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by Stephen Coomer
Photos by Grant Brummett

When ParkZone introduced its Corsair with retracts and working flaps, I was excited at the possibilities it would create for detailing. I had previously taken the company’s Bf 109G in an Erich Hartmann paint scheme and “corrected” it to be properly detailed and marked for Hartmann at the time of his 200th kill. With this approach, I began researching the victim of my newest effort.

I have always been an admirer of the war-era nose art that flourished on Pacific Theatre aircraft, and now I had a canvas with which to work. I found some interesting artwork on a website for VMF-251, which was an active U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) squadron in the South Pacific.

The artwork that I found was not for the real VMF-251 squadron. It turned out that the artwork belonged to a fictitious squadron calling themselves the Buccaneers and existing within the confines of an online Combat simulator. The artwork that captured my eye was this fine example being used by that group.

Quite a catchy piece of artwork the group found or created. After several attempts to contact them, and no Web postings for more than three years, I pulled the image to use on the nose of my F4U Corsair. After some work with a Testors decal maker, I resized the image and a decal was born. Another decal will be discussed later.

Next began my research of the real VMF-251. That was an excellent lesson in Pacific Theatre operations and an opportunity to expand my knowledge of USMC history. VMF-251 began life as VMO-251 flying F4F Grumman Wildcats in support of reconnaissance and observation efforts. The group’s history included performing critical recon in preparation for the Guadalcanal campaign. My focus was after the USMC group’s transition to F4U Corsairs so I could portray a member of the unit.

Work on the ParkZone 6080 Corsair could finally begin. The first thing I eliminated was the inaccurate color scheme. The colors may have accurately portrayed a Navy aircraft, but I wanted a Marine warrior.

With Testors paint, I coated the upper surfaces in Testors’ Dark Sea Blue FS15042, and the transition areas in Intermediate Blue FS35164. The undersides were painted flat white with Intermediate Blue outer wings. The color scheme was for 1944-1945 USMC Corsairs courtesy of Vought Aircraft archives and Squadron Signal Publications archives. Zinc Chromate Green adorned the cockpit’s interior, all wheel wells, and the interior panel areas.

The cockpit was somewhat lacking. This is obvious from the following pictures showing the cockpit less its pilot bust, and the hapless (and legless) aviator. It was time to begin the next phase of work: the cockpit reconstruction.

Putting a 3-D cockpit into the ParkZone Corsair was easy because of the amount of foam in the fuselage. The trick was to construct a cockpit that would provide the missing structure, but not interfere with the servo placement for the elevators and rudder/steerable tail wheel. The surgery commenced with cutting the area of the cockpit into a rectangular shape that would dictate the dimensions for the new drop-in. The resulting foam slug and the new hole can be seen below.

The ParkZone Corsair’s cockpit was somewhat lacking, as seen in the above pictures that show the cockpit without its pilot bust and the hapless (and legless) aviator.

(L-R) The resulting foam slug and the new hole can be seen above; the seat back was salvaged from the basic foam seat; the shell was built using balsa and glue.

With the initial carving complete, it was time to add the new paint and correct the paint lines from the original paint scheme. The result of that work was a factory-fresh F4U in USMC 1944 colors with the proper insignia for that time period. I added weathering and battle fatigue that the airframe would have suffered as part of the island-hopping campaign that established many Marine legends. The floor of the new cockpit required the pilot to have his legs cut at the mid-thigh line to be in the correct seating position. I found a WWII USMC/Navy cast resin figure, but it was only a torso and a bust. New legs were “borrowed” from green plastic toy soldiers.

With the painting complete, the cockpit was created using many of the available references that supplemented World War II aviation reference books. The cockpit evolved as shown in the following photos.

(L-R) The gunsight/weapons boxes were carved from balsa; the instrument panel was made using a personal photo of a real one; the floor of the new cockpit required the pilot to have his legs cut at the mid-thigh line to be in the correct seating position.

(L) Side ribs were added along with the throttle quadrant and the reflector sight plate. A WWII USMC/Navy cast resin figure was found but was only a torso and bust. Legs were “borrowed” from green plastic toy soldiers. The resulting paint and glue work gave Lt. Ford the look and “feel” of a typical USMC pilot of the era. The brown flying cap was Air Corps issue but lends itself as a good fit.

Weapons 101

When the cockpit was complete, it was time to make the aircraft a true warrior. I needed to create a close air-support airplane with rockets. I decided to make rockets and add gun barrels and a pitot tube to the wing. Becoming a rocket scientist was not part of the plan—or so I thought.

