Thursday, July 29, 2010


David Jefferis reports
There are some interesting kits coming from the Hasegawa team at the moment, and these three cover a wide enough range to sharpen the appetites of many model makers.

Giant German glider tug
The Heinkel He 111Z (‘Z’ for Zwilling, meaning ‘twin’) was an attempt to provide a decent airborne tug for the huge Messerschmitt Me 321 Gigant military glider. Other solutions for hauling the lumbering Gigant off the ground included using three (yes, three!) Messerschmitt Bf 110 tow planes, each pulling a steel cable while flying in precise vee-formation. Even when the Me 321 was fitted with underwing rocket boosters, takeoff was a chancy business.

The Zwilling was a better solution, achieved by mating two He 111s and adding a fifth engine in the middle. Even so, the Luftwaffe never achieved an effective heavy-lift capacity, though the Zwilling was developed further, to include bomber and recon variants.

Hasegawa’s big ‘Z’
The Zwilling’s 228 components assemble well, and result in a model that’s certainly a shelf-filler, but not as big as could be, since Hasegawa has not (yet) added a Me 321 to the range. What a pity - with a Panzer tank grinding down the loading ramp between the nose doors, this would make a show-stopper display.

Mini airliner from South America
Brazil’s Embraer has come on in leaps and bounds during the last decade, and is now the third major airframe supplier behind Boeing and Airbus. The elegant little E-170 twinjet comes in under the smallest of the big boys’ ranges, so has much of this feederliner market at its feet. It’s a quiet little thing to fly in, and the 50-part 1:144 scale Hasegawa kit is neat and precise. Recommended for all airliner fans in this scale.

Maschinen Krieger Lunadiver fighting craft 
As sci-fi lovers, the SMN crew just luurves anything in the classic Ma.K combat universe, first released in the 1980s, and now coming back to life thanks to Hasegawa. This 1:35 scale model has fine detail, assembly is smooth and fault-free, and the end-result is spectacular - it also makes a nice change from Star Wars and Trek stuff, so what more can a sci-fi buff want? ‘Not a lot’ is our answer, together with a plea of ‘Next please!’.

The Lunadiver itself has 169 finely-crafted components, and measures some 303 mm (11.9 in) when assembled. Icing on the cake comes in the form of the superb combat figures that are also included. Not only do they look good, but give a proper sense of scale to an unfamiliar piece of imaginative tech. Of course, being military-standard 1:35 scale is a bonus, as there’s nothing to stop you from raiding parts from existing AFV kits to add interest and an extra military flavour to the mix. Ace - a must-have for anyone who likes the exotic and extraordinary. 

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1, 2  Heinkel He-111Z, box art and assembled 1:72 scale kit.
3  Embraer E-170 twinjet box art.
4, 5  Ma.K Lunadiver to 1:35 scale, with excellent figures, one for the cokcpit, two in combat gear.

Read about Hasegawa on Wiki here.

You can view a wide range of Hasegawa kits here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Mat Irvine reports
Things often seem to go in cycles... in the 1970s, AMT, a company better known for its automotive and Star Trek models,  issued three kits based on the designs of that true Renaissance Man, the Italian artist and inventor, Leonardo da Vinci. The AMT kits were interesting in their own way, but soon disappeared from the catalogues, and a rumoured three more never materialised.

New Leonardo kits
But now - several decades on - the subject has gone full circle, with not one but three kit companies announcing new kits of Leonardo’s devices. Revell-Germany has announced a series of, appropriately enough, wooden kits for release later this year, while Japan’s Doyusha is issuing a series in plastic. But first to arrive - in the UK at least - are a pair of Italeri kits, reboxed from a set originated by Academy of South Korea.

Working boat
The Paddle Boat, also known as the Self-Propelled Boat, was a Leonardo idea that was an ancestor of the 19th paddle steamers. The kit actually works, with paddles that rotate, powered by a pre-assembled clockwork motor. It’s a ‘snap-kit’ that needs no glue, and components are pre-coloured in a brown ‘wood’ shade.

