Wednesday, May 26, 2010


We’re keen on auctions at SMN, and find that local ones are a good, if unpredictable, source. You can pick up bargains of all sorts at these sorts of places, offering as they often do, house-clearance articles at knockdown prices.

You don’t know what’s there until viewing day of course, but there is often treasure to be unearthed - unbuilt plastic plastic kits, collectible model rail, toy soldiers - you name it, you might find it. Many articles are grouped together in these general auctions, and these can be simply mouthwatering - at the last auction we attended, a box containing ten Airfix kits, a feast of miscellaneous Hornby items and even half a dozen fair-condition Dinky Toys went for just £20.00 GBP ($29.00 USD) - a bargain or what?!

Specialist auctions are a different matter, and here values are carefully monitored, with items more likely to be sold as individual lots. One of the better known of specialist auction houses is the German Breker outfit, and above we show two of Breker’s lots for the upcoming auction on Saturday, May 29. The 555 mm (22 in) long traction engine (top picture) is a far cry from Corgi’s excellent, though rather smaller, 1:50 diecast models. You’ll need a small bag of coal to fuel this live-steam beast, made by Maxwell Hemmens of York, UK.

The racing car shown here is a classic tinplate item, and hugely desirable for lovers of the genre. The SMN Vault contains a bunch of tinplate robots - we’re firmly in the 1960s era with these, though can certainly appreciate the products of earlier times, such as this Gunthermann item from 1905. Even though it is more than a century old, the clockwork motor in the 310 mm (12.25 in) long car is still in working order.

It’ll be interesting to see what these, and other items fetch on Saturday. Breker claims big numbers with earlier sales - for example, the tinplate Tipp & Co speedster of 1936 (above) fetched a wallet-melting $17,200.00 USD (£12,000 GBP).  

Visit Breker to view lots and download pdfs here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Report by Mat Irvine
It’s a brave person who starts a new model company these days - but that’s what not one, but two guys in Long Island, New York, have done, namely Pete Vetri and Rick DelFavero.

Pete and Rick run Megahobby, a mail-order company that supplies a wide range of model materials. But now they have decided to look at relaunching many out-of-production kits, especially those from Lindberg and Aurora, and to create the new company name Atlantis for marketing the kits.

Aurora returns
Rick and Pete have also employed the talents of long-time model maker and kit historian, Andy Yanchus of Brooklyn, NY, who was for many years Project Manager at Aurora. Andy has been helping Rick and Pete out, not only with background information, but also in building box-top models and designing the artwork. To date, Atlantis has issued three kits - two UFOs first issued by the small company Light Force, and the old Lindberg Flying Saucer.

Flying Saucer
Although (relatively) recently reissued by Glencoe Models, the 1:48 scale Lindberg Flying Saucer has a particular niche in the space model market, as it is almost certainly the first ‘all-plastic space kit’, first issued in 1954.

The TR-3E Triangular UFO is a 1:72 scale scale kit, with box art designed by Andy Yanchus.

Visit Megahobby here.

Visit Atlantis Models here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  Mat Irvine’s photo taken recently at Megahobby’s warehouse in Long Island. Shown (left to right) are Rick DelFavero, Pete Vetri and Andy Yanchus.
2-3  The Atlantis release of the original Lindberg UFO/Flying Saucer. Note the main artwork is a reproduction of the original Lindberg from 1954, while the back of the box shows the built-up model by Andy Yanchus.
4  TR-3E Triangular UFO box, with artwork designed by Andy Yanchus.
5  Hopefully, a future Atlantis kit - but more down to earth this time - could feature the old Aurora ‘Black Bear and Cubs’.
UFO pictures courtesy Megahobby and Atlantis Models. 


Monday, May 17, 2010


Report by Mat Irvine
One of the original comic book ‘superheroes’, (though strictly speaking he actually wasn’t), was the fast-shooting detective Dick Tracy. Inventor of the wrist-watch radio, Tracy has been immortalised in model form by two kits from Aurora, (since reproduced by Polar Lights), and by his car from the 1990 movie starring Warren Beattie, by AMT, though this was really no more than a 1936 Ford two-door Coupe. But visit the Volo Auto Museum in the small town of Volo, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Chicago, as I did recently and you can see the much more exciting model of transport for the yellow-coated detective, seen in pictures shown here.

