Tamiya 1/32 A6M2 Tweak List
By Ryan Toews
Notes on the 1/32nd Tamiya A6M2
19 April 2019
The Tamiya A6M2, like its A6M5 predecessor, has received high praise for its quality. But it is not perfect and so the following list addresses some possible improvements to the kit.
For the most part the kit is designed to replicate a Mitsubishi-built A6M2. However it is also possible to build the Nakajima version with the parts included in the kit. Several of the sprues and parts were originally used in the A6M5 kit and are usable to recreate the later Nakajima-built Type 21 Zero.
It should be noted that establishing the dates of the changes in the details on the Nakajima-built A6M2 can be problematic. The changes can be noted on surviving Type 21s, but this only gives a date when the revisions have already been adopted. The exact date when these revisions were first implemented often cannot be established.
The following sections reference the steps in the Tamiya kit instructions.
- Mitsubishi consistently painted the cockpit interior a dark green (FS 4098). Nakajima at first started with a similar shade of green (FS 4095), but by mid-1942 switched to a much lighter green (FS 4373). In contrast to Mitsubishi, Nakajima Zeros had the seat supports and landing gear and flap levers painted gloss black. Both the guns and radio equipment, however, followed the pattern found in Mitsubishi examples.
- The rivets on the rear cockpit deck were not flush and should instead be raised.
- The ammunition expenditure counter E3 can only be found on the very early Mitsubishi-built A6M2. However, the hemispheric lamp should be attached just below E26. It is overall natural aluminum.
- The two CO2 (not oxygen) tanks E62 were part of the fire extinguisher system introduced in early December 43. Prior to this date there was only a single horizontally-mounted CO2 tank in this location. This CO2 tank should be painted green with the valve facing towards the front of the aircraft.
- There is a small circle inscribed on the outer left side of the fuselage just below the rear oval access panel. This is the location of the compressed air refilling valve and should be drilled out.
- The edge of the rear wheel well opening follows the pattern of a Mitsubishi Zero. A Nakajima Zero will need to have this edge modified to a slightly “wavy” configuration.
- Both manufacturers painted the fuselage decking behind the cockpit black.
- The very late Nakajima A6M2s produced after December 1943 replaced the Type 96 Model 1 radio with the Type 3 Model 1 radio. In such a Zero use part E17 as used on the A6M5 kit.
- Mitsubishi did not paint the steel parts in the cockpit black as was found in the Nakajima planes. Thus E35 and E36 should be overall black on Nakajima planes and cockpit interior green on those built by Mitsubishi. In both cases the knob at the end of the handles should be black. The paint applied to the points where E35 and E36 attach should be black only on Nakajima Zeros.
- The handle on E81 is not black in either manufacturer’s case.
- The hydraulic pressure gauge on E37 was only present on the Mitsubishi A6M2. In mid-to-late 1942 Nakajima moved this gauge to below the instrument panel as part of the revised oxygen flow regulator panel. Thus for anything but a very early Nakajima A6M2 this section of E37 should be cut off leaving the outer edge parallel to the side against the fuselage wall.
- The Type 96 Model 1 radio components Q28 and Q47 both have an accurately moulded front face but the upper part of the top back of both units should be rounded downwards instead of being square/flat-topped. On a very late model Nakajima A6M2 do not include these components as they were replaced as indicated in Section 3.
- The Morse key Q14 was usually only present on Zeros flown by higher ranked pilots and so often would be omitted. In such a case, smooth out the shelf and leave it empty but mount the small hemispheric lamp found at the front of Q14 at the front of the shelf. The lamp is overall aluminum. The lens is black as it was an ultraviolet light.
- Part E30 is the controller for the Type 3 Model 1 radio. It should not be present unless this radio is being used. Instead mount the Type 1 Model 3 RDF controller E29 in the place indicated for E30. The light at the front end of the RDF controller should be removed.
- Many land based Zeros had both the radios and the RDF equipment removed. In this case leave off radios Q28 and Q47, Morse key Q14, and RDF components E24 and E29. However, the bases or mounts on which these components were located should still be left in place.
- The tail hook release handle was not present on the Nakajima A6M2s built after early October 1943. For such an A6M2, E4 should not be added and the base on which it is mounted should be removed completely and the lightening holes drilled out.
