Thursday, April 30, 2009


I'm a huge fan of Revell Easy-Build kits. For those of us who are pressed for time, they are a quick way of getting rid of 'model fever' - this Jedi Starfighter took only about 30 minutes or so to put together. It's about 1:48 scale and could sit nicely on a shelf, for a comparison to current jet fighters, such as F-16s and the like.

The assembled Jedi Starfighter is pretty small, pointing to the fact that in the 'long ago' Star Wars universe, spacecraft tapped into energy forces that didn't involve lugging around huge tanks of propellant!

As built, the Starfighter is a nice decoration; with some weathering, super-detailing, and maybe a mini diorama, it could be a show winner. If you're short of time and want to 'do a kit' between dinner and bedtime, it's recommended.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


As Georgy and I are staying with Dean Milano, perhaps I should say a few words about him. Dean was at Revell-Monogram for many years, which was when we first met, though we had already heard of each other, as we were both writing for model magazines in the UK and US.

These days, Dean works for himself, though for some time he also ran the Milano Toy and Model Museum in Elmhurst, his local town. Elmhurst is in effect a suburb of Chicago, though, like most of the surrounding towns, it maintains its own separate identity. Dean’s museum was bang opposite the railroad station, so it was hardly unobtrusive, and for three years offered visitors an amazing mix of classic toys and models, with a lot of rare stuff not seen elsewhere.

These days the Museum has a virtual existence on the internet, but a lot of stuff that Dean collected for his ‘real’ museum now has to be sold off. “No space!” is the cry. Consequently, most days will find him rummaging in the garage for more items to put on eBay.

But when he isn’t modelling or eBaying, Dean spends a lot of time with his other main interest, music. His primary instrument is the bass - electric and string - though he will squeeze away on the accordion, given half a chance. He was a member of The New Seekers group for some time, and has just completed his second album of self-penned songs, for which I took most of the sleeve photos.

Mat Irvine

The pictures show (top) Dean sorting out yet more car kits. At left is one of his string basses, this one owned originally by his uncle, the recently deceased Connie Milano. Connie was for many years very big on the Chicago music scene, and played alongside many great names, including Charlie Parker, Miles Davies and Nat ‘King’ Cole.

(Middle) One for this evening’s eBay offerings? Deans shows a poster, advertising Revell’s Mercedes-Benz 190.

(Bottom) One of Dean’s specialities is models of stock vehicles, of which there are over 1000 in his collection. This is just a small part of what was in the Museum collection. They are all in 1:24 or 1:25 scale.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Scale Model News will be moving soon to a proper domain name, so this is your heads-up that things are changing.

In fact, the site should be easier to find, as there'll be no 'blogspot' stuff to key into the search field.

We'll keep you posted on events as they unfold....


Here’s a look at the May issue of Hornby Magazine. It’s a treasure-trove of interest for British model rail fans, with a spectrum of articles covering most aspects, mainly in 00 gauge, but with nods to other scales as well.

As an aside, it’s a sore point with me that the UK should be at odds with the rest of the world in its use of model rail scales. I have many nice locomotives from distant shores, and have always felt it’s such a shame that I can’t display my H0 (1:87) US Big Boy next to my 00 (1:76) UK Mallard in a meaningful manner. Ho hum!

Rant over, and back to the magazine. Of particular interest (as we ran a story on it not long ago) is the article on Oxfordshire’s Pendon Museum, which houses one of the most fascinating miniature rail exhibitions anywhere.

Icing on the magazine-cake is that Hornby has hooked up with internet outfit Scalescenes to provide a FREE 00 gauge model garage. It’s a card model that builds into a typically grimy locally-owned garage from the 1960s. It’s a beautiful piece of work, with attention to detail that’s second to none. Graphic designer John Wiffen of Scalescenes has really done the biz on the signs and adverts that covered the walls of garages like this. Hornby Magazine has played its part by making the garage pages perforated, so you don’t have to wreck your mag when pulling them out, though a light scalpel cut will help detach them perfectly. Well done all!

