As a group, modelbuilders are a strange breed of cat. On one hand we'll take a bare bones kit with outlines that are only reasonably close and spend 1,000 hours turning it into a museum piece. And on the other, have something like Accurate Miniatures' magnificent Avenger handed to us on a silver platter....then wonder why they couldn't have done a better job! If nothing else, it proves that some people will never be satisfied.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to have spent the last 49 years under the false impression that I got into modelbuilding because I was interested in BUILDING models. Based on some of the petty complaints I've seen leveled at the Avenger (and kits by other manufacturers as well) since it's arrival in modeler's hands (the seat belts are decals, there are no decals for the instrument faces, etc.), apparently some of us want to open the box and watch while the model assembles itself to the accompaniment of six bars of Victory At Sea. Once assembled, it paints itself, adds decals and a final flat coat, snaps a salute and rolls smartly into a place of honor in the modelbuilder's (?) display case. Then when a visitor wants to know who built that magnificent Avenger, our erstwhile modelbuilder proudly says "I did".
Honestly, people, do we really want it to come to that? The joy is supposed to be in the building and in the development of skills that allow us to make a silk purse out of the occasional sow's ear. Or, when we're given a silk purse to begin with, to be creative enough to use that silk purse in a diorama, vignette or to otherwise tell a story.
And as far as the complaints that the Avenger -gasp!- isn't perfect, I can only say one thing. OF COURSE IT ISN'T. We build REPRESENTATIONS and NOT REPLICAS. Besides, we're modelbuilders. If the Avenger -or any other kit- has a flaw, we're supposed to know how to fix it.
Case in point. Some thirty years ago, Hawk released their 1/48 U-2 to rave reviews. It possessed none of the refinements and sophisticated detail that we've come to expect in today's kits. Most of all, it had virtually no interior. Rather than whine and cry about what it DIDN'T have, we took what it DID have and improved on it. In fact, an article in the old HisAirDec News described a U-2 that John Andrews had built. He'd completely scratchbuilt the cockpit interior, even going so far as to split grains of table salt in half in order to represent knobs on the control panel.
So, you ask, why didn't he just pick up some photo etch parts or resin castings? THERE WEREN'T ANY. And precious little in the way of aftermarket decals. Today, we're living in the golden age of modelbuilding and complaining because things could be better. How would you like to return to the days when state of the art was an Aurora Japanese Zero or a Lindberg Skyray and scale was determined by the size of the box?
Am I suggesting that we slap a piece of duct tape across our collective mouths, sit on our hands and be grateful for anything the manufacturers decide to give us? Of course not. It's our comments and complaints that have made things as good as they are. But we do need to keep things in perspective.
Consider some of the hurdles involved in bringing a new injection kit to the market. I've been told that unless you can handle an average cost of $1,000 per part -and that's just for tooling- don't even bother. And remember, I said average. That means that a small tail wheel or machine gun may cost only a few hundred. But a wing or fuselage cavity could well run you six to eight thousand dollars or more. As a result, a 75 or 80 part kit will present you with a tooling cost of somewhere close to $100,000.
Then there's research, packaging, instructions, decals, ad infinitum in a seemingly never-ending stream. Add to this the development of the master patterns inspections and corrections of the molds and you get some idea of what's involved.
As if all of that's not enough to discourage the most dedicated and persistent soul, most tool making is now done in Korea or China. Why? Cost, first and foremost, but the fact that American toolmakers can make more money for less work by tooling such simple designs as computer cabinets has a lot to do with it as well. So, because the molds are being made overseas, the time required to do inspections, test shots and corrections is magnified and there's a language barrier to deal with. Anyone who's ever built a kit with 'English' translations of Japanese instructions knows what I'm talking about.
Another question that has to be dealt with, and a most important question it is, is where does the money come from? Unless the owner of the company in question is first cousin to J. Paul Getty and can pony up the cash out of his own pocket, there has to be a line of credit. Which means interest rates, repayment schedules, etc.
