One of the beauties of short-run kits is that they offer the chance to model some really unusual aircraft - and they certainly don't come much more unusual than the Kayaba Ka-1 "KA-GO" and Ka-2 "O-GO" autogiros. I have to admit I was totally unaware of the types until AZ Model announced the release of the kit, but they were Japanese developments of the more familiar American Kellett KD-1A.
Initially fitted with a licence-built German Argus inline engine, some 240 Ka-1s saw service with both the Japanese Army and Navy in observation and anti-submarine roles. The Ka-2 differed by being powered by a radial engine in a streamlined cowl.
AZ Model's kit #48089 allows either the Ka-1 or Ka-2 to be constructed and arrived in a solid conventional box with the parts packed in zip-lock bags. The kit comprises:
40 x tan-coloured styrene parts on a single sprue
20 x beige resin parts
14 x etched metal parts
A sheet of film for instrument faces and windscreens
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The parts are cleanly moulded with no sign of flash. This is a semi-shortrun kit that seems to originate from the MPM stable, so you'll expect to have to do little extra clean-up and watch out for ejector pin marks. I found one or two shallow dimples due to sinkage, but these will be very simple to rectify. The surface finish consists of nicely scribed panel lines with a few embossed fasteners, plus a slightly inconsistent fabric effect. The latter is odd, especially if this is an MPM kit, because they normally handle fabric very well indeed. Here though, while the tail surfaces are basically fine, some of the fuselage stringers seem "lumpy" and uneven. It might be difficult to replace entirely without damaging surrounding detail but, as an alternative, careful masking and sanding will definitely be worthwhile to straighten things up.
There's not a lot you can test-fit in a kit like this - it's really a question of whether the fuselage halves match. I found one half slightly longer than the other and the cockpit openings are a bit asymmetrical. Matching the panel lines at the front threw them out at the rear. Anyone used to short-run kits will hardly be surprised and it won't be hard to correct.
A few details
The cockpits are quite nicely kitted out. The cockpit floor and sidewalls are styrene, as are dual flying controls. The small parts are a bit heavily moulded, but they should clean up fine. Added to these are resin throttles and seats, etched harnesses, instrument panels and a compass mount, with film backings for the instruments themselves. Strangely, despite the dual controls, there's only one compass and the instructions don't indicate whether it should go in the front or rear cockpit, while they show both throttles (I'm presuming they're throttles...) in the front cockpit.
There's a choice of engines. The inline cowling is moulded in styrene with a resin plug for the front cylinders and crankcase of the Kobe/Argus engine, plus individual hollowed-out resin exhausts. The resin engine front isn't shown in the instructions, so perhaps it was a last-minute addition. The radial engine for the Ka-2 is a one-piece casting with nicely defined cylinder heads. Attaching to this are a pair of "antler-style" exhausts.
The undercarriage is identical for both versions and is a bit of a cat's cradle. It'll definitely be worth dry-fitting the combination of styrene legs and struts with resin wheels to check everything will fit correctly. Assembly isn't helped by rather vague diagrams which are actually out of sequence in the instructions...
Lastly, there's the rotor - and this is the one part in the kit which really worries me; I just can't see how the frail-looking styrene hub with tiny butt-joints to the blades can possibly bear the weight. The hub is so small that inserting metal pins looks almost impossible. For anyone adept at soldering, the real answer would be to scratchbuild a metal replacement, as I'm sure the plastic version will collapse if you look at it too hard.
Instructions and Decals
The assembly diagrams are a bit of mixed bag. As noted above, they don't show every part and are a bit vague in places and out of sequence. Against this, they are reasonably well drawn so, by checking from one stage to another, you can soon figure out how everything (particularly the undercarriage) is supposed to line up. There are spot colours keyed throughout the construction for Agama and Gunze Sangyo paints.
The kit includes a small sheet of decals which is nicely printed in perfect register. It only includes a pair of Hinomarus, plus stencils for the fuselage and tail and warning stripes for the rotors. The two schemes catered for - a Ka-1 of an unknown Japanese Army unit and the Ka-2 prototype are identical, with overall silver.
This is a cute little kit - and you could hardly have a more unusual subject to get people scratching their heads at a show or club meeting! With its mix of styrene, resin and metal parts, it's best recommended for fairly experienced modellers and it will require a bit of extra clean-up to get the best out of it - but, as with many short-run kits, that'll be more than made up for by the sheer curiosity value.
AZ Model's Ka-1 / Ka-2 is available from Modelimex - specialists in Eastern European short run kits.
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