Sunday, February 28, 2010


Mat Irvine reports
Things changed for the rather staid Oldsmobile auto brand around the mid-1960s, when the ‘442’ package was introduced. Standing for four-speed, four-barrel carburetter, twin exhaust pipes, the 442 bootstrapped Oldsmobile up with Pontiac and other performance names as a car in which you’d be proud to cruise the streets, a V8 engine lazily burbling and bellowing under the long, long hood.

Street cred was improved even more when performance supplier Hurst came up with hairy Olds packages aimed at the drag strip, matching them with street versions, complete with special exterior colour panels.

Now Revell US has released a new-tooling 1:25 scale kit of the 1972 Olds Cutlass 442 in its 2 ’n 1 range, shown in the top three pix above. Revell has supplied the kit in what is becoming the modern style, with one-piece bodywork, full engine detail, chassis with plenty of detail, and various optional parts. The interior is a neatly produced multi-piece assembly with separate side panels, seats and floor - a component breakdown that certainly makes painting easier!

The 2 ’n 1 kit’s versions provide a ‘standard’ 1972 Olds Cutlass 442, or the more interesting Hurst option. In real life, both cars were pretty fast, though the white bodywork and gold panels of the Hurst are more distinctive, and this is the version featured in my model build here. The kit also has parts that allow you to assemble automatic or stick-shift versions, plus alternative transmissions and interior central consoles.

All in all, this is a decent kit of a 1970s street machine. Unfortunately, so far as Oldsmobile itself is concerned, the brand was dropped by General Motors in 2004. The last Olds car, an Alero four-door sedan, rolled off the line on April 29 that year. However, Oldsmobile was one of the longest-serving car marques - when production stopped, it was 107 years Old.

And joining the Revell Cutlass kit in the same scale is the latest in the 2 ’n 1 line, a neat 150-part ’57 Chevrolet Bel Air (bottom pic) that you can build in either stock or street rod form, complete with flame decals and multiple custom options.

These kits are becoming available from model stores and online suppliers.

Visit Revell here.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Here’s another fictional space subject from our friends at Fantastic Plastic. It’s a kit of the rocket Friede from the 1929 Fritz Lang movie Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon). As Fantastic Plastic puts the story:

“In 1927, in the wake of his stunning success with his sci-fi opus Metropolis, German director Fritz Lang decided his next movie would be a sprawling silent melodrama based on mankind's first trip to the Moon. To make his movie as technically accurate as possible, Lang enlisted the aid of already-famous spaceflight cheerleader Willy Ley who, in turn, corralled Romanian-born rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth into the project. The centerpiece of Lang's new feature... was the spaceship Friede (named after the movie's titular character), based on the Modell E rocket from Oberth's treatise Die Rakete”.

The movie was not a great success, coming out as a silent flick just as the first sound movies were hitting the screens, but the Friede did influence one very important young space enthusiast: Wernher von Braun, who went on to develop the V-2 rocket and later, the Saturn moonflight program.

The kit is produced to Fantastic’s usual high resin standards, to a scale of 1:288. There are just 11 pieces, which must make it one of the simplest kits around, but none the worse for all that. For anyone with an interest in science fiction and early spaceflight, it’s a must-have for the collection. You don’t have to finish it in bare-metal shades either - as you can see above, Popular Mechanics magazine chose a splendidly garish yellow-orange for this fictional big bird.

The kit is coming in March from Fantastic Plastic at $70.00 USD plus shipping.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1 Original movie poster.
2 Three-view plans for the rocket.
3 Parts of the kit, all 11 of them.
4 Magazine jacket shows the rocket at the launch pad. Incidentally, the movie introduced the idea of the countdown to liftoff, a space first.

Visit Fantastic Plastic here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Mat Irvine reports
One thing that has come out of Round 2 taking over the AMT, MPC and Polar Lights names is that a lot of kits that haven’t seen the inside of an injection moulding machine for decades are now being reissued. One AMT series that Round 2 has rediscovered is the way out ‘Show Rod’ car series, first released in the early 1970s.

