Tuesday, August 31, 2010


SMN report
With the exception of diecast aircraft, a truly international subject, Corgi seems to keep its US models under a bit of a shroud where European buyers are concerned. They are available all right, just not trumpeted much, which is a bit of a shame, because - leaving aside collectibility issues - most of the transportation subjects are at or around 1:50 scale, which is near enough to international-standard 1:48 scale to keep many an aircraft modelmaker happy.

Jet Age Fishbowl
Take the 1:50 scale GM Fishbowl coach, for example. It’s finished in the red-white-and-blue stripes of the 1976 Centennial celebrations, and has decent detailing throughout, though perhaps the glazing is a bit heavy-handed at this size. But importantly, it would look terrific in a diorama featuring a corner of an airport. And you don’t have to leave it in the 1976 scheme either - Fishbowls (aka the ‘New Look bus’, nicknamed for the domed front glazing) were produced from 1959 to 1986, so you could use one in almost any Jet Age era scene, or even today as there are plenty still running around. It’s a biggie model, at some 282 mm (11 in) long.

Birney Safety Car
The 1:48 scale Birney Safety Car is from an earlier age altogether. Introduced in 1919 by the Brill tram company, the Birney was another vehicle used widely down the years, and can still be seen at some transport museums and heritage streetcar collections. The picture shown here is of ‘good old 62’, at Sacramento. The 153 mm (6 in) model is nicely done with a fair attempt at interior detailing.

Population implosion
One common feature is the lack of driver and passengers in these models. It’s true of almost all diecasts of course, and maybe that’s because they are seen as collectible models, rather than toys or model rail subjects. A pity though, as you need to take such models apart if you want to add a bit of life with a driver and some passengers inside. Come on Corgi, let’s see you release some humans for vehicles like these!

For model rail enthusiasts too
For collectors of Bachmann’s delightful On30 model rail ironmongery, the Birney is a possible subject for motorization, or if not, then it could rest in a siding as background detail. Or take the wheels off and stand it on old sleepers to convert it as a fixed bar-restaurant - the possibilities are endless. Whatever you do though, the moment such models are taken from chocolate-box display, they need dulling off with satin varnish, followed by the careful addition of some subtle weathering.

Diecast model pictures, courtesy Corgi.
GM Fishbowl picture taken in 2008, courtesy Adam E. Moreira.
Preserved Birney picture, courtesy Nick Kibre.

Visit Vintage Bus Lines subjects at Corgi here.

Look at a different Birney variation here.

The Fishbowl is available here, again in different busline markings.

Corgi Euro-style buses are available here.

Monday, August 30, 2010


David Jefferis reports
The first production-standard F-16 fighter jet flew 36 years ago this month, and the type is still in front-line service across the world, with more than 4400 having been built, and customers still lining up for new ones. The basic design has been improved vastly over the years, especially where electronics and mission capabilities are concerned, but the basic shape and size remains much the same, a testament to the General Dynamics team that designed the aircraft back in the 1970s.

New markings from Italeri
Model manufacturers number the F-16 as one of their most popular modern jet subjects, and new kits continue to be released. This time it’s a very neat Italeri 1:48 scale offering, and it’s been given an excellent set of markings, called ‘Special Colors’ on the box. The decals are quite excellent, neatly and accurately printed, and give you a choice of tails - we rate the brooding tiger especially - or green-and-black chequerboard display markings.

In the box
As for the kit itself, Italeri claim it’s ‘new’ but we’re not quite sure how much of the kit is actually brand-new tooling. No matter - the parts are cleanly pressed, with tidy detail throughout, though a word of warning. The F-16’s canopy is a frameless design that gives the pilot unparalleled all-round vision, but the modelmaker has to be very careful indeed when removing this clear part from the runner. Take your time, use the sharpest blade possible, and be prepared for some gentle polishing to keep that canopy sparkling clear.  

On the video
The aerobatics on the video were flown in the grey and claggy skies of Europe by Belgian Air Force Commander ‘Mickey’ Artiges of the Belgian Air Force. Note the condensation trails coming off the leading edges of the wings as Artiges pulls gee in turns. It’s an inspiring display of expert flying, filmed by the Euro video producer Pro-Wing.

Visit Italeri here.

And lots more F-16s here.

