Thursday 29 February 2024

A Remarkable Model

Back to IJN floatplanes and a hat tip to Aviation of Japan's Texas correspondent Mark Smith for alerting to this remarkable 1/72 scale US Navy aircraft recognition model of an Aichi E13A1 'Jake' in the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) collection. The model reportedly dates to 1943 and is of wood construction with a clear plastic canopy. It was transferred to NASM custody from the US Department of the Navy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Sharp eyes may note that it includes a crew of three figures and panel lines are represented. Mark suggests that this appears to be the type of model photographed from various angles for the images to be included in recognition books.

Apart from the obvious errors in the form of the canopy it is arguably a better representation of 'Jake' than the venerable Hasegawa kit! Mark has speculated that the model may originate from studies of the first aircraft of this type to be captured. He writes as follows:-

'Being built in 1943, that charming model is a reference in itself.  Recognition models often don’t look right because the markings are not correctly placed and the colors are an afterthought.  Here every color seems carefully considered And while there is no way to be sure of this, I would not be surprised if the colors were of Japanese origin from captured stocks, sent to Washington.  I would never make that claim, but it’s an interesting possibility.

'The markings reflect the two Jake hulks that were measured and photographed carefully by American intelligence, so I would imagine that is the source of its accuracy.  The one place where this fails is the canopy: its unique windscreen with its cut back angle, the rear section, and the framing itself.  I think this is due to the fact that the canopies were probably not present on the wrecks.  At least I don’t remember seeing them though I do recall some nice shots of the pilot’s cockpit, although it was stripped of much equipment - I forget whether those were found at Attu or Kiska. The only sign that I could see of any damage or missing part was one of the float Rudders gone.'

The colours are convincing. The 'warm' grey under surfaces are to be noted and can be compared to the 8609 2-6 (post J3) colour shown in an October 2023 blog from L*a*b* measurements of the original swatch by the Japanese Aeronautic Association. The upper surfaces appear similar to D1 Deep Green Black although a wipe over with vegetable oil might reveal a slightly richer green colour closer to D2 Green Black. The Hinomaru colour appears spot on. The 'MI' tail code is associated with the minelayer Okonoshima. Markings details extend to the tailplane drift lines and the float pontoon stripes but note the absence of yellow wing leading edge IFF strips which does suggest an early to mid-1942 aircraft. The dimensions of the model are 5.1 x 15.2 x 20.3cm (2 x 6 x 8 in).

With special thanks to Mark for a most interesting and intriguing discovery and to NASM for preserving and photographing the model 

Image credit: NASM Collection, Inventory # A19470046000  

Saturday 10 February 2024

LS and Judy Part 3

The Scalemates website lists the LS Judy box shown above as released in the 1980s and after the 'white box' release. Whether other box variants existed is unknown, but before their demise in 1992 LS issued the kit in the 'grey' box type shown below, and this time with an improved and more complete decal sheet containing tail codes for our old friend Yo-201 - with the yellow command stripes - and for a 523 Ku aircraft 鷹-3 (Taka-3 - 'Hawk'-3). The sheet included white blanks to apply the six Hinomaru to, basic stencilling, flap warning outlines, a data plate and even white drift lines for the tailplanes.

In 1995 Arii re-released the kit in an identical box and contents, shown above, including the same decal sheet (shown below), with just the logos changed. And this kit has been available intermittently ever since, most recently at HLJ for the princely sum of £4.59. Probably not first choice now for a Judy model given the scale, 'fatal flaw' and emergence of more modern kits from Fujimi and AZ Model. But at least the Arii releases offer the chance to retro-model the LS Judy as intended, whether from nostalgia or just curiosity, without spoiling a potential collectable.

