Tamiya's 1/32 Zero

Model, Text and Photos by: Steve Jantscher

Part 1

Day 1 - Well I just took delivery from Roll Models a new Tamiya 1/32nd scale Type 52 Zero. First impressions are many, but all form around the adjective "awesome". Seven bags of plastic aircraft parts, a bag with two figures (sitting and standing), a bag with a stand, a bag containing the decals, belt material and a set of canopy masks (not die-cut). In addition to the aforementioned items, there are four blister packs attached to a cardboard insert that have separate metal, photo etch and composite parts along with a  mini-screwdriver and tube of grease. Oh, I almost forgot. There is one final detail part in it’s lone clear plastic envelope , and that’s the very fine metal antenna wire. I looked hard, but there just wasn’t a kitchen sink.

The 32 page instruction sheet is the first thing I examine and two things strike me about the upcoming construction of the kit. The first involves how I will try to break down the painting. The large number of small detail parts will greatly slow this process. I won’t be able to do what I like, and that is to spray as much of the built-up cockpit as I can in one color, before going back to pick out the details with other colors. The great detail included in the cockpit and engine require painting many parts as subassemblies. This will add greatly to the time required to build the kit. The second point that I appreciate, is the people at Tamiya have poured an awful lot of love for the Zero into this kit. They have attempted to make all control surfaces movable on metal (photo etch) hinges, as well as including an awful lot of detail that won’t normally be seen (ie. the back of the rear cockpit frame). While many of us in the West would have been very happy with a non-working new-tool of the Zero in this scale, Tamiya has gone the extra mile in making this a peerless model kit. Perhaps they also realize, that of all scales, 1/32nd almost requires a full and detailed cockpit.

After cleaning off the workbench (a Hasegawa A-4), I start cutting some sprue. My plan of attack at this point is to build it as the instructions call, in the same order. Yet there is a tug calling at me to jump ahead and start the engine or cockpit first. The initial few steps deal with the fuselage minus the cockpit. The fuselage sides show a few faint ejector pin marks that might be visible after assembly. A little thin CA glue and some sanding, and they’re gone. As an aside, the whole fuselage interior has stringer detail for those who like to know it’s there, without being able to see it.

Day 2 - This was the first big painting day. First I sprayed the inside of the fuselage Floquil Bright Silver. I like these paints because they dry fairly quickly and leave a finish as hard as rocks. Looking at the pictures from my references, it seems as if the aluminum finish was shiny. This could be the varnish overcoat. In any case, I didn’t feel that the called for Flat Aluminum (XF-16) was bright enough.At the same time I looked ahead through the instruction sheet to find other silver painted parts to paint at the same time. I didn’t want to start on the motor just yet, but I did assemble the gear box that goes on the back of the engine, as well as pick out those bulkheads that require one side in silver.

Setting that aside, it was time to delve into the “cockpit color” question. Tamiya makes a new color, simply called “Cockpit Green, XF-71”. I couldn’t find that so the next best thing was to do a little internet research, and a call to my friend, and Japanese aircraft expert Dave Pluth. He confirmed what I had already found, for Mitsubishi built aircraft, allied interior green is almost a perfect match (it needs to be a pinch darker). For Nakajima built aircraft, a “bamboo type color” would be best. At this time the builder should decide which camo scheme he or she is likely to choose, because that may help determine which color to pick for the cockpit. According to Ian Baker’s Japanese Naval Aircraft Colours and Markings in the Pacific War  a general rule of thumb held that Nakajima built Zeros in the green and gray scheme had their color demarcation line gently curving up from the rear of the wing to the front of the horizontal stab. It also states Mitsubishi carried their line straight back from the wing to the tip of the tail. Using this “formula”, Tamiya supplied marking schemes 1 & 2 are for Nakajima built model 52s, while scheme 3 (the one I like) is a Mitsubishi aircraft. So I choose the dark interior green color. It just so happens that I had a (now rare) bottle of Aeromaster Mitsubshi Interior Green which I used. I also picked out and made up as much of the cockpit as I could and painted that green at the same time.

Day 3 - I’ve spent most of today’s work at picking out the small detail color bits on the green and silver parts I painted yesterday. Tamiya has a color I’m not familiar with, X-32 Titanium Silver. In my books on the Zero, these parts are a yellow tint silver, so not having the color called for, I hand painted Tamiya Clear Yellow (X-24) over the Floquil Bright Silver. It actually looks pretty good. many of the knobs on cockpit levers are called out for X-7 Red. In my photos the color red is not nearly as bright and intense as Tamiya’s color. Instead I went with a Humbrol’s #160 German Red Brown. This might also be a good color for the throttle too. Tamiya calls for semi-gloss black, but the Mikesh Cockpit book shows it as a wood handle in the color of a walnut gun stock.

Days 4-5-6 - After all the detail painting called for, the fuselage halves were glued together. There are so many little things to watch out for during construction, that I used a Hi-Liter on the “small bits” that I might be tempted to forget. One such item almost turned out to be the tail-wheel pivot axle. Barely a quarter of an inch long, it didn’t want to stay put. Finally I trapped it in place.

Off and on during these days I painted and assembled the cockpit.There was  just one real delay, and that was in putting together the very accurate seat assembly. I think this must be the first detailed representation of the Zero seat  lifting device and suspension system in any model. This fidelity to detail makes the seat alignment tricky. I used slow setting super glue while I fiddled with the seat and the four arms. I added the top two arms first to the bulkhead, then test fitted the seat to the arms. At this point, I could have used a third arm.  I finally think I got it right, but it wasn’t pretty. If I were to do it again, I might try to make a simple jig to hold the arms erect as they dry into place.

