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1:32 Desktop Zero and Extra Accessories

James H

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1:32 Desktop Zero
Catalogue # IMCZ-001
Available from Imcth





Here at LSM, we also like to look at kits/projects which are a little more left-field of the regular injection moulded or resin release. We are of course no stranger to photo etch detail sets, but a whole model built from photo etch? With the exception of white metal detail parts, that's what we have for you here today, in the form of Imcth's 'Desktop Zero' kit, and we are extremely proud to be able to bring you not just this, but a couple of EXTRA sets for the same model. Imcth really have spoiled us here, so it's only right we bring you a fully detailed review of these extraordinary sets. Here's what we have for you:

  • 1:32 Desktop Zero, 29,800¥ JPY
  • 1:32 Aluminium Planking & Decal Set, 15,730¥ JPY
  • 1:32 Droptank, 4,200¥ JPY
  • Acrylic Plinth, 630¥ JPY

It's true that some modellers actually quite like to build projects with internal structures, whilst some really don't like the approach and would rather just see the clean external lines of whatever aircraft they choose. Those that do like the engineering aspect of what makes these warbirds tick, have been pretty low on choice when it comes to representing this sort of detail. We can of course add detail sets which can show radio sections within fuselage etc, and the closest we've come to seeing skeletal models has been the Zoukei-mura kits, but their internal structural detail is only representative, and certainly nowhere near accurate. Take a look at the wing structure in their P-51D or He 219, for instance. Quite disappointing if you like actual accuracy. Photo-etch is really the only way to go here.




Desktop Zero


Firstly, if you haven't already seen the review we did recently for Imcth's Decktop Mustang, you really should take a look as this will pave the way for this follow up review. The Zero was actually Imcth's first 1:32 aircraft release, and it has now been re-released following the ongoing success of that Mustang kit. These guys have style. Everything about the packaging and presentation is sumptuous as can be seen from the rather tidy looking satin white box with its side opening flap and hologram label. Inside this box are two small boxes containing white metal and clear parts, and surrounded by a protective layer of bubble-wrap. Lift these out, and there is another, larger box. In here you'll find the various stainless steel photo etch sheets, pre-stamped to shape key parts. Plenty of bubble wrap is placed between these sheets in order to prevent any damage to the delicate shapes.








That's right, you did read that correctly. The photo etch sheets contain SHAPED parts! We'll look at those later though. For now, let's take a journey through the smaller boxes containing the detail and clear parts. Any misconception you might have regarding white metal parts, forget them. The cast metal parts in Imcth kits are produced by Model Factory Hiro, and are quite extraordinary. Unlike some mainstream white metal upgrades you might see for your models, complete with poor definition and an a pitted surface, these are about as perfect as you can get them, and the tolerances of them are so good, that the fitting together of them is what you would come to expect from top end resin sets from the likes of Eduard. Some parts fit neatly without a hint of glue. The detail is also as sharp as quality resin too. There are a small number of seams to remove, resulting from the paring of the moulds, but they are so fine as to be almost negligible. A quick tickle with some fine abrasive paper or buffing tool with eradicate them in next to no time. A number of parts have a very small pouring gate which will need snipping away. These are very tiny.




Delving into those parts bags.......


PARTS H (Propeller)



We start with propeller parts. There are two mini bags within this set. One of them contains a superbly smooth single piece propeller, complete with half hub, and the other bag holds the lower hub which locks into the rear spinner plate, the forward and rear spinner parts, and also governor parts.






Dry fitting the spinner and prop parts shows a fit unlike anything I've seen before, with the exception of parts with the Mustang kit.


PARTS I (Engine)



The Zero's Nakajima Sakae engine has been broken down into six smaller bags of individual white metal components. In fact, there are FIFTY-TWO parts involved in the assembly of this section, inclusive of a small fuel tank, and a number of engine support struts and frames etc. All engine cylinders are cast separately, and this kit includes a photo etch jig/framework which is used in order to ensure that all of these are precisely aligned to the central crankcase parts. Even the jig itself needs construction and is a miniature work of art! Those cylinders, complete with their integral head detail, are amazingly detailed, with very fine cooling fin detail.












Again, a number of parts within the assembly of the engine will fit together without glue, although I don't suggest you do this when you come to build your model. That's just an indication of the precision nature of this kit.


A little drilling will need to be done with micro drill bits on various parts, but this is by design. Indentations exist so you know where holes need to be drilled for the piano wire pushrods etc.