The two pictures show Hornby Magazine's May cover, and the pulled-out pages that make up into the garage. You can visit Hornby Magazine online here. Scalescenes offer many downloadable buildings, which you see by visitng Scalescenes here.

Hornby, Hornby Magazine, Scalescene, John Wiffen, Pendon Museum, OO gauge, 1960s, diorama

Monday, April 27, 2009


Kane County sits west of the Chicago metropolis and hosts the twice-a-year Toy Fair at its fairground, something (a fairground, that is) that no self-respecting American town can do without. I was last there in October 2008, but new buildings have sprung up since, meaning that a lot of what used to be held in, frankly, the animal sheds, could be moved inside. But two such sheds remain in use. They are otherwise reserved for ‘Cattle’ and ‘Swine’ (‘Rabbits’ was not in operation this year!). Apparently Kane County’s Toy Fair used to be a lot larger than it is now – but it’s still pretty big.

The Toy Fair does more or less what it says on the tin. It’s a fair for the selling of toys - plus models, dolls and other collectibles - and stall after stall has a wide variety of bits and pieces that are likely to be junk to most people, but maybe a treasure to others. We all set off - me and my other half Georgy, Dean Milano and wife Gay, and were joined by Gay’s daughter Kim and her elder son, Jack, all of seven years old.

It didn’t look exactly promising as the forecast was for a downpour, and with rain threatening when we arrived, by the time we got under cover, it was coming down like stair-rods – but that meant all the more time for browsing!

You never know what you might find at these sorts of fairs – plus not being ‘from around these parts’ they are mostly going to be different from the sort of finds at a British equivalent. So you wander from stall to stall, peering at stuff that may be hidden under other stuff, or tucked away under the table. Then you bargain. Using the Middle Eastern principle that the price marked is only a rough indicator and should never be taken at face value, the first question should always be, “What’s your best offer on this?”, followed by the sort of look that indicates that it had better be a ‘good offer’. Actually, most are just that. Invariably when I’d seen something at $25, and having asked the question and expecting $20, and $18 came back (as it did on one occasion)... well, it would be churlish to turn it down! So by the end of the day - and by now with the Sun out - a few more items had been added to the Mat Irvine Collection.

The pics show (top) a kit I’d never seen before, at least in this box – the original Renwal kit of the Mercedes 300 Gullwing in 1:12 scale. Gay found me an astronaut (middle), though I didn’t take her up on the offer! Georgy (bottom) gazes at just one stall’s wares.


Here at SMN we’re huge fans of beautiful boxes – kit boxes, that is. Way back in the 1960s and ’70s, Airfix led the way with the remarkable work of the renowned British artist, Roy Cross. Then Japanese companies like Tamiya came on the scene with their take on what a box should look like. Hasegawa’s Shigeo Koike also has compilation art books that are hot favourites with connoisseurs of the genre.

So which kit company leads the pack today? As ever, art style is a matter of personal taste, but we reckon that Academy’s boxes are well up to the pace, with gorgeous paintings that glow with colour and, more importantly, show detail and markings particularly clearly. They are not so much hard-sell images, more frameable paintings, with dynamic views and angles that work especially well with subjects like combat aircraft in action.

And talking of Academy, its new 1:48 F-15 Eagle in Republic of Korea (ROK) markings, looks like a winner. The pictures here show stunning levels of detail for your delectation. It’s really apparent how much work has gone into this F-15, when you study the weapons fit, and the sparkling precision of the tailpipes. A real gem for F-15 fans, it will be available shortly from various retailers and online sellers, including Model Hobbies.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Taking a week off in the US, I’m in the Chicago area, visiting an old friend and fellow modeller, Dean Milano. Dean lives very close to one of Chicago’s largest hobby stores, Al’s Hobby Shop in downtown Elmhurst, so one of the first tasks is to drop by, and it’s strange how things turn out. A casual conversation with Jeff Clark in Al’s has him asking, “Are you going to the Ferrari show?” This, it transpired, was being held at a Ferrari, Maserati, and other exotic machinery, showroom in Hinsdale, due south of where we are staying. So Dean and myself duly set off on Saturday.

