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Tamiya's 1/48 scale
F4U-1A Corsair

Part One - Construction

by Tony Bell


Chance-Vought F4U-1A Corsair


Tamiya's 1/48 scale F4U-1A Corsair  is available online from Squadron




Tamiya first released their 1:48 F4U-1 Birdcage Corsair almost ten years ago back in 1997, followed in the next couple of years by the -1D and -1A kits. Typical of Tamiya kits, they are well engineered with good (albeit a bit heavy in some folks’ opinion…) surface detail. The cockpit is nicely detailed straight from the box, as is the engine.



The kit provides dropped flaps and the option of posing the wings either folded or flat. There are some minor issues with the kit, including the much-ballyhoo’d boarding step in the right inner flap (which the kit instructions indicate should be filled in - the horror!), and the slightly off looking braces on the canopy sliding hood.





The Cockpit

Okay. everybody, say it with me: “Construction-started-with-the-cockpit.”

And so it did with this model. As this was to be an out-of-the-box build, I didn’t do anything extra to the cockpit, aside from thinning the back and sides of the seat. The seat back is particularly thick, but my 8” Bastard file made short work of it. I briefly toyed with the idea of adding a map case to the right console and replacing the trim wheels with disks of sheet styrene, but in the end I decided I would keep the canopy closed and stay true to OOB.

I started off by airbrushing Tamiya semi-gloss black in the nooks & crannies of the interior, being careful to keep it in the areas of natural shadow. I did this on all the cockpit bits, the fuselage side walls, wheel wells and landing gear doors - anything that was to be painted Interior Green. I thinned the black about 80% with rubbing alcohol and sprayed it at about 10-15 psi. I then mixed up a batch of Interior Green from Tamiya paints and airbrushed the interior bits, misting it on in light coats to allow the pre-shading to peek through.


I applied a mix of India ink and Future floor polish (although any acrylic clear gloss will do) to all the I.G. areas in order to add depth to the recesses, followed by an airbrushed coat of Polly Scale clear flat. I brush painted the cockpit side consoles “scale” flat black (i.e. dark grey) and then dry brushed everything with a medium green-grey mixed from Payne’s Grey, Chrome Yellow and Titanium White artists’ oil paints. Various switches and knobs were picked out in red, silver, white and gloss black with a fine brush and Citadel paints. A silver Prismacolor pencil was used to draw some scuff marks and chipping.

The seat harness was made from strips of masking tape painted Tamiya Buff, with the stitching was drawn on with a needle sharp pencil.

For the instrument panel I simply trimmed the carrier film from the kit decal and applied it with liberal amounts of Solvaset setting solution.

Once it was dry, I sprayed it with Polly Scale Flat and applied a small dab of five minute epoxy to each gauge face for the glass.

The Engine

The engine is also very nicely detailed, in spite of the simple, three part construction. The cylinders were brush painted with Citadel “Gunbolt Metal”. The funny thing about this paint is that if you add rubbing alcohol directly to in an attempt to thin it, it will turn into a curdled, gooey mess. If on the other hand you dip the paint brush in alcohol and then dip the brush in the paint and mix it up on a palette, you end up with a very brush-friendly mixture that goes on smoothly and dries quickly. Go figure. Chemistry was never my strong suit. I also brush painted the rocker covers with Citadel “Chainmail Silver” and the pushrods with “Chaos Black”. The black pushrods were subsequently brushed with Future to make them glossy.


The reduction gear housing was airbrushed with Gunze Mr. Surfacer 1000 (a nice mid-grey) while the bolt heads were brush painted silver. The whole engine was then treated to a wash consisting of Poly Scale clear satin mixed with India ink.


This was one of those models that put up a bit of a fight, in spite of it being a Tamiya kit. The fuselage halves went together without a fuss, and the cockpit didn’t even require any glue. I left the bottom seam unglued so that I could spread it a fraction of a millimetre and achieve a perfect fit with the middle lower wing piece.

Tamiya has engineered the fuselage halves in a modular fashion to make them common with the Birdcage variant, with an insert just behind the cockpit to differentiate between the versions. The insert seams fall on panel lines, so careful attention to fitting and gluing is needed to ensure that they are consistent with the moulded panel lines. The instructions would have you glue the fuselage halves together first, followed by the insert. I decided that, in the event of a less than perfect fit, it would be easier to deal with one seam at the top of the fuselage rather than two seams on the sides. I therefore assembled each fuselage half separately, applying liquid cement from the inside. As it turns out there was a slight gap on top which was easily filled with a small amount of superglue.

The circular fuel tank panel just ahead of the cockpit had to be rescribed after I sanded the fuselage seams, and the inner and outer ring of fasteners surrounding the panel were tediously restored with a micro drill bit chucked in a pin vise. I rescribed a couple of small panels on the top of the fuselage using a scribing template and a sharp sewing needle. One neat little trick I’ve learned when rescribing panels is to brush a small amount of lacquer thinner in the newly scribed line, let it dry and then sand with 1000 grit wet sandpaper. This avoids pushing the plastic back into the groove and results in a very clean line. I used a fine razor saw to restore the panel lines that crossed the fuselage seam, and, while I was at it I used the saw to cut the panel lines of the control surfaces and trim tabs perpendicular to the trailing edges.

The wings were a bit of a pain in the butt (now I know why most Tamiya Corsairs are seen with the wings folded). Not counting the flaps, the wings are broken down into six main parts (upper right, lower right, upper left, lower left, upper inside right, upper inside left and bottom centre) and eight secondary parts. It was a challenge to get it all lined up and level with the wings down, in spite of the Tamiya fit and engineering of the parts.

My normal habit is to attach the wings to the fuselage and then use them as the reference to align the horizontal stabs. With this kit it’s better to do it the other way around, as the horizontal stabs have very positive interlocking alignment tabs that make it impossible to screw up. As it turned out I had to gently steam the right wing root and crank it up a degree or two in order to line things up. To do this I filled a saucepan with an inch of water and sealed the top with a piece of kitchen foil. I brought it to a boil on the stove and poked a hole in the foil with a pencil, producing a narrow jet of steam. I gently warmed the plastic at the wing root while applying pressure and then quenched the plastic under cold running water. I repeated this a few times until the wings and stabs lined up.

The fit of the leading edge intake pieces was so-so, requiring some filling (I used superglue) and rescribing to fair them in. I filled the slight gap between the wing root and the fuselage with Mr. Surfacer 500 and wiped the excess away with a Q-Tip soaked in rubbing alcohol after it had dried for about 20 minutes.

Although I usually dip my canopies in Future, the kit’s transparencies were so clear and free of distortion that this time it was unnecessary. I masked the canopy panel by panel with Tamiya tape by applying a piece of tape and burnishing it down with a toothpick, making sure to work it into the edges of the frames. Then, with brand new No. 11 X-acto blade, I slowly and carefully trimmed the tape while holding it up to the light, applying just enough pressure to cut through the tape. The braces on the sliding hood look funny to my eye, curving inward and upward at the front. Fortunately Tamiya provides two sliding hoods, with and without the braces. I used the one without and simply masked it with the braces in the correct position.


I attached the canopy with liquid cement applied sparingly with a fine brush and filled the seam with Mr. Surfacer 500. By applying the Surfacer with a fine brush and carefully sanding it with fine wet ‘n dry, I was able to avoid damaging the canopy and the engraved panel line detail.

Continued in Part Two


Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2006 by Tony Bell
Page Created 14 July, 2006
Last Updated 17 July, 2006

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