Included in this group of parts are the engine mounting ring and supports, engine cowl flaps (no cowl though as this is part of the exterior Aluminium Planking set), auxiliary equipment, hub and shaft assemblies, and lubricating oil cooler, exhaust manifolds etc. The engine is a project in itself and demands your complete attention at every stage. Whilst there is no deformation in any strut or bracket etc, you'll need to ensure that everything is lined up precisely. This is of course vital, even if you don't intend to use the cowl parts etc.


PARTS J (Main wing parts)



EIGHT mini bags comprise this section, of which 3 have duplicate bags (one for port and starboard wings). In total, around SIXTY-SEVEN parts provide the hardware requirements for fitting out the photo etch wings. Just about anything which can't be reproduced in PE is to be found here. Two bags contain parts for a number of curved radius parts for wingtips and also aileron joint faces.


A Type 99 cannon and its associated parts are supplied, split over two bags. Each bag is per wing as some parts are 'handed'. The guns are broken down into main body, shell ejection chute, ammunition drum and forward recoil gas spring. It's intended that the builder will use piano wire and narrow tube for the barrel and muzzle.








Another two packs, including handed parts, are those concerning the undercarriage. Imcth have done a great job with the actual gear legs, and optional parts are included which govern whether you build the model with its undercarriage up or down. You have to choose from the outset, as you cannot change your mind once these have been installed. As well as wheel hubs, there are also the inner cast spoked ring which sits behind these! That is attention to detail.


The last two packets contain the wing fuel tanks and various other small wing hardware such as mass balances etc. You will also find a two small plastic sprues which hold the various wing tip lights and other wing based lights. These are moulded in opaque plastic/resin.








PARTS K (cockpit)



If you are a stickler for detail when it comes to the cockpit of your model, then you'll have nothing to complain about here. There are another SIX packets containing FIFTY-FOUR white metal components which cater to the cockpit and the ancillary equipment in the fuselage space to the rear of the pilot's position.


Of course, the cockpit is going to be a focal point of your build, and you want the detail within to be sharp and precise, and that's what we have here, in bucket-loads. Various side console and equipment units are designed to key into the photo etch structural walls, and test fitting them to this, it's clear that they fit perfectly.












All cockpit instrumentation is as good as any resin part you might wish for, and certainly as good as the best injection moulded plastic parts you might see in your Tamiya kits. I perhaps should have primed some of these parts for you to see the detail sharply, as my photography lamps shining on cast metal can cause a strange effect. Instrument gauges are cast 'open' so that the card with printed instruments on can be fitted from the rear. Don't worry either, as the panels are recessed from the rear so the instruments sit back with a scale distance. Perhaps also look at inserting some fine clear acetate in there to mimic the gauge glasses.








Everything you would expect to see in the cockpit it there, reproduced in the sharpest detail, beautifully cast in flaw-free white metal. The instruments, consoles, avionics, rudder and control column assemblies, fuel tanks, forward machine guns and magazines, radio sets, and various compressed gas cylinders, all looking like perfect miniatures. All looks simply superb. Even the console switches look like they would operate. The pilot seat is a beautiful thing to look at, and seatbelts are supplied as printed parts on a separate sheet. If I'm honest, I would perhaps look at using some HGW belts with this. That should make the office as about as perfect as can be. Attention to detail means that the emergency flotation valve, trim tab controls, radio motor, flap/landing gear selectors etc. are intricately reproduced and their assembly should be very simple.


High pressure oil tank, antenna, loop antenna, radio transmitter and receiver are just a few other parts which you'll find in this packet.


PARTS L (tail parts)



This small, single packet contains just TEN parts. These concern the whole rear fuselage/tail unit, and here you'll find the tail wheel leg, elevator edges, arrestor hook and more curved flying surface edges that can't be reproduced in PE form.


That concludes the contents of the first small box. The second small box contains:





Here you'll find a miniature fabric sheet with seatbelts which are laser engraved into it. Perhaps the only area of the kit that needs replacing, along with the small colour printed instruments sheet. I would look at using something from MDC or Airscale here, as the instrument definition could be a little better.

  • Three packets of stiff rod/piano wire
  • Rubber tyres
  • Vacuum formed canopies

The tyres are very good, and the seams are almost nil, but of course, you'll need to clean up the sprue connection point. A rubber piece is also included for the pilot's headrest.










If vacform parts worry you, then try not to be too concerned. These are beautifully thin, with great frame lines and they are also very clear. To remove from the sheet, consider filling the parts with Blu-tak so that the part is supported, and trim just to the outside of the part. You can use a fine sanding stick to remove the last microns of waste material from around them.


