Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Selling Japanese Zero Parts

Sometimes you have to do things that hurt like the pulling of teeth, especially when you run a business based upon the buying and selling of World War II airplane parts - at least when such things are also your personal passion and have been since childhood. A couple of years ago I purchased an original Me 109 K-4 instrument panel from Austria. Waiting for it to arrive in the mail in its big box was like awaiting the best Christmas in your life. It hung on my living room wall on a custom bracket for a few months, and it was the centerpiece at the shows I worked. It was at one of those shows when it happened: the necessity of running my business ambushed me. A certain CEO of a big Japanese model kit company asked me what I wanted for the panel, I told him, sure that my price was too sky high - but he said, "I buy". Now I have some random golf painting over the couch to cover the bracket holes, but that's life when you sell what you love for a living.

Most recently I entered into a glorious symbiotic relationship with Legend Flyers of Everett, Washington (they are the genius craftsman behind the Fw 190 and Me 262 rebuilds). The deal was typical for me: I'll paint the aircraft and you'll give me parts of the real thing in trade. I've done that for years. But in this case the trade was for a Japanese A6M3 Model 32 Zero, which was my favorite aircraft of all time. That, as we used to shout in the '80s, was wicked awesome!

For sure there were some parts that were intended for me to keep, and I certainly will, but, as the header photo shows, there are a lot of parts in total. Me being me, I don't want to sell any of them. But that's my business, so I've been busying myself with researching, cleaning, and sorting them out - the effort occasionally broken by a low and forlorn sigh.

So now I am ready to start offering some of these incredibly rare pieces of Pacific War history to collectors. Some of my pricing might make a few folks blanch, but they're due to the honest market value - not me subconsciously conniving to never sell them. Honest!


Though I reveal the history of this A6M3 Zero in previous Blog posts, I'll touch on the highlights again: It is a very rare Model 32 version, the rarest of all the production Zero fighters. Only 343 were ever built. This machine, serial number 3148, was constructed by Mitsubishi in September 1942 - and both the Mitsubishi 'diamond' and 'Showa 17' date stamps are on a few of these parts. The aircraft was a rare sponsored machine: paid for by the Manchurian Middle Schools, and a tribute to that effect was painted on this aircraft's fuselage in Japanese. Deployed to the tiny strip of Taroa in the Marshall Islands, it was assigned to the 252nd Kokutai and given the tail code 'S-112'. It was "almost certainly", in the words of the 'Ace' himself, flown by Isamu Miyazaki in combat, and it likely participated in the interception of Lt. Louis Zamperini's B-24D - the latter action made famous in the best selling book, Unbroken.

In 1988 my old friend John Sterling brought this A6M3, and several others, out of Taroa and into a storage building associated with his cement business. These aircraft were eventually purchased by Evergreen International with the intent to have one restored aircraft rebuilt from out of their parts. They sat in Loveland, Colorado for a few years, before being sent to Legend Flyers in Everett. Since then number 3148 has taken on new life and is standing upon its own legs for the first time in many decades:



I've tried to put together a diverse grouping of Zero parts that reflect different areas of the aircraft and possess either original paint, die stamps, or both:

DISPLAY ONE: 25 x 37 inches.  Giclee on metallic paper.  Wing rib.  PRICE: $1500.00  (SOLD)

A very rare and complete component, this wing rib - from near the Type 99 20mm cannon, port wing - is die stamped with the Mitsubishi logo, 'S-D-C-H' manufacture stamp (denoting the process used in fabrication), as well as the part number 4-4085.

 DISPLAY TWO: 25 x 37 inches.  Giclee on metallic paper.  Wing rib.  PRICE: $1300.00

Another rare wing rib in good condition. No manufacturer's stamps, but several part numbers.

DISPLAY THREE: 25 x 37 inches.  Giclee on metallic paper.  Wing rib.  PRICE: $1300.00

The only mid-section wing rib I have. Complete, with some pitting from corrosion. Die stamped with part numbers.

DISPLAY FOUR: 20 x 30 inches.  Giclee on metallic paper.  Wing panel.  PRICE: $300.00

Panel fragment from the underside of the port wing, includes internal braces and some aotake blue/green primer paint. Exterior has no paint but is clean in good condition.

Above: Size of 20 x 30 inch displays.

DISPLAY FIVE: 19 x 9.5 inches.  Giclee on matte paper.  Cockpit part.  PRICE: $270.00

Very rare cockpit part with good interior green paint, aotake, and rare die stamps for Mitsubishi, and Showa 17 (1942).

DISPLAY SIX: 19 x 9.5 inches.  Giclee on matte paper.  Wheel well part.  PRICE: $270.00 

Rare example of two-sided part with excellent aotake on one side and rare exterior brown/gray on the other. Also has what appears top be a very rare WWII period bullet hole, roughly consistent with a .30 round.

DISPLAY SEVEN: 19 x 9.5 inches.  Giclee on matte paper.  Wing panel fragment.  PRICE: $270.00 

This section of panel was part of the lower port wing. Incredibly well preserved early war gray paint that retains much of its original gloss. Backside retains some aotake and portions of two 'S-D-C-R' ink stamps.

DISPLAY EIGHT: 17 x 9 inches.  Giclee on matte paper.  Internal wing brace.  PRICE: $260.00 

Very rare part that retains most of its original aotake paint and is die stamped with the Mitsubishi logo and Showa 17 (1942) as well as the 'S-D-C-H' manufacturer's mark.

DISPLAY NINE: 13 x 10 inches.  Giclee on matte paper.  1 inch square fragment with near-perfectly preserved early war Japanese Navy gray on one side - aotake on the other.  PRICE: $100.00 


If interested in these and other related displays and parts, please contact me through this Blog, via my email at Cole's Aircraft or call: 330-883-2493 24/7.

All the best,

Ron Cole
Cole's Aircraft

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