Monday 21 April 2008

Kit Trivia - Yet Another Veteran Zero!

Revell's Zero was marketed in 1963 as kit # H-617, one of the first models in their 'Famous Plane' or 'Warbird' series of constant 1/72nd scale kits with box art by Jack Leynnwood. The other 1/72nd scale kits were the 'Memphis Belle' B-17F, Hawker Hurricane and Focke-Wulf 190.  Although not identified as such in the first edition the Revell Zero was meant to represent an A6M5c, but the simple kit was devoid of any wing armament and had a pinched, tapering cowling similar to the Frog kit. Later editions in a slightly larger box with the same box art had a projecting gun barrel moulded to each upper wing and identified it either as 'A6M56' or 'A6M5C'. Other issues were the central canopy being too tall and the wings too narrow in chord. The kit had none of the later series refinements, such as removable engine panels or an opening canopy.  As with previous Zero kits the box art and painting instructions omitted the blue-black cowling. An upper surface colour of 'grey-green' was suggested in the instructions but no colour was suggested for the undersurfaces, presumably expecting the modeller to make do with the kit plastic! Examples of this kit have been encountered moulded in various shades of sky blue, sky, duck egg green and eau-de-nil with later editions typically moulded in light grey.

The simple decal sheet consisted of Hinomaru, with white borders on upper wings and fuselage, and a white tail code for one aircraft ヨ-114 (the katakana character ヨ = 'Yo' for the Yokosuka Kokutai). The later Hawk model (which we shall also be taking a look at) was depicted as a unit stablemate, being ヨ-110. When comic book artist Ian Kennedy prepared his excellent artwork for Fleetway Library's Air Ace Picture Library #250 "Rocket Bomb Revenge" in July 1965, he also depicted an aircraft from this unit ヨ-117 (below).
"Rocket Bomb Revenge" told the fabulous story of a mixed race spy masquerading as a Zero pilot and how his path crossed several times with a US B-26 Marauder crew. Ultimately he hi-jacks an 'Ohka' rocket-propelled suicide bomb, "switching off the fuses" and landing it intact on the deck of a USN aircraft carrier! The far-fetched storyline was ultimately rescued by the skilled pen work of Mr Kennedy and his appreciation for the actual shape and form of aircraft. Those editions of the Air Ace Picture Library which he drew are now eagerly sought after collectables. Note the economy of line in his work and the way he uses blank space to suggest high reflection off the aircraft canopy glazing.

"Rocket Bomb Revenge" was also unusual in featuring an attack by Kawasaki Ki-102 'Randy' heavy fighters, a Japanese Army type unknown to most schoolboys at that time. The storyline even mentions their 57mm nose cannon!

 Revell 'Fighting Deuces' Box Art

In 1969 Revell's Zero was also issued together with the Grumman Wildcat in the 'Fighting Deuces' series as Kit # H-220 (above). It survived until the 1990's when it was last re-issued with new box art (below) and revised markings for ツ-46 (from the Tsukuba Ku).

1995 Re-issue as kit # 04126

Image credits: Zero box art © 1963, 1969, 1971 & 1995 Revell Inc.; Comic art by Ian Kennedy, ©Fleetway Library 1965 

Saturday 19 April 2008

Kit Trivia ~ Another Veteran Zero

The iconic Frog Zero-Sen model dates from 1959 and survived until at least the 1990's as a Revell re-issue under their acquired Matchbox logo. It was originally intended for discontinuation in 1968 but the mould was cleaned up and "improved" by AMT that same year and the kit soldiered on (although as far as I know it was never issued in the USA under the AMT logo). The later re-issues were not as clean as the earlier ones, which had engraved panel line detail and markings positions. The raised lines and grey "soapy" plastic of the post-AMT revision seem retrograde changes viewed in comparison to a mint duck egg green or sky blue plastic pre-1968 kit. 

According to Lines and Heelström* 45,000 kits in the original Type D yellow sided box (as shown in the heading image) were issued between 1959 and 1965. The kit was numbered 392F but there is an unconfirmed possibility that some of the later boxes were numbered F392. 

Jo Kotula Art for Air Lines USA Box

In 1966 the kit was released as 5903 in the USA (shown above) in their Air Lines range by Frog's distributor Lines Bros Inc. This kit featured new box art by Jo Kotula as shown above. 

