Item: 1:48 F4U-5 Corsair
Stock Number: HBS80389
Price: $56.00 USD
Text and Photos by Rafe Morrissey
Description: All plastic injection molded kit including parts in gray styrene with recessed panel line and rivet detail and clear parts for canopy.
Advantages: Crisp moldings, folding wing option, fully detailed engine.
Disadvantages: Detail errors, wings incorrectly molded with fabric covering rather than sheet metal, front landing gear covers and openings poorly shaped, no ordinance, incorrect F4U-4 style seat pan.
Overview: HobbyBoss continues to lavish attention on the Corsair with a steady stream of kits covering the later versions of this great U.S. Navy fighter (as well as indications that earlier variants are contemplated). This has been a mixed blessing for fans of the bent-wing bird. On the plus side, it has been nice to have a new-recessed modern-tooled kit with innovative features like an option for folding wings. On the other hand, HobbyBoss has developed a reputation for being somewhat hit or miss on accuracy and their Corsair line is no exception. In the F4U-5, detail problems from the earlier variants are still present and some new issues have also cropped up. It will be up to the modeler to decide whether these problems make the new kit a non-starter. Unlike the F4U-4 series, with the F4U-5, there is also a modern tooled kit from Hasegawa to compete with. That kit has some issues of its own, so the decision will come down to individual preferences.
I guess I must be growing tender-hearted in my old age, because as much of a Corsair fan that I am and as disappointing as the errors in the HobbyBoss kits are, I can’t bring myself to write them off. None of the issues are insurmountable for a competent modeler and I think the kits will build into a respectable replica. My hope is that the comments below will highlight all the pluses and minuses so that each modeler can make their own determination.
The Good: On the plus side, HobbyBoss continues its pattern of crisp moldings and nice surface detail. The panel lines and rivets are clean and consistent and should accept washes and weathering treatments well. The decals in the kit appear to be a bit better than in previous kits that had size and shape issues with the markings. The registration and proportions look good here. The kit appears to conform to general dimensions for the F4U-5 and compares well to the Hasegawa kit which has generally been considered to be accurate in proportion. Some have suggested that the cheek intakes in the Hobby Boss kit are inferior to the Hasegawa kit. I have compared them side by side and while there are some differences I can see after a lengthy study, I don’t find the HobbyBoss kit objectionable. Of course, having built the Minicraft kit, almost anything is likely to compare better. HobbyBoss also has provided the correct engine which appeared in the F4U-5 series with a cylindrical bolted crank case. It is also far better detailed with separate cylinder banks and exhausts. The Hasegawa kit provides a single piece representing both banks of cylinders. If detail is your thing, the HobbyBoss kit definitely has the upper hand.
The Bad: From its first offering, HobbyBoss has poorly represented the shapes of the front landing gear covers and corresponding openings. No updates have been made in this kit. It is relatively simple to either source replacement covers from another kit or event trace them and cut new ones from sheet plastic but it would have been nice not to have to bother. I personally would not worry about reshaping the openings, as it would be virtually impossible to tell with the gear in the extended position.
HobbyBoss is also stingy with ordinance providing only a set of drop tanks. Given that the later Corsairs were focused on ground attack, there is really no excuse not to include some options. The less expensive Hasegawa kit provides a full suite of bombs and rockets. It also would have been nice to include the radar pod for the -5N night fighter version. Fortunately, all of these issues can be inexpensively remedied by stealing parts from an old Monogram F4U-4 kit which even includes the radar pod that production -4s never carried!
The Ugly: Sins of omission are one thing, but regrettably the HobbyBoss kit also has some errors that will require some real effort to fix. The most blatant error is the fact that fabric covering is represented on the outer wing panels. With the -5, the fabric coverings were replaced with sheet metal, so all that nice detail will have to go. I am hopeful that a few coverings of Mr. Surfacer 500 or Tamiya Dissolved Putty will be sufficient to eliminate the fabric covering while preserving the surrounding detail. This stuff sands pretty easy and other than drying time, the only additional task should be to clean out some of the surrounding panel lines. The kit provides separate doors for the gun bays but no interior details are provided. I guess this is a plus if the modeler wanted to add detailed open gun bays. The fabric detail is an unfortunate error but modelers should also keep in mind that the Hasegawa kits had some pretty serious mold flaws on the nose of their F4U-5 kits due to the use of mold inserts to cover different versions. Fixing them requires a similar if not quite as extensive effort.
HobbyBoss also incorrectly represents cockpit details by including the simple seat pan from the F4U-4 rather than the more elaborate seat and arm rests installed in the F4U-5. There is also no boot covering for the control stick so one will have to be fabricated from tissue or epoxy putty. Hasegawa’s -5 cockpit is not stellar but does include a separate seat. Upgrading to the much nicer and inexpensive True Details cockpit is probably the best solution for both kits.
Conclusions: So, what can I say here? The HobbyBoss kit is by no means perfect and the Hasegawa kit is generally more accurate and includes more options for underwing stores. At the same time, HobbyBoss provides a folding wing options not present on the Hasegawa kit and that kit has some molding issues of its own to deal with. The retail price of the Hasegawa kit was significantly lower than the HobbyBoss one but is also out of stock and given Hasegawa’s pattern of price increases, am not sure new pressings will be much less. Few of us pay retail and I got my HobbyBoss kit for much less than the retail price. Though slightly annoying, I find none of the detail challenges in the kit insurmountable and am actually somewhat eager to put one together. If nothing less than absolute accuracy and perfect fit are all that are acceptable to you, I would say wait to see if Tamiya tackles the later Corsair series. Otherwise, if you can get a good deal on one of the HobbyBoss kits, and are up for solving a few issues, give it a try.