While the seat support frame was very detailed, missing was the bungie cord that loops around the two mounts above and behind the seat on the bulkhead. I added some thin fly tying lead wire to simulate the bungies. I painted this an off white. So far this is the only thing I have added to the kit.

After painting the cockpit with the Aeromaster Mitsubishi cockpit green, but before final assembly, I gave it a gloss coat of future floor finish. This was to provide a smooth, resistant finish to my oil paint and thinner wash of Winsor & Newton Raw Umber. I then sealed that with Humbrol Satin (semi-gloss) finish. I used some Xtracolor FS 34151 Interior Green for dry brushing, which is very similar to Mitsubishi cockpit green, but a shade lighter. This made some surfaces look worn, which I like. I finished the wear and tear with a judicious use of a Prismacolor Metallic  Silver color pencil.

A quick note about the instruments as represented by Tamiya. They use the decal technique first popularized by Accurate Miniatures (RIP), and that is to use a clear plastic insert for the gauge dial face, with reversed dial face decals placed on the back. They are really sharp, and I think are the way to go for 1/32nd scale cockpit instrument gauges. A neat trick I picked up from my tank building buddies was the use of Sanford Sharpie permanent  markers in model painting. After painting the instrument panel green, I picked out the gauge rings with a regular black Sharpie pen. Put it in the hole and twist. Each ring was perfectly even and round, and much better than I could have painted with a brush.

Day 7- I finally get the cockpit together to my satisfaction. Since I was under a deadline to finish the model, I didn’t use the seated pilot. Instead I used the supplied non-diecut vinyl belts and photo etch buckles. Cutting and assembling them took over an hour, and produced shiny fake looking belts. They were a royal pain in the rear to attach and finally make presentable. I gave them a serious wash of raw umber and a final flat coat. At best for all this effort, they look OK. My bungie cords turned out pretty good too.

Day 8- If only I still had small fingers. I spent today attaching most of the flying control and landing gear door photo etch hinges. I must commend Tamiya in the placement of the PE fret attachment points. Their placement position on each part is such that cleanup with a file is not required. The trickiest parts are the double wire hinges of the small inner main landing gear doors. Two hinges must be trapped by one plastic piece that is glued to another. I solved the “I need a third hand” problem with a double sided piece of tape.The doors work like a charm when completed. I also detached and made subassemblies of all the Aotake Blue colored pieces, and painted them simultaneously with Aeromaster paint.

Day 9-10 & 11- One of the advantages of a model whose instructions call for over 52 construction steps is the ability to jump forward and build subassemblies while waiting for the step you’re on to dry. During these days, I assembled the working landing gear. Some of the parts are truly marvelous, being made from three piece molds. Take your time, and study the instructions closely and they’ll go together with no problem. I attached the tail surfaces (rudder, stabs and elevators). Doing this I chipped the fuselage right next to the starboard horizontal stab hole. I don’t know how that happened, but it was a tight fit. I just added a drop of liquid glue, and placed the chip back into place. The cowl was put together and painted Aeromaster Mitsubishi cowl blue black. The ailerons are also attached with photo etch hinges, and were assembled. I also used the supplied canopy masks, and despite my earlier misgivings at them not being precut, I was quite surprised how easy they were to cut out, and apply. The trick is to use some fine scissors, an optivisor and a bright light. All told they went on in an hour.

On day ten I painted the undersurface Aeromaster Japanese Navy Gray. After giving that paint more than a day to dry, I started out to mask the model. That also took about an hour using Tamiya masking tape.

Day 12- I finally have laid down the green paint, and all went well. I tested Model Master Imperial Japanese Navy Green (#2116), Poly Scale I.J.N. Green (#505278) and my last Aeromaster Navy Green (#9090). The Poly Scale seemed too olive drabish, while the Model Master was too dark for my tastes, although I believe it would be a great choice after the Aeromaster color, which I settled for. Tamiya recommends their AS-21 (spray) or XF-70 (bottle) Dark Green 2 (IJN). Since I didn’t have that color , and I generally prefer enamels, I went with the colors I did have.

The rest of the day saw me paint and assemble the Sakae 21 engine. With over twenty parts to it, the detail really shines if the builder/painter does his job. If one follows Tamiya’s instructions, the whole thing should be painted in two colors, flat aluminum and semi-gloss black. I subscribe to Shep Paine’s philosophy of creative gizmology. If it’s not adding extra parts to an engine bay to represent approximate detail (not necessary with this kit), I will try for the same effect by varying the colors slightly. I substituted Model Master gunmetal (1795) for most of the semi-gloss black, and tried various shades of silver and stainless steel (Gunze 213 Stainless and Xtracolor 216 RLM 01 Silver) for those parts calling for flat aluminum. All in all, the effect is quite convincing. I also washed the cylinder heads in with Xtracolor 504 exhaust.

  The one problem I faced is how to prep, paint and attach the exhaust stacks in an efficient manner. Since I didn’t want to have a bunch of exhaust stacks without their numbers floating around, I deceided to trim one of the spru attachments (the one near the exhaust end), leaving the other spru attached where it won’t be seen after assembly, and paint it that way. I used my favorite prop engine exhaust color, Model Master  Burnt Iron Non-buffing Metalizer.


A Few Available References:

Stock Number: AJG006
Publisher: AJ Press

Stock Number: SB754-4
Publisher: Schiffer

A few others are:
Aero Detail #7 A6M Zero
Publisher: RZM Imports

Stock Number: RZMG107
Koga's Zero
Publisher: Specialty Press Book

Stock Number: SP122411
The Zero, Hurricane, & P-38
Publisher: Specialty Press Book

Stock Number: SP123434


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