Monday 24 April 2023

Kit Trivia - Revell's Ginga Part 1

The Revell kit of the Ginga - the Kugisho P1Y1/2 'Frances', (海軍陸上爆撃機  '銀河' - Navy Land [Based] Bomber 'Galaxy') an IJN 'twin' designed for torpedo, level and dive bombing roles, is one of their five classic 1/72 scale kits of the 1970s that, together with the output from Mania to the same scale and in the same decade, represented a sea change in the presentation and fidelity of Japanese aircraft kits. At the time Revell's licensee in Japan was the paint manufacturer Gunze Sangyo and the kits are sometimes attributed to their production, but subsequent release under the brand Revell-Takara suggests that Takara produced the kits on behalf of Gunze Sangyo - confirmation welcome. Rather surprisingly Thomas Graham's 'Remembering Revell Model Kits' (Schiffer 2002) ) makes no mention of these particular kits (not even in the listed price guide) or the Gunze Sangyo connection. John W Burns 'In Plastic WW2 Aircraft Kits' lists H-103 only once with the note that the original kit was 'issued in 1973 by Revell/Japan (Gunze Sangyo)'. The Revell Ginga kit has undoubtedly been surpassed by the Hasegawa kit released in 1995 and since  re-released at least 17 times in different editions and boxes between 1996 and 2022. 

The first release of the kit as H-103, and copyrighted 1972 Revell, Inc., presented box art by Kihachiro Ueda, well known for his LS box art. Not very dramatic with just a 10 o'clock view of a Ginga with tail code 762-92 approaching the viewer and a hint of combat in the background (heading image). The name 'Ginga' was prominently displayed in orange shadow shaded in dark blue to a larger font than the rest of the title 'Kugisho P1Y1/2 "Frances"' in dark blue. This box was a strong affair with a stout cardboard lid but apart from titles and copyright information all in Japanese. The kit box was annotated 'Made in Japan. Printed in Japan'.  A second style of box with the title in red but the same box art (shown above) bears a copyright notice of '1972, 1976'. Both releases were imported to the UK and USA and the first style of box was still being retailed well into the late 1970s. An original release kit was bought in Universal Models, Hong Kong in 1977 for the princely sum of HK$18,50 (about £2.31 then) whilst a second original release kit has a Modeltoys, Portsmouth mail order receipt for £4.30 in June 1978. The kit first featured in the Revell (GB) catalogue in 1973 but was described as 'Ginga P1Y2-5 Kyokko' (sic) designed as a night fighter whereas the actual kit offered P1Y1 Model 11 and P1Y2 Model 16 options.

Revell (GB) Catalogue 1973

Revell Japan Catalogue 1976

The instruction sheet in the first release box was a quality four-page booklet presentation on glossy paper with a photograph of the real aircraft on the first page and a typo under the Revell logo giving the scale as 1/32! Curiously the instruction sheet in both original release boxes is copyrighted 1975. The information about the aircraft was comprehensive but all in Japanese text with a combination of exploded views and text notes for building the kit. These instructions are shown below.

Colour call outs refer to Gunze Sangyo paints. For the upper surface # 15 Deep Green Colour, for the under surface # 35 Light Ash White Colour, for the cowlings # 33 Matt Black or #15 Deep Green Colour, for the spinners # 41 Red Brown and for thec wing leading edge IFF strips # 58 Yellow Orange Colour.

The cockpit interior colour is called out as a mixture of # 57 Blue Bamboo Colour and # 37 RLM 75 Gray Violet. 

Gear housing on the engines is called out as a mix of # 8 Silver and # 28 Steel.

The decal sheet included markings for seven different Ginga as follows:-

  • コ-PIN-4 (Ko-PIN-4) - Model 11 type fourth increase prototype. Note that this aircraft appears to be finished in dark green over natural metal with unusual light bordered tailplanes - yellow? - see photo below. 
  • 522-212 depicted as a radar equipped P1Y2-S night fighter with oblique armament but this unit was engaged in sea search missions so the radar would be air-to-surface and the oblique armament inappropriate.
  • 761-24 of 761 Ku (Ryu - 竜 - Dragon)
  • T 762-92  of 262 attack squadron, 762 Ku
  • 21-205 of 521 Ku (Ohtori -鵬 - Phoenix)
  • ヨ-195 (Yo-195) a P1Y2-S night fighter of Yokosuka Ku
  •  轟-576  (Todoro-576) of 522 Ku (轟部隊 - Todoro - 'Roaring'/'Thunder' - Butai). This marking possibly worn during their training/working up period