Perhaps the nicest thing about the kit - and this echoes ‘educational’ kits of old - is that you get a comprehensive full-colour illustrated booklet. It’s printed in English, German, French and Italian, and shows Leonardo sketches, other boat designs he created, and various models built for museum displays.

An early automobile design?
Italeri’s other currently available Leonardo kit is the 'Self Propelling Cart', a da Vinci design that predated the first working automobile by hundreds of years. With two more Leonardos in the works, all in all it’s a highly appropriate series from Italy’s premier model company.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  Box top.
2  Comprehensive booklet.
3  Components of the kit, with the clockwork motor at lower centre.
4  The back of the box is almost as comprehensive as the supplied booklet. It shows the three other models - Self-Propelling Cart, Mechanical Lion, and the Multi-Cannon Gunship, Leonardo’s tank design.

Kit kindly supplied by Italeri’s UK importer Hobbyco. You can visit the site here.

Visit Italeri here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


David Jefferis reports from the show
The SMN crew spent yesterday at the UK’s premier business-orientated aerospace show. The weather was fantastic (which just goes to show how useless the predictions of some iPhone weather apps are...) and it was a real pleasure to watch high-power aerobatics and more genteel flypasts in bright blue skies, with puffy clouds to set them off.

Stealthy delta
Highlights of the day included new aircraft like the Airbus A400M military airlifter, and old-stagers such as the delta-wing Avro Vulcan, currently maintained in flying order by an enthusiast group, and good for them. The Vulcan’s shape gave it stealth-like abilities long before stealth became a design essential for survival in aerial combat...

A380 airliner
For model fans, shows like this are fantastic. Wandering round the real machines parked by the flightline reveals so much detail you just never see in photos. And as for weathering, one look at the A380 demo airliner should give you airbrush modellers perfect guidance for a careful bit of subtly realistic dirtying down.

Models on display
Being an industry trade event, there were fewer enthusiast shops than at many other shows; even so, there were plenty of models on display, both in the trade halls, and for sale in exhibition tents out in the sunshine. Trade models came large and small, and were fascinating for their variety, from rockets to rotorcraft. Models for sale showed just how popular readybuilts have become - it was a near clean-sweep for them, with only a few construction kits on display.

Fine levels of detail
Among our observations were the incredible levels of detail now being incorporated into metal kits. In particular, a Sukhoi Su-27 impressed us with its ultra-fine panel detail, while a Douglas Skyraider had a jewel-like sliding canopy, and a complete range of ordnance slotted neatly into a shiny plastic case - rockets, bombs, tanks, you name it - all ready and waiting to be hung under those straight wings. Just beautiful.

Air Show dates
Enjoy the pictures above, and we’ll hope to post some video clips in a short while. The Farnborough Air Show alternates annually with Paris, so in 2011 we aim to be reporting from the land of vin rouge, escargots, garlic - and home to Airbus Industrie and Heller model kits.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  Chinese rocket models were popular with video crews.
2  JF-17 Thunder combat jet, co-produced by Pakistan and China.
3  Northrop Grumman hybrid air vehicle, looking more like a Dan Dare-era spaceship than a surveillance airship.
4  1:1 scale mockup of the planned 1000 mph (1609 km/h) Bloodhound, being developed to break the Land Speed Record (LSR) in the near future, perhaps as soon as 2011.
5  Temporary model shop for showgoers.
6  Lineup of large-scale display models. These are wood-based, nicely finished, and suitable for desktop display, but lack the intricate detail of plastic kits or metal ready-builts.

Visit the 2010 Farnborough International Airshow here.

The A400M is available as a 1:200 scale model direct from Airbus here.

A variety of Sukhoi aircraft is available here.