Volo is a treat for anyone interested in cars. It is basically an auction house for collectible cars of all eras, from classic to modern. But over the years it built itself up into a museum par excellence, with not only many of the cars for auction on display pre-sale, but many acquisitions made by the museum.

Many of the acquisitions are ‘Star Cars’ - cars that have featured on TV and in the movies - and although this Dick Tracy car wasn’t in the Beattie movie, it certainly looks the part.

More on the Volo Museum is just one of the ideas that are currently being discussed as an e-zine, examples of which you can see on Volo’s website.

Visit the Volo Museum online here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  The 1:25 scale AMT Dick Tracy car, as featured in the 1990 movie. It is actually a black-painted 1936 Ford two-seater coupe. The kit is nicely done, and builds into a handsome replica of the full-size collectible car.
2-4  The ‘new’ Dick Tracy car I saw recently at the Volo Auto Museum, complete with a life-size figure of Dick Tracy.
5  Volo Museum poster.

SMN note:
That yellow car is a great looking retro design. Sad to say, it’s not available as a kit but would make a great kit-bashing project.
Incidentally, Dick Tracy is one of the longest-running comic strips - it was launched in the pages of the Detroit Mirror newspaper on October 4, 1931, and is still going strong today.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Here’s an interesting freebie for model truck fans who can make a trip to the Netherlands next week. It’s the fifth Tekno Event, to be held at the Dutch diecast manufacturer’s HQ in De Lier, on Saturday, May 22.

Tekno Truck Museum
On the day, can have a chat to Tekno officials, browse through the wide-ranging Tekno Museum and best of all, get a closeup eyeball at the 100 or so full-size trucks that will be parked up for inspection. Most of these trucks on display will have been featured by Tekno as available models or ones slated for production.

Limited Edition Tekno Truck
There will also be demos showing how Tekno’s models are planned and made, plus a fascinating video showing the production process in action. A Limited-Edition Event Special 1:50 scale Scania R620 truck will be available to purchase at 100 Euro ($125 USD) and these trucks will be available on the day only. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

 The Event is open from 10.00-17.00 and parking is free. There’s lots more information at Tekno here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  The Limited Edition truck for sale on the day.
2  Neat Volvo 1:50 scale tractor.
3  Tekno also supplies many of its trucks in kit form, with a mix of metal and plastic components.
4  Excellent detail and subtle weathering on one of the latest trucks.
5  Retro-era trucks like this Scania are also made by Tekno.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Report by David Jefferis

Star Wars was only the second sci-fi movie I saw in which the special effects (SFX) were thoroughly believable - no jerkiness to the action, no visible wires holding up the spacecraft, no rubbish alien makeup to chortle at. And the actors romped along in their roles, and could truly act! Since then of course, there has been a never-ending cascade of collectibles for fans to drool over or purchase, and the franchise is still going strong, with new TV series for a younger audience.

Star Wars Y-Wing tactical strike starfighter
New stuff aside, one of our all-time faves here at SMN is the handsome Rebel Alliance Y-Wing, designed by Colin Cantwell of the SFX company Industrial Light & Magic, and first introduced in 1977’s Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The design was fresh then, and remains so today. There are various kits and collectibles available, ranging from pocket-sized up to a substantial 1:48 scale. But the one shown here sits nicely in the middle of the size range, and is the Revell Easykit version. No scale is mentioned on the box, but taking the length of the full-size (though fictional) spacecraft as being 16m (52.5 ft), then Revell’s neat little model scales out to approximately 1:76 scale.

British 00 gauge spacecraft
Now 1:76 is a slightly odd size, common only to the world of British 00 gauge model trains, itself a weirdness on a planet in which every other country has H0 or 1:87 as its most popular model rail scale. However that’s another story, and if the Brits like being out of step with everyone else, so be it. The good thing is that - allowing for a bit of artistic license - the Revell Y-Wing sits pretty well with another standard, the more logical (albeit non-Metric) 1:72 international model aircraft scale.