The main airframe parts are moulded in dark green plastic with very fine surface detail in a mixture of engraved and raised panel lines with raised rivets. The fabric control surfaces, although exaggerated, feature fabric weave and a very crisply moulded skeletal framework remarkable for the kit's vintage. The sprue frame of ancillary parts is moulded in a light grey plastic but there are examples in black and dark green. The transparencies sprue, offering alternative windscreens, is crisply moulded and clear but with quite heavy canopy frames.  The fuselage halves incorporate interior frame detail, truly remarkable for the time. The nose position consists of two transparent upper side pieces to be joined together at the top centre, obviating the need for tricky window panel inserts, and a front blister. The main canopy is a single piece which must be cut in order for the observer's machine gun to be displayed in the deployed position, for some reason this being shown for the P1Y2-S night fighter. The bomb bay can be displayed in the open position by cutting apart the single piece doors along an indented line. Optional ordinance of a torpedo, single 800 kg or two 500 kg bombs is included, these plugging directly into the bomb bay roof with integrally moulded crutches. Bomb racks are not represented. The torpedo is in two halves, as is the 800 kg bomb which has a separate tail ring. The moulding of these components is typically heavy for the time with too thick fins and a lack of finer detail. 

Interior detail is built up on a floor that runs the length of the fuselage. The nose compartment consists of a seat, gun mount and a console described as 'navigation equipment'. It looks more like the console in a CCTV control room, complete with TV screen! The main cockpit has a separate floor with integrally moulded side panels, with a separate control panel, control stick, seats and radio set. The floor can be used as the basis for building up a more accurate and finely detailed cockpit, discarding the rather thickly moulded separate parts. One of the best references for interior details is the FAOW Special Edition 1 'Navy Bomber Ginga' (ISBN4-89319-081-4) published by Bunrindo Co. Ltd., in 2000 which has a section of colour photographs of the interior of the extant example, a colour cutaway illustration and additional interior drawings showing details. The Maru Mechanic # 46 of May 1984 (a double covering the G4M as well) which by the way has another photograph of コ-PIN-4, also has useful interior schematics in colour and detail data, plus plans drawn to 1/100 scale.

Engine components for each version consist of complete two-row mouldings for the Homare and Kasei engines and one piece cowlings with separate cooling flap rings with integrally moulded exhausts and separate intakes. Tail wheel doors are provided to represent the P1Y2 and P1Y2-S variants. Two external drop tanks for the wings are also provided. 

The kit was featured in the November, 1972 issue of the Japanese Model Art magazine with extensive notes and photographs of completed models of both variants (cover shown above). It was also favourably reviewed by Peter Winston in the June 1979 (Vol.14 No.5) issue of the US Scale Modeler magazine with photographs of a completed model made by Art Bazurto. Using the magazine's rating scale Winston rated the kit 'excellent' for accuracy of scale, fidelity of detail, packaging, molding and overall appeal; 'good' for ease of assembly and box art; and 'poor' for clarity of instructions, clear parts and decals. Incidentally it was seeing the large colour photographs of completed models in that magazine and Scale Aircraft Modeler magazine that inspired my own return to aircraft modelling. I realised that my dissatisfaction with previous models I had made as a youngster was due to a lack of the basic skills and craftsmanship shown by the competently built and painted models displayed in the magazine. They were not always masterpieces but sufficiently well made models to inspire having a go.

Despite the Kugisho designation only three prototypes of Ginga were manufactured at the Naval Air Arsenal, whilst 1,002 were manufactured by Nakajima with the Model 11 as the main output, and 97 Kasei-engined modified night fighters produced by Kawanishi as 'Kyokko' (Aurora), some of which were converted back to bomber configuration designated as Model 16. It's apparent lack of popularity as a modelling subject is puzzling, especially given the number of Hasegawa editions released, perhaps due to the limited colour schemes. But it's a good looking aircraft with its fighter-like tandem cockpit and its use as a night fighter adds to its interest. Revell's kit was innovative and advanced for its time and inaccuracies aside presented an impressive kit of a photogenic 'twin'. Part 2 will examine subsequent releases and Ginga itself in more detail.

To be continued.

Image credit:- Box art and instructions © 1972 Revell Inc.,; Catalogue images © 1973 Revell (GB) Ltd and 1976 Revell Licensee Gunze Sangyo, Inc.; Model 11 Photograph © 1966 Shuppan-Kyodo Publishers; Model Art cover image © 1972 Model Art via Ken Glass;