Mat Irvine reports
Old friend Andy Yanchus in New York, past Project Manager at Aurora, and a kit historian - with a much wider knowledge than me - points out that the Revell Germany Classic Kits reissue of the Chance Vought Cutlass F7U-3 (see SMN July 3) is not from the actual original. The very first version Revell tooled up was the F7U-1, which had a more pointed nose. In addition, and as was common with these very early kits, it had no cockpit or undercarriage. However it did have a stand, a simple two-piece design moulded in the same colour as the main parts.

Added details
However, Revell soon upgraded the Cutlass, along with the two other fighter kits it manufactured, the Lockheed Starfire and Grumman Cougar. These featured ‘new-fangled’ details, such as a cockpit and undercarriage. At the same time, the Cutlass tooling was changed to the later version, which had the more rounded nose.

Revell swivel stand
At the same time, Revell replaced the original stands with a transparent type with swivel top that would be standard-issue with all its aircraft kits for a good number of years. These clear stands were made in what are generally called ‘family moulds’, as the same parts can be shared by a number of different kits. In addition, by eliminating the original stand, it allowed Revell room in the tool to add the new landing gear parts and detailed pilot figure. The Sparrow missiles didn’t actually arrive until the third release of the kit, but for this release the swivel stand was omitted.

Mixed-up kit
This new-release Classic Kit therefore mixes up the new details and box art from the second kit, plus the missiles, and the fact that it doesn’t have a stand, from the third release. Now add in the brand-new decals, and you have an interesting melange!  

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  The Cutlass now issued in Revell’s ‘Famous Artist Series’, noted by Andy as Chuck Coppock, with a 1961 issue date.
2  Richard Kishady’s artwork was far more dramatic, as were his many other excellent kit-box paintings.
3  Revell’s second issue of the three-fighter set. Complete sets are usually rarest (aka ‘most expensive’), as they almost always get broken up into their component parts.
4  A two-piece stand of the type that would have come with the first Cutlass kit. This one belongs to the F-94C Starfire but, with an appropriate name change, they would have been the same.

Thanks to Andy Yanchus for the information, and for photographs 1, 2, 4.

You can view the Revell Cutlass here. Note that the 1:60 is not quite right - careful calculation puts the actual scale at nearer 1:59.

There’s more on the artists Revell has used here.

Friday, July 16, 2010


David Jefferis reports
Here’s some interesting information for British model fans - the ModelZone chain is adding new outlets to its already extensive number of stores. The new expansion will cover Birmingham, Ipswich, Leicester and Glasgow, with more to come. It’s an encouraging sign that points the way to a good future for the hobby.

Wide range at ModelZone
ModelZone markets a wide array of miniatures, from plastic kits and model trains to sci-fi collectibles and slot-car racers. There isn’t a vast range in any particular genre, but the sheer variety means that there is a tasty ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ flavour to these stores, and it’s almost impossible to leave without purchasing something pleasing. An exploration is highly recommended!

Airfix Fighter Collection
Among products available at the moment is the Airfix 1:72 scale ‘Fighter Collection’ set, featuring five World War II aircraft: four Spitfires of various types, plus a Hawker Hurricane and a big stand. As you can see from the pic, the finished group looks pretty impressive. As is normal with these Airfix gift sets, you also get pots of paint, though how useful these are to serious model makers is another issue - at least they might come in handy for the touch-up collection.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  ModelZone logo.
2  Airfix Fighter Collection box.
3  The five-aircraft set, mounted on a very neat included stand.

Visit the Fighter Collection at ModelZone here:

You can view a selection of other Spitfires here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Mat Irvine reports
From around 1955, one of the mainstays of the US Army’s military might in Europe was the surface-to-surface Corporal ballistic missile, the first such to carry a nuclear warhead. The 139 km (86 mile) range Corporal looked sleek and functional, but in reality was very unreliable and took a large number of personnel to ready it for launch. But the Corporal did prove an ideal subject for the early Revell company’s growing range of space and missile kits, and it now stars as another of Revell-Germany’s Classic Kit range reissues.