Show Rods - usually defined as custom cars built purely to do rounds of the car shows - can be mild or wild, and the wilder they are, the more visitors like them. Admittedly many 1:1 scale show rods are really bizarre (many of Ed Roth’s creations, for example) but they are still drivable, even if in some cases ‘only just’! But many of AMT’s Show Rods went beyond this, as they have existed only as 1:25 scale kits, with no real-world equivalent.

One thing they usually have in common is that each 1:25 scale rod revolves round a theme. Two recent reissues that demonstrate this are the Li’l Stogie, a variation on a Wild West theme, and the Royal Rail, or what Henry VIII could have driven to get away from all those wives…!

Li’l Stogie is a covered wagon with a V-8 engine, a pick and shovel, plus a gear shift that wears a Stetson hat! And yes, you also get the Injun arrows.

The Royal Rail is even wilder (some may say even ‘stranger’) and is perhaps best summed up by the box caption: “Our ‘crowning achievement’ in far-out showrods! Majestic ‘Henry V-8’ Mill propels rolling throne, ground-gripping ‘gumballs’ provide traction, way-out extended ‘chopper’ forks guide high-and-mighty king thing down the royal rod road…” The kit includes a mass of decals to personalise your own member of royalty, and a small reproduction of the kit box, which you can cut out from the flat card.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1 AMT 1:25 scale Royal Rail. The box has a sticker that indicates it is the special issue from the October 2009 iHobby Expo, Chicago. This version was moulded in luminous plastic, so if you don’t paint it, the rod will glow in the dark! Normal (if you can use the word for such a creation) issues will be in standard opaque plastic.
2 Both boxes for the AMT Li’l Stogie. The original 1970s issue is on top, present reissue supporting it.
3, 4 You get decal ‘patches’ for Li’l Stogie’s canvas top, and a set of arrows.
5 Opposite box sides show some of the ‘Stogie Stuff’.

Visit Round 2 here.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Tamiya’s version of the Italeri Reggiane 1:48 scale Re 2002 Ariete (Italian for ‘battering ram’) is a neat addition to the Japanese company’s World War II collection. Tamiya has incorporated a neat diorama mini-display, in the form of a group of fuel drums and jerry cans, plus other small items. There’s also an extremely good seated figure, so the cockpit now has a realistic occupant, ready for action.

Tamiya has included Italeri’s neat 48-page reference manual, which is a good one: a decent read in its own right, and full of useful information on this comparatively undocumented aircraft. The four-gun Re 2002 had a fairly short combat history with Italian forces, as the aircraft - a development of the earlier Re 2000 Falco fighter - only started to see action in March 1942. It was used against the Allies for about 18 months, until the Italian Armistice was signed in September 1943. The German Luftwaffe rated the Italian machine however, and pressed 60 or so Re 2002s into service. Tamiya has provided several sets of decals, including markings for a Luftwaffe machine, as well as for Italian-flown aircraft.

All in all, a useful addition to the ranks of 1:48 scale kits, and one that complements rather than replaces the Italeri version. It’s interesting to see linkups between manufacturers across the globe, and ones where basic kits are improved and added to, rather than being simple reboxed clones. As a diorama fan club, the SMN crew really likes a simple but attractive item like the fuel drum set. Next up, let’s have a group of Italian aviators enjoying a pre-flight bowl of pasta.

The Tamiya Re 2002 is 170 mm (6.7 in) long, with a wingspan of 229 mm (9 in). Flaps can be assembled up or down, and the canopy can be displayed open or closed. Six sets of decals are included.

The Tamiya Re 2002 will be available shortly. Meantime, the Italeri version is available already here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


This promo video from Hong Kong-based Hot Toys shows off the latest in the Iron Man saga - a Mark III figure, equipped with a variety of weapons for attack and defence. There's no audio on the video btw, so don't bother cranking up your speakers for a dynamic soundtrack...

‘Hot’ or not, the Mark III is certainly more of a model than a toy, and has detailed features that include an expandable wrist gauntlet, shoulder-mounted micro-munitions pod, and a countermeasures system that pops out of the hip zone.

Iron Man Mark II has a host of other goodies that the video doesn’t show, such as moveable flaps and airbrakes, a forearm rocket, interchangeable chest plates and hands that are fitted with illuminated repulsor-beams. The Mark III even has different heads, one of which looks (somewhat) like Tony Stark, as played by Robert Downey Jr. There’s also a standard helmet with a pair of glowing eyes.

