Wednesday, March 31, 2010


David Jefferis reports
Airfix is busy as a beehive these days, with product after product striding out the doors - the breath of life from new ownership means that times are almost back to the company’s glory days, when schoolboys the length and breadth of the UK could be seen treading the wooden floorboards of FW Woolworth (a chain that’s now history - sigh) on the hunt for the latest Airfix kit-in-a-bag.

1:350 scale carrier video
The latest offering gives both maritime and aerospace model fans a treat, as it’s a 1:350 scale model of the Royal Navy’s HMS Illustrious - 'Lusty' to her crew - and it’s loaded for bear, with a flight deck packed with aircraft, helicopters and neatly-cast detail. Airfix has released a video overview of the carrier, which you can see above. The model is a test shot, so all you get to see is the bare plastic - for a taste of what the final result could look like, just have a look at the box, which is illustrated with a photo, rather than the CGI-based imagery that’s becoming standard across the rest of the Airfix range. 

What’s in the box?
First off, that 1:350 scale means the kit builds into a BIG ship - the Lusty scales out to some 603 mm (23.7 in) long, which is slightly more than two sheets of A4 paper laid end to end. And even the aircraft aren’t too miniscule - the Harriers have a wingspan of around the 21 mm (0.83 in) mark, while the Merlin and Sea King helos are accurate enough: the Merlin’s paddle-shaped rotors look particularly convincing. In all, there are some 276 components, enough for most model fans, especially as painting those aircraft is a several-nights job all by itself.  

Nice one Airfix - of course HMS Illustrious is hardly the biggest carrier afloat, as you can see from the pic showing her next to the USS John C Stennis - but she’s a fine warship nonetheless, and will make an excellent member of a desktop battlefleet. The kit also comes with 15 pots of paint, a pair of brushes, a bottle of polystyrene cement and an eight-page information booklet. The paints aren’t much good for serious modelmakers, but are doubtless useful for beginners, and some extra poly cement always comes in useful.

Pictures courtesy Airfix, US Navy, Royal Navy.

The Airfix HMS Illustrious kit is available from model stores and online suppliers including Amazon here.

There are also other warships available in smaller scales here.

Monday, March 29, 2010


David Jefferis reports
Date: March 29, 1927. Place: Daytona Beach, Florida. Car: the Sunbeam 1000HP Mystery, nicknamed the Slug. Driver: British Land Speed Record (LSR) breaker, Sir Henry Seagrave.

On this day 87 years ago, Seagrave comfortably smashed the 200 mph (320 km/h) barrier in the bright red Slug, running on special tyres designed to hold together at that speed for no more than 3.5 minutes, a pair of linked Sunbeam Matabele engines bellowing as the car flashed along the beach, next to the Atlantic Ocean.

Exciting, and dangerous, stuff, as all LSR attempts are - yet in the model world, it’s a complete mystery to SMN why the mainstream model manufacturers have all but ignored these unique and attractive machines. It’s certainly a shame, as a set of 1:72 or 1:43 LSR kits really ought to sell well. 

But at least the diecast companies haven’t let things slide, and we are particularly impressed by the LSR and other exotica produced by Bizarre Models, a sister company of well-known racing-car maker Spark Models. The Bizarre Sunbeam is to 1:43 scale and would make an excellent addition to an LSR collection. 

The US toy company Schylling have also produced a handsome wind-up tinplate collectible Sunbeam 1000HP. At present it’s not in the online catalog, but there are still some available at stockists.  

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  Sunbeam 1000HP at the National Motor Museum, UK. Picture by David Hunt.
2  A postcard of the time, taken at Daytona Beach.
3  Bizarre 1:43 model.
4  Schylling tinplate collectible.

Touchwood Models stock Bizarre cars in the UK here.

Buy Schylling’s tinplate Sunbeam 1000HP here.

Talking of LSR cars, there's also a tinplate Schylling Blue Bird Race Car available, and very attractive it is too.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


David Jefferis reports
Airfix takes us back to the night of May 16-17, 1943, and the classic raid ‘Operation Chastise’ on German dams in the Ruhre river valley. The aircraft featured is a 1:72 scale Avro Lancaster, containing 125 parts and a wingspan of some 430 mm (16.9 in).

There are plenty of Lancs around from manufacturers that include Revell’s 1:72 version, but Airfix is the granddaddy of them all, with its first kit dating back to the early 1960s. This ‘Chastise’ edition is considerably better than that early kit (and so it should be!) but still features a not-quite-right fuselage cross-section.

