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Tamiya 1/48 scale A6M5/5a Zero

Kit: No. 61103
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer: Tamiya America, 800-826-4922,
Price: $57
Comments: Injection-molded, 135 parts, decals
Pros: Cleanly molded with outstanding surface detail; nice clear parts with canopy mask included
Cons: Instructions difficult for novices
Issue Published: December 2008

Since the 1970s, Tamiya's 1/48 scale Zero series has been a bench mark for modelers. But now Tamiya has outdone itself with a new and vastly improved A6M5/5a Zero fighter (Zeke).

The box contains five individually wrapped frets plus four standing figures and a seated pilot. Decals cover three different aircraft (two A6M5s and an A6M5a). A canopy mask is included.

A separate color and decal guide has useful scale drawings of the three particular aircraft - two Nakajima-built aircraft and a Mitsubishi. The paint guide specifies only Tamiya paints, with no Federal Standard numbers to refer to other brands.

Panel lines are finely engraved, and rivet detail looks perfect - not at all overdone. The canopy parts were scratch-free, crystal clear, and looked in-scale. I also noticed the complete absence of flash, a huge improvement over the old Tamiya Zero molds.

The cockpit features a realistic instrument panel and accurately mounted seat. The decal seat belts look convincing, too, and the sidewall detail is well done. I painted Tamiya IJN cockpit green (XF-71) and dry-brushed silver along the foot troughs and seat to replicate wear.

In steps 4 and 5, you choose open or closed cowl flaps. Instruc-tions call for the engine heads to be black semigloss, but in the pictures I've seen they look like the same dull metal as the rest of the engine. There is a pesky mold line down the center of the engine halves - but don't worry, it can't be seen after the cowl is installed.

Joining the fuselage halves was a breeze. I added just a bit of Tamiya putty to the edges to ensure no seam line would appear after painting, then installed the finished cockpit and joined the fuselage. It couldn't have fit any better.

Be careful to choose the right wing parts for the aircraft you are building. There are options in the wing panels for both the A6M5 and the A6M5a.

The wings' fit was superb and required no filler on the leading edges or at the wing roots. A tiny edge did form on the aft section of the wing assembly where it joined the fuselage, but a bit of filler and a little sanding made it disappear. I saved the lights until after painting.

I was surprised by how easily the wheels fit the landing gear. Follow Step 11 closely: The instructions throw parts placement and painting directions at you all at once.

Wing flaps can be posed open or closed; I left mine open to show off the internal detail. You also have a choice of two tail hooks, depending on your aircraft.

The kit-supplied canopy masking fits almost perfectly. I painted the interior color first, followed by the exterior.

I had trouble adding the leading-edge gunports (parts E15 and E16, or B3 and B4). The trailing edges of those parts don't quite match the wing's leading edge, leaving a bit of a gap underneath. It took a bit of putty and some sanding to resolve. Be sure to pick the correct gun port for your plane.

I preshaded panel lines with black paint, then airbrushed decanted Tamiya spray-can lacquer (AS-1 IJN dark green). The underside is Model Master IJN sky gray. After the paint dried for a few days, I gloss-coated and applied decals. They were excellent! A dark wash brought out panel lines and rivet detail. Finally, I added the canopy and fiddly bits such as navigation lights and gun barrels.

I spent 16.5 enjoyable hours building this Zero. Anyone with a few models to his or her credit should have no problem building a good-looking fighter with this kit.

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