The instructions and decals in the Arii-Microace release (shown above) are unchanged from the LS 'grey box' release which presented more detailed colour schematics than before and referencing Gunze paints. LS were evidently intent on upping their game in competition with other Japanese kit manufacturer house styles, but Fujimi's Judy was already approaching its tenth birthday so the market for the 20-year old LS kit was ever decreasing and sadly their planned Mitsubishi G4M2 kit was never to be released, a 'Betty' variant which would be kitted by Hasegawa four years later. 

To be continued . . . 

Image credits: Boxes © 1980s & 1990s L&S Co., Ltd and box, instructions and decal sheet © 1995 Arii/Microace

Wednesday 7 February 2024

LS and Judy Part 2

By 1968 LS were presenting in Japanese as エルエス (Eruesu - LS) and in English as the more conservative L. & S. Co., Ltd. In 1966 they had released their 'Twin-Engine Series 1/72-1/75' with models of the Mitsubishi G3M 'Nell' and Ki-67 Hiryu. In an ambitious marketing decision each type was released in three separate kits with different parts and decals to suit.  

  • G3M1 Model 11/21 with parts for either early or late versions with flat-topped or domed turrets
  • G3M2 Model 23 with 'turtle shell' dorsal turret
  • L3M1 Type Nippon-Go which could be completed as the civilian trail-blazing and world circumnavigating pioneer J-BACI with alternative decals for J-BEDA Soyokaze-go, J-BEOC Yamato-go, J-BEOG Matsukaze-go, or IJN transports from 1 and 1001 Ku
  • Type 4 Ki-67 bomber
  • 'Yasukuni' Ki-67 torpedo bomber
  • Ki-109 Interceptor
The first kit boxes displayed the scale as 1/75 with '1/72-1/75' presented in the 1968 catalogue, but subsequent boxes displayed 1/72. Special 'chrome-plated' versions of both types were also released. More about these appealing kits and their wonderful presentation in due course but suffice to say that they became popular and essential models for collections of Japanese aircraft. Even into the 1990s they held their appeal and two kind souls once generously gifted their very well-made silver and red G3M1 to the author after he had admired it, and it is still treasured and admired (thank you both). Arii re-released all the G3M and Ki-67 kits in the 1990s with revised and re-printed decal sheets and on opening the boxes they still cry out 'Build me!' whereas the Hasegawa versions from 1997 and 1999 look daunting. But there was more. The LS Ki-109 faithfully reproduced the modified cockpit configuration of the interceptor complete with ammunition rack and cannon whereas the limited edition Hasegawa kit of the same variant retained the standard bomber cockpit and just provided a new resin nose to wrestle with. 

By 1971 the LS catalogue was presenting the kits as 1/72 scale and the mystery of the strange base in the 1968 Judy kit was solved - it was indeed intended for motorisation.      

In 1972 LS released a completely revised 'Judy' kit, moulded in pale grey plastic and with the nose halves separate from the fuselage halves in order to facilitate release of a companion D3Y3 Model 33 variant with radial engine. According to 'Encylopedia of Military Models 1/72'* this release was also lengthened to match 1/72 scale. The original kit was further enhanced with boxed in wheel wells and a rudimentary cockpit interior consisting of floor, seats, instrument panel, compass, joystick and machine gun. Two crewmen apparently closely modelled on the aliens from Invaders from Mars (1953) could be sat somewhat awkwardly on those seats but were a poor replacement for the original seat bound pair who were actually not that bad.  Unfortunately the kit retained the engraved Hinomaru positions and the decal sheet was reduced to providing just eight Hinomaru. Although the new box art by one Ikematsu (shown above) depicted Yo-201 (without the tail stripes) no tail code decal was included. Other improvements were a complete optical sight very finely moulded to the fuselage halves, a separate intake with splitter plate and more finely moulded undercarriage legs with commendably thin wheel covers. The working bomb bay doors and bomb were gone with the doors now moulded integrally with the fuselage halves and closed. There was no stand included.