Pictures courtesy Italeri.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


SMN report
Russian BT tanks (from the words Bystrokhodny Tank, meaning ‘fast tank’, leading to the nickname ‘Betka’) were produced from 1932 to 1941. They were lightly armoured, but had a powerful main gun, decent speed, and fair mobility. The sloping front armour was a major protective innovation, and was a feature that would be incorporated into many later tanks, including the famed T-34.

Combat career
Early BTs first saw combat in the Spanish Civil War, but in the World War II tank battles of 1940 and 1941, German armour was massively superior. The bottom picture shows just one of the thousands of BT tanks that were destroyed or abandoned in the face of overwhelming firepower.

What’s in the Tamiya BT-7 kit?
It’s the 14-tonne BT-7 that is the subject of this beautifully crafted 1:35 scale Tamiya kit. When assembled, Tamiya’s model has a length of 161 mm (6.3 in) and includes a pair of figures, commander and crewman. A pity another figure wasn’t included though, as the BT-7 normally had a crew of three.

Metal parts
Engine cover and radiators are well served however, as these are photo-etched parts, with all the fine precision this implies. Another metal component is the tow chain dangling between the headlights, two items which feature clear lens covers. Markings for five different vehicles are included, and the first BT-7 kit production run also has a nicely-printed photo leaflet included which provides useful photo references. All in all, the BT-7 is well up to the usual high standards for 1:35 scale military subjects from Tamiya.

See the Tamiya BT-7 kit here.

View oodles of Tamiya militaria here (we want the lot, but there’s not enough room at SMN Towers, sad to say).

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1-2  BT-7 boxtop art, and three-view diagram
3-5  Views of the completed Tamiya BT-7.
6  BT-7 tank destroyed in action by German forces, July 1941.
Pictures courtesy German Federal Archive, Tamiya.

Friday, August 27, 2010


David Jefferis reports
Science fiction enthusiasts are pretty well catered for by the toy and model industries - from Star Wars to Iron Man, the choice of available subjects, in both and ready-built form, is nearly endless. But it’s not such good news for ‘real space’ enthusiasts, and especially not from the main manufacturers. Would that the likes of Airfix produced a ‘Man in Space’ set, with a 1:72 scale range of US and Russian capsules, plus a lineup of astronuats and cosmonauts standing by them. Hey ho, there’s a dream that’ll never happen, but Revell’s International Space Station (ISS) kit does at least offer a taster for the real space modeller.

Moving solar panels
Even to the relatively small 1:144 scale, the Revell ISS assembles into an impressive beast, with the huge solar panel arrays giving the model an overall size of 745 mm x 500 mm (29.3 in x 19.7 in). Like those on the real thing, they are moveable, though you probably won’t want to shift them much - the model is more than a little delicate, even when perched on its rectangular stand. This neat component comes in a charcoal shade, but will look even better if you paint the Earth hemisphere in the middle blue and white; then the ISS can float proudly atop the lot, supported on a set of slim aluminium legs.

Miniature astronauts
The Revell ISS kit contains 183 components, which include all the dozens of panels, modules, platforms and robot arms (three of them) that make up the real thing orbiting high overhead as I write this. The Revell ISS also comes with two Russian Soyuz space capsules, and a trio of 13 mm (0.5 inch) spacewalking astronauts.

Space Shuttle add-on
Now, this will represent the ISS in operational configuration after 2011 or so, because the US Space Shuttle’s last few missions are due to be flown during the coming months. But, because the Shuttle has been the main cargo hauler for ISS assembly, it seems a shame not to have one on display, in addition to those far smaller Soyuz spacecraft. It’ll also make an even more impressive space display piece, but for that, you’ll have to obtain another kit, and handily, it’s one that Revell also supplies. The Revell 1:144 scale Space Shuttle comes in ‘full stack’ mode - that is, with external tank and solid boosters, standing atop the huge hauler-transporter used to take it from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad.

The ISS is a must-have kit for space modelmakers, while adding a Shuttle will make for a spectacular piece that shows off what will soon be a page of spaceflight history.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1 Revell 1:144 scale Iinternational Space Station.
2  Revell 1:144 scale Space Shuttle Full Stack.
3  An ISS book I wrote a while ago, with excellent graphics by Sebastian Quigley. You can buy it here.
There's more info at Revell here.

You can buy the ISS here, though it’s worth pointing out that the one review reveals a buyer unhappy with missing parts and a damaged box, so as the review states: ‘Caveat Emptor’.