The end result of all this is that a high quality injection plastic kit of a single engine, single seat WW-II fighter that's produced to the current standards that we are all demanding can easily run to $250,000 BEFORE A SINGLE KIT IS EVER SOLD. Not only does the money have to come from somewhere, the manufacturer can also count on not seeing so much as five cents return on his investment for at least two years. And while he's waiting, he'll be spending more money to develop additional kits so he can come out with new releases every few months. Is it any wonder so few new kit manufacturers are formed in this country? For the money and time involved, it'd be cheaper, easier and faster to produce toys....and a heck'uv a lot more profitable.
Things don't get any easier when the molds are finished and parts are being produced. Because parts are frequently produced in the country where the molds are made (i.e. Korea), it takes thirty days on the water for kits to reach the manufacturer. Even then you're not done. The parts for each kit then have to be packaged in the boxes that have -hopefully- arrived at your company at the proper time, with decals and instructions arriving from their sources and being added to the mix. It is only then that you can begin filling all those back orders that have been stacking up. And if you don't have back orders, you can then start worrying about what you're going to do with all those unsold kits.
Resin manufacturers have their own set of problems. Granted, the cost of the entire process is far cheaper, along with a much shorter gestation period. But...because resin production is far more labor intensive, as well as being produced in sharply limited quantities, the cost is frequently out of sight. If they try to keep their retail price down, we complain about lack of detail or even lack of quality. And our complaints are quite often justified. When they try to produce the quality we want, price goes so high that we refuse to pay it. They wind up in a Catch-22.
What this all boils down to is that we're going to have to start exercising some common sense. Does this mean that we should cease expecting high quality? Of course not. It DOES mean that we should realize that not every manufacturer is going to be able to match the Tamiya line or duplicate the quality of the Accurate Miniatures Avenger. Nor should we expect them to. Besides the fact that it would be boring in the extreme if every kit could be completed straight from the box as a perfect replica with no more skill than the ability to connect two adjacent parts, no one has that capability. Not Tamiya, not Accurate, not anyone. Everyone involved is human, not automatons who never make a mistake.
So what's the solution? We need to continue to press the manufacturers to improve their level of quality and detail as much as possible while maintaining affordable prices. At the same time, we need to go back to being modelbuilders as opposed to kit assemblers. The aftermarket exists to enable us to superdetail or accurize all of these wonderful offerings that are coming our way. Make use of it. Or if you prefer, dust off some of those long dormant skills that allowed us to scratchbuild or kitbash details that were simply not economically or technically feasible for manufacturers to include in their kits.
In closing -please, no applause- how many of you remember when the Monogram Avenger was first released? Not only were we glad to have it, it was generally praised for its accuracy and level of detail. Time marches on, things change and kits become ever better. But one thing doesn't change. We're still modelbuilders. Aren't we?
If, after being blessed with both 1/72 and 1/48 kits of the Bell OH-13/ Bell 47G from TESTOR/ITALERI (https://www.testors.com), you’ve been praying for a 1/48 OH-13/47G with floats, your prayers have been answered.
The TESTOR/ITALERI 1/48 OH-13S/AB-47 COAST GUARD kit is essentially identical to the previously reviewed OH-13/47G…with a few differences. Most obvious, of course, is the addition of a pair of floats. They take the form of two additional sprue, two float halves to each sprue. While they look good from the standpoint of detail and size, they do have one problem. The float bottoms aren’t flat enough. Take a look at any 47G with floats sitting on the ground and you’ll find that they flatten noticeably. Not that it’s a big a problem to correct, but your sanding block will definitely get a workout.
Another difference is that all parts, except for the clear, are molded in a bright red styrene. Parts number 94 this time, due to the addition of the floats, and the clear parts are bagged. At least you won’t have to worry about scratches on the bubble. And decals provide markings for the U.S. Coast Guard, an AB-47G-3 of the Italian Air Force in 1983 and an OH-13S as it appeared with the U.S. Army in 1962.
Other than the differences noted above and the price being a buck higher at $19.00, the kit’s identical to the OH-13 reviewed in this column a few months ago.
All in all, it's a very nice kit that is well up to normal ITALERI standards. Instructions take the usual international approach. You get two styles of fuel tanks, as well as both types of landing skids. Keep in mind that many, if not most, OH-13s used the angular cross-tubes instead of the curved ones. Also, you don't need to warp a curved droop into the blades. The ones that drooped were high inertia weighted blades. Straight ones were wood and would last forever unless you physically destroyed them.
