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F4U-1 'Birdcage' Corsair Kit

Tamiya 1/32 F4U-1 'Birdcage' Corsair Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2014 Manufacturer Tamiya
Subject F4U-1 'Birdcage' Corsair Scale 1/32
Kit Number 60324 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Best F4U kit produced in any scale to date Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $199.95

First Look

F4U-1 'Birdcage' Corsair Kit
F4U-1 'Birdcage' Corsair Kit
F4U-1 'Birdcage' Corsair Kit
F4U-1 'Birdcage' Corsair Kit
F4U-1 'Birdcage' Corsair Kit
F4U-1 'Birdcage' Corsair Kit

The F4U Corsair design was created in the late 1930s which featured the visually unique gull wing design. This was the result of an engineering trade-off to provide the longest propeller and the shortest practical landing gear strut. For carrier landings, the longer the strut, the heavier and more vulnerable the gear is to impact stresses. Nevertheless, the F4U packed a huge engine under that long nose and the only way to translate all of that horsepower into thrust was by turning as large a propeller as possible. To provide the greatest ground-handling stability, the landing gear had to be spaced as far apart as practical. These requirements summed together yielded the now familiar gull wing design that, in turn, translated into a tough aircraft that would not only see combat through the end of WW2, but also serve on the front lines during the early years of the Korean War.

Despite its design for aircraft carrier operations, the Corsairs were initially relegated to land-based Navy squadrons and to the US Marines because the early landing gear was too stiff causing the aircraft to bounce back into the air during carrier landings. Once the landing gear and tailhook were redesigned, the Corsair operated from aircraft carriers as well as land bases. Vought and Goodyear produced the Corsair between 1942 and 1953 with over 12,500 examples built, the longest production run of any US piston fighter.

We've seen Tamiya raise the bar on 1/32 scale kits over the last decade or so. Their 1/32 F-14 had raised the bar with the details and features in that box, but their scribed panel lines on the nose and raised panel lines on the rest of the airframe left many puzzled modelers. Then came the F-4 Phantom II kits with the new technology molding that allowed for that huge fuselage to be molded in one piece. But then came the Zero and the bar wasn't simply raised, it was kicked into orbit. Then came the Spitfires and Mustang, each with unique features that allows the models to be reconfigured after assembly. After a bit of a break in time, Tamiya came back with their first installment (hopefully) in the F4U Corsair family, the F4U-1 'Birdcage' Corsair.

This kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on 15 parts trees plus two trees of clear parts, and one tree molded in black styrene. The kit also includes two frets of photo-etched parts, a set of canopy paint masks, and a pair of rubber (vinyl) tires. Take a look at those parts trees above and you'll see that Tamiya did a great job producing lots of details in their parts.

Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Beautifully detailed cockpit w/photo-etched pilot restraints
  • Optional seated pilot figure
  • Optional standing pilot figure
  • Positionable canopy
  • Airframe interior details visible through the cockpit, ventral window, and tail wheel bay
  • Beautifully detailed P&W R2800 engine
  • Nice Hamilton Standard propeller
  • Choice of open or closed cowl flaps
  • Lots of detail firewall forward so you'll want to be able to look upon this detail after assembly
  • Choice of clear or opaque cowling
  • Positionable elevators
  • Positionable flaps
  • Positionable landing gear
  • Positionable wings
  • Optional display stand
  • Canopy masks

Markings are provided for three examples:

  • F4U-1, VF-17, 17-F-13, US Navy
  • F4U-1, VMF-213, 14, USMC
  • F4U-1, VMF-215, 76, USMC

Decals are provided on two sheets and also include a nice set of maintenance stenciling.

This kit has been on the market for a little while and to be honest, I was originally going to skip this release. The Zero had some great mechanical features but it also added complexity and who knows how long those features would last. The Mustang is a beauty, but the magnetic panels and landing gear swap outs didn't do anything for me as they were gimmicks and not worthy of a scale model of that class (in my opinion). After looking over this kit, we're back to the innovation in tooling and ease of assembly that made the Tamiya Phantoms the best in any scale. This kit is well done and will be a magnificent model if built straight out of the box.

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