Why we build models
As you sit down in your modeling chair and look around, I’m sure that you will find several projects in various states of completion. Pick up whichever one is closest and ask yourself “Why did I start building this particular model?” We all start building a particular model for one reason or another and often times that reason is swept away. As we get into the plastic, find inaccuracies, see that there is a new add-on resin set, a new decal sheet, or any of a number of reasons and the model becomes less of that original reason, that initial bit of inspiration. Other times that inspiration is powerful enough to see a model through to completion, sometimes at the neglect to others. The Tamiya Beaufighter is a good example. How long have we wanted a 1/48th Beaufighter? And when one shows up, it is molded beautifully, fits like a glove, and there is more than one option inside. I’ll bet that several modelers out there put quite a few projects on the back burner to finally build a Beaufighter.
But what about that back burner? Why were those kits started? I can think of several kits that I have in various states of construction right now, and as I think of them, it almost always goes back to one moment in time. For instance, my 1/72nd Hobbycraft Otter was started because I saw a photo of one sitting in some field in Panama, beaten up and decrepit-looking, with the main doors off, a flat tire, and faded paint. For some reason, this photo grabbed me. I don’t know what it was exactly, but something told me to build it. So, I dug out the Hobbycraft kit and started it. So far I have cut the doors out, added some lights, and started building up the interior. It’s here that I’ve stopped because something else came along and grabbed my eye. I think it was the Yugoslav F-86D that time. That one got painted and partly decaled. Then I picked up a book called Sharks over China by Carl Molesworth about the 23rd Fighter Group in World War II. This, surprisingly, made me want to build a Ki43. Out come the Hasegawa kit and the Aeromaster special edition on Japanese aces. When Hasegawa came out with its 1/72nd F-86D, I went on a search for another camouflaged Dog and found one in Greece. This led me to build AMT’s F-100F and put it in Turkish markings. Liking the AMT kit, I picked up their Ju88C-6. A few weeks later, thumbing through The Hungarian Air Force by George Punka, I saw a neat Hungarian Ju88C-6 so off I went again. Then came Academy’s Spitfire Mk. XIVc that got changed into a PRXIX for my Swedish AF selection, followed closely by Hasegawa’s Hurricane IId being modified for a Sea Hurricane. This last one had very little in the cockpit area so I got the Eduard set for it. Well, the Eduard set had more than just the cockpit, including wing flaps, radiator detail, and a new wheel well. I had already glued the wings together and added the radiator on the IId, so I got another IIc to build with all the Eduard stuff. Now I’m doing “Hurricanes in Black and White”, a night fighter and a Sea Hurricane. How many of these are finished? One.
This constant swaying from one plane to another based on a fleeting moment of inspiration is what model makers live for. When Tamiya announced that they are bringing out a 1/48th Skyray, how many of you leapt out of your seats and jumped for joy? And this is right on the heels of their He219 Owl that is out now, which in turn is out on the heels of the Beaufighter. I think that Tamiya has learned the timing of inspiration-based modeling and is taking advantage of it, to the benefit of us modelers. If all the companies follow suit, our back burner may never get emptied. There seems to be so much fun in getting a new kit, ripping off the shrink-wrap, staring at the box art for a few seconds, then grabbing the plastic and doing some dry fitting. With these new kits coming out, the fit is often excellent, with problems showing up much later, so we think that it will be a quick build. Unlike the kits of the 1970’s and early 1980’s, where it was obvious that there were fit problems and you knew where the difficulties would lay. For instance, the Supermodel SM.81 is a beautiful kit of a somewhat unusual aircraft. Dryfitting this model will show you right away that the fit of the wings to the fuselage is going to leave gaps, that the cowlings to wings could be difficult, and a mix of other smaller problems that say to you “You better have a HUGE amount of inspiration to finish this sucker!” Often times, with the more unusual subjects, the inspiration is stronger and the kit will get finished even if it takes much longer than a newer kit.
So where does one find inspiration for modeling? The most obvious answer, and I’ve already alluded to it, is reference material. Books, decals, and pictures are all prime sources of inspiration. But there is much more out there. While I have absolutely no idea why I am interested in the Swedish Air Force, I know that my interest in the Hungarian Air Force comes not from any book or picture, but from my wife, who has Hungarian heritage. This led me to do some research into the Hungarian Air Force, which then led to photos which led to building models of them. Another example is from a local man. It turns out that he was a mechanic on P-47s during WWII for the Hell Hawks. Listening to him talk about the Ardennes offensive in the winter of 1944 led me to the book To Win the Winter Sky, by Danny S. Parker. This bit of inspiration started off good, but when I started looking at pictures of the planes, all I saw were natural metal planes that had little to distinguish one from the other. While that particular one led nowhere, it does serve the point that you never know what will arise to whet your appetite for building. The end result of this inspiration is (hopefully) a beautifully finished model of something that really interests you. I find that the more I model, the more I read about the subjects, and the more I want to model. Some may say it is a vicious cycle, but if I was on Jeopardy and the topics were the Swedish AF, German RLM Colors, and Hungarian Aces of WWII, well, I’d come home with more than soup, that’s for sure!