Buy the Space Shuttle here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


David Jefferis reports
We recently made an SMN Crew trip to Britain’s largest air museum, near the university city of Cambridge. Imperial War Museum Duxford (just ‘Duxford’ to most of us) is a droolworthy destination for anyone with even the slightest interest in aviation. Apart from the dozens of beautifully preserved aircraft to snout around, there are hangars full of restoration projects - from Mustang to Staggerwing, there’s plenty of choice for all.

Duxford’s American Air Museum
There’s also lots to interest model fans, with two decent shops, plus various miniatures on view here and there. Among our favourites was a P-38 Lightning, on display in the three-year old American Air Museum, a high-tech building designed by the famed architects Foster & Partners. Here the P-38 could be seen in front of a real P-47 Thunderbolt - nicknamed ‘the jug’ by World War II pilots.

An aircraft named ‘Yippee’
The shiny polished-metal finish model got us thinking about alternatives to traditional camouflage for warplanes like this. And if you want something really different, the P-38 is a natch for bright vermilion, about as far away from the military look as you can get. The prototype for this paint job is ‘Yippee’, a P-38J that was the 5000th Lightning built, serial number 44-23296. It received the special finish - plus signatures of hundreds of factory workers - to mark the occasion in May 1944. After the publicity pix were taken, Yippee was drafted back into service, and a month or two later was flying combat missions (minus the red paint) with the 475th Fighter Group against Japanese forces in the Pacific Theatre.
Visit IWM Duxford here.

See P-38 models here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1, 2  Polished-metal P-38 model at Duxford, P-47 behind.
3, 4  Yippee publicity pictures, taken in 1944.
5  Loading a P-38 with fresh ammo.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010



SMN report
Talking of the Battle of Britain (see Monday’s post), it’s worth a closer look at another recent Airfix product: the 1:48 scale Bf109E, the popular ‘Emil’ version of this most-produced fighter of World War II. The biggish scale is one of our favourites here at SMN - 1:48 is large enough for detail aplenty, and for crew figures to look convincing - yet it’s still a shelf-top size for popular subjects like single-seater fighters.

Official Luftwaffe picture
This Airfix version offers three types of ‘E’, the E1, E3 and E4, and 107 components go into assembling the model, which includes an extremely convincing Jumo engine and mounting. As you can see from the official Luftwaffe picture above, taken the year before the Battle of Britain, Airfix have the look of Willy Messerchmitt’s design just about right.

Computer animated video
The video btw is a cgi effort. It lasts less than a minute but is a heap of fun, expecially towards the end when you get to see an animated parts breakdown. Do give it a look, and top marks to Airfix for going the extra mile to produce an item like this.

Neat details
Back to the model, and as you can see, the engine cover is removable, the canopy opens wide to reveal a nicely-sculpted pilot figure and detailed cockpit and - nicest touch of all - all the control surfaces are positionable: leading-edge slats, flaps, ailerons, elevators and rudder deploy to give the fighter a realistic look.

All in all, though there are many Bf109 kits out there, in bigger and smaller scales, this one is well worth considering. And for 1:48 scale fans, it's an addition to the 'must build soon' list.
Visit Airfix here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1, 2  Airfix 1:48 scale Messerschmitt Bf109E.
3  A parked Bf109E with crew, and a Junkers Ju 52/3m transport behind. The photo was taken in 1939.
4  Airfix Bf109E box art.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Mat Irvine reports
The USS Long Beach is another recent Revell-Germany issue in its Classic Kits range. The Long Beach is a significant ship in that it was the first - and still only - nuclear-powered cruiser, the first all-new cruiser built for the US Navy after WWII, and the first that was armed primarily with guided missiles, though she did have two 5-inch guns amidships and could launch torpedos. Long Beach was also the only one ever built in her class, so therefore remains unique.

Regulus 2 cruise missile
The Revell kit dates from 1960, the year after the real ship was launched and features two nuclear reactors, one for each propeller shaft, and three types of missile. There are twin launchers forward for the medium-range surface-to-air (SAM) Terrier, one twin launcher aft for the long-range Talos SAM, while amidships is a Regulus 2 cruise missile, positioned on a launcher ready for takeoff. It’s not clear that the real ship actually carried the Regulus, but it certainly looks good on this model. In any case, later refits provided updated weapons such as the Standard, ASROC and Tomahawk missiles. The Long Beach was eventually decommissioned in May 1995, and still awaits dismantling and reactor recycling.

Revell kit issue dates
As with most Revell kits (in fact, most kits - period) the model has been reissued several times. The first issue was in 1960, then various ‘series’ issues in 1962, 1964 and 1968. The 1988 reissue was re-engraved inside the hull with that year as the copyright date and a new kit reference number.

