Vought Corsair F-4U
When I got this enquiry from a customer in the US I was immediately intrigued. Robert wanted to commission a build from me for the family of his business partner which they all thought would make a perfect gift for their Father. Robert had seen my F4 Corsair on Etsy and liked the way I had weathered the model, so he sent the enquiry along with this photo of his business partner’s father – Ens Leo D. Linhard standing alongside his own F4U in 1951.
I was immediately caught by the evocative image, and started to look into the airman’s history. I think the black and white image and the casual pose with such a beautiful plane really got me. He looks like a cross between George and Harry Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life – and just so young.
It turned out that Leo was a volunteer in Korea aboard the Carrier USS Bon Homme Richard where he few the pictured Corsair in 1951. Like a lot of veterans, Leo didn’t like to talk about his time in the Navy, but he had two deployments in Korea, the second aboard the USS Boxer.
From the Corsair he went on to fly F9F Panther jets, where according to records we found online he got shotdown in 1953 but luckily ‘…was rescued uninjured when his F9F-5 was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire, forcing him to ditch in WONSAN Harbour.’
With a bit of digging from the family and myself we managed to tie down the details for the plane and after a few emails back and forth the build was on.
I had already built the Hobby Boss Corsair and found it to be a nice kit. This time I got the F4U-4 kit which seemed to tie in with the aircraft listed for the USS Bon Homme Richard in the Korean war. Needless to say the numbers that came with the kit didn’t match with the numbers I needed for Leo’s plane – but I managed to find a set of after market decals that gave me to key numbers – Squadron VF-783, the large D on the tail and all the relevant Navy markings.
Initially Robert thought the aircraft had been black, but when we researched the dates it seems the only black Corsairs we could fined were night fighters based on land and flown by Marines. We did find a few colour photos of very similar aircraft from VF-783 that were clearly in the US Navy dark blue – so we decided to go with that.
The build went well – as I say it is a good kit and I would recommend it. The only thing that I would change is the wing fold. I found this a bit flimsy and if you show the wings folded the detail won’t be great. Fortunately Robert had asked for the wings flat, so the problem was minimised.
Internal detail on the kit is pretty good, so I painted the cockpit with Tamiya Cockpit Green and weathered it as usual. The engine is a nice little moulding, but mostly gets hidden inside the cowl. I painted it up in grey primer, and then used oil wash black and dry-brushed silver to bring out the detail.
Once the plane was all together, I got ready to paint it. The all-over blue seems like an easy option – but having researched the colour I wanted to make sure the blue was right. I usually use Tamiya acrylics on all my kits, but in this case I just couldn’t find a definitive mix online, so I decided to go for the Mr Hobby colour specified in the instructions.
I haven’t used these before and I boldly measured out some colour and mixed in Tamiya thinners as usual. Big mistake. The Mr Colour paint in question is lacquer based and the thinners just turned it into something like curdled milk. Fortunately I realised before spraying and a bit of research belatedly told me I needed different thinners. Once those arrived it all went down fine and the end result was good.
I had the picture as reference and could see that the plane was well weathered. Robert had liked the much more heavily weathered look of my previous Corsair, so I aimed for somewhere in between – true to the photo but a bit of license to bring it to life.
Before laying down the blue I had painted leading edges and key areas in bare metal using Alclad colours. I applied a fairly sparse sprinkling of masking fluid to block out some areas, and once the Navy blue was down I lifted these off. This always looks a bit off to me – so I then used a rag with a hit of the thinners on to blend out the colour a little and give a fade feel to hard worn areas. I then blended in a light spray of the blue to bring back in some colour and tone down areas where required.
I think the finished result works. I don’t have the patience to build in thousands of chips (kudos if you do) – but this gives that general feel of tired paint – and seems particularly appropriate for Pacific theatre subjects.
I had the aircraft numbers for Leo’s Corsair, but the kit decals weren’t evn close to this – so I had prepared myself to paint the numbers. Fortunately, Microscale do an excellent set for the exact squadron Leo was in, so all I needed to do was create his aircraft number ‘132D’.
The decal set came with aircraft numbers ‘202’ and ‘206’ – so I worked out that with a bit of judicious scalpel work I could combine the top of the 2 and the bottom of the 6 to make a 3. I combined that with the spare 2 I had, and again with the help of the scalpel made the number 1 out of the spare ‘Navy’ decal. It worked pretty well in the end, but I have to confess there was a lot of swearing along the way.
I am really pleased with the finished results – I think Leo would recognise his old Corsair, and I was sure his family would appreciate the result.
Because the whole process had started with such an evocative photo, I decided to send the model with a framed copy of the photo. It brings the plane to life and ties it to Leo, his amazing story and the whole cold-war era that brought his adventure about.
Leo’s family were kind enough to let me show Leo’s photograph and tell his story here. There are some wonderful photos of Leo on the carrier and enjoying a beer with his son Tom – and i was glad to play a small part in celebrating his life.
I was also moved to get this glowing review from Robert who originally contacted me – and you will have to forgive me for reproducing it again here:
“Colin doesn’t just build models, he knows the rich history of these fine machines and the product he delivers deserves more than 5 stars.
I asked for a model based on a friend’s father who was one of the lucky few to fly the Corsair F4U. Colin recreated a life-like version from an old photo of the very aircraft his father flew and obtained many details about the aircraft squadron, not to mention finding actual historic photos of the squadron in flight.
His attention to detail is extraordinary, a very solid communicator, and knows what customer service means.
Thank you Robert, Tom, his family – and above all Leo.
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