Meet the Hog
Corsairs have been named “hogs” and the appearance of the aircraft won’t leave you in doubt about the nick name’s justification. In stand and flight it radiates a special kind of strength.
It all begins with a huge (size and power) R2800 engine and an accordingly big fuselage diameter. In order to avoid the resulting XXL sized propeller touching the ground during take off and landing, the designer could have opted for Giraffe kind of landing gears or bent wings to move their upper end closer to the ground. He went for the bent wings. Wing fuel tanks were part of Vought’s initial concepts too, but were given up because of strength reasons. In order to keep the fuel’s mass close to the centre of the aircraft, it alternatively had to be placed between the engine and the cockpit – yielding in an aft cockpit and a very long nose of the plane. The basic proportions of the F4U are defined by this hand full of simple thoughts.
The spot welding which replaced classic rivets is worth a mention, as it had been a leading edge technology when applied at the Corsair. Tamiya did a breath taking job in scaling down the welding spots. There are thousands all over the aircraft in a previously unseen quality.
James N. Cupp’s aircraft was labeled “Daphne C” for his wife. He fought for VMF-213 from spring to late summer 43 and was credited with 12 victories. A picture showing him in front of his aircraft can be found at many places in the word wide web, e.g. in the English Wiki article about Colonel Cupp. The aircraft seen on this picture went through some heavy wear on the wing root, showing a large area of exposed zink chromate which I tried to reproduce in the model. Unlike at many models I studied in the web, this and other reference photos hint at extensive loss of the top coat rather than punctual, single spot chipping.
Tamiya’s series of 1/32 aircraft are quite likely the most reviewed and discussed models of all times and the Corsair seams to overtop the predecessors. Not without reason, there’s a lot to say. Only two things that I’d like to add: first, the praises of the terrific fit are not exaggerated, they’re all true. It’s stunning, amazing, marvellous … I think you get it. Second, why Tamiya continues to combine this styrene wonderland with decals thick as beer mats – I do not know and I have no understanding.
Especially smaller stencils require multiple Future and flat coats in order to make the carrier film disappear. If the final coat is not flat and matt as desert sand, they won’t disappear at all.
Almost all reference pictures of early Corsairs show badly worn aircraft. The war reached its highest density while they were in service and the South Pacific theatre showed no mercy. The blue grey upper surface paint bleached out quickly under a relentless sun that turned the colour into a patchwork of manifold variations of the original tone. Pictures show the usual darker shades of the base colour along the panel lines and also darker stripes following the lines of spot welding. All sorts of dirt added greyish and brownish tones to the overall appearance and if you like playing around with paint chipping … we come to that in a minute. Though except for very view the available pictures are black and white, they leave little doubt that the paint surface has been rubbed down to a flat character.
I tried to realise this look by subsequently spraying many different shades of the base colour, sometimes slightly altered sometimes more intensely. Based on US Navy Blue Gray and 4 additional colors added in randomly chosen mixtures, dozens of variations of the base color must have come together. The paint job took a full day of work, it was incredible fun to do this. For the ultimate layer Gunze Flat Varnish was used. Dirt and grime were replicated by the use of black, grey and brown oil paints with some emphasis on the area around the fuel cap and of course the exhaust pipes.
The Birdcage’s interior colour is quite unique and is well defined due to the found of a crashed corsair in Lake Michigan. I was about to paint mine in Interior Green nevertheless, as I very much like this colour. Some say that Vought has changed the painting during production, so it seamed justified to deviate from the instructions. Eventually I made up my mind and used dark dull green as suggested by Tamiya.
Even more interesting I find the research of base coat colours of this magnificent aeroplane. There were two: the usual zinc chromate green and the zinc chromate green plus some fair amount of red pigments yielding in a tone somewhere between salmon pink and the colour of red wine. As I do not want my aircraft to look like Barbie’s, I opted for the more red wine sort of red as can be seen in the wheel bays.
Today’s modeller community has an intensive love affair with paint chipping, it seams. Who am I to resist?
Corsairs show heavy paint wear everywhere close to the wing roots, at the gun bays and on the engine covers. Especially at the step stairs used to get into the cockpit, blank aluminium can be found more often than not. In my model I wanted to show bare metal silver as well as some zinc chromate showing through. I did a whole lot of testing and trying including many unsatisfying results till I finally got where I wanted. Painting the chips on top of the base colour coat looked alright at spare parts, but left me with the uncomfortable feeling that there could be something more convincing out there. The hairspray method (in this case carried out with AK Worn Effects) finally brought the result I hoped for. Don’t ask me how many attempts it took at the end to get it all down. My spares box has substantially lost weight while practising.
Tamiya’s Corsair has set new standards. I had a great time doing this model and I somehow can’t believe that it’s done now. As you’ll find in my blog I lost a virtually finished model, but decided to start again using only the engine and the cockpit of the first one. By this, the entire project stretched over 9 months to the day which I well remember as the original kit was my birthday present.
There are historical pictures of other nice Corsairs out there that attract me and I wonder for how long I can resist them. Also, like many of us, I await notice about what will come next in Tamiya’s 1/32 series and I must admit that after one Japanese, one English and two American Aircraft, I find it time for some Luftwaffe. If it was me to decide I’d opt for a Focke Wulf.
35 additional images. Click to enlarge.