It's fashionable in some quarters to bemoan the fact that major kit manufacturers always are “always” releasing famous aircraft subjects at the expense of less well known types. However, setting aside the obvious question of economics, it's a shock to realise that it's about 20 years since Tamiya last released a quarterscale Zero. That alone should be enough to make the archetypal Japanese fighter worthy of a revisit – and when they see just what a beauty Tamiya have produced, I think even the most hardened cynic will forgive them!
Produced in greater numbers than any other mark of Zero, the A6M5 was introduced in answer to the continued delays in introducing a Zero replacement and the pressing need to match the technically superior new US fighters then appearing. The modified Zero did away with the folding wing-tip mechanism and featured a new rounded tip which, together with thicker wing-skinning, produced a simpler wing capable of higher diving speeds. Also in the interests of performance, individual ejector exhaust stacks were adopted, giving the new model a top speed of around 350 mph. The A6M5a introduced new belt-feeds (instead of drums) for the wing cannons, raising the ammunition supply to 125 rounds per gun.
This is one of those kits that might have slipped past me had it not been for Steffen Arndt's heads-up in the Forum to his German review on the excellent IPMS Germany
site. One look was all it needed to get me logged into HLJ
, credit card in hand! The timing was perfect – I ordered the kit just before leaving on a working holiday and it arrived the day after my return.
Packed in a typically attractive conventional box, the presentation is very good, with all the sprues and accessories sealed in separate plastic bags to protect them. The kit comprises:
138 x grey styrene parts
8 x clear styrene parts
A set of painting masks
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
As you'd hope with a new Tamiya kit, the quality of moulding is quite superb, flash free and with no sinkage. Ejector pin marks are subtle and kept quite unobtrusive. The surface finish comprises beautifully fine engraved panel lines, plus delicate embossed riveting and raised fasteners and lightly depicted fabric surfaces.
As with Hasegawa's recent largescale Hien, this is an example of one of the major manufacturers at the top of their game. Tamiya's new Zero really is a beautiful kit – not a huge number of parts, gimmick free and with excellent detail throughout.
A test fit shows the major parts fit perfectly – the wing root is so precise, there'll be no need for filler. The wing and nose feature separate panels – which is often a recipe for fit problems, but fear not – in this case they drop into place very neatly. Control surfaces are fixed, but the kit includes separate landing flaps. The tail is a little unusual, with a separate fin and this, combined with the breakdown of other parts and sprues layout is a pretty clear clue that Tamiya have more versions planned.
The kit includes a well-appointed 29-part cockpit, with decals for the instruments and seat harness (see below for Tamiya's alternative harness). The engine is crisply detailed, as is the undercarriage which features a nice deep wheel-well. The mainwheels are “unweighted”.
The canopy is thin and crystal clear, with a separate sliding section, and it's nice to see Tamiya provide a set of painting masks again as standard.
The kit includes a fine seated pilot and, rounding off the standard parts, a great set of 4 standing figures. These are beautifully detailed and will be sure to find a home in countless vignettes and dioramas.
I've stated publicly that I believe including an etched seat harness in aircraft kits will eventually become the norm among major manufacturers. Tamiya are still a step away from this, and it may be in recognition of the fact that aftermarket sets will inevitably follow the release of this kit that they've followed a different approach and produced their own detail set.
Item #12624 (price 600 Yen) includes a neat set of seat belts that will definitely improve over the standard kit's decal harness. There are no other extra interior details – Tamiya are evidently confident that their moulded cockpit will more than pass muster – but the set features undercarriage indicators for the wings and wheel chocks that must be folded to shape.
The real twist that sets the package apart from competitors is the inclusion of metal cannon barrels and pitot tube. These are quite exquisite, with the barrels are produced in a dark “gun-metal” and, although undoubtedly something of a luxury, you deserve to treat yourself occasionally!
Instructions and decals
You can hardly go far wrong with Tamiya instructions and the Zero's are no exception, being clearly drawn and logically laid out. They make light work of what should be, essentially, quite a straightforward build. Needless to say, Tamiya indicate their own paints throughout, but I'll used WEM's comprehensive Japanese Colourcoats for my build.
Decals are provided for 3 schemes:
A. A6M5a - 302nd Naval Fighter Group, 1st Squadron, ENS. Sadaaki Akamatsu, Atsugi Air Base, Feb 1945.
B. A6M5 – Carrier Juno, leads ship of Carrier Div. 2, 652nd Fighter Group, Mariana Sea, June 19, 1944.
C. A6M5 – Rabaul Fighter Group, New Britain Island, Rabaul, 1943-44.
The decals are very good quality, silk finished with minimal carrier film. While they are slighter thicker than some other manufacturers decals, the registration is spot-on and the tiny stencil marks have clearly defined Japanese characters.
Tamiya's new Zero is a lovely kit! Beautifully detailed and moulded, its straightforward construction makes it ideally suited for all modellers of average ability upwards. The import price of Tamiya kits in Europe is often something of a sore point, but at a UK price of around £25, the Zero still represents reasonably fair value for a new kit of this quality. Buying my kit from HLJ represented a significant saving and, with the P&P spread over a larger order, the Japanese price equivalent to around £15 made the kit exceptionally good value. Highly recommended.
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