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1/32 F4U-1 Corsair "Birdcage"

Dave J

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1/32 Vought F4U-1 Corsair “Birdcage”


Tamiya 1/32 Aircraft Series
Catalogue # 60324
Available directly from HobbyLink Japan




The rumours have been flying around the internet of Tamiya producing a 1/32 scaled F4U Corsair for some time now… I had my suspicions that we may get one since 2009, after talking to one of the Tamiya lead designers at the Tokyo Hobby that year, he did a great job of not giving much info out, but tried to dodge a few of my questions at the time. Also a while back, I remember reading an interview with Mr Tamiya, and one of the questions asked was along the lines of what were his favourite aircraft… His answer was The Zero, Spitfire, Mustang and the Corsair. The Corsair was his most favourite as he could remember F4U’s flying over head when he was a child in Japan after the Second World War…. So now step into Mr Tamiya’s shoes… If you were an owner of a model company, would you kit your favourite aircraft/subject? Hell Yea! So it was only a matter of time!


History of the F4U Corsair

In June 1938, the U.S. Navy signed a contract with Vought for a prototype, the XF4U-1, BuNo 1443. From this date the F4U Corsair legacy began… The Corsair entered service in 1942. Although designed as a carrier fighter, initial operation from carrier decks proved to be troublesome. Its low speed handling was tricky due to the port wing stalling before the starboard wing. This factor, together with poor visibility over the long nose, made landing a Corsair on a carrier a difficult task. For these reasons, most Corsairs initially went to US Marine Corps squadrons who operated off land based runways, with some early Goodyear built airframes were built with fixed wings, these airframes were designated FG-1A. The USMC aviators welcomed the Corsair with open arms as its performance was far superior to the Brewster Buffalo and Grumman Wildcat.



XF4U-1, BuNo 1443.


The Corsair was able to outperform the Japanese primary fighter, the A6M Zero. While the Zero could outturn the F4U Corsair at low speed, the Corsair was faster and could out climb and out dive the A6M Zero in any dogfight that it faced.

This performance advantage, combined with the ability to take severe punishment thrown toward it, meant a pilot could place an enemy aircraft in the killing zone of the F4U's six .50cal Browning machine guns and keep him there long enough to inflict major damage. The 2,300 rounds carried by the Corsair gave just under 30 seconds of fire from each gun, which, fired in three to six-second burst making the F4U a devastating weapon against aircraft, ground targets, and even ships that may be found in its gun sights.
From the first prototype delivery to the U.S. Navy in 1940, to final delivery in 1953 to the French, a total of 12,571 F4U Corsairs were manufactured by Vought and other licensed factories, across16 separate variants/models, which made it the longest production run of any piston-engine fighter in U.S. history.



The F4U Corsair served in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, Fleet Air Arm and the Royal New Zealand Air Force during the Second World War, as well as the French Navy and other smaller, air forces until the 1960s. It quickly became the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of World War II. Some Japanese pilots regarded it as the most formidable American fighter of World War II. The U.S. Navy counted an 11:1 kill ratio with the F4U Corsair. As well as being an outstanding fighter, the Corsair proved to be an excellent fighter-bomber, serving almost exclusively in the latter role throughout the Korean War and during the French colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria.




The Kit


Tamiya’s 1/32 Birdcage Corsair is beautifully presented with eye-catching artwork of  James A. Hatford’s VF-17 machine on the cover of the top opening style box , with shiny silver foil embossed title.

The box is jammed to the rim with parts and items require for one F4U Corsair,  the breakdown of the parts are -

•    14x sprues in typical Tamiya light grey plastic.
•    1x clear sprue (2 if you have the export version that a clear cowl is included).
•    1x sprue in black plastic for the display stand.
•    2x sheets of decals
•    2x nameplates for the display stand.
•    1x sheet of masking material for the canopy
•    1x set of  soft vinyl tyres,
•    1x Small bag containing a screwdriver and some fittings for the stand.
•    1x A4 sized instruction manual;
•    1x A3 sized colour painting guide;
•    1x B5 sized reference book printed in colour.
•    2x Frets of photo etch.


