Aviation of Japan's Texas Correspondent Mark Smith kindly steps into the breach with a timely reminder of something good from the past as well as a reminder of how swift is the passing of the good, a sadly increasing theme for old duffers like me. Over to Mark:
"These (images) show a remarkable 1/48 A5M4 “Claude” model by the late Don E. Alberts that won First Place in a very tough category at an IPMS-USA Nationals many moons ago. I wish the pictures were a little better, but thought this blog’s readers would appreciate it. This was built shortly after a Japanese company called Thrick, doubtless a much more sonorous name on a Japanese tongue, had come out with a 1/48 solid resin model that was exceptional for its accuracy of shape and contour as well as for the potency of its resin! (No wonder it was so expensive, it came with its own contact high). The cockpit, being hollowed out of the solid piece, was a bit simplistic – shall we say ‘indicated.’ But not after Don had finished with it, using several burrs and woodcarving tools, then duplicating the Maru Mechanic cockpit painting in three dimensions. It was an exotic kit, but it was not an easy build by any means.
"The A5M4 “W-102” first came to light upon Aireview’s superb gatefold painting by Rikyu Watanabe in the late 1960s. On its reverse side were sixteen extremely colorful side-views. It was flown from Soryu in 1939, usually by Matsuo Hagiri, who graduated flight school in 1935. After combat in China, he served as an instructor before being posted to the 204th Kokutai in the Solomons, where he scored well but was severely wounded in a fight with F4Us. After recovery he served as a test pilot, returning to combat duty in time to down two B-29s, but seriously wounded again during another B-29 attack. He had a distinctive moustache, and Don’s figure of him was the spitting image (I believe it was all his own creation). Hagiri is usually credited with 13 victories. He died in 1997.
"Don Alberts was a professional historian, passionate modeler, and U.S. Air Force veteran who lived in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. He published several books and many magazine articles and monographs on military and Civil War history. He was a professor to many over the years, and following his active service was the Chief Historian of Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was also an exceptional craftsman, artist, and painter. He’s missed."
Toycraft Berg of Japan also issued a fine resin kit of the A5M4 to 1/48th scale in 1992 but I do not know if there is any connection between the two, both as rare as hen's teeth. With special thanks to Mark for sharing these images and his kind thoughts.
Image credits: All via Mark Smith
Very nice work. The T C Berg kits show up on Ebay occasionaly. I've not seen the other mfg. listed.
Thanks for this. Don was a fine fellow and extraordinary modeler, always willing to take time to answer a question of help out. He did a lot of good work back in the day when you were pretty much on your own when it came to adding detail. Don pretty much always added a nicely done figure with his models for that final polish... Pat D
Beautiful model! I recall seeing this kit at a now long defunct hobby shop in NYC back in the late 80's or so,was very crude in the box. I own an unbuilt copy of the TC Berg kit, they are not the same (the TC Berg kit is gorgeous).
Nick, the Toycraft Berg Claude was a different product altogether, and you're right, both are almost impossible to find. Classic Airframes' kit is not exactly common anymore either. One way or another, the Claude is hexed for quarter-scalers. C'mon, Mr. Tamiya. Please?
There were also the Classic Airframes A5M4 and A5M4-K kits. Also rare and expensive on eBay.
I remember reading the article on that A5M in the magazine Finescale Modeller more than twenty years ago. It still looks every bit as good as I remember.
Don Alberts is the reason I model. I met him at the IPMS chapter in Albuquerque New Mexico when I was a kid in the 70's and was always trying to match his level of excellence. He made a Donier seaplane kit from an Airmodel vacuform kit that, like most his work was just stunning. I would just stare at it as long as I could when it was on display at the hobby shop.
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