Hasegawa 1/48 A6M3 Type 32 Zero

Model, Text and Photos by: Tony Bell



The A6M3 Type 32 Zero differed from its older siblings in that it had the folding wing tips removed and fared over. A more powerful 1,113 hp Sakae 21 engine, two speed supercharger, and larger propeller were introduced in order to boost performance. The roll rate was improved, but in spite of the uprated engine, the rate of climb and service ceiling suffered due to the reduced wing area. In the end, the performance of the Type 32 was disappointing and production was limited to only 343 airframes.

The Kit

It's Hasegawa - what do you expect?

Well, you expect fine, crisp detail, no flash, good fit, thin, clear transparencies and mediocre decals. And that's exactly what you get in the box. The parts are up to the typical high standard and, although in good register, the decals were nonetheless somewhat thick with the white areas being printed in the usual cream colour so often found on Hasegawa's decal sheets.

This particular release is the A6M3 Type 32 Zero, kit number JT18 featuring the usual lovely box art by Koike Shigeo, portraying an aircraft in the markings of the 2nd Flying group.

The Cockpit

Although there are several aftermarket sets designed to replace (Hawkeye Designs, True Details) or augment (Eduard) the kit cockpit, the detail provided in the box is quite adequate with a few minor improvements. The seat edges were sanded thin and the lightening holes on the seat back drilled out, and the edges of these holes thinned from behind for a more scale appearance. I airbrushed the cockpit parts Aeromaster acrylic Mitsubishi Interior Green followed by a coat of Future, a wash of burnt umber oil paint and an airbrushed coat of Polly Scale flat.

An aside on Polly Scale flat: I swear by the stuff, but it only works for me if I thin it about 50% with distilled water and strain it before airbrushing. If I don't do this, little boogers of semi-congealed Polly Scale will clog my airbrush and mar the finish on the model. Other than that, it is by far the best clear flat that I've come across.

Anyway, after spraying the flat coat I painted the various boxes flat black and everything was dry brushed with a light green-grey mixed from artist's oils. Various switches and knobs were then picked out with red, silver white and gloss black. I used a silver Prismacolor coloured pencil to draw some scuff marks and chipping.
The instrument panel was painted Interior Green and then dry brushed, and each instrument was punched from the kit decal, applied individually and finished with a dab of five minute epoxy. The same method was used for the instruments on the side consoles.

The final addition was some belts from Eduard's WWII Japanese seat harness set which were painted Testors Leather enamel. I later discovered this was incorrect, the originals being a combination of tan and brown instead of just brown. Oh well, life goes on.

The Engine and Cowling

The engine is nicely detailed but not very visible, hidden as it is within and behind the tight cowling and spinner. The engine was painted Tamiya satin black and dry brushed with Humbrol Metalcote steel, with ignition wires added from copper wire painted red-brown.

The cowling is a cleverly cast single piece with heavier than normal mould parting lines. After cleaning these up with files and nail boards, I airbrushed the cowl with a 50-50 mix of Tamiya flat blue and flat black which I then buffed with an old t-shirt to give it a semi-gloss sheen. The paint in the recesses remained flat, giving the panel lines sufficient contrast so that a wash was not necessary.

I drilled out the holes in the cowling for the exhausts which were replaced with Moskit metal pieces. I set the engine and cowling aside until after all the rest of the painting was complete.

The slots in the fuselage just behind the cowling were carefully opened up by thinning from the insides with a Dremel tool. Pieces of black painted sheet styrene were glued inside the fuselage to prevent daylight from peeking through the slots.


The cockpit was trapped between the fuselage halves which were glued together with Tamiya liquid cement. The gun trough insert just forward of the canopy required a bit of filling and sanding to get it to fit properly and as a result a few panel lines had to be rescribed.

I attached the upper wing halves to the fuselage first, applying liquid cement to the wing roots from the inside. I did this to preserve the panel line at the root and avoid the need for rescribing. Once the upper wing root joints were dry, the single piece lower wing was attached with liquid cement. The fit of this piece was good, except at the aft end under the fuselage, which required filling, sanding and rescribing to get it to blend in properly. After painting the area on the fuselage under the rear canopy interior green and adding an ADF loop made from a strip of pop can aluminium, the fore and aft sections of the canopy were attached with liquid cement applied sparingly to the edges. Once it was dry, I masked the canopy with Tamiya tape and tacked the sliding portion in place with Microscale masking fluid.The canopy was very thin, very clear and fit perfectly. In my opinion, Hasegawa is second to none when it comes to the quality of their transparent parts.

I replaced the wing machine guns with hypodermic tubing. I filled the machine gun openings with stretched sprue plugs and re-drilled them, first by drilling a pilot hole the same diameter as the tubing, and then drilling a shallower hole the final diameter. I then cut lengths of hypo tube with a cutting disk and Dremel tool and inserted them into the holes. After cleaning up the leading edges with sandpaper, I rescribed the panel lines that wrapped around from the top of the wing to the bottom. For some reason this is one area that is ignored by most modellers, and consequently is one of the first things I look for at contests and shows.