Because of molding limitations, which has always been the case where the 47's open frame is concerned, you'll have to ignore a couple of things and simply accept that itlooks like a Bell 47. Or at least one of'em. The second one can be corrected.
All of the tubing on the open framework is twice the diameter it should be in 1/48..055 as opposed to the correct .027. Course, I'd have hated to try to build it if ITALERI had done that! Conversely, the problem that can be corrected is the landing skids. Instead of the tubes being .044 in diameter as provided in the kit, they should be .062 or 1/16 inch in diameter. The same comments apply to the cross tubes that the floats mount to. This is easily correctable using Plastruct tubing and makes the finished model look much more realistic.
There are a couple of minor but prominent errors that have to be dealt with if you're aiming for an accurate OH-13S. First, those rolled and pleated seats have to go. Military seats were nothing more than a sheet metal form with plain cushions. There also was no center seat. And the instrument console comes up too far. Check your references for the specific one you're building to see how high it rises, then cut the kit-provided one down from the bottom. Finally, unless you have photographic evidence, leave the doors off. Most of the time they were never mounted, even in the dead of winter.
Despite these flaws, none of which are all that terrible, it's still an excellent way to add a 1/48 Bell 47G w/floats to your collection. Besides, if you want a 1/48 47G (with or without floats) in your collection, it’s the only game in town. Case closed.
If you like modern jets and aerobatic teams in general, foreign aerobatic teams in particular, then take a look at this first offering from FreMs. If you’ve never heard ofthem, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. I hadn’t either. They’re an Italian company whose first kit is an Aermacchi MB339A PAN. And it’s in 1/48 scale.
For those of you who’ve never heard of the aircraft, it’s a two-seat trainer that was intended as a replacement of the MB326. It can be used both as an advanced trainer or in the anti-tank role. A good indication of its abilities is seen in its adoption by the Italian Aerobatic Team "Frecce Tricolori".
Distributed in North America by PRECISION PARTS, INC., the MB339A PAN carries a rather stout price of $39.95. Before you turn loose of a pair of twenties, let’s see what you’re getting for your money.
All parts are molded in medium gray styrene and are contained on two sprues. The clear parts, of course, have their own sprue. Both main sprues are contained in a single bag, while clear parts are bagged separately and then slipped into the main bag with the other sprue. Instructions take up both sides of a four page, three fold sheet. Even better, they’re printed on heavy stock, probably two to three times heavier than we’re used to. Decals are covered with a protective tissue and are then slipped into one of the instruction folds. Finally, everything is packed in a heavyweight, top flap, corrugated, full color box. Not only will it protect the kit parts, this is the kind of box you want to hang onto after the model is built!
Parts breakdown is conventional and surface detail is nicely done. Depending on your personal preference, some of the engraved detail could be considered a bit on the heavy side. Me? I like it. In any case, a couple of coats of primer should eliminate a bit of the heaviness if that kind of thing bothers you. Flaps and airbrake are positionable, as is the very clear canopy. Cockpit interior is nicely done and should give excellent results straight from the box. About the only thing you need to add are seat belts.
Considering what we’re used to from a lot of kit manufacturers, as well as aftermarket decal makers, these decals would have to be described as a bit heavy. However, they’re definitely opaque, which is a distinct advantage when it comes to replicating aerobatic schemes with large areas of color. If you’re not used to applying large sections of decals incorporating multiple colors, you’ll probably find this to be the most challenging part of the MB339A PAN kit.
Bottom line? FreMs has done an excellent job on a rather obscure (at least outside of Italy and Spain) subject. If you want to add a conversation piece to your showcase, this’d be a good choice.
Anyone interested in the Consolidated …or Consolidated Vultee…or Convair B-36 Peacemaker, whether for history, an attempt to scratchbuild a 1/48 scale model, or to accurize and superdetail the Revell-Monogram 1/72 kit, needs reference material. Thanks to SPECIALTY PRESS, 11605 Kost Dam Road, North Branch, MN 55056 (ph. 800-895-4585), a popularly priced publication on the B-36 is now available.
