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Richard Marmo's


Model builders are a bundle of contradictions. Doubt that statement? Then consider the following:

We buy every kit in sight -at least as many as we can afford- that deal with our particular field of interest. And wait with bated breath for the latest announced releases...even though they won't be available for two years and we have plenty to work on in the meantime. Then if the new offerings don't arrive when promised, we complain bitterly because we don't have anything to do!

Nothing could be farther from the truth, of course. All of us have anywhere from several dozen to several hundred or more unbuilt kits stacked up on our shelves waiting to be built. Assuming that we're still going to be alive in the year 2043, since it'll take that long to work thru our current backlog and never mind the new releases. Sometime you wonder if we're model builders or kit collectors!

If that isn't enough, we also tend to be tool and gadget happy. In our eternal search for ways to build a better model, we'll look at - and frequently buy - just about anything that's touted as a better way to do a given job. While many of these items are reasonably priced, some carry a tab that makes the stratosphere look like your local bargain basement.

The kicker is that many of us wind up with a shop jammed to the gills with hundreds of kits, more decal sheets than we can count, the latest in sophisticated, expensive equipment and what do we do with it? We let it sit there and impress visitors while we build an occasional model the old fashioned way......with nothing more than a knife, masking tape, tube of putty, pieces of torn sandpaper and a cheap, basic airbrush. Go figure.

What about you?

Those of you who saw the movie Psycho and wound up wishing you could have a model of the Bates Mansion can stop wishing. POLAR LIGHTS has released an all-new injection styrene kit of The Bates Mansion.

To 1/87 (H-O scale), this is a delightful little kit. Despite it's small size, it's packed with detail. So much so that the box is literally full to overflowing. Once you open the box and remove the parts, you'll be hard pressed to get 'em back in and the top on...so you might as well go ahead and build it.

The sixty-odd creme colored parts are nicely molded with no ejector pin or sink marks anyplace that'll matter when construction is finished. Detail is delicately rendered and includes brickwork and latticework around the foundation, corbels under the roofline, all the banisters, spindles and Victorian roof trim and on and on. Also included as an option is the hill-climbing stone staircase for those of you who want to create a hill base to install the finished mansion on. Finally, you get a representation of Norman's long dead Mother Bates that can be positioned in one window.

Instructions are clear and thorough. They also offer a basic description of what an old, weather-beaten Victorian house should look like. And POLAR LIGHTS deserves to be commended on one point in particular. Windows are handled in the same manner as the earlier Addams House, which is with printed inserts that are mounted behind the window and door openings. Due to a printing error, the sheet in the kit came up two windows short. This has been acknowledged on their web site and you're given the option of printing a corrected copy directly from the web, downloading and printing off-line or having them send you a copy by snail mail. Talk about a class act!

I already have mine partially built and have encountered no problems so far. Between that and dryfitting, it's safe to say you'll have a ball with this one. Now if you want to be picky about it, you could complain that there's no clear plastic for the windowpanes. True enough, but the printed inserts compensate for that. And if you can't live without glass, a little .010 clear styrene, Super Kristal Kleer or Testors Clear Parts Cement will take care of the problem in short order.

Priced at approximately $30, if you liked the movie, you'll love this kit. By the way, the reason for the 'approximate' price is that POLAR LIGHTS - nlike most manufacturers- does not set an MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price).

Incidentally, this kit just begs for a knockout weathering job. It so happens that I will be authoring an article on weathering the Bates Mansion in the June/July issue of Modeler's Resource, the first in a new feature column called THE M-FILES by yours truly.

Another recent offering from POLAR LIGHTS is a repop of the Aurora kit of The Green Hornet's Black Beauty car. Any of you who remember The Green Hornet (and The Flight of the Bumblebee theme) will want to give serious consideration to this kit.

To 1/32 scale and molded in black styrene (except for the clear parts) and black vinyl tires, the kit is everything you remember. Interestingly enough -and despite it's age- the kit holds up quite well when compared to current 1/32 kits. And POLAR LIGHTS has considerately bagged the clear parts separately. Instructions, as you would expect, mirror the Aurora style. Black Beauty carries an approximately $20 tag (see pricing comments above). Put on a tape of Flight of the Bumblebee, buzz into this kit and enjoy.

From AMT/Ertl come eight new kits, all automotive related, including five SnapFast offerings. The SnapFast kits are all Level 1, so let's take a look at them as a group.

You get three 1/25 scale Taurus stock cars and two 1/32 scale Monster trucks. Specifically they are McDonald's Taurus, Cheerios Taurus, Valvoline Taurus, Carolina Crusher and Virginia Giant.

All have between 18 and 23 parts, a sheet of decals and an instruction sheet. MSRP is $12 each for the stock cars, while the monster trucks are tagged at $10.25 per. They're all molded in authentic colors with major markings already applied and no interiors. The interiors are blocked off with a black glass insert. No glue or paint is required.