Easykit fit and finish
Is this Easykit kit any good? Well, yes actually - in fact, it’s one of the best of its kind, with no major fit problems to slow construction. The rear-mounted ion engine vane supports were a little warped straight from the box, but responded reasonably well to some tender loving care. The only real downer is the pre-painted finish - maybe it’s just this reviewer, but pale-gold fuel lines outlined against off-white body panels somehow manage to look a bit feeble. This Y-Wing aches for a repaint, with extra detailing and weathering to give it the battle-weary look of a well-worn fighting machine.

Incidentally, the photos above are missing one small item, the R2 maintenance droid that should slot into the upper surface. Mea culpa folks - the tiny R2 fell into a dark corner of the SMN Construction Shack, never to be seen again.

The verdict on the Revell Y-Wing? For sci-fi fans, it’s well worth a look, especially as it can sit reasonably well with standard model scales. Note though that Revell supply no undercarriage legs - if you want your Y-Wing sitting on the ground, you will have to scratch-build a set.
ps. In case you’re wondering, my very first Believable Movie was the classic 2001 A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick.

There’s lots more information on Star Wars here.

There are Y-Wings of various kinds including later designs here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Here’s a bizarre little miniature cannon that actually fires solid rounds the size of a ball-bearing. That doesn’t sound a deadly danger, but watch the video to see what the little thing can actually do - Coke can, beer mug, balloon, they all die in the face of its firepower. And note the recoil too - that's quite a kick from a few grains of powder.

One-off homebuilt weapon
Now this is not a kit that you can can buy from your local model store - the thimble-size cannon is a one-off. In fact, in many countries you might need a weapons certificate to own one, which is probably just as well, though it certainly takes this writer back to those misspent early teen years spent creating small-scale mayhem with flame, fireworks, old Airfix kits and water!

Death to computers?
The video makes good viewing, though the cameraman was a bit brave (or foolish) doing the demo quite so near his computer - you wouldn’t find the SMN crew endangering a MacBook Pro the same way!

Meantime, for firepower lovers, there are some interesting (non-lethal) howitzer kits to investigate below.

Monday, May 3, 2010


SMN reports
More gorgeousness from our friends at Fantastic Plastic this month, with yet another weird and wonderful ‘never-flew’ project from the Cold War era. This blast from the past is a 1:144 scale kit of the Convair XAB-1, originally released by Hawk Models in 1959, to the fit-the-box scale of 1:180.

Rare original kit from Hawk models
In keeping with the heroic concepts of the 1950s, the XAB was a biggie, and FP’s 30-component resin kit scales out to a length of some 432 mm (17 in) with a wingspan of 305 mm (12 in) when built. As you can see from the pictures, it looks great when assembled.

Cold War project
A word about the XAB project itself: in the 1950s, US designers explored many ways to gain air superiority over the rival USSR. As planned, the XAB incorporated nuclear power, with engines that could theoretically provide near-infinite range, and flight-times limited only by human endurance on the part of the flight crew. The two parasite jets could be released when necessary to fight off enemy aircraft, allowing the XAB to fly on unmolested to its target.

There’s lots more information at Fantastic Plastic here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Sometimes things just don't go right. A while ago, I was hard at it on my Apple MacBook Pro, lost in music from my iTunes collection while also sipping away at a tasty glass of fine dessert wine... suddenly an interruption, and - WOARH! - the entire contents spilled onto and into the keyboard. A ghastly moment, and one that amazingly did not result in death for the trusty computer, though it had to be dried gently next to a radiator for a week!

And this time round, 'the moment' came during a rare evening free for modelmaking - wrecked by a leaking bottle of liquid poly, compounded by components spilling over the floor. So it was a neat moment when I changed hats and did some garage clearing, only to discover this Caldwell cartoon in a 1980s issue of 'Omni', a fine magazine that predated 'Wired' for must-readability for technogeeks like me.

Coincidence or not, it brought a smile into the model zone mayhem!