1/32 Swallow Mitsubishi A6M2 Two-seat Zero Trainer

Gallery Article by Luc Janssen on Jan 21 2014



Back in 1989 I started with an A6M2 Zero from Swallow model in 1/32th scale and I wanted to rework it to a 2-seat trainer. I started with a lot of optimism, but soon I realized that it was a difficult conversion as no information, except some photographs, was available. After having made some basic adaptions and changes to the unassembled model, I decided to drop the idea. So I ranged all pieces back in the box, I put the box in the cupboard and forgot everything during 23 years!

It was in the beginning of this year that I started a Tamiya A6M5 Zero in 1/32th scale and, when checking my books, magazines and the internet, again the enthusiasm to build a two-seat trainer came up! So I had a closer look on the parts of the Tamiya kit and I came to the conclusion that now there was enough material available to finish the job I started in 1989.

An article with more photographs, on this Zero Trainer was recently published in Air modeller (50 issue)

The Swallow kit has only basic detail in the cockpit and wheel wells, but is fairly correct in size and has nice, engraved panel lines although they are on the heavy side. Luckily this comes to good effect when painting and weathering the model later.
As no after-market items are available, I had to build all the basic details and the two-seat canopy from scratch. I went to work making the complete interior of the cockpit with its seats, instrument panels, equipment, levers and handles, wiring, gauges, etc. I used the parts from the kit for the windscreen and the rear canopy and used a spare canopy part of the Trumpeter TBM Avenger kit (1/32) to create the fixed mid piece of canopy where the antenna is placed. Furthermore I detailed the radial engine and I reworked the cowling flaps, the main landing gear with brake lines and ‘weighted tires’, the exhausts, the actuators of the ailerons. The tail wheel assembly with the towing cable gear to tow the target for air gunnery practice was completely built from scratch, even the actuator. 

The seat belts were made from lead foil, cut to the correct size, bent in a realistic pose, painted, varnished and weathered. 

The pods for the gunnery target banner were made from an old knitting needle. They were cut to size, foreseen of an lightly pointed nose and an open back end with the mentioned banner.


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I started to give the model an overall coat of Alclad Dull Aluminum where after I sprayed 2 coats of Gloss Varnish. When thoroughly dry, with a small sponge I applied Maskol on the cowling, the leading edges of the main and tail wings and all places that are stepped on by the ground crew when servicing the aircraft. 

I do not paint my models using the ‘pre-shading system’ but prefer to give colour effects with pastels (see later). So, now I sprayed an overall coat of Orange that I made by mixing International Orange with White and Yellow. I had to control he mixture of the paint several times before getting the right tone. Once dry, a very diluted coat of lighter Orange (3 parts thinner – 1 part of paint) was sprayed on the upper surfaces to obtain the bleaching effect of the sun. I added some more Yellow to the basic Orange mixture.
The national insignias where sprayed on and under the wings and on the fuselage. I used masks easily made with a compass and broad tape.

After thoroughly drying, I removed the Maskol, which still was under the 2 last coats of Orange, with tape. By putting the tape on the model and pulling it away, the Maskol is removed resulting in a realistic look of ‘paint chipping‘.

The last coat before weathering, was an overall coat of Glossy Varnish (2 parts thinner – 1 part Varnish).

I could not find decent aftermarket decals with the correct size and I decided to make them myself, after all the codes are simple and easy to make. I drew the tail signs and numbers in reverse on the back side of a Black decal sheet from Microscale Decal, cut them out and I put them on the model using the proven MicroSol &MicroSet system. The Japanese ‘No step’ warnings above the flaps were hand painted.

On the glossy Varnish 

After cleaning the entire model with lukewarm water with a drop of dish soap, and after thoroughly drying off course, I accentuated the panel lines with a sharp ‘Bordeaux-Red’ colour pencil

I like to work with pastel powders and, depending on the colours of the model, I use darker or lighter tones. For the upper sides of this model, I used a mixture of Burnt Umber and Red and another mixture of Burnt Umber, Grey and Black. Working with pastels on a glossy surface has the big advantage that, even with intense weathering, the surface is not affected too heavily and ‘overdones’ can be corrected by cleaning with a wet cloth. On the places where the aircraft is boarded or serviced, some dirt or oil patches were simulated.

On the finishing coat of Varnish
Once the first weathering is completed and the basic look of the almost finished model seemed good, a finishing coat of varnish (5 parts Gloss + 1.5 part Dull) was sprayed over the entire model. On the final coat a second weathering was done (more carefully than the first one) this time with Dark Brown and Black pastel powder. The heavy exhausts strains and other less pronounced airflow strains were simulated and some dirt, oil and mud patches on the inner sides of the wings were created as well.

Finishing the A6M2 Zero Two Seat
All details such as the antenna, pitot tube, boarding steps, gunnery target banner pods, wheels, flap- and aileron balances, exhaust, etc. were put in place. The towing cables, made from fishing line painted Steel, were attached to the pods and the sweeping equipment. The wireless antenna was made from metal coloured stretched sprue from the box of spares.

The Ground Base
The base was very simple. I used a unequal vinyl carpeting tile and cut it to the right size. Then I sprayed the White lines where after the base was weathered using Sand coloured pastel powder. The wheel chocks were scratch built from sheet styrene, painted Yellow, lightly weathered and foreseen of a handling cord.

Paints Used

  • Alclad Dull Aluminum

  • Model Master Paint

  • Model Master Varnish


  • Squadron/Signal Publications A6M Zero in action

  • Aero Detail Mitsubishi A6M Zero Fighter

  • Famous Airplanes of the World No 5 + No 9

  • Robert C. Mikesh Japanese Aircraft Interiors

  • Monogram Close-up 14 Japanese Cockpit Interiors

Luc Janssen

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Photos and text © by Luc Janssen