Volume 24 of their ongoing Warbird Tech Series, this one authored by Dennis Jenkins, does an excellent job of describing the B-36. Following their standard format, you’ll find 100 8 ½ x 11 pages bound between simi-stiff covers. Inside, 160 b&w photos and line art, along with four pages of color, get you up close and personal with the Peacemaker.
You’ll find photos of development models, including the original configuration whose only relation to the final design was the use of six pusher props. There’s photos and drawings of all three landing gear designs that were tried (single 110-inch main, tracked gear and the familiar four-wheel bogey). The XC-99 is covered, including a 3-view drawing of the proposed XC-99 Flying Boat (you heard me) that was being seriously considered by Pan American. Cockpit interior, gun turret details, a proposed four-engine tractor gas turbine installation, information on the on-going restoration/preservation effort in Ft. Worth, Texas of the last B-36 built, and on and on. It’s all there. And for a paltry $16.95 (plus an additional $4.50 per order if you order direct from Specialty Press). If you have any interest at all in the B-36, this one’s a must.
Some time ago, REVELL (www.Revell-Monogram.com) issued a kit of the Babylon 5 space station from the syndicated series of the same name. Now it’s available again, this time in the form of a Deluxe Kit. So what’s the difference between the regular kit and the Deluxe one? A small tube of Ambroid cement, three small cups of acrylic paint (Satin Black, Desert Tan and Aluminum) and a paint brush. Serious modelers will laugh up one sleeve and down the other, but when you stop to think about it, it’s not a bad approach. Granted, the experienced modeler will automatically ditch the ‘Deluxe’ components and move directly to the model (And in the process will not pass Go and will not collect $200!). However, the Deluxe approach is ideal for the inexperienced modeler who hasn’t acquired all the tools, paint and related equipment (clutter?) that most of us can’t build models without. And it’s an even better choice for those who have never built a model but would like to get their feet (or at least their toe) wet in the hobby.
As far as the kit itself is concerned, you get two sprue of medium gray plastic, both of them enclosed in a single bag. Decal sheet, instructions and the Deluxe components are loose in the box. There are no clear parts.
Rated as a level 2 kit, construction is simple enough that even if you’ve only built one or two kits in your life, you should have few problems with this one. Probably the trickiest part for the inexperienced is controlling the glue so that the central part of the habitat will still rotate when everything is dry.
While the decals go a long way toward producing a quality model, it’s your skill in painting that’ll make or break it. It also wouldn’t hurt if you had a tape of the show to use for reference. Priced at $20.50.
If you’re looking for a kit that is literally a snap to build but a challenge to paint, take a look at one of the more recent Star Wars kits from AMT/Ertl (https://www.ertltoys.com). Part of their Snapfast line, the kit in question is the Death Star. It carries a price tag of $22.75. The ‘real’ Death Star is a sphere, essentially a man-made planetoid. As such, you wouldn’t expect the kit to have much in the way of parts…and it doesn’t. There’s a grand total of 11 parts and an instruction sheet. Don’t look for decals because there aren’t any.
The Death Star itself is comprised of 8 curved, pie-shaped quadrants that snap together to form a sphere. Beyond that, you’re given the choice of two stands. One is a conventional two-part stand that allows you to display the finished model on a shelf. The other is a single support arm designed to mount on the wall, allowing the finished Death Star to be suspended in mid-air. Instructions are not only basic but limit their comments on final finishing to a recommendation that you refer to the boxtop. Well and good if the boxtop was a photo of the finished model….but it’s not. It’s an artist’s concept. As a result, your best bet is to dig out your copies of the first three Star Wars episodes.
WILKO! MODELS, 2826 Russell Avenue, Abilene, Texas 79605 (ph. 915-677-7009) has produced a dandy 1/12 scale resin kit of a B-17 pilot. While this is WILKO! MODELS’ first figure effort, you’d never know it by looking at the kit. Sculpted by Len McCann, it’s a beauty.
Posed standing, holding a clipboard in his left hand and with his right arm raised as if he’s giving a briefing, this is one that figure lovers will want. And I can’t think of a better way to accent that super-detailed B-17 sitting in your showcase.
