Wednesday 8 March 2023

Dinah and Jay Part Two - Building a Classic

Building a Classic: Marusan’s Ki-46-III  
by Mark Smith

Considering its 1961 origins, the Marusan 1/50 scale kit of the Ki-46-III ‘Dinah’ captured the airplane's lovely lines remarkably. It was a pace-setter, as in comparison most contemporary models of Japanese origin were mere approximations of their subjects.  When Tamiya released their 1/48 scale Ki-46-III in 1996, it was streets better of course, and a lot more fun to build.  The first time I took the Marusan Ki-46 to a model show at St. Louis in 1982 I was confident that at least I’d be bringing something many had never seen built.  When I went to find the right table for the model, Roscoe Creed had already shown up with the same kit beautifully built, and to boot, it was a Dinah in brown over gray, in 81st Sentai markings.  I talked to him briefly, and he admitted traveling there with the same thought.  So much for assumptions.

I remember a few details about it. It had been needing repair for a long time, but I finally got it back in one piece and, like the old Tamiya Myrt model I recently showed here recently, getting good photos of it for the first time brought back some of the building experience.  For the top surfaces I used a Humbrol paint color of those days, N17, which had been altered very slightly but I don't remember how. (N17 Brown was an IJN color in the Humbrol Authentics range available in the 1980s). The lower surface was Humbrol A/N2 Grey from the same range. All markings were masked and sprayed with Pactra paints. The Mattel Vac-U-Form toy provided thinner parts for landing gear doors and under-cowling air-scoops. 

The kit portrays an early -III with a single external exhaust pipe for each engine, which greatly limits markings choices. The separate cowl flap pieces in the kit, however, made updating it to a later version easier. By vac-forming them and cutting each flap separately they could be mounted in the opened position; whilst the thrust exhausts of the later model were made from sheet plastic. 

The windows were cut from clear acetate, and all other transparencies in the kit, though ‘Monogram-nice’, were re-created by vac-forming them.  This really made a difference for the nose landing light, for which a mold was made and vac-formed. The kit's raised panel lines provided nice guides to re-scribe them, necessary because the fit of parts in places left a lot to be desired. The Monogram 1/48 Zero provided the prop spinners, with prop blades grafted on from . . something. This does not really convince, but looks better to me than the kit parts. The kit’s engines were poor as well, and replaced with ones from a Nichimo Ki-51 Sonia kit.  The tailwheel unit was scratch built. 

Unless it shows a replacement aircraft with identical markings, a blurry photo seems to show that this particular aircraft of the 17th Dokoritsu Hiko Chutai was eventually converted to a fighter configuration with a 20mm cannon mounted obliquely on the spine, between the crew stations.  I didn't know this in 1981, working from the color side view painting in the Maru Mechanic book on the type which showed no weapon. But it couldn't have looked too different before the conversion. There are photos of unarmed recon Dinahs with the cut-down antenna mast modification as seen on the model. In any case, it was a necessary step for mounting a weapon directly behind. The antenna aerial is a casualty.

When I started this, I knew the crew stations here could be the key to making the model I imagined. My influences here were two modelers, Raymond Waddey, met around 1969 while in high school, and Adrian Evans, whom I came to know after returning home from college. Unlike me, both were true artists with a brush or a pencil; they had that flourish. To a teenager’s ‘How do you do this?!’ questions, Ray gave thoughtful answers. A couple of times he even brought materials to the chapter meetings and showed me how he did things. He helped me find a Mattel Vac-U-Form machine, and gave me some quality Grumbacher brushes (when he saw mine!) which I only wore out over years.  His models were all brush painted, which set them apart, but he had a method for avoiding brush strokes and blending colors I’ve never seen equaled. He was squared-away Air Force, crew cut and all. Ray later made a name as an aviation artist. I always liked his three-dimensional art best, though! He worked in 1/72, and worked wonders on old Airfix kits like the Blenheim and Hampden. He had the Pilot’s Notes for many of this subjects, all of them, and tried to include all the cabin appointments they illustrated. Along with sheet plastic, I think he worked with stiff paper to create odd angles and scale edges.

This Dinah model, however, came much later, and was particularly inspired by the work of Adrian Evans, a fine Dallas jeweler and goldsmith whose fourteen-carat work was created through ‘lost wax casting.’ Many of the tools and techniques of his jewelry work translated beautifully to plastic modeling. Watching him work at a jeweler’s bench, his eye and his hand were on great terms. If a customer wasn’t exactly sure what they wanted, Adrian would draw it until they were.  Not long after I finished this model, he had said, ‘you could be a jeweler if you wanted,’ and soon after he took me in as an apprentice in his shop, ‘The Goldbrick’, where I learned enough to eventually make my way as a goldsmith and stone setter, though never a custom jeweler in Adrian’s fashion. Like Ray, Adrian was glad to share his techniques, and always keen to try new ones, though much of it boiled down to hard work - staying with it, a bit at a time, until an assembly was built and fitted. 

The sprawling Crown Hobby and Toy was right across Preston Avenue from his shop.  Some days neither of us got much done by going over to Crown so that they wouldn’t either. (The Goldbrick was aptly named!) Many Texas aircraft modelers were either first inspired or newly inspired by Adrian's aircraft on display in the big showcase at Crown; among many quarter-scale masterpieces, the Fujimi A-6 Intruder, Lindberg F-11F Tiger, and his Aurora A-7 Corsair II, with its hand-painted snake on the tail for VA-86 “Sidewinders” were favorites and very strong ‘maybe I could do that’ magnets. 

I’ve lost touch with both men, though I’ve tried to find them. In any case, thanks Ray, and thanks Adrian, you are missed but your kindness is always remembered.

With very special thanks to Mark for sharing these images of his strikingly beautiful Marusan Dinah build - the painted markings are superb -  and the fascinating back story anecdotes of personalities and places. Allowing for scale the khaki brown finish is uncannily close to the colour cited by Noburo Shimoune as being factory applied to both the late production Ki-46-III and Ki-67.

Image credit: All model photos © 2023 Mark Smith; Box art via Web


Dan Salamone said...

Beautifully written, and beautifully built!


Jim Anderson said...

Magnifico Mark. Your "hard work" shows up nicely. Beautiful looking aircraft for a subject. As in the prior article, your description of the olden days shines.

Thank you Nick.

John Haas said...


Thank you for showing your beautiful Dinah.
All your work and attention for detail paid off indeed !

And yes, those old times, learning modelling with quarter inch- Aurora,
Lindberg and later Monogram kits...sigh, I'm getting old :-))

Thanks again Mark and Nick for the memories,
John Haas

Michael Thurow said...

So very wonderfully built that you forget the age of this kit. And the internals are state-of-the-art. It never occured to me to build the cockpit to such a high standard when I was young (!). Marusan were not available in Germany at their time, I'm only learning about them thanks to Nick's postings - and Mark's excellent modelling art!

Kevin Bade said...

Very, very nice build Mr. Smith. The upper surface color is perfect to my eye. The cockpit detail is excellent but what really struck me was the wheel well detail. Superb job on all the masked markings also. Neat to see an old time, but ahead of its time kit so carefully crafted.

Alex said...

Beautiful stories and fantastic Dinah. Thanks.

WD said...

Wow, a wonderful story and a wonderful model. Both result from the kindness shown to you, and your efforts are a testament to both men who mentored you.
Thanks so much for sharing this.


Mark Smith said...

Thanks to all for these kind comments, and thank you as always, Nick.

George Bryant said...

Very nice work. I remember Crown Hobby and Adrian’s excellent models, especially the A7 and F8 Crusader.