The total parts count for the kit is over 500+ parts, this may seem like an intimidating kit, but a number of parts are for different variants and configurations of the F4U Corsair. But going off the past releases of the Spitfires and Mustang, the kit will fall together without any issues. Personally, I have built two Spitfire kits and this was most certainly the case, no doubt the Corsair will be the same.
Exterior surface detail is marvellously done, perhaps out doing the 1/32 Mustang detail. Panels lines are finely recessed and rows of rivets which are very subtle pin marks. Several different sized rivets are noticeable, along with hinges and slotted head screws over the airframe. Fabric detail on the control surfaces and outer wing areas is very satisfactorily, as other manufactures can be over heavy on representing fabric covered panels.






Fuselage halves are split vertically, which seems to be the common practise these days from manufactures. But Tamiya have cleverly engineered the kit to have the turtle deck and front fuselage cover as separate parts to cover the small differences in the F4U variants. These inserts slot into place on panel lines, which require no filling. This is a great practice that Tamiya has been using since the 1/32 A6M Zero release. Two different cowl flaps parts are supplied for either open or closed positions. Normally the cowl flaps were deployed in the open position on the ground to prevent the engine from overheating in the hot tropical conditions of the Pacific.










All the control surfaces are proved as separate parts so you can pose them in any position, but the fancy option of having them moveable like the Spitfire and Mustang have been left out of the Corsair kit. Personally, I am for this, as I thought the moveable surfaces were a little bit gimmicky, and I opted to glue them into position with the two Spitfires that I built. The horizontal stabilisers and tail have sturdy slotting tabs on the fuselage for these parts to slide onto to locate.










When Tamiya announced that they were releasing the Corsair, a lot of people were wondering if the wing folding mechanism would be moveable. This isn’t the case, so you are only able to choose the wings folded or extended… So choose wisely! The wing tips have been cleverly designed so an Clipped FAA version can be released in a later date.










The inner wing details like the wing intakes and gear bays are fantastically detailed, most modellers will be very happy with the detail that is provided, but I am sure that some will want to add some plumbing for the hydraulic lines in the wheel wells.






The cockpit is designed correctly for and F4U-1 Birdcage, with the lower seat frame compared to the later variants that was raised by 180mm/7in (5.14mm/0.2in in 1/32 scale) to see over the long nose. A total of 45 plastic parts assemble to make the cockpit, plus another eleven Photo Etch parts for the harness (without pilot figure). The all parts are crisply moulded and highly detailed, down to the smallest lever. To sum up everything in the cockpit, Tamiya have even included the pilot relief value on the control stick. The instrument panel follows the tradition of past 1/32 releases with a plastic, clear parts and then a decal on applied to the rear of the clear part. You shouldn’t have to add any aftermarket items here, bar some harness, but no doubt the resin wizard Roy Sutherland of Barracuda Studios, will knock up a couple of things for the “front office”, that you may want to include.










A newly tooled Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine has been tooled up by Tamiya for the Corsair. This mini kit within itself puts other manufactures efforts to shame. The R-2800 engine is totally made up from plastic parts, but the ignition harness is not included. So you may want to add these by using fine wire to depict the leads to each cylinder. The kit includes the mid hexagon style distributor caps that is attached to gearbox along with General Electric ignition system. This setup was fitted to F4U-1A’s and replaced on F4U-1’s in the field, as the previous Bendix ignition system was prone to failing. The early teardrop distributor caps and Duplex ignition system is available as separate upgrade part from Barracuda Studios. Each cylinder bank is split into two half’s per bank, for front and rear banks. The cylinders are finely moulded as it they were resin parts, these will surely pop with a coat of silver paint and oily black wash. Exhaust pipes are nicely done and the ends are hollowed out.












The transparent parts are moulded in a sparking clear plastic. With careful handing you will able to buff these to a nice shine with a clean piece of soft cloth without any compounds or future/clear varnishes. Kabuki self adhesive masks are also supplied, but are not pre-cut. Tamiya recommends to cut them out with a sharp knife blade, but I find cutting them out with some fine nail scissors works a lot better. Or the other options is to wait for Eduard to release their die-cut masks or order an set from RB Productions that is currently available to order.












