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Magic Factory 1/48 scale F4U-1A/2 Corsair Dual Combo plastic model kit review

An ambitious kit with incredible detail with a couple of snags
Kit:5001 // Scale:1/48 // Price:$99.99
Magic Factory (Kit courtesy of mfr.)
Superior detail; folded and straight wing options
Complicated and imprecise fuselage
Injection-molded plastic (light gray); 444 parts (12 photo-etched metal parts); decals
Vought redesigned the Corsair’s seat support structure and switched from the heavily framed “birdcage canopy” to a blown hood, allowing the pilot to sit taller in the saddle. The Navy referred to the result as the “raised cabin” Corsair. Modelers, historians, and authors have dubbed it the F4U-1a. The Corsair went aboard the carriers as the F4U-2 night fighter. I strongly recommend Dana Bell’s three volumes on the F4U for more information.

For nearly 30 years, Tamiya’s 1/48 scale Corsair has been the gold standard, so it came as a surprise that Magic Factory’s first aircraft kit was the 1/48 scale F4U-1A/2 Corsair Dual Combo plastic model kit. I find the term “dual combo” slightly misleading. You cannot build two identical models from the contents. While the box contains two fuselages, it provides only one set of extended wings and one set folded, one late-style “birdcage canopy” and one “raised cabin hood.” Appropriate kabuki paper masks are provided for each. The parts are extremely well-detailed, with no flash and only minor mold marks. Photo-etched metal belts are included. Options include open/closed cowl flaps and gun bays with ammo chutes and belts. The folded wing’s flaps will be up, while the extended wings are designed with flaps down. A color chart for AK Interactive, Mr. Color, and Tamiya paints is included, along with four decal options and stencils for two airframes.

Construction begins in the cockpit. Not mentioned in the instructions are duplicate consoles and panels without the excellent raised detail for use with the kit’s decals. There is some play in the parts fit, but the details are an exact match to the pictures in the 1998 edition of Detail and Scale Vol. 55. Magic Factory even provided the correct seat supports for the early and “raised cabin” seats, and the appropriate internal armored glass. Diagrams are included showing where to drill holes for the forward antennae and the supports for the folded wings. Only open these when appropriate.

The four cockpit sections do not lock together and want to twist and warp. I used the fuselage sides to clamp them together. Here, I realized just how ambitious Magic Factory has been in trying to eliminate fuselage seams by using separate inserts matching panel lines. The bulkheads don’t fit precisely, which leads to play and small gaps along the fuselage, allowing the nose and tail to touch. The two inserts immediately aft of the canopy have nothing to set their width, causing additional issues. This happened with both airframes. Rather than following the instructions, you might be better off working from the rear to the nose.

The engine is beautiful, only missing plug wires. The exhaust pipes are not designed to reach the front set of cylinders. This will be hidden when the cowl is installed, and Magic Factory has an aftermarket resin engine set if you want to display the engine with the cowl removed.

The straight wing was next. Once again, the parts have a small amount of play. The ammo belts don’t quite reach the ammo chutes, and I needed to modify the shortest chute to get it in place. I used white glue to hold the gun bay doors in place during painting and easily remove them afterward. Separate wing tips indicate the possibility of a British Corsair in the future. The folded wings went together without problems. I waited to push the outer wing panels all the way down the spar until after painting. They are so tight they will not come back off once seated.

I needed to trim several bulkheads and the firewall to get the fuselage to seat correctly on the wings, but once seated, they only needed a swipe of filler.

All the decal options are for aircraft painted in variants of the tri-color scheme. My decals were slightly out of register, with a sliver of white showing on the left side of the insignia. The call number for 042 should be smaller, matching the blue outline on the bar of the national insignia. One set of decal stripes on the bomb fit with help from Solvaset, and the other came up a touch short. I used Alclad II Klear Kote Gloss to prevent silvering, but a few of the stencils did anyway. After an acrylic wash emphasized the panel lines and rivets, I used Alclad II flat and semi-matte to provide the correct non-specular and semigloss sheens.

The main gear legs have some play to them. Make sure they are correctly aligned. The gear doors are easily anchored in place. Antennas, wing braces, and ordnance finished final assembly.

Two sayings came to mind while working on Magic Factory’s Corsairs: “You won’t be disappointed if you keep expectations low,” meaning that the higher your expectations are, the easier you may be disappointed. The second: “Aim small, miss small.” If you use the dart board as your aiming point and miss by an inch, you miss the entire board. If you aim for the center of the bullseye and miss by an inch, you’re still in the points.

Magic Factory has been extremely ambitious with this kit — maybe a touch too ambitious. While there is some disappointment, it’s because they’ve set the bar incredibly high, and where they’ve missed the mark, they’ve missed it by very little. Tamiya’s kit may be easier to build, but Magic Factory’s level of detail sets a new mark as the gold standard.
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