Uniquely, Revell issued the kit in two forms, one of which consisted of the missile and launcher, with three crew and a stand-alone tracking station; it’s this kit that Revell-Germany has reissued, using the original box-art as a centrepiece, with the ‘Classic Kits’ medallion added.

These types of kit had to have ‘working parts’, so the launcher’s support arms were designed to be foldable, the transporting road wheels can be unsnapped, and support pads placed. So, position the missile for launching (or glue if you want to avoid the danger of it falling over!), add the unrealistic number of crew (three is something of an underestimate - Corporals needed about 250!), and you have a classic icon of the Cold War.

But as noted, the Corporal was issued in two forms. The other kit came with the still-futuristic looking Transporter-Erector, as well as the missile and launch pad, and this kit has been reissued separately by Revell-Monogram.

This is a pure reissue, as R-M has not put it in the SSP range, (which still exists, though much reduced), with a built model on the box. This is only the third outing for this kit - the original from 1959, the History Makers Series II in 1983, and now this one in 2010. The Transporter-Erector has even more ‘working features’- from the clamps that hold the missile in place, to the gearing that moves it through 90 degrees for placement on the launch pad. The pad itself can be hitched up behind the main vehicle.

As an intriguing aside, both kits are to the original scale intended for military vehicles, 1:40, as used by Revell at that time, and others such as Adams. The only real alternative then was 1:32, which was used by Renwal. The now common 1:35 scale for AFVs had yet to appear - though when it did, it wasn’t from a Japanese manufacture, as I suspect is usually assumed. In fact, it was almost certainly first used by Monogram. However, this now almost universal use of 1:35 led to an incorrect scale being put on the Revell-Germany box, which states 1:35, not 1:40.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  Three Transporter-Erector kits, with the original (and best-looking) box at right.
2  A selection of parts from the reissues, laid out side by side. Note the different shades used for components.
3  Revell-Germany’s Corporal, ready for flight.
4  Revell-Monogram’s Transporter-Erector builds into an impressive piece of hardware.
5  The R-M Transporter-Erector with Corporal awaiting a launch decision.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Mat Irvine reports
Aeronautical designers have a history of fascination with aircraft that are round - in the ‘flying saucer’ sense. There have been dozens of designs over the years, though the vast majority have been impractical, were ‘paper projects’, or would likely never have flown even if a prototype had been built.

Flying Discs
However, flying saucer planes remain fascinating, and specialist model producer Allen Ury, who runs Fantastic Plastic, has slaked his enthusiasm for these bizarre designs with a kit of the US Air Force ‘40 foot Flying Disc’, a design that was supposedly proposed in the 1960s. As Allen says on his website: “In 1967, former US Navy aviator and aviation writer Jack D. Pickett and his business partner Harold Baker visited MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, to gather information for an Air Force-sponsored article on historical experimental aircraft.  At the edge of the base, they were shown four decommissioned X-planes - all of them flying discs - measuring 20, 40, 70 and 116 feet in diameter”.

Skyrocket or Flying Disc?
Whether Pickett and Baker actually saw such discs is open to speculation - certainly no official photos were ever released, and images of many other ‘black designs’ have become unclassified and made public over the years. And the two parked on the tarmac (top picture above) are neat cheats by artist Gino Marcomini, who has replaced the original B-29 Superfortress and Douglas Skyrocket with a pair of Discs, large and small. Pity the pic isn’t for real though - don’t those Discs look just great!

