Friday, January 19, 2018
Slow Ride (With Apologies to Lonesome Dave and the Boys)
It's inevitable, I suppose, that we have issues with the electrons that drive the pages of the 'net from time to time, and one of the old standbys of the scale modeling web is experiencing that very thing even as this is being typed. It seems that their software has aged to the point where it takes forever (a few seconds, as opposed to a couple of nanoseconds) to access certain of their pages, and the resulting slowdown has bothered more than a few of their readers (including myself, if the truth be known). It's a nuisance for all and an issue (that will, without doubt, soon be fixed) for some, but it's not exactly a new problem. Let us go back to those fabled Days of Yore...
There were no magazines in Japan, in English at least, that were devoted to scale modeling and available in Misawa, either off-base or on, while we were stationed there, so it was a revelation of the highest order to go into the BX at Lackland on our arrival back in the ZI in October of 1965 and find a copy of Scale Modeler magazine sitting on the shelves, just waiting there for me to snatch it up and run back to our quarters to devour it. Said snatching and running operations were immediately performed, and I was soon back in my room sitting on the floor, listening to the Yardbirds on what passed for my stereo system at that time, and scanning every page, quite literally memorizing each and every one. It was a watershed moment.
It (Scale Modeler) was also quite literally all we, or at least I, had in the way of modeling publications until Frank Emmett was finally able to persuade me to join IPMS in early 1968. Other publications followed in due course, including subscriptions to HisAirDec News, Air Combat, and Historical Aviation Album, among others. They were all seminal periodicals in the lives of the scale modelers of the 1960s and, except for the one or two of them that could be purchased off the news stand, they were all inevitably late in arrival at my mailbox.
I'm not talking Late by a minute or two either---that's the affliction that currently bedevils the e-magazine we mentioned up there in the beginning---I'm talking real, good-old-fashioned LATE, by a matter of days or, occasionally, weeks. Frank would have his copy of Whatever-the Publication was, and mine would be MIA, or maybe it would be the other way around, not that the sequence was of any great concern. All that mattered was that the mails were capricious and totally uncaring of who you were or how desperately you wanted your magazine. You would, by golly, get it when The Postal Gods wanted you to have it and not one minute sooner!
Of course the errant document would eventually surface, often bearing the rips, tears, and other battle scars associated with a belated trip through the postal system. (That sort of battle damage was almost a given if the publication in question came from the UK, but I digress...) It was maddening, especially if your friends were enjoying the pleasures of and talking about the latest issue of whatever it was while you were still waiting for its belated arrival.
The magic of the computer age changed all of that and eliminated the wait for the most part. Sure, there could still be issues. Anything that came to us back in the Pleistocene days of The Dial-Up was subject to substantial delinquency, of course, and editorial tardiness often played, and continues to play, a significant delaying part as well, but as a general rule we can look at our favorite electronic publication, be it e-zine or blog, the second the originator hits the "publish" key.
Think about that for a while and then consider this: While that Australian site is currently suffering the slings and arrows of digital misfortune, that's not the norm over there. Aging software is aging software, but it's an issue that can be dealt with. The slow loading times currently being experienced over there, which may well be fixed by the time this gets published, are somewhat inconvenient but they're also relative. It's presently taking several seconds for most pages to load at that site, while I once had an IPMS magazine take a month and a half to make its way from Great Britain to South Texas. That's seconds versus months, in case you didn't catch what was just said.
We live in a world of instant gratification nowadays, and we're all used to getting what we want when we want it. Delay is unconscionable, unfashionable, and not permitted, but it still occurs from time to time. Yes; a delay of weeks, or even months, can be irritating (and I'll offer this very site you're on at the moment as the poster child for that phenomenon), but a few seconds of tardy delivery? Yes, it's annoying, but it's also somewhat less than the end of the world as we know it. All things will pass, and this one will too. It ain't nothin' but a thang, ya'll!
That's my story, etc; etc...
Tamiya's New Me109G; An Engineering Marvel
And that's not hyperbole either, folks! The new 1/48th scale Tamiya Me109G-6 is one amazing piece of polystyrene engineering and, taken strictly as a plastic kit, may well be the best designed model airplane I've ever been privileged to build, period.
