Vought F4U-1A Corsair
Thank you to Tamiya, Inc. for providing this wonderful kit for review and to the IPMS Reviewer Corps for allowing me to document my build experiences. The sharing of this review with the scale modeling community would not be possible without the exceptional support of the IPMS Reviewer Corps. Thank you everyone!
The F4U Corsair needs no introduction as one of the iconic naval fighter-bomber aircraft of World War II and Korea, primarily operated by the U. S. Navy and Marine Corps. A list of publications I found useful during this build may be found following this review. The kit is very well-researched, with numerous subtle part choices to allow one of three variants to be completed with either folded or extended wings.
This kit is an excellent value and well worth the price. I enjoyed every second of work on this kit. The number of small parts may be initially daunting. However the parts have near perfect fit right off the sprue. The instruction booklet thoroughly documents all possible kit options in 58 well-illustrated pages. There is very little trimming, cutting, fitting and other distractions from the fun of building. There are nearly 400 plastic parts, about 50 PE parts, a masking sheet, and “flying” display stand hardware. Not all of the parts are used.
I give my highest recommendation for this kit.
Presentation (how the kit looks in the box)
The kit arrived in a well-organized stout 19 x 11.5 x 4 inch cardboard box. All of the sprues had individual poly bags and no detached or loose parts. The PE fret, also wrapped in poly, was lightly glued to a cardboard “thwart” or divider. I easily removed the fret without bending it. The instruction manual and decal sheets were tucked beneath the sprues and were well protected. The sensitive clear parts were also well protected without any transport damage. The box cover has beautiful artwork and content description. My first impression on opening the box was simple joy, briefly tempered by the apparent complexity. The panel lines are finely engraved and there was no mold release at all.
Instructions and Other Materials
The instruction manual is just that, a manual, not a folded up sheet. You will find 58 black-and-white pages in Japanese, English, German, and French, including a brief history of the F4U-1A, the usual cautions about paint and such, sprue and photo-etch part diagrams, stencil placement maps for all three versions, and specific decal placement guides for two of the three versions. The third version appears in a ledger-size, full-color decal placement guide for aircraft 122, the “cover bird.” A supplemental 11-page, color historical narrative covers all versions of the F4U, with color cockpit images from a variety of restored F4Us.
The manual has excellent crisp assembly drawings and illustrations throughout. Three instruction sections cover fuselage assembly, extended wing, and folded wings. The fuselage section is common to both wing configurations, with the last three steps of the folded wing section explaining ordnance and tankage installation. Three aircraft variants are possible and when step 22 is reached, the variant choice should be made. I chose kit variant “B” representing the Corsair flown by the VF-17 squadron leader, LCDR Blackburn, who championed the Corsair as a capable carrier-based fighter bomber. The other two versions that can be represented are 883, flown by LCDR Boyington of VMF-214 or 122 of VMF-111, an aircraft that received a citation for flying 100 missions on the same engine.
Two sheets of decals are included with one holding nearly one hundred stencils! Some very nice features of the large national insignia are holes and notches. Correct decal positioning was quite effective using the holes and notches, since the decal holes fit right over fuel cap details on the wings and the notches lined up with the spent cartridge chutes. I did have some problems with decal silvering over gloss paint. I used Testors acrylic paints, not Tamiya aerosols. I was able to resolve the silvering through repeated application of Micro Sol. I did not try Solvaset. The decals did seem slightly thick on the decal carrier sheet, but this was not apparent once the decals were on the model. These decal issues were very minor and a more thorough wash before decal application might have made a positive difference.
I will not describe in detail each and every construction step of this great kit, rather I will hit the highlights and the rare lowlights. I was my biggest problem throughout construction, bumping attached parts and not paying enough attention to the excellent illustrations. This kit certainly merits as much pre-construction review as you can stand. I believe I used every highlighting pen in my desk to mark up the instructions. There are many options to consider throughout, such as open or closed cowl, extended flaps, drooped elevators, etc. Parts for each option are included, so there is no need to modify, cut, or trim for the option you choose. A very small Phillips-head screwdriver is provided for attaching the display stand to the bottom of the plane if you choose the flying, wheels-up option. I believe it is possible to angle the plane slightly on the stand if you wish to model the plane in a wheels-down, flaps-extended landing configuration.
There are a lot of parts to this kit. A major design advantage to having many small parts is that painting is considerably more effective, allowing more airbrush work on details, like radios, instrumentation, etc. A major disadvantage is that there is much more planning needed than many aircraft kits. In this regard, I found my building philosophy more akin to large-scale ship construction with lots of sub-assemblies rather than a few major glue-ups. An interesting practice used throughout the instruction manual is notation of where to remove sprue attachment points. The attachment points are generally clean and square and could easily be mistaken for a locating or similar tab. The instructions make it clear what stays and what should go.