Section of dam
Not to worry though, as the kit makes up well and looks great with the included section of dam, which turns the whole assemblage into something of a shelf-filler. There has been some license taken with the actual architecture, but the general effect is impressive.

Upkeep bomb
Also included in the kit is a separate ‘bouncing bomb’, inventor Barnes Wallis’s brainchild device that made the Dambuster raid possible in the first place. Named ‘Upkeep’ the cylindrical bomb was spun up to 500 rpm by an auxiliary motor before being dropped, then it skipped across the water to sink down the face of the dam, where it exploded.

All in all, a useful addition to the annals of World War II era aircraft models, and one that will look mightily impressive when displayed. It will almost certainly take a lot longer to put together than the ‘four flying hours’ suggested by Airfix though, even though brushes, cement and eight Humbrol acrylic paints are included in the box. Perhaps that’s just for a quickie basic-build, because the SMN crew plans to allow a week of evenings to do the kit justice.

Upkeep bomb picture courtesy Martin Richards.

The Mohne Dam pictured above was taken after the raid by Flying Officer Jerry Fray, flying a Spitfire PR IX.

For a video view out of the bomb-aimer's nose bubble, visit The English Eye here.

The Airfix Dambuster kit is available from Airfix directly or model stores and online suppliers, including Amazon here.

The Airfix 1/72 Avro Lancaster B1 (Grand Slam)bomber is also available as a kit.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Komatsu is second only to the US Caterpillar company in the construction machinery stakes, and actually makes the biggest ’dozer in the world, the Model D575A. But the first Komatsu bulldozer was much smaller than the D575A, and it’s this early G40 that is the latest 1:48 military vehicle released by Tamiya.

Komatsu developed the G40 to speed up construction of Japanese airfields - until it became available, most runways were produced purely with manual labour - and some 150 G40s were produced from 1943 until the end of World War II. The Tamiya model is a dinky little thing, just 75 mm (2.9 in) long, but the detail is very neat for all that, with components such as hydraulic lines, front grille, suspension system and, of course the ’dozer blade, all well reproduced.

The tracks are one-piece plastic parts though, and so are non-moving items. However, Tamiya has included a decent driver figure, who holds the controls realistically. An unusual feature at the front is the grille badge, which is included as a metallized-decal, and very handsome it is, too.

As you can see from the picture above, the G40 is suitable for use with typical Japanese military aircraft of the time, here a Mitsubishi Zero fighter. Add a section of runway, some figures, plus a stand of palm trees, and you have the makings of a very attractive diorama setting.

An interesting point is that the name engraved on the front grille is 'Komatu', without the 's'. That's how the real thing is, so Tamiya has it modelled correctly, but SMN can't find out the story behind the spelling - does anyone out there know the answer?

Visit Komatsu’s heavy engineering site here.

The G40 bulldozer is due out soon; meantime you can obtain the 1:48 Tamiya Zero as a kit with crew figures included, which would work particularly well in a diorama setting, here: 1/48 A6M5/5a Zero Fighter, Zeke 

You might also like to look at a set for extra detail here: Mitsubishi A6m Zero Fighter Photo-etched Detail Set 1-48 Tamiya

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Here’s a ‘different’ kit for you to try, a 1:32 scale model of one of aviation’s classics: the Piper PA-18 Super Cub. This is a two-seater bushplane that first flew in 1949, with a short-field performance that enables takeoffs to be achieved in only 70 m (200 ft) or so - and with a strong headwind, even less. It’s actually possible to hover in a Super Cub if the headwind is more than about 56 km/h (35 mph)! Production stopped at Piper in the early 1990s, but various independent manufacturers still make variations on the original design. The three short video clips give you an idea of the simply amazing performance of the little machine, especially when it’s fitted with big, fat, tundra tyres.

The new-tool Revell kit is packed with detail, and comes with three sets of decals, enabling you to model two civil versions (British and German) and a German military machine. At big 1:32 scale, even a small aircraft like the Super Cub has a decent assembled wingspan of 338 mm (13.3 in), and would look terrific in a diorama setting - its sports-recreation credentials make it suitable to be seen next to one of the latest Scalextric racing cars, any of which look terrific when they have been tweaked and weathered appropriately. Or you could go the bushplane route and feature a battered pickup truck instead.

Inside the nose, the four-cylinder Lycoming engine has been modelled quite accurately (though it would benefit from some careful extra detailing) and has wide-opening access panels that allow you to show off what’s going on in there. The instruments and seats look good too, with the full-harness belts neatly sculpted. The Super Cub has a metal structure covered with fabric, and the texture of this is well produced in the model - the fabric looks just right, especially when it’s been spray-painted. The 92-part Revell kit is a neat model of a not-so-usual subject and is available now.