Between 1965 and 1968 100,000 kits numbered F392 were issued in the Type F1 black series box (shown below) featuring the new Jo Kotula box art with a colour profile and plan on the reverse. This was the last issue of the kit in the original crisply moulded duck egg green plastic with engraved national insignia.

Type F1 Box F392

Reverse of F1 Box

From 1969 to 1974 no fewer than 260,000 kits were re-issued as F219F in a plastic bag ((Type J2) with a cardboard header (as shown below) with new art by Eric Carless (?). This was the re-moulded kit in grey plastic with the engraved insignia positions removed and raised panel line detail. The kit now played fast and loose by offering two markings options with decals for a dark green aircraft of the "Atsugi Kokutai" in Japan, 1944 and a speckled bird of the 251st Kokutai over Bougainville in 1942 without specifying the variant sub-types. The tail code on the Atsugi option seems to represent the Katakana for Ah-Tsu (アツ-144) which is a code that Donald W Thorpe attributed to Atsugi in his 1977 book**.  The 251st Ku tail code U1-150 and speckled camouflage scheme suggest an A6M3 Model 22 but the '5' in the code is curiously printed smaller than the other characters.

F219F in Type J2 Bag 

Reverse of J2 Bag

The final Frog issue, as F219 from 1974 to 1977, featured a new white box (below) with the same artwork and 65,000 kits are reported to have been released in both conventional separate lid and tray type H boxes.

Final Type H Box

The very last Frog Zero issues, from 1976 to 1977, were in the company's characteristic twilight blue plastic, representative perhaps of the Soviet clouds already darkening the future of this most British of brands. When those various executives and bean counters devised the "cunning plan" to ship the molds to the USSR, to be paid for by the free production of Novo kits for sale in the UK, it was a heritage  offence typical of that era. What Frog had come to represent was not valued and was believed not worth preserving in a national sense. Now of course the original Frog kits increase in value year on year whilst the "Frog spawn" still reappearing under various Russian and East European logos is but a pale imitation of its glorious past. Anyone seeking to judge Frog quality from the 50 year old much-abused retread of the Zero-Sen should examine an original first-issue kit and, preferably, build one!

Revell-Matchbox re-issue ~ Frog's hybrid lurks under J Velc's A6M5 artwork!

The Zero mould, and its Rufe stablemate, did not make the one way journey into the neglect and convoluted dealings of the Soviet state toy industry, being rejected along with other models of Axis aircraft. Instead they were acquired by Revell from whose factories they re-appeared in various guises. The Zero was re-issued in 1996 under the Matchbox logo acquired by Revell (as shown above) with a new decal sheet for an A6M5.

I often wondered where Frog's original fanciful colour scheme and markings originated. The yellow-bordered hinomaru, those yellow stripes on the nose gun troughs and the absence of a black cowling, the suggestion to paint the undersides "light green or sky". Then I discovered a colour four-view (above) in the December, 1956 edition of RAF Flying Review magazine (Volume 12 No.4) accompanying an article entitled "I Designed the Zero" by Jiro Horikoshi. Frog even used the identical tail number '252-51'!

Frog's splendid Zero-Sen built as intended

The Frog kit has no interior and no wheel wells, typical of its era. Although intended to represent the A6M5c there were no cowling injector style exhausts and the twin gun barrels in each wing were identical. Nevertheless I loved her then and I still love her now! I can remember the first one I ever encountered being built by a pal on the highly-polished table in his parents dining room (!) and arguing with him about whether the drop tank was meant to represent a bomb. 

* Frog Model Aircraft 1932-1976 by Richard Lines and Leif Hellström, New Cavendish Books, 1989

** Japanese Naval Air Force Camouflage and Markings World War II by Donald W Thorpe, Aero Publishers Inc., 1977.

Images credit: Mainly Straggler's collection; some box art from web; Model photograph from web - if it's yours please holler and I'll be pleased to credit it!

Thursday 17 April 2008

Japanese Aviation News

Japanese Aviation News is the newsletter of the Japanese Aviation Special Interest Group of IPMS (UK). The latest issue is 16 pages of colour printed on glossy paper and is full of interesting features and news primarily focussed towards Japanese aircraft modelling.

There is a feature on Hasegawa's jet-powered Shiden Kai J7W2 kit, reviews of recent kits, books and decals and a collection of box art from some unusual Zero kits.

