1/48 Tamiya F4U-1C Conversion

by Josh Kaiser



This project started out as an idea about a year ago, when I decided I’d like to make a simple but relevant conversion of a kit.  The obvious choice was Tamiya’s 1:48 Corsair- I’ve built it five times, and it’s a beautiful kit.  Then, in December of 2007, the dream became reality when I ordered the kit and a Superscale decal sheet.

First, some history of the F4U-1C.  (I won’t go into detail about the previous variants, since reference material is so common.)  The Chance-Vought F4U-1C was basically the same as a late -1A or early -1D.  The main differences/identifying features were:

  • Two 20mm cannons in each wing instead of the usual three .50cal. Machine guns

  • -1D style canopy (without the bracing frames)

  • Two, instead of three ammunition access panels in the wings

  • Only a few (if that many) -1Cs were painted in the tricolor scheme, most were overall Gloss Sea Blue

Only 200 -1Cs were built, and they went into service in early 1945. They were favored by pilots in the night fighter role, because the cannons’ hitting power meant less time to bring down a target.  However, the -1C was generally inferior to the other Corsair models in air-to-air combat, because of the increased weight, and also because of the cannons’ slower rate of fire, and limited ammunition (around 200 RPG).  The -1C really shone in the ground attack role, because its cannons were powerful enough to destroy things that the other variants’ .50 cals couldn’t even touch.

Now for my modifications to the kit:

  • Detail the cockpit

  • Fill/rescribe the ammo access panels

  • Add the cannons and their fairings and blisters

  • Add general interior/exterior detail

As is the case with most kits, work started with the cockpit.  Tamiya’s cockpit is very good OOB, however, a few areas could be improved.  I started with the pilot’s control consoles.  I separated the left console from the part due to the work required.  I added the trim wheels, some levers, and the fuel tank selector, all from bits of styrene. Placards were made with .005” styrene sheet.  The right console just needed a few levers and the pilot‘s map case. Next came the sidewall details. I scraped off the kit’s inadequate detail and added my own from bits of styrene. The details added included the throttle and the radio controls.

The throttle itself took a few hours to complete (including glue and paint dry time). I started with a circle punched out of .020 styrene, and cut several wedges out of it. I then stacked these wedges to create the body of the quadrant. The smaller levers were made by gluing tiny bits of stretched sprue to tiny bits of styrene strip, and then coating the sprue with liquid cement to “melt” it into the correct ball shape.

After the sidewalls, I detailed the seat. I first removed the incorrect mounting details on the rear bulkhead, and then sanded the seat back to the correct curved shape. I also thinned it quite a bit to make it more to scale. The seat support framing was scratchbuilt from .020 rod, and seatbelts were added from tissue paper. The photoetched buckles came from my spares box.

The front bulkhead and instrument panel also received some detail. The pilot’s foot trough supports were replaced with .010 styrene, and the throttle control cables were replaced so that they actually reached the throttle.

I also added some rib detail on the inside of the fuselage, as well as on the clear window, which was only present on the early -1s. I plugged a couple holes that would be visible on the completed model to finish off the cockpit.

Now came the time for painting. According to my references, all Corsairs built after October 1944 had interior green cockpits, with the consoles and sidewalls above them painted flat black. This is how I painted my model- the interior green was mixed from Testors zinc chromate and flat black. The cockpit placards were painted flat black and then scratched with a pin so that the white plastic showed through. I used the kit decal for the instrument panel, however, I cut each individual instrument out and applied them, instead of just applying the whole decal. Finally, the cockpit was given a wash of black and brown watercolors to help bring out the details and show some grime.

With that, the fuselage detailing was complete, so I closed up the fuselage halves, but not before I had separated the rudder from the vertical stabilizer. The engine was detailed with copper wire and some small bits of styrene. I also reshaped the magnetos and replaced the propeller governor. Tamiya’s Corsairs have excellent fit, and so after only some minor seam work (due to my own sloppiness, not the kit), I moved on to the wings. (Now is a good time to remove the small generator air scoop on the right forward fuselage- it’s only correct for the -2 Corsair).

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The first part of the wing construction dealt with the landing gear and bays. I removed the incorrect rib detail from the inboard bay walls, and then added small oblong pieces of .005 styrene to replicate the canvas covers present on the sidewalls. I added a little wiring, but didn’t go into too much detail because not much would be visible on the finished model. The landing gear struts themselves received brake lines from copper wire, and other small details from stretched sprue.

The real conversion work all took place on the outer wing panels. The first step was filling in the ammo access panels and spent shell ejection chutes, which was done with Squadron green putty. Once this was done, I scribed in the correct lines and ejector chutes. Unfortunately, on the right wing, I reversed the location of the chutes, but since I had had enough trouble already (filling and rescribing is definitely NOT one of my strong points…), I left them as they were. Once this was done, I assembled the wings. As with all of my F4Us, I modified the flaps to the up position by removing the mounting tabs and part of the wing fold bulkheads, and then, after lots of test fitting and tweaking, set them aside to be added once the wings were attached to the fuselage. I think that having the flaps down detracts from the lines of the Corsair, and it just looks weird for some reason.

After the wings were attached, the next step was the cannon fairings- These were made from .080 styrene tube. First I cut them to approximately the right length (which is just a guess, since I don’t have any dimensions for the real thing.) Then I taped sandpaper to the leading edge of the wing and sanded the rear of the fairing to the shape of the wing leading edge. I hollowed out the front end, and rounded out the front edges. The .50 gun ports were filled in, and once the fairings were attached, the model was almost ready for paint.

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The last few details were the trim tab actuators on the elevators, added from .009 guitar string and .010 styrene. I reattached the rudder at a slight angle, and also scribed the control surface hinge lines a little deeper, to add just a little more realism to the model. I also added blisters to the top of the wing from bits of styrene. However, I only discovered After I had painted the model that they were the wrong shape (they should be more rounded, not so rectangular)! Now, it was finally time for paint.

I painted the model with AeroMaster’s US Dark Sea Blue, and after an uneventful painting session, I set the model aside for about a week for the gloss paint to fully cure. Then, I started decaling. I had originally planned on doing the a/c as #11 from VF-85 on the USS Shangri-La. However, when I acquired a picture of what I believe to be #11 (many thanks to Andrew D, The Jolly Rogers Guy… J ), I realized that it was actually a -1D! So, since I had already added the lightning bolt and number decals, I decided to stay within VF-85 and do one of the a/c in the background of the photo, which was a -1C. I carefully removed the # 11 decals, and used decals from my spares box to add the new numbers- 65. The kit insignia decals were used, since they have the correct shade of insignia blue.

Once all the decaling was finished, I started the weathering process. I added some minor paint chipping according to the photo, and then the model was sealed with Testors Dullcote. The flat finish was sanded with very fine sandpaper to give it a more semigloss finish, and then final weathering was added with pastel chalks.

The last details to be added were the cannon barrels, antennas, formation lights from MV lenses, and some detailing on the interior of the canopies such as the opening gear and pilot’s armor glass. And with that the model was finished! This was a fairly easy conversion, and though a few things could have gone better, I think it ended up looking pretty good…

Until next time,


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Photos and text © by Josh Kaiser