It was a smallish event, but the showroom had put aside a room for model dealers’ tables, and as one does, you start bumping into a number of people you know. A small model competition was being held, featuring cars that were not necessarily Ferrari, Maserati, or even Italian – there was a nice Tamiya Mini for example.

You also got a chance to visit the showroom workshops, where a range of exotic vehicles could be maintained in surroundings which were clean enough to eat your dinner off! And pride of place (shown above) – probably an S-100 Jaguar, right-hand drive and all – just to show those Italians a thing or two.

The pictures show (top to bottom) a Tamiya Mini competition entrant; new resin kits; Dean Milano (middle), with Bill Lastovich of Revell-Monogram (left) and Fred Cady, of Fred Cady Decals. In front is half a million dollars-worth of full-size Jaguar SS-100. Fred is now retired, and these pictures were posted as a tribute.

Mat Irvine

Model Saturn 5 launch: Steve Eves success!

This is a short YouTube vid made by 'nerys71', showing the moment of liftoff for rocketeer Steve Eves' 1:10 scale Saturn V. Launch, ascent, parachute deployment all went perfectly. The first stage even landed vertically on its fins!

There's a longer video at Rocketry Planet, which shows the entire flight, including touchdown.

Well done Steve!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mat’s US Diary

Deciding to take a week’s break, I’ve journeyed to Chicago, the Windy City, to visit Dean Milano. Dean was at Revell-Monogram for many years, though like so many of us, he now works for himself.

For some time Dean also ran his own Milano Toy and Model Museum in downtown Elmhurst, a suburb of Chicago. Here was an amazing mix of classic toys and models, with a lot of rare stuff not seen elsewhere. The Museum existed for three years as a physical entity, but as with so many things, rising costs meant its closure, though the Museum still has a virtual existence at Dean’s website here.

Currently Dean spends a lot of his time with his other main interest, music – he was a member of 'The New Seekers' group for some time – and has just completed his second album of self-penned songs. Here’s a nice song you can listen to, Take the Blue Highway. More songs are on Dean’s site.

Mat Irvine

Introducing Mat Irvine: a master of the model world

SMN is delighted to welcome Mat Irvine aboard the site. Mat is well regarded as the ‘Dean of TV Special Effects’ and has written many modelling books, including two that we’ve reviewed here in the last few weeks.

Mat is also known as ‘Keeper of the Dog’, said animal being K-9, Doctor Who’s famed robodog. Mat maintains K-9 in full working order, and demos the little mechanoid regularly, to devoted Who fans. Mat is touring in the USA at present, and will be sending over on-the-spot reports while he’s on the move.

The pic of Mat above btw was featured in a recent convention in London. To see what's happening in July this year, visit the London Film and Comic Con.

Friday, April 24, 2009

BOAC VC-10 from Corgi: Due May 4

The VC-10 was a British jetliner that was good to fly, and quiet for passengers. Despite these plus points, it was not a huge commercial success, partly due to somewhat higher fuel consumption than its main rival, the Boeing 707, and partly due to political strains that were part and parcel of the UK industrial scene in the 1960s.

Corgi’s 1:144 model shows the first VC-10 to enter service with BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) in 1964. Sad to say, the aircraft crashed five years later, after it had been sold to Nigeria Airways.

The pictures show (top) the prototype VC-10 landing at an air show display in the early 1960s, and Corgi’s diecast model, priced at £68.50 GBP ($99.68 USD). You can see the VC-10 and other fine Corgi models here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tasty diorama makes a great display

Nice as a model car may be, there’s nothing like a diorama to set it off nicely. Dioramas are not limited to scale either, except that they do take up quite a bit of room at bigger scales, like 1:18. However, that’s true of the cars as well, hence the popularity of 1:43 as a near-universal size that fits most collector’s shelves.