That said, let's come to an understanding about what I meant up there. This kit's engineering is innovative and it works. Everything on the model fits, and no filler is required anywhere in the course of normal assembly, although there are a couple of access covers on the model that have to be filled in for the G-6 variant ala the now-aging Hasegawa kits. There's an implication there of other variants that could be released in the future, although there's no guarantee that will actually happen, Tamiya being who they are, which ought to be both an open invitation for Tamiya to make money if they want to and a potential gold mine for the aftermarket guys should they choose not to do that. The potential is there either way.
The kit is pretty complete, too. In addition to all the pieces necessary to allow the finished model to be displayed with either opened or closed nose panels, Tamiya have provided optional tail wheel treatments, optional air filters, optional radio masts, optional direction finding antenna bases, two different wind screens, and optional ventral panels, both with and with out cartridge case ejection ports. They've even provided the drain tube visible in the front of the oil cooler housing!
The instrument panel is catered to by decals, and they work like a charm. The seat straps and harnesses are decals as well, and perhaps unfortunately, but that's easy enough to fix with a set of Eduard Zoom components. The modeler will have to add the windshield hand-holds but the basic cockpit is entirely usable right out of the box.
The kit also provides a set of underwing MG151 gondolas, a gas bag, and both canopy armor styles found on the Me109G-6. The only obvious omission, and it's an odd one, is the lack of clear covers for the wingtip navigation lights. Tamiya wants you to paint them and that's easy enough to do, but that treatment isn't accurate for the airplane. It's more than a little bit puzzling that the modeler has to deal with that sort of thing given the level of accuracy on the rest of the kit.
That optional opened cowling and associated engine and gun deck are amazing too. The engineering is superb, and you can switch back and forth between a maintenance configuration and a clean airplane that's buttoned up for flight if you want to do that. I didn't, so the airplane you'll eventually see before you is "clean", if you can actually apply that term to any late Me109 variant, but the option is there for those who do.
That's the good news, but there may be some bad news as well. Let's set the stage by saying that I built this model at the request of King's Hobby Shop in Austin and I wasn't reviewing it, just building it. I didn't measure anything on the model, nor did I compare anything to a set of drawings before I started. What I did do was take the largely-completed model and sit it nose to nose with a previously built Hasegawa G-6, and what I found in that comparison was disturbing in the extreme because the noses don't come close to matching each other in profile. You would think they should, but they don't.
That somewhat awful discovery led me to pull out my references on the 109 and start looking at every photograph I could find that showed a "clean" side view of the nose, which seemed to confirm the difference. Keep in mind that I didn't measure anything before I started building, and I'm not saying the nose on that brand-new kit is wrong. I am saying that it doesn't match the nose on the Hasegawa kit, nor does it match the nose on a Zvezda 109 I built a while back. (I've yet to build an Eduard 109G of any flavor so I can't comment on that kit.) Who's got the correct nose? I don't know. What I do know is that the noses in those three kits are different in profile and the Hasegawa and Zvezda noses look more accurate when I compare them to photographs of the real thing, although that's an extremely subjective way of examining them. Somebody who's smarter than I am needs to do some research and measuring, I think...
On the other hand, the built up Tamiya kit looks just fine sitting by itself, and it also looks good sitting in a collection of other 109s. That's the bottom line for a lot of folks, and the completed model certainly looks the part. With all that in mind, here's a quick overview of how the model looked under construction, with photos this time around courtesy of my rapidly failing I-Phone:
OK, then; it's built and on the shelf, so what have we learned? Here's what I think I know:
This may be the best-designed model airplane I've ever built. Everything fits, it just clicks together. If you come across something that doesn't do that, then you've probably done something wrong. Be careful when you remove the parts from their trees and trim them, follow the instructions, and you'll be amazed at the results.