Now that I’ve got you slobberin’ over it, let’s see what you get. First of all, the kit comes securely packed in a corrugated, top flap box that features a color photo of the finished figure on the lid. Inside you find 10 very nicely cast parts that are (You sitting down?) pre-trimmed. About all you need to do is a little bit of final sanding on the pouring points.
Between the way the kit is designed and the quality of the castings, cleanup of parting lines will be absolutely minimal.
I’ve already built one and the fit of the parts was superb. The only problem I ran into was that the legs are a bit tight where they mount to the torso. This isn’t surprising due to the straps being designed in such a way that they help to hide the joint. All that’s necessary is to sand or scrape the edge of the thigh gently until you have a fit that satisfies you. Believe me, I’d rather have it this way than rattlin’ around like a pea in a pod! By the way, there’s an uneven recessed line that runs down the outside of each leg. Lest you form the wrong opinion, that ain’t a flaw. It is, instead, a seam on the flight suit that’s supposed to be there.
Instructions are well laid out and thorough (and yes, they do describe how to adjust the fit of the legs to torso). You’re offered the option of completing the figure as a bronze statue, which I did with my first one, or as a realistically painted one who looks like he lives and breathes. Choose the realistic approach and you’ll find the discussion of scale colors to be very detailed and accurate. Prefer the bronzed approach? The method described (and there are many ways to attain a bronze finish) will work quite well.
This B-17 pilot will give you a shock in one regard. It’s only $35.00, a price that’s unbelievably reasonable for a figure kit of this size and quality. If you like military figures, buy it. Now.
Back in the March 1999 installment of Scaleworld, I reviewed a 1/6 scale Chevy 283 Small Block engine kit that replicated the 1957 Chevy Corvette version. FromAMT/Ertl, it had over 250 parts and was detailed to the point that even the pistons and lifters functioned whenever you turned the fan. Problem was that you couldn’t see the parts work because the block was opaque plastic.
Well, that little problem has been corrected with the release of the same kit in a transparent version. Same $33.50 price and all the comments in my March review still apply. The addition of transparent components simply makes the kit all the more desirable.
Remember the group of Ford Taurus and Chevy Monte Carlo Snapfast kits that were released a few months ago? The ones that came prepainted, premarked, had blacked out windows, no interior detail and could be built in five minutes or less? And one of them was in the colors of McDonald’s?
If your son’s..or daughter’s..favorite place to eat is McDonald’s, then this set’s for you.
AMT/Ertl has released a Racing Team Collector Set as part of their Snapfast line. Instead of a single McDonald’s Taurus, you get three of’em…McDonald’s, Mac Tonight and Happy Meal (complete with Ronald McDonald’s face on the hood). $32.75 and the perfect surprise for your child’s next visit to McDonald’s.
Looking for a trailer you can hitch to AMT/Ertl’s GMC General kit that I reviewed last month? Look no farther. AMT/Ertl has released a kit of the Fruehauf Texaco Tanker Trailer. In the same 1/25 scale as the General, it’s an ideal mate.
As far as the kit itself is concerned, what can I say? It’s a typical AMT/Ertl kit, with most parts being molded in light gray. The frame and two trailer halves are not bagged, but the remaining parts (except for the nine vinyl tires) are. This includes the small sprue of chrome parts that get their own bag. Texaco decals appear to be excellent. Instructions are typical AMT/Ertl, but that’s really all you need. Price is $24.75.
If you have occasion to visit the Munsters’ home at 1313 Mockingbird Lane, you’re sure to find their Koach parked at the curb. Considering it’s unique appearance, it’d make and interesting addition to your model car collection. Fortunately, that’s not as impossible as you might think…or had hoped, depending on your opinion of the Munsters.
MPC originally produced a 1/25 scale kit of the Munsters Koach back when the TV show was popular (late ‘60s I believe). After a two decade (or more) hiatus, it’s back, courtesy of AMT/Ertl.
For those of you who have never seen it, it’s a relatively simple kit. Not surprising, considering that, even though it was functional, the real car was a TV prop. The kit follows the same pattern. As you’ve now come to expect from AMT/Ertl, everything is molded in light gray…except for the chrome parts. You get a very simplistic molded chassis that incorporates the belly pan, transmission and axles in a single piece. Tires are two piece gray styrene that have to be glued together, seams reduced and then painted before they’re mounted on a wire rod that slides thru the molded axles.
