and sleek profile stand out among aircraft silhouettes, and its sheer power made it a pilot favorite among the USMC, especially for close support bombing & strafing. Heavily identified with the defense of Guadalcanal and other campaigns in the Solomon Islands, the Corsair is one of the few US aircraft that was deployed solely in the Pacific. It even found fame on TV with the series "The Black Sheep Squadron" about VMA-214 and its colorful commander, Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington.
The plane originally was intended to supplant the F4F Wildcat as a carrier-based fighter, but performed poorly in flight deck landings. Its powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine created tremendous torque, giving it a tendency to "hop" on landing and miss the arresting cable. Another problem was the limited visibility provided by the initial "birdcage" canopy. Because the Marine Corps flew most of its missions from land bases, the plane saw its early successes from island airfields like Guadalcanal's Henderson Field. Later versions of the Corsair switched to a "bubble top" canopy to increase pilot visibility, and the plane blossomed as a carrier fighter-bomber, often firing underwing-mounted rockets against bunkers and other hardened positions on island bastions like Iwo Jima.
Tamiya has been making steady progress in releasing 1/32nd scale versions of the iconic aircraft of WW2, including the Zero, Spitfire, and Mustang. Now it has turned its attention to the Vought F4U-1 "birdcage" canopy Corsair. The kit has already been reviewed here by Frank Crenshaw
, but I am more interested in discussing the it from the build perspective.
Inside the usual large Tamiya box is enough plastic to keep you busy for some time. The kit lacks nothing, and I largely built it OOB except for seven items that are well worth the investment:
1. Resin wheels to replace the kit's rubber tires
2. Barracuda Studios' resin early-style distributors and duplex-style ignition harness ring
3. Barracuda's cockpit stencils
4. RB Productions photo etch radiator cooler screens
5. RB's paper seat belt set
6. RB's canopy mask sheet
7. Master Barrels .50 cal. MGs
Clearly the success of Zokei-Mura's minutely-detailed 1/32nd aircraft kits has not been lost on Tamiya: their new Corsair has many of the same internal details offered on Z-M kits, such as the fuselage framing and the tail wheel mounting hardware, even though both will be largely hidden once the kit is finished. While these details may seem superfluous to some, Tamiya is following Z-M's example and including them anyway for the modeler who wants to know HOW something worked, not just that it did.
Additionally, in an effort to offer something quite different, the kit allows for assembling the wings in the extended or folded position (but does not allow you to fold & unfold them). This results in more hardware that's hidden once the kit is put together in the extended position, but again, informs how the plane's folding wings operated. For those of us who love planes, the added detailing helps give a solid understanding of how the aircraft performed, though the internal supports proved vexing when installing scratch-built .50 calibers (see below).
If like me, you're tired of airplane kits where much of the inner machinery is missing or barely suggested, then you'll be pleased with this baby.
The first place where the attention to detail will really be visible is the terrific cockpit. While versions of the Corsair 'pit were varied, the kit 'pit conforms well to the photos I have seen from actual planes. The instruments, handles, dials and levers all seem to be there, and the only way to improve on the kit is to purchase a set of Barracuda Decals' cockpit stencils
. The various instruments, handles and equipment all look smashing once installed, and the stencils bring them to life with additional markings and labels. These AM details make an excellent cockpit into a superior one.
The next area of outstanding detail is the Double Wasp engine. Again, almost everything is included, including baffles atop the cylinders that are usually left to PE manufacturers like Eduard. Not everything about the kit is perfect, and the engine is one of those areas where Tamiya could've done better: the ignition cables and spark plugs are missing. These are quite visible to all except the casual observer, and should be provided at this price. Resin AM parts will be too delicate, and PE just looks "wrong" unless you drizzle on CA glue or other means for adding dimension.
Another oversight is the machine guns. The Corsair's six .50 caliber guns (three in each wing) were recessed, so Tamiya has left them as empty holes. You could tape over the openings the way ground maintenance crews sometimes did (there is a stencil in the kit that goes under the MG ports and says "remove tape before firing"). But they were visible looking through the ports, so I used a set of Master Barrel's .50 cal MGs intended for the P-47. I discovered after gluing the wing supports in that the barrels would not fit, so I had to drill out holes for the barrels, accompanied by some choice cursing that might cause even a Marine to blush.
Speaking of the wings, that's one of the kit's strongest attributes: the option to build them either extended or folded. I decided to build a Corsair from Guadalcanal's "Cactus Air Force," so there was no need for folded wings - there never were enough planes to require them to conserve space, and pilots needed to scramble faster than a short-order cook with a broken egg.
The wing parts (flaps and control surfaces) can be built in either the up or down positions, so I chose down, at rest. There is a modicum of photo etch that helps to add some crisp framing to things like the flap ends, and PE radiator grills are included (I replaced mine with those by RB Productions
for the added detail).
Overall, the fit is superb, I've never built a kit with so few fit issues: the wing roots are tight, the leading and trailing edges of the wings required almost no puttying, and only a small amount of putty and sanding were required on the fuselage joins. The landing gear are complete with brake lines, and even have internal metal rods for reinforcement. Tamiya has really cut down on knock-out holes (those annoying rings) in places that show, and there is virtually no flash and few seam lines that require sanding.
Another quibble would be that the attachment points of some parts are very fragile. I lost two parts (K25 and L6), whether during washing or amidst the craziness of the build. Be sure to keep a sharp eye on your trees. Tamiya includes the excellent suggestion in its instruction booklet to label the sprue trees with taped lettering, a suggestion I will implement now in all my builds.
Speaking of the instruction booklet, it's well laid-out, is easy to follow, and for the most part, the illustrations accompanying the build are all clear and self-explanatory. One area of confusion is the inner wing support (parts N51 & N58). The instructions say not to glue it, as otherwise you might produce a "shelf" when the wing is attached in the extended position. Pay attention, too, for things like drilling holes: I missed the instruction for drilling out attachment pins for the under-wing bomb racks, so ended up leaving them off.
In kits this large, stencils are crucial for realism and Tamiya has included all the external ones (Again, I can't recommend Barracuda Studios' cockpit stencils too highly if you want to turn a really nice kit cockpit into a star). The major decals, including the national markings, are well-printed, and they're not Tamiya's usual thick and stiff waterslide decals. I should point out, however, that I chose to use stencils for the upper national roundels and painted them with acrylics. The lower roundels are decals.
While expensive, Tamiya's 1/32nd scale aircraft are among the best models on the market right now. I loved building this plane, and am tempted to purchase another just to build the folded-wing version (though that is probably more suitable for the planned F4U-1A "bubble top" that is latent in the kit parts). I hope I can hold out.
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