Tamiya 1/32nd Mitsubishi A6M5 Model 52 Zero (Zeke) Work-In-Progress Build – UPDATED 01 August 2019

25 February 2019 – Hi, folks. This is Gary Mason. I’ll be starting a Work In Progress build here on Tamiya’s 1/32nd Mitsubishi A6M5 Model 52 Zero, which the Allies code-named the “Zeke” during WWII.

I bought this kit back in the middle of 2018 from Hobby Link Japan, as they had the best deal that I could find. I paid about $70 US, including shipping, for this kit. Anywhere else was right at $100, NOT including shipping fees. So, do your research when you wanna buy anything on-line.

I already had (and still do!) the P-51D, Supermarine Spitfire Mk. VIII, and the Chance Vought F4U-1A Corsair in 1/32nd from Tamiya, and wanted the Zero to go along with them. But, now that I had all four of them, which do I build first? I wanted to start the Corsair first, but, with that being my favorite aircraft of all time, and wanting to do a bang-up job on it, and not having built one of Tamiya’s newest 1/32nd scale kits before, I was kinda leery on building it first with no experience on the Tamiya 1/32nd line. Then I saw that a Japanese Group Build was starting up on FineScale Modeler’s website, so that helped me make my decision. The Zeke will be first! You’ll also see this build on FineScale’s website.

Tamiya 1/32nd Mitsubishi A6M5 Model 52 Zero

Here’s a photo of the box art. The box isn’t as big as you’d think for a 1/32nd scale aircraft kit. Out of the four Tamiya 1/32nd scale kits that I have, it’s the smallest. I’d guesstimate that it’s about 12″ x 14″, which isn’t too big.

First thing you see upon opening the box.

This is an insert that covers everything in the box. It’s designed to become a protective barrier/holder for the completed build so that you can use the original box in which to transport the plane, or store it indefinitely. The seams that you see in the insert are to allow the insert to be folded to fit the fuselage and wings of the plane; you then put it all back in the box, and close the box up with the original top. Pretty ingenious, if you ask me.

Box Contents

Here’s whatcha see once you remove the insert. All parts are nicely packaged in plastic wrapping, and everything is packed in such a way as to protect the parts from damage. The clear parts are well-protected. There are lots of small parts, including metal springs and hinges. Tamiya even includes a Phillips screwdriver to help with the assembly. Ain’t that nice of them.

Lotsa parts

Wow! A lot of parts. I wish I had laid something next to them to give an idea of the scale. The main landing gear has many separate parts, to include the oleo struts with metal springs so that they have a realistic “bounce” to them, plus they are designed to retract, just like the real thing. Same for the tail wheel, but no spring for it. The tires are rubber as well.

Instruction Manual

The instruction manual (yep, I said “manual”) is relatively thick. I don’t have it in front of me right now (I’m in a hotel room in Augusta, GA, as I type this), but I think it’s right at 30 pages, along with a couple of pages of very nice detailed photos of three different Zeros on display at different air museums around the world (albeit black-n-white photos). I have the Squadron “Zero In Action” book at home, so that should be enough for reference photos. Really looking forward to getting started on this build as soon as I get back home sometime this week. Gotta finish the Hasegawa SR-71 (1/72nd), which just needs the nose cone and landing gear glued on, then I will start on this one. Hope y’all enjoy the build.

03 March 2019 – Got some work done on the Zeke over the weekend, although not much. Mainly just some general painting of large areas, and small parts that are still on the sprues. My usual attack plan for just about any model is to read the instructions (duhhh!!); look for all the parts that are gonna be the same color, and assemble those before painting (if at all possible); spray-paint those parts; if the parts are very small, leave those on the sprues so they can be easily handled, and spray-paint them; set all the freshly-painted parts aside to dry, and then start assembling all the parts that don’t need paint before assembly, such as horizontal stabilizer halves, wings (most of the time), wheel halves, etc.

Below are some in-progress pictures – let me whatcha think!

As you can see, the Zero was a small plane. This is in 1/32nd scale, and it’s small, even in this scale.
I found a lot of ejector pin holes throughout the fuselage halves, and also the wings, which really concerned me, as this is totally unlike Tamiya to leave this kind of anomaly in their kits. But, once I looked closer and studied the instructions, none of these will be seen once all of the assemblies are in place. So, nothing to worry about at all.
Got some Interior Green and Aluminum sprayed, as per the instructions, and based on photos of an actual unrestored A6M5 I found on-line. Gonna let this dry while I paint all the other small details that will go inside, like oxygen tanks, hydraulic tanks, throttle quadrants, etc.
This SHOULD be all of the stuff that needs Interior Green paint. Man, I sure hope it is!! Gonna let this dry for awhile. While it cures, I’ll peruse the instructions for the next color that needs spraying while the parts are still on the sprues. In this manner, I can get most of my itty-bitty tiny bits painted, as well as the other pieces, let them all cure, then start assembling it all.

