The Zero Type 54/64 was the product of an effort to adress the performance problems of the Zero Type 52 Hei (overweighted by repeated modifications) by replacing the Type 52's Sakae 21 engine with the more powerful Mitsubishi Kinsei Model 62. This resulted in an extensively modified cowling and nose for the aircraft. The carburator intake was much larger, a long duct like that on the Nakajima B6N Tenzan was added, and a large spinner was mounted.
Armament was unchanged from the type 52 Hei (2 X 20mm cannon and 2 X 13mm machine guns). In addition, the Type 64 was modified to carry two 150 liter drop tanks on either wing in order to permit the mounting of a 500kg bomb on the underside of the fuselage. Two prototypes were completed in 1945 and production was ordered following flight testing, but the war ended before any production began.
Hasegawa released a Zero special 65th anniversary set two years ago which included some interesting variants of Japan's most famous WW2 fighter. Unfortunately the kit was very expensive and also pretty hard to find as it sold out almost immediately. Good news is that Hasegawa is now releasing some of the exclusive kits featured in the set as single boxings. One of them is probably the ultimate version of the Zero, the A6M8. Hasegawa already released this version almost ten years ago in a special boxing with resin parts made by Jaguar (cowling, propeller, bombs, etc...) but this is another kit made entirely of injected plastic.
The new kit is packed within a standard cardboard box with and is composed of no less than 8 sprues made of grey styrene and one sprue for the transparent parts. Of course instruction and decal sheets are also included. The box is rather full as you can see and unfortunetly, apart from the clear sprue which is bagged separately, all the others are located within the same plastic pouch and the surface of many parts have light scratchings (noticable on some pictures).
When examining the parts layout diagram on the instruction sheet, one can notice that many parts won't be used during construction of the model. This is because the kit is based on the Zero model 52 kit of the same manufacturer. In fact, only sprues "C" is exclusively devoted to the A6M8 variant, all the others having more or less optional parts (see red areas on the sprue photos).
The quality of the kit is very good as you would expect from a manufacturer like Hasegawa. The surface of the plastic is finely engraved and also features nice reliefs (panels, bulges, rocket rails, etc...). Overall, the level of detail is very good, although the kit has recently be superseded by Tamiya's offering (see review here)
. Especially the cockpit seems a bit simplified (new seat and side consoles) but with some additional work and a good paintjob the interior should look alright nevertheless. The new engine is an approximation of the Kinsei Model 62 and I hope it will be hidden behind the big front spinner at the end. Having said that, there are areas where the Hasegawa Zero is still better than Tamiya's. The exhausts for example have soldering marks which are not present on the new Tamiya A6M5.
Two sprues of armament and auxiliary fuel tanks are provided which will give you the choice between many configurations:
- two small rockets under each wings.
- one large rocket under each wing.
- four small rockets mounted on a frame under each wings.
- one large rocket mounted on a frame under each wings.
- one fuel tank under each wing.
There are also two types of centerline fuel tanks on other sprues but they are marked as "not to be used". However, I guess nobody will bother if you do a "what if?" A6M8 Zero fitted with a single fuel tank and a full load of rockets under the wings. You could even place a 250 or 500 kg bomb under the fuselage, provided you have one in your spare box since there is none included in the kit. This is a shame as there was one in resin in the first A6M8 boxing made by Hasegawa.
The instruction sheet is composed of a brief History, some construction warnings, a parts layout diagram, a 10 step assembly guide (3 pages) and the paint and decal guide. Colors are given for the Aqueous Hobby color and Mr. Color range of paints. When examining the instructions, I noticed that unlike many Hasegawa kits, the Zero seems rather simplified in it's parts breakdown. There are not inserts for example and therefore the kit looks very easy to build.
With the decals provided, it is possible to do two different aircraft:
- Zero Fighter Type 54, second prototype.
- Zero Fighter Type 64, Yokosuka Naval Flying group.
The second marking is a speculative sheme since this version never saw operational use. Both aircraft are finished in the standard Grey Green under surface and Dark Green upper surface camouflage with yellow fast indentification markings on the leading edge of the wings. Hinomarus are located on the usual positions (white border for the prototype and black border for the speculative aircraft) and each aircraft carries a tail number. The decals are very good and look thinner than the usual Hasegawa ones, it's not surprising since they have been printed by Cartograf.
If you like Japanese subject, especially the Zero, and if you are searching for something out of the ordinary but not too complicated to build, Hasegawa's A6M8 is a good choice. Not everybody will like the result as the aircraft looks a bit strange with it's big engine, but it sure will make a nice addition to every Japanese WW2 aircraft collection. Highly recommend for modelers of all skills.
Hasegawa's Mitsubishi A6M8 Zero was kindly provided for review by HobbyLink Japan. Visit HLJ for Japanese kits at Japanese prices.
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