SMER 1/72 F4U-1 Corsair






Two aircraft


Steve Mesner


Heller molds`


I donít know when Hellerís F4U-1A first appeared, but I do know that it was reboxed and sold under the Aurora name in the mid-1970s, so itís been around at least that long. More recently it has been sold by SMER of Czechoslovakia.  Kit numbers and prices therefore will vary. Current retail on the SMER boxing is $6.98, but Squadron regularly discounts that to $5.46 and often has it on sale for even less. Depending on boxing, you might even be able to beat that at a swap meet.

Letís cut right to the chase here: Does the finished model look like a Corsair? Yes, in fact, it does, as you can see even in the rather dark accompanying photo. In accuracy of outline and overall look, itís not the best 1/72 Corsair available, but itís far from the worst. Itís behind the Tamiya and Hasegawa, but clearly ahead of the Airfix, Revell, or Hawk/Testor. (Iíve never seen the Academy or Frog built, so canít comment on those.) Its closest competition might come from the long-defunct JoHan Corsair. The JoHan has overdone engraved panel lines; the Heller has fine raised ones. The Heller is more detailed, but the JoHan is slightly more accurate in shape and LOTS easier to assemble.

While the JoHan kit almost falls together, Hellerís Corsair will give you fits in the wing assembly. The outer panels are molded separately, perhaps to encourage you to build it with folded wings (no such instructions or wingfold detail is given, but at least the cut is made for you), but the outer-to-inner wings joints are quite nebulous; you can glue the outer panels in any number of positions, most all of them wrong. Dihedral is important in the overall ďright lookĒ of any airplane, and especially so in the case of the Corsair--get either too much or too little and your model looks like a cheap toy.

To get the wing assembled on mine, I flooded the outer and inner panel joints of one wing with Testor liquid cement, then mated the two, comparing the wing with good head-on drawings of the Corsair and noodling with the angle for quite a long time while the cement dried. Then I repeated the operation on the other side the next evening, after the first was solidly cured. This was a huge pain in the rump, and is what I most remember about building this kit today, some six or seven years later! If I were to build another one (and in fact, I very well might!), Iíd use good 1/72 drawings to construct a simple styrene or cardboard template of the upper surface of the Corsair wing, tip-to-tip, and use that to get everything in proper alignment. I would strongly advise not mating the wing center section to the fuselage until you have the outer panels on, just to make getting everything straight that much easier.

I donít recall any other particular problems with the assembly of this kit besides the wing. Thereís a cockpit of sorts, and a generic-looking engine. The propeller, wheels, and landing gear are all reasonably convincing, though not of course up to the standards of newer kits. The cowling is molded in two halves, a minor annoyance. Panel lines and surface detailing are handled by very fine raised lines that donít detract greatly from the appearance of the finished kit. Fabric areas of the flying surfaces are represented by very delicately engraved crosshatching, which in scale would represent something between chicken wire and fishnet. (Attention, model manufacturers: Please stop trying to represent fabric on model airplanes! Real airplane fabric is filled with so much dope that NO weave pattern of any kind is ever seen even in 1:1 scale! Just give us the ribbed effect where appropriate! Thank you!) This crosshatching gets filled in for the most part by a couple heavy coats of paint, and doesnít detract much from the appearance of the finished model.

Being a fan of overall Glossy Sea Blue Corsairs (if the truth were known, I just donít like painting the tri-color camo scheme!), I converted my Heller F4U-1A to a -1D by the simple expedient of sanding and polishing off the two pieces of overhead framework in the canopy to make the later style. (I ignored the -1Dís wing center section pylons and rocket mounting stubs; perhaps I shall add these someday.) After giving the whole thing a good squirt of Model Master Glossy Sea Blue FS15042, I masked off the forward fuselage antiglare panel and shot that in Testor Dullcote. This is how at least some of the real F4U-1Ds got their antiglares, too--a clear flat coat over the base paint! For markings I chose the distinctive arrows of VF-84 on the Bunker Hill from an old Micro Scale sheet. (Yes, I have photos of VF-84 Corsairs without the yellow noses!) Note that while I
painted my landing gear and wheels in GSB with the rest of the airframe, these should have been in a natural silver color at this particular time. (GSB wheels and gear would come on the -1 Corsairs at repaint time, not from the factory).

The SMER rebox of this kit that I bought just a couple years ago (box art and decals illustrated here) has Propagteam decals for two aircraft, Ira Kepfordís #29 of VF-17 and a RNZAF Corsair in tricolor camo. Iíve lost the box for the kit I actually built (I think it was an Aurora rebox) and canít tell you what decals came with that one. Is this a kit worth having and building? Well, if it were the only -1 Corsair available in 1/72, we could get by with it, as itís just barely good enough to justify aftermarket
detailing, rescribing, and so forth. If you want a really good Corsair model today, youíre better off starting with either the Tamiya or the Hasegawa kit. But if you have one of the Hellers in the back of the closet, or run across one or its Aurora or SMER reboxings somewhere at a really good price, give a thought to knocking one together out-of-the-box as a simple, fun project--Iíll bet youíve got extra Corsair decals laying around looking for a good home! I wouldnít recommend this kit for a youngster or beginner, though, unless they had at least some experience--and some help from you getting the wing together
straight. Model on!

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