16 March 2019 – Well, it’s been two weeks since my last update, and work (that bad 4-letter word) has been keeping me away from the bench. But, I did get some time to get the fuselage halves together last weekend (09 March). The fit of this kit is just astounding, as I’ve test-fitted almost every major part, and love the precision of it all. The seams will hardly need any cleanup, if any is needed at all. They almost disappear once the glue is applied (I’m using Tenax 7R for the large & long glue areas, such as fuselage, wings, etc.).

Tamiya did a great job on the engineering of this kit. Plus, with the moulds being new, that helps a lot, too. The seams almost disappear once the glue is applied. Just a little bit of sanding, then paint, should make everything look as it should.
You can see from the bottle of Model Masters paint in the background that, even though this is a 1/32nd-scale kit, it’s still small compared to most kits of that scale. The only reason you can see the top fuselage seam is because I painted the interior before gluing it together, and what you see is the paint that was left on the seams. Otherwise, the seams wouldn’t be showing up in the photo.

Here’s what’s in the fuselage so far. The cockpit will be assembled as a separate unit, then inserted and glued in place from the bottom, which I really like. Much easier than putting/gluing it all in one fuselage half, then trying to glue the other half on while praying that the cockpit doesn’t fall out of alignment, or, far worse, falls out! The two items that you you see in the fuselage are the oxygen tanks (black tanks with silver bottoms) on the left, and the hydraulic fluid tank (gold) on the right. Not sure these two will even be seen once the cockpit is on place, but I’LL know that they are there!

So, that’s it for now. With it being Saturday, I’m gonna try to get some more done on her today. The next major step is assembling the cockpit, which I am much looking forward to. That is probably my favorite part of building an aircraft – assembling the cockpit. Most of it is already spray-painted, but there will be some detail painting of the really small stuff. Look for another update soon.

20 March 2019 – Well, got the cockpit parts assembled (mostly) and painted. I first sprayed everything with a base coat of Testor Model Master Interior Green flat enamel. The instructions call for Tamiya XF-71 Cockpit Green, which I do not have. But, what I do have is many bottles of the many shades of military greens. So, I got on the internet to see if I could find any color pictures of an A6M5 cockpit. And, lo and behold, I found color pictures of an UNRESTORED A6M5 hanging from the ceiling of the National Air & Space Museum. Woo Hoo!! Now, I know that the colors on a computer monitor don’t always match real life, but without a real A6M5 to look at, this wuz just gonna hafta ta do. I brought up the cockpit pictures, and compared the colors shown to all the different bottles of flat green paint that I had in stock (thanks to The Hobby Stop in Rock Hill, SC, for my recent resupply of many bottles of military and car colors, by the way!), and found that Interior Green was an almost-perfect match – not exact, but close enough for me.

Getting back to the build: after spraying the Interior Green and letting it cure for a couple of days, I started the tedious but necessary task of hand-painting all of the little details, and gluing on a few of them here and there. I painted everything according to the Tamiya instruction booklet. The cockpit pictures previously mentioned didn’t show enough of the cockpit to let me verify if the instructions are correct. I do have the Squadron “A6M Zero In Action” book (published back in 1983), but no color pictures in it at all. The Tamiya instruction book has reference photos of three different Zeroes in the back of it, but they are all black & white photos. So, I’ll rely on the instruction book to be correct for the colors. Let me know whatcha think.

These are the major assemblies of the cockpit. In all, there are about 25 parts shown here.

This is the cockpit floor. Seven parts are in this assembly. The fit of all parts has been outstanding.
Port side cockpit wall/assembly. Five parts represented here.
Starboard assembly. Eight parts shown here.
This is a horizontal shelf/arm rest that will be attached to the port side cockpit assembly. It had three parts. The two larger holes (on the right) actually have glass in them, and a set of dials (represented with decals) will be put on them soon.

A good modeling technique that I learned on my own by painting the cockpit details (and I’m sure this is probably already known by everyone else): If you use enamel paints for a base-coat, using acrylics to detail-paint is easier (much easier) than using enamels for the detail painting. I poured a small amount of acrylic paint into some old blister-pack gum wrappers (you know, like Dentine gum, etc.), added two drops of denatured alcohol to thin the paint a little, used a very small pointed-tip paint brush (0 size – Model Master 8832), and went at it. The results are very satisfactory to me. I’ve tried using toothpicks for this, but never had much luck with those.