As per the Spitfire and Mustang kits, is a nice addition of  two pilot figures are proved in injected plastic. One pilot is in a standing pose pulling his left glove on or off, and the second pilot is seated posed in full flight gear. The detail on the figures have improved greatly, as I thought some of the detail is very soft on the figures in the past, especially on the RAF Spitfire pilots.












Also included is the black plastic stand to display you Corsair in flight. This attaches via a screw and nut setup on the underside of the fuselage. This is the purpose that Tamiya supply the screwdriver for. Two self-adhesive name plate options are included to attach to the stand, either black text on a silver background or silver text on black.






The Main wheels are supplied as vinyl parts, and the tail wheel is injected plastic. Personally, I am not a fan of the Vinyl wheels in any kit, as they sometimes are difficult to clean up and get them to take weathering products. If vinyl isn’t your thing, you now have a fantastic replacement options from Barracuda Studio’s that cover all three different tread options that were fitted to Corsairs.








Two Steel photo etch frets are supplied along with the kit, which contain the parts mainly for the seat harness, armour plating for the canopy, tail wheel assembly and wing oil coolers. The steel is a much tougher material to work with, as it is more stiffer than the brass that most manufactures use these days. Steel is good for frames and parts that don’t need to be bent into shape, but troublesome for parts like harness. Its best to anneal these parts with a cigarette light prior to bending them.





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Two decal sheets supplied with the kit, the larger one carries the National Markings and the aircraft markings. The smaller sheet includes the Japanese flag kill markers,  stencils and placards found on the various spots on the airframe. The Tamiya decals are the same sort that have been supplied in the previous releases of the Spitfire and Mustangs. Typical Tamiya decals are thick and extremely well-printed in a Semi gloss finish. Most modellers normally dislike these decals as you normally struggle to get them to go down nicely, and most will go with an aftermarket option to replace them. I have recently found that you can apply a small heat to Tamiya decals get them snuggle into the panel lines nicely. Please see this “How to” on the Large Scale Forums to give you an idea how it is done –  http://forum.largescalemodeller.com/topic/476-how-to-use-decals-from-a-wingnut-wings-kit/














The kit includes three different marking options which cover the three different camouflage schemes that were painted on the airframe.


F4U-1, BuNo  #02337, “17-F-13” flown by Lt(jg) James A. Hatford, US Navy VF-17, USS Bunker Hill, 31 July 1943.




F4U-1, BuNo  #03829, ‘Daphine ‘C’ flown by Capt James N Cupp, US Marine Corps VMF-213, Munda September 1943.




F4U-1, BuNo  # 02714, “Spirit of 76”, flown by Maj Robert G Owens, US Marine Corps VMF-215, Munda August 1943.



The A4 sized instruction manual has a total of 55 pages, but you will skip a few of the pages along the way. The first seven pages covers the history of the F4U Corsair, Assembly and painting tips and paint colour callouts for the three aircraft schemes. From page eight is where all the fun begins! The first selection of the manual (10 pages) covers the cockpit, engine and fuselage and from page nineteen is where you need to decide if you are wanting to build the kit with the wings folded or extended, as there are two selections covering both options. The manual diagrams are clearly printed and easy to follow during the build process. Paint called outs are supplied in Tamiya paints, but these are very easily converted to your favourite paint brand. The last couple of pages of the instruction manual cover the stencil placement and the decals for the two schemes included within the kit.












The main scheme that is depicted on the box art is covered on an A3 full colour print that covers decals and paint callouts.




As the Spitfire and Mustang release there is a handy 12 page B5 sized booklet that covers more history of F4U Corsair and the different Variant breakdowns in profile illustrations . The text is printed in Japanese and English. The last four pages of the booklet is covered in reference images of a restored F4U-1D and F4U-4.










