As you probably remember our friend Jan Kanov presented a very beautiful Zero when he took part in our latest contest, HERE
. In a comment I did not agree with the color of the fabric covered control surfaces in relation to the metal rest of the aircraft. Jan preferred my answer to be posted in public, so here it is.
First of all, this is not an attempt to diminish the work of Jan. His model is excellent; end of story.
Second, this is just my personal opinion. I'm far from an expert on the Zero or the colors and paints of the Japanese aircraft.
Third, please keep in mind that I will not talk in my answer about the hues of "hairyokushoku
" (the color/paint of the Zero) and whether these were gray, brown or whatever. Personally, I prefer to call the color the same way an 80y.o. ace Zero pilot called it when asked about it; beige.
And four, I will ignore completely the usual bullshit "you can't really tell color from b/w photos", shadows, overhead clouds, etc. as it seems that b/w photos that support one argument are perfectly fine but when they don't they must be flawed.
And just to be clear, Nick Millman has done an extensive research on the Zero and so this post cannot, in any way, be compared to his collective work. This is just my thoughts as an answer to Jan.
, talks about the control surfaces and mentions that "the difference in hue or lightness of the fabric control surfaces of Zero fighters is apparent in some monochrome photographs
". I agree 100% with the conclusion he reaches at the end of his post and I believe too that there is absolutely no reason a different paint to have been used for the control surfaces and another for the rest of the aircraft, except perhaps in the unlikely situation where the controls were produced by a sub-contractor, which we know was not the case. Yes, the controls were painted following a different procedure but overall not that different from the rest of the plane.
But mainly, I would like to talk about those "monochrome photographs".
There are really very few high quality photos of early Zeros (before the green top camo). For every photo where the control surfaces look different than the rest of the plane (I'll call them "different" photos), there is an equal number of photos that shows exactly the opposite. Furthermore, in almost all the "different" photos, the control surfaces are at an angle. In those where the angle is straight, the controls and the rest of the aircraft look the same.
Let's see some examples from Japanese publications and from NARA.
In this very interesting photo the part of the rudder from the "111" down looks different, lighter, than the metal part of the tail. Note the lock at the bottom of the rudder, which means it is straight. But also note that the rudder from the "111" up is exactly the same with the rest of the tail. What's going on here?
Here's another, particularly interesting "different" photo. The rudders of both "R3-132" and "R3-134" are different, lighter, than the rest of the tail. But note that they are not straight. How about the tail of "R3-116"? The paint on the tail looks old and weathered but the area around the marking has been freshly repainted and the "16" part is only very slightly lighter than the "R3-1" part.
In the photo above, how many different shades of the same paint can you detect? The starboard elevator is lighter than the trim tab and the rest of the tail. The starboard aileron looks very slightly lighter than the rest of the wing, but definitely darker than the elevator. That's also the case with the port aileron but curiously the folding part of the wing (made of metal) looks to be the same lighter "color".
Let's examine the following NARA photos of wrecked (unimportant detail?) aircraft.
The warped rudder definitely looks darker than the rest of the tail. Wait, darker now? Weren't they lighter in the photos above?
And how about the port elevator? Doesn't it look exactly the same with the rest of the aircraft?
Another photo where the rudder and the port aileron look darker, but the port elevator looks to be the same "color" with the rest of the aircraft, only perhaps very slightly darker.
And finally, here's a combo of the "Q-102" tail. On the left the rudder looks lighter, on the right it looks darker.
I don't know if the fabric control surfaces of in-action (not wrecked) Zeros looked indeed darker or lighter than the rest of the aircraft. My personal conclusion is that IF they did, the difference would have been only light. Perhaps some photos were taken after a sudden rain, the Zeros were caught outdoors and the fabric got a bit wet. Or perhaps the fabric was replaced and so the metal paint looked old and the fabric looked new.
In general, I believe the Zeros (like all aircraft that have seen action, not factory fresh) never looked uniformly only in one color, one paint, one hue. Some panels that were often removed (like to change the ammunition or near oil tanks) looked definitely different than the less "worked up" parts of the plane or other areas that were not often touched by the ground crews. Remember that crews often rubbed oil on or smoothed out the plane surfaces to gain a few knots of speed. So, for me, instead of focusing only on the fabric surfaces, painting them a different color, modelers should ideally present a more uneven Zero model with slight variations of the same paint on selective points, yes, including the control surfaces, but as a variation of the same overall paint, not a different one.
As expected the subject is not over. Mike Ageenko mentioned:
Few thoughts from me on this subject.
We don’t know, of course, if the paint was different or not, but we should take into consideration possible differences in the tone.
First, Q102, note different tone on ailerons.
Thanks Mike. But note also the very weathered hinomaru and the wing area around it.
Here's another "different" photo of Zeros belonging to the IwakuniKu.
The photo has some serious blemishes around "IHA-138" but "IHA-133" is clear enough and the rudder looks indeed lighter than the trim tab and the rest of the tail. How about "IHA-127" though? The rudder and the trim tab look lighter as well as the area around the marking on the tail, similar to the "R3-116" mentioned above.
One of the absolute experts on the Zero is Ryan Toews. HERE you can see a VERY detailed and extremely useful piece about the Zero and the Tamiya kit.
He mentions that:
"The fabric-covered control surfaces of both manufacturers were a neutral gray colour close to FS 6314, but note that the metal trim tabs on these control surfaces were painted the same colour as the rest of the plane’s exterior."
Here's FS 6314
He also suggests FS 6350 for the Mitsubishi built Zeros
and FS 4201 for the Nakajima built.
As I mentioned in the beginning this posting is not about the colors and the paints. But the browns look completely different from the gray, not a lighter version of them. This suggests that FS 6314 is a different paint from the two browns. I explained that I don't agree with this suggestion, but if you want to follow Ryan's instructions, please feel free to build your Zero as he recommends.
But let's move on to more b/w photos.
The "different" photo below from the net leaves no room for misinterpretation.
More "different" photos from Japanese publications, this time of the same factory fresh Zero being shipped to front line units.
But in the photos below there is no visible difference between the fabric and the metal surfaces.
And let me finish with a couple videos. Note that the rudder looks lighter but is not straight.