The cockpit and interior fuselage details are extensive. The detailing of the cockpit is thorough and complete based on my reference materials. The part fit is snug enough to allow easy dry fitting. I was able to loosely assemble the larger cockpit parts and test fit them between the fuselage halves without any trouble. Pilot restraints are included on the photo etch fret. I did not use the seated pilot but it appears that the straps might require a little bit of tweaking for a correct appearance. Be very careful to look for drill-out requirements, and to use the correct ones for the version you are building and the options you choose. A standard or extended tail wheel strut option is included. The tail wheel itself may be positioned at a variety of angles. The engine is an exceptional representation of a P&W 2800. Clear cowling parts allow an option of displaying the engine details.
Folded or extended wing options are provided and whatever wing position option you choose; well-designed solid attachment parts are included. I found parts N19 and N20 from the extended wing section to be very helpful as firm handles for airbrushing, and those parts were not needed for the folded option. I chose folded wings for two reasons; I think folded wings add to the uniqueness of the subject and more importantly, I am running out of room in my display cases! The busy look of the wing-fold area is accurately depicted with numerous hinges, rods, etc., that all fit very well.
The main landing gear consists of several parts, with all of the required hydraulic lines. An interesting design detail is a metal rod that apparently provides reinforcement to the strut when glued in between the strut halves. The wheel wells are highly detailed with hoses, lines, truss rods, and walls, as are the oil coolers and intakes. Rubber tires are included and there is no plastic tire option. I would have preferred an option, but the rubber tires look fine and fit well. I couldn’t weather them as much as I would have liked, leaving them looking a little too new. The tail wheel is plastic. The rubber tires fit snugly over wheel halves. I found it easier to glue the wheel halves together, paint the assembled wheel, then roll and tweak the tire into position. No tire irons required!
The windscreen part design is excellent and all clear parts are very transparent and without distortion. By molding the windscreen into the adjacent fuselage panels, the problems of fitting, filling, and gluing clear parts on are nearly eliminated, with less worry about scratches, fogging and so on. A masking sheet with canopy and windscreen panel outlines is provided. The panels on the masking sheet are not cut, so a straight edge and sharp blade are required. I failed to use the masking sheet effectively, instead choosing to use Bare Metal foil as masking, followed by a gentle scrub to remove the adhesive. I did not attach landing and other light lenses until after painting. Again the excellent fit of the parts allowed a clean post-painting install.
Two pilot figures are included; one seated wearing an oxygen mask, and the other standing, pulling on flight gloves. Both are very crisply detailed solid bodies with separate arms, heads, and a sidearm. The figures have good weight for stability. The standing pilot figure required no modification to stand upright without glue.
The photo etch parts are very polished and finely relief-etched. My only complaint is that the metal is a bit too stiff. I had a difficult time bending the cockpit straps to achieve a realistic drape. I was unable to soften the parts by heating them and trying to draw the temper of the metal. I did not find this to be a significant problem. I did find the absence of any gun detail beyond the gun ports somewhat odd. I also found a surprising absence of ignition wiring on the engine, especially given the excellent photo etch details provided in other areas of the kit. However, these areas, especially the guns, fall into the aftermarket realm. These “lowlights” do very little to detract from the exceptional final product straight-out-of-the-box.
I used almost no filler or putty throughout construction. The fit is that good. I used Modelmaster acrylics matched to the FS equivalents of the Tamiya paint schedule in the instructions. Where a Tamiya mix of XF-3 and XF5 was called out, I simply used interior green. Decal application took a bit of time, with all of those stencils! All of the stencil lettering was legible under fairly high magnification. I lightly weathered the completed model with brown-black poster paint, wiped off and streaked.
This kit is excellent. I read many complaints about the cost of the kit, so I kept that perspective in mind throughout this build. One could get more kits for $213 certainly, but the problem-free assembly, excellent fit, high-level of detail, and pure enjoyment make this kit well worth every cent.
Thanks you again to Tamiya, Inc., and the IPMS Reviewer Corps! I appreciate everything you do for the hobby.
- Bell, D., 2014, F4U-1 Corsair, Vol. 1, Aircraft Pictorial #7, Classic Warships Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9857149-7-0[suggestion to the editor: put a link to this publication review here? Your call!]
- Kinzey, B., 1998, F4U Corsair, in Detail and Scale, Vol. 55, Squadron/Signal Publications, ISBN 1-888974-08-7
- Sullivan, J, 1994, F4U Corsair in Action, Aircraft Number 145, Squadron/Signal Publications, ISBN 0-89747-378-3
- Tillman, B, 1979, Corsair, The F4U in World War II and Korea, Naval Institute Press, ISBN1-55750-994-8
- Tillman, B, 2001,Vought F4U Corsair, Warbird Tech, Vol. 4, Specialty Press Institute Press, ISBN 1-58007-053-1