Fantastic Plastic Flying Disc kit
Real or not, the 40-foot (12.1 m) Flying Disc is a great kit subject that sits well with other offerings in Fantastic Plastic’s wide range of exotica. Like many kits from this stable, the 1:72 scale Flying Disc is mostly resin, with a clear vac-form for the canopy, and a set of decals. It’s a simple kit, with just 16 parts, though there are some aspects to consider when building it. Most importantly, resin tends to warp, so it’s important to clamp upper and lower halves of the airframe firmly together. As you can see from the picture, I didn’t spare the clamps and pegs to ensure all went well! Other than that, the Flying Disc went together well, and is supplied with a conventional tricycle undercarriage. This works perfectly well, though reports indicate that the ‘real’ thing might have had as many as six legs in a circle. But who knows which is correct so no worries there. An ejector seat is supplied to fit under that extremely clear canopy, but you will have to provide your own USAF pilot.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1, 2  Gino Marcomini’s splendid retouch job (blue) with the official shot of the same scene at Edwards Air Force Base below.
3  Fantastic Plastic kit box.
4  Parts laid out before assembly.
5  Pegs ensured the disc halves mated properly.
6  The finished model.

Incidentally, Gino Marcomini is a talented artist, who produces many aerospace images. Have a look at his work on the alternate-history Luftwaffe 1946 site here:

Visit Fantastic Plastic here.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Mat Irvine reports
Revell Germany has recently released another batch of Classic Kits, and this includes one of the oldest originals to be reissued to date, the F7U-3 Cutlass, dating back to 1953. This really does make it an ‘old style’ model kit, from the prominent raised rivets and etched-in decal placements, to the odd 1:60 scale, as it comes from a time when many kits were made to ‘fit the box’ size, not to a standard scale. 

Nicely sculpted pilot figure
Moulding on this Cutlass is on the heavy side, which was fairly usual for the period and has little of the fine detail you would expect from a modern kit, but the pilot figure - although moulded to his seat - is actually not too bad. Four early-model Sparrow missiles are provided as armament, though these are fairly basic in shape and detail.

Revell Selected Subjects Program
The idea of these Classic Kits originally came from the American side of the ‘Revell’ name, Revell-Monogram (technically now a separate company), who introduced the idea of the Selected Subjects Program (SSP) in the early 1990s. Here old kits would be reissued ‘exactly’ as they would have been originally, which meant the same box art, decal layout, and reproductions of the original plans, with only odd but necessary changes, such as a bar code. Revell Germany’s Classics Kits follow the same reasoning, except that the boxes aren’t absolutely identical. They certainly use the original box-art - in fact, I have lent the company several original boxes, so they can be scanned for reissue purposes. But this Classic Kits box features a reduced-size Cutlass painting, and a ‘medallion’ logo is prominent on the right-hand side.

New decal set included
However, good news is that, so far as the decals and painting instructions are concerned, Revell-Germany has treated the Cutlass exactly like a modern kit. With the original release, you would have probably got the Stars and Bars, ‘NAVY’ lettering and a couple of serial numbers - perhaps 10 decals in all. Now though, the decal count has shot up to no less than 66! The painting instructions are also comprehensive, giving full details for two aircraft, one for the Air Development Squadron, Point Mugu, California, in 1953, the other for ‘Project Cutlass’ at the Naval Air Station Miramar, Florida, 1954.  These are things you wouldn’t have got in those ‘old days’.

Keep watching for more of these Classic Kits - they are a real eye-opener on the construction kit industry’s progress over the years.

The YouTube video, courtesy ‘jaglavaksoldier’, shows some excellent views of the Cutlass, one of the most interesting-looking US Navy jets from this period.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  The box has a main image painted originally by Richard Kishady, who did a number of others for early Revell releases.
2  In case there is any doubt on the original release date, it’s stamped inside the fuselage nose.
3  It looks odd these days, but it was common practise in early US commercial plastic kit to etch in marking outlines, so a young model maker knew exactly where to place decals.
4  The Sparrow missiles are a bit basic, but the pilot figure is nicely sculpted.
5  New for this release is the highly detailed decal sheet and instructions.

You can find the Chance Vought F7U-3 Cutlass here.

*** An update on this Revell Cutlass story will be posted soon - keep an eye open for it...