Hasegawa 1/48 A6M8 type 54/64
KIT #: 09821
PRICE: $2400 yen SRP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2008 Limited Edition.

HISTORY

The A6M was a nasty surprise to Allied airmen when it was first met during the early months of WWII in the Pacific. Despite being forewarned about this new fighter by Clair Chennault in 1941, US brass chose to ignore his analysis, hence the big surprise. Eventually tactics were developed that helped to mollify the advantages of the Zero, but it remained a viable threat through 1942 and into 1943.

However, Mitsubishi was unable to come up with a viable replacement until very late in the war and even then the A7M was never flown much beyond the prototype stage. This meant a constant battle to improve what they had. Adding equipment and pilot safety features to the plane only made it slower and less nimble. One final attempt was the A6M8.

Similar to the A6M6  (which was the first Zero variant with self sealing fuel tanks) but with the Sakae (now out of production) replaced by the Mitsubishi Kinsei 62 engine with 1,163 kW (1,560 hp), 60% more powerful than the engine of the A6M2. This resulted in an extensively modified cowling and nose for the aircraft. The carburetor intake was much larger, a long duct like that on the Nakajima B6N Tenzan was added, and a large spinnerólike that on the Yokosuka D4Y Suisei with the Kinsei 62ówas mounted. The larger cowling meant deletion of the fuselage-mounted machine gun, but armament was otherwise unchanged from the Model 52 Hei (2 x 20 mm cannon; 2 x 13 mm/.51 in MG). In addition, the Model 64 was modified to carry two 150 l (40 US gal) drop tanks on either wing in order to permit the mounting of a 250 kg (550 lb) bomb on the underside of the fuselage. Two prototypes were completed in April 1945 but the chaotic situation of Japanese industry and the end of the war obstructed the start of the ambitious program of production for 6,300 machines, none being completed.

THE KIT

This kit comes in a fairly full box. There are different sprues for this variant which includes a new lower wing, new wing fuel tanks, rocket racks and various size rockets, new engine and cowling, main gear well, spinner and prop to rattle off the most obvious ones.

The cockpit is the same as we've seen in Hasegawa 1/48 A6Ms since this molding first hit the streets. That is to say it is very good and the only thing it really needs is a seat belt/harness. There are raised details for the instruments and decals  to fit over them. Note that this version has no cowl machine guns so you'll have to fill the holes for the breeches. There are various other holes that need to be opened in the fuselage, including one for a small window. Though this has a new cowling, it is in two halves so you'll need to deal with a seam. There is a one-piece prop that goes with this with the larger spinner so no individual blades.

The wing is the biggest change. It is the one that has the reinforcements on the underside and is able to take either wing fuel tanks or various rocket options. The open framework can handle (on each side) one large rocket, two small rockets or four small rockets. Like the other versions, there are separate (lowered) flaps. No tail hook or center fuselage fuel tank so there are inserts for those. The canopy is in three pieces so you can pose it open though I think the sliding portion may be a tad thick.

Instructions are standard stuff with Gunze paint references. Both markings options are green over light grey with leading edge ID markings. These latter items will need to be painted on as the area is fairly convoluted and a decal just wouldn't do it justice. Markings are for one of the prototypes as shown on the box art. The other is with the Yokosuka Naval Flying Group, which I think was as much a training command as it was an operational one. I'm not sure how many of these were made, but I'm betting not all that many. Decals are nicely printed and as good as most aftermarket sheets. The one set of roundels has separate white backgrounds. These respond well to most setting solutions.

CONSTRUCTION

I started this one by painting all the interior colors as well as some of the other shades while parts were still on the sprue. It does mean that I'll have to repaint them once the molding seams have been removed, but it does actually make things a bit easier to do so at this stage. I also looked through the instructions to see what holes needed to be filled or opened up. There are some on the wing that need to be filled and a small window on the fuselage that needs to be opened.

If you have built any of Hasegawa's newer 1/48 Zeros, you'll find little different. The kit cockpit built up very nicely and the decals actually fit the raised instrument detail. This aircraft has several different parts for the cockpit including a different seat, armor piece and head rest. I added some tape to simulate seat belts. I also had to fill the holes for the gun butts as this variant has no nose guns.

Meanwhile, I built up the wing. There is an insert that fits where the centerline fuel tank normally fits. There is also an insert for the wheel wells that is different on this variant. Fit of this was fairly good. Then I closed up the fuselage and added the upper forward fuselage insert. I've never gotten this to fit well on any A6M kit and had to do a bit of filler and sanding. Tailplanes were inserted and this was followed by the wing. The fit here is fairly good, but again, there is a gap at the rear fuselage/wing join that needed filler.

The engine and cowling were then built up and painted. The cowling is split into right and left sides instead of being a single molding so eliminating the seam at the lip takes a bit of effort. The cowling was painted blue-black and the engine inserted. Fit is fairly good. I also build up the prop/spinner and painted that with the brown primer that these were often seen wearing. I used Colourcoats for this shade.

I masked the three clear bits for the cockpit, gluing the windscreen and canopy in place. The rear section I left loose. This was because there is a gap in the canopy that would allow paint overspray to get inside. I used the rear section to ensure the radio mast was properly aligned as well. The rear section fit tight enough to hold on its own. I also had some difficulty masking the transparencies. Hasegawa's frame lines are not quite distinct enough to easily show through Tamiya tape when held to light. For this reason, I highly recommend an aftermarket masking set. I have ordered a couple for future builds. 
COLORS & MARKINGS

Zeros are pretty easy to paint. Dark Green upper and Grey undersides with a yellow wing leading edge section. I first painted the leading edge with Tamiya X-1 white and should have used a flat. This is because I used AK Interactive acrylics for all the other colors. This includes the yellow for the wing and it required several coats. For the underside, I used their IJN grey, which is a fairly dark grey compared to what I've used in the past. Same for the upper surface color of Deep Green Black. The paint was sprayed right from the bottle and covers quite well. I did not prime the plastic and had no issues when it came to masking. Hasegawa gives me the option of painting the gear wells, inner gear doors, and inside of the flaps either Aotaki (the metallic greenish-blue) or the underside color. I picked the easy way out.

With the airframe painted, I returned to the bench to add the landing gear. This is to keep it off the 'ground' while applying decals. I glued on the flaps and then glosscoated the airframe. I then started applying the kit decals. There are two options but one is a whiffer. So I chose the second prototype. Decals went on without a hitch though I think the hinomarus are too bright.

After that, the seeminly endless attachment of small bits was left. This included the exhaust, followed by the engine/cowling assembly (which didn't seem to fit too well but was sturdy enough when dry). Gear doors, inner retraction struts, gun barrels and those horrible seprate wingtip lights. I really hate them as I can never get them to fit cleanly. The rocket assembly was pretty much the last item. You are provided a number of options. With the lattice mount you can have two small, four small or one large rocket. You can also mount one large rocket withot the lattice. I wanted the lattice but not the hassle of all those missiles so I picked the one big one per side. This whole thing was painted steel. I then sprayed the whole thing with semi-matte clear and that was pretty well it. No exhaust stains, no grunging up the airframe and so on. I was rather displeased to see that the canopy slipped on one side after I'd removed the masking, but it isn't worth fixing and having to repaint all that.
CONCLUSIONS

So it was nice to revisit the Hasegawa Zeros. I generally enjoy building them and aside from needing some decent belts, the kits stand up quite well right out of the box. This one is a bit unusual due to that large engine, but it was very much the last of the breed and worthy of any proper A6M collection.

REFERENCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsubishi_A6M_Zero#A6M8_Type_0_Model_64

12 October 2018

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