1:144 Zaku Kai

About the Zaku Kai

The Zaku has long been one of my favorite designs from the Gundam series. In Gundam's nearly 25 year history, the Zaku has been redesigned several times, resulting in a some very distinctive variations. At first, the Zaku Kai didn't appeal to me. Like the rest of the machines in Gundam 0080 it was designed by Yutaka Izubuchi, and has a very distinctive style. This style at first struck me as ugly, especially in terms of proportions. Seeing more of the design changed my perspective. Where the Zaku Kai once seemed fat, squashed, and goofy it now seems tough, intimidating, but also balanced from a design perspective. These days it's one of my favorite Gundam designs, and without question my favorite version of the Zaku.

The 1:144 Zaku Kai Kit

In 1989, Bandai released a kit version of the Zaku Kai (also known as the Zaku FZ) in 1:144 scale as part of its Gundam 0080 line. Overall, it's a pretty good kit, but as with most Bandai kits there are parts on every part of the model that just don't look quite right, and the end result is a model that has all the features of a Zaku Kai, but which gives entirely the wrong impression. In certain circles this sort of combination of design flaws and cheap production has been dubbed the "sockmonkey effect". I wouldn't go so far as to call the FZ kit a sockmonkey, but it's certainly a fixer-upper.

My 1:144 Zaku Kai Project

As the FZ is one of my favorite designs, I want to do it justice. As a result I expect to be rebuilding a lot of the kit to make the model look more as I think it should. A lot of the changes I'm making were taken straight from This site, which includes instructions for alterations to the skirts, head, torso, and backpack, as well as for building a simple lit mono-eye. Beyond that, however, I also want to improve the looks of the arms, legs, weapons, and power cables.

Current Status (as of 2003-2-15)

So far I've nearly finished the reshaping of the head, and started on building a mono-eye and reshaping the torso. I probably reduced the width of the head by 3-4mm, and the height by 1-2mm. I've also replaced the kit-supplied head power cables with snake chain and 2mm diameter crimp beads. The beads have all the traits I wanted for the power cables on the head: they're very thin-walled, so they don't look out of place when strung on the snake chain, and they're short relative to their diameter: about 1.4mm long, so it takes about 20 of them just to make a power cable for one side of the Zaku head. Unfortunately, I think the beads are too small to be useful for the other power cables on the Zaku: but nevertheless I'm happy to have found the beads, as I think they'll be great for the FZ and for other designs with small, flexible cables.


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