Tamiya 1/32 F4U-1A Corsair Build Review
By Larry Horyna
|Date of Review||August 2015||Manufacturer||Tamiya|
|Kit Number||60325||Primary Media||Styrene, Resin, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||Beautiful detals||Cons||Nothing noted|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$183.00|
Once again, Tamiya has raised the bar in injection molding excellence with their superlative 1/32 F4U-1 and 1A Corsair. This is a review of the 1A and was quite possibly the best plastic model kit I have ever built. The only fit issue I encountered was not Tamiya's fault as it was the fit of the resin aftermarket cowl flaps. And much of that was my fault. In every other aspect the fit of this kit was just plain perfect.
As with many of the models I review, this was a commission build. The customer wanted an airplane flown by Major Gregory Boyington. His first wish was to have it in the markings of the infamous PR airplane "Lucybelle". Upon learning that this airplane was not flown in combat by Boyington, he opted for "883", one of the many aircraft Boyington flew in his tenure as the CO of VMF-214. According to records, 883 was often shared between Boyington and Lt. Bob McClurg. There were no assigned aircraft in VMF-214 and none of them flew in combat with personal markings on the aircraft. However, there are many published photos of Boyington taxing in 883 upon returning from a mission. Boyington often picked the roughest looking airplane to fly, reserving the better ones for his pilots. In fact, he flew a "birdcage" quite often in the last weeks of this final combat tour.
One of the challenges of this particular build was mimicking the fuel staining and what appears to be some sort of "halo" over the top of the fuselage national insignia. This is a fairly well photographed airplane and these features are quite noticeable. More than likely, the halo was the result of over-painting the short lived red outline bordering the national insignia (officially used between June and September of 1943).
While this particular customer normally collects 1/48 scale, he likes particular aces represented in 1/32 with lots of detail (see my previous review of Major George Preddy's P-51D, same client). To that end, the kit was built using Vector Models detailed cowl flaps and engine upgrade, RB textile seat belts, Barracuda Cast's cockpit placards and wheels and a variety of scratch-built items. The model was painted with Tamiya acrylics (there are fabulous mixes for the intermediate blue and non-specular sea blue). All insignia are painted using Montex masks (and man am I sold on these!)
As a testament to just how nicely detailed this model is right out of the box, there are no (at least at the time I started this kit) aftermarket resin replacement parts for the cockpit. I only added some wiring, a little more detail to the seat mount brackets at the top, some extra detail to the rudder pedals and the radio behind the seat (you can actually see a little of it). The rest is Barracuda's superb placards. The textile seat belts also added a great deal of realism. The seat was painted with Tamiya Silver leaf (decanted and airbrushed) followed by the hairspray method for chipping. I used this same method on the foot troughs. I also scratch-built the canopy locking mechanism using scrap plastic, photo-etched leftovers and stretched sprue.
The engine is quite a jewel. The casting is of course, first rate. All that is really required is some wiring detail in the form of the oil transfer pipes and ignition wires. The ignition wires are made from copper wire and lead foil for the little wire clasps. The oil transfer pipes were made of heavier gauge copper wire and painted. The Vector cowl flaps included a new gear reduction housing, ignition ring, distributors and magnetos. I used the ignition ring, mags and distributors but elected to use the kit gear reduction housing as it was easier to mount the propeller.
Vector's detailed cowl flaps are simply fantastic. As mentioned, they come with more accurately shaped distributors, magnetos, ignition ring and detailed ribs for the inside of the cowl ring. These are bit of a pain in the butt as you have to carve out the existing ribs. I will be honest, the angle at which the ribs sit in there make it difficult to see the wonderful little lightening holes in the resin replacements! The cowl flaps themselves are stunning in their level of detail. You have to add the actuator cables and the assembly process is a bit tedious, but well worth the effort.
My fit problems here were strictly my fault in not paying attention to the fact that this set is for both the F4U-1 and 1A. The cowl flap arrangement is different between the two and I initially added the top center section (for the -1) which in turn caused me to cut away a part of the upper fuselage that I did not have to! Anyway, luckily I still had the piece I cut away and after re-attaching it and adding a little putty (more than I needed on the entire rest of the kit!) all was well (except perhaps my ego for being stupid).
