One of the first things you'll notice when you open the box on this kit (if you're like me) is the extensive history of the aircraft included in the instructions. This is *not* your typical one or two paragraph blurb! Very interesting - take the time to read it, you won't regret it.
The next thing you'll notice is that there are really not all that many parts in this kit. If, like me, you break a kit apart into subassemblies, you could have this kit together in a weekend (barring glue and paint drying time.) Typical of Tamiya, there were no fit problems, and the only spot I found that could use some putty is where the underwing floats meet the wing (and not much there,) and the intake in the main float (which is a little trickier.)
The cockpit is not intensely detailed - there is plenty of moulded in detail on the fuselage sides and in the cockpit floor and left wall (A9) but the instrument panel is depicted with a decal on a flat panel. If you use the closed canopy, this is no problem. If you use the open canopy, you may want to scratch build (or use aftermarket) instruments, as you will lose some "depth."
Detail mavens may also want to cut off the machine gun
breeches (represented with plastic blocks - lacking detail) and
find some aftermarket breeches or do some assembly and scribing
to add detail to the ones in the kit. (Again, this will be more
important if you choose to leave the canopy open.)
There has been much debate on interior colors - from straight greens, to the transparent blue-green "aotake," to tan, grey, or black. For this kit, I decided (since the cockpit was so small) to try a suggestion I ran across on rec.models.scale. The interior walls of the fuselage were painted with Gunze metallic blue-green. The actual cockpit walls and floor (A-9, 11, 12, and 13) were painted a light "interior" green mix. The seat was painted bare metal (per kit instructions.) When assembled, this kept the "aotake-ish" blue green of the cockpit walls from overpowering the rest of the interior, and still added some visual interest. Is it "historically correct?" Well - dig up a Rufe and prove me wrong. I like it. <g>
At this point, I modified the assembly sequence slightly. Steps 1b (the underwing bombs and boarding ladder,) 2 (engine, prop, and cowling,) 3 (beaching "cart") and 4 (floats) can all be built simultaneously. I waited to attach the underwing bombs to the racks until after painting (painting the racks fuselage color,) painting the bombs and the engine (in step 2, moulded in one piece) in the same dark metallic grey metalizer. Part A-20 (a retaining "cup" for the back of the prop shaft) isn't really needed, and you can leave it off if you want your prop to move. The bulge in the middle of the shaft is sufficient to trap it between the engine and the transmission housing.
Be sure to remember to weight the front of the main float (step 4.) Modelling clay, plus some small metal bits, were more than sufficient (and greatly added to the weight of this tiny kit!) If you don't, you can use the clear stand (transparent part 5) to hold the model upright, but I'm not a big fan of stands.
The main float body gives the only "difficult" area of this kit. There's an opening in the front, about a quarter inch deep (an intake of some sort, it appears.) The main float's seam shows up very well here. Be careful filling the seam with putty (or your medium of choice.) Sandpaper held around the back end of a small paintbrush can help clean out excess putty and sand it smooth.
Since I was going to build a grey aircraft (with black cowl), I modified step 5 again. I painted the cowl black, inserted the engine, and set it aside to dry. I then put the fuselage halves together, and slipped the cockpit "tub" in. The fuselage halves fit very well, and didn't need any sanding to get rid of seams. This was allowed to dry, with all the other subassemblies.
I decided not to put the pilot in the cockpit (step 6.) Instead, I used the standing pilot figure to give more of a sense of scale (and add more color when he's "standing" next to the plane.) I glued the wings together while waiting for the fuselage to dry. Don't forget to leave the antenna off (part A-14)- why they show it in this step, then tell you not to put it on, is beyond me. <g>
From this point on, the rest of the kit fairly falls together. Mate the fuselage with the wing and tailplanes, glue the floats to their attachments (the wing floats should "lean" - they're farther out on the bottom than at the attachment point, but due to the moulding, it's hard to get wrong.) Don't glue the cowl on yet.
Be careful with the wing counterbalances (part A-18.) They're small, and easy to lose.
At this point, I chose to use the closed canopy. I painted the area it would cover in a slightly darker shade of grey, fixed the antenna, and masked and glued the canopy to the fuselage.
Tamiya gives you the choice of several different aircraft (six, actually) - three in an early, overall grey scheme, and three in a later grey and green scheme. (They also give you a seperate sheet with two color plates, showing one side view of each scheme.) All of them have the dark cowl, which is why I left it off until after painting.I chose an aircraft from the Yokosuka Air Fleet, flight test department, Air Tech. Institute. I used Tamiya acrylics to paint it in its overall grey scheme, and Gunze Aqueous flat black on the cowl. The propeller was given a coat of Aluminum metalizer, with the blade backs painted (after sealing) with Gunze red-brown. Once the paint was dry, the cowl and propeller were attached to the model, as were the bombs and bomb racks.
Now comes the only really "weak" part of this kit - the decals. Tamiya's decals were thick (about paper-sheet thick, which might not sound like much
until you look at other kits) and somewhat stiff. Some coaxing was required to get them to fit down to the fuselage sides. The wing hinoramus were not a problem. Suprisingly, the red "warning" stripes on the main float snuggled down very easily.
My decal problems may have been from the fact that the aircraft I was modelling required the white-outlined hinoramus. The wing markings (no outline) also fit down very well. You may still want to look into an aftermarket set of markings, however, as they are still thick enough to soften if not wipe out detail.
Once the markings were sealed and dried, a little careful work with a new X-Acto knife along the panel lines "broke" the decals, allowing the lines to continue.
All in all, this is not a very difficult kit, and a good looking kit of an unusual subject. The price (I paid US$14 for mine) is right, too. If you've been away from the hobby for a while, or if you want to try something other than Monogram (but don't want to sink $35 into a new kit) this is a great introduction to Tamiya's kits. If you're an "old hand," this kit still gives room for added detail in the cockpit and other areas. Either way, it builds up into a very nice looking representation of a
little known member of the Zero family.
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