Special Hobby 1/32 A5M2 'Claude'

KIT #: 32034
PRICE: $62.95 MSRP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Bill Koppos
NOTES: Nice short run kit

HISTORY

       Tom Cleaver, in his earlier review, did an excellent history on this aircraft. I will defer (be very lazy) to Tom and refer you to his history here.

THE KIT

 Some beautiful airplanes came out of the late 1930's, even military ones. The first monoplanes were  Art Deco attempts at streamlining, finally slipping through the air instead of fighting it.  In my eye the Mitsubishi A5M fighter, known to most by it's allied code name "Claude", is one of the most nice looking, elliptical-winged and all curves from nose to tail. Add to this some colorful pre-war paint schemes, and it makes for an eye-catching model for sure. So I was very happy to see the latest  release in my favorite big 1/32 scale from Special Hobby is the A5M2 "Claude Over China".    

     The big box has a nice painting on it of an A5M chasing a Chinese SB-2 bomber. Inside we have typical Special Hobby limited run grey, soft plastic, with thick sprue gates but nice surface detail.  The engine is good enough but no pushrods are provided. Cockpit is again good enough, but has considerable room for improvement.  For a 1/32 kit it is kind of simple, but is a good basic model. Decals are provided for two "China Incident" A5M's, it has a small photo-etched fret that includes a seat harness, and a nicely done clear windscreen. 


CONSTRUCTION

      I started in the cockpit. The sides are glued to the fuselage walls first. I referred to a website found here
http://www.colesaircraft.com/A5M2.html for cockpit photos, and proceeded to add levers, handles, wiring etc. to somewhat match the photos. From another reference I found the kit seat to be quite close, but needed better mounts. These I made from scraps, and installed a supporting "bungee" system similar to the A6M Zero's.  The instrument panel was quite good, and painted with  black dials and dyrbrushed needles, a drop of future wax added to simulate glass.  The main interior color used was Tamiya's Cockpit green, XF-71, suitably chipped and scuffed with aluminum. I had a set of Eduard 1/32 JNAF seat belts and used these on the finished seat. At this point I recommend taping the fuselage together, and test fitting the cockpit floor from below, making adjustments so the seat back is just about even with the headrest area., and watching the left/right alignment also. When all looks good, take it apart and put in the instrument panel onto one side, checking for level, then dry fit again. These steps are usually necessary in a limited run kit due to vague location areas, and this one is no exception. But all came out well in the end and the fuselage was glued up. Fit was good and seam cleaning easy. 

     The wings are really simple, no wheel wells, armament or moveable control surfaces, just slap the halves together. Fit of the wing to the fuselage wasn't as bad as some Special Hobby planes. Some trimming is necessary, as well as a spreader made from scrap sprue, to make the wing roots wide enough to match the fuselage contours. Careful and patient trimming and fitting here will save a lot of filling later. The stabilizers feature mounting tabs, a first for Special Hobby. Whoopee. I ended up cutting them off as they did not line up at all, and sanded the surfaces nice and flat for a good fit. At this point I glued the wheel spats  together, leaving out the wheels till later for easier painting. DON'T do this as the wheels required lots of carving and a split pant to get in later.  Glue them in now and paint carefully later. After seam clean-up on the pants, I deepened the small mounting holes and glued them up, watching the alignment  till dry.

      Time to power up. The engine is simple as mentioned, and needs sprucing up. I stretched some sprue and added the proper two pushrods per cylinder. The crankcase has dimples where the rods come out, I drilled holes here with a small bit in  a pin vise, putting the sprue rods between these holes and the rocker boxes on the cylinder tops. A circular wire harness tube is in the kit, more holes are drilled here for the spark plug wires, as well as in the cylinder fronts. I use very thin solder, available at radio Shack, for these, as they are quite flexible and take CA glue well.   The whole shebang was sprayed Aluminum and given a heavy wash of black. Now I noticed the cowl in the web photos was mounted with a set of braces visible from the front, so I made up some more sprue and built a facsimile of this. The engine and cowl can be installed last, after painting the mainframe and I set them aside.
COLORS & MARKINGS

   Paint prep involves masking off the cockpit opening and engine hole in front, checking the airframe for flaws and rubbing the whole thing down with alcohol. I decided on the captured Chinese option, which has a red tail and fuselage stripe. All of the markings will be sprayed except the tail numbers. The main color is a representation of the Japanese Navy Sea finish of natural metal coated with a protective varnish, which had a golden cast to it, according to research.  This was done with Alclad II "White Aluminum" with a small amount of Testor's flat yellow mixed in. Alclad, if a good jar is found, can be masked over repeatedly with no problems of peeling. So the tail, stripes and hinomarus (meatballs) were all masked off and sprayed. When all is done a coat of Testor's Metallizer Sealer was oversprayed on the tail as a decal base and the numbers put on. These decals took a lot of fussing to settle down right and silvered some, so it's a good thing I sprayed most of the markings.  Now I gave the whole thing a panel line wash of water-based black. Now everything was sealed up with another coat of gloss.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

      The masking removed, the engine hoist is bought out and the engine put in place. The black-painted  cowling attaches over it, glued to the fuselage with two little bumps  top and bottom. Keep an eye on this till the glue sets. Fiddly bits follow, the exhausts, wheels, windcreen, gunsight. The kit propeller had no hub in front, so I made one out of scrap to match photos. I primed the prop with gloss black and hit it with Alclad polished aluminum, and masked and sprayed the red warning stripes.  As a bonus this version had no radio, so no antenna to bother with here. The gloss finish was left as is, as these machines were polished to the nines by their crews. 
CONCLUSIONS

     As I said, this is a handsome airplane. All in all a good kit and fun build, very little aggravation involved. Maybe  give it a try as your first limited-run kit?  
REFERENCES

       Famous Airplanes of the World Type 96 Carrier Fighter No. 27 Bunrin Do Co. 1991
       A5M Claude Mushroom Yellow Series  Tadeusz Januszewski No 6107 2003 

Bill Koppos

November 2010

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page