|KIT:||Special Hobby 1/48 F2G Super Corsair|
|PRICE:||£17.89 at www.hannants.co.uk|
|NOTES:||Short run with resin and vacuformed parts|
The threat of the Kamikazes revealed the United States Navy needed a shipboard interceptor capable of speeds in excess of 400 m.p.h. at altitudes under 10,000 feet to meet the threat. Goodyear, which was producing Vought Corsairs under license as the FG-1 proposed developing a variant that would use the new Pratt & Whitney R-4360 engine - a 4,360-cubic-inch, 28-cylinder engine that produced nearly twice the horsepower of the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 2,800-cubic-inch, 18-cylinder engine which was used by the standard Corsair. This was the most powerful piston engine ever installed in a single engine airplane.
Pratt & Whitney tested the R-4360 on F4U-1 Corsair, BuNo 02460. Testing two FG-1s - BuNo 13471 and BuNo 13472 - revealed the new Corsair sub-type would be capable of speeds close to 400 m.p.h. below 5,000 feet, and would have a climb rate of 7,000 feet per minute, which would allow the interceptor to reach 34,000 feet in less than 5 minutes. This was twice the rate of climb of the standard Corsair and faster than the new jets. The airframe was further modified by cutting down the rear fuselage and installing a bubble canopy from a P-47 on two other FG-1s - BuNo 14091 and BuNo 14092 - which Goodyear had previously proposed on the standard FG-1.
Unfortunately, by the time Goodyear and Vought were able to figure out how to cool the massive four-row engine, the war was over and there was no need for the Super Corsair, as it was known. In the end, only 15 F2Gs were built: five pre-production XF2Gs (BuNos 14691 - 14695), five F2G-1s (BuNos 88454 - 88458), and five F2G-2s (BuNos 88459 - 88463).
In the 1946 Thompson Trophy Race, former Naval Aviator Cook Cleland entered an FG-1 Corsair, which was outperformed by the P-39s and P-51s it raced against. After the race, Admiral William Halsey asked Cleland what it would take for a Corsair to win the Thompson. When Cleland replied that the F2G was the only version that had a chance, Halsey arranged for the Super Corsairs to be declared surplus, and Cleland ultimately acquired three of the five that were sold for racing.
Cleland won the 1947 Thompson race in F2G #94, with his partner, Navy test pilot Deck Becker, taking second place, establishing the F2Gs as the racers to beat. In 1948, both #94 and #74 were forced to drop out during the race when backfiring engines dislodged #74's air intake scoop in the third lap #94's scoop in the forth lap.
In 1949, Cleland’s team was ready with three F2Gs - Cleland’s #94, Becker’s #74, with Ben McKillen flying the new #57 which was not as radically modified as the other two, keeping full-span. Becker’s gear reduction box stripped it gears just after his qualifying lap and he was forced to dead-stick the airplane in for a landing. On race day it was a clean sweep for the Super Corsair when Cleland took first place - winning the Thompson Trophy for the second time - followed closely by Ron Puckett in F2G #18, while McKillen in #57 took third place. McKillen also took First Place in the Tinnerman Race.
Unfortunately, Bill Odom’s fatal crash cast a pall on air racing. With the racers now representing a technological dead-end, aircraft companies that had sponsored the racers dropped out and the 1949 Thompson Trophy Race was the end of the line until air racing picked up as “the world’s fastest motor sport” in Reno in 1964, where it was really just an exercise in nostalgia and entertainment.
F2G #57 was flown in public for the last time in June 1950, when Cook Cleland put on an air show at his airport in Willoughby, OH, in which he did an aerobatics demonstration in # 57. The airplane was then placed in storage as Cleland returned to active duty in the Navy during the Korean War. In 1964 Cleland - then stationed at a Naval Air Station in Alaska - became interested in making an attempt on the world propeller driven, land plane speed record, using #57. The President of the Martin Decker Corp. was willing to sponsor the attempt. Dick Becker and Chuck Toman then disassembled the F2G and shipped it to Pottstown, PA for a rebuild. Unfortunately, the Decker Corp. stored it outdoors where it deteriorate until the Corporation went bankrupt. Over the intervening years, the remains were purchased by three different individuals who were interested in restoring it, but this never happened as each was killed in turn in flying accidents. Finally in 1996, airplane was purchased by Bob Odegaard, who restored it to flying status in 1999. The airplane has since appeared at the Reno Air Races and air shows around the country, including the Planes of Fame show in May 2006, where I got to see this magnificent airplane put on an amazing aerobatics routine.
Outside of a vacuform conversion done by War Eagle to be used with the Otaki Corsair, and a resin conversion set done by Lone Star Models to convert the Tamiya Corsair, this kit by Special Hobby is the only 1/48 designed-for-the-purpose kit of the F2G Corsair that has been produced. Aviation Usk has done the airplane in 1/72, and there is a very good resin conversion set designed by Rodney Williams and produced by Obscureco to turn the 1/32 Revell Corsair into an F2G.
Modelers have long expressed interest in getting a kit of this version of the Corsair, and Special Hobby’s kit answers the desire. As it sits in the box, the kit makes up as Race 57 appears today, with an air intake that is different from what was used in 1949. This intake is the same kind used by Cleland on #94 and #74, so if one could get decals for either of these airplanes, creating a model of them would only involve clipping the wings. Alternatively, one can do a standard Navy F2G-2 by not using the intake. This version of the airplane will likely be released by Special Hobby in the future, since the wing comes with the six machine guns of the service version. The ports for the barrels and the shell ejection chutes have to be filled in to do the racer.
Unlike other recent Corsair kits, the flaps are molded in the raised position on this kit, which is a good idea since applying the sunburst on the wings would have been difficult with the flaps lowered. The kit provides resin parts for the 28-cylinder R-4360, and this looks very complete.
All the racing Corsairs were converted from the F4U-4/FG-4 airframe, not the FG-1 airframe many people have thought was used. Special Hobby has caught this and put in the correct cockpit with a floor.
The kit includes two very clear and sharply-molded vacuform canopies, which is good because this is a model where preserving the beautiful lines of the original means closing the canopy. With no visual distortion as might have been the case with an injection-molded canopy, this will allow the cockpit to be seen with the canopy properly positioned.
The decals are all correct. One has to wonder if the white will be opaque enough when put on over the scarlet red color. An interesting trick on the decals is that the lettering for “Sohio” is left open so that the lettering will match the red painted on the model when it is applied.
I have wanted a model of the Sohio #57 Super Corsair for as long as I can remember. This kit definitely fills the bill for me and goes to the top of the to-do pile.
Review kit courtesy of Hannant’s. Get yours at http://www.hannants.co.uk
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