The 305 mm (12 in) tall Iron Man Mark III figure is released this month by Hot Toys. Like many collectibles like this, you can display it as manufactured for a terrific-looking shelf-top item, or - and SMN’s up for this - spray some subtle weathering and shade effects to bring out the detail and reduce the factory-fresh shininess a little.

Oh, how we’d like a suit like this - a pity it exists only in the realms of fantasy and Hollywood!

Thanks to Topless Robot for the heads-up on this one. Visit TR here.

There’s a feast of Iron Man stuff for superhero fans to drool over here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tinplate rail auction

Talking of model rail, here's an auction for a gorgeous item of retro railiana that's going on right now. It's with Tennants the live auction site, and this Hornby set consists of a O-Gauge Electric E220 loco, the Bramham Moor Special Pullman LNER train Set TS2415. The 20 volt set contains the 4-4-0 locomotive and tender in green and black, two brown and cream Pullman coaches Verona and Loraine, plus track and accessories in a sturdy blue card box.

Also included are extra boxed rolling stock and accessories, including a breakdown van and crane, a meat van, plus a trio of wagons - side tipping, gas cylinder and fibre.

There's more in three extra boxes, including a signal cabin, level crossing, footbridge, junction signal and various lengths of track - there's even a platelayers' hut to add a bit of interest to the trackside.

The whole thing's just terrific for any classic rail lover, and with a guide price of £700-10o0 GBP ($1100-1600 USD), in SMN's opinion it's worth every penny.

Visit Tennants here.

Monday, February 15, 2010


The SMN crew chanced on a collector fair a couple of days ago, at Kidlington, near Oxford, UK. There was a strong emphasis on model trains, mostly the 00 gauge preferred by UK enthusiasts (how we wish the UK was in line with the rest of the H0 world!) but there was plenty of variety there - diecasts old and new, and even a sprinkling of one of our personal faves, collectible robots and spacecraft from TV science fiction series.

But star of the show just had to be the splendid O gauge three-rail electric layout. Of course, items like this are hardly ‘true scale’ - they are (or were) a half-way point between a non-scale ‘toy’ and a true-scale ‘model’, and once you get over being upset that creations like these are not in the same accuracy league as a modern 1:43 diecast vehicle or a 1:48 aircraft kit, then you can enjoy them for what they are - immensely pleasurable objects, which also have the benefit of action, controllability, and the roar of metal wheels on metal rails.

Much the same goes for the trackside accessories - here for example, the buildings were mostly re-used decorative biscuit boxes, and very fine they looked too. The station is an original piece of tinplate railwayana though, and looks terrific, as does the tin platform, here sleek and shiny, unlike the real thing. The miniature scenes beloved of rail fans were present too - here a busy caravan rally, there a sheepdog trial.

All in all, the layout was a real blast from the past, and one that could encourage any nostalgia buff to invest in the past - with an eye on the future, in the form of steadily increasing values.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Here we have scenes from a 1:24 model zone called Elgin Park by its creator, US model maker Michael Paul Smith. He’s built a miniature town to precision standards, and best of all, has the photographic skills to create believable super-real pictures that would have all but an expert fooled.

The diner interior is one of SMN’s faves, as it’s made from just about every item from a box of bits like the one that most of us keep. He’s even used part of an earring as a delivery tube for the hot water urn. The night shot has a dusting of snow and Michael’s prowess with the camera is evident from the careful lighting and depth of field - we’re also assured that these are all ‘real’ shots, where Photoshop has not been used to slot backgrounds into place - which makes the whole thing more remarkable.

There are more pictures at Michael’s Flickr Photostream, where you can also spot Mr and Mrs Robby Robot, and their son, Robby Jr - just great!

Visit Michael’s Photostream here.

If you’re inspired, we present a range of 1:24 scale vehicles here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


The US Sherman tank we showed in the last post is no longer available from Mark 1 Tanks... but this 1:6 scale King Tiger certainly is.