07 April 2019 – Wow!! It’s amazing how fast two weeks goes by. Still making progress on the cockpit area, but work started taking up more of my time the past two weeks, so not a lot of progress on it, but some, nonetheless. Plus, I missed the monthly meeting AGAIN, especially with a contest!! Was gonna enter my SR-71A. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Anyways, the pictures below show my latest progress on the cockpit. It’s coming pretty well, especially considering how much I shake when I attempt hand-painting on such a small scale. I actually pleased with how it’s coming out so far. Painting the bezels around the instruments has been the biggest challenge so far, but, I ain’t building her for no contest! Let me know whatcha think!!

The seat and rear bulkhead. This is probably the only place that I’ll use photo-etch parts on this kit. The seat belts that came with the kit were paper ones that you had to cut out, then wrap around the provided unpainted brass photo-etch pieces. They just didn’t look real. But, I had a set of Eduard pre-painted photo-etch seat belts (for my 1/32nd Hasegawa A6M5c), so I used those. Luckily/happily, the Eduard set comes with two sets of belts on one sprue, so I still have a set for my Hasegawa kit. Woo Hoo!!

Side walls and floor in place. Not too shabby……..

The main instrument panel. Don’t look too closely, or you’ll see the crappy job job I did on the instrument bezels.
The secondary instrument panel – this holds the artificial horizon (left) and turn & bank indicator (right) up top, and the radio & a couple of instruments on the bottom. There is a decal for the two vertically-stacked instruments on the lower left. They will be applied before it all goes in the fuselage.
These are oxygen bottles (all three) that mount behind the pilot’s seat on the rear of the rear bulkhead. These will be very hard to see once everything is together, so I didn’t do my best painting on them. But, they’ll suffice for my needs.

29 April 2019 – Well, shoot! Didn’t think it would take me this long to get another update posted, but I wuz wrong! Almost a whole month has passed since my last update, and little has been done. I got the instrument panel together, with the decals applied for the instrument faces (which came out lookin’ pretty good), and the oxygen tanks glued in place on the rear of the cockpit assembly. And that’s all. Hoping to get a lot more done in the next few weeks. Let me know whatcha think, folks!

The “almost” completed cockpit assembly. I think the photo-etch seat belts look a lot better than what what Tamiya provided. And a LOT better than what I could’ve scratch-built.
Another view of the cockpit. You can see the oxygen tanks just behind the seat on the rear of the bulkhead. And, in case you’re wondering, the handle on the joystick is really green in the real plane, too.

This is a real gem of an instrument panel. Tamiya did good on this. Very easy to assemble, and reversing the decals so that the adhesive is on the instrument faces so that they show through the clear plastic lenses is genius (my opinion, of course…). The only hard part for me was painting the bezels around each instrument. There’s gotta be an easier way than with a 00 paint brush and thinned black paint.

WOW!!! My last update was 29 April 2019! Shoot! I needs ta gits bizzy on dis plane!

Below you’ll find some pictures of what little progress I’ve made in the last 3 & some-odd months. Got the cockpit mounted in the fuselage, and have assembled the three stabilizers, the rudder, the elevators, the flaps, the gear doors, and a few other things (everything that didn’t need paint before assembly), and got a lot of stuff masked off so I can shoot some of that weird greenish-blue color the Japanese used on some of the interior areas of the Zero.

The metal hinges on the gear doors were a royal pain in the butt!! Although they look very realistic once attached, trying to attach them to the gear doors was not easy! I wish that Tamiya could’ve come up with an easier way to assemble these thingies…….

I’ve masked off the areas that will be getting glue prior to painting. I figured this was a much easier way than trying to scrape off paint from the areas needing glue. When you scrape paint, you wind up scraping off some plastic, too. And that means gaps to fill……….. ‘Nuff said.

Overall, I LOVE this kit!! The fit, so far, is just outstanding!! I’m looking forward to building my F4U-1A, P-51D, and Spitfire Mk VIII as soon as I’m done with this one.

5 Comments

  1. Dave Maher
    February 26, 2019

    Hey Gary, I really like your start. I ‘m looking forward to Keeping up with you build. Hope to see you Friday night.

    Reply
  2. GARY D MASON
    February 26, 2019

    Thanks, a bunch, Dave! Good to know that someone else saw this besides me! I’m hoping to get some more pictures posted very soon, even some that some parts glued together! Woo Hoo!
    Not sure about Friday night. Been another busy month this February, and this Friday is looking just as busy. If we could just get these meetings late on a Saturday morning, that would help tremendously in a lot more of us to the meetings.

    Reply
    1. Dave Maher
      March 4, 2019

      That was discussed Friday, I think Dan Gardon is moving towards another meeting at another time. Most of the group likes Friday night. I’ll send you Dan’s email and you can contact him

      Reply
  3. Richard Avery
    March 21, 2019

    Gary,

    Nice job so far on the Zeke!

    By the way, we will have a Saturday build for those who can in April, so keep an eye on Dave’s email.

    King Richard

    Reply
  4. GARY D MASON
    April 29, 2019

    Bump….

    Reply

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