Wednesday, April 28, 2010


David Jefferis reports
Corgi was among the first to kick off the wave of accurate diecast aircraft collectibles with its Aviation Archive products. They are still among the most popular of their kind, and the readers of the UK specialist magazine Model Collector recently voted Corgi’s 1:72 scale Avro Lancaster as Best Aircraft Model of the Year.

Model Collector magazine
The magazine is one of the UK’s two magazines that focus on diecast models, and its pages are always worth a read as they are packed with reviews and in-depth articles. Some 9000 readers got the chance to vote for Model of the Year, so their accolade must make Corgi proud of that Lancaster.

Earthquake bomb
The model is a B1 Lancaster, specially modified to carry a single 10-tonne (22,000 lb) ‘Grand Slam’ bomb under its belly. The Grand Slam was designed by ‘Dam Busters’ bouncing-bomb designer Barnes Wallis and was dropped from a height of about 6 km (20,000 ft). Falling vertically, Grand Slam hit the surface at more than 1100 km/h (700 mph), enabling it to penetrate deep underground, where it exploded to create an instant cavern called a camouflet, into which anything above or nearby collapsed immediately.

The Corgi Lancaster model
Corgi’s Royal Air Force Lancaster represents the 617 Squadron machine used to attack the concrete fortifications of the Valentin U-boat pens at the port of Farge, Germany, in March 1945 - the pic above shows some of the damage caused by the raid. The Corgi Lancaster has the nose and dorsal gun turrets removed, and the bomb is correctly semi-recessed underneath. Day camouflage is neatly applied, and crew figures are visible under the flight deck glazing. For the diecast fan, a fine addition to a World War II themed collection.
Visit Corgi here.

Visit Model Collector magazine here.

Lancaster books, kits, ready-builts and other stuff are also available here and here.

Monday, April 26, 2010


David Jefferis reports
To the average tourist, the half-timbered town of Stratford-upon-Avon is famed for just one thing - it’s the home of the Immortal Bard, William  Shakespeare.

But for the model and toy fan, Stratford is a magnet for another reason - it’s the base for the splendid model emporium Much Ado About Toys (MAAT). Housed opposite a delightfully beflowered traffic island, MAAT is a treasure trove of miniature delights that range from plastic kits to tinplate collectibles.

So far as tinplate is concerned, Schylling’s products are well represented here. They are modern takes on nostalgic and retro themes, and very affordable too - for example, the palm-sized ‘King Jet’ is a bargain £8.99 GBP ($13.80 USD), and comes in several marking alternatives, including a splendid ‘Pulse Car’ which is just the sort of thing I’d like parked in my garage!

Somewhat pricier are the CIC diecasts from France. However, their attractive retro lines make them a fascinating addition to a collection, with offerings that range from Renault Camionettes, to a one-off Watermans Ink mobile promotion vehicle that was used in the 1950s.

There’s a wealth of plastic kittery in MAAT too - the Revell 1:48 SH-60B Seahawk had cover art that caught my eye, and it assembles into a nice model too. Most of the bigger kit-makers are on the shelves, though don’t expect to find much in the way of rare imports or garage-manufacturer items, or my own special-interest, sci-fi and fantasy collectibles, especially those from Japan.

Still, no one store can stock the lot, and Much Ado About Toys is well worth a visit if you’re in Stratford, as there’s plenty on the shelves to whet your appetit. And if Stratford’s not on your go-to list this year, then you can visit MAAT’s website here.

Revell kits are also available here and Schylling tinplate items here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  MAAT’s street front, beyond the municipal flower display.
2  Tinplate from Schylling.
3  Store display, topped by a beautiful 1930s-era speed racer plane.
4  CIC Renault Camionette diecasts.
5  Revell 1:48 scale SH-60B helicopter kit.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Mat Irvine reports
Anyone who remembers the eighties, (1980s, that is) will likely recall the Bigtrak, one of the first toys to incorporate computer commands. On the face of it, these were extremely simple: “Go forward x inches; stop; turn 90 degrees right; go forward y inches…”. All of which seems rather basic these days, but Bigtrak was a state-of-the-art product then, and with nostalgia not being what it was, it is returning to the stores very soon. Actually, it is slightly different - 2010’s Bigtrak Junior is a scaled-down version of the original.

BtJr’s return is masterminded by Dubrek Ltd, a company that is also behind the return of the electronic Stylophone musical keyboard, as beloved by Rolf Harris and David Bowie (it produced the ‘space sounds’ on Bowie’s huge hit of 1969 Space Oddity). The connection with the Stylophone is because one of the faces behind Dubrek is Ben Jarvis - and Ben’s Dad, Brian, invented the Stylophone way back in the 1970s. Now, with the Stylophone on sale once more, Ben and colleagues, including Tim Crook, have turned their attention to Bigtrak, acquiring the rights to reproduce the design, albeit in ‘Mini-Me’ form.

