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KIT REVIEW


Tamiya #60327 Vought F4U-1D Corsair -- 1:32 Scale

There are few aircraft of the Second World War and throughout the history of aviation in general that garner the renown, esteem, and accomplishments that surround the Vought F4U Corsair.  There are also very few plastic model kits that approach the precision, detail, and accuracy of Tamiya’s 1:32 scale Corsair kits.  In September 2017, their big-scale “Bent-Wing Bird” family added another member, with the F4U-1D joining the previously released F4U-1 and F4U-1A.  A review sample of this new Corsair landed a few days ago on our review bench, so let take a look.          

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In early 1938, the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics published a request for proposal for a high-speed, single-engine fighter that had a range of at least 1,000 miles, would be fitted with up to four guns, and could carry anti-aircraft bomblets.  The latter point reflected the thinking of the day that such munitions would be the weapon of choice to fend off the swarms of enemy aircraft envisioned in future conflicts.  By June 1938, Vought had won the contract for their design known as the V-116B.  This airplane was fitted with the ultra-powerful Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine that sported what was the largest diameter propeller ever fitted to a fighter up to that point.  Consequently, an inverted gull-wing design was used to keep the landing gear as short and robust as possible while also providing ground clearance for the prop.   

By 1939, the V-116B was designated as the XF4U-1.  It first flew on 29 May 1940.  The subsequent flight test program demonstrated an excellent rate of climb, maneuverability, and speed.  It was the first U.S. fighter to reach over 400 mph in level flight, and in power dives, could approach 550 mph.  Navy acceptance trials began in February 1941 and the first production F4U-1 flew in June 1942.  This was the first of 12,500 F4Us built spanning 16 different production variants.  

The Navy trials indeed validated the overall strengths of the airplane, but found that it was seriously troubled in two related areas:  landing on a carrier and deck handling.  Early Corsairs had a habit of literally bouncing back into the air when hitting the deck, causing a bolter, missed barrier engagement, or worse.  The long nose with the powerful engine was a major impediment to visibility while taxiing on the boat, and it garnered the nicknames “Hose Nose,” “Hog,” and “Bent Wing Widow-Maker.”  The framed "birdcage" canopy did not help, either.  So, while efforts were underway to remedy these problems, production Corsairs were sent straight to the U.S. Marine Corps where they could be operated from land bases such as Guadalcanal.  Marine Corsairs went into combat in February 1943, and despite inauspicious early engagements, they quickly began to achieve air superiority.  By the end of the war, the F4U achieved an overall kill ratio of 11:1 (2,140 victories with 189 losses).

By early 1944, a modified oleo strut was introduced that eliminated the landing bounce and the Corsair was finally accepted for carrier operations.  Nearly simultaneously, the Corsair began to show its natural capability as as multi-role fighter and close air support platform. Armed with bombs, napalm, and high-velocity aircraft rockets (HVARs), Navy and Marine Corsair ground attacks made pivotal contributions in the Palaus, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.
     
The definitive ground attack Corsair of WWII was the F4U-1D, operated both by carrier-based USN squadrons and ground-based Marines.  It featured the new R2800-8W water-injection powerplant that pushed maximum speed up to 425 mph.  It also had purpose-built features for the air-to-ground role that included expanded provisions for rockets and 1,000-pound bombs.  Rocket tabs (attached to underwing metal-plated hardpoints) and bomb pylons were bolted onto the airplane.  New fuel lines and an associated hard point were added to accommodate a second belly drop tank that helped offset the weight and drag penalty on range.  A single piece "blown" canopy deleted the earlier framing. This improved visibility and was the basis for the canopies of all later F4Us.  The F4U-1D production run went from April 1944 to February 1945, with 1,700 produced by Vought with additional airframes fabricated by Goodyear and Brewster.  Goodyear-manufactured Corsairs were designated as FG-1Ds.  

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Tamiya’s 1:32 scale F4U-1D consists of 573 injection molded plastic parts across 18 sprues, 22 clear parts on one sprue, 65 photoetched metal parts on two frets, two decal sheets (one for aircraft markings, and one for airframe maintenance stencils), one sheet of self-adhesive windscreen and canopy masks, two self-adhesive nameplate stickers, two vinyl main wheel tires, a 52-page instruction booklet, a full-color double-sided markings guide foldout, and an 11-page full-color Corsair reference booklet.  The box is completed by a small set of hardware (one small metal screw, one nut, one poly-cap, two metal rods, and a mini-screwdriver. The kit contains decals for two F4U-1Ds:

Strengths:  Ever since the first of Tamiya’s 1:32 scale F4Us was released in 2013, I have held the opinion that this kit is their finest kit to date and contender for the title of “Greatest Plastic Model Kit of All Time.”  Their Zero, Spitfire, and Mustang kits are also exceptional examples of plastic kit design and engineering, but at least for me, there’s something a little extra inspiring and breathtaking about the Tamiya Corsair.  I have accumulated a few 1:32 scale Tamiya Corsairs in my stash since 2014.  I’ve not built one yet, since I am still planning the builds and gathering aftermarket parts and decals.  Those who I know that have built these kits universally remark (with firm enthusiasm) on the exceptional engineering and airtight fit of all the parts (with little to no putty needed).  While there are a lot of parts and it’s an overall complex build, the instructions really do break down the construction process into clear, manageable steps.   