Still designated as No.3 in the 1/72 Series the box was also marked as Kit No. A103:100. The instructions were on two sides of a single sheet, in English, shown above. There was a schematic and list of the kit parts with an exploded view on one side prominently marked with 'Super Scale Aeroplane No.3', and on the other side excellent step by step assembly instructions with text and pictures culminating in an illustration of the completed model and a painting guide. 

A smaller sheet of Japanese instructions was included with some kits, as shown above. So far the kit boxes had been the same size - approximately 20 cm x 12 cm - but a later second release was presented in a smaller box - 17.5 cm x 11.5 cm - with an area of white cutting across the box art diagonally (shown below). The kit itself, instructions and decal sheet were otherwise unchanged.

The D4Y3 Model 33 was released the same year as the revised kit, but moulded in dark green plastic and in a box marked both No.7 and A107:100, It was identical to the earlier kit except for the provision of new cowling parts, consisting of two halves and front with a two-part twin row radial engine. Box art was again by Ikematsu, shown above. The 'fatal flaw' of both kits was the too narrow fuselage in plan view. That slim fuselage could be fattened with plastic shims but that spoilt the fit of the canopy. In 1983 the Fujimi release of the D4Y2 and D4Y3 in 1/72 scale effectively supplanted the LS kits and in 2012 AZ Model also released a family of 1/72 Suisei kits. Both the Fujimi and AZ Model Suisei families included the night fighting D4Y2-S variant with oblique armament.

The original 'six' and the D4Y3 in the 1983 L & S 'Pla-Model' Catalogue

* Encylopedia of Military Models 1/72' by Claude Boileau, Huynh-Dinh Khuong & Thomas A Young, English language edition. by Airlife Publishing Ltd., England, 1988

To be continued . . .

Image credit: All © 1966-1983 L & S Co., Ltd.

Saturday 3 February 2024

LS and Judy Part 1

LS aircraft kits will be familiar to veteran modellers of a certain age from when they first appeared as 1/75 scale kits from Japan in the 1960s, and are still available to them and to new generations of modellers under the Arii Microace brand to this day. Back in the 1960s they presented a little more finesse than the contemporary Aoshima kits and indeed a finesse in the context of the time which gave several of their 'only kits in town' an impressive longevity when it came to certain Japanese aircraft types. For example their Ki-67 kits ruled that roost from 1966 until the Hasegawa kit of the type was released in 1999. 

The company was founded in 1946 by Kan'ichi Kimura as the Sunlight Science Model Factory and with 'SL' adopted as a monogrammed logo from 1954, misperceived as 'LS' because the 'L' was larger than the 'S'. Mr Kimura, who in 2006 at the age of 90 received an Aviation Age Award from the Japanese Aeronautical Association, had worked as a designer for Maeda Seisakusho, manufacturing gliders at Fukuoka before the war and afterwards established his own company to produce educational teaching materials including wood and paper aircraft. When the first miniature electric motors of Mabuchi type became available in 1954 the company, then based at Gifu as the Kimura Gliding Research Institute, began produced motorised ship models in addition to aircraft. The first plastic aircraft kit in their 1/75 series was the D4Y2 Model 12 Suisei 'Judy' (shown as the heading image above) released in December 1961 but was rapidly discontinued the following year when the company went out of business due to the cost of moving from wood and paper to plastic injection moulding. With regeneration as エルエス (Eruesu - LS) in July 1964 the company released six ground breaking 1/75 injection moulded aircraft kits including their original 'Judy' in a box of revised design but with the same box art (as shown below).

The 'Judy' then became kit No.3 in the 'Masterpiece Machine' series which consisted of:-

  • No.1 Hayabusa Type 1
  • No.2 Hayabusa Type 2
  • No.3 Comet Carrier Bomber Type 12 
  • No.4 Type 2 Seaplane Fighter
  • No.5 Zero Fighter Type 21
  • No.6 Zero Fighter Type 52

The No.1 Hayabusa 1 kit was rather different to the No.2 kit, being heavily rivetted and with moveable flying surfaces compromising scale fidelity. The No.2 Hayabusa 2 kit was more cleanly moulded without rivets and with only the prop, canopy and ailerons being movable, but both kits had engraved Hinomaru locations. They are now considered crude by modern standards but in fact were more faithful representations of Hayabusa's slender shape than the 1/72 Revell kit released the same year. The cowlings are cylindrical but perhaps the worst parts are the canopies which appear under scale even for 1/75th. More about the two LS Hayabusa and other initial kits in a future article.    

