modelers and readers!
This is the third of
my projected series of articles related to old Airfix series 1 models, just
another tribute to the "Airfix living legacy." The Mitsubishi Zero
needs no introduction, it belongs in any modeler's collection! When I purchased
the Airfix kit some 30 years ago, Airfix had already changed the packaging of
their series 1 kits from a fragile plastic bag to a more resistant clear acetate
blister backed by a cardboard rectangle including graphics-only instructions
on one side and painting instructions, in full color, on the other side,
together with the "box" art and the by then new circular Airfix logo.
The subject of this
article is the second Airfix Zero I've built, it was finished in 2006. By this time I began its construction
I had also purchased the excellent A6M3 Zero kit from
Hasegawa. Although the Airfix kit is an A6M2, both kits can be compared.
The Airfix kit has the following defects, among others:
The fuselage is
too fat, so is the cockpit canopy.
The main wings'
dihedral is too flat.
stabilators are too short in width.
exhausts are absent.
The cockpit only
has a generic seat and a pilot.
The wings don't have openings
representing the gun ports nor have the wing-tip lights scribed on.
The arresting hook and the
undercarriage legs and doors are ugly.
There were no
decals for the red wingwalks.
instructions are suspect because the cowling is camouflaged (I haven't found
one profile of a Zero without a black cowling yet.)
images below to see larger images
I carried on
building the Airfix kit just because I wanted an A6M2 in my collection, and I
thought this version would be hard to find. I followed the painting instructions
of the Hasegawa kit for painting the cockpit interior, wheel wells,
undercarriage legs and doors, wheels, arresting hook and propeller. The main
problem I encountered in building this kit is that the joints of the upper half
of the main wings to the fuselage needed putty outside and also inside,
because the seams could be viewed through the wheel wells. The joint between the
lower half of the main wing and the rear fuselage also needed a lot of putty and
sanding because it looked initially like a trench! Before painting, I added a
little piece of thin cardboard to separate the opening of the chin intake from
the "opening" before the "radial" engine (represented in the
kit just with several radial raised lines.)
Despite I distrusted
the engine cowling's painting recommendation, I painted the model outside
following the instructions' pattern, just to have a different Zero. I used Humbrol Authentic HJ2 Grey A/N2 and
Gunze H60 IJA Green for the camouflage (I had Humbrol HJ1 Green N1, but I
didn't like its grayish shade,) Gunze H24 Orange Yellow for the wings' leading
the propeller spinner, Gunze H63 Metallic Blue Green for the wheel wells and the
interior of the undercarriage doors, and Humbrol Metal Cote Polished Aluminum
for the drop tank and the propeller blades. It was my first experience with
acrylic paints, it was completely satisfactory but I couldn't avoid the need of
cleaning the airbrush parts with lacquer thinner.
By the way, in order to make the
port and starboard color separation lines of the camouflage completely
symmetrical, I draw one of them on Scotch's Magic tape placed over the model,
then refined the line with a ruler and a french curves template, draw the other
also on Scotch's Magic tape with the reverse side of the template, and placed
carefully the port and starboard masks. In this way one line was made the mirror
image of the other. It was the first time I used this technique, and since then
I've used it everytime I needed symmetrical maskings.
Before applying the
decals, I placed the decals sheet several days under the sun to reduce their
yellow shade, as recommended by Paul Boyer in his book "Painting and
finishing scale models," but this tip didn't work as one would wish
on these very old Airfix decals (although the decals sheet shown in the book is from an old
Airfix Hudson I.) After applying
a coat of Humbrol Gloss Cote to the model, I applied the decals using Micro Sol
and Micro Set. I was a little upset because the decals that go on both sides of
the tail were not symmetrical, this was the last defect I found on the kit.
I made red bands for the undercarriage doors, the red wing walks and
also the parallel red lines that go near the propeller tips with segments cut
from spare decals. After decaling, I applied a coat of Humbrol Matt Cote to
everything but the metallic painted parts.
In the final step
of assembly the undercarriage legs and the wheels' hubs were painted gloss
black, the tires were painted Xtracolor X505 Tire Black -this color offers
better contrast with black than Gunze H77, but needs to be overcoated with matt
varnish- and the undercarriage assemblies were glued at their locations. It was
difficult to cement the inner undercarriage doors because these should form an
angle and also collided with the drop tank.
Knowing that this
model wouldn't of course be my definitive Zero, I decided to take it for
experimentation in weathering. I've read many times that Japanese aircraft
weathered a lot, so I added extensive paint chipping with Humbrol 56 Aluminum, which I think is perfect for the job because it's
dull, and soot and oil leaks with black and brown enamels. I also accented the
control surfaces' panel lines with black ink. I finished the model by adding an antenna
made of monofilament, drilling holes on the wing leading edges to represent the
gun ports, adding gun smoke stains with powdered pastels, removing the cockpit
masks and polishing the windows with Model Wax. I left my Zero without
wing-tip lights painted on, maybe one of these days I'll paint them.
With some attention
to the finish I think I turned this kit into an acceptable representation of the
A6M2 Zero. Meanwhile, my Hasegawa A6M3 is still waiting to be finished,
unfortunately I inexplicably lost the kit's decals just after the kit was painted, and I've
not found aftermarket replacements yet. Although it's easy to paint the
hinomarus, the same can't be said about tail codes and other tiny decals. I'm
almost sure that I'll have to remove the paint from my A6M3, but it'll be part
of another story...
Thanks for reading
and watching, and happy modeling!. Greetings from Caracas, Venezuela.