Model, Text and Photos by: Mark Smith
I built the two Ki-46-III Dinah models seen here sixteen years apart: the brown Dinah (Marusan) in 1982 and the gray one (Tamiya) around 1998. Of course everything had to be redone or scratchbuilt or vacformed with the Marusan kit to bring it up to what were, at the time, "Monogram standards"! But building the Tamiya model was pure pleasure. The technology of these kits spans almost forty years. The subtleties of contour and line are much more faithfully captured by Tamiya, even though the older kit essentially looks the part. The molding limitations of the time have to be considered. According to my late friend Jay Frank Dial, famed artist Kikuo Hashimoto proudly directed the toolmaking of the Marusan kit in 1961, and for a long time it was the only large scale Japanese twin available in "quarter" scale, and was avidly pursued by collectors. I bought mine in the UPC boxing. The kit was sold as 1/50, and I have my suspicions it might be a little smaller; next to the Tamiya kit you can really tell the difference.
The Marusan model fit very crudely in almost all areas, but in retrospect, builders expected that then without thinking about it much. That is one area where tool-making has made life far easier. My favorite part of that build remains the redone cowlings with their scratchbuilt exhausts, vacformed flaps, and modified engines robbed from the Nichimo Sonia. The prop spinners started life as Monogram Zero parts. After all that hard work (ahh, youth), though, I have to note that the box-stock Tamiya model looks much more faithful in this area. And getting the Tamiya model finished took less than a quarter of the time. Aircraft modelers never had it better!
Both models have all the markings stenciled and airbrushed, and wear 17th Direct Command tail markings. This unit, stationed at Chofu at the same time as the famed 244th Sentai, operated Ki-46-IIs , IIIs, IIIkai fighters, and standard recon IIIs field-modified with 20mm diagonally-mounted cannon. These models represent the two main color schemes worn by the unit's Dinahs. The radio antenna masts were cut down on many of their planes, and this is reflected on both models.
It's not just the models that change. I am shorter on patience and eyesight and no longer can sustain the kind of concentrated interest that the earlier model required. More than that, I'm too spoiled to go back. And I finish fewer kits all the time. Ed and I used to joke that one day, the kits would come pre-assembled and painted. Don't look now, but here they are. Maybe we occasionally need to revisit and build some of those older and cruder kits...
Nah! What's Tamiya's next release,