JoHan 1/72 F4U-1 Corsair




$ cheap


Two aircraft


Steve Mesner




Jo-Han is--or was--noted primarily as a model car and promo maker, but back in the 1970s, they tried their hand at a series of six 1/72 model airplane kits. For a first effort into a new field, these kits were surprisingly good. All featured options to build two different airplanes. Some, such as the Corsair reviewed here, accomplished this only with decals. Others were more ambitious. The P-47 could be built as a bubbletop or razorback, while the A6M Zero could also be finished as a floatplane Rufe!

The Jo-Han Corsair’s options were decals to build the mounts of aces Ira Kepford or Gregory Boyington (the semi-fictitious #86 “Lulubelle,” which was not Boyington’s “personal” airplane), but herein lies a small problem. The Kepford and Boyington Corsairs were F4U-1As, whereas the Jo-Han kit, with its wing center section pylons and underwing 5-inch HVARs, is clearly an F4U-1D.

Just to confuse matters a bit more, the kit’s canopy has the two horizontal overhead frames, which means that if it’s an F4U-1D, it’s an early one! This means to build an accurate model from the kit, you have three choices:

    1. Build it from the box as an early F4U-1D.
    2. Remove the underwing pylons and leave off the rockets and build it as an F4U-1A.
    3. Remove the canopy overhead frames (or replace the canopy with Squadron vac glass for the Hasegawa F4U-1D) and build it as a “normal” F4U-1D.

Now that we have that out of the way, the rest of the kit is quite nice. Shape is excellent, and assembly is almost literally a snap. Panel lines are engraved--deeply engraved in a manner reminiscent of the Matchbox “mad trencher,” but those can be toned down with the application of a coat or two of easily sanded common office Wite-Out. A minor disappointment is the rudder--it's quite featureless, no hint of ribbing or structure.

There’s a pretty decent engine and prop, and the landing gear and wheels aren’t bad either. Wheel well detailing is nonexistent, as is a cockpit, and I’m not kidding. There’s a pilot’s seat, and that’s it inside. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kit that cried out more for an inexpensive True Details cockpit to be added. A neat little clear plastic stand for flying display is included.

Decals, as mentioned earlier, are for Kepford’s #29 of VF-17 and #86 of VMF-214, often incorrectly attributed to Boyington. Ordnance comprises 5” HVARs, a pair of bombs for the wing center section pylons, and the big centerline belly fuel tank often seen on both F4U-1As and -1Ds.

All things considered, this is a nifty little kit, ranking behind only the Tamiya and Hasegawa offerings in this scale, way ahead of the Revell, Airfix, and Hawk/Testor, and roughly on a par with the Heller. (The Heller looks a bit more detailed when finished, but is a good deal harder to build and not quite as accurate in shape.) I built the example shown around 1977, right out of college and before I got my airbrush up and running; the paint is hand-brushed Humbrol, over which I directly applied the kit decals (no gloss or flat coats). Weathering was done with Rub-N-Buff, dry-brushing it on with a very stiff brush. After all these years, the model still looks pretty good to me--from two or three feet away, anyway! I recently acquired another copy of the kit and am looking forward to building it “sometime” in the future.

If I’m not mistaken, Jo-Han turned out one last limited run of some of their airplane kits a couple of years ago. I don’t know if the Corsair was reissued, but they turn up with some frequency on eBay, usually selling for between $3 and $8. That’s a most reasonable price, but keep in mind with eBay that you’re also fighting shipping charges that seem to start at
about $4 these days. Best bet is to buy one being offered in conjunction with another kit (I’ve often seen them sold in a “set” with the Jo-Han Zero/Rufe) to amortize the shipping over two or more kits. At any rate, if you’re a builder and not a collector, don’t pay more for one than you’d have to give for the superior Hasegawa Corsair.

It looks like what it’s supposed to, goes together easily enough for a kid or beginner to build, and has enough accuracy and potential to satisfy even a pretty serious modeler. That makes the Jo-Han Corsair a pretty darn good little kit in my book.

Grab one and have some fun! Model on!

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