F4U Differences

I know a few of you are wanting for the F4U-1A/1D, and wonder if it’s possible to build a 1A/1D from the Birdcage kit.. The answer is kind of… but you would require some parts from the later release from Tamiya or another manufactures kit...


F4U-1 early/mid Birdcage to F4U-1 Late (-1A destination, not officially used till post war)

•    Redesigned Bubble Canopy.
•    Antenna Mast fitted to Fuse, aft of Cockpit.
•    Pilots Seat raised by 180mm/7in (5.14mm/0.2in in 1/32 scale).
•    Lengthened tail wheel strut.
•    USMC F4U's lacked arrester hooks and had a pneumatic tail wheel.
•    USN F4U's had smaller diameter solid rubber tail wheel.
•    First to be able to carry a drop tank under the centre section of the Fuse.
•    Belly window was deleted on most airframes.
•    Larger Propeller


F4U-1 Late - F4U-1D

•    Twin-rack plumbing for additional drop tank.
•    Underwing Rocket launchers/tabs (last 266 F4U-1D's)

What can we expect from Tamiya in 1/32 next?


No doubt we will see at least another F4U Corsair release covering the -1A and -1D variants. With the way the kit is broken down, Tamiya could easily release an later variant, like a F4U-4. But what newly tooled subject will Tamiya do next in 1/32??? Considering the amount of tooling that Tamiya does on the engines in the latest kits, it is around 35-40% of the kit.. So they will be wanting to use the engine tooling to its maximum  potential. So the F4U has the R-2800 Double Wasp, so we could see an P-47 Thunderbolt and a F6F Hellcat. From the Merlin the major applications were Lancaster, Halifax and Mosquito, unfortunately I don’t think we will ever see these from Tamiya as they are to large, but the single engine applications were Spitfire and Hurricane. Since Trumpeter and Hasegawa has released Thunderbolt and Hellcat as a major run kit, I would think Tamiya would look at the Hurricane next, since it’s only been done as a limited run kit by Pacific Coast Models. So there you have it… My money is on a Hurricane for the next newly tooled kit from Tamiya.


So what do we think?

Ah… what can I say??? Another epic kit from Tamiya! This is the 32nd scale kit of the Year! So… do yourself a favour and get one and start building!

Very Very Highly Recommended!

Our sincere thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review sample used here. To purchase this directly, click the links in the review article.





Addition photos -





























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Brilliant review Dave!


This kit is so much fun and has turned me into such a fanboy that I had two order two new Tamiya t-shirts just to wear when I'm in the shop working on it. Selfies in my build thread after a bit more progress...


The surface detail has to be seen to be believed. One of the real tricks to building this I think will be finishing it without flooding all those details with paint. I really love what Spence Pollard did with his kit, even though I'm not 100% sold on the likelihood of all that zinc chromate chipping everywhere. Chipping most definitely, but zinc chromate or bare metal underneath?


Either way I'm hoping my rendition ends up looking half as good...

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  • 3 weeks later...

It is the Kit of the Year, I don't think anything could come close!



The kit is designed to do it..


Very, VERY nice review Dave ... I am sure that you absolutely hate having to get review kits like this one in the mail and tediously walk through all those awesome looking sprues, instructions and (not so surprising by now) little extras that most kits leave you going after AM for! - Oh! The pain! - but you've soldiered through it like a trooper and brought us a quality look at a significant kit ...


Kit of the year? ... I kind of think that this title should be split across a few categories to be fair ... As far as the title for "Mass produced IM kit" goes, it surely would make a finals contender! ... As too, the Zoukei-Mura He.219 UHU would for "Boutique limited run IM kit" ... Both certainly offer plenty of bang for buck as far as value is concerned and have great amounts of intricate detail.


I've been sitting on the bench with this one, as far as purchasing the darned the thing is concerned - but this review may just tip the scales - especially since the kit won't have to be overly reworked to make an FAA option!! (PTO are kind of off subject for me - at present) - I've done enough searching around for decals in the last 48 hours to remember seeing FAA decals around somewhere.


Again ... really well done, Dave :) ...


Rog :)

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