Revell fit-the-box scale
Typical for its time, the Revell Long Beach is not to a standard accepted scale for naval ships, but made to ‘fit the box’. However something slightly odd has happened to the scale. The new issue lists it as 1:460 scale, whereas originally it was introduced as being made to 1:508 scale. However, a hull-length check shows the actual ship to be 220m (721 ft) long. The model length is 432 mm (17 in) which - doing the math - is about 1:509 scale, so the initial reckoning was near spot-on. Perhaps someone at Revell-Germany mis-keyed the numbers.

Is the Revell USS Long Beach worth building?
As for the kit itself, it’s a pretty good one, especially bearing in mind its age. For modelmakers interested in the Cold War era, the model is pretty much a must-have, expecially as those missiles are so neatly moulded; the Regulus in particular looks good at this scale, even if it never went to sea on the Long Beach. You don't have to include the Regulus anyway. The reactors are well moulded too, and all components fit reasonably well. When assembled and presented on the neat included stand, the Revell USS Long Beach will make a handsome desk-top item, with the one proviso that, thanks to the odd scale, it’s really best as a stand-alone display piece.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  The latest box design for 2010.
2  An earlier issue, this one from 1988.
3  Kit components that show the large hole for the nuclear reactor in the main deck, with parts for the Westinghouse reactors laid out just below.
4  More components, including Terrier missiles at far right.
Pictures 1-4 courtesy Mat Irvine.
5-7  Closeups of the assembled model, including a look at that Regulus.
Pictures 5-7 courtesy Revell.
8  The real thing at sea. Her square superstructure contained various experimental radar systems.

The USS Long Beach is available here.

Monday, August 23, 2010


SMN report
70 years ago, the skies over Britain formed the backdrop for the greatest aerial combat offensive ever known, as attacking Luftwaffe forces locked in conflict with Royal Air Force defenders. On August 23, after several weeks of the campaign, Hermann Commander-in-Chief Hermann Goring ordered his forces to bombard British fighter airfields, the first of a wave of heavy attacks over the next two weeks, during which some airfields were hit several times over.

Targeting fighter bases must have seemed like a good move to Goring, but it was difficult to knock out a grass airfield for more than a few hours at a time, and many historians agree that had the Luftwaffe concentrated on reducing radar defences to rubble, the Battle of Britain might have turned out differently. In any event, by late October 1940, the Luftwaffe had taken a beating and withdrew plans for further major air assaults.

Thousands of aircraft in the air
But the Battle of Britain lives on as one of the defining conflicts of World War II, and the aircraft that took part (more than 4500 machines were fielded by the two air forces) remain as popular as ever with kit manufacturers. So it’s no surprise to see the local-hero Airfix company releasing some special Battle of Britain products this month.

Airfix Hurricane and Bf110
Airfix has released a Hawker Hurricane Mk 1, the most numerous British fighter of the Battle of Britain, even if its rather workmanlike looks and performance never earned it the acclaim of the beautiful Spitfire. It’s a nice kit though, to 1:72 scale, and comes with a choice of two decal marking sets. Matching the ‘Hurri’ is a German Messerschmitt Bf110 twin-engine heavy fighter, again to 1:72 scale and also with a choice of markings. The real Bf110 was no match in a dogfight with a determined Hurricane or Spitfire pilot, who could both out-turn and out-shoot it - after heavy losses, the Messerschmitt was withdrawn from front-line service over Britain. Both kits look attractive in the now common and highly attractive kit-box art style.

Battle of Britain book
Also released this month is a handsome book, the ‘Special limited edition’ Their Finest Hour: Aircraft of the Battle of Britain by John G. Bentley. It’s a thoroughly decent work, with 80 landscape-format (wide, instead of tall) pages that cover the subject well, with a special emphasis on featuring relevant Airfix kits. The book is well-priced too, with a UK price of just £6.99 GBP ($10.85 USD).
Visit Airfix here.

View Airfix kits here, though don’t be surprised if some Battle of Britain-class steam locomotive kits have crept in too - that’s search engines for you! Hmmm... (thinks), those BoB streamliner locos were handsome beasts, so we should look at some BoB models soon.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  Airfix 1:72 scale Hurricane.
2  Airfix Bf110 box art.
3  The Bf110 builds into a neat and tidy 1:72 scale model.
4  The Airfix book makes a fine memento for those interested in this period of aviation combat history.