The 'Judy' was identical to the original kit, moulded in dark green plastic with crewmen moulded to their seats à la Revell box-scale style, with opening bomb bay doors and a loose bomb which was supposed to drop as they were opened. The propeller was designed to rotate and the main undercarriage to retract but there were no other moving parts. It had refined surface detail with engraved panel lines, a presentation only spoilt by engraved positions for the fuselage and wing Hinomaru. The support for the optical sight was moulded integrally with the fuselage halves but no separate sight was provided and the engine intake, although open, had no internal detail. A very clear and crisply moulded single piece canopy with clearly delineated raised frames was included, together with a clear stand bearing the LS logo and 'Made in Japan' in English. The decal sheet in this release (shown below) was glossy, and although the white borders to the Hinomaru were not consistently in register, it provided yellow leading edge strips, undercarriage warning bands and the white tail code with twin yellow tail bands for ヨ-201 - Yo(kosuka)-201. It also had a decal for the stand in the form of a yellow star on a white circle with the four red characters for 'Suisei Kanbaku' (Comet Carrier Bomber) presented two on two. 

The only English on the box was '1/75 Series' and 'Suisei (Judy)' whilst the instructions on a single sheet (shown below) were entirely in Japanese.

The next release of kit No.3 was in 1968 with a new design of box and presenting as 1/72 scale with fresh box art by T Ogawa (as shown above) and perhaps geared more towards export. Indeed my example still has a price sticker for Argyle Models of 65p (13 shillings in old money!) so sold post-1971. The kit, which was also numbered as 103:100, and instruction sheet were unchanged, but the stand was now a curious affair in white plastic which seemed to be designed to accommodate motorisation, although there was no reference to this in the kit itself. An insert sheet in English was included (shown below), plus a tiny metal tube of glue and the decal sheet with same ヨ-201 option was enhanced with two sets of alternative yellow numerals from 0 to 9 and the yellow Katakana unit codes カヤ (KaYa for Kanoya) and タイ (TaI for Tainan).

In 1965 these six LS kits were being sold for 6/11d by importers like BMW in Wimbledon - their advertisement in the February issue of Flying Review International shown below - together with imported 1/50 Marusan kits, relatively expensive exotica at 12/6d and18/6d. The wording of the advertisement suggests that the LS kits sold out quickly. I recall Aoshima kits in a local hobby shop around that time but cannot recall seeing LS kits sold there - that might be because I couldn't afford them on 2/6d weekly pocket money!

By circa 1970 the LS Judy kit had come down in price in UK to 5/11, its box art featuring in another BMW advertisement, this time in Aircraft Illustrated Extra No.4 (shown above). In 1972 the kit was re-released in a completely revised form which will be explored further on Part 2.

To be continued . . . 

Image credit: LS box art, etc., © LS Co., Ltd © 1961, 1964 &1968; Magazine advertisements © 1965 BMW Models and Flying Review International (Purnell & Sons Ltd) and © circa 1970 BMW Models and Aircraft Illustrated Extra (Ian Allan Ltd)

Friday 2 February 2024

Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 0 Model 11 in 1/72 by Scott Jamieson

A second, beautifully finished Zero model in 1/72 scale by Scott Jamieson, this time built from the 2012 Tamiya kit, No.80 in their 'Warbird' series, and backdated to Model 11 configuration to represent an aircraft of 12 Ku in China as flown by Naval Aviation Pilot 3/c Kunimori Nakakariya as wingman to Lt Minoru Suzuki on the 26 May 1941 sorties against Nanning. During this mission Nakakariya claimed two I-15s over Tiansu and those victories were marked on the tail fin of 3-138.  He survived the war, claiming 16 victories in total. Fuselage band colours on 12 Ku aircraft have been variously depicted as blue or red without definitive conclusion and are discussed here.

