Hasegawa 1/48 A6M1 12-Shi Experimental Fighter

KIT #: 09840
PRICE: $35.15 from GreatModels($42.50 MSRP)
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


Every aircraft has to start with a prototype of some sort. Even in today's age of CAD, there has to be a proof of concept demonstrator to be sure all the computer power knew what it was digitizing. Of course, back in the late 1930s, designers either guessed or just went with what limited facilities they had (wind tunnels and models), to show that their designs had promise. It was only when that first prototype took to the skies that they knew whether or not they had succeeded in their goals.

So it was with the A6M 'zero-sen'. Remarkably, the design was so close to right that very little changed from the prototypes to the production aircraft. The main differences were the width of the fin and the engine that was used. The Mitsubishi 'Zuisei' engine was determined to be too low a power and for subsequent production A6M2s was replaced with the Nakajima 'Sakae' and history was born.


As you'd expect, most of this kit is standard A6M that has been plunked into every 1/48 Zero kit since this molding first saw the light of day over 10 years ago. There is one large new sprue, one tiny one and one sprue modification. The large sprue includes the new engine, tail planes, prop, lower cowling intakes and the forward center wheel well insert. The tiny one is a new cowling that looks like something from a Fiat G.50 with its near cylindrical shape and two long gun troughs. The modification is made to the Model 11/21/22 fuselage where an insert has been placed for the tail section. I have to say that this is not a smooth transition from normal fuselage to new tail. Not only are the panel lines not uniform but there is what feels like a step between the two sections. Of course, it could just be thick mold seam material, but it will take work and probably filler to make it seamless. Frankly, I think Hasegawa should have molded new fuselage halves for this as only three small parts from this sprue are used in addition to the fuselage halves. I guess we can expect the same sort of thing when they do the trainer version later on.

The kit allows you to build either the first or the second prototype. The differences between the two are pretty much limited to the size of the lower carb or oil cooler intake. There are different inserts for the lower cowling to accommodate this mod. One also has to fill in the aileron trim tabs and remove the little actuators. There has been some talk of whether the first prototype had the head rest. I've seen only one photo and that was of the second which did have it

Decals are well done and typical of Hasegawa 1/48 kits, has decals that can be used over the raised instrument panel detail.  Both are painted in overall grey-green with blue-black cowlings. No fancy markings on these.


Even if you don't like prototypes, this one is just cool. As the first (and second) of a line of superlative fighter aircraft, it deserves a spot on your display shelf. Need to get yours soon, though, as it has been selling briskly.

March 2009

You can find this and many other neat kits and accessories at www.greatmodels.com

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