- An Air-Fuel Mixture Analyser Control Box should be mounted on the right fuselage wall just in front of the location for the Morse key. This box was a plain black box measuring 150 x 120 x 40 mm in size (4.7 x 3.8 x 1.3 mm in 1/32nd scale).
- A “bicycle chain” needs to be attached leading backwards from the trim tab control N8.
- The throttle handle E82 should have a mid-blue handle, not black.
- The square base of the dynamotors Q49 should be painted the same aluminum colour as the upper part of the unit. The two dynamotors that are molded as one complete unit could be replaced with separate cylindrical components. For a scale drawing of the dynamotors see: http://www.jaircraft.com/research/gregspringer/radios/radio_systems.htm.
- The four small aluminum “cylinders” at the back of the instrument console panel N11 are the controls for the pneumatic cannon charging system on the Mitsubishi built A6M2. The two “cylinders” to the front right are actually gauges with white dial faces. The Nakajima A6M2 retained the two rear left valves but recessed the two gauges into the console panel. As well, the horizontal cylindrical valve to the front of the “cylinders” was moved and the U-shaped recess in the console panel was reduced in size to provide additional room for the two pressure gauges.
- Note two “boxes” just forward of the large fuselage rib with the lightening holes on the left wall of the cockpit. They are indicated to be painted black (X-18). This should only apply to the forward “box”, the machine-gun safety lock. The other “box” should be the same colour as the rest of the cockpit.
- On the right floor of the cockpit is a rectangular box with three T-handles on top of it. This box should have round lightening holes in its four sides.
- Add a fourth T-handle to the front left corner of the box described above. This handle was used to actuate the wing tank cooling flaps. At some time after the manufacture of the 372nd Mitsubishi A6M2 (built 21 October 1941) this handle was replaced with a small crank handle just forward of the same box. The Nakajima built A6M2 did not use a crank for the cooling flaps and retained the four T-handles. This fourth handle was finally eliminated with the deletion of the wing cooling flaps (see Section 20).
- The rudder bar should have semi-circular foot restraints attached to the base of each pedal. The rudder bar at the base of each pedal was wrapped with twine and so should be a light tan colour.
- The use of Q26 is incorrect for any Nakajima or Mitsubishi-built A6M2. Use part T4.
- Tamiya appears to have provided the more complex seat belt harness that was found on the A6M5c and A6M7. The belts should best be replaced with aftermarket products.
- Mitsubishi did not paint the steel fittings in the cockpit black. Thus parts E5, E6, E12, E13, EE72 and the crosspiece to which these are attached should be painted the same colour as the rest of the cockpit interior. Nakajima Zero, however, had all these steel components painted black.
- Both bungee mounts E23 should be the same colour as the rest of the cockpit interior.
- A bungee cord should be fitted over the two mounts E23 from about one third of the way back from the seat on seat mounts E12 and E13. The bungee could be white, gray or black.
- Four additional lightening holes need to be added to each lower side of the seat.
- The Mitsubishi A6M2 utilized only two oxygen tanks; one on either side of the opening in Station 5. Nakajima adopted the kit configuration of three oxygen tanks sometime before October of 1942. The bottles are black as indicated in the instructions.
- The round magneto switch in the middle of the lower left tier of instruments should be black.
- It became a “thing” to remove the instrument clock and instead wear it around the pilot’s neck. If this is done leave the upper left centre instrument position empty.
- The crank on the oil cooler flap actuator E25 should be painted yellow.
- The small rectangle inscribed below the compass should be white. This was a paper card with notes on compass deviations.
- The choice between instrument panels N1 and K3 was not between Mitsubishi and Nakajima A6M2s but between early and late versions of the Mitsubishi planes. The K3 version was utilized up until the 372nd Mitsubishi A6M2. The later panel allowed for a push button actuator for a prop de-icer system. This appeared to have been removed from many of the planes in the southern Pacific, leaving the opening as found on N1.
- Q48 represents the Inclinometer on the left and the Oxygen Flow regulator on the right. This is correct for all Mitsubishi built A6M2s.