The 3-inch Forward-Firing Aerial Rocket (FFAR) on the full-scale aircraft was used to punch bunkers and help beat back the defenders. When these proved to have less-than-desirable results, the Marines acquired an improved version that used a naval 5-inch-high explosive or armor-piercing round mated to the same 3-inch rocket motor.

I used my engineering prowess and SolidWorks 3-D software to model a scale version of the 5-inch FFAR. A fixture was created to standardize the pylons on the rocket bodies so my wing mounting holes would be consistent, and the rockets would not be dedicated to a given wing station. The following photos illustrate the process, and the SolidWorks drawing I worked from is visible in the background.

(Clockwise from top left) The 5-inch shells were made and painted in primer; the rocket bodies were cut from dowel rod to the required length to match the overall length. The fin locations were marked and the fins were cut from styrene sheet plastic. The fins are glued and dried before final painting occurs. Note the holes in the body for the pylons and straps.

Top: Here the production line comes together. The airfoil-shaped pylons were added to the rockets on the left using a jig. The pylons and guide barbs can be seen scattered on the drawing. Left: The gun barrels were added by machining some aluminum to the correct diameter and bore and inserting them into the false gun port openings in each wing. Right: Using the jig, the front and rear pylons were attached after the straps had been attached. Strap reference lines help ensure the pylons line up correctly in the wing sockets for all eight positions.

Wing Detailing

The ParkZone Corsair wing with retracts and flaps is nicely done. Its only drawbacks are weak flap hinges and the lack of a detailed wheel well opening. ParkZone made the wheel pockets to fit the retracted E-flite units and the supplied wheel and tire combination. No provision for functional, or even non-functional, doors was made for the main gear or the tail wheel.

The strut doors, with their unique shapes, were made to maintain contact with the gear struts via magnets. Although it’s a novel arrangement, it is not representative of the actual aircraft door functions.

Fortunately for my plans, Flyzone introduced a Corsair that was a nearly identical scale and had a well-engineered retract assembly that included working doors and detailed wheel wells. Because of the inability to fit the entire units into the ParkZone wing, pieces from these assemblies were incorporated to give my Corsair the look I wanted.

The main doors were glued into their open positions, along with vestiges of their actuators. The main struts were highly modified RC Lander oleo assemblies. These came with machined aluminum hubs that included brake drums and working brakes. The weight penalty was deemed too great to incorporate the brakes into this airplane.

The ParkZone wheels were retained and opened to the correct axle diameter for the RC Lander struts. Tires were another point of detail that created too much work to achieve. To get the diamond tread typical of a land-based Corsair, I needed to narrow a pair of available wheels from Du-Bro. The foam tires were excellent, but came in hubs that would not work. They were too wide by nearly three full diamond patterns, so I used my mill and Dremel tool to correct this.

I individually chucked each wheel, and used a grinding wheel on my Dremel to remove material via the vertical and cross feeds on my mill. The result was a correct-width tire of the correct tread mounted onto rims that represented the land-based version of the Corsair, and can be seen in the following photos.

(Top) RC Lander sprung oleos with Du-Bro tires on the PZ rims; (bottom) side view showing FZ tailwheel.

The Final Details

After creating this example of a war-weary fighter, I needed to finalize the squadron markings that distinguished it as part of VMF-251. After locating badges for VMO-251 and VMF-251 designations, the choice was obvious that this should be a VMF aircraft.

The author shows off the bottom of the aircraft.

The finished ParkZone Corsair.

One of the greatest disappointments to me is to see a factory-fresh paint job on a warbird that is displaying combat kills or mission chevrons. This was what drove me to the level of detail I added to the ParkZone PZ6080 Corsair. The aircraft is armed, manned, and outfitted to fly. With nine kills displayed, it would have been unconscionable to leave the factory paint job alone.

Aside from a few select German aces in WWII, no airplane retained its factory cleanliness for long if it was used in combat. Paint chips, grime, oil leaks, dirt and mud on the tires, and the resultant splatter from damp landings, dents and dings, and general wear and tear from repeat servicing, all took their toll. I have attempted to represent the weathering that occurred in real life to a fighter that saw action.

There are several excellent volumes in my personal library that contain great sources for the details I have modeled. Those books, along with some websites dedicated to the F4U Corsair, were the source of my inspiration. The rest was the careful application of paints, washes, and even pencil to create the panel lines, screw head paint chips, and panel edge chips. LE paint chips, propeller chips, and wing walk scuffing and discoloration were all added using various photos as a guide.


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The realism of the build is fantastic. Great work and excellent write up.

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