Body is basically one piece, the interior follows a similar pattern and….well, you get the idea. Despite what I’ve described, don’t get the idea this is a kit to avoid. It isn’t. If you have a fondness for the Munsters or you just plain happen to like unusual looking cars (and this one is definitely unusual looking), you need to consider this kit. And the price isn’t bad either at $12.00. If you’re tired of serious models and want to just have a little fun, thisun’ll do it!
Can’t get enough of McDonald’s? Then check out this offering from REVELL. A 1/25 scale kit of a McDonald’s Diorama and ’32 Ford Street Rod. Before you go into shock over the idea of an injected styrene kit of a McDonald’s, lemme disabuse you of thatidea. What you get is an injected kit (and a very nice one) of a ’32 Ford Street Rod. The McDonald’s building that comes in the box is a die-cut card model. It also replicates the original drive-in style with the twin arches that was used when McDonald’s was just getting started. Still, not bad.
As far as the ’32 Ford is concerned, it’s molded in white styrene and is very well detailed. Everything from a separate fuel tank and complete suspension to an engine that could easily be made into a prize winner. There’s even an optional ragtop and the side panels on the hood are separate. And only $14.50.
The REVELL kit of the 1/25 Castrol Reynard Indy Car that I reviewed last month has a stablemate. Same kit, same comments, same $12.25 price, different markings. This one is the Target Reynard. Solid red and carrying the markings of the Target stores.
If you like Indy cars, this one’s a must, particularly if you’ve already built the Castrol Reynard. And if Target is one of your favorite places to shop, need I say more?
Another 1/25 REVELL effort will be welcomed by funny car enthusiasts. What they’ve given us is a very detailed kit of the Blue Max Funny Car that’s normally driven by Richard Tharp. This kit is complete from the ground up.
Frame, chassis, cockpit, fully detailed engine, it’s all there. Just built straight from the box it would be a prize winner in some contests. In the hands of an advanced builder, the results can be spectacular. If you’ve gotten the impression that this kit impressed me, you’re right….and I’m not that big on cars.
Everything, except for the chrome and clear parts, is molded in white styrene and trapped in a single bag. Chrome, clear parts, vinyl tires, decals and instructions are loose in the clamshell box.
Instructions are thorough and informative, even though they’re basically international style. Besides the usual drawings, each part is identified by their proper name and the requisite color is described by name instead of a letter code. Decals are extensive and accurate. Everything you need to produce an accurate Blue Max is on there. Priced at $12.25.
Do your tastes run to modern American sports cars, the Chevy Corvette in particular? If so, take a look at REVELL’s 1/25 kit of the 1999 Corvette Hardtop. While I’m not especially crazy about the current body style, I’ve always had a weak spot for the Corvette and REVELL has done justice to this latest version.
As with the Blue Max kit, this Corvette is complete from the ground up. Everything is there, starting with the suspension. Molded in white styrene, all the parts are protected in a single bag. Except for the chrome & clear parts, which are loose in the box along with low profile vinyl tires, instructions and a small sheet of decals.
Instructions are of the enhanced international style and there are decals for the instrument panel, wheel hub logos and battery. By the time you get thru building this puppy, the engine room will be just as cramped as the real thing. REVELL has even gone so far as to include chromed inserts for the side mirrors. I could go on, but why? If you’re a Corvette devotee, buy it. It sells for $11.00.
If you got the idea last month that THE TOOL MAN (https://www.hobbytools.com) has more unusual and fascinating items than you can shake a stick at, you’d be right. For example, consider the items in the photo below. Moving from left to right, we have three interesting items. First up is what looks like a pair of angled jaw stainless steel tweezers, but they’re not. What they are is a dandy little set of sprue cutters. They function exactly like a pair of tweezers, except that they cut instead of grasp. Jaw configuration is such that they can get into areas that you may have trouble reaching with conventional cutters. Keep in mind that they do have their limitations. For one thing, their effectiveness is determined by your individual hand strength. And they’re really intended for use on small parts. Large, thick gates will be beyond their ability. Do they have a place on your bench? Yes. Will they replace your larger sprue cutters? No. Price? $14.95.