Building the Mincraft F4U-5N
by Rafe Morrissey
Minicraft's 1/48 scale F4U-5N is available online from Squadron (and Hasegawa's isn't!)
I’m sure the reaction many readers will have to an article on building the Minicraft F4U-5N will be, “why?”
To be sure, building this kit when the excellent Hasegawa rendition is easily at hand makes it a fair question.
It all started when my good friend and fellow Hyperscaler, Floyd Werner was lamenting that he had been asked to build the recently reissued kit to review for IPMSUSA. Knowing I am a Corsair fanatic and that I probably knew about the kit, Floyd wanted to know what he was in for. I must say that upon hearing that Minicraft had reissued the kit for the princely sum of $35.00, my first thought was, “Wow, what balls!” I was indeed familiar with the kit having eagerly torn open mine when it was first released in the mid 90s- to great disappointment. We Corsair fans are no stranger to disappointment, but even so, the subpar elements of the Mincraft kit were a real downer. I put mine far back on the shelf for a much later day. Suffice it to say that it had sat there until Floyd cam around asking about it. Based on what I recalled and the subsequent release of the much better Hasegawa kits, this is one kit I thought would not be reissued.
In any event, not wanting Floyd to venture forth alone, I decided I would build mine to commiserate, and see what I could do with it at the same time.
It had been a while since I had looked at the kit and all I really remembered was that it had issues. Looking at it again with the benefit of having recently completed a book on the Corsair, I quickly recalled why it had sat so long on my shelf. The kit consists of three trees of light gray plastic and one in clear. The detail on the kit is engraved but only just so. The lines are soft and very indistinct. My upper wing halves were very thin but were horribly warped. Fortunately, the plastic was quite soft so I was able to heat them in hot tap water and bend against the warp to get them back close to true.
Close inspection of the detail parts reveals a number of accuracy issues.
On the plus side, the axles on the gear struts are some if the finest I have seen on an injected kit, so I guess there’s always a silver lining.
Taking all this in, I had to decide what to address and what to live with. I didn’t want to take forever as I was hoping to get it finished at the same time Floyd completed his to photograph them together. That ruled out rescribing the panel lines and reshaping the intakes.
Fortunately, most of the other problems were easy to address with alternate parts.
I stole a prop out of an old Mongram F4U-4 (one of the few nice parts in that kit!).
I had an extra set of wheels from a Hobbycraft F4U-1.
Quickboost didn’t have an engine for the F4U-5 but did offer one for the F4U-7. I figured that would be close enough for this turkey.
True Details offers a lovely and relatively inexpensive cockpit for the Hasegawa F4U-5. While the need for it in the Hasegawa kit is debatable, it was essential for this kit, so I ordered one in the hopes I could make it fit.
I decided I could fill in the notches for the tail wheel in the fuselage and the doors without too much trouble and would see about the exhaust location.
My first priority was to assess the fit potential of the aftermarket items . If the engine and cockpit wouldn’t fit, I figured I could bail out of the project without having wasted too much time. Fortunately, the engine worked out fine after figuring out how much of the kit parts to retain. I ended up mating the rear cylinder bank to the resin part after grinding it flat on a sander.
The True Details cockpit was even easier. It was virtually a drop fit after removing a portion of the locating tab on the right fuselage half and grinding the rear cockpit opening to match the shape of the resin replacement bulkhead.
This task was easily accomplished with a Dremel grinding bit.
Confident that all the replacement parts would go in, I took care of the other corrections I wanted to make. I filled the incorrect lower exhaust indentation with talcum powder and Gorilla brand superglue. I highly recommend this combination for a quick and easily sanded filler. The Gorilla superglue contains a rubberized element that makes it very easy to sand and with the addition of the talcum powder, easier still. Be sure to get regular talc and not the cornstarch variety, though. The cornstarch stuff won’t work.
On the kit, the notch is almost in front of the location of the wing and should be underneath the fuselage behind the lower cowl flaps.
I used a needle file to create new indentations and refined the shape with sandpaper. I also inserted plastic card stock into the notches in the tail and faired over them with the superglue/talcum mixture to eliminate all traces. For the notches in the tail doors, I put a piece of Scotch frosty tape on the outer surface and used the superglue/talcum mixture to fill in behind. After running some accelerator over the filler, I was able to sand the filler on the inner surfaces of the door to eliminate the notches after a few minutes work.
For the most part, the rest of the construction was fairly normal. The fit of the wing to the fuselage wasn’t particularly good but was easily addressed with more superglue and talc. One advantage of this filler is that it can be scribed over with ease and has the same texture as the surrounding plastic so restoring obliterated panel lines wasn’t a problem.
The clear parts are extremely thick but a bath in Future helped them immensely. Unfortunately, the fit of the windscreen is very poor. I thinned the inner surface of the part by scraping with an X-Acto blade and used white glue to fair in the windscreen once I had the fit reasonably close.
I also made a couple of scratch built sway braces for the starboard inner pylon as I wanted to only add one drop tank, a common configuration.
I was quite concerned that my normal practice of priming the airframe would cause the indistinct panel lines to all but disappear. I went ahead anyway and was pleasantly surprised to see that they still showed up fairly well. For contest quality results, you really need to rescribe the whole airplane but I don’t plan to enter this in any contest. I have to confess that I am still working to achieve a realistic dark sea blue finish. I definitely wanted to show a difference between the flat paint used on the anti-glare panel on the top of the fuselage in front of the cockpit and the rest of the aircraft, so I first painted the plane with a custom mixture of Tamiya gloss paints.
After applying the kit decals, I made the mistake of flat coating the model to blend them in. This it did but really eliminated the sheen of the gloss paints. The decals themselves were OK but silvered despite being applied on a gloss surface. The squadron insignia beneath the windscreen also became very indistinct once placed over the dark blue paint. Repeated applications of Solvaset made things passable but I would use an aftermarket sheet next time. I painted the anti-glare panel with untreated flat Tamiya colors and this created some difference but not as much as I was hoping for. Next time, I am going to try a semi-gloss overcoat for the dark sea blue.
One aspect I really wanted to capture was the distinctive exhaust patterns on the Korean War-era Corsairs. I began by first establishing the streaks with Tamiya Light Earth mixed with white. I then traced the edges of the exhaust streaks with thin lines of Tamiya Flat Black and Red Brown mixed in a 50/50 ratio. Finally, I added vertical streaks of black pastel to replicate the interrupted pattern often seen on these machines. I also added some streaks of raw umber oil paint near the openings. I used a dark gray mixture to add some chipping on the leading edges of the wings and a silver Prismacolor pencil to chip the upper surfaces of the wings and around the cockpit and cowling.
It is hard to know quite how to sum up this build.
One could say it is a decent kit if you replace the prop, engine, cockpit and wheels. If you went ahead and replaced the fuselage wings and tail planes with the Hasegawa parts you then have the makings of a great kit. Given the numerous flaws and the high retail price of the reissue, I could never recommend it to anyone over the Hasegawa kit. On the other hand, I have to admit, I had fun working through all of the challenges and the final result doesn’t look horrible.
I certainly felt that all of the aftermarket upgrades were far more needed in this application than in the Hasegawa kit. I suspect that building Hasegawa’s version would provide a different kind of enjoyment and the final result would certainly look better with less work.
At the end of the day I guess each modeler has to decide for themselves whether the result is worth the effort.
As it turns out, though I started this build to “share the pain” with Floyd, he found it so flawed that he received permission not to finish the build. I guess no good deed goes unpunished, but I did have fun so it wasn’t all for naught!
Model, Images and Text Copyright ©
2011 by Rafe Morrissey
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