Hasegawa 1/75 F1M2 'Pete'






One aircraft


Brian R Baker




    The original Mitsubishi F1M1 was designed as a successor to the Nakajima E8N1 float observation biplane, code name “Dave” .  The original F1M1 prototype was first flown in 1936, and displayed disappointing handling characteristics.  Extensive redesign followed, and in 1938, the aircraft was reengined with the 875 hp. Mitsubishi MK2 Zuisei radial. Navy flight tests of this aircraft were satisfactory, and the aircraft was ordered into production as the F1M2 Type 0 Observation Seaplane Model 11.

    The Mitsubishi F1M2 was widely used by the Japanese Navy during the Pacific War, and although designed primarily as an observation aircraft, the type was also used for other duties, including anti-submarine patrol, convoy escort, gunfire observation,  and, on occasion, light bombing.  In addition,  during the occupation of Attu Island in the Aleutians during 1942, a fighter squadron operated the F1M2 for a brief period.

    The F1M2’s operated from battleships and seaplane tenders throughout the war, and were involved in nearly every major campaign of the Japanese Navy during World war II.  A total of 524 F1M2’s was completed by Mitsubishi until March, 1944, when production was shifted to Sasebo Arsenal, where an additional 180 were manufactured.

    The F1M2 carried a respectable armament for an aircraft of its class: two 7.7 mm. machine guns fired  through the propeller, and one “Lewis” type machine gun was carried on a flexible mount in the rear cockpit.  In addition bomb racks were installed on some aircraft, normally holding two 132 lb. bombs.  One aircraft was tested with a single 550 lb. bomb, but
this installation was experimental only, and not used on operational aircraft.



   Almost twenty years ago,  our IPMS chapter in Phoenix was visited by Mr. Hasegawa,  founder of Hasegawa Models.  We put on a display of Hasegawa products, and one of the aircraft on display was my modification of the original Mitsubishi F1M2 “Pete” reconnaissance floatplane kit.  I had obtained one of these kits years back,  and although it was in 1/75 scale, it was close enough for my l/72 scale standards of the time.  Hasegawa looked surprised to see the model,  stating that he did not even remember producing the kit.  Considering its quality, I’d try to forget it too.

    In the 1983 IPMS National Convention in Phoenix,  engineered by the late great Pat Fowler, Hasegawa presented each guest with a bagged copy of the “Pete”, probably as a reminder of how far the modeling art has progressed. They had a big box of them there,  and I grabbed four or five of them because of the great price----FREE.  But then,  you get what you pay for, and  even if I had paid a dollar each for them,  the kit would represent the best entertainment value for the money,  or about 5 cents per hour of serious modeling. 

    In short,  the kit is terrible,  and it takes a lot of work to make an even remotely presentable kit.  I understand that another Japanese firm has recently produced the same aircraft in 1/72 scale (that would be Fujimi, here's the preview of it. Ed),  and I know of at least one vacuform  version produced a number of years ago, so the whole question is probably moot anyway, but being the masochist that I am,  I decided recently to pull one of the kits out of the storage box in my hangar,  and try to make a decent model of it.

    Fortunately,  the kit is reasonably accurate in 1/75 scale,  so there are no really serious outline corrections to make in order to come up with an acceptable model. However,  the kit is so crude that nearly every part needs some work to bring it up to standard.  A lot of putty was required to fill in the holes and dips, but the effect was worth it.

    The major problem was to find a specific version to model.  There were some basic changes in the production model,  even though the designation remained the same.  Early “Petes”  had a smooth cowling and a flat surfaced windshield,  while later production aircraft had an air scoop on the top of the cowling and  a different windshield.  A number of photos exist of the plane in squadron service,  so documentation wasn’t a problem.  I opted for an early production F1M2 tail-coded ZII-53,  which was painted   Japanese Navy light grey overall.  I had several photos of that specific airplane,  and since I usually work from photos when possible,   that part of the process was easy. 


    The fuselage is crudely molded in brittle dark green plastic,  with  an attempt to provide seats for a crew that more closely resembles the mythological Roswell  aliens that anything remotely human.  These should be melted down into sprue for stretching. I completely gutted the fuselage with my Dremel tool,  and began installing a cockpit.

Since I had no reference showing the interior,  I scrounged a  1/48 scale (actually it is 1/50, but still looks good. Ed) Tamiya kit from my son Jim. This kit has a fairly complete cockpit, and between the pieces in the kit and the exploded drawings in the instructions, I had a pretty good idea of the cockpit layout and arrangement.   Anyhow, after installing steel tubing detail on the insides of the cockpit and  painting  it  Japanese interior green,  I scratched an interior,  providing a floor,   seats, a control stick, switch panels, instrument panel,   throttle,  mixture control,  machine gun mount, and radios.  Since the cockpits are open,  an interior is required on this model.  One thing to remember on this model is that the elevators must be installed from inside,  which means that they must be in place when the fuselage halves are joined together.  In addition,  the nose of this model needs to be weighted,  sol I built a small compartment from card plastic and filled the nose with shot,  held in place by white glue.  Then I masked off the cockpit areas and   filled in the seams on the fuselage join line.

