UPDATE: Additional photos, some formatting fixes, one or two additional thoughts
Tamiya’s next 1/32 kit has broken cover, and I believe Marcus Nicholls deserves credit for sharing the first photos of the new F4U-1D Corsair chilling at the Tamiya booth at the Shizuoka Hobby Show.
While the -1D is hilariously being greeted with yawns of disappointment, I find it fascinating in a number of regards. And so, as I’ve done in the past, I wanted to share some quick thoughts and speculation about Tamiya’s latest.
One Precedent Holds
Tamiya has a now well-established history of releasing new 1/32 scale kits at the Shizuoka Hobby Show in odd-numbered years. In 2009 it was the Spitfire, followed by the Mustang in 2011, Corsair in 2013, and Mosquito in 2015.
Less than a week ago, I was wondering whether this precedent would hold. The new Shizuoka kits typically make themselves known a couple of weeks before the show, but this year April came and went with no news.
But it did hold. Kind of. We do have a new 1/32 kit debuting at Shizuoka in an odd-numbered year. We do not, however, have a new 1/32 subject.
Two Precedents Fall
To date, Tamiya’s “odd numbered years Shizuoka” precedent (really need a catchier name for this) has seen us graced with entirely new subjects. That is not the case this year. Tamiya has done the Corsair before, and the -1D is just a variant. So, in that sense, the precedent did fall.
Another precedent to fall is the one that we might call the Nemo principle. Tamiya has a tendency to “just keep swimming”. What’s past is past, and never revisited. Once Tamiya moved on to the Mustang, the Spitfire variants stopped. Once they moved on to the Corsair, no more Mustangs.
Going back to the Corsair after they’ve released the Mosquito is only the second instance I’m aware of where Tamiya has gone back to revisit a subject. The other being the Zero, which has some other peculiarities in both 1/32 and 1/48.
Don’t Get Your Hopes Up for that P-51B
Just because Tamiya has gone back to the Corsair, I wouldn’t suddenly look for them to get responsible with variant coverage. We likely have all the Spitfires and Mustangs we’re ever going to get from them. Same with the Corsair, most likely. As much as I would love to see an F4U-4, I just don’t think it’s in the cards.
*The F4U-4 is covered in the booklet Tamiya includes with their Corsair kits. Which makes it at least possible. But I still wouldn’t put any money on it.
Modelers are Whining Children
Jesus. There’s so much bitching out there about how Tamiya won’t release this variant or that variant of their subjects. The F-16D, P-51B/C, Korea-era F-61, Spitfire Vc, Spitfire XIV, etc. It is a tendency of theirs to leave those hopes high and dry. And along comes the F4U-1D, which is literally the first sign of going back to pick up additional variants, and it’s whining over how disappointing this is, either because modelers wanted something new, or wanted a variant of a different subject, or because the -1D is boring…
Am I a bit miffed that I’m not currently drooling over a new 1/32 Tamiya P-47? Sure! But I’m still jazzed as hell for the -1D. It deserves to join the -1 Birdcage and -1A and round out the trinity, as it does in 1/48 and 1/72. It completes the Corsair’s WWII narrative nicely, and with the overall gloss sea blue, big white markings and underwing HVARs, has a nicely differentiated look from the earlier variants.
The funny thing is…everyone basically assumed the -1D would be in the cards. If it had come along in-line with the other Corsairs, no one would have batted an eye. But because of the expectations that come with the precedents Tamiya has (knowingly or unknowingly) established, it comes along now, and people are quick to dismiss it as lazy.
The F4U-1D is an Engineering Layup
The differences between the F4U-1A and -1D are quite minor, and from a modeling perspective, consist of the following: HVAR rocket tabs on the wings, a blown single-piece canopy that omitted the two longitudinal frames of the -1A, two belly pylons vs. the single found on the -1A, and…that’s about it. There was a new variant of the Pratt & Whitney R-2800, but it’s the same one fitted to late -1As and I don’t believe (and am too lazy to check) there are substantial visible differences.
Basically, a new canopy, a new sprue for the additional parts, and that’s it. The -1A already has provisions for the rocket tabs molded into the wings for crying out loud.
NOTE: Pics show that there is a bit more to it than that. It looks like we’re getting a new canopy, new flaps (with the kick step in them), a new prop, and new outer wings, as well as the HVARS, drop tanks and so on. While the -1A has filled holes for the rocket tabs, it looks like the -1D has additional detailing for the tab reinforcement plates. I’m not anywhere close to my -1A kit at the moment though, so I can’t immediately confirm.
Likely a Delayed Release
I would bet good money that this kit was engineered at the same time as the F4U-1A. It’s possible that molds for the additional parts weren’t cut until recently, but the rest of the work was almost certainly done in-line.
So why is it only being released now, in 2017? Why wasn’t it released in 2014?
I think it comes down to timing. The Birdcage was released in the summer of 2013. The -1A didn’t show up until over a year later, in September 2014. And the Mosquito landed in summer 2015. Shoving the -1D between the -1A and Mosquito wouldn’t have made sense – there were only five months between the Corsair hitting retailers and the Mossie being announced.
So the question becomes…why did it take so long for the -1A to drop? Were there delays? Maybe. But I’d guess that all three Corsairs were designed at the same time given the massive commonality of parts. Another possibility – lessons were learned from the Spitfire, so far the only other Tamiya 1/32 kit to get three variant releases. The Mk.VIII and Mk.XVI were released within about six months of each other, and if the XVI didn’t sell as well, I could see conclusions being drawn from that.
Still, there was ample time to have introduced the -1D sometime in 2016, and it wasn’t.
Is the -1D a Holding Action?
Why are we seeing the -1D now? Precedent pointed to a wholly new 1/32 subject. And maybe therein lies the answer. This is complete speculation, but what if that new subject isn’t quite ready? What if the -1D is a gap filler? It wouldn’t surprise me.
A Second Mossie (Still) Seems Unlikely
I’m still going to say that we likely will not see a second Mossie variant. Despite all the clamoring beforehand, I just haven’t seen that many built. It’s a fraction of the Spitfires, Mustangs and Corsairs. I don’t know that there’s huge clamoring for more.
But the release of the -1D also makes the prospect of a second Mossie less unlikely that it was yesterday. Who knows?
What Comes Next?
At this point, I think the action will move to 1/48 for the rest of 2017. Odds are good that we will see a second F-14 variant (there are provisions in the F-14A for both F-14B and F-14D variants, so who knows which will drop), probably in September. We may also see a 1/48 Ki-100 following on from last year’s Ki-61.
In 1/32 land, I’d guess we’ll see a new subject next year. But I’m less confident in that given the way precedent has kind of blown up.
What could that new subject be? I’m still standing behind my predictions of a P-47, Me 262, or a wildcard F-14. The latter would potentially explain a delay and the release of the Corsair as a holding action.
Another wildcard I’ve mentioned before is the Ki-61, given the 1/48 tooling and the access to a recently restored sample that that kit was based upon. But I’m not at all confident that the Tony would bring the kind of volume Tamiya seems to go after in its subject-picking for 1/32.
Time to wait and see!