Scott filled in the arrestor hook slot and wingtip hinge folds, using the markings from the Fine Molds kit. The red fuselage band is from the Tamiya kit as the Fine Molds decal did not fit the Tamiya fuselage. Scott found it a bit large and felt he should have trimmed it.

Being a Tamiya kit there were no issues in construction but Scott added his usual details to the cockpit with seatbelts, drilled out seat, bungee cord for the seat adjustor, handle for the hydraulic back-up pump and landing gear and flap handles.

Scott again finished the model in Tamiya XF-76 Gray Green (IJN), as a Mitsubishi aircraft including the wheel bays, but painted the fabric covered flight surfaces in XF-21 Sky.  Scott's 1/72 A6M2b model also built from the Tamiya kit featured here in June 2020. Scott has now completed six Zero models since 2019 and looking at his impressive collection (shown below) hopefully he will share images of the others here too. 

With special thanks to Scott for images and details of another very fine Zero model.

Image credit: All model photos © 2024 Scott Jamieson; Box art © 2012 Tamiya

Thursday 1 February 2024

12-Shi Experimental 2nd Prototype (A6M1) in 1/72 by Scott Jamieson

Continuing the Zero theme Scott Jamieson has very kindly shared these images and details of his splendid build of the Fine Molds 1/72 A6M1 prototype, the 12-Shi Experimental second aircraft, from their 2019 combo kit which paired it with an A6M2 Model 11 (currently out of stock). 

Although the finished model doesn't show it Scott found this build to be not so enjoyable and considered that the kit fell short of the previous Fine Molds A6M2 Type 21 Zero kit in terms of its quality. He described it as more of a conversion kit which disappointed with a one piece canopy and no provision for open cowl flaps. The additional parts consist of a new fuselage, cowling, engine and two-bladed propeller but there was no guidance on how to correct the basic A6M2 kit, such as eliminating the folding wingtip hinge points.

The new cowling is moulded in three parts with seams through panel line detail which were not easy to fix or conceal. Scott also encountered a dihedral issue with the wings on both the A6M1 and A6M2 models. The port wing lined up whilst the starboard wing was too high. Scott did not notice this during construction and had to cut the wing at the root, crack it loose, gently bend it to line up, then fill, sand and re-scribe.

Scott added minor details such as brake lines and the pilot seat bungee cord, as well as drilling out the seat. He cut the canopy apart and used the sliding section from a Tamiya Zero kit to display the model with an open canopy. The antenna wire was added with stretched sprue. 

He finished the model with Tamiya XF-76 Gray Green (IJN) to represent the 'dimly shining ash green' described by the designer Jiro Horikoshi. The kit decals worked well with Micro Sol but the application of Testors Glosscote followed by Testors Dullcote which has a slight amber tint created a slightly more tan appearance. At the end he was glad to have built it as he had always wanted a model of the prototype despite having little information about it.

With special thanks to Scott for sharing the images and details of a most interesting model. Possibly one of the best references to the 12-Shi Experimental is an article 'The Zero: Birth of a Prodigy' in the book '100 Key Chapters in Japanese Aviation' Vol.1 published by Dai Nippon Kaiga Co., Ltd. in 2004.  Although the main text of this article is in Japanese a good selection of photographs are captioned in English and images of original blueprints and plans are included. Worth seeking out for that and other interesting articles on Japanese aviation within.

Image credit: All model photos © 2024 Scott Jamieson; Box art © 2019 Fine Molds; Book cover © 2004 Dai Nippon Kaiga Co., Ltd.