The removable cowl panels are an interesting touch and produce a great model for little effort if that's what you want to do, and that design work that has me so amazed ensures that you can switch back and forth between the two configurations at will. I wasn't interested in the feature so you only see the model one way on these pages, but nothing on the fuselage forward of the cockpit is glued into place on my model so I can have a change of heart any time I want to with no angst whatsoever. Everything fits tightly up there too; you can't tell that all those parts come off the airframe on command!
The way the kit's parts are designed pretty much guarantees Tamiya can produce other variants if they choose, and that design leaves things wide open for the better aftermarket guys to produce parts to facilitate those variants if Tamiya doesn't do it themselves. It also provides an opportunity for someone like Daco to do the ultimate round-nose 109 conversion set, if anyone is interested in that sort of thing. This model's design simply screams OPPORTUNITY.
It's a great kit, but it probably isn't a great kit for everybody. If you can't follow instructions, are naturally clumsy, or are a newby, this may not be the kit for you. It couldn't be a simpler model to build but some skills are required---it's a kit; remember?
The contours of the nose are a potential heart breaker if there's actually a problem there. My evaluation, such as it is, is extremely subjective and based off a simple visual comparison of the kit with one from a different, albeit highly-regarded, manufacturer. Those noses truly are different, which means somebody's right and therefore somebody has to be wrong. As previously mentioned, I didn't build the model as a review sample so I didn't measure anything before construction began, nor did I compare anything to plans; I just built the model. With the nose opened up, which is how I suspect the model was intended to be displayed, everything looks just fine. It's a different story if everything is closed up and the model is sitting nose to nose with one from a different manufacturer. Who got it right? I don't know, but I do think there's a problem there; if Tamiya got it right, then everybody else got it wrong.
That said, and even considering the possible issue with the nose, I had more fun building this kit than I've had in quite some time, and the finished model looks good on the shelf. I could also be full of beans about that nose---I've been wrong before! My bottom line is that I really enjoyed the kit. Your mileage, of course, may vary...
A few days ago we received an e-mail from an old friend who stated, among other things, that we must like North American Aviation's legendary B-25 Mitchell around here. That's true, without a doubt; the B-25 is easily our favorite American bomber of the Pacific War period, and we'd like to share a couple of images we recently received from Bobby Rocker to show you why we feel that way:
Thanks as always to Bob Rocker for his generosity and devotion to the preservation of the photography of this terrible time in our history!
Under The Radar
We rarely look at new books in this section, but if you happen to be interested in the Pacific War this is one you need for your collection:
Those of us who study the war in the Pacific have lamented the lack of information available on those ragged, terrible early days of the conflict. Michael Claringbould went a long way towards easing that situation with his seminal collaboration Eagles of the Southern Sky that detailed the early War activities of the legendary Tainan Ku. This new work, done in collaboration with Peter Ingman, details Australia's loss of Rabaul to the Japanese early in the conflict, and does so in considerable detail. The book is well written, exhaustive, and fleshed out with a selection of photography that contains a great many photographs that are new, at least to us. The photographs are complimented by excellent profile drawings.
A special treat is the detailing of operations by Mitsubishi A5M4 "Claude" fighters during the campaign from the Chitose and 4th Ku, although all of the various types employed during that struggle are covered with equal effort. (There are photographs of those "Claudes" at Rabaul! Can you hear us cheering?)
The book is excellent in every regard and is an essential if you happen to be a student of the Pacific War. It's also the first of a series of volumes, and its quality ensure that we're anxiously awaiting publication of any and all companion works!
Many thanks to Frank Emmett for this absolutely superb Christmas present!
The Relief Tube
There's not much going on this time around since we spent quite a bit of our effort on that Tamiya Me109G-6 review and wanted to publish while it was still relevant as a new kit, and you all know how our publishing schedule can be around here; the longer we work on the site the more delinquent this issue will become! With that in mind we're calling it a day for now, but we'd like to leave you with another short film Norman Camou found on YouTube. It details air operations over Southern Japan during 1945 and serves as a grim reminder of the reality behind those plastic models we build. (It also contains some remarkable J2M Raiden footage!)
Thanks as always, Norm, and keep 'em coming!
We're already working on our next issue, but this is it for now. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!