Bill Cross reviews THE super-detailer's book by THE authority on the Vought F4U-1 Corsair. Dana Bell has written the ultimate guide to the cockpit to satisfy information junkies and anyone looking to improve any Corsair model.

I'm not the only modeler to argue that the Tamiya line of 1/32nd scale kits of the Vought F4U-1 are not just the finest aircraft models ever released, but perhaps the finest styrene models ever released. The kits include virtually every detail that everyone but the most-demanding super-detailer could require (except the wing guns, which Tamiya renders as just holes without recessed barrels). Since the first kit of the "Birdcage" canopy Corsair was released in 2013, a number of after-market upgrades have been added, improving the instrumentation (Barracuda Studios), tires (various resin manufacturers), gun barrels (which Tamiya could have handled with another small sprue), as well as masks, decals, resin engines, and even a hydraulics harness for the wheel well.

Those of us who have built one or more of these Tamiya kits have relied on the two books about the Corsair family written by aircraft writer Dana Bell, perhaps the single most-knowledgeable authority on American Interwar and World War Two Pacific Theater aviation. These books were aimed both at the aviation enthusiast market AND modelers, but as he writes in the introduction to his latest book,  Rivet Counter Guide #1: Corsair Cockpits F4U-1 Family, so much information has come to light that it's time for a book aimed mostly at modelers, especially super-detailers, whom he identifies positively as "rivet counters."

While the term is often flung at modelers who want more detailing than you do, Bell embraces the rivet counter epithet, saying they are "fascinated by the technical minutia of a subject," and "have an appreciation of each detail for its own sake." In the spirit of the decade of time Mr. Bell has spent on the Corsair family, he urges us to enjoy the subject "without the need to nitpick the efforts of other modelers." When it comes to Corsairs, it will be hard moving forward NOT to be a rivet counter with such excellent source information.

I would argue that, even if you are content to build your kits right out-of-the-box, you can't help but enjoy Dana Bell's books, especially this one. The amount of information is nearly total: ever wonder what the various gauges are in the instrument panel? Or what color to paint the oxygen bottle behind the pilot's seat? There are pages of B&W photos taken of every aspect of the cockpit, often portions of larger photos taken by folks who sadly didn't look ahead to imagine model airplane junkies wanting to know just what the switch above the thingy over there might be. Taken from the company's manuals, the photos have that "just the facts, Ma'am" quality of industrial production during the time when American know-how could produce anything somebody could imagine.

The book itself is divided into sixteen essential chapters:

  • XF4U-1
  • Birdcage canopy
  • Birdcage armor
  • Raised cockpit canopies
  • Seats
  • Gunsights
  • Eyebrows
  • Main panel
  • Rudder pedals
  • Bomb windows
  • Joy stick
  • Left console
  • Right console
  • Radios
  • Colors
  • Serial listings
One of the facts that has emerged from Bell's research on the plane is that serial numbers were not issued sequentially as the aircraft were built. To help sort this out, a complete list of Vought, Brewster and Goodyear planes is included.

In conclusion, I would recommend that anyone who is building a Corsair secure a copy of this book. It's rare that one book can so thoroughly improve a build. This is that book.

Copies can be purchased from David Doyle Books: Please be sure to mention you saw the book reviewed on Aeroscale.



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