The K-T's hull measures 1.2 m (48 in) long, and with the gun trained forward you can add a further half-metre (20 in) to that. The monster RC machine tips the scales at a hernia-inducing 90kg (199 lb) but, just like the real thing, the wide tracks spread the weight, so it can cruise over soft ground with ease.

Visit Mark 1 Tanks here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Most entries in SMN are of bookshelf-size models, ranging from 1:35 or so (model AFVs) down into the 1:700 range (model ships), but sometimes a different ‘something’ comes along that makes us step back in awe - and today that’s the world of BIIIGGG scale model tanks, represented in the pictures here, shown courtesy Mark 1 Tanks. As you can see, the Mark 1 AFVs are simply humungously huge - certainly big enough to chew up the garden with tread patterns through the flower beds!

1:6 scale tanks are highly suitable for using with existing military figures and equipment, such as those from Hong Kong-based Dragon, while 1:4 scale ones are that much bigger and heavier - the Tiger 1, for example, measures 2.1 m (7 ft) including the gun barrel, and weighs some 200 kg (440 lb).

Options on tanks like this typically include a turret that turns, elevating gun with firing sound and recoil, there’s even a smoke generator to simulate engine exhaust fumes, necessary because the model runs on clean electricity - power comes from a 12 or 24 volt supply, with tank commanders using 6-channel RC for precise control of all functions.

At this scale, the level of detail you can add to a basic kit is near-infinite, and a decent photograph will make a model tank look as utterly convincing as the real thing.

The pictures show just a few of the tanks available from Mark 1 Tanks.

Visit Mark 1 Tanks here.

Visit Dragon Models here.

A range of 1:6 scale Dragon figures and AFV equipment is available here.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Report by Mat Irvine
Yesterday in 1971 astronaut Alan Shepard Jr performed a sports manoeuvre that has since become a staple pub-quiz question, usually along the lines of: “What is the farthest a golf ball has ever travelled?”. For Shepard was commander of the Apollo 14 Moon mission, and, as a golf fanatic, took a golf club and several golf balls on the journey.

In fact, Alan Shepard didn’t use a whole golf club, just the head of a Number 6 iron, which he attached to the end of one of the mission’s soil sampling scoops. Then he plucked the ball from a spacesuit pocket, dropped it on to the lunar surface and hit the ball - albeit in rather ungainly fashion, as the stiffish suit allowed only one arm to be used for the purpose. It was probably not the ‘longest’ drive ever, but was certainly the ‘farthest’ in the sense that the drive was some 385,000 km (239,000 miles) from planet Earth! Besides the publicity exercise, the shot did have some scientific merit in showing ball behaviour in an airless, one-sixth gravity environment.

The scenario was celebrated some years ago in one of UK-based ReHeat Models’ excellent astronaut figure kits, depicting the actual club-hits-ball moment. ReHeat, which was the brainchild of Mike Holloway, did a number of astronaut figure kits all to 120mm scale, (approximately 1:15), and made from resin. Others included Yuri Gagarin in his Vostok ejector seat, both Apollo 11 astronauts, and John Glenn.

Unfortunately ReHeat is no longer making these astronauts, but the kits are well worth looking out for on web-based auction sites.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1 My assembled and painted ReHeat Models astronaut.
2 Parts laid out.
3 Shepard working on the Moon.
4 A video frame-grab of the actual stroke.

Friday, February 5, 2010


If you like diecast aircraft, then you’ve a chance to add an interesting pair to your collection this month with these two from Corgi, a 1:72 scale BAC TSR-2 strike bomber and a 1:48 scale World War I Sopwith Camel.

We gave a brief heads-up on the TSR-2 on May 30 last year, and here it is, nicely finished in Cold War anti-flash white. Sad to say, the real aircraft became a political victim - despite the prototype XR219 flying in September 1964 and promising to be streets ahead of anything else in the sky, the project was scrapped. Yet in a bizarre twist of incompetence, the swing-wing F-111 ordered to replace it was also cancelled a few years later. So the Corgi model is as much a monument to political uselessness as it is to the diecaster’s art. It looks good though, and is quite a hefty beast, measuring nearly 15 in (380 mm) long.

