Thursday, December 31, 2009


The SMN crew trust you had a good Christmas break, and offer you all best wishes for a great model making year in 2010.

And the manufacturers have some cool new items on the stocks, ready to tempt us in the months to come and to start, here's a look at some of the kits coming down the road from the revitalised Airfix.

If you’re an Airfix Club member then the ‘Club-only’ kit should be interesting. The box contains a pair of 1:72 scale V/STOL Harriers, a Harrier II GR7 and a new-tool Sea Harrier FA2. They will make a handsome pair that will look good on display together.

For ship fans, Airfix will be releasing a 1:350 scale Trafalgar class submarine. There are six remaining boats in the fleet (one was decommisioned in November 2009) three of which are fitted with the 2076 sonar, reckoned by the Royal Navy to be the most advanced such system in the world. The Airfix sub scales out at some 244 mm (9.6 in).

Military 1:76 scale enthusiasts will find the Ruined European Workshop useful for diorama scenes, while aircraft model makers will be lining up round the corner for the 1:72 scale Vickers Valiant jet bomber. This was the first of Britain’s V-bomber nuclear strike bombers to fly, back in May 1951, and was in service from 1955 until January 1965. The rather plain-Jane Valiant has not been a star on the model front, so this Airfix kit will fill the gap for many model makers keen on aircraft of the Cold War years.

You can visit Airfix here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The Challarostang looks a goodie, but it occurred to us that model makers needn't stop with the US pony car inventory. So for 2010, what about making a tasty fusion of sports cars from Britain?

Maybe a mix of Jaguar, Aston-Martin and Austin-Healey for starters, but there's a galaxy of candidates from the hall of history - TVR, MG, Morgan and Sunbeam are just a few names to get started with.

Or there's a steampunk route for sci-fi car fans too - something like the Brumm 1:43 Morgan three-wheeler is just made for conversion into some sort of Victorian-era machine. Perhaps reborn as a 'Heroes of the Air' flying car, suspended under an airship gasbag. It really was an amazing little device, seen in the pic above in the All British Car Show at Yolo County Fairgrounds, Woodland, California, in May 2008.

See the Brumm Morgan here.

Thanks to 'The Brain Toad' for the Morgan pic. His Flikr stream is here.

Monday, December 28, 2009


US pony cars began with the 1964 Ford Mustang, a sports car for everyman USA, even if it was based on the mundane Ford Falcon sedan (to the Brits, that’s a saloon btw). And now we’re up to the 2010s, with not only new, fire-breathing Mustangs, but also modern versions of its original competitors, the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro. You can take your pick which one you prefer of the three, or you can do what car model fan Robert D did, and that was to combine elements of all three into a model auto-fusion concept, nicknamed the Challarostang.

In fact, sections of the three vehicles blended together without too much trouble at all, and Robert’s yellow-peril final result looks pretty much like it could have been designed in one studio instead of three. Of his Challarostang he says: “I like the main body of the Camaro better than the Challenger. I like the Challenger front end better than the Camaro. Once the idea was in my head to add Mustang to the equation, it all came together, because I found out pretty quickly that the three could combine into one”.

However, for those of you who like the real machines (and like ’em as separately running ponies) then the Car & Driver video road test above ought to be worth watching. The Camaro of course, has featured in both Transformers movies, and very nice it is too. This writer’s torn between it and the Mustang - handsome as the Challenger is, it’s doesn’t quite do it. Still, any of the three parked in front of the house would bring a happy New Year smile!

Thanks to Model Car Magazine forum, where these pics first appeared here.

If you fancy making your own custom cars, there are Ford Mustang kits here.

Dodge Challengers here.

And Chevy Camaros here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


It’s that time of year again, so best wishes to you all and have a great time over the festive season. Who knows, with a few days off, there might be time to finish off that half-completed project that's been sitting on a shelf, just awaiting some tender loving care!

The video showcases the cream of US yuletide stores - Macy's Santaland, the Lionel Store, Grand Central Terminal, Becker Group's North Pole Village and more. We show it here courtesy TW Trainworx, a custom-build 'traingeneering' outfit based in Dallas, Texas. You can visit TWT here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Mr J reports
Tom Daniel’s Rommel’s Rod makes a terrific custom model, but it did start us thinking about the inspiration for it, Rommel’s actual halftrack, named the ‘Greif’. That’s German for ‘Griffin’, a mythical creature of divine power, though there’s also a hunting dog breed with a similar name, so maybe Rommel liked both.

