A6M Zero Aces Batch Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

This is a resurrected work-in-progress build log of a batch build comparison of seven kits from Hasegawa, Fine Molds, and Tamiya.  For me the gains in efficiency from building in batches outweigh the burdens of repetitive construction.  It also helps keep the number of kits in the stash down to reasonable levels.  Thanks to a few “deals I could not refuse” at the shows I discovered I had managed to accumulate several Hasegawa Zeros.  Added to a Fine Molds A6M2 and a couple more from Tamiya, there was a small pile of Zeros waiting to be built.  This is also a good opportunity to compare the kits.

Fine Mold’s kit is spectacular. It is incredibly detailed, and includes options such as dropped flaps and folded wingtips. It comes molded in four colors approximating the finished colors of the different components. FM produced three variants, an A6M2, A6M3, and an A6M5. Each was distributed by bundling half the sprues with an issue of Model Graphics magazine. The magazines featured references, a gallery of finished Zeros, a build article, kit instructions, and even a cut-out for those wishing to make their own box! All in Japanese, of course, but still useful.

Here is a comparison of the interior components of the three kits. At the top is Hasegawa. While not as detailed as the Fine Molds or Tamiya offerings, the older Hasegawa kits offer every Zero variant except the -K trainer, and are generally accurate in shape. The liabilities are typical for Hasegawa – Spartan cockpits and shallow wheelwells. The middle components in the green plastic are from Fine Molds, an outstanding kit in every respect. At the bottom Tamiya’s Zeros, are some of the best kits ever produced in 1/72 scale.

The lower wing parts are finely engraved and feature recessed panel lines on all three kits. The Hasegawa offering at the top has shallow wheel wells molded into the part, the other two have deep wells which go all the way to the upper wing part. Note the cut-outs on the Fine Molds wing in the center which allow for variations.

The lines of FM and Tamiya’s A6M2’s are a very close match, with just a few differences in engineering. Here is a shot of the FM (near) fuselage taped up with the Hasegawa. The vertical stabilizer is a bit too broad on the Hasegawa Zero, but this is easy enough to correct.

To update the Hasegawa kits, I decided to substitute castings of superior components from the other two. Here are the wheelwells cut from the Fine Molds kit and prepared for casting.

The borrowed components are ready for the pouring of RTV rubber molding material. The frames are made from Lego blocks, with masking tape underneath. The masking tape seals the bottom of the molds, and allows the masters to be fixed in place. I mainly used FM parts because the cockpit floors were slightly narrower than those in the Tamiya kit, which fit the Hasegawa fuselage better. The Tamiya kit parts would also work. The white assembly in the upper left corner is made from Evergreen stock, and will fit behind the horseshoe-shaped frame aft of the pilot’s seat. When the castings are completed I will have the parts needed to update the Hasegawa kits, and add a little more detail to the visible area behind the pilot’s seat on all the builds.

Once the RTV molds have cured, the actual casting doesn’t take much time. Pour, wait, pop, repeat. In between pours, stringer detail and other details can be made from 0.010″ square Plastistruct and added. Here is a shot of the progress on a Hasegawa, Fine Molds, and Tamiya cockpits, from top to bottom. The Hasegawa kits will get a whole new cockpit, the others get a few enhancements.

Here are the basic colors in place, which allows some of the detail to show. The interiors were first primed with Alclad black. The Aotake translucent protective coating could vary in shade from blues to greens, mine is a 50 / 50 mix of Alclad transparent green and transparent blue over Aluminum. I used Model Master Interior Green FS 34151 for the Mitsubishi cockpit green. This was misted down over the black primer to leave a shadow effect in the nooks and crannies. Two additional lighter mixes were sprayed from directly above to enhance the highlights.

Here’s all seven cockpits in the basic colors, no washes or detail painting have been added at this point. These assemblies are about 1.25 inches long (32 mm), much smaller than shown in the picture. The cockpit in the upper left was painted with mixes of Model Master Interior Green, Light Gull Gray, and Radome Tan to represent the early Nakajima color. From above, the effect of misting the color layers on to leave the black shadowing is more subtle, but still provides the definition needed to show detail.

I have added pads for the seats, painted as either canvas or leather. Seat belts are Eduard PE, and Eduard provides different style belts for each manufacturer. Most of the wire detail was added with 32 gauge beading wire from the craft store, levers are 0.010″ & 0.015″ Plastistruct rod. Instrument decals are from the kits and the spares box, Fine Molds provided the most comprehensive decal sheet of the three.

This is a tub posed with the sidewalls from a Hasegawa kit. Everything was sealed with Future (Kleer), then given a wash of thin black enamel. Switches were drybrushed with silver to bring out details.