I understand that it is not necessary to be a member of IPMS (UK) to subscribe to the newsletter, but if you are interested please send a note to the SIG leader Gary Wenko

The Zero Colour Conundrum Part 6 ~ Dark Greens

Courtesy of Japanese researcher Katsushi Owaki here is a display of rendered dark green chips from extant Zero artifacts in various collections, together with an example of the colour standard chip for Anryokushoku (Dark Green Colour) 1-2 in the 8609 document and D2 in KariKi 117.

The greens show considerable variation from dark grey-green through dark olive to rich, dark blue-greens. 

Image credit: Rendered colour chips ©Straggler 2008; primary data via Katsushi Owaki

Sunday 13 April 2008

Kit Trivia ~ A Veteran Zero

I recently picked up an example of one of the earliest Airfix Zero kits, possibly from its first year of issue in 1959 with the original shield-shaped base.  On examination I discovered a very cleanly molded kit in a duck egg green plastic with a mix of delicately inscribed and raised surface detail. I was mildly surprised to find no dreaded rivets or overdone fabric sacking - they came later when the kit was "improved".  The biggest surprise was when I test fitted it together (as you do). The later issues are a somewhat "iffy" fit to say the least, after all the mold is nearly fifty years old, but this one went together almost without glue, each piece clicking positively into place. The canopy is not great but at least the frames can be seen.

It just goes to show that if you want to get maximum enjoyment from a retro-build you probably need to find one of the earliest examples of the kit!  

Box art for the USA issue from Airfix Corporation of America

There is no copyright date on the 'Airfix-72' issue by the Airfix Corporation of America but the kits were subsequently issued from 1966 to 1969 with the 'Craftsmaster' logo added. This one is moulded in silver plastic but with the same markings as the UK issue.

In terms of accuracy the original Airfix Zero is in the "superior recognition model" category. There is no engine, no interior and the pilot has two pairs of very large buttons on his jacket. Cowling flaps are molded, heavily, in the open position, an Airfix tradition. Interestingly the undercarriage has a boxed-in effect as the recess for the one-piece lower wing is solid. A drop tank is included which looks undersized and there is a "working" arrestor hook.

New Roy Cross artwork on the 1976 issue Type 5 box

Roy Cross later painted new artwork with that iconic image of a trio of Zeros diving through sunlit clouds spitting fire. He depicted the unique replacement cooling louvres fitted to the Chinese captured example P-5016 when damage was repaired. In our days of Zero ignorance these louvres were once believed to represent a pre-production version.

The later MPC US issue with a modified presentation of the Roy Cross art included a sprue of additional chrome-plated parts and some wild 'customizing' decals but unfortunately no black dragon!

Built and painted model on the Type 8A 1984 box

Halcyon days are conjured up by this simple model, although I have stronger memories of building the Frog example. They were flown over the "jungle canopy" of the freshly mown lawn during those long worry-free school summer holidays when we were too poor to go abroad and climate change had not been invented. Always predatory and often in pairs, courtesy of the inspiration provided by the Fleetway Publications Air Ace Picture Library, the Zeros would pounce on "Battler Britton" in his lone Hurricane (Airfix Mk.IV complete with rockets and European camouflage & markings). Ah, the smell of new mown grass and Airfix polystyrene in the morning . . .  
Aircraft of the Aces Special Edition box art from 1989

With one exception (the Sakai special edition in the Aircraft of the Aces series  - above) the Airfix Zero had always offered the same spurious "Army-style" tail insignia in the kit. In 2009 it was issued as a new starter set with new box art and the Sakai markings.

The original decal sheet, repeated in almost every issue of the kit for fifty years

The special edition box art included a pretty good likeness of Saburo Sakai too!

Last outing for the Roy Cross art on the Type 11 box

Image credits: © Airfix & Roy Cross

Wednesday 9 April 2008

J3 & 2-6

Veteran colour researcher James F Lansdale has written to me privately, gently and quite rightly taking me to task for prematurely linking the extant colours of various early Zero artifacts to the IJN paint colour 'Hai Iro' (Ash or grey colour), KariKi 117 J3 and 8609 2-6. He correctly points out that nowhere has anyone made this link in either official documents nor the official colour standards.
Jim notes that J3 was one of the colours used in the camouflage tests reported in document YoKu 0266 and was therefore unlikely to be the same as the "J3 (but ) slightly towards amber colour" also mentioned in the report as the current colour of the Zero (in February 1942). Further to this he points out that the colour of the actual 2-6 chip examined by him and other aviation luminaries is not a "warm gray-green" but a "true gray".  