Airfix has an elderly (but still OK) 1:32 model that you can often find with some hunting around - we turned one up on eBay Canada. To a smaller scale, but newer and more useful as a diorama accessory is the beautiful little 1:48 scale Greif in Tamiya’s Military Miniatures series, complete with a reasonably lifelike Rommel figure, and two crewmen.

It measures just 102 mm (4 in) long, yet packs in plenty of lovely detail, including a radio, machine gun, frame antenna and floorboard texture. Of course, you don’t have to build it as a Rommel special - there were dozens of design variations on the basic vehicle, so the choice is yours.

On the SMN wish-list would be a Rommel’s Rod to the same scale, so you could park them next to each other on Mat Irvine’s builder’s sand diorama - oh well, one for 2010 maybe.

The 1:48 Tamiya Greif halftrack is available in model stores and online here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1 Tamiya 1:48 scale kit box.
2 Greif three-view scale elevations.
3 Greif shown in a diorama setting with another Tamiya 1:48 model, the Feiseler Storch spotter plane.

Pictures courtesy Tamiya.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Mat Irvine reports
When it came to modellers wanting particular kits reissued, one that was way, way, near the top for car enthusiasts was a strange ‘show rod’ produced by Monogram in 1969. Designed by famed custom car designer Tom Daniel, who had created many of Monogram’s other wacky creations, Rommel’s Rod was a take on what the World War II ‘Desert Fox’ Field Marshall Erwin Rommel should have driven, or be driven in, during his battles with Allied forces from 1941-43. Based (very loosely) on Rommel’s personal Mercedes-Benz half-track, Daniel’s design is ever weirder in that Rommel and his driver are represented by skeletons, maybe risen from the ever-shifting sands of the North African Desert!

Rommel’s Rod was one of Monogram best-selling show rods, and when the combined Revell-Monogram company started the Selected Subject Program (SSP) range in 1992, the ‘Krazy Kommand Kar’ was definitely slated for reissue. It was consequently listed in SSP Phase 4, dated Fall 1993, but then came a slight snag. Having announced it, the tooling couldn’t be found (it happens more than you might think), so it became one of three SSP kits that were announced, but never appeared.

But the idea never went away, and perhaps influenced by a Moebius Models proposal for a giant 1:12 scale Rod, Revell-Monogram did its own retool, so now we have a brand-new 1:24 scale Rommel’s Rod kit to build.

Purists and collectors note though - the new kit is not absolutely identical to the old one, as the opportunity was taken to modify some parts, including details such as the shovel that hangs on the driver’s door now being a separate item, instead of being moulded into the door panel as the original. But overall, Rommel’s Rod looks much the same as it did in 1969 - or should that be 1941?

Rommel's Rod is available in model stores, and online here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1 The new box features a prominent Tom Daniels signature.
2 The 1969 box.
3, 4 Two views of the Rod, including a diorama I made specially for it. Palm trees from Britains, sand from a builder’s yard.
5 The Monogram SSP Phase 4 range in Fall 1993 advertised the Rod, but it wasn’t released.

Sample kit supplied courtesy Revell-Monogram.

Monday, December 21, 2009


SMN took in a fascinating exhibition yesterday, at the Oxford Museum of the History of Science (OMHS), in the famed UK university city. The show’s all about ‘Steampunk’, a genre of science fiction that combines Victorian-era technology and materials in a ‘what-if’ scenario of how things might appear with a hint of today’s science in the mix.

It’s a very appealing look that features brass, copper, iron, and rich woodwork in a sort of Jules Verne sci-fi style - if you liked the Walt Disney movie 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, then you’ll enjoy steampunk. The OMHS features a bunch of artists and their creations, with a corner devoted to SMN’s favourite steampunker, Stephane Halleux, with work that’s unique in the field for its gently humorous flavour (top two pictures above).

All the pieces are notable for the model-making skills that went into making them, and that’s why we’ve included them today. Halleux’s work features stitched leather that wouldn’t look out of place in a World War I biplane model. Another piece looks almost like a mad rat’s nest of assemblage from a billion bits of old Airfix kit. Yet another combines a church with a tank, with a gun ready to fire out of the tower.