- However, the kit’s combination of instruments was replaced on the Nakajima A6M2 sometime before October 1942. The Inclinometer was then paired with a combined Oxygen Flow Regulator / Hydraulic Pressure Gauge. The Hydraulic Pressure Gauge was relocated from its former location on E37 (see Section 4). The new version of the OFR can be found as the leftmost “box” of the lower centre three “boxes” on E42. Up until early 1943 the Nakajima A6M2 had these two “boxes” (the Inclinometer and the combined OFR/Hydraulic Gauge) below the instrument panel.
- In about April 1943 this configuration was then changed with the addition of two Booster Pump Switches in a small panel to the right of the Inclinometer and OFR/Hydraulic Gauge. Shortly thereafter the Inclinometer was no longer installed. Again these changes can be reproduced using combinations of the “boxes” on E42 and the Inclinometer section of Q28.
- In July 1943 the Pneumatic Cannon Fire Control system was replaced with an Electric Cannon Fire Control system. The main component of this system was located below the centre of the instrument panel to the immediate right of the OFR/Hydraulic Gauge. Again this can be replicated by using the lower part of the A6M5 part E42 which includes, from left to right, the OFR/Hydraulic Gauge, the Electric Fire Control Box, and the Booster Switch panel.
- Also in around July 1943 the upper configuration of the instrument panel was changed. Thus instead of using panel mount L10 replace it with E42 from the A6M5 sprue holdovers.
- Pre-war MGs were painted with gloss black paint. By 1942 MGs were “Parkerized” instead of being painted black. This can be replicated by painting the guns with a dark gray which then should be dry brushed with a light gray on the raised details.
- The oil tank and firewall should be a very dark almost opaque aotake colour. The gas tank would have been painted with aluminum paint.
- The upper two hinges on the tail fin had cut-outs to allow access to the rudder hinge bolts. Tamiya has indicated the location of the cut-outs by a small semi-circular line, but these need to be drilled or filed out. On the upper hinge the cut-out varied between that used by Nakajima and that used by Mitsubishi.
- Zeros built prior to July 1943 used 60-round cannon ammunition drums. The under-wing panels on these planes would use L18 and L19. With the advent of 100-round cannon ammunition drums in July the under-wing panels changed to those portrayed by L16 and L17.
- At about the same time Nakajima eliminated the fuel tank cooling vents. Fill in the small rectangular scribed panels at the outer edge of the wing tank covers on the underside of the wing.
- On the underside of the wing the small rectangular opening just ahead of the front spar between the wheel wells had a removable cover. It could either be closed off or left open as it is on the kit.
- On Mitsubishi-built Zeros the interior side of the small inner wheel well doors should be the same colour as the rest of the exterior of the plane. Nakajima-built Zeros had this door finished with aotake. In both cases the U-shaped retraction arm should be black.
- The small folding rear corner of each door should be bent outwards at 45° unless one is going with the folding landing gear function.
- Both the exterior and the interior of the wing cannon shell ejection chute should be aotake. Zeros built after early May 1943 would have had a hinged door on the under-wing opening of the chute.
- The wing cannons would have been “Parkerized” instead of being painted black.
- The functioning landing gear badly compromises parts E53 and E54 and are best replaced with aftermarket wheel wells. On a Mitsubishi A6M2 the interior of the wheel wells should be painted in the same olive-gray colour as the plane’s exterior. Nakajima, however, used aotake in the wheel wells.
- Round lightening holes should be drilled between the ribs in both the front and rear of the outer section of the wheel wells. Each well should have the brake lines added and the left well should also include the two lines running out to the pitot tube.
- The interior of wheel well covers R4 and R5 should be painted in the same colour as the plane’s exterior on the Mitsubishi A6M2. Nakajima Zeros had the interior of these wheel well covers painted with aotake.
- Tamiya missed including the wing gun bay window. On the each upper wing surface are two round indents. The inner two are the gas tank filler covers and are shown as the location for Decal 105. The outer circular indents next to each of the gun bay covers are where a round glass window was located. This indent should be drilled out and a clear insert added. The very small oval indent just to the back of the window should be filled and sanded smooth. Note that this window was changed to a U-shaped hinged panel when the larger capacity ammunition drums were adopted in July of 1943.
Sections 31 - 32
- The use of moveable ailerons means that the aileron actuating rods cannot be included. If this movement function is forgone add the aileron actuator rods from R3 into each wing.
