Well, it’s official…ish. Yesterday Hobby Link Japan posted a product page for TAM60324, effectively spilling the beans about Tamiya’s latest addition to it’s formidable line of 1/32 uberkits.
Speculation has been raging about this kit since, well, the announcement of the Mustang two years ago. “What next?” has been a popular topic on forums across the internet, with everything from the Corsair to the Focke Wulf Fw 190, P-38 Lightning, De Havilland Mosquito and really just about any aircraft you can name thrown into the mix.
In recent months, speculation solidified into rumor. The next superkit would be the F4U Corsair. Specifically, as it turns out, the F4U-1 “Birdcage” Corsair, so named for it’s framed canopy.
It’s obviously too soon to speculate about the kit itself. I think we can all guess that it will be amazing, and push the envelope of engineering even further than the Spitfire and Mustang. But exact features? For those we’ll have to wait for the first test shots to make their appearance. Personally, I’m eager to see how they plan to tackle the wing fold.
Instead of speculating about the kit itself, then, I figured I’d put forward some thoughts on what it means and yes, start the speculation of the next big Tamiya release!
1 – NOBODY EXPECTED THE BIRDCAGE
That Tamiya’s next 1/32 release would be a Corsair has been something of an open secret for a month or two now. But I don’t think anybody saw that they would lead off with the birdcage. If I were a betting man, I’d have put my money on the Malcom-hooded F4U-1A, but when you stop and think about it, leading off with the birdcage makes perfect business sense.
The birdcage is, I would argue, the least popular of the F4U-1 variants. Mainly because it’s slightly “off” the iconic shape represented by the F4U-1A and F4U-1D. If Tamiya released all three at once, I promise you the birdcage would be the worst seller of the lot. By releasing it first, however, Tamiya could potentially get two or three kit purchases out of a modeler, where with a different release strategy, they might only get one or two.
2 – YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT THERE WILL BE F4U-1A AND F4U-1D RELEASES
The external differences between the F4U-1 Corsairs are minor in the extreme. A slight repositioning of the cockpit and the Malcolm hood being the prominent features on the -1A, and the frameless Malcolm hood and rocket tabs defining the -1D. It is possible that Tamiya could release a single kit that could be built as either the -1A or -1D, but I would bet on two separate kits. Look for them to follow over the 12-20 months following the July release of the birdcage.
3 – DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP FOR THAT 1/32 P-51B/C MUSTANG
Tamiya has a terrible reputation for offering a variant or two of a subject, then moving on, gaps be damned. In their 1/48 lineup, they completely skipped out on the P-47N Thunderbolt and the F4U-4 and later Corsairs. In 1/32, they could have expanded their Spitfire lineup to encompass the Mk.Vc and Mk.XIV with minor changes and new parts forward of the firewalls, but alas.
A P-51B/C may seem like a no-brainer, but it would take a new fuselage and new wing (or gun fairings at the very least). I’d still hoped, but now that the Corsair is coming, it’s likely that Tamiya has moved on.
4 – TAMIYA CONTINUES TO PURSUE THEIR 1/32 SUBJECT-PICKING STRATEGY
So far as I can tell, Tamiya’s 1/32 subjects are chosen primarily by two factors. First – popularity. Developing kits of this magnitude can’t be cheap, so they need to sell at volume. The Zero, Spitfire, Mustang and Corsair all fit.
Second – an opening. Tamiya doesn’t avoid competition, per se, but they do seem to have an eye for subjects that nobody has nailed. Then they swoop in with the definitive kit. Trumpeter offers 1/32 F4U-1 Corsairs, but they don’t have the greatest reputation, so Tamiya has one hell of an opening.
5 – LET THE SPECULATION BEGIN
I’m going to call it right now. Tamiya’s next 1/32 subject will be the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. And it will be released in the summer of 2015.
Why the Jug? Four reasons.
- First, with the Corsair, Tamiya will now have an exquisite Pratt & Whitney R-2800, the same engine that powered the Thunderbolt.
- Second, Tamiya already has a strong foundation to build from in their 1/48 Jugs, which remain the best P-47s in any scale.
- Third, the P-47 fits the popularity qualification. I’d say it’s as or probably more popular as a subject than the Corsair.
- Fourth, nobody has nailed the P-47. The Hasegawa kit is spartan and a bit lazy in its engineering. And the Trumpeter kit, while detailed, is an absolute slog to build, with fit tolerances that fall well short of its ambitious engineering. It’s basically the Mustang situation all over again.
Why 2015? Basically, precedent.
Since 2009, Tamiya has established something of a release pattern, with new 1/32 subjects dropping in odd-numbered years, and new 1/48 subjects in even-numbered years:
- 2009 – 1/32 Spitfire Mk.IX
- 2010 – 1/48 Fi 153 Storch
- 2011 – 1/32 P-51D Mustang
- 2012 – 1/48 Il-2 Sturmovik
- 2013 – 1/32 F4U-1 Corsair
The 1/32 follow-ons – the Spitfire VII and XVI and the PTO Mustang – tend to release about a year after the first variant. So I bet we’ll see the F4U-1A and -1D in 2014, along with something new in 1/48 scale. Then the Jug (fingers crossed!) in 2015.