Char’s Zaku (First Grade)

Lately I’ve been spending some time working on a First Grade Char’s Zaku. It’s going to be a full polycap conversion, basically I want it to look and work pretty much the same as a High Grade…

The reason I chose this particular kit is because I wanted to build a Char’s Zaku, and I like the way the Perfect Grade/First Grade design for Char’s Zaku incorporates most of what I like about the Master Grade Zaku v1.0, while representing the “elite” status of Char’s Zaku in a unique and cool-looking way. (Various Char’s Zaku kits include extra thrusters or whatnot to account for the unit’s superior speed – the PG/FG version has rounded thruster housings on the lower legs and backpack… I think it’s a cool design.)

For those who don’t know, the original First Grade kits were released in 1999: the Gundam and two versions of the Zaku. They were released on the occasion of Gundam’s 20th anniversary. They were kind of a nod to the original Gundam and Zaku kits (similar complexity and construction, similar box art) but in terms of their design they were very contemporary. Actually, they’re nearly direct scale-downs of the Perfect Grade Gundam and Zaku… These original First Grade kits were a fabulous offering to Gundam fans – dirt cheap, but very good-looking – so they’re great for use as a source of extra parts, building a large number of Zakus for a diorama, etc.

Anyway, the build – So far I’ve been focusing on replacing the plastic-on-plastic joints of the original kit with polycaps and ball joints. I also cut away the original eye visor so I can installed a lit and detailed version later, and I cut out some of the thruster panels to add missing thruster bells or detail things up a bit…

So far, the main things I’ve done with the arms have been to polycap the shoulder joint on the left arm, and to cut away the shoulder pauldron from the shoulder block it was molded into… But gutting the shoulder joint parts out of the inside of the shoulder pauldron meant that I effectively destroyed one of my kit’s shoulders. Rather than reconstruct the shoulder block, I just swiped one from one of my green FG Zakus. Actually, since this isn’t the first time I’ve worked on polycapping a FG Zaku, I just swiped the whole left arm. I’m going to use it with the forearm from a 08th MS Team HG Zaku kit, because I think they look better than the PG/FG forearm design…

I rejointed both knees using a Kotobukiya T-Joint polycap (one of the most useful aftermarket polycaps you can buy!) and slotting it into the knee area of the lower leg frame. I cut away the original ankle joint and replaced it with a Yellow Submarine ball joint. The ball joint is nice but I think I may need to switch it to some kind of double-joint system if I want to improve the flexibility of the ankle.

The thrusters on the lower legs were bugging me a bit – the kit includes the cool-looking thruster pods on the lower legs that were present on the PG Char’s Zaku, but there’s no actual thruster bells there – the area’s just blanked out. So I cut out the thruster panels on the right leg and I’ve been working out what thruster part I want to use there. Similarly, on the backpack, I cut away the whole thruster panel so I could hack together a simple-looking “engine” to go with that thruster bell, and sink that into the backpack.

It’s been a fun project so far. I’m trying to keep the whole course of this project fun and simple, looking to get the best yield without too much effort. I’d say the results are good so far.

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