- The Mitsubishi A6M2 had mass balance arms on each aileron from the 127th (built February 1941) up until the 326th plane (built September 1941). After this last date both Mitsubishi and Nakajima Zeros used internal balance weights. In August 1943 Nakajima adopted ailerons with an adjustable trim tab (ailerons M5/7 and M6/8).
- The Type 99 No. 3 bombs should be painted a neutral gray as indicated in the instructions. The bombs should have a silver band on the nose and the narrow struts that need to be added to the fins were red.
- The interior of the flaps is correctly painted with aotake. However, the flaps were always positioned in a closed position on the ground so the model is best completed with closed flaps.
- If the external balance arms are used they should be painted black.
- The oleo torque links H2 and H3 can be painted either black or aluminum.
- The roughly rectangular piece moulded as part of the lower landing gear and to which the lower wheel well cover is attached should not be painted black but is actually painted in the same colour as the rest of the plane’s exterior. The outer face of each lower landing gear strut should have six rosette welds on it until this was changed to a single vertical weld in October 1943.
- A6M2 tires were smooth and did not have any tread. It may be best to acquire some resin tires and fill in any tread grooves.
- The interior sides of the wheel well covers should be the same colour as the rest of the plane’s exterior. This includes E51/E65 and E52/E64. The wheel well covers E52 and E52 should be flat – they did not have a ridge in them.
- The interiors of the wheel well covers E48 and E49 should be the same colour as the rest of the plane’s exterior.
- Decal 129 is unique to the Mitsubishi-built A6M2. Nakajima Zeros used either red and double-width blue bands or only a single narrow red band.
- The first 227 Mitsubishi Zeros used an elliptical wing vent (P12). After this the wing vent was rectangular in shape (P13). If this vent is open a mesh screen should be visible inside. The vent could be closed with a small vertically sliding door.
- The small hub of the tail tire should be natural aluminum. The rest of the tail wheel gear should be the same colour as the exterior of the Zero. The wheel well interior should be aotake.
- The tail gear should have a canvas covering fitted to it. The canvas was either a tan or darker green colour but would very quickly have become soaked with hydraulic fluid. Details of this cover can be found at: http://www.jaircraft.com/research/ryan/tailwheel/tail_wheel_well_cover_on_the_a6m.htm.
- In the case of a Mitsubishi-built Zero only the front attachment fitting and the actual hook of the tail hook should be black. The shaft of the hook should be either the same olive-gray as the plane’s underside paint or, more commonly, aotake. Nakajima-built Zeros all had the tail hook shaft painted with the same olive-gray paint as the underside of the plane.
- The interior of the tail hook well should also be the same color of olive-gray paint as the rest of the plane’s underside.
Sections 40 – 45
- Several errors exist in the engine. The first of these are the missing baffles that fit between at the end of each cylinder. Eduard includes these baffles in their photo-etch set.
- Cowl mounts Q39 and Q40 should be affixed to the engine by small triangular arms instead of the oversized round fittings used on the kit.
- The engine painting instructions could be more detailed. The engine colors described in a TAIC wartime metallurgical report on a captured Sakae 12 are given as follows:
- Cylinder head: black paint
- Cylinder barrel: black paint
- Rocker box cover: black paint
- Push rod housings: black paint with NMF fittings at each end
- Baffles (between cylinders): black paint
- Intake manifold: black paint
- Crankcase: greenish-gray paint (the nose section is held in place by 14 NMF bolts)
- Blower case: gray paint
- Gear case: gray-green paint
- Gear oil pump housing: gray paint
- Fuel pump case: black paint
- Fuel pump support: gray-green paint
- Gun synchronizer housing: gray paint
- Ignition system conduit tubes: gray paint
- Ignition system cables: black leatherette covering
- Scott Negron has described the original gray paint on the USAF Museum Zero engine as virtually identical to a sample of RLM 76 or FS 6473.
- The forward cockpit decking N2 should have raised rivets on it and is painted black.
Sections 47 – 48
- The interior of the cowling should be painted the same black as the cowl’s exterior.
- A U-shaped handle should be added to the inside lower right front of the sliding canopy. A vertical latching rod mechanism is found on the left front of the sliding canopy.
- The RDF antenna K1 should be installed as indicated but the solid vertical bar in the middle should be replaced with two vertical strips. Several PE versions of this antenna are on the market but these only provide the antenna inner frame. This frame is actually wrapped in black cloth tape and so should appear as a solid ring.
