|KIT:||21st Century Toys 1/32 A6M2 Zero|
The A6M1 Model 11 first flew in combat in China in 1940. It ran up a score of 99 air to air kills without a single loss. The Model 11s were powered by a Mitsubishi Zuisei 13 fourteen-cylinder air-cooled radial, rated at 780 hp for take-off and 875 hp at 3,600 m, driving a two- or three-blade metal propeller. This was followed up by A6M2 Model 21. The A6M2 featured a larger more powerful engine, the Nakajima NK1C Sakae 12 fourteen-cylinder air-cooled radial, rated at 940 hp for take-off and 950 hp at 4,200 m, driving a three-blade metal propeller. The model 21 was the Zero that carried the Japanese the first year of the war against the US.
In the latter half of 1942 the Allies knew the Zero and both it’s advantages and weaknesses and were exploiting those weaknesses. Mitsubishi responded by installing the uprated Nakajima NK1F Sakae 21 fourteen-cylinder air-cooled radial, rated at 1,130 hp for take-off, 1,100 hp at 2,850 m and 980 hp at 6,000 m. This variant also had a redesigned, larger diameter cowling. The prominent chin scoop for the carburetor was removed and the intake moved to the top of the cowling with internal trunking. The cowling was expanded to cover the trunking and internal blast tubes. The blast tubes ran through the cowling replacing the troughs featured in the A6M2 for the fuselage-mounted guns. While slightly faster the A6M3 had less range than the earlier A6M2 and the clipped wing did not improve the one glaring weakness in the Zero’s repertoire of abilities. It’s light structure led to slow responses at high speed. By now the allied pilots were well trained to never fight a Zero at speeds less than 250 Kts. and preferably over 300 Kts.
The last major variant was the A6M5. This featured the same engine as the A6M3 but added exhaust ejector stacks that ringed the cowling to scrounge every bit of power and jet thrust from the engine. This was offset by increases in weight from heavier armament, armor and thicker gauge skinning on a wing featuring a broader chord to add stiffness to the wings to increase response at higher speed
There were more variants produced in small numbers, but the A6M2, M3, and M5 were the major models used in the war
The 21st Century Toys kit is made of fairly hard whitish styrene. The color reminds me of the plastic used in the old “glow in the dark” toys. There are no sprues, and all the parts are separate. They are in a chain of small bags, each with a discreet group of parts. The parts are not numbered, but there are so few and each so uniquely shaped that there should be no problem in identifying them. The three-piece canopy and the rubber tires are in a separate bag to preclude scratching of the clear parts. The kit includes an articulated, pre-painted action figure pilot. Additional small parts are in a vac sealed container. The boxes are not shrink wrapped or sealed in any way, so care must taken to make sure all the parts are still there, as the decals and pilot figure have a pronounced tendency to disappear from the box. The decals have three options. There are markings for two overall IJN gray Zeros from the Hiryu and Shokaku, plus a green/gray version used in the training schools in 1944
When was the last time you found a 1/32-scale kit for less than $10! However, there are some real issues with this kit, the least of which is it is suffering from an identity crisis. The poor bird sort of has a cowl of the A6M3 without the exhaust pipes, that outlet through the center of lower cowl flaps on either side and with the wings of A6M5 but lacking the long barrel cannons. The landing gear is made to retract, which means the struts are molded in the extended position and will look off kilter sitting on the ground. Additionally, the landing gear wells totally lack any detail. The gear doors are molded as one piece, instead of the three-piece affair on the prototype. The instrument panel is molded with holes for each of the dial faces, but none are included. Also, the major assembles are held together by screws which have a cap to cover the recessed installation hole. On the positive side, the cockpit pieces and seat, which features open lightning holes and decals are worth buying the kit for. All in all, a Zero can be built from this kit, but not from the box! There are numerous discrepancies to fix and improvements to be made to create a decent model.
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