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Ralph Clements
43 articles

A.K.A. “Val”

July 22, 2014 · in Aviation · · 16 · 1.7K

Here is my just completed Aichi D3A1 Type 99 dive bomber, AKA “”. It is a 1/48 scale kit, no ‘aftermarket' stuff unless you count the seat belts which are aftermarket masking tape, or some of the markings, which I painted instead of using the kit decals. This is marked as a plane from the Shokaku and is my first Axis model.

These planes seem to me almost as some legendary mythical winged predators.. that is to me in my world today, in 2014, they truly roamed and preyed, as they say in a movie “a long time ago and far, far away”. I say that because despite the huge impact these ‘Vals' had, they are not subject of lots of media, reading material etc and though research on them is out there, it is not as plentiful as say, the Dauntless. I cannot find an actual color photograph of a real “Val”, my mental image of them is black and white, newsreel type imagery – So… trying to decide what color to paint it was an issue. The kit box has very nice artwork that makes it look silvery gray, is it ‘natural metal'? Hmmm…the instructions say it is a greenish gray. I've seen photos of models done that way and also more normal gray. I also know some later ones were painted dark green. I really didn't like all those options. To my mind, in my mental black & white newsreel image of these they are metal…like the famous Pearl Harbor attack photos I've seen often. Well…not to upset those who are adamant about hysterical…er ….historical accuracy, I painted it Model Master buffable metalizer aluminum plate from a rattle can, because I wanted it to look metal, like my mental B&W image, and to justify it I will say I did read that they were delivered to the Japanese Navy in natural metal finish and in October 1941 orders came down to paint them…that will have to do to hang my hat on for not painting it gray or that sickly looking greenish gray!

I made a bold move for me, and opened the cowl flaps..that went pretty well and I only broke two of them off before I figured out how to bend them without breaking them. Also since I never know in advance how terrible the decals will be, I paint what I can - stripes and spats decorations in this case (read below things I painted that I didn't plan to...)

The kit fits together well, but there were some ‘operator errors' in its assembly. Here's the big one: See the circular red insignias under the wings? There are decals under the paint there. Why is there red paint over them? I will admit my boneheadedness and offer this advice: When you go to spray the ‘Dullcoat' can on after you've assembled and decaled almost everything …(jeez I can be sooo dumb….) BE SURE to actually pick up the right can! I was all ready to spray Dullcoat on it Sunday evening when my wife said “let's eat supper”. So I put it down and put the can of Dullcoat down too – right beside the can of ‘Model Master buffable metalizer aluminum plate'…after eating supper when I went back, guess which can I picked up? I try hard to watch my language, being a dad and all, but it really tested me when I saw that big red circle decal that I thought went on so well, turn silver….and the bombs, bomb racks, wheels, etc….thankfully it wasn't olive drab or blue or some other totally different color. I am only relating this because I want to make others feel better about their own mistakes – ha! Unless I am the only one who ever does stuff like that!

So I was on track for a model I really liked and was aiming to give myself an “A” on it, when that happened and what you see is my best efforts to recover from my own big ol' dumb mistake.

But, I really wanted to do a Japanese plane and chose this one, and am happy with the end result and again appreciate the opportunity to share it here with the esteemed craftsmen who frequent iModeler. Hope you like it.

Reader reactions:
7  Awesome

8 additional images. Click to enlarge.

16 responses

  1. Well that looks damn fine. i'm sure the thing was in an unpainted state somewhere in it's career, not sure if it had the Chutai leader stripes but it does look pretty and predatory at the same time.

    Over the years I have developed habits, related to your mishap. funny but one happened today and I caught myself doing it out of habit. I am doing a fleet air arm plane right now, Five different colors. All the jars are on the bench. I picked one up and realized I was looking right at the label to see if it was the right color. Habit, developed from incidents just like yours. Other rules-NEVER carry an open paint container over your work., move the jar or airbrush around it. Do everything SLOW...move slow, mix slow, pick things up and down slow. Sudden jerky movements result in Disasters. ALWAYS have a piece of tape around your X-Acto knife handle to keep it from rolling. Ask me how I know these things. If you don't know them now, you will someday.

    Build 'em how you want 'em when you want 'em, more fun that way 🙂

    • Thank you very much, sir. I don't even know which stripe is the 'Chutai Leader Stripe', I'm just glad they came out as straight as they did! The whole idea behind the Dullcoat was to tone down and gray up the metal look some.

      I try to keep in mind when doing this that the only person I really have to please is myself, but if I get a remark like 'it looks pretty and predatory at the same time', well, thanks - that remark alone, not to mention 'damn fine', is reward in itself -

  2. I like it Ralph. You have some nice details on this one - I noticed in particular the antenna insulators. The scheme looks good to me and certainly is possible/probable. As Bill said - build 'em as you want. There are schemes that just look 'right', and others that don't. Yours is most certainly in the 'looks right' category as far as I'm concerned. And it's a nice job on a kit I don't see built up very often. The underwing insignia look good to me - if you hadn't mentioned your mishap in the article, I never would have known. A very fine job in my opinion.
    And, here is something to back your scheme up:
    "AI-208 was flown by a wingman, June, 1941.
    At that moment, these Vals and Kates were in natural metal finished (NMF), with silver painted on the fabric surfaces.
    Most had red lacquer tails and white code numbers."
    notice the 'natural metal finished' comment

    here is the link:

    • Thanks Paul, I almost didn't add the wire, after all the frustration I had, but after a day or so to get back to my recovery point I thought I'd give it a try. Only my 3rd kit where I did a wire.

  3. I did mine in green. Yours looks great though.

    • Thank you too sir - I've I was going to do another color it would be the dark green. I have an A6M5 zero kit in the stack that will be that color when I get to it.

  4. I think your Val is very sharp Ralph. You followed through on your approach & it camee out well.
    As to your mishap: I don't use the cans much anymore but have a tendency to get the caps mixed up so I always looked at the nozzle now before using. The most frustrating thing I do to myself is take a break from a build ( sometimes years) & didn't write down the colors & brand of paint I started with & can't begin to remember.

  5. Looks very nice Ralph.
    Like the stripes on the tail surfaces, were they painted or decals?
    Well done mate

    • Thanks Simon, all the stripes were masked and spray painted Testors 'bright red' which didn't turn out as bright as the letters, numbers and wing insignias, So I darkened the deacals some with a wash. Of course the underwing insignias utilmately got brush painted plain old Testors red. So there is 3 different shades of red on there.

  6. No matter about the colour, it is a very nice dive bomber. Maybe it is me,
    but compared with other dive bombers of this time, the Val looks smart.
    How about a Kate ?
    Well done !

  7. it looks terrific

  8. Ralph, I haven't had a mishap like yous but then again I haven't made it down to the workshop yet
    Speaking of tools rooling off the bench, I had a #61 bit chucked up in my pin vice. Saw it roll off the edge but didn't hear it hit. I found it sticking straight up out of a joint in my big toe. Didn't feel a thing going in or coming out. Still trying to figure out how it ended up bit end down. I'm just glad I have "caught" a razor knife...yet.

    • I'm going to tape a toothpick on my round knife handle right now so it won't least my mishap didn't hurt anything but my pride (and my decals...)

  9. I've seen many good looking models of Japanese aircraft on this site, and this one is no exception, Ralph. I'm not qualified to comment on the accuracy of the finish, but it certainly looks good to me. I enjoyed your story, too, I'm sure we've all had similar mishaps, I know I have, the important thing is to learn from them!

  10. Ralph,
    Looks very good to me. Great job.

  11. Well Thanks Frank -

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