Now, onto heavy metal. All photo etch frets (sheets) are manufactured from high grade, medium gauge stainless steel, which impart a superb sheen. Let's look, one by one:





As with the Mustang kit, this contains the various ribs for both port and starboard wings. The ribs exhibit good detail in themselves, with the various open structure ribs and sold ribs looking excellent, with positive slots for wing spars etc. All connection gates to the fret are small. You really don't want to kink any of these, so snip the connection point away from the rib, and file away the last remnants.









Here we have a mixture of wing spars and fuselage formers, as well as the under-wing, central landing flap. The ailerons are to be found here too, and with these, you twist the small ribs by 90 degrees to create the main structure.









More fuselage formers are to be found here, as well as the gently curved stringers which help form the fuselage tube. This is also the home of the jig upon which the rear fuselage tube is created, in order to build it without any twist or warp.









The majority of this sheet contains parts associated with the tail module. You will also see the various parts for the engine construction jig here too.











You must be very careful when handling these frets due to the number of shaped parts contained therein. The upper and lower port wing panels, curved to the wing aerofoil shape, are here, plus the rather complex shape that forms the port side of the forward fuselage/cockpit. It's not unusual for one of the connecting tags to break during the stamping process, due to the metal on the extremities being stressed. This is what we have here, and Imcth have added a small tape tag to secure the part. The part is of course undamaged. This is entirely normal.








I really have to say that the shapes which have been created are amazing to see in photo etch form. I did first wonder how you built such a model from PE, until I became acquainted with the style of kit.





This contains the starboard wing panels and forward fuselage sections as with the previous sheet. Here you will also find the complicated bent shapes which form the Zero's wheel well walls.









This last fret holds a small number of frameworks or 'rear engine rings', and these will be used to create laminated rings of a thicker gauge.

Adhesive silver framing sheet

Imcth have seen fit to include TWO sheets of self-adhesive foil for the canopy frameworks. These are die cut, and include neat laser engraving for the rivets. If you screw up a part, then you have a backup.....just be careful. The fuselage MG cooling jackets are here too, and are designed to be wrapped around wire to create the barrels. I would perhaps opt for barrels from MASTER for this purpose though. This model really deserves it.



There's no doubt that an intensive and complex model will need instructions to suit, and this one delivers. Presented in a plastic sleeve, a series of FOURTEEN single A4 sheets are printed, double-sided. TWO A3 sheet with a parts map, are supplied folded, into which the separate A4 sheets are placed. The drawings for this model are extremely thorough and so minutely detailed. Before you start to assemble this model, I suggest you spend a week of evenings studying the drawings, whilst referencing the various cast and photo etch parts. Familiarity here will be your real champion as you proceed through the MANY constructional phases.







Each aircraft section is shown in intricate detail using clear, if not busy, line drawings. All drawings are annotated in both English and Japanese, and parts numbers are easy to source and identify. Some colour ink is used to highlight the placement of certain parts and sections.

A small amount of folding will need to be performed on some PE parts, and a key to help you with this (Valley and Mountain folds etc) and other aspects of small work is given. I could easily spend many hours just looking through the plans for this model, and each time see something new and interesting that catches my eye in terms of general construction and detail. Simply amazing....

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Aluminium Planking & Decal Set




This release is packaged into a sturdy brown cardboard box, padded out internally with plenty of bubble-wrap to protect those delicate contents. Inside the box, two wallets are included; one containing the various instruction sheets for the aluminium set, and an entirely different one for the decals. This is due to both parts of this being available separately. We were lucky enough to receive the duel set for review.


The Aluminium Planking set, or as we should nominally call it 'exterior skinning set' contains enough material to entirely sheath your Desktop Zero in real metal. No smooth finished here, as when applied, this will give the appearance of stressed metal.








The lion's share of the exterior skin is supplied as FOUR self-adhesive metal sheets, which have been either die or laser cut in order to produce a series of metal shapes which you will use to plate your model in sections. Each section is clearly noted on the instruction sheets, with information on how to apply it. Particular note is given to key areas of the model, such as wing leading edges etc. Now, look at those metal panels on the sheets. You'll see a perfect reproduction of the riveting pattern for the zero, recreated as a flush-rivet appearance. I don't know how these have been produced. It could be laser engraving or through mild etching. Either way, it looks amazing.