Bigtrak Jr will incorporate many of the updates in electronics that three decades-plus has bought, and will be available with a host of accessories. Bigtrak (Senior?) could boast only one, a trailer, but BtJr will have firing rockets and even a webcam amongst its accessories.

Bigtrak Jr is due for release around mid-2010; meanwhile you can see some details here.

The Stylophone is here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  ‘Bigtrak is Back’ – at the London Toy Fair, January 2010. Without any ‘scale’ it’s difficult to tell BtJr from the original, which is about three times larger.
2  Two of the faces behind Dubrek: Ben Jarvis (left), who also holds one of the UK model rocket launch records, and Tim Crook.
3  Accessories for BtJr will include a rocket launcher (right) and a webcam (middle).

Here are some radio-controlled items - not strictly in Bigtrak territory, but interesting even so.

Hot Wheels Ford F-150 Radio Control Truck Blue

RC US M1A2 Abrams Tank Remote Control Tank 1:24

Syma 3 Channel Alloy Shark Outdoor Remote Control Helicopter

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


David Jefferis reports
It’s an old argument between model fans - should you buy ready-built models, and collect your kicks from the collecting habit? Or should you make your miniatures, and get your groove from the craftsmanship involved?

As ever, there are two sides to every story - and in this case, more than that. For example, it’s possible to buy a ready-built model and improve it with weathering or extra detail. Or buy a snap-kit to cut down assembly time, a good half-way house for those us us who don’t have time for a full-on model making hobby.

Balsa v Plastic
And even if you reckon the ‘true way’ is assembly with loving care, things are not clear-cut - after all, balsa-and-tissue craftsmen once dismissed plastic kits for making things too easy!

But where the line has really blurred is with the results of competition between diecast makers in providing ever-higher levels of detail. And nowhere is this more apparent than in models of older subjects, especially aircraft of the pre-World War II era.

Hobby Master P-26A Peashooter
Just have a look at Hobby Master’s beautiful 1:48 scale Boeing P-26A monoplane of 1932, shown above in model form and the full-size replica on display at the US Air Force Museum, Ohio. This is one my all-time fave aircraft, and was the world’s first all-metal production fighter, sporting such advanced features as enclosed wheels for streamlining and extra speed.

Rigging wires
Even so, the ‘Peashooter’ was something of an in-between design, with an open cockpit and tensioning wires, both standard fittings on this class of aircraft up to that point - and that’s where Hobby Master (and other manufacturers, such as Corgi) hit a home-run in the detail stakes. For these rigging wires are so beautifully fitted that even old-stager model makers like me cannot compete.

So even if we’re only talking rigging wires, in this case very few model makers are even in the same ballpark - and I take my hat off to those of that are!
The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  Three views of Hobby Master's 1:48 Boeing P-26A.
2  Full size replica P-26A at the USAF MUseum.

UK online store JohnJohn has some P-26 Peashooters to look at here.

Visit the USAF Museum here.

And here are some more Peashooters in various scales.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


SMN reports
Here’s a look at the A9 piloted missile we brought back from the La Coupole rocket base in northern France. The A9 was one of many ‘Luftwaffe 1946’ secret projects that never saw military action before World War II ended, in this case luckily for the Allied towns and cities that could have been in the target zones.
Vengeance weapon
Developed from Wernher von Braun’s V-2 ‘Vengeance’ weapon (technical name A4) the A9 was the winged upper stage of a two-stage rocket, the A10 first-stage boosting it to high speed and altitude. Blueprints of the time showed that the wings would have given the A9 range enough to hit targets as far away as Scotland, more than doubling the standard V-2’s reach of some 320 km (200 miles). It wasn’t good news for the pilot however, who was expected to bale out and parachute to safety moments before impact - a fairly unlikely scenario.

Later A9/A10 designs had bigger wings, and were planned for attacks on US targets such as New York and Washington. You can see how this might have worked in the video, and also the pages from ‘Popular Science’ magazine, shown above.

Special Hobby A9 kit
Back to the Special Hobby kit, which comes neatly boxed, with art that should be useful as a painting guide. The 52 parts are presented on three runners, with a vacuum-formed cockpit canopy, which needs trimming out before cementing in place. There is an attempt at cockpit detail - seat, stick, floor, bulkheads - but no pilot figure is supplied. The long, vane-like wings are supplied separately, though there are no fitting stubs, so assembly will have to be careful.