You can make your own diorama easily enough, and populate it with figures to give a good idea of the real thing’s true size. But there are also companies out there who make ready-made dioramas, as well as the bits and pieces to put in them.

One of these is the US GMP Diecast company, which has a nice range of ready-built dioramas, including the particularly attractive item shown here. GMP also sells figures, such as the sheriff, and nicely detailed racing car tool sets. You can visit GMP here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Models that fly: rockets from Estes

Talking of rockets, if you ever feel like taking scale models into the outside world, then the long-established Estes model rocket company gives you the chance. The company’s many types of rocket range from ultra-simple to deliciously complex. I used to fly them back in tthe 1990s, and had a huge amount of fun, especially with camera-equipped ones.

Recovery tended to be a bit hit-and-miss, depending on wind strength and direction. We had to leave one such rocket drifting into the distance under its recovery parachute, when my younger daughter Emily decided that it was time to be born - very soon indeed - and no hanging about please! So I drove mum and daughter-to-be straight to hospital, with bare minutes to spare!

Some Estes rockets are good scale models in their own right. One of the most interesting of these is the 1:20 scale SpaceShipOne, shown in these pictures. Pre-flight assembly and prep is minimal, and if you you want to turn it into a display item after a few launches, then time spent with the super-detailing tools will really bring the craft to life.

You can find out more about model rocketry at the Estes site.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Revell Apollo model rockets

If a Steve Eves giant rocket is not quite your thing, then Revell has a tasty range of Apollo-era plastic kits to tempt you. Three of them are shown here. You can find them at Revell’s site under the 'Buzz Aldrin Rocket Hero' banner.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Countdown to launch the world’s biggest model rocket

If all goes well, this coming Saturday 25 April will mark the launch of the world’s biggest model rocket, in Maryland, USA, where rocketeer Steve Eves has built a huge 1:10 scale Apollo Saturn V. It stands some 11 m (36 ft) tall, and is powered by no less than nine motors, which should thrust the craft more than 1 km (3-4000 ft) into the air. Then the rocket will separate into various sections, which should float down safely under individual parachutes.

The giant model hasn't come cheap. Builder Steve has taken about 1500 hours on the rocket and spent some $25,000 USD (£17,000 GBP), though various sponsors have also chipped in with time, money, and talent. If the launch at Higgs Farm succeeds, Steve will have earned himself a place in the history books for flying the biggest model rocket ever made. Good luck from all of us at SMN, Steve!

You can find out more at Rocketry Planet.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Airfix 1:24 Mosquito video update

Wow! Progress on the Mighty Mossie gets more and more interesting, as Airfix moves towards an on-sale date with this big, beautiful bird.

This Airfix video, based on the manufacturer's digital data, shows the components self-assembling in animated form, and it's just about the most compelling movie I've seen in a long time.

If this is a realistic taster for the real thing, we aviation model fans will be queuing round the block later this year.

There's no sound on the vid, but don't let that stop your enjoyment.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The IPMS: international brotherhood of the scale model world

Here’s a heads-up for any keen plastic kit builder – you needn’t be alone, for the International Plastic Modellers’ Society (IPMS) is host to your hobby.

The IPMS was established more than half a century ago, in 1963, as the British Plastic Modellers’ Society. In the years since then, the IPMS has grown to become a huge international organization, and there are few countries that don’t have local branches that you can join.

It’s a real ‘band of brothers’ for model makers that stretches around the world. Visit the IPMS USA here and IPMS UK here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Supersize creature atop a retro-tech clock

If the Thunderbirds vehicles maxed up modelmaking to 1:1 scale, then this amazing retro-tech clock in the university town of Cambridge takes things even further. By my calculations, the beautifully-made metal ‘grasshopper’ on the clock is about 25:1 scale! Note that the critter is not strictly a life-like model - it’s actually a fantasy-style ‘Chronophage’ or time-eater.

