Home  |  What's New  |  Features  |  Gallery  |  Reviews  |  Reference  |  Forum  |  Search

Vought F4U-1A Corsair

by Roy Long


Vought F4U-1A Corsair


Tamiya's 1/48 scale F4U-1A Corsair is available online at Squadron.com




This is Tamiya's 1/48 scale Vought F4U-1A built to depict a Corsair flown by LTCDR James "Big Jim" Strieg of VF-17.

VF-17s operational record was impressive, especially when one considers that the squadron’s tour was less than six months long. Their story is well documented in several books including "The Skull and Crossbones Squadron, VF-17 in WWII", by Lee Cook. This book was used as the main reference for my Corsair’s camouflage and markings.



The Model

The model is Tamiya's 1/48 scale F4U-1A.

For those who are not familiar with this kit, it is very nice with a well-detailed interior. It appears to me that the F4U-1A is largely a combination of the two previous Tamiya Corsairs, leaving some handy spare parts. Needless to say, construction of this kit would have been pretty straightforward out of the box, if it weren't for my addiction to resin update sets coupled with the desire to build something a little different from the norm.

At the time I started this model I was working on Tamiya's Birdcage Corsair. I went to my local hobby shop and found the Aires cockpit and landing gear bays for the Corsair. I hadn't gotten too far into the cockpit of the Birdcage when I thought these two sets would be a nice addition. (Luckily for me, the Aires Corsair Detail set with engine had not yet been released).


The Aires Corsair cockpit set is in my opinion a marvel of engineering and is very comprehensive and detailed. It provides in resin, a lower cockpit tub, two sidewall pieces, front and back bulkheads, a seat, control stick and other details as well as a photo etch fret for the instrument panel, seatbelts, and canopy interior details which include the interior frame mirrors and latch handles.

The landing gear set includes detailed gear bays, and detailed landing gear covers that were more to scale thickness. After studying pictures in the Detail & Scale on the Corsair and other references and some informative, helpful answers to several questions posted to Plane Talking, it was apparent that the Aires cockpit wasn't suitable for the Birdcage Corsair, but would work nicely in the Tamiya F4U-1D or the newly released F4U-1A. As I had planned to build an island based USMC fighter-bomber at some time, I thought the F4U-1A would be a good choice. So, after a quick call to the hobby store, which had just received a few F4U-1As, I went and picked one up.




I got out my Dremel and started grinding to start the project. All interior detail in the cockpit and landing gear bay areas was ground off and then smoothed with curved Exacto blade and sanding pads. The resin parts were then cleaned up. As a note of caution, as Aires seems to try to get parts as close to scale thickness as they can, some parts of the set have some very thin surfaces very close to the molding blocks making their removal anywhere from tricky to nearly impossible. The areas where I thought I was running the risk of breaking through the part were reinforced with gap filling super glue hit with accelerator and sanded down during the final clean up of the part.

As is often necessary with sets like these, lots of dry fitting was done to get everything to a point where the resin parts would fit properly. When I was happy with the fit of the cockpit parts in the fuselage I began its assembly and painting. The cockpit was built up according to the Aires instructions and with only a few minor adjustments it went together with out any problems. One of the most exasperating aspects of building and painting Corsairs is the question "What color should the interior areas be?”. Again, I studied pictures in the Detail & Scale on the Corsair and other references and some more questions posted to Plane Talking, as well as the article "USN WWII Aircraft Interiors" by William Reece found on the IPMS/USA webpage on US Navy Interior colors.



Many variations seem to be possible and there is no definitive answer. The possible choices for F4U-1A cockpit colors looked like Interior Green, Flat Black or a combination of Interior Green and Flat Black. Other choices existed for non-cockpit interior colors, such as the wheel wells and cowling interior, Yellow Zinc Chromate, Light Grey, Flat White or over painted in whatever the undersurface was painted in, or even Salmon, but probably only applicable to the F4U-1. With this information I decided to paint my cockpit in Interior Green with Flat Black instrument panel and canopy frames and the wheel wells and cowling interior in Yellow Zinc Chromate.

The interior parts were given a dirty black/brown wash and dry brushed. I then went through and did all the detail painting and flat-coated the parts. The fuselage halves were glued the together and I assembled the tub and installed through the open fuselage. I set the fuselage aside for the time being and turned my attention to the wings.

Wings and Fuselage

After flipping through the several Corsair books I had accumulated by this time I came to the conclusion that it was not that common to see many Corsairs on the ground with dropped flaps. Looking at reference pictures, it looked like a very simple undertaking. I assembled the individual flaps and prepped them for installation by cutting off the mounting stubs and reshaping their leading edges and thinning the appropriate areas of the wings. Initial test fitting made me think there would be no problem with sliding the flaps in the re-shaped gaps and gluing them in. So I turned next to assembling the wings.

I had already prepped the wings to accept the Aires wheel bays and painted the bays. I glued the tops of the wing center section after chopping off the parts of the wing fold inserts that either prevented them from fitting around the new gear wells or might possibly interfere with the flaps. This resulted in the wing fold inserts being about half as long as they had been and devoid of mounting tabs on the back. I had hoped to use the clever bar Tamiya developed for the wing fold to help align and strengthen the wings, but was unable after removing so much material from the inserts.


Once this step was finished, I attached the center section to the fuselage. I glued a series of card stock tabs to the inside surfaces of the outer wings and the wing center section to join them. When that dried, I started to fit and glue the modified flaps in place. I encountered several spots where the flap would not line up where I wanted it to go, and as a result I used force, superglue and accelerator to make them comply. Generally, the flaps ended up where they needed to be; however, I learned that the flaps are a hair short on either side and ended up with gaps at the ends of each flap.