- With the adoption of the Type 3 Model 1 radio in December 1943 the antenna mast was also shortened so cut off the upper 5 mm of the mast.
- The Type 98 reflector gun-sight had a clear glass plate fixed in place at 45°. A second amber filter could be swung up vertically in front of the angled clear plate. The sighting ring on the Type 98 gun-sight was a back-up for the reflector sight and could be folded 90° to the left when it was not needed. The model gun sight can therefore be modified with the ring sight moved over to the left side and with the front filter in either a vertical or horizontal position. The rear pad could be black, brown, or tan, but should be only as wide as the body of the sight.
- The propeller blades should have unpainted aluminum front surfaces with flat dark brown (FS 0059) painted backs. The spinner should be finished with aluminum paint; it was not unpainted aluminum. In September/October 1943 this was changed ed to a red-brown prop and spinner. However, at least one of Nakajima’s sub-contractors continued to supply spinners that were painted with aluminum paint.
- The spinner has small depressions (three in total) between each of the propeller blades. These are the openings for the prop de-icer system and should be drilled out.
- All Mitsubishi A6M2s used the blunt spinner Q21. Nakajima also used this version of the spinner until about July 1943 when a larger spinner (Q22) was adopted.
- The gear position indicators were painted red on their outer faces. The inner face was painted yellow with a small square luminescent white marking at the top. The inner face then had a clear plastic cover riveted over the yellow face in order to protect the luminescent markings.
- The radio antenna wire extended from just below a black “Ebonite” cap on the upper end of the antenna. The antenna was run back to a glass insulator which in turn was attached to a bungee cord that was looped through a small hole in the top of the tail fin.
- If the wing root step is attached in an extended position the lower fuselage step should also be extended. The two were interconnected and activated by the same release button. The lower fuselage step extended out of the small square hole visible just above the rear right wing root. The small round hole just above the step location was where the latch release button was found.
- The foremost narrow section of the pitot tube should be bare aluminum.
Sections 54 – 56
- The wing folding option has left out several details in order to allow the wingtip to be shown in both positions. When the wingtip was folded up the release latch handle located just behind the front wing spar should be pulled out and be hanging down in a vertical position. An example of this can be seen on page 2 of the kit instructions.
- The wing ribs for the folded wingtip are missing their lightening holes. The ribs are correctly shown to be aotake, but the hinges should be black.
- The starboard navigation and formation lights (T3, F10) should be clear blue, not green. The yellow light from the incandescent bulb would thus appear green.
- A round filler cap cover needs to be added to the top front of E67. The rivets on the drop tank were raised so both these and several weld seams need to be added.
- The Tamiya decal sheet has several problems. Part of this stems from Tamiya directly copying the stenciling decals put out by HobbyDecal in 2004. Since these decals were produced by HobbyDecal a number of new stenciling details have come forward that Tamiya missed on their sheet.
- Decal 135 is completely spurious. It was included by mistake on the HobbyDecal sheet and then the error was perpetuated by Tamiya.
- There should be a yellow square located just to the rear of the tail hook. This was used to indicate positioning for a jack to elevate the tail.
- Decals 99 and 101 on the landing gear struts (see Section 35) should have a brass coloured background, not aluminum. Decal 101 on the tail landing gear strut (see Section 39) should have a brass coloured background on a Nakajima-built Zero and an aluminum coloured background on a Mitsubishi-built A6M2.
- Tamiya missed the red alignment markings on the small round inspection hatches on the underside of the folding wing tips. These were identical to Decal 108. These markings were on the forward edge of each panel.
- A red alignment marking similar to Decal 108 should be applied onto the rear of the drop tank filler cap cover described in Section 57. A placard decal similar to the upper placard section of either Decal 112 or 113 should be applied just to the rear of the filler cal cover. Use the decal from the unused 112 or 113 option.
- The top portion of Decals 112 and 113 represent a small metal placard that gave the sub-assembly details of the horizontal stabilizers, ailerons, elevators and rudder. On the latter components this placard was mounted on a fabric covered surface by being riveted to the underlying metal structure. In turn the placard was then covered with a clear celluloid panel which was secured with fabric doped in place. See Image 2 above for details.