Just out of curiosity, I 'built' the Cheerios Taurus. It took 13 minutes and nearly half the time was spent opening the box and bagged components inside. If I had read the instructions (as recommended), it would've added another couple or three minutes. The waterslide decals would probably extend the construction time another 15 minutes.

Do keep in mind that these kits are not intended for the experienced modeler, never mind the serious builders. They're designed to function as basic, entry-level kits that allow individuals who have never built a model to get their feet wet. It's also an excellent way for model building parents to begin instilling a love of models in their children.

Another of the AMT/Ertl offerings is a 1/25 scale Porsche 935 Plus Pack. This is a regular AMT car kit with a couple of twists. First of all, the main body and all related panels are molded in the boxtop model color (yellow in this case), with all other components in black (except for the clear parts). You also get six tubs of Testor acrylic paint, a basic paintbrush and a small tube of Testor non-toxic cement. Essentially, you get everything needed to build and detail the model in one box. Not a bad idea when you stop to think about it and reasonably priced at $15.50.

Containing some 50-odd parts and decals for the Martini Porsche racecar, you'll wind up with an addition to your collection to be proud of. Incidentally, AMT/Ertl took a reverse approach to protecting the clear parts. Instead of bagging them, all other parts are bagged, leaving the vinyl tires sprue loose in the bottom of the box and the clear parts sandwiched between the bags. Unusual, but it works.

Next on the list is an offering from the AMT/Ertl PRO SHOP line. The kit in question is the '62 Buick Electra 225, is listed in the PRO SHOP catalog as part of their Craftsman Series and described as originating in the 1960s. True, but I remember them as AMT 3-in-1 kits and I built my share of them. They were easy and relatively quick to build with their screw-on chassis, yet could be elevated to contest level by anyone willing to invest some patience, skill and time on them.

As with the Porsche, all parts except the tires and clear parts are bagged. The chrome sprue in one bag, remaining parts in another. There's also a small decal sheet with stripes and a couple of different style license plates. And for those of you who remember these kits from the 60s, parts are no longer molded in white. Now they're in a very light gray, which actually makes them easier to paint.

If you've never tried one of these type kits, you're in for an experience. Built box stock, you wind up with a very nice replica of a 60s vintage automobile. The positionable hood hides a basic engine that's easy to superdetail. There's even a stuffed toy elephant that you can toss in the back seat.

Prefer custom? There's a raft of alternate parts, both chrome and non-chrome, which will give you all kinds of options. Alternate grills and wheels, custom inserts, hood scoops, fairings, mirrors, etc. Even a choice of axle holes (they used to do it with lowering blocks, but this is easier) for that low rider look. All in all, a blast from the past that is most welcome.

If you're more interested in automotive engines than you are the entire car, this next release should get your attention. Another in the AMT/Ertl PRO SHOP line is a 1/6-scale kit of Chevy's classic 283 'Small Block' engine. And it's not just any old 283. This one replicates the 1957 Corvette fuel-injected version.

It sells for $33.50 and considering what you get, it's well worth the money. There's over 300 parts, most in light and dark gray styrene. You'll find one sprue of chrome parts, a bag of soft vinyl components and a final package containing lifter springs, oil filler tube, screws and a sheet of chrome photoetch. Everything is bagged. Instructions take the form of an 8 1/2 x 11 inch, 24-page booklet, including one page dedicated to notes or memos that you may care to make during the construction process.

On the off chance that you haven't realized it yet, let me impress on you that this engine is a true replica. If it was on the real engine, it's here. And the working components work. This means crankshaft, pistons, piston rods and more. Nor are the lifter springs made from metal for show. Once installed, they allow the lifters to correctly function as you rotate the crankshaft by turning the fan. The soft vinyl parts include belts and plug wires.

Automotive engine enthusiasts won't be able to resist this one.

If you like dinosaurs but don't buy them because the scale is too large or they're too pricey, consider this little critter from THE DINOSAUR STUDIO. What you have is a one-piece casting of a Triceratops. Sculpted by Greg Wenzel, it's a dandy high quality casting that requires only minimal clean up of the pouring points and you're ready to paint. Detail is excellent. He (she?) is realistically posed walking with the head cocked slightly to one side as if something has just caught it's attention. And it's to 1/35 scale, which makes it ideal for those creative Lost World style dioramas. Price? A picayune $85.00 plus shipping and handling. Check their web site or contact them at THE DINOSAUR STUDIO, 116 Bowdoin Street, Medford, Massachusetts 02155-5948.

Four more kits from COBRA COMPANY will keep the detail/conversion aircraft enthusiasts busy for awhile. First up is a 1/72 cockpit set for the A-1E Skyraider. Designed specifically for the 1/72 Monogram kit, this'll raise your Skyraider to a new level. You get a complete cockpit tub with nicely molded sidewall and center console detail, center bulkhead, cockpit combing/instrument panel, a couple of dandy little ejection seats that are complete with molded-in seat belts and lightning holes, a pair of control sticks and a gunsight. Parts are cast in high quality, creamy yellow resin. And it doesn't stop there. The illustrated instructions are thorough, clear and include detailed painting information to boot. $13.95. If 1/72 Skyraiders light your fire, you need this set.