Overall, the exhibition is really worth a visit - it’s not huge, but the rest of the OHMS is fascinating as well, so there’s plenty to see for an hour or three. The exhibition is free and runs until February 21, 2010.

Visit the Oxford Museum of the History of Science here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Mat Irvine reports
19 December 1960 saw the very first launch of a Mercury capsule on a Redstone booster. This short flight (15 minutes 45 seconds) did not carry an astronaut though, for it was a ‘boiler-plate’ capsule (see previous posting on this subject), a test article built to check out systems, from basics like “does it fit on the top of the launch rocket?” to later technicalities, such as checking parachute deployment.

For many years the best Mercury capsule you could get as a model kit was a 1:48 scale version that arrived in a box along with its bigger two-man sibling, Gemini. This was by Revell, and the kit has been around for many years, also cropping up twice under the Monogram name.

But a few years ago, space modelling enthusiast Scott Alexander made the brave decision to design and finance a larger (and ‘larger’ here means ‘a lot larger’) model of this iconic capsule to 1:12 scale, making it four times the size of the Revell kit, so it packs a whole lot of detail.

Scott runs Atomic City Models, but he needed help with manufacture and distribution, so he involved the US company MRC, and the kit carries both names. It can be built as any one of the six capsules that carried astronauts, though the first MR-3 that launched Alan Shepard on his suborbital hop, was slightly different as far as windows and hatch are concerned, but the Atomic City plans include full details of the mods needed.

The kit is mainly in styrene plastic moulded in several colours, though it does have a few parts in metal, and the astronaut figure comes in vinyl. The kit features as one of the detailed builds in my book Scale Spacecraft Modelling in which you will also find a great deal more, such as simple conversions, how to deal with resin kits, designing and building dioramas, and a complete scratch-build of a Mars module.

Scale Spacecraft Modelling is published by The Crowood Press, and is available from Amazon, along with various other books I’ve written here.

SMN note:
Mat’s book is packed with fascinating material, so if you’re after a last-minute Christmas goody, we recommend it highly.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1 Atomic City/MRC Mercury kit box.
2 The finished model.
3 The model in Friendship 7 markings.
4 Mat’s SSM book jacket.

Friday, December 18, 2009


After putting together the Wrights article yesterday, Mat Irvine searched through his MMMM (Mat’s Marvellous Model Museum, a place of awe and wonder for any model fan) and hunted out this nice little diorama he built some years ago.

It uses the Monogram 1:39 scale kit as the showpiece, mounted on a 457 mm (18 in) circular base. The ground is a simulation of the dunes in the Kill Devil Hills area, North Carolina, where Orville and Wilbur Wright made their historic flights in December 1903. Note the complex rigging on the model, always an issue with those of us with less than nimble fingers, though not for Mat. Earlier kit issues supplied rigging thread in the box, more recent ones have left you to supply your own.

Mat also looked out some pictures that he took of the actual spot, and the two shown here give you an idea of the area. Note though, that these were taken in high summer - in December, the dunes are somewhat barer and breezier!

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1-3 Views of the 1:39 scale Monogram Wright Flyer.
4 Kill Devil Hill, looking toward the Wright Brothers National Memorial at its summit. The information board in the foreground is placed roughly where the Wrights made their first flight.
5 Closeup of the Memorial Tower, a massive 18 m (60 ft) granite monument that was dedicated in 1932. Out of shot are a marker stone and fascinating visitor centre.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Mat Irvine reports
Today’s the day back in 1903 that Orville and Wilbur Wright became the first humans to make controlled powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine, the Wright Flyer. The morning started with a short hop piloted by Orville (a decision made by tossing a coin) lasting just 12 seconds, and covering just 36.6 m (120 ft). This is less than the wingspan of many modern airliners, but it was a success and the rest, as they say, is history.

Because of its significance, the Wright Flyer has been turned in many a model, from diecast replicas to plastic kits, and perhaps more appropriately, wood and tissue paper kits.

The most comprehensive kit comes from Hasegawa in its Museum Models series. This is 1:16 scale and a ‘multi-material’ kit in that it contains more than one material. Mimicking the original, a lot of the 301 parts are wood and brass with a sprinkling of white metal and plastic. But this model is for the really dedicated, and is not idly called a ‘museum’ model - many actually do end up in museums. It’s not presently in production at Hasegawa, but kits are available from stock in model stores off and online.