    The engine and cowling need replacement for this model.  The kit cowling is for the later version , and provides a minimal “engine” etched into a flat plate in the front of the cowling.  I opted for using a completely new cowling and engine.  the cowling from the spares box came, I believe, from an Italiarei SM-81 bomber,  while the engine may have come from a Hasegawa Zeke 21.  These,  with some filing,  are quite acceptable, and the cowl fits on the fuselage very nicely.  The prop is another spares box item,  as the one in the kit is totally useless--another sprue candidate. I think it was from a Hasegawa ME-109G.   The spinner was also from the spares box, but i don’t know what  kit it is from.  I didn’t install the engine and cowling  until the rest of the airplane was assembled.  The prop wasn’t put in place until after painting and rigging.

    The lower wing can now be installed on the fuselage,  and this is a critical part as it has to be lined up perfectly.  The wing itself is accurate in outline, but there are some sink holes to fill.  The fillets between the fuselage and wing need some attention, but the problem is not insolvable with copious amount of putty.  Since I was building the version with a single overall color scheme, I went ahead and installed the upper wing.  The  easiest way to do this is to thin down the interplane struts (they are way too thick)  and install them on the lower wings.  Be sure they are straight,  as they are the only positive alignment guide for the upper wing.  The holes in the attachment points need to be filled in, but with Tenex,  the joints are very strong,  and filling the gaps is not difficult.  Once the wing  is in place and dry, the next step is the floats.

    The main float is made from two halves,  and the fit is good although the usual ton of putty is required to get it right.  There are some places that need filling, but again,  it is not a big problem.  The big problem is lining the main float up correctly.  A three view of the aircraft is essential for this maneuver,  so use it often.  The top portion which joins the fuselage will need a lot of putty,  so spread it on and sand it down carefully.  there is an air scoop on top of the strut,  and this should be hollowed out.  It should be round,  by the way, and not oval as it appears on the kit.  The “V” strut needs careful alignment, and it should be filed down to scale thickness.

    The wingtip floats are rather simple,  being molded in two pieces,  but they require careful shaping and sanding to look right.  The holes in the lower wingtip are correctly located for their installation,  but I would fill in the bracing strut holes and replace the thick round struts with shaped, thinner card plastic.

    The cabane struts, between the fuselage in the upper wing center section, need to be scratch built.  The kit  struts are entirely wrong, even backwards,  but since the top wing is already installed and aligned, it is no real problem to make new ones and  install them properly.  Again, check the three view,  mark the spots where they should attach,  and go for it.  There are no mounting holes on the fuselage, so you’re on your own on this one.  I drilled holes in the proper locations,  and lined up the struts in position.

    This is the time to install the cowling.  It requires some trimming, but it fits nicely over the mounting ridge at the fireball.  Holes should be drilled for the exhaust stacks, which I installed later.
    The windshields need to be redone.  I used the trusty old vacuform that I’ve had for many years for the rear enclosure,  and just bent a piece of clear plastic for the front windshield.  I masked them off and sprayed them as I painted the entire model.


    This particular aircraft being modeled was painted IJN light grey overall,  so painting was a snap.  Just mask off the affected areas and go for it with the old Pasche. A couple of coats did it,  with time off to inspect for flaws and reputty
and sand.  When painted,  I  sprayed it  with Testor’s glosscote,  and then applied the decals,  plain Japanese hinomarus and white tailcoding. I did use red paint for the prop warning stripe on the main float and the beaching dolly marks on the sides of the floats.  I then  applied a coat of dullcote to destroy the glossy finish.  I also used pastels to “grubby” up the airplane a little,  and used some silver to chip the paint a little around the main float and other areas where wear would normally appear. At that stage of the war,  the plane would not have been weathered too badly,  so I didn’t overdo it.

    When the airplane was painted and with decals installed,  I installed the windshields,  gunsight,  and propeller.  I then rigged the model with thin electronic wire, again using the three view and photos as a guide.   After the model was completed,  wife remarked how my language had improved. 

    One useful addition to this kit would be a beaching dolly.  If I had one, I’d use the one from the LS Mitsubishi-Nakajima Rufe fighter.  It is about perfect. I don’t have one, so I used the display stand for the kit,  which is awful.



    Being as old as it is,  this is  still a lousy kit.  As a challenge,  it does have its value. It  makes us realize how nice some of the modern kits are,  and how thankful we should  be to have modern, up-to-date kits with state-of-the-art molding.  I won’t do this model again,  but  it does fill a gap in my  collection and it was fun, albeit frustrating, to go back in time and do one of the original models. (I realize that there were plastic models produced long before this one appeared).   It wasn’t much easier than some of the old  World War II spotter models I used to make from Navy plans and templates when I was a kid.  But that is another story.

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