Tamiya 1/32 F4U-1 Corsair

By Charles Norton

The My Birdcage Corsair in Turtle Bay dio has finally crossed the finish line!

As has been my modus operandi of late, I wanted to more or less recreate a historical photograph. For this project, I chose a photo from a fairly well-circulated set of photos and film that were taken either for training purposes, propaganda, or the news reels. In some of the other shots from this series, there's a movie camera crew just out of frame to the right. So, there was something big going on. Also probably explains why the pilot's exiting the wrong side of the aircraft. Though my dio is not a perfect 1:1 recreation of the source image, I feel it captures the essence of the scene.

Anyway, this photo was taken in July of 1943 on Espiritu Santo. The pilot here is one Lt. Virgil Ray, great uncle to our own ARay87. He did a pretty great write up on Lt. Ray at the WW2 Aircraft forums, so I'll point you there for a great in depth look into the man. Sadly, Lt. Ray was lost in a storm on 13 October, 1943, just a few months after this photo set was taken. Rest in peace, Virgil.

I wanted to do this particular aircraft because it had red insignia surrounds (and I've never done those before) and some pretty (ahem) unusual weathering. It wasn't until a few weeks into the build that I really realized what I'd gotten myself into.

A couple highlights:

  1. I sculpted the crew chief from the waist up, using only premade hands and head. I also had to modify his ankles so he would stand up straight on the wing. The base figure was the standing pilot figure included with the Corsair kit.
  2. I had to re-sculpt the pilot's lower legs because the Black Dog Resin figure was in ETO heavy gear. It's still not perfect, but it's a lot better than it was.
  3. I also had to re-sculpt the pilot's hands as the stock figure's hands were nowhere near where they needed to be.
  4. I had to build 2 palm trees from scratch. I used Luke Towan's method, but also wrapped the trunks in masking tape to give them a little more texture. Each tree has 38 fronds. I could fit 12 fronds on a sheet of paper in my cutter. Each sheet took 65 minutes. You do the math.
  5. I added a ton of wiring detail to the cockpit, engine, and landing gear bay.

So, in all it was a pretty challenging project and a lot of fun (except the palm fronds) that really pushed my limits, especially the sculpting parts. See the build thread for full details on the sculpting and building adventures.

Aftermarket parts used were:

Anyway, I hope you enjoy. Now, I have to build new floating display shelves in the model cave as I have officially run out of display room!

© Charles Norton 2024

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This article was published on Thursday, March 21 2024; Last modified on Sunday, March 24 2024