MPM 1/72 J8M1 'Shusui'

KIT #:  
PRICE: $18.00
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Ralph Koziarski
NOTES: Short run

HISTORY

In late 1944 when US bombing of Japanís cities started in earnest, Japan was in need of effective interceptor aircraft that could rapidly climb to the high altitudes the American bombers usually came in at. Mitsubishi obtained a license to build the German ME-163 Komet, which they redesignated the J8M1. To my knowledge only two prototypes of the aircraft were built, and differed slightly from the German Komet in terms of construction materials used (thus the extra framing on the canopy), engine, and armaments. Following tests on an unpowered glider version, the first prototype was fitted with a Walter engine, but proceeded to crash. The second prototype survived the war, but was never used in combat.

THE KIT

MPM have become a giant in the short-run kit industry, but there was a time when they were just another garage outfit producing crude models of little known subjects. The Shusui kit was produced around the time when MPM were just beginning their transformation and hence features elements of both the old and new MPM. The kit comes on two very light gray sprues with reasonably sized sprue gates, and no more flash than is typically expected from a short run kit. Panel lines are lightly recessed and look appropriate for 72nd scale. Also included are a beautiful vacuform canopy and a small fret of photoetched parts that includes seat harnesses, an instrument panels and a few other small bits. There is a clear acetate sheet with instrument faces that you sandwich between the PE instrument panel and plastic canopy front. A small Propagteam decal sheet of generic Japanese markings completes the kit.

I saw this kit sitting on the shelf of a local hobby shop for nearly two years, and since the guy who runs this store generally only stocks Revell/Monogram kits, I always try to pick up the odd kits to encourage him to stock more interesting things. It turned out to be a great purchase. Iím rarely disappointed by MPM, Special Hobby, or Azur kits, and this one was no exception.

CONSTRUCTION

I began construction by cleaning up the major parts. These included the top and bottom halves of the fuselage/wing structure, and the left and right halves of the tail. I used a sanding block to thin out the trailing edges of the flight surfaces, and removed most of the flash with a knife. I then built up the cockpit bulkhead and floor assembly and glued it into the bottom fuselage half, sanding. I then glued together the two tail halves and glued the tail to the body. The fit back there was also pretty horrible, and I ended up using styrene shims and generous amounts of gap filling super glue to fill the holes. Once everything got cleaned up I rescribed the lost panel lines and turned my attention back to the cockpit.

The cockpit provided in the kit is rather basic. The two side consoles donít have any surface detail and donít conform to the inner curve of the fuselage. The control stick is a crude and clunky, and the two cylinders which are installed in back of the seat were also devoid of detail. Still, in 72nd scale the only interior detail which really seems to count is the seat, the rest not being especially visible. I glued in the seat, the two cylinders, and a control stick I dug out of my spares bin. I painted all of this with Tamiya cockpit green (XF-71) and gave it a dark brown wash. I then painted the PE instrument panel a very dark gray and glued the acetate instruments to the back with white glue. Once dry, this was installed to the front bulkhead part which I fashioned from scrap styrene. I glued the nice PE seat belts to the seat, and painted them a leathery brown shade.

Next came the part I dreaded most: the vacuformed canopy. I first cut out the piece with a pair of nail scissors leaving plenty of extra plastic along the edges. Then I trimmed and smoothed out the edges against a piece of sand paper glued to block of wood. I frequently checked the fit of the part as I sanded it to make sure I didnít remove too much. Wouldnít you know it I still somehow managed to take too much off the back! I inserted a styrene shim, painted it cockpit green and then glued on the canopy with a few tiny spots of super glue, filling in the rest with PVA glue which doubled as a gap filler. Prior to attaching it to the fuselage, I masked the canopy with bare metal foil. I prefer to use foil rather than kabuki tape as it is thinner. When the foil is burnished down with a toothpick, fine frame detail shows through it better than it would through tape. I also seem to get a sharper edge when cutting the foil than I do through tape, and it gives the final product a neater crisper look.

At this stage I prepped to model for painting, added on a few small bits and filled in the gun ports. I wanted to build the first prototype, which to my understanding was not armed. This was driven in part by wanting to have an orange aircraft in my collection, and also by the awful representations o cannon barrels that MPM provided. These were little more than two elongated roughly cylindrical plastic blobs. I must admit though that I did forget to fill in the shell ejection chutes under the wing. I wiped the kit down with rubbing alcohol and was ready to paint.

COLORS & MARKINGS

The instructions describe two marking options for the kit, the first in overall orange, and the second in a dark green over natural metal finish. I chose the orange for reasons discussed above. Orange, like yellow, is a nightmare to paint. It works best over a light colored undercoat, so I began by spraying the kit with a light gray primer. I should have used white, but I had run out. I then mixed Tamiya orange with flat yellow at a ratio of about 5:1. After this had dried I masked off the exhaust and tail wheel assembly and hand painted them with Citadelís chainmail silver. I applied a coat of floor wax to the whole kit and then put on the decals. These were very thin and went on without hassle. The kit got a very light wash of Van Dyke brown oil paint, which was concentrated around the exhaust area, control surfaces and around the skid where most dirt would have accumulated. Finally, I sealed everything in under a coat of Model Master Acrylic flat coat mixed with a few drops of floor wax.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

Final assembly consisted of adding the radio mast and pitot. I made my own pitot from a piece of tapering metal rod, but used the kit part for the mast. Then I assembled the small landing gear trolley, painted that up and glued it to the bottom of the model. The final touch was to splatter some earth colored paint along the bottom of the landing skid, and unmask the clear parts.

CONCLUSIONS

Iím very happy with this build. It was something of a diversion and I invested perhaps only four or five modeling sessions spread out over a week and a half to complete it. I really enjoy MPM et al.ís products, but I had forgotten how simple their earlier models were. Nevertheless, I found it rewarding to take a somewhat crude kit and turn it into a neat and tidy little model. The build was at times challenging, but never frustrating (Iím looking your way Classic Airframes Fairey Battle!). If you havenít taken the plunge into short-run kits yet, then consider making MPMís Shusui your first one. The kit is a good one to start with. It is simple yet teaches you many of the essential skills necessary (cutting and fitting vac canopies, working with PE, thinning parts, cleaning flash) to successfully build these off the beaten path subjects.

Ralph Koziarski

May 2012

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