The 1:32 F4U-1D shares a lot of plastic in common with the earlier F4U-1 and F4U-1A kit.  If you’ve not seen one of these kits yet, the level of detail is stunning, from the engine to the cockpit, landing gear, gear wells, wingfolds, and everything in between.  The fidelity and care put into the surface details of the Corsair are amazing, and include several different and accurately represented styles of screws, fasteners, and rivets of varying diameters and shapes.  Some are very, very subtle.  If you’re a little heavy with the airbrush, try to keep your paint thin so as not to fill with paint some of the finest of these details. 

The 1:32 scale Tamiya Corsair features an exceptionally detailed cockpit.  In virtually every one of my builds, I use resin cockpits since I enjoy working with the medium and I like the detail that resin cockpits bring to my models.  Here, a resin cockpit is simply not necessary, as the kit’s interior is superlative.  The shoulder harnesses and lap belts are provided as multi-piece photoetched metal parts and they will look great in the finished cockpit with their buckle, latch, and fastener details.

The monster R2800 powerplant is a model in and of itself.  Not only are the cylinders beautifully made, but every other part of the engine appears to be there and is accurately portrayed, from the generator to the distributor, reduction gearbox, cylinder head covers, and the complex network of exhaust pipes of this double-row radial engine.  Cowl flaps can be positioned opened or closed.

All control surfaces (flaps, ailerons, elevators, and rudder) are separate parts, but only the flaps and elevators can be placed in a position other than neutral (but see below).  The main gear wells might indeed lack some of the finer plumbing, but they are otherwise quite intricate and accurate.  The kit provides the option to have the wings extended or folded, and the engineering for either option involves construction of a big fuselage center beam to which connects left and right wing spars.  The outer wings slide onto these wing spars which are then forever hidden inside the wing itself.  The builder is guaranteed the right angle for the wings whether they fold or extend them. If folded, the wing fold is beautifully detailed, and only one flexible cable bundle I know of seems to be missing. 

The landing gear is awesome – intricate, accurate, and even includes parts for the hydraulic line for the brakes.  The main wheel hubs are impressive.  The tail wheel and and arresting gear assembly look great as well.  Two pilot figures are included (one figure standing pulling his flying gloves on, and one seated figure destined for the cockpit if the builder desires). They are not quite up to the quality of a resin figure, but for injection-molded plastic, they are excellent.  The kit also comes with a display stand that can mount the Corsair in-flight.          

This new issue of the 1:32 Corsair, of course, contains new material and parts to make an F4U-1D.  Comparing this with my kits of the F4U-1 and -1A, one can identify four new or modified sprues here.  Sprue A has been retooled to eliminate the early-style outboard lower wing halves.  The lower wing halves for this kit are on Sprue W.  They are retooled to include the hardpoints that mount the outboard HVAR rockets. The port flap parts have been reworked to include the small step that was added to the inboard side of the flap.  Sprue B1 is new and has a newly tooled lower fuselage and inboard lower wing section that features mounting points for the drop tanks or bombs.  Two sets of Sprue V provide those bombs and drop tanks, eight HVAR rockets (probably the nicest such rockets I’ve ever seen molded in plastic), and new the new props fitted to the R2800-8W.  The blown or bubble canopy is on Sprue U and has been molded as attached to the rest of the clear parts.  The self-adhesive canopy masks have been redrawn for the blown canopy, but just like their predecessors in the earlier kit, they are not pre-cut.

The decals look great, and appear to have been printed in-house by Tamiya.  Colors are vibrant and everything is in perfect register.  The whites and the yellow appear to be very opaque and one should not have any problems with translucency when placed on a sea blue surface.  The stencils also look great and are very legible.

Weaknesses: This is a near-perfect model kit.  However, there are a few things to consider.  Keep a lookout for inauspiciously placed ejection pin markings that will need filling on various parts.  The vinyl tires are a disappointment.  While they look great and the diamond tread is really beautifully represented, there’s still an unsightly molding seam going down the middle of each tire.  Moreover, vinyl tires are often prone to chemical degradation over time, as they tend to crack or otherwise break down.  Many builders will opt for resin replacements.  If you want to position the ailerons and rudder in a deflected position, a little modification will be necessary such as the removal of the straight-in mounting tab for the rudder.  For some, the decal sheet carrier film might appear to be a little thick but otherwise the carrier film is very precisely applied and quite restrained.    

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Tamiya’s 1:32 scale F4U-1D Corsair is an exquisite model kit.  It builds upon the exceptional strengths and qualities of their large-scale Corsair family with the addition of the parts and decals necessary to build the WWII ground-attack variant of one of the most classic aircraft of all time.  Since this kit has just hit the street, we eagerly await the inevitable release of aftermarket resin and photoetched metal detail parts, decals, masks, and more.  Still, there’s various products already out there that can be used on the F4U-1D, such as resin wheels with the diamond tread by Barracuda Studios, microfiber belts by HGW, replacement metal landing gear by SAC and G-Factor, and more.  For fans of the Corsair, naval aviation, WWII-era subject matter, or things with wings in general – you’ll love it.  It will be a little while before I build it, and it will hold a place of honor in my stash.  Certainly, this is an expensive kit, but you get what you pay for: one the most superb scale model kits ever produced.        

Many sincere thanks are owed to Tamiya America and George Canare for their generosity in sharing this review sample with us. You can find them on the web at https://www.facebook.com/TamiyaUSA on the web at www.tamiyausa.com. 

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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