The A9 itself has just 19 components - the other 33 are for the stand, which is something of a fiddly job, recommended for the patient model maker, equipped with fine tweezers. The smaller parts need some cleaning up before assembly, but there’s nothing major to worry about.

An interesting kit, though it’s hardly a new release, and can be quite difficult to obtain - you’ll probably have to search around for one, but for Luftwaffe 1946 fans, it’ll be worth the hunt.
Visit La Coupole here.

There are further A9/A10 project details here.

For a look at a nicely assembled A9, visit our friends at Fantastic Plastic here.

Friday, April 9, 2010


SMN reports
The Czech company New Ware is one of the smaller model outfits, but the products are second to none and regularly win plaudits and awards. The items pictured here show just a sampling of the space kits in which New Ware specializes.

Astronauts in action
The 1:24 scale Apollo 17 figures are particularly neat, though maybe the weathering of these demo models is a tad overenthusiastic - the model is tagged by New Ware as: ‘The Last Men on the Moon’ but maybe it could also be: ‘The Dirtiest Mean on the Moon’. No matter though, as the level of weathering is entirely up to you, the modelmaker.

Early cruise missile
The latest New Ware kit is the 1:144 scale Navaho supersonic cruise missile, a US project that ran from 1946 until mid-1957, when it was cancelled in favour of ICBM rockets. The two-stage vertical launch system consisted of a rocket booster, toting a winged airframe for the cruise phase. An interesting choice from New Ware, the Navaho has just 24 parts plus decals, the cruise missile having a wingspan of some 60 mm (2.4 in).

The Navaho is available direct from New Ware, whose online Gallery shows more assembled kits, and is certainly well worth a look for its interesting and unusual subject matter. In the real world, only one Navaho survives (pictured above), and we are told that it’s on display at the south entrance of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, in Florida.

Visit New Ware here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


SMN reports
For lovers of b-i-g model aircraft, and cargolifters in particular, then Hong Kong-based Anigrand has the answer, in the form of its newly-reissued 1:72 scale Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.

The C-17 is often nicknamed ‘Moose’ for its tall winglets, but it’s a lot faster than the animal that’s for sure - a fully loaded C-17 can leave the ground in just 1064 m (3500 ft) and cruise at some 833 km/h (518 mph), all the while carrying a 70-tonne US Army M-1 Abrams tank. If you’ve ever seen a C-17 at an air display, it’s likely you will have seen the short-landing capability, and its showpiece, reversing and manoeuvring on the ground by using thrust reverse from the four underwing engines.

Anigrand’s model is certainly a shelf-filler, with a wingspan of 722 mm (30.4 in). Its length is little shorter, at 736 mm (29 in). It’s a mixed-material kit, with 99 components. Most of these are in resin, with 14 metal and a clear-cast glazed flight-deck window section.

SMN would like to see a big-scale injection kit of the C-17 from another manufacturer though - such a cargolifter begs for masses of internal detail, an operating loading ramp, crew figures and flight deck, plus a full load of  troops and AFVs - well, here’s hoping!
Visit Anigrand here to order direct.

The smaller and more manageable 1:144 scale Revell C-17 kit is a decent kit that is also worth considering. Despite its smaller size, there is loads of detail, including a particularly neat airstair on the nose portside.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Scots-born Rory McLeish spent much of his childhood sketching, painting, building plastic model kits and sculpting dinosaurs out of Plasticine. But these days, he uses different model skills, using computer software to create amazing worlds of fantasy. 

Thunderbirds are Go
Rory’s early influences included the likes of Gerry Anderson (of Thunderbirds fame) and this led eventually to his present role in conceptual work for commercials and feature films. All of which brings things round full-circle, because although computers are used for the CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) content of so many movies, the plastic kit manufacturers now bring many of those creations to ‘reality’ by making kits of them - which is terrific news for science fiction fans.

Star Trek Nemesis
Among the many McLeish screen commissions was to work on the Scimitar spacecraft used in the movie Star Trek Nemesis, which you can see in the YouTube clip shown above. And of course, Star Trek modelmakers are served pretty well by the kit industry, as you can see from the selection shown via the links below. Which one of these is SMN’s selection for afficionados? Hmmm, it’s hard to say - we want ’em all!

Meantime, if you don’t want to buy ‘yet another’ Star Trek or Star Wars kit or collectible, then Rory’s concepts open the door to some serious kitbashing possibilities. As you can see from the samples shown above, there’s a galaxy-full of possibilities for those of us (including this writer) who love make real models from fantastic dreams.

Visit Rory McLeish here.

Browse among some Star Trek kits here and here.