Give Me Your Money, Please
Not me, ya'll. I don't want your money, but I'll bet I got your attention, didn't I? Now that I've got it, let's talk about the guys that really do want your money---the folks who produce those plastic kits that we all enjoy so much.
They come in two flavors, those guys that produce the kits; the ones that only sell what they design and make themselves, and those who will market pretty much any plastic kit they can get their hands on, because money is money and tooling ain't cheap. That those guys in the second group use the business model they do can be a good thing for the consumer, but it can also be a trap of the highest magnitude for the unwary. Allow me to explain.
A whole lot of plastic kits have been released by companies all around the world since the dawn of the hobby, and some of those kits were pretty darned good in spite of themselves---the recently Internet-maligned Hawk F4U-1 Corsair comes to mind in that regard since it was, for many years, the most accurate of all the 1/72nd scale "Hogs" available to the serious scale modeler---while others, such as the original 1/72nd scale Revell P-51D of the early 1960s, was a dog when it was new and has remained a dog ever since. When we factor in the reality that a few of those older kits were the only ones of a particular subject ever released in polystyrene (or the only accurate ones in terms of shape and outline), then the industry practice of buying or leasing someone else's molds to produce "new" models makes perfectly good sense on a number of levels and is, in fact, a good thing, at least up to the point where you're misled regarding the contents of a given kit's box.
One case of that sort of thing is presented by Revell, who happen to own the old Matchbox tooling and occasionally release the kits they mold from them in shiny new packaging, with little or nothing on the box to indicate that the modeler is purchasing a kit originally designed and tooled in the early-to-mid 1970s. That's almost an ok practice as far as we're concerned, since Revell's prices have always been reasonable in the extreme and many of those Matchbox offerings are the still the only ones available to us of certain subjects. (Don't believe me? Go find yourself a Siskin or Heyford in polystyrene, from permanent tooling then. I dare you!) It would be nice if they told you what was really in the box like they once did in their heritage re-releases, but it's still ok; those kits are inexpensive enough and generally good enough that little harm is done.
The higher-end kits can be an entirely different kettle of fish, however, because of economic impact (both perceived and real) to the modeler. Take, for example, that Czech company that recently went through a tremendous amount of angst over the release of a Second World War German fighter that wasn't quite the end-all and be-all it was advertised to be. In addition to their own kits, said Czechs also re-box and market other people's kits as limited editions, and they generally do an excellent job of that, providing as they do decals of superb quality and aftermarket accessories of their own manufacture, both of which are generally done to an extremely high standard. I mention that particular manufacturer as an example only, because the high end is capable of creating problems all their own---those guys recently released a Vietnam War-era A-4E/F kit that included the excellent Hasegawa A-4E/F, an excellent decal sheet, photo-etch and masking materials from their existing accessory line, and a resin ejection seat, at a US retail cost of some ninety bucks. I bought that kit and don't feel badly used for having done it because I knew what was in the box when I did it, but for the price there could've/should've been more included, like maybe some aftermarket ordnance for that kit of an attack bomber that spent its combat career carrying same. I was also funded for the purchase so it wasn't that big a deal to me, but for some folks it would've been.That high-end thing gets even worse when the re-boxed kit being offered was a dog in the first place (that A-4 wasn't, thank goodness) or was good when it was originally released in the 60s or 70s but has suffered from the passage of time since its salad days.
The point I'm trying to make here is a simple one. I think it's perfectly fine for manufacturers to re-issue other people's kits, but I really wish they'd tell us where the kit came from if it's older, or maybe what's really in there and where the plastic originated. That's not unreasonable, and I truly believe it's a way for everybody to walk away with a smile on their face.
Wasn't that strange;
Wasn't that strange
Now give me your money, please!
WHY Do They Do It Like That?
It's no secret that I read everything I can about our hobby, and that I go to a bunch of those scale model-oriented web sites almost daily in search of both wisdom and inspiration. In the course of that searching, I've read a great many descriptions of misery submitted by people who attempted to build, and were ultimately defeated by, the Eduard Bf109E in 1/48th scale. I happen to like the kit, inaccuracies and all, and I also happen to think it's easy to build, but that's probably because I don't follow the instructions to any great degree when it comes to sticking the engine in the model---that's because all the internet-borne complaints about the upper cowling not fitting correctly are 100% true! Fortunately, it's also a condition that's easy to fix. Read on:
European modelers, and more than a few American ones too, seem to enjoy opening up the various access panels on their models to display the wonders that lie beneath them, often doing this to excess. It seems that the guys at Eduard bought into that whole notion with certain of their kits, their Fw190s, Bf109Es, and Bf110s coming to mind in that regard, and the resulting over-complication has probably frustrated a lot more modelers than it's pleased, particularly among those who are still developing their skill sets. The 1/48th scale Eduard Bf109E is particularly tricky in that regard: The instructions tell you exactly what needs to be done and how to do it, but not clearly enough to make sure everybody understands what's required if you want to build your model in a buttoned-up state with the cowling installed. I lucked out and figured it out for myself when I built my first one (of three so far), but I also happen to think those instructions can be substantially improved upon. How? I thought you'd never ask!
