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Tamiya’s 1/48 Nakajima N1J1 Gekko

Drew Hatch joins us again with Tamiya’s 1/48 offering of this unusual night fighter the Japanese used in WWII. Despite some challenges the kit had in store for him, Drew shows it can be built up into a fine looking model with some patience and hard work.

In late 1942 the Japanese recognized a need for dedicated night fighters. There were several that made it into service, the Nakajima N1J1 Gekko being one of them, nicknamed the “Irving” by the allies, it made itself a formidable threat. Although several variants were produced, the type 11 was chosen by Tamiya to capture this important fighter.

Tamiya’s kit is molded in their usual light gray plastic. Crisp and clear parts with no trace of flash anywhere. The cockpit is very well detailed out of the box and could only be improved with the addition of some belts to the seats. I started construction there. There seemed to be something not quite right, so a major dry fit was done. I had a huge warp! Tamiya, what gives? I tried every trick I knew to remove the warp from the left fuselage. Submerging in hot water, under the tap of straight hot water, hot air gun, I tried everything but boiling water. I knew that would ruin it. The twist just wouldn’t give. I was able to get approximately half of the warp out, but you can see it is still way too much.

After a deliberation with my senses, I decided to cut the fuselage where the warp was located. This would solve my headache, right? After some searching for courage to hack up a Tamiya kit, I cut the fuselage in half. Now it fit a whole lot better. I chose to make the cut along an internal support that would be used later in construction for the upward firing cannons. That would give me added strength at that point and help keep everything aligned properly.

With the fuselage cut I finished painting the interior. I started by painting the entire interior Floquil old silver. There were numerous sections that were unpainted aluminum and others that were primed with the Japanese clear lacquer tinted blue/green. After that silver dried for a couple of days, I mixed Tamiya clear blue and clear green, about 1:1 mix, for the interior color. I have tried the metallic colors and even though they look very good, they are not as convincing for me. Afterwards I took the instrument panel decal from the sheet and punched out the dials and added them individually to the panel. This gives it a more real look to the cockpit. I found some old Model Technologies Japanese seat belts in my boxes and they sure look the part.

 Drew did an amazing job on the cockpit detail, skillfully bringing out all of the detail the kit offers.

After finishing the interior, I left off the gun barrels to the upwards and downwards firing cannons, choosing to add them at final assembly. I added some plastic card to the gear bays to prevent the “see through” look. The fuselage was assembled in its three parts, focusing on the fit and preventing any twisting of the tail section. I assembled the wings in a different order than the instructions say. I prefer to add the lower wing first, and then add the upper wings focusing on the fit of the wing root. This allows me to have some better control of the dihedral, or upwards bending of the wing and prevents the dreaded “step” that is common at wing roots.

After the assembly was done, I fixed the gap I created and finished forcing the remaining warp into place. A quick bit of filler and sanding was all that was needed. It’s not perfect, but far better than I thought it would have been. Tamiya’s engineering was the difference in this one.

I finished the kit using Gunze aqueos and Polly Scale paints. The kit decals were just fine, albeit on the thick side. All the clear parts fit perfectly. I would like to do another one in the future, just this time without the warp. It was a fun build and one that everyone should be able to get some fantastic results on.

Drew Hatch has been an avid modeller since he was a teenager. Taking a modeling hiatus while flying in the Canadian Armed Forces, he picked it up again when he met his wife. They’ve been married ten wonderful years. Drew’s interests are naval and Canadian aviation, with an emphasis on the Pacific War. (Along with the slight detour into N. Africa during WWII.)