Jim proposes a visual Munsell match of 5 GY 6/1 for the colour chip 2-6, which is technically not a "true gray" (i.e. a neutral grey consisting of black and white pigments). Japanese aviation author Shigeru Nohara suggested a match of FS 26357 which is a more creamy grey. Jim is correct in advising me that Japanese researcher 'Summer'  put the 2-6 chip between Munsell N 5 and N 6, cool neutral greys with not a hint of green or brown. Summer also stated that the 2-6 chip was identical to the J3 chip in KariKi 117. However, upon checking Summer's original notes I found that he had actually qualified his N 5.5/N 6 match by noting that the chip had a faint yellowish colour

5 GY 6/1 is represented  as C35-60B in the JPMA (Japanese Paint Manufacturers Association) colour deck Summer used to make the comparisons so it is puzzling why he did not match this directly to the 2-6 chip as Jim and others had. To some eyes, including my own, C35-50B/5 GY 6/1 has a decidely greenish appearance, more so when viewed adjacent to true neutral greys. This may be what Summer was getting at in his qualification of a faint yellowish colour. 

For me, taking the 5 GY 6/1 match at face value, many of the extant artifact colours still look like "J3 Hai iro (but) slightly towards amber colour". Especially so if age darkening and ambering is taken into account. The question remains, however, just what was this colour? Was it a distinct but un-designated variation of J3, was it the result of a specific paint application methodology, or was it a different colour altogether? At present the questions comes down to the translated semantics of the YoKu No.0266 report. Did the author mean that the colour was merely like J3 towards amber or that it was J3 towards amber? Was there, by that time, a method of application for paint J3 that resulted in its amber appearance?

The various colours cited here are presented above, together with the J3/2-6 value assigned by Katsushi Owaki. The closest equivalent FS and Munsell matches are shown below each chip with the DE2000 difference calculation (2.0 or less = a close match). The DE2000 difference calculation between 5 GY 6/1 and 7.5 Y 5.5/1.5 is 6.19 whilst FS 26357 is @ 8.06. The difference between 5 GY 6/1 and 26357 is 4.15.

Image credit: rendered colour chips ©Straggler 2008

Monday 7 April 2008

A6M5 Tail Cone

This post has been removed at the request of several persons in Japan. 

No other comment at this stage. I'm keeping my powder dry.

Sunday 6 April 2008

The Zero Colour Conundrum ~ Part 5 ~ Colour Analysis

This hypothesis takes the current appearance of the Iida Zero artifacts and projects the effect of reducing the age darkening in stages towards the faded and bleached example of the Niihau artifact.
The stages of 25%, 50% and 75% have been calculated. Most interestingly in all cases the closest matches continue as FS 16350 and RAL 7034 Gelbgrau (yellow grey) with the difference calculations shown in parentheses. In the case of 25% reduction the closest Munsell is 7.5 Y 6/2 @ 4.03. In the other two cases the closest Munsell is 10 Y 6/2 @ 2.65 and 1.24 respectively. 

Comparing the current measured value of the Iida artifact against the later J3 and I3 values results in DE2000 difference calculations of 4.32 and 7.79 respectively. The reduction values compare as follows:-

25% to J3 @ 4.12 & to I3 @ 9.04
50% to J3 @ 4.41 & to I3 @ 10.30
75% to J3 @ 5.08 & to I3 @ 11.60

The Niihau example, assuming a fade of 100% from the Iida example, measures against the J3 and I3 samples as 7.31 and 13.40.

In all cases the actual and projected artifact values are closer to the J3 sample by less than half their difference to the I3 sample. Assuming the values of these two samples are correct, it is improbable that the original paint applied to the Iida and Niihau Zero artifacts matched I3 but more probable that it matched J3. We might reasonably expect the original paint to have been slightly lighter and "greyer" with less yellowing (amber), which in turn will decrease the green caste. But please bear in mind the contemporaneous description "J3 grey colour (but) slightly towards amber colour", which suggests the original paint was a warm grey with a slightly yellow or amber caste to it.

Image credit: Rendered chips ©Straggler 2008

The Zero Colour Conundrum ~ Part 4 ~ Pearl Harbor Zeros

Artifacts from the Zero fighters downed at Pearl Harbor have been well documented at and a recent discussion there focussed on the Niihau and Iida examples.