Super Cub pictures courtesy Revell.

Videos courtesy YouTube.

Visit Revell here.

View the 1/32 Piper PA-18 Super Cub

Friday, March 19, 2010


SMN reports
Here’s a look at the bargains aplenty department for classic kit collectors. Amongst other items at Astons auction tomorrow is this lot, a group of seven highly collectible Airfix kits in the old plastic bags, plus four 1:87 scale Roco Minitanks, in their original bubble packs.

The current price estimate is just £20-30 GBP ($30-46 USD) which makes them something of a bargain - even at the high end of that range, the items are still highly affordable. Mind you, they will never get built, but that’s the way of the world with collectible kits, their prime purpose lost in the quest for increasing value and perfect mint-and-boxed condition - or in this case, ‘mint-and-bagged’ perfection.

Among non-kit items for sale at Astons are some Dan Dare memorabilia, including the Rocket and Planet Guns shown above. Dan Dare was the UK’s Number One space hero in the 1950s and 1960s, and his appeal to older collectors remains undimmed by time. Dan’s full-colour adventures graced the front two pages of the popular Eagle boys’ comic for many years, and he was the subject of many marketing deals by companies eager to exploit his popularity in the UK and other countries where the comic and strip were syndicated.

Prices for the guns reflect their comparative rarity, with the Planet Gun’s price expected to reach up to £60 GBP ($92 USD), with the elegant and desirable Rocket Gun likely to sell for three times more.

Pictures courtesy The Saleroom.

Visit those Airfix bargains here.

Visit the Dan Dare Planet Gun here.

Visit the Dan Dare Rocket Gun here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Over on our sister site Starcruzer, there's a glimpse at what has to be the smallest model ever made, less than one billionth the size of the real thing - even if 'real' is a fictional creation.

Two Japanese researchers used high-tech ion-beam equipment to make a nanoscale model that's more than a little smaller than the rather attractive Round 2 Polar Lights item we show above that you can make yourself.

Visit Starcruzer to read more here.

View a range of Star Trek models here, though note that some Star Wars items have sneaked in!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


SMN reports
While we’re on the subject of British aircraft (see Fairey Swordfish, March 14) we note that Anigrand in Hong Kong certainly know how to find rare planes for a collection, indeed the company motto is: ‘Fill the Gaps’.

And a recent Anigrand gap-filler is the 1:144 scale resin Short SA4 Sperrin, a British jet bomber design dating back to the post-World War II era. It was primarily built as a ‘traditional but safe’ backup, in case the more advanced swept-wing Vickers Valiant, also under development, ran into major problems.

In fact, the Valiant proceeded without a big hitch, so the Sperrin was sidetracked after two flying prototypes had been built, these being used for research trials testing British nuclear weapons.

The 88-part Anigrand Sperrin is well-detailed, and comes complete with a transparent cast-plastic window block. However, this fills the whole flightdeck area, so you’ll have some careful masking to do - only the Sperrin’s multiple windows were transparent, and the rest of this component should be in bare metal finish to match the fuselage.

Otherwise, detail is good for a resin kit, and with the usual proviso that working with resin takes more care than injection components, the Sperrin should build into an unusual and attractive display piece. And the kit doesn’t stop with the Sperrin - Anigrand’s policy is to often include smaller ‘mystery’ kits along with the main item. And here we get a trio of jet-age Brits, though there’s no problem in identifying them - a Hawker P1127, Short SB5, and Gloster Javelin, an excellent choice for those interested in the early years of the jet age.

Component layout picture courtesy Anigrand.

To order direct visit Anigrand here.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Mat Irvine reflects
“Welcome to Altair IV gentlemen…” were the words of one of science fiction’s best-known robots, Robby, from the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, which had its first US screening on this day 54 years ago.

Forbidden Planet was a very loose reworking of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and if you feel inclined, you can find a movie parallel to all the play’s characters, not least the spirit Ariel, which takes on a more solid movie form as Robby the Robot.

In the scale model world, Robby is one of the classic kits that the original Aurora model company never made. Aurora had already produced the robot from the TV series 'Lost in Space', so Robby would have made a natural follow-on, especially as ‘he’ came first and the LiS design was influenced by Robby - not surprising, as it was created by Bob Kinoshita, one of Robby’s original designers.

Robby may not have appeared as an original Aurora kit, but this situation was rectified when the Polar Lights kit company came on the scene. One of its kits was a Robby the Robot to the same scale as the Aurora LiS robot, which Polar Lights had already recreated.