Before attaching the horizontal stabilizers, I carefully scored the elevator hinge line from underneath until I had cut about half way through. I then ever so gently bent the elevators down and fixed them in place with some liquid cement, taking care to get both at the same angle. I then glued them to the fuselage, lining them up with the wings to make sure they were square. The fit here was perfect, requiring no filling or sanding.

Painting, Decals and Weathering

Being no great fan of Hasegawa's decals, I elected to paint the national insignia and fuselage stripe. I mixed the red for the hinomarus from Tamiya gloss red and flat brown, sprayed them and covered them with masks cut from frisket paper using an Olfa circle cutter. I then mixed Tamiya blue and white to match the fuselage stripe decal. I applied the decal to some frisket and carefully cut around it to duplicate the shape, airbrushed the blue around the fuselage and masked it off with the frisket stripe.

I am an adherent of the often criticized technique known as pre-shading. While I agree with the critics that this technique can lead to overdone, cartoonish looking models, I also think that when done subtly, it lends depth and a degree of interest to what would otherwise be boring and monochromatic paint schemes. And how much more boring and monochromatic can you get than an overall grey aircraft?

I started by airbrushing Tamiya semi gloss black along all of the panel lines. I did this all in one sitting, and due to the fiddly nature of the panel lines on the wing and forward fuselage, I became well aware of the ergonomic shortcomings of my Paasche VL airbrush! After resting my right hand for a day, I then airbrushed Aeromaster enamel Japanese IJN grey over the entire model in several light, well thinned coats, allowing the black shading to just barely peek through.

At this point I removed the masks from the hinomarus and pulled up some large chunks of rising sun as I did so. Although the frisket adhesive wasn't very aggressive, it seemed to bond particularly well with the Tamiya paint.. I carefully masked around the hinomarus and re-sprayed the red to repair the damage. Oddly enough, the blue was unaffected.

After letting the IJN grey dry for a week, I coated the whole model with Future and applied the wing walk, tail number and data stencil decals. Having turned my nose up at the decals as they appeared on the sheet, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they went down with just a light application of Gunze Mr. Mark Softener. I learned from bitter experience on another project that the stronger solutions such as Microsol or Solvaset turn Hasegawa's decals into a wrinkled mess. The red fuel filler caps were punched from the kit hinomarus with a Reheat punch & die.

I kept the weathering to a minimum, applying a wash of burnt umber oil paint to the panel lines and adding a bit of paint chipping with a silver coloured pencil.
I airbrushed a coat of Polly Scale clear flat thinned with distilled water and strained through a fine steel mesh. I finished off by airbrushing some light cordite and exhaust stains with a mixture of Tamiya brown and dark grey, heavily thinned with rubbing alcohol.

Fiddly Bits

The wheel wells were airbrushed Gunze Aotake. While it looks acceptable, the next time I do a Japanese subject I think I will replicate the Aotake by undercoating with silver, followed by a coat of clear blue, much like the original was done. The landing gear legs and wheel hubs were painted semigloss black with Bare Metal foil oleos. Electronic wire-wrapping wire was stripped and used for the brake lines. Short lengths of insulation were left on to represent the couplings and strips of Bare Metal foil were used to represent the straps that attach the brake lines to the gear legs.

After filing flat spots on the tires, I brush painted them Aeromaster acrylic tire black and glued them to the legs with five minute epoxy, allowing me the opportunity to get the flats to sit properly.

The propeller and spinner were dipped in Future, allowed to dry for about 30 minutes and then buffed with SnJ aluminum polishing powder and a shoe cloth. The backs of the prop blades were sprayed flat black, and the stripes on the prop tips added from bits of decal cut from the kit hinomarus.

I replaced the pitot tube with steel hypodermic tubing inserted into a length of stretched styrene tube painted IJN grey and glued into a hole in the port wing tip. Also made from steel wire were the landing gear indicators which were glued into holes drilled in the wings.

The final touch was to paint the position lights, first Humbrol no. 11 silver and then Tamiya clear red (port) and clear blue (starboard).

The End

Whenever I'm starting to suffer from AMS (Anal Modeller's Syndrome, as I like to call it) I find that the perfect cure is to tuck into a nice high quality Hasegawa or Tamiya kit and do it up out of the box, or close to it. The Hasegawa Type 32 A6M3 Zero is the perfect antidote, with more than adequate detail, better than average fit and a simple but attractive paint scheme. As a final note, this model placed second in its split category at Chicago's 2001 IPMS USA National Convention, while first place went to another Hasegawa Type 32 A6M3 Zero in exactly the same markings! As the saying goes, "fools seldom differ…"

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I'm sorry, but since the review has been published that product appears to have gone out of production.