The top image displays the measured values of the current appearance of the artifacts. Top row is the well known Iida example with its closest matches to FS 16350, which is not quite green enough, and RAL 7034 Gelbgrau (yellow grey), which is slightly too dark. The Iida artifact was recovered soon after the crash and the piece is well preserved with the paint still glossy. In the second row is the Niihau artifact shown both after the patina was rubbed away and before. This piece had been long exposed, and was badly weathered and degraded. Bottom row are examples of J3 'Hai Iro' and I3 'Tsuchi Iro' for comparison. 

If we accept the rubbed Niihau artifact as evidence of the original colour it may sit well as an exposed and faded example of the later J3 on the one side, whilst on the other side the Iida example is perhaps a good representation of the colour as it appears age-darkened and ambered. Although seductively close in appearance, I3 'Tsuchi Iro' appears just too dark and too brown to be representative of these colours. Both examples appear to match quite well the description "J3 grey colour slightly towards amber colour".

The second image is a montage presentation by Ken Glass. Item 1 is Greg Springer's match to the Iida A6M2 artifact, made full strength using ModelMaster enamel paints. Item 2 is ditto for the Pearl Harbor 'Hospital Kate' relic. Item 3 is Munsell 5 Y 5/2. Item 4 is Munsell 7.8 Y 5.5/2.5, a special chip made to order by Tom Hall and purchased from him. Item 5 is Greg Springer's match again but with 30% white added for 'scale effect'. Items 6 & 7 are Wal-Mart house paint color chips matched to the above and which are said to be more commonly available in the USA than FS 595b.

Image credits: Rendered chips ©Straggler 2008; montage presentation ©Ken Glass 2008
Acknowledgements to Greg Springer, James F Lansdale, Jim Long and Tom Hall for primary data.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

The Zero Colour Conundrum ~ Part 3

These are the measured Munsell values from extant Nakajima built Zero artifacts in Japan kindly provided by Japanese researcher Katsushi Owaki.

For the early Zero a good impression of a possible batch variation from neutral grey through light grey to greenish grey is demonstrated. Whilst allowing for the effects of weathering, exposure and age discoloration the appearance of the colours is generally consistent with contemporaneous eyewitness reports and the descriptions contained within the Zero Maintenance Manual and the YoKu No.0266 report. These are the only officially documented references for the colour of the early Zero and are therefore highly significant:-

  1. Hai nezumi iro (ash or grey rat colour)
  2. J3 Hai iro (ash or grey colour) (but) slightly towards ame iro (amber or caramel colour)

Regarding the description "ame iro", the Sanseido Dictionary states:- "ame: wheat (millet) gluten; glutinous rice jelly. ame iro: light brown; amber; yellow."

Bear in mind that the YoKu report does not describe the current Zeros (in February 1942) as ame iro per se but as a grey tinted with amber.

Tuesday 1 April 2008

J3 & I3 ~ Correction

Gremlins in the cockpit! Please note that as a result of additional information from Japan I have had to significantly correct my original post on this subject on 31 March.
In that post I compared the similarity of the closest standard Munsell values for J3 and I3 as they related to the current appearance of aged and weathered artifacts. That comparison may have confused readers. The precise values from the original Kariki 117 and 8609 chips for these colours demonstrate a more significant difference and also reveal the changing appearance of J3 over time.

Please refer to the original post for further details and images.

The Zero Colour Conundrum ~ Part 2

Japanese colour researcher Katsushi Owaki kindly sent measured Munsell values from several Mitsubishi & Nakajima built Zero artifacts extant in Japan. I have rendered these as colour chips with the facsimile copies of the I3 and J3 chips from the Kariki 117 document for comparison.

Here are the first of the Mitsubishi built samples as listed by Owaki-san. I am preparing a table showing these together with their FS 595b and RAL equivalents. Click on each of the images above for full size views.

Please bear in mind that the samples are probably age darkened and ambered. Prior to collection the paint probably suffered weathering and ultra violet exposure to various degrees. Therefore the current appearance should only be taken as an approximate guide to their original colour.

Further discussion about the use of I3 as a midcoat and J3 as a topcoat may be found at the Fuku BBS forum.  Additional examples of extant artifacts from Zeros may also be seen at A6M232's own website.

With grateful thanks to Owaki-san for the data and to Ken Glass for assistance in calculating the sRGB values for the Munsell fractional notations.

Image credit: Rendered colour chips ©Straggler 2008