Probably the most familiar Flyer is from Monogram. Produced in the early days of the company, it first appeared in 1958, and has been in and out of the catalogues over the decades, so one of the issues should still be found easily. It matches the famous photograph of the first flight in that you get Orville at the controls, with Wilbur running alongside. And that isn’t all, for the bits and pieces of paraphernalia visible in the historic photo are supplied too - launching ramp, starter battery, brush in a pot, workbench, even the g-clamp.

The only thing against this kit is that it’s to a weird fit-the-box scale of 1:39, but in a diorama setting scale is less important and considering its age, the kit still looks good.

So what kits are available off the shelf right now? Not a lot, sad to say, but click the link to find out what Amazon has in store. Best of the bunch is the decent Aviation Archive 1:32 Flyer from Corgi, which comes with figures and takeoff ramp. It’s available at a cracking price here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1 The original historic photograph, taken on a plate camera. Although set up by Orville, the shot was actually tripped by John Daniels, one of the local life-savers the Wrights roped in to help.
2 Five issues of the Wright Flyer, with the first Monogram release in the front. The Revell kit at top left was issued in 2003 to celebrate the flight’s centenary.
4 Tonka is rightly famed for its tough tin toys; less well known are its kits, such as this Wright Flyer diorama.

Photographs of the kits courtesy Mat Irvine.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


We’re looking for new wheels at SMN Towers, and were at the local Nissan dealer yesterday, kicking the tyres of a Note, Qashqai, and an X-Trail. Of course, the one we’d really like would be a late-used 350Z. It’s a handsome brute, but with no room for bikes, cameras, tripods and computers aboard, it can’t be on the IWOOT list, sad to say. We also had a look at the 350Z’s replacement, the 370Z, which is a somewhat dumpy-looking retro version of the original 240Z of 1969, so Mat’s report is a timely one. Now read on...

Report by Mat Irvine
The latest incarnation of Nissan’s Z-car, and the latest 1:24 scale kit from Tamiya, is the 370Z, in Japan known as the Fairlady Z. This is a ‘curbside’ kit, a term derived from US model makers to describe a model car without a separate engine, therefore destined to sit forever by the curb! But even as a curbside, this 370Z (the sixth-generation ‘Z’, released in December 2008) is full of the sort of detail one expects from Japan’s best-known name in modelling.

Although there’s no separate engine, the rest of the drivetrain is fully represented and, given that much of the underside is painted the body colour - in this case I sprayed the car in Chrysler Daytona Yellow from Testors - it’s worth taking time to pick out the details as well. For the interior you get both left- and right-hand drive instrument panels and, given Tamiya’s penchant for detail, there are even separate decals for the speedo in mph and km/h. You’d be hard-pressed to read them, but it’s nice to know they are there. Even the seats differ slightly, left- to right-hand drive, as the driver seat squab changes sides. Two sets of wipers are also provided.

The kit consists of some 100 parts, and is moulded in black, white, and two lots of vacuumed-plated parts - satin and bright chrome - plus the usual clear and transparent red for head and tail lights. These are works of art in their own right, with the clear ‘reversing’ lens being a separate item that fits inside the rest of the red tail light. Finish off with the metallized decals that correctly match the badges and you have yet another example of Tamiya’s Sports Car Series (complete with ‘muscular body styling’) to add to your collection.

The kit was supplied by Tamiya UK distributor, The Hobby Company, which you can visit here. Note you may also see Italeri's new Arado floatplane on the THC site - report coming soon!

The 370Z is also available to purchase online with other Tamiya Nissans here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1 Neatly designed kit box.
2 The assembled kit, in Testors Daytona Yellow.
3 Fully detailed underpan.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


And there she goes! Congratulations, Boeing.

And now let's see some really ace kits and models please!


She’s years late and way over budget, but finally Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is ready for flight. As planned, the twinjet should take to the air later today from Paine Field Airport, north of Seattle, US.

Taxi tests earlier this week were successful, and Boeing’s big baby even lifted her nose briefly, though not before the test pilot had applied speed brakes to avoid an accidental liftoff. You can see this, and hear the roar of the thrust reversers in the video above. The 787’s a pretty plane by any standards, and while those engines - airlines have a choice of Rolls-Royce or General Electric designs - may be massive, they will be incredibly economical and low on emissions too.