Once upon a time I thought the Eduard kit of the Bf109E was the way to go in the wonderful world of Emil-dom, but I've since changed my view in favor of the substantially more accurate, if somewhat more difficult to build, Airfix kit. That said, I wasn't inclined to throw away the extra Eduard kit I had sitting on the shelf, and this simple modification to the assembly process made everything far easier than it would otherwise have been, at least for me. This method is honestly best avoided by the novice and the clumsy, but it's also a good way to accomplish something that can otherwise ruin a fine, if moderately inaccurate, kit and is a good way to grow as a modeler and add to your skills.
You Gotta Do This!
That's right; we're back on Hasegawa P-40s for a minute, and we're about to reinforce something you pretty much have to do to the kit if you want it to be accurate. That "something" we're referring to is the nasty little clipped forward corner present on the canopy of all of Hasegawa's 1/48th scale P-40 kits. We've discussed this before, I know, but it's a topic that can certainly stand repeating since the correction for the problem is simple and will give you a better finished model for an absolute minimum of effort.
Texans in the NAV, The Yellow Years
There are certain things that are seminal if you're a scale modeler of a certain era, and chief among those things for those of us who happen to be children of the 1950s are the Aurora AT-6 and SNJ Texan kits in more-or-less 1/48th scale. The SNJ kit was particularly appealing to a kid (or at least to me!) since the box art, and the plastic contained within said box, were yellow, while the AT-6 was molded in a boring and mundane silver plastic. It was the same kit, of course, but offered two different ways, and the simple act of building it established a love for yellow airplanes that extends until this very day, and causing a subsequent search for pictures of yellow Texans of any flavor. Helping in the quest, Doug Siegfried over at The Tailhook Association was kind enough to provide some photography of a few SNJ-5s in that particular livery and what he's provided is really something, so let's take a look!
It's worth remembering, as we look at these wonderful images of The Yellow Texans, that a great many of the student pilots shown training in these aircraft would be engaged in yet another conflict less than eight short years away. Things were already beginning to heat up in SouthEast Asia and those guys would be ready when the call came to launch for real. That's something worth remembering---let's raise a glass... The Tailhook Association Collection
When People Bought Them Cheap
That's a relative statement, of course, but there was a time when it was possible to purchase a used, or even brand-new-still-in-the-crate, World War II-vintage airplane for next to nothing. (All those P-51Ds the RCAF surplussed out, still in their original packing crates, for $1200 USD each during the late 1950s/early 1960s come to mind in that regard). Those days are long gone, and the present cost of purchase coupled with horrendous operating expenses combine to make warbird ownership an expensive proposition indeed, but there was a time, long ago and far away, when a modified warbird was a great way to get yourself a corporate aircraft on the cheap. Take, for example, these images from the Bill Burgess collection and provided to us courtesy of Mark Nankivil and the Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum:
It's not often that an airplane gets to star in a major Hollywood motion picture, but a few years back the Invader was center stage in the movie "Always", flown as a fire bomber. That movie role mimicked real life to a great degree since the A-26 has seen extensive service in that roll, even if the producers didn't understand quite how airplanes actually work. That said, here are a few examples to illustrate the type's service as a fire bomber:
Many thanks to Mark Nankivil for sharing these wonderful images from the RA Burgess collection with us!
Courage on the High Seas
Every once in a while we get a photograph that is remarkable for its depiction of courage and dedication. This is one such photo:
And while we're thanking people, Bobby Rocker has spent a lifetime collecting images of the American military, largely during the years of the Second World War. This incredible image is from his collection and says it all in a way simple words cannot convey. Thanks for sharing it, Bobby.
A Couple of Classy Shooting Stars
Back a few months ago, when I was hip-deep in building that Monogram F-80, Doug Barbier sent along a couple of photographs that I've been meaning to run but have never quite gotten around to. Today's the day I do it, folks, and I'm going to let Doug explain what's going on in the photos:
All of the 56th FG Racers arrived in the Lockheed "pearl gray" but it weathered poorly and they had a work party one weekend and stripped all of the a/c down to bare metal and then repainted all of the markings. Back in the day, there was no EPA and all of the stripper, thinner and paint just went down the drains, which is why the base is an EPA 'hazmat' hazard and commercial developers want no part of it anymore...
Thanks for sharing those images with us, Doug. Now, if we only had a modern, state of the art kit!
The Relief Tube
Not today, folks! Once again I've allowed myself to get to the point where it's time to stop writing and publish, and that's what we're going to do!
Be good to your neighbor, and we'll meet again soon!