Kiichiro Toyota, son of the founder of Toyota Loom Works, got his start making automobiles in 1935 with a basic car model, the A1, manufactured in 1935. The A1 was a prototype design and was followed in 1936 with an improved and modified vehicle, the AA. The AA was styled after the Chrysler Airflow, a radical streamlined sedan. The AA was a four door hardtop sedan with the rear doors opening to the rear and powered by a 6 cylinder 3.4 liter inline engine, three speed transmission and rear wheel drive. This was followed by the AB, a convertible version of the AA, with conventional opening doors on the rear. Seating was spacious, with front and rear bench seats and two smaller auxiliary seats just behind the front bench. A total of 353 Toyota AB Phaeton models were built between 1936 and 1938, but nearly all were purchased by the Japanese military, painted in a dark tan or khaki color.
The kit comes in a medium sized box with typical Tamiya
artwork showing the vehicle and driver against a white background. The box sides show profiles of the vehicle with Tamiya
paint colors for the finish. Inside the box, the sprues are packaged in individual plastic pouches. These were opened by Jim Starkweather when he did his "Unboxing" video, a link to this video can be found at the end of this review which shows off the kit parts rather clearly.
My inspection of the kit parts showed very good molding, with some details a little basic but overall nice and clean. There are some seam lines to clean up, but this is common with any kit. The instructions are in a foldout style, with line drawings showing assembly. The cover page has a paragraph with historical data in English, French, German and Japanese. A paint guide is included at the top of the assembly portion, all colors listed are Tamiya
. Also included are suggested tools for assembly.
I followed the instructions for main assembly sections, beginning with the frame. There is only a lower engine portion with the oil pan, so this kit is a dedicated curb side model. Fit of parts is excellent. Step 2
attaches the frame to the lower body and step three places the exhaust pope. Some care is needed in step four, attachment of the front leaf springs and steering linkage, and then the front axle and tie rods.
is the rear axle and springs, and the drive shaft. To lower the height of the vehicle, you will need to modify the springs and axles.
For step 6
I assembled the wheels and test fitted them to the assembled portion but with the poly caps the wheels can be easily removed for painting. The now completed lower chassis was painted in X18, semi-gloss black.
For step 7
, I assembled the auxiliary seats in the stowed position. This leaves two very visible ejector marks on the seat face. They looked very shallow to my eyes and I attempted to carefully sand them out. It would be better to fill them, but care must be taken so as to not remove the stud detail around the seat edges. The gas, brake and clutch pedals are also attached in this step.
places the hand brake and stick shift. The shift would break during painting and I substituted a bent pin of the same diameter, which matched the chrome finish of the actual part better. I placed the rear seat, but both seats can be left off until you are ready for final assembly.
adds the dash to the upper body. The instrument dial bases are raised, flat circles. On the car, they are recessed. If you would like to improve detail, drill them out, place some styrene stock at the rear and then place the decals. The interior is painted semi-gloss black. The instrument panel is the body color.
For step 10
, I attempted to deepen the openings in the radiator grille. It was a lot of work that resulted in a mostly mediocre effect. The interior handles are placed at this point, but I left them off until the end so as to not knock them off or break them.
I test fitted the upper body and everything lined up quite well. I placed the bumper base and painted the vehicle. Rather than go with the recommended mix of Gloss white, X-2, and gloss brown, X9, at a 4:1 ratio, I went with Gloss white and a few drops of hull red, XF-9, and obtained a light pink-gray finish that was applied over a semi gloss black primer coat. The interior floor was painted XF-55, deck tan. Once I fixed the two body sections together I did another coat of body color for touch up and a gloss coat of Future wax was applied. I then placed the decals on the instrument panel, placed the door handles, steering wheel and windscreen. The headlights need to be drilled out and the posts set into the holes. For the Chrome trim, I used a mix of methods. On the hub caps, spare tire cover, bumpers and side chrome trim, I went with foil for the first time. My choice was a little thick and ended with some scratches across the surface, but I think it turned out well. For the finer details I used Citadel paints bright steel for touch up, and the small chrome bits on the hood and sides I used a silver Sharpie, which produced a smoother and slightly glossier finish than the paint. The rear lights are two different lens types, so pay attention to where you place them. The right rear light gets a drop of red in the center and amber around that. There is no delineation mark on the part.
I opted to go with the folded down top, which is very well molded, though there is some gap filling where the parts join. Also, what appears to be a slide out for the support braces is molded as a half round. I haven't seen interior detail to see if this was a round part or half round, but on other convertibles this is normally a tube extension. I painted the cover in the same deck tan as the interior floor. Finishing details were the decals on the hub caps, spare tire cover and the hood ornament. There are some decals for pin striping detail but as the carrier film extends out a bit and is somewhat thick, I opted to not use it. One prominent detail missing is a strap handle on the inside of each door, near the top. This could be scratch built without too much difficulty with a clear reference photo.
I partially built the figure, a driver, but opted not to use it at this time. The figure is molded with the back hollowed out to better conform to the seat. His uniform looks a little ill-fitting but matches period photos quite well. The figure is typical of the latest figures from Tamiya
, with a separate head and hat. The face has Asian features.
I was very happy with this kit and how it turned out. It has a military application (A Japanese propaganda film includes one at an airfield in Manchuria) and could fill in for diorama use but also extends to auto modelers and civilian vignettes. I am looking at the new Japanese officer set coming from Tamiya
, and wondering if any of the seated figures would fit in the rear. I thought the color and appearance of the car would make it a suitable ride for a princess, or an empress, but there is nothing available like that. There is not a lot of reference material available for this vehicle, although there are a couple of restored AB models in museums. Image searches turned up multiple views of the same museum example and the box art for this kit. There is an excellent build up on a Japanese modeling site by an expert, finished in an ivory and blue body that is really very attractive.
Information for this build was obtained from Toyota motor corporation's museum page, Wikipedia, and excellent photos from AutoblogAfrica.
Jim Starkweather Video Review