Assembly from here on out was straight forward. While the wing flaps were not typically dropped when the airplane sat on the ground, artistic license was used and they are displayed dropped. Again, the engineering of the flaps is a marvel! They are actually quite strong when attached and I had no problems handling the kit with them down. One other detail added during the wing assembly was the ends of the gun barrels. These were made from plastic tubing (it was a great hint from the ADH Publications book on building the Corsair). They are mounted way back in the wing, but they are visible if you look close. I think Tamiya decided that they were too far back to be worth replicating so they didn't bother.
In the painting process, I wanted to show the typical wear on Corsair wing roots near the oil coolers (this is where ground crew most often stood). I primered the area with Tamiya silver leaf, again decanted and airbrushed. This was followed by a coat of hairspray and a coat of chromate yellow primer. This was then chipped and another coat of hairspray laid down before the top color was applied. The top color was then chipped as well. I did this randomly, wanting some areas to just go to the primer and some to go all the way to metal. All of the markings were next masked and painted using Montex's excellent vinyl paint masks. If you have not tried these, I highly recommend them! There is simply nothing like the real look of actual painted on markings.
Following the main colors and some fading, I masked off the fabric sections of the wings and tail and faded them. This gives them that "fabric" look and the notion that the paint would fade a bit more on the fabric surfaces in the tropical sun. I also did some fading on the upper wing national insignia at this time. All of the wing walk areas were masked and painted as well. Most of the decals on this model are in the cockpit! There are only a handful of stencils on the outer surface.
Next I tackled the fuel staining. Corsairs were notorious for their main fuel tank leaks. Many had tape over the panel seams but photos of 883 show no tape. There are distinct heavy stains flowing back from the round fuel cell cover. I did this first by masking off the cover and airbrushing a lightened (almost white) version of the non-specular sea blue in a pattern using photos as a guide. I then went over the edges of the stains and the panel lines around them with artists oil washes. It really was an experiment as I went and I will say, I am very pleased with the result. Following this the entire model was coated with Future floor polish for the small stencil decals and an oil wash. I was very selective about how many stencils to use as many would have been worn off with an airplane this weathered. But many of them were just plain cool!
I followed the oil wash with an airbrushed post shade using a heavily thinned mixture (about 90% alcohol to 10% paint) of Tamiya XF-10 Flat Brown and X-19 Smoke. This was also used for initial exhaust and cordite staining. This staining is followed up with pastel chalks. The last bit of weathering in done with MIG Productions engine oil (which smells just like real oil!)
In this theatre the gun ports were typically taped over to prevent coral dust from getting into the barrels. After the tape residue built up, the area was usually cleaned and new tape applied. I used a little white paint to simulate the tape residue left over on the leading edge of the wings. This varied quite a bit on the real airplane.
The landing gear are separate little works of art and are quite stout. The only thing I decided to replace were the little springs on each side of the main struts, these were attached to the forward facing gear doors. Really, the kit molded springs are fine, this is just one of my weird things. I love making little springs out of fine solder wire because I think they look really neat. Whatever. I'm not sure I even needed to glue the gear in, they were so solid! I used Bare Metal chrome foil for the actuator compression struts and main oleos (but these are just barely visible slivers of silver). Barracuda Cast resin wheels were used. A final touch was again MIG's engine oil around any joints.
The kit was finished off by adding a True Details 1/32 US parachute and attaching it to the wing. These little resin parachutes are beautiful castings and add a neat little touch. They make US, British and Luftwaffe chutes in different configurations. They run around ten bucks each. All in all and without a doubt, this was the most enjoyable kit I have built in a long time. As I mentioned to a fellow modeler recently, "I could build nothing but 1/32 Tamiya Corsairs for the rest of my building career and be happy!"
A last note on just how nice this kit is. I do not have a lot of kits my stash anymore. I have around 30, all in 1/32 scale. One of the downsides to building for a living is that I don't make a lot of time to do my own stuff. So I have limited my collection to a number that I think I can actually get built before I die (I know, what a strange concept for a model builder). This is one of the few subjects that I have more than one version of the same airplane in my personal stash as I have both the 1 and 1A (the other being Tamiya's early and late Zeros).