Building Tamiya’s 1/48 A6M2 Zero happened by accident really. I had plenty of kits already in progress on my bench at the time. However, as my wife and I were walking through Hobby Lobby on a Saturday afternoon, this little kit mysteriously fell into the shopping basket. It obviously needed a home, so she took pity on it and let me bring it home.
And the fact that it was a Tamiya kit that was about $12- and I had a 40% off coupon to throw in- made for a mighty fine investment (less than $8!) in styrene. And despite the fact that the kit is probably 30 plus years old, it’s one sweet build for not a lot of money.
While it’s not as detailed as some of Tamiya’s newer kits, it delivers plenty of value. Parts are well molded with almost no flash, and panel detail is a mixture of recessed and raised detail in a few places. Options for an open and closed canopy are provided, and overall the detail is good.
The cockpit is well detailed for this price range- certainly more than acceptable for an out-of-the-box build with the canopy open. The instrument panel is flat, though a a decal for the dials is provided. The parts assemble into a tidy little unit. After researching cockpit colors for the Zero- an exercise in speculation, ultimately, I found- I settled on a color that looked “eyeball” close: British Interior Green (Pollyscale). I added some Eduard photoetch belts, though I later found out that I probably should have only used one for the shoulder belt. I picked out details with black, and some highlighting using drybrushed silver. I finished it off with an acrylic wash. I thought I went a bit too heavy, but once installed in the fuselage, it looked about right.
I gave salt chipping a try on the cowling. This is a weathering technique that is supposed to produce a more realistic, random pattern of paint chipping. First, I painted the cowl Pollyscale Aluminum. Once that had a chance to cure, I spinkled water onthe cowl, and then sprinkled sea salt on it, dusting off some of it to not appear excessive. If you try this, be sure and use larger chunky salt, like sea salt or kosher salt. Table salt will just dissolve. 😀 One the salt dried, I sprayed on Tamiya Flat Black. Once this dried, I used a toothpick to remove the salt.
In the end I thought it looked…. well, like an overweight, 40-ish modeler sprinkled salt on the cowl of his Zero in an attempt to weather it. OK, maybe it’s not that bad. A few folks told me it looked just right. I like the theory, but I’m not real sure about my execution of it.
I’ll work on it.
Assembly was very easy and straight-forward, with good fit all around. The wing to fuselage join needed a bit of filling, but nothing drastic. I liked the color used on the wheel wells- a really cool metallic blue from Tamiya. Painting research was about as clear as the cockpit research was. Most kits I’d seen were a very light shade of gray, but the more I read indicated that Zeros were finished in either a greenish gray color, or an amber color, depending on the source. Being a lzy modeler, I saw that I had Pollyscale IJN Gray on my paint shelf, so I grabbed that and sprayed that on.
As the kit is all one color on the exterior- save for the salted cowl (needs butter…), finishing that was quick. Once that cured, I followed up with a coat of Future, to insure the decals went down well.
The kit comes with markings for three aircraft, and I chose the markings for famed IJN pilot Saburo Sakai. The decals were typical for Tamiya… a bit thick, but they went down fairly well with some Pollyscale Decal Softener. After they were on, I followed up with one more coat of Future, and then an acrylic wash of Pollyscale black, water, and some dish soap. A final coat of Pollyscale Flat, and I declared Tamiya’s A6M2 finished.
Despite it’s age, this is a great kit. It shows that Tamiya has always been at the leading edge of engineering in it’s model kits- the quality in this kit is every bit as good as their very latest kits. And it is the best price you’ll find, i think, on such an accurate, easy to build example of this classic World War 2 fighter.