Academy 1/72 A6M5c Zero

KIT #: 2176
PRICE: $9.99 SRP
DECALS: Two Options
REVIEWER: Nathan Stevens
NOTES:

HISTORY

 The Zero Fighter (Reisen or Zero-Sen) was the Imperial Japanese Navyís first single-seat and single-engined shipboard fighter with the retractable undercarriage.  It was the most produced types of all Japanese combat aircraft of World War II.  Designed in the 1937 specifications, the Zuisei-powered prototype flew in the spring of 1939, but the most more successful Sakae-powered prototype was adopted as the Zero type 11, and two squadrons with 15 aircraft were sent to China in July 1940 for trials under operational conditions.  More than 400 had been delivered by the time the type 21 and type 32 appeared at Pearl Harbor. 

After the battle of Midway the Allies slowly gained the ascendancy, and the Zero found itself outclassed by the F4U Corsair and the F6F Hellcat.  Mitsubishi urgently tried to devise improved versions and type 52 (A6M5) was built in quantities far greater than any other Japanese combat aircraft.  To satisfy front line demands for increased fire power and pilot protection, most of the changes were made in these areas under the designation type 52c (A6M5c).  Especially, armament was increased to and additional 13mm machine gun mounted in each wing just outboard the 20mm cannon and underwing bomb rack for 30kg bomb.  Total production amounted to 10,937, of which 6,217 were built by Nakajima Hikoki and another ones were built by Mitsubishi Jukogyo.  In late of war, hundred of Zeros of many sub-types and young pilots were converted for reckless suicide attacks; Kamikaze.

THE KIT

This kit is one of the staples of the 1/72 Academy catalog.  Being on par with their other WWII aircraft, the fit is excellent, the engraved panel lines are fine and crisp and the level of detail is perfect for an out of box build in the scale.  The down side of these kits is equally unanimous.  There seems to be at least one shape or detail flaw in nearly every release.  In this case I keep hearing about issues with the shape of the cowling being off one way or another.  I donít see it and thus I donít care.

 In the box are 3 sprues of gray plastic and 1 clear.  The clear sprue contains a gunsight and a 3 piece canopy allowing the sliding portion to be displayed open.  The plastic is molded smooth and there is no flash.  Ejector pins and sink marks are very minimal.  The instructions are laid out in 8 easy to read steps.  Options include a centerline drop tank and underwing rockets.  Color callouts are very generic such as semi gloss black for the cowl and metallic green for the interior.  Apparently close enough is the name of the game.

 There are 2 decals choices, both in the uninspired IJN green over light gray scheme.  Of note here, Academy calls for mixing 80% leaf green with 20% black to achieve IJN green.  Helpful I know.  The first scheme is the popular mount of Takeo Tanimizu of the 203rd FG in Kagoshima, June 1945.  The other is more generic from the 302nd FG at Atsugi in July 1945.

CONSTRUCTION

 In the office are 5 parts: floor, seat, rear bulkhead, stick and instrument panel.  Thereís plenty of sidewall detail molded in to the fuselage sides so the end result here is far in excess of whatís included in the Hasegawa kit.  The engine is 2 parts with a prop socket that fits in between allowing the prop to be added later.   The rear engine half is molded to a disc which fits the rear of the cowl.  Detail again is sufficient for the scale as the engine will be all but invisible in itís tightly jacketed cowl.  The 3 part cowling was painted a custom mix of flat black with a touch of Testors dark blue.  The cockpit was sprayed in Model Master French khaki if I remember right.  I tend to use all sorts of light to medium greens for my Japanese aircraft interiors assuming eventually one has to be Ďrightí.

Assembly was pretty straightforward throughout.  Since these are builds I completed over 2 years ago Iím working from memory but as I recall the worst fit of the entire build was under the fuselage at the wing join.  This is a pretty common area for filler in any build and on an A6M, itís an easy fix.  Usually my biggest hurdle is in the upper wing join and in this case, the fit was so good no filler was needed.  If using the drop tank, the premarked holes will need drilled out in the lower wing half.  The rocket rails are molded in so surgery is required if you want a cleaner wing.  The tail planes were next and fit was excellent here as well.

 Next came the most tedious part of the build, masking the canopy.  The wheel wells inner gear doors were sprayed in MM Aotake and later stuffed with a silly putty mask.

COLORS & MARKINGS

 Having two kits I was left unenthused by my options for markings.  I had a couple of the Hasegawa kits in the stash and one provided markings for the Planes of Fame A6M5.  Thatíll do!  I started by spraying the wing leading edges in MM Deep Yellow.  Once dry these were masked and lower surfaces were covered in MM IJA gray.  In hindsight, the wrong choice but at the time all my Japanese aircraft were receiving this color.  Once dry, the edges were masked with more silly putty and the uppers were sprayed in MM IJN green.  For whatever reason, this color is glossy and requires several coats to get even coverage.  Itís not Model Masterís best paint to be sure but I like the color itself.  One aircraft received a far lighter coverage to give the appearance of faded paint.

 Once dry, the entire airframe was sprayed with Future.  The IJN green yields enough shine to decal directly over it but it tends to remain tacky.  The Future makes for easier handling.  Kit decals went on without a hitch over the faded aircraft but the Hasegawa decals required far more care, as usual.  The usual cracking and resistance to light solvents tried my patience.  Heavier solvents often make a mess of Hasegawa decals so I said good enough is good enough.

 The worn out aircraft was given a good dose of Dullcoat through the airbrush while the other was given a couple more coats of Future.

 Detailing involved spraying the gear legs black, the props and one spinner in a mix of Testors brown and Model Master Rust, and the other spinner in Alclad aluminum sprayed directly over the plastic.  Wheel hubs were painted aluminum while the tires, gun barrels and the molded-on exhaust stubs were painted black.

FINAL ASSEMBLY

 The canopy was added and fit is quite good.  Nowadays I tend to install the canopy before paint to make up for any fit issues but in this case it worked out well enough waiting until after paint.  Gear leg oleos were wrapped in Bare Metal Foil chrome and the exhaust stubs received a dusting of Marmo Magic brown pastels.  The tiny little tail wheel was carefully picked out in flat black, the prop slid together, gear legs attached, gun barrels, etc.  The fit of the 3 piece gear doors is fiddly having no attachment points so care is need here.  Otherwise, everything fit quite well.  The only further weathering was a very light lengthwise dusting of dark gray on the undersurfaces and behind the exhaust.

CONCLUSIONS

 Itís another fine 1/72 warbird from Academy.  Itís too bad that most of the better Academy kits have hard competition from the likes of Hasegawa, Revell Germany and so forth.  That said, the price is certainly right, availability is far from concern, ease of assembly is first rate, and the final product sits proud on the shelf alongside far more expensive kits.  Highly recommended!

REFERENCES

Kit Instructions

Nathan Stevens

June 2011

My thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the review kit. Get yours at your favorite shop or ask them to order it for you.

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