Saturday 18 September 2010

Pactra Authentics and the Japanese Air Force

Further to my blog about Humbrol Authentics, Fred Boucher kindly sent me these images of Pactra Authentic International Colors "Japanese Air Force" set. The paint colours seem to be the same as in the Humbrol set, although the Mauve is called Violet, but a preliminary examination of one or two bottles kindly donated by correspondents reveals there to be slight differences in hue. However, the basis for the set appears to be from that same 1964 IPMS "Color Guide for Japanese Aircraft 1941-45".

The paints were also marketed as individual bottles and I can remember buying them that way from the rack in a department store in Hong Kong in the late 1970's. Pactra was new to me at the time - I was used to Humbrol - and at first I viewed them with some suspicion. But once I had tried them I found them exceptionally good for hand brushing. Hobby paint seems to be one of the few things in modelling where progress has resulted in a retrograde product!  Nowadays when hand brushed most of the enamel hobby paints require a few dozen coats to cover adequately and in the case of Humbrol you get gloss, matt and satin finishes all in one tin - and invariably all on one model! As a COB I look back fondly to the days when you could get smooth, thin, one coat coverage with a hairy stick and I wonder just what went wrong with paint technology that Humbrol and Pactra's magic (to use) formulae have been lost and forgotten (are you listening Hornby?).

I used Pactra's IJN Gray to paint Hasegawa's early A6M3 Zero, the one in brittle, dark green plastic with all the rivets. Yes, even as that well-known blue-stripe bird reportedly flown by Saburo Sakai, the A6M2 tail code on the A6M3 worried me then not a bit. The light paint covered the dark plastic well - I can't remember applying more than one coat but probably did. Even at the time I was troubled by this very light, almost off-white, grey. Why on earth, I pondered, would the Japanese, operating over rich green jungles and deep blue seas, paint their aircraft this colour, worthy of winter on the Eastern Front?  The cover of that Model Art magazine said it all. But it was the colour depicted in most illustrations of the Zero, from art to box art, from magazine to book, and has curiously persisted in artistic representations, on models and in the psyche to this very day.

During the mid-1970s Pactra paints were apparently marketed in the UK by Revell, although I never encountered them there. The vintage advert shown above was published in the July 1974 (Vol.5 No.58) issue of Scale Models magazine in the UK.

Any more memories or facts about Pactra - or Humbrol Authentics - or even old Zero models - will be very welcome here.

Image credits: Pactra set courtesy Fred Boucher, © Pactra circa 1970; Model Art magazine © 1976; Revell Pactra advert © 1974 Scale Models magazine

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