by: Jean-Luc Formery [ ]
IntroductionThis 1:32 scale Douglas A-1H Skyraider kit is (only) the third release by Zoukei-Mura and after two rather esoteric WWII subjects (J7W1 Shinden and Ta 152H) this young company based in Japan has decided to produce a post war aircraft which was widely used by the Americans during the 50' and the 60'. The Skyraider prototype first flew in March 1945 and though it never saw combat during WWII it was the last piston engined ground attack aircraft designed by the United States. The "Spad", as it was called, was a big aircraft capable of carrying a huge load of weapons and as such, constitutes a fantastic subject for modelers. Especially in 1:32 scale.
When looking at the content of the kit, one can only be impressed by its content. To the point that it is hard to believe that this is only the third aircraft release by Zoukei-Mura. Sometimes it takes years to reach a certain level of quality in the plastic model kit industry but not so for this company. One thing is for sure, the Skyraider fanatics won't be disappointed!
The kitZoukei-Mura's 1:32 scale Douglas A-1H Skyraider kit comes in a large box adorned with a rather unspectacular artwork. Inside there are 13 plastic sprues bagged separately, an instructions booklet, a decal sheet, a sheet of masks, two metal rods and a sprue of poly caps. The plastic comes in four shades: light grey, black, silver and transparent. This is something I like very much since it awakes some memories of the old Matchbox kits I used to assemble when I was a kid. In this case however, it isn't a gimmick, but more a way to better identify the parts during construction and to offer a specific base color prior to painting.
The overall quality of the plastic parts is very good. When compared to their previous releases, the moldings are similar in that there are no sink marks and very few traces of flash. However, it seems as if Zoukei-Mura has listened to the complaints of some modelers and improved the surface finish of their kits. The engraved panel lines are finer and the relief detail more defined. It is as if the Japanese manufacturer has found the right balance on this matter for such big scale models. There are a very few ejector pin marks located in visible areas so they won't represent a big challenge. However, a mould lines will have to be eliminated just in the middle of the sliding hood. This is sadly the price if you want to produce a bubble top canopy with an accurate shape.
From the 13 plastic sprue, 8 have been produced with the help of sliding molds and this could well represent a record for an injected plastic aircraft model. But for what are sliding molds good for? For example to hollow out the openings of machine guns and exhaust pipes. It also allows the designer of a kit to add details to a part from three directions rather than only two with the standard two molds method. The result of this technique are more realistic surface features for complex parts without the need to rely on sub-assemblies. In short, it is a way to simplify the build without sacrificing the level of detail.
The spruesLet's take a closer look at all the plastic sprues:
- Sprue A holds 53 parts and is made of silver colored plastic. It mainly comprises the items needed to assemble the detailed cockpit tub (instrument panel, side consoles, cockpit floor, seat, control stick, radio racks, firewall, bulkheads, frames, etc...). 7 parts are not to be used and will probably have to be incorporated in the forthcoming A-1J Air Force Type boxing of the kit (different seat and control stick). It is to note that one seat comes with molded on seat belts while the second has none in case one want's to add his own.
- Sprue B is composed of 30 parts of which the most are destined to the engine (cylinder blocks, pushrods, gear housing, engine mounts, carburetor, etc...). There are also two wing structure parts and the inside structure of the fuselage air brakes. The color of the plastic is silver.
- Sprue C is the only one molded in black. 52 parts are present on it such as the propeller, the machine guns, the ammunition cases, the fuel tank, the tires, the exhaust pipes, the wing joint covers, etc...
- Sprue D is a 49 parts mix of various items such as wing rear and front spars, wing ribs, gear well walls, landing gear legs (in both extended or compressed configurations, depending on the wing load), wheel hubs, brake lines, arresting hook, etc... This sprue is the third one molded in silver plastic.
- Sprue E and F are focused on the wings. They are made of light grey plastic and hold respectively 17 and 18 parts (wings, ailerons, flaps, actuators, access panels, etc...). The wings can assembled deployed or folded. With some care I think it is even possible make them workable on the finished model!
- Sprue G and H are exclusively destined to the fuselage and are composed of 17 and 16 parts made in light grey injected plastic. The halves are split in three pieces and I must admit I don't know why Zoukei-Mura didn't left them in one piece. The sprue also feature the rudder, the vertical stabilizers and ailerons, the cowl flaps (closed or opened) and the exhaust glare shields.
- Sprue I is also made of light grey plastic. Its 21 parts are mainly destined to the bottom of the aircraft, including the inboard wing pylons, the landing gear doors, the lower air brake, etc…
- Sprue J comes in two exemplars. Each one comprises 11 light grey parts which offer the choice between wing (long) or fuselage (short) fuel tanks. 6 wing pylons are present on each sprue for a total of 12! This illustrates very well the large amount of ordnance the Skyraider was able to carry under the wings (more than its own weight in weapons!).
- Sprue K is the transparent one. Composed of 16 parts it features the windscreen, the canopy hood, an optional instrument panel, the gun sight and various smaller pieces (mainly formation and position lights). Transparency is very good, but as previously mentioned, one will have to carefully eliminate the central seam line of the sliding hood. A set of masks is provided for the painting of the clear parts.
- Sprue L is another light grey one. Smaller than the others it only comprises 15 parts (engine cowling, carburetor air scoop, sway braces, landing gear fairings, static boom, etc…).
- Sprue PE is made of vinyl like material. It features 8 poly caps which will help the wings and the air brakes to remain movable.
- Two bended metal rods are provided in the kit. They are destined to the folding mechanism of the wings.
Decals and instructionsZoukei-Mura have once again produced a very nice instruction booklet. It is in A4 format and printed in color over 40 pages. It features a table of contents, a history of the aircraft with specifications, a color guide (Vallejo), a 31 pages building guide, two pages for the painting and decal instructions and a part layout diagram.
The instructions are beautifully printed and divided in chapters. Each one is illustrated with photos of a the kit in various building stages as well as with computers generated drawings.
- Part 1 - Cockpit
- Part 2 - Fuselage
- Part 3 - Engine
- Part 4 - Wings
- Part 5 - Fuselage, Wings & Main Landing Gears
- Part 6 - Engine & Cowlings
- Part 7 - Flaps, Ailerons & Stabilizers
- Part 8 - Final Outfitting
Decals are printed on a huge A4 sheet and appears to be of very good quality. They offer the possibility to do two aircraft which are very similar except for their ID numbers and serials. Aircraft 405 also lacks mission markings.
- Douglas Skyraider A-1H, 137543, VA-176, AK/409, USS Intrepid, 1966.
- Douglas Skyraider A-1H, 137496, VA-176, AK/405, USS Intrepid, 1966.
ConclusionThis is an impressive release from Zoukei-Mura. It is the third aircraft kit by this new Japanese manufacturer and their best to date. Detail is very good and the surface finish definitely an improvement over their previous attempts with the Shinden and Ta 152 H kits. Some will complain about the fact that the kit may be over engineered and that it lacks the external stores which are sold separately. The former fact results from the modeling philosophy of the brand (like it or not, they won't change this as it is their trademark) and the latter fact is a way to keep the price of the basic kit lower. If you like the features of the kit, I can definitely recommend it to you as it will produce a great model straight from the box.
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