- The decals of the sub-assembly placard and aircraft construction numbers used by Nakajima (Decal 112) or by Mitsubishi (Decal 113) do not include the actual construction numbers. Both HobbyDecal and Tamiya chose to use four nines (9999) instead of the actual numbers. Also note that these decals on the underside of the ailerons should be parallel to the trailing edge of the aileron.
- Also missing are a number of small red alignment markings that indicated the correct positioning of Dzus fasteners. Such fasteners were used on the lower wing ammunition bay covers, the fuselage MG access covers, the engine accessory section panels, the oil cooler intake and some of the tail cone fasteners. These markings were similar to Decal 108 but much smaller in size.
- The decal on the prop spinner should be Decal 96. The black Decal 97 was never used. The later red-brown painted spinners used a white version of these markings.
- Decal 130 on the top of each aileron is used if the external mass balance arms are present. Decal 131 is used on Mitsubishi A6M2s with internally balanced ailerons. Both 130 and 131 are applied parallel to the aileron ribs. Decal 132 is the Nakajima version of this marking. It is applied parallel to the leading edge of the aileron. Nakajima stopped using these markings when it adopted the ailerons with adjustable trim tabs.
- The left side fuselage identification stencil (Decal 124, 125 and or 126) should have the aircraft construction number in the second line and the date of manufacture in the third line. After October of 1943 the date was left empty for security reasons. This would also include the dashes between the numbers as seen on the decals. In November 1943 the designation of the Zero was changed and so Nakajima changed the first line of the stencil. This change is reflected by the use of Decal 126 for an early Nakajima A6M2 and then for a Nakajima A6M2 built after November by the use of Decal 125.
- Unfortunately, the Mitsubishi fuselage identification stencil (Decal 124) is about 15% too large on the Tamiya decal sheet.
- Tamiya should have included a third jig-alignment marking (Decal 107) on the leading edge of each wing at the first rib outboard of the removable wing cannon cover (Rib Station 11). There also should be a black jig-alignment marking on the underside of each spar at Rib Station 24. These alignment markings were only found on Mitsubishi Zeros.
- The black “Step Here” Decal 110 was used on both Mitsubishi and Nakajima Zeros that were painted in the overall olive-gray scheme. Later Nakajima Zeros with the factory applied dark green upper surface paint used the red version of this marking (Decal 111). -Prior to August 1942 Nakajima Zeros did not have a white edge around the fuselage hinomaru. After that date this surround became a standard marking.
Apart from the references to paint application provided in the text above there are a few additional points to consider.
- Mitsubishi-built A6M2s were camouflaged with a variation of an olive-gray paint given the designation of J3. This colour was close to FS 6350.
- Nakajima used a variant of this shade that best matches FS 4201.
- In August 1942 the order was issued for application of yellow IFF markings to the leading edges of the Zero. Both Mitsubishi and Nakajima complied. Mitsubishi Zeros used a relatively narrow version of these markings while Nakajima’s IFF markings were much wider, as can be seen in Image 7. In early 1943 Nakajima adopted the narrower Mitsubishi of these markings and continued this pattern after the advent of the factory dark-green camouflage.
- Stating in late March of 1943 Nakajima Zeros were given a factory applied dark-green camouflage on their upper surfaces. This green, designated D1, matches with FS 4077. The underside of these camouflaged Zeros remained the same earlier colour of olive-gray (FS 4201).
- The fabric-covered control surfaces of both manufacturers were a neutral gray colour close to FS 6314, but note that the metal trim tabs on these control surfaces were painted the same colour as the rest of the plane’s exterior. It is possible that the use of lighter coloured control surfaces continued after the 1943 adoption of the factory painted upper surface dark green camouflage, but the evidence is still inconclusive.
Some suggested paint matches are:
- Mitsubishi J3 FS 6350
- 3 parts Tamiya XF-76 / 2 parts Tamiya XF-49
- 1 part Gunze / Mr. Hobby RLM 02 (60) / 1 part Gunze / Mr. Hobby Hemp (336)
- Nakajima J3 FS 4201
- Lifecolor UA 039 (FS34201)
- Nakajima Upper Surface D1 FS 4077
- Model Master Imperial Japanese Navy Green (enamel - 2116)
- Tamiya IJN Green (XF-11)
© Ryan Toews 2019
This article was published on Friday, April 19 2019; Last modified on Saturday, April 20 2019