I then set out to add the flap covers. On a real Corsair there are covers that run the length of the flaps along the hinge line. These covers fold up and into the wing when the flaps were lowered. Tamiya molded the wings with the covers in a "retracted" position, which made a nice indentation for aligning and attaching the new covers. I cut the covers from 10 thousand card stock and glued them in place. The covers stood a little proud in some spots so they were sanded flush with the wing surface. I wasn't too happy with the join line between the inner and outer wing sections so I filled them with superglue, sanded them out and re-scribed them.

While I was scribing, I took a few swipes at the flap cover joints to define them a little better. While I was working on the wing, I took the opportunity to fill in the landing light near the left wing tip, which was moved to the leading edge of the left wing after BuNo 17930. To fill it in I used the original part and a good size glob of thick superglue and sanded and carved it to match the rib detail. Much later, I found that Corsairs that had the light moved had a round panel bolted over the now useless spot.

I also scribed in two circles to represent the fuel filler caps missing from the Tamiya kit and drilled out the formation lights to accept some MV lenses.

Back to the fuselage. I had some gaps around the window under the cockpit and at the join on the bottom of the fuselage where the wing section fit, so these areas were filled, sanded and rescribed where needed. The elevators were then added.

I decided to detail the visible part of the engine. I added a wiring harness made of thin solder and even thinner copper wire, I also cut away the molded on push rods and added new ones from brass rod. I used pictures from the Corsair D&S book to detail the engine and found later (again) that the F4U-1A typically used the flat, horseshoe shaped harness found in the kit as opposed to the round tubular style I used.


Painting and Markings

As often happens, frustration and boredom from the filling, sanding and scribing on the wings set in and I shelved this model for a month or so. And as happens just as often, I got a spark of motivation to finish. The spark came in the form of Tom Tullis' book "Eagles Illustrated, Vol. 1, Fighters of WWII" which had a profile of this airplane.

So I picked up EagleCals #20 "VF-17 Jolly Rogers" and "The Skull and Crossbones Squadron, VF-17 in WWII", by Lee Cook. I started by priming the model with Humbrol Aluminum, over top of this I sprayed a coat of Future. I preshaded the model along the panel lines and in spots and blotches in gray on the undersurfaces that would be painted white and dark blue on the rest. I painted the white areas first using Model Master Flat White with a drop or two of Camouflage Grey to take the edge off a little. The Dark Sea Blue and the Intermediate Blue were both Aeromaster enamels. I lightened each a touch with flat white and sprayed the appropriate areas while trying to keep from over lapping the neighboring color. Each was lightened more and thinned further and then misted in irregular blotches.


After a day, the entire model was sanded with an 8000 grit sanding pad and then with a 12000 grit sanding pad. The model was then washed with warm water and dish washing soap and allowed to dry. When it was dry I dusted it off and gave it another light coat of Future. When the Future was dry, I started on the decals. EagleCals decals, printed by MicroScale were a breeze to work with, thin and the white was opaque and in register. I used Solvaset on them with no problems. When they were dry, I shot Future only on the areas covered by the decals and let it dry.

I then started the weathering, with a sharp pin, an Exacto and a 4000 grit sanding pad, I chipped and sanded the paint to replicate the chipped and worn appearance found on this and other VF-17 Corsairs. I then mixed up a thick batch of black and brown artists in thinned with non-toxic airbrush cleaner. I slopped this over the model and then wiped most of it off with a damp rag in the direction of the airflow. The same colors, heavily thinned were loaded into a drafting pen and I filled in panel lines. I filled in the lines around flight control surfaces with black ink.

The plane was finally flat-coated with Testors clear lacquer. A wash of Turpentine and black and burnt umber was brushed on to represent fuel and oil stains. Pastels were used for dirt and some scuffing on the wing as well as the exhaust stains.


Final Details

As mentioned before the Aires set includes the interior canopy frame in photoetch. I was looking forward to using this part together with a vacuform canopy but there is no available vacuform canopy available which fits the Tamiya F4U-1A/D. I test fit the frame to the kit canopy and it fit OK, but only with the canopy closed. As a result, I used only the mirrors and a couple of handles.

Colored and silver MV lenses were coaxed into the holes I had drilled earlier and I only lost two to the interior of the model. The appropriate silver lenses were painted with Tamiya Clear Blue. A clear round bulb was added to the tail and a clear tear drop bulb was added to the fuselage behind the cockpit.

For some inexplicable reason I didn't notice that I had ignored the wing tip lights until this point so I painted them silver and then used Tamiya Clear Red and Green on them.

This Corsair was equipped with a whip antenna on the fuselage spine and it was replicated with a piece of stainless steel wire.



The landing gear was assembled and thin wires were used to represent the brake lines on the main gear legs. They were then painted white and cemented in the gear bays

I would like to publicly thank my wife for her patience and understanding during the final construction phases of this model. I spent every free moment for a week finishing this model for the upcoming IPMS Region 2 Convention and Contest, finishing it one hour before we left. It won second place to fellow Hyperscaler Randy Lutz's beautiful P-51D.




  • "The Skull and Crossbones Squadron, VF-17 in WWII", Lee Cook Squadron/Signal "F4U Corsair in Action" (both editions)

  • "F4U Corsair In Detail & Scale" Part 1, Bert Kinzey

  • "Eagles Illustrated, Vol. 1, Fighters of WWII" Thomas A. Tullis

  • "USN WWII Aircraft Interiors", William Reece

Model, Text and Images Copyright © 2001 by Roy Long
Page Created 13 September, 2001
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

Back to HyperScale Main Page

Back to Features Index