Monday 17 December 2018

Jim Anderson's Hasegawa G8N1 Renzan 'Rita' in 1/72

The Hasegawa Rita (Nakajima N-10 Experimental 18-Shi Attack Bomber 'Renzan' - 試作十八試陸上攻撃機 '連峰') was an unusual and innovative kit when first released in the late 1960s. A Japanese Navy four-engined bomber prototype of which only four were ever built and which was never deployed operationally, only one surviving to be taken to the USA and test flown there post-war  The other Japanese 'heavies' in the Hasegawa 'King Size Series' were the more mainstream H8K2 Emily, H6K5 Mavis and G4M1 Betty.  'Emily' was replaced by a completely new tool in 2017 and a new tool G4M2 version of Betty was released in 1997, although the old tool G4M1 was still being re-released with new box art and decals as recently as 2015. All four Hasegawa 'heavies' have been re-released continuously over the decades with new box art and new decals, Rita most recently in 2009 as a what-if combination kit carrying an I-go type guided bomb with a jet-powered Shindenkai as escort!

Rita's potential stand-off capability was described by Richard M Bueschel with Shorzoe Abe in his ground breaking multi-part series on Japanese Navy Aircraft 1940-1945 in Air Pictorial magazine (Part IV, Vol 21 No 3, March 1959), describing it as the planned parent aircraft for the Ohka 43. However the most comprehensive English language coverage of the development of the bomber and what it was like to fly came with the second part of Robert C Mikesh's excellent two part article on The Japanese Giants in the July 1981 issue of Airpower magazine (Vol 11 No 4). 

Rita at Newark Airport prior to first US flight (Howard Levy photo)

The specification for the bomber was issued on 14 September 1943 and the first prototype was completed by September the following year, designed by a team led by Ken-ichi Matsumura of Nakajima. The first flight was made on 23 October 1944 with Nakajima test pilot Haruo Suematsu at the controls. This was completely successful until after landing the brakes failed and the aircraft ran into a fence-enclosed fire sump, sustaining damage to its nose and landing gear. The accident delayed flight testing for a month as repairs were made but by January 1945 the IJN had accepted the bomber, designating it G8N as Renzan. However, time was running out for the IJN and the planned 16 prototype and service test aircraft were never completed, let alone the 32 production models originally planned for September 1945. After completion of the fourth Renzan in June 1945 the project was cancelled due to a changing strategic situation and increasing shortage of aluminium.      

All four 'King Size' kits were first released in Hasegawa's characteristic (at that time) chunky and rather brittle dark green plastic with copious raised rivet detail (somewhat ironic as the original Rita had only 2,000 more rivets than the smaller P1Y Frances). The Hasegawa 'Rita' kit travelled far, being released in the UK under the Frog label from 1968 to 1972 as F274 with a total of 25,000 kits being produced. That was a relatively short run for Frog but the Hasegawa kits were not moulded in the UK, being sent there from Japan plastic bagged, as part of a reciprocal deal; Frog then provided the boxes, decals and instructions for retail in the UK. There was a similar arrangement with AMT in the USA. Frog also planned to release the Hasegawa Betty in 1969 as kit F284 but never did.   

Jim Anderson has very kindly submitted these images and description of his own enhanced model of Hasegawa's Rita which he first bought and began working on in 1971. In his own words then:-

"I acquired my Renzan back in 1971 as a second hand kit from a neighborhood friend who wanted to sell it.  I immediately started working on the model then suddenly stopped and put it away for many years.  Since this build is quite old, I really didn’t document much in those days, so forgive me as the details will be light.   

"The kit is nicely molded in heavy, brittle, dark green plastic.  The clear parts were equally thick but well done with the canopy framing lightly scribed.  There were lots of tiny rivets too.  The control surfaces were positionable and looked good enough for use as is.  I originally only put together the fuselage with the turrets, canopy and internal details gluing everything in sight with lots of cement.  

"15 years later I wanted to resume building it and had to deal with separating that fuselage.  It was a salvage job and the goal was to free up the clear parts for reuse.  By this time I could make better turret replacements with a ‘plug-molding’ technique using clear butyrate sheet plastic.  The kit supplied turret interiors were a just peg meant to hold the machine guns.  But now with the new thin and clear replacements, I had to build something inside, so I added some structure and bits of scrap plastic to make it look interesting.  This is somewhat funny as none of the prototypes ever carried any weapons!  

"The bomb bay doors were built up with strip styrene in an attempt to make them look somewhat “engineered” to the casual observer.  There were a few windows in the forward fuselage that were omitted from the kit.  These were located from some line drawings and drilled out and filed smooth.  I altered the main canopy by cutting out a rectangle shape over the pilots position to allow for a little hatch to be placed in the open position to give the model some character.  

"The kit was a big tail sitter and needed lead weights mounted in the forward fuselage.  It didn’t quite do the trick, so I flattened the tires pretty good and that solved the balance issue.

"Painting was as follows:  The interior crew spaces were a medium gray-green color which I mixed up from Pactra Green IE86 and Pactra Light Gray IU89.  The bomb bay doors and parts of the bay interior were Pactra IJ17 Silver with Humbrol NJ1 (a dark gray green) used on the upper section over the bomb bay itself.  The engine cowlings were painted with Steel Metalizer and buffed.  The anti-glare portion was flat black then touched up with some silver Rub n Buff.  

"The rest of the model was primed with Model Masters Light Sea Gray including the canopy framing.  There were two options for painting according to the kit instructions; one being  IJN green over white gray and the other being overall IJN prototype orange.  I went with the orange version since my limited reference material didn’t convince me that any aircraft were painted in the green pattern.  The color coat was Pactra Orange Oxide M9 straight from the bottle.  Markings were simple being just the six position Hinomaru.  

"This build lasted from April to August 1985.  I noticed when taking the photos for this article and giving the model a good cleaning, that the Orange Oxide had faded a little on the top over the years.   If you want a 1/72 Rita, this old kit is still the only game in town and can be made into a nice addition to your Japanese Navy/ Japanese Army prototypes collection."

With special thanks to Jim for sharing these images and details of his splendid model with Aviation  of Japan.

Image credits: All model photos © 2018 Jim Anderson; Box art © 196? Hasegawa Corp.; Airpower Cover image © 1981 Sentry Books Inc.



Dan Salamone said...

Beautiful work on this older kit, has to be the best example I've seen. Thanks for sharing your work with us, Jim.


Michael Thurow said...

What a great article and build report! Thanks, Nick, for the fascinating kit story and the historical details, and bravo, Jim, for a wonderful 'rebuild'. As some may know I'm much obsessed myself by upgrading my old models. Yours now spans over 47 years - this should be a record.

Baronvonrob said...

You really brought that older kit back to life doubt a testament to your considerable and persistent modelling skills !

Additionally thanks so muck for the informative and concise Renzan/Hasegawa history

Unknown said...

Very nice model Jim! She still looks splendid after all these years. The Renzan really was a beautiful aircraft. Thanks for sharing and thanks Nick for the additional insights.


Mark Smith said...

Beautiful article and an inspiring build! I bought this kit as a teenager, and I should have had more faith in it, as I was dispirited by all those rivets...thanks Jim, thanks Nick!

Anonymous said...

Outstanding work.
I have kept the box in the stash for many years now without the courage to give it a try. As usual the issue is more the hand of the modeller than the kit "quality". The rivets do not look as bad as one can think looking at the parts.
Again, nice work!

Ken Glass said...

Good work, Jim.