1/72 Airfix Mitsubishi Zero

Gallery Article by Orlando Sucre Rosales on Jan 25 2010


Hello, fellow 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.

  • The horizontal stabilators are too short in width.

  • The engine's 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.

  • The painting instructions are suspect because the cowling is camouflaged (I haven't found one profile of a Zero without a black cowling yet.)

Click on 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 edges and 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.

Orlando Sucre Rosales

Photos and text by Orlando Sucre Rosales