But a somewhat misleading aspect of the movie’s publicity was the poster, echoed on the box-art. Although voted ‘Fifth Best-Ever Movie Poster’ in a ‘Premier’ magazine poll, it shows Robby carrying Altaira, the daughter of scientist Dr Edward Morbius, in his arms. She wears a skimpy gold costume, and despite spending much of the movie changing from one costume to another, none of them were this shade of gold, and - also to the point - Robby never carried her like this at all!

However, this didn’t stop the doyen of figure modellers, Jimmy Flintstone, producing a simple resin kit representation of spacegirl Altaira, to the correct size and shape to be carried by the Polar Lights Robby. She is clad in a costume seen briefly, (which is both the scene length and nature of the costume), near the end of the movie. This costume is in pale blue metallic fabrics, not gold, and in a shade more used to being painted onto model cars. So it almost represents the movie poster - but not quite.

Robby has since been reissued by Round 2 Models, a US company that owns a family of brands, including the Polar Lights name. The kit comes without Altaira though - the Jimmy Flintstone figure I used here came from CultTVMan’s on-line shop.

My model shows Robby carrying Altaira on a simple scratchbuilt base I made, to represent the alien planet Altair IV, where the movie's events take place.

And Finally...
Forbidden Planet is one of those movies often quoted as being ‘down for a re-make’. Latest rumours are for a James Cameron project slated for 2011, though one has to wonder, ‘why?’

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1, 2 My builtup model of Robby carrying Altaira, and a closeup.
3 The Forbidden Planet poster.
4 Old Polar Lights box.
5 New version from Round 2 Models.

Visit Robby the robot at Round 2 Models here.

Visit Jimmy Flintstone Studios here.

Altaira is available from CultTVMan here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


SMN reports
Here is the latest Fairey Swordfish from Corgi. The rocket-armed 1:72 model represents the Royal Navy Historic Flight machine that still flies at air shows, some 55 years after the end of World War II.

The Swordfish is a significant aircraft, and in World War II accounted for the sinking of more than 300,000 tonnes of enemy shipping, more than any other single Allied type, so the model is a useful addition to any diecast combat aircraft collection of that era.

Corgi’s model shows the advances made in the world of diecasts in recent years, with excellent camouflage and markings, plus a full crew of three and weapon load. The pre-fitted rigging wires add to the realism, as do the underwing rocket launchers. The only downside is that much of the fuselage panel detailing is still somewhat clunkier than an equivalent plastic kit - but that is simply the nature of the two materials, and if you want ultra-fine detail, plastic is the way to go.

Pictures courtesy Corgi.

Visit the Royal Navy Historic Flight here.

Visit Corgi here.

Or purchase kit versions such as the Tamiya 1/48 Fairey Swordfish Mk.I (Clear Edition)

Friday, March 12, 2010


SMN reports
The ROK (Republic of Korea) kit maker Academy is on something of a roll at the moment - company representatives were delighted to collect 2010 Modell des Jahres (Model of the Year) awards at the recent Nuremberg Toy Fair for their quite superb 1:35 scale Merkava tank and 1:72 scale M977 cargo truck.

And now Academy has a new-release 1:35 kit of the somewhat less-known M50A1 Ontos tank-killer. This was a small tracked vehicle in service from 1959-1965, and used with some success in the Vietnam War, by the US Marine Corps for fire support. Armament was a central machine gun, surrounded by six 106 mm (4.2 in) recoilless rifles, three on each side. Like all weapon systems, the Ontos (from a Greek word meaning ‘thing’) had some weaknesses, not least being the fact that the crew had to reload the rifles from outside, leaving themselves vulnerable to enemy fire. Still, the Ontos was light enough to be airlifted by cargo planes and CH-53 helicopters, making it a highly mobile weapon.

Academy’s kit is loaded with detail - a pair of crew figures are included, plus rounds of ammunition ready for loading. As you might expect, photo-etched parts are supplied, including light guards and engine exhaust protective mesh. Decals are nicely printed and the wide tracks are particularly handsome, with the unique tread pattern captured nicely.

As you can see from the Ontos on display at the National Museum of the Marine Corps (bottom pic), a ‘used’ example looks very different from the ‘factory-fresh’ Academy offering, so there’s plenty of room in this kit for detailing, weathering, damaging, and kit-bashing in general. All in all, an unusual and interesting addition to any 1:35 scale AFV collection.

Pictures courtesy Academy, US Marine Corps.

Visit the USMC Museum here.

The Ontos will be available from model stores and online suppliers shortly. Meantime there’s a range of Academy kits at Amazon that include such tasty items as the 1/35 M1A1 Abrams "Iraq 2003"