The Zero colour saga rumbles on - with an understandable confusion on the part of some modellers faced with apparently two conflicting determinations, separated it seems by the Pacific Ocean, of just what the elusive "olive grey" looked like.
The current situation has not been helped by incomplete or unequivocal derivatives, which has led to the somewhat reckless bandying about of terms like "ameiro", "tsuchi iro" and "hairyokushoku" at various websites and in various publications. A recent "summary" in a model magazine was a dog's breakfast and would have led the uninitiated straight up the garden path before you could say . . . well, . . . "ameiro". Osprey's guide to modelling the Mitsubishi A6M Zero is slightly confusing, managing to conflate the terms "tsuchi iro" (earth colour), "grey-green", "ameiro" (amber or candy colour) and "hairyokushoku" (ash green colour) into one generic colour and providing a printed colour chip reminiscent of RAF Dark Earth - although the actual paint mix suggestions are fine.
All of this has led to a situation where the question is still being asked reasonably and answered imperfectly, depending on the conviction of those getting involved. As usual, it is difficult to distinguish between fact, conclusion and opinion. The colour most frequently depicted by the Japanese being the "traditional" grey-green represented in several Japanese hobby paint ranges and the darker, more olive-khaki (if not tan) shade favoured in the United States. It is a generalisation of course but it seems as though the Japanese are attempting to represent the likely appearance of the paint when new whilst the Americans are replicating the current artifact colours literally.
Even the most advanced of modern polyurethane paints intended for critical external applications are provided with warranties that guarantee no more than a Delta-E colour shift of 5.0 over a period of 40 years. That is approximately equivalent to the colour shift difference between Thorpe's N9 Medium Grey and FS 34201, which coincidentally is the closest "match" at 5.40. In the case of the artifacts we must consider 1940's nitro-cellulose paints with organic and/or synthetic constituents, which have aged 65-70 years. One of the established factors in the ageing of paint, especially nitro-cellulose derived paints, is a "brown shift". Over time the paint looks darker and browner, even if the original colour was a warm, slightly brownish grey to begin with.
It is worth a reminder that whilst we know, or think we know, the appearance of the factory paint colour on the extant relics, there is little or no evidence for what that colour was officially called, if anything.
It struck me, looking at the 1970's box art for Bandai's 1/50th Aichi D3A1 (ex-Imai) that the concept of the warm or olive grey may not be just a recent product of revisionism at all. Bandai's unknown artist has recreated the 'Val' with something approaching a convincing fidelity. The warm, slightly greenish grey is much more apparent on the original than in the scan here and it is nowhere near the light, bright grey - almost off-white - that we think of as so typical of 1970's representation. OK, it is not the near-tan khaki "grey" suggested by the extant artifacts but I would not be ashamed to paint a model to imitate the box art. Bandai's artist might even have seen the aircraft in real life and he certainly captures the slightly oily-looking blue-black of the cowling paint convincingly.
The earliest LS 1/75th A6M2 kit was molded in a greenish grey plastic that is almost identical to that used in Fine Molds recent masterpiece, supposedly based on the colour of the original.
A recent "buzz-phrase" seems to be to ask for a "consensus" when determining paint colours for modelling purposes, as though there is some learned committee charged with establishing what is acceptable and what isn't. Ssssh! No-one really knows for sure and the consensus is more often than not just a flavour of the month which may be as far from the reality as Osprey's memorable hybrid. Take heart - be not afraid to plough your own furrow.
Image credit: © 1970's Bandai