The circular clock face is gold-plated, and encircled with a whirl of blue LEDs that mark the seconds. At various times, the whole thing, Chronophage and all, does an impressive back-flip before catching up with itself, and time, again.

All in all, the clock is an amazing fusion of concept, tech and skilled craftsmanship – the Chronophage was made by sculptor Matthew Sanderson, and the whole thing conceived by John C. Taylor. if you live within reach of Cambridge just go RIGHT NOW to gawp and be mightily impressed.

The video shows Taylor’s take on his concept, and is well worth watching.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Are you stuffed with chocoholic Easter eggs? Recover fast with these Modelzone Bunny Bargains!

Modelzone is a UK-based outfit that sells through 29 retail stores and also online. They are tasty places to visit, with an Aladdin’s Cave range of goodies on offer, from radio-control and collectibles, to model kits, racing cars and train sets.

Modelzone has some nice bargains presently on offer too, including the Scalextric Audi R10 Le Mans racing car and radio-control Doctor Who Dalek shown here. Both are massive bargains, each priced at £19.99 ($29.46 USD). The Dalek is less than half price!

You can also download Modelzone’s highly-browsable last Gift Guide here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ray guns: Superb Steampunk weapons, ready to off the bug-eyed monsters!

Proof that you don’t need to kitbash to produce a work of wonder comes from US teacher and photographer Cohophoto, who has a tasty photostream on his Flikr site.

For sci-fi lovers, Cohophoto’s “Atomic Disruptor Raygun” is a delight that’s packed with steampunk features for that Victoriana look. The handle comes from an old Super-8 movie camera, with various radio parts used in the rest.

Cohophoto is not alone in his raygun love - in fact, so am I (as with all things science-fictional). There’s a New Zealand outfit called Weta that markets similarly steampunkish visions for collectors. Weta is well known for its cinema effects work on movies such as Lord of the Rings, so it’s no surprise that they can come up with such mouthwatering products for public sale.

They’re not cheap though - the weapon shown is on sale at a (gulp) cool $1399 NZD (£556 GBP).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Corgi Toys: classic Batmobile and Batboat gift set

Taking out licenses for TV and movie characters has long been an important part of the scale model business – and for collectors too, many of whom zero in on this part of the hobby.

Vectis Auctions currently has a good looking Corgi Toys Batmobile and Batboat boxed gift set for sale at £395 GBP ($579 USD), which seems a fair price for such a tasty item, even if the Batboat’s windshield is not quite complete.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Corgi Toys: Hornby takeover on video

This is a fascinating video, made after Hornby’s acquisition of Corgi Toys last year. It’s a wide-ranging look at the company, with lots to see for anyone interested in models. A must-watch!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Retro Americana: join the Sledster super-streamliner queue here

Designer Luis Tanahara has quite a name in the diecast custom-design world, where he has worked for the likes of Hot Wheels and Jada Toys. He’s now struck out on his own, with the Sledster, an amazing take on a 1950s-era heavy hauler truck.

The Sledster is made to 1:64 scale, so matching the popular Hot Wheels vehicles. Even so, the retro truck measures nearly 10 inches (254 mm) long. It may be to Hot Wheels scale, but the Sledster is no toy – it’s a beautifully made limited-edition collector’s item. The low production runs are in various finishes, from two-tone maroon or hot-rod flames, to the upcoming bright red Fire Department truck shown here.

Sledsters come in handsome display cases, and are available from The Custom Crew at $59.99 USD plus shipping.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More Luftwaffe 1946

Woah! Re the previous Revell post, this video shows just about every uber-aviation project dreamt up in the dying days of the Third Reich.

There's even rousing march music as background – well done Green Cacktus, who put the whole thing together.