The Sopwith Camel is an old-fashioned delight, and represents the red-striped aircraft flown by Flight Lieutenant Norman McGregor of 10 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in late 1917, a unit that later became 210 Squadron of the fledgeling Royal Air Force (RAF) in April 1918. Corgi’s model shows off one advantage that ready-builts have over kits - the wire bracing is beautifully presented, and done so exactly that it challenges all but the most skilled model maker to beat the level of precision - certainly this reviewer couldn’t begin to match it.

To 1:48 scale the Camel is big enough - the wingspan is 180 mm (7.1 in) - to make a fine desk-top model, and with some careful weathering would look very fine in a mud-and-bullets World War I diorama setting.

Visit The Aviation Archive section of the Corgi online shop here.

You can buy the Corgi TSR-2 at a discount here.

There are several Corgi Sopwith Camels available, including McGregor’s aircraft here.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Be there in person or online at 11 o’clock sharp is the message for the forthcoming DJ Auction on Valentine’s Day, February 14. It’s a tasty-looking sale for anyone interested in French Dinky Toys or H0 scale European model railways.

French Dinky Toys were highly successful, with a production plant being set up by the British parent company as far back as 1929, in the Paris suburb of Bobigny. In the 1950s, the range included models of French vehicles - Citroens, Simcas, Renaults and so on - as well as some US designs that were popular in Europe at the time. Dinky Toy production in France eventually transferred to a Calais plant, but this was closed in 1971.

Today, Dinky Toys of these past decades are highly collectible, which is why this DJ Auction is an interesting one. Star lots include a handsome Citroen 55 Milk Truck, with a guide price of £450-500 GBP ($720-800 USD). It comes with box and milk churn load, 28 crates of a possible 30 total. The Ladder Truck (‘Auto Echelle de Pompiers’) Dinky Supertoy has a set of creamy-white tyres and a working extending ladder. French interest in US cars is displayed by an excellent condition Lincoln Premiere, made when windows were new and exotic diecast items, hence the box text - ‘Avec Glaces’ - with windows.

For aircraft collectors, the four-plane boxed set (‘Coffret Avions’) contains a powerful reminder of French military jets developed in the 1950s, a Mystere IVa fighter and Vautour jet bomber. A Sikorsky helicopter and Viscount turboprop airliner complete the set.

Model trains are also a major draw at the sale, including such classics as the H0 scale Hornby BB electric locomotive with twin power-collection pantographs, guide price £70-90 GBP ($110-145 USD).

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1 Citroen 55 Milk Van.
2 Pompiers Ladder truck.
3 Lincoln Premiere.
4 Four-aircraft boxed set.
5 BB 12.061 electric locomotive.

Visit DJ Auctions here.

More French Dinky Toys are on offer at Gasoline Alley Antiques here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


In the wake of this week’s cancellation of the ‘Back to the Moon’ Constellation Program by US President Obama, kit company Fantastic Plastic’s 1:288 scale model of the 1960s-era Project Orion nuclear spacecraft is particularly interesting. Think of a 4000-tonne spacecraft propelled not by chemical rockets, but by massive pulse waves from a string of nuclear bombs blasting away behind the stern. Yes, it was a serious proposal that could have enabled a trip to Pluto and back in less than a year.

The military also had ideas for the concept, the Project Orion Battleship (POB), which would lurk in lunar orbit and then, if World War III broke out, would have hurled waves of nuclear missiles at Soviet targets. However, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963 put paid to the whole idea of nukes in space, civil or military, but nearly half a century later, Project Orion is still a popular subject for space enthusiasts.

The Fantastic Plastic POB kit ought to satisfy some of that ‘What if?’ curiosity. It's a 95-component multimedia kit, created in CAD by Scott Lowther, and cast by Mana Studios. The completed model measures 305 mm (12 in) long, and has 12 functioning pulse-wave engine pistons, plus a range of interior features that include a trio of five-inch guns, six howitzers and two winged landing craft. Decals are by specialist supplier JBOT.

We reckon that if the Avatar planet Pandora had an Orion battleship attacking the natives, there’d have been no contest! The kit is available from Fantastic Plastic at $150.00 USD plus shipping.

Visit Fantastic Plastic here.

Visit JBOT here.