When it comes to the engine cowls and wing fillets though, of course we have to have a different solution. Imcth has produced these as white metal parts, with the same consistently high quality as those in the Zero kit itself. Some of the shapes are quite intricate, such as the fillets which sit at the roots of the horizontal tail surfaces. There are THREE packs of white metal parts, taped to a cardboard sheet in order to stop them rolling around.








This won't be an easy set to fit, and some care will need to be exercised when aligning the various panels, but stick with it. The finish you get will be astounding!


A paper sheet is included for covering the ailerons and rudder, as these were fabric covered on the real bird. I think I would use these as templates for model flying tissue though, and use some cellulose dope to shrink this to the frames.






A single decal sheet contains all the national and serial insignia for a single scheme, depicted on the instructions sheets. The decals are a little thicker than I'm used to, but having seen these applied to a finished model, they do look very good. I can't vouch for setting solutions, so maybe test a small decal first. Printing is first rate and everything is in perfect register.










Drop Tank





This set contains a single centre-line carried drop tank for this model, and can be clipped directly to the Zero with no modification required to the main model. Packaged into a small cardboard box with a single instruction, white metal parts are supplied which will build up into a perfect cutaway fuel tank for your model. The tank includes all the various internal pipe-work and baffles which stop the fuel from sloshing around and affecting flight

performance. A two-part upper fairing is included for this, and the tank itself is cast as halves. I assume you'll perhaps want to leave half of this off the model though so you can see the mechanics within. It would be more work, but you could paint and assemble everything, and view the internals through a curved section that you would cut out of one half before final assembly. That would be rather neat, depending on how you wish to finish your final kit.












Again, casting is excellent, with all parts being keyed for easy assembly.


Acrylic Plinth



This small stand and its supporting two rods, are manufactured from clear acrylic sheet, and when assembled, is designed to support the model by holding it up slightly via the wheel wells. This is a nice little touch, although I don't think entirely necessary if you wish to build the model with paint etc. This is more for aesthetics if you complete it in bare, polished metal. Still, it's quite an inexpensive item, and certainly would make sense to purchase with the main kit.


There's no doubt that these aren't particularly cheap model kits, and you also can't just pop into your LHS or even go to most online retailers and buy them. Apart from Imcth and Hobby Link Japan, I think I've only seen them available from Hiroboy in the UK. However, these for me, are the crème-de-la-crème of technical kits, and represent the actual internal structures of the Mitsubishi Zero about as perfectly as you could ever expect to achieve in 1:32. Looking at the completed model, you really should see what a Zero looks like if you could peel back the skin and peek at its skeleton. Perhaps only a little extra wiring would be needed, if at all. With this model, being the navalised Zero, even the wingtips hinge!


Looking at the frets and instructions, there seems to have been at least one amendment since the Zero was first released, and that's the inclusion of the engine construction jig. There may be others too.










Photos courtesy of Imcth Facebook page


Imcth have taken this model one step further than the Desktop Mustang though (although I'm led to believe that this is coming soon for the latter), by producing this innovative Aluminium Plank set. The inclusion of this opens up whole new opportunities, such as partially skinned and skeletal finishes, right up to this rather amazing diorama that's been created using this set. Attention to detail has again been taken to the nth degree, and this can be seen by looking at the stressed skin effect that this set offers, and the beautifully realistic flush riveting detail.


If all this wasn't enough, the Drop Tank set is also like looking at a magically shrunken version of the real thing. Again, this and the planking set come at a premium price, but that is because they are premium products. You really do get exactly what you pay for, and this must be one of the ultimate models available today in any format.


Simply amazing, and HIGHLY recommended!


James H


Imcth also inform us that their highly anticipated new 1:32 Desktop Messerschmitt Bf 109F will be with us in a few weeks, as soon as the production is complete. We are simply drooling at the prospect!


Our sincere thanks to Imcth for the review samples seen here. To purchase directly, click the links in the article.



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Way to go James, beautiful review. Beautiful kit also. Since I have this one, I can certainly attest to the overall quality. These kits are absolutely amazing and worth every penny. You have to see it with your own eyes to understand. The white metal castings are flawless as James describes and builds up into breathtaking realism.


Here is a pic of the P-51 engine parts (some) before assembly.




And one of the built painted engine before detailing.




Like I said, worth every penny.


Great review James!!!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I hope you're getting commission as I ordered this a while ago pretty well on the stregth of this brilliant review. I've never really been that keen on photo-etched modelling as it so often lacks the feel of the real thing but it really comes into its own when used in this way. No way could I resist this kit. Great review.

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