Model trains: An amazing American layout

This layout is pretty cool for its sheer complexity, and should make almost any rail fan drool. It's based at Bryson City, North Carolina, a place that's better known for being deep in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Big layouts are terrific, but one of the most satisfying layouts I was involved in measured less than an armstretch wide. It represented a sidings, with buildings, intricate detail and appropriate shunting locomotives – small but perfectly formed as they say.

So if you don't have room for a mega-project, do a mini one instead, and you'll still have a ball.

Back to Bryson City, if you visit, make sure you travel on the full-size tourist Great Smoky Mountains Railroad that operates from there.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Luftwaffe 1946: super-advanced aircraft that might have changed the course of World War 2

Secret projects that never went into widespread use, or that stayed as ‘blue sky’ sketches are a continual source of fascination. We’ll be looking at amazing designs from the UK and USA soon, but today it’s ‘Luftwaffe 1946’ that’s the focus.

By 1944, the Allies were achieving near-total air domination over Europe, but the Axis powers were not ready to give up, and dozens of super-science projects were underway. Of course, Hitler kicked his own forces in the rear by insisting that early Messerschmitt Me262s were equipped as light bombers instead of being flown as high-speed interceptor fighters. But other designs being cooked up in secret laboratories could have caused the Allies some real damage, at least to the vast bomber streams that were slowly destroying the Reich’s ability to wage war.

Today, Revell in particular produces a wide range of Luftwaffe 1946 kits, ranging from the Arado 234 shown here, to rocket interceptors and flying wing bombers. These are among my favourite kits, as they look great, and are so different to anything that’s flown before or since.

We'll have a look at more of these kits over the next few days.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hornby: monthly competition

If you're like me, there's nothing like the chance of a freebie to brighten up your morning.

So here's a link to Hornby which runs a simple Q&A monthly prize draw, for a nice bit of railway kit. You'll see the competition button (outlined above), though you do need to sign in.

Bon chance!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Book review: Scale Spacecraft Modelling

This chunky paperback provides you with 208 colour pages, packed with useful information. It's the second Mat Irvine model book I've reviewed recently, and it maintains the fascination factor, this time for space modellers.

Mat provides a comment or a picture on just about everything to do with the subject, from the early days of spaceflight up to the present, and (most interesting for me) space-dreams and science-fiction sections, which cover all sorts of subjects from a Doctor Who Dalek to an Area 51 Roswell UFO.

Highly recommended for handy hints and ideas. Published by Crowood at £16.99 GBP or $29.95 USD, and the Amazon store may well offer a deal price on this.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

They’re back: Egg Planes are here again

It seems to be Hasegawa week at SMN, but sometimes repetition is worth it – or at least it is if you’re a long-time fan of those portly little plastic Egg Planes that used to decorate my shelves.

This time round, we get nine of them in ‘Limited Edition’ form, with one new-tool addition in the form of an F-15 Eagle.

Available for around the £5.60 GBP ($8.10 USD) mark, from various sources including Models For Sale and HobbyLink Japan.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hasegawa Lancaster: Four-engined flying lifeboat

The very first Lancaster kit was produced by Airfix, way back in the late 1950s. Since then, the ‘Lanc’ has been produced in a variety of scales and variations. Tamiya’s 1:48 Dam Buster is one of the biggest and best, while this ASR Mk III from Hasegawa is one of the most interesting.

Designed for air-sea rescue duties after World War II, the ASR Mk III was unusual for its main load, a full-size lifeboat, filling the entire length of the modified bomb bay. When released, the lifeboat parachuted into the sea.

The 190-part kit would make an interesting addition to any collection, though it's a pricey purchase at around £55.99 GBP ($80.46). You can order one from Hannants where they are now in stock.

Avro Lancaster: the video

And here's a short clip of the real thing though not an ASR version, via YouTube.

There's no sound on this Lancaster clip, but it's still good stuff.