Interested in Skyraiders but 1/72 ain't your scale? Not to worry. COBRA COMPANY also offers a Skyraider cockpit detail set in 1/48 scale, designed for the MATCHBOX kit, that's everything the 1/72 set is and more. More detail and more parts (Yes, size does make a difference!). Rather than a one-piece cockpit tub, the tub is now built up from separate components. And you get an excellent 2-piece instrument panel that's separate from the cockpit combing. Same quality, same resin, same instructions (adjusted for the greater number of components and different assembly sequence). Higher price, of course ($18.95), but the larger scale and more parts explain that. And the price is very reasonable for what you get.

Next up is a 1/48 set that'll convert your REVELL-MONOGRAM A-6 Intruder to a KA-6 tanker. You get a couple of 300-gal underwing tanks and a buddy pod that replaces the centerline fuel tank. Also a refueling unit and hose. Instructions complete the package.

Quality is excellent, everything you've come to expect from COBRA COMPANY. With a reasonable price of $19.95, the only other things you need are an A-6A kit and some patience. Before you know it, a KA-6D will be sitting in your showcase.

By the way, those of you with long memories may remember a line of aftermarket castings that were marketed under the SCALE AIRCRAFT CONVERSIONS label. COBRA COMPANY has purchased the company, made some improvements and added them to their line.

Last of the COBRA COMPANY group, but certainly not least, for this month is a 1/35 scale effort. A pair of floats and cross tubes for the REVELL-MONOGRAM or MRC Bell 47/H-13. Very nicely done, these are a must if you're planning on doing more than one 47G. At any rate, the floats are each cast in one piece. Excellent detail, no visible surface flaws and heavy enough that you won't be worried about your helicopter being a tail sitter. Cross tubes are exactly what the real ones were...metal tubes. Priced at $12.95, if you like the 47G, you'll have to have a set.

Sooner or later, all of us have to deal with one of the irritating aspects of model building, the application of putty (except for a few perfectionists who never touch the stuff). Actually, application isn't the problem...it's controlling it. Far too often it winds up in places where we don't want it. This is in large part due to the fact that we have no practical way of applying it. We use everything. Knife blades, toothpicks, our fingers...even artist's spatulas. Nothing really does the job. Well, guess what, folks? There's a better way.

HOBBY STUFF INCORPORATED, 11239 E. Nine Mile Rd., Warren, Michigan 48089-3761 (ph. 810-754-6412) has found it. The solution is a set of spatula blades designed to fit a #1 X-Acto or hobby knife handle (the same kind a #11 blade fits). Blade styles run all the way from a large, straight-sided, square-tipped blade to a couple of needle point designs. There are six to the set, so no matter what you're working on, you should be able to find a style to handle your putty job. The needle points, in particular, are ideal for the deep creases and rough surfaces of figures and fantasy creatures.

What makes them different from the artist's spatulas that many of us use is that they're a lot stiffer. They're made from hardened, tempered and bright plated spring steel. As a result, they're thicker and stiffer than artist's spatula blades. They give, but not much. The end result is more control and the ability to exert more pressure, putting the putty where you really want it.

Best of all, these little puppies are just flat cheap. You get the entire set of six blades (remember, you have to provide the handle) for $6.50. Prefer to buy 'em individually? How does $1.35 each sound? Of course, you do have to add $1.50 on orders up to $5.00 and $2.50 over that.

We're all inundated with catalogs of all varieties. Some we ask for, a lot show up unannounced...and unwanted. It reaches the point that you begin to think that if you've seen one catalog, you've seen 'em all. I hate to tell you this, but it ain't so.

A good example of this is a 6 x 9 inch, 450 page catalog that I've been exploring recently. Produced by SMALL PARTS, INC., this thing is chock full of engineering findings and related equipment. So what's engineering findings have to do with model building, you ask? Plenty, if you stop to think about it.

Tubing, for example. Brass tubing, stainless steel tubing, telescoping tubing, etc. For example, hard tempered stainless steel tubing with an outside diameter of .00425. Just for the record, that 42 1/2 thousandths of an inch outside diameter with a bore! It ain't cheap, not at $36 for 2 feet, but now you know where to get it if you need it. And if the price is just a tad steep, you can get a much larger 57 thousandths o.d. for a paltry $3.12 for a 2 foot length.

Then there's mesh screen, safety goggles, all kinds of tools, nuts, bolts, washers, bottles, and on and on and on and..... Well, heck! The catalog's free, so why not order one and see for yourself. Call 'em at 800-220-4242 Monday thru Friday between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time or hustle over to their web site and request one that way.

I could go on but time's a wastin'. See ya next month.

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Air Intelligence
1999 Modelers'
Reference Guides

1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00

Please add $3.20 Postage in the US.

TacAir Publications

PO Box 90933
Albuquerque NM
(505) 881-9621

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