For model fans however, there hasn’t yet been too much activity on the kit front where the 787’s concerned. An exception is Zvezda, a Russian company that already has a neat 1:144 scale 787 in production, and which is slowly filtering into the retail supply chain. As you can see from the component layout pic above, it’s a relatively simple kit of an important aircraft for which Boeing already has some 840 orders, and is well worth adding to any collection of 1:144 scale airliners.

Good luck to the 787 on her first flight today, the second major first flight this last week, after the European A400M airlifter.

Visit Zvezda’s interesting range here.

Zvezda's kit is becoming available at model stores and online suppliers; there's also a much smaller 1:400 Gemini Jets 787 you can see here.

Video courtesy David Parker Brown.

Monday, December 14, 2009


And here's a decent pic of Number 48 from the Lowe's website. It reveals loads of lovely detail, from air splitters to hood tie-downs, and note the much finer lines of the front air dam when you see it in the metal.

Click on the pic to see it bigger, and you'll see mucho stuff for a winter's evening tune-up that'll turn that already nice Scalextric model into an absolute stopper!


Today’s the day back in 1947 when NASCAR (North American Stock Car Auto Racing) was founded, its headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida. Since then NASCAR has become an American institution, second only to US Football on the TV ratings charts. Races are shown in more than 150 countries and 75 million fans purchase more than $3 billion USD (£1.84 billion GBP) sponsored products - from T-shirts to diecasts - every year.

And among those sponsored products are the NASCARs marketed by the Hornby-owned model racing outfit, Scalextric. These are all to 1:32 scale and these days many of them are miniature masterpieces in their own right. Long gone are the days when a Scalextric car was little more than a crude electric toy - now you can display them as beautiful models when you’re not trying to overtake on the straightaway.

Several NASCARs are available from Scalextric, but SMN’s choice is the handsome 2009 series Chevrolet Impala, shown above. It’s nicely detailed, with sponsor ads that look accurate, and are applied well. The wheels are true to prototype, and the air dam in front and spoiler at the rear both look good.

Not that there isn’t room for us model fans to improve things - a whiff of airbrush to add some weathering, some finishing work on those wheels and careful interior detailing would help to bring this mini-racer to life, as would roof antennas and airflow splitters.

The Chevrolet Impala is available direct from Scalextric here, or at a considerable discount from Amazon here. Note some mid-season marking changes here.

The pictures above show,top to bottom:
1 Chevrolet Corvette pace car leading the field at the Texas Motor Speedway, April 2009.
2 A classic NASCAR from 1970, Richard Petty’s Plymouth Road Runner Superbird, complete with amazing rooster tail.
3 Scalextric Chevrolet Impala, 2009.

Superbird picture courtesy ‘ckirkman’ at Flikr.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Here’s a look at what Revell-Monogram US has in store for us in the first half of 2010.

There’s a decent mixture of old and new there, with some nostalgic faves present, including three personal ‘couldn’t afford it at the time’ items - the Corporal tactical missile with launcher to 1:40 scale, the F-82 Twin Mustang to 1:72 scale, and the Red Knight of Vienna to 1:8 scale, complete with splendid golden eagle atop his helmet. If you’re into creature features, then the not-so-scary Creature from the Black Lagoon may tempt you too. Enjoy!

Friday, December 11, 2009


The European A400M military airlifter, falling roughly midway in size between the 'Fat Albert' Hercules and the jet-powered C-17 has - at long last - made its first flight.

For air-buffs, it's been a race (with betting on some aviation sites) as to whether the A400M or Boeing 787 Dreamliner would be first (or second) into the air. Well today that particular race is over, with the years-late and way over-budget A400M finally turning from a paper project into real aircraft. Boeing meantime, promises a 787 first-flight before the year ends - it could come as early as next Tuesday.

As for us model fans, well we're still waiting too, so come on Revell-Germany - these aircraft have to be right up your street for 2010 release! In 1:144 scale, an A400M would make a good partner for the neat C-17 already available. The same goes for the 787, with rumours indicating we could see a model of this next year too. Once again, there's a bigger kit already out there, in the form of the A380 double-decker, so please let's get that 787 out of the world of dreams and into scale reality!