Friday, August 20, 2010


SMN report
Key Publishing has announced the launch of Airfix Model World, a new magazine for scale modellers published under license from Airfix. Key is a big aviation publisher already, with titles that include Flypast, Airliner World and AirForces Monthly, so the new magazine should slot nicely into the list.

Wide ranging content
It looks like a marriage of experts, with Airfix’s model experience being balanced by that of Key in magazine publishing. Airfix Model World will cover all aspects of modelling, but with the focus on aviation, the largest sub-sector within the market. The first issue of the new model monthly will be published on November 4, 2010. It will have 100 pages, be priced at £3.99 GBP in the UK, and will have (and we quote here) ‘superb production values’. Sounds good!

A trip back to Airfix Magazine
At which point it’s worth having a look at the old Airfix Magazine, which was produced from June 1960 to October 1993, under a variety of publishers. At its height, the mag was one of the most successful in the model business, and was required monthly reading; and without the internet to keep you posted instantly on hot news, AM was one of the best ways to find out what was coming in the way of new kits.

Airfix Magazine was definitely non-specialist, rather like the SMN you’re reading now, in fact. Every issue had a nugget or two for just about anyone, although aircraft were usually the main feature, especially on the covers. But, trains, cars, ships and military were all included as well. And editor Alan W. Hall also squeezed in many tips and tricks for better model-making, as well as scale drawings for conversions and kit-bashing.

Differences between old and new
However, the big surprise leafing through an old copy is the lack of colour. Of the 48 pages in the October 1969 issue featured above, only three pages have any – all the rest are black-and-white! Price is the other big difference - a copy cost a British model fan the equivalent of just 12.5 pence; the new Airfix Model World will set you back £3.99, itself something of a bargain compared with many other magazines on the news stands.

Good luck to the new publication - we’re looking forward to seeing, reading, and commenting on the launch issue.

Visit Airfix here.

Visit Key Publishing here.

Enjoy some Airfix kits here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1 Logo of the new Airfix Model World magazine.
2 Airfix magazine cover, October 1969, featuring a Roy Cross painting of a 1930s-era Bristol Bulldog biplane.
3 Useful scale drawings were a popular inclusion, here a Lockheed Ventura.
4 Adverts for Humbrol products and just a few aircraft from the Airfix air force.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


SMN report
The Japanese Tomy company has a terrific track record in the toy-making biz, and the Tomica HyperCity is a worthwhile addition to that heritage.

Integrated cityscape
HyperCity is an expandable road-rail-track system that can eventually build into a splendid carpet-sized megalopolis. It’s got fun features aplenty, with trains that work, vehicles that roll, and buildings that can lift, pull, shove and rotate.

The system is an unabashed ‘toy’ rather than a scale model, but even so, many of the vehicles are pretty fair representations of mostly Japanese originals - for example, a neat set of four Honda cars.

Buying a HyperCity
The only real downer is pricing - if you’re a Mum or Dad, you’ll need deep pockets to assemble a complete HyperCity in the playroom. The Pizza Pizza joint shown above is one of the cheaper items, on UK sale at £9.98 ($15.60 USD), while the MegaStation set is £68.95 ($108 USD). Still, purchased over time, Tomica’s HyperCity might not be too painful to buy, and if it leads to greater things in encouraging Junior’s modelling skills, it’ll make a fine investment.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  The units of the HyperCity system assemble into a splendid playroom townscape.
2  The MegaStation includes moving parts to hoist vehicles above ground level, for a rapid descent down a ramp.
3  Pizza Pizza is a handsome Japanese take on retro-Americana commercial architecture.

Visit the Tomica website here.

Inspect the range presently available here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Mat Irvine reports
It was a pleasant surprise when Tamiya announced that its latest 1:24 scale sports car kit would be the Aston Martin DBS. It should also be said that although the kit has not been issued ‘from a James Bond movie’ per se, given that the car’s first appearance was several months before its official 2007 launch in the Bond film Casino Royale the opening comments in  the instructions can hardly avoid making this point.

Tamiya DBS details
The kit is classic Tamiya and, although a complete V-12 engine is not provided, everything that’s normally visible inside the engine bay is there. You are not going to miss the lower section of the engine anyway, as the underside is hidden by the floor pan. Elsewhere in the kit, Tamiya provides full suspension, huge chrome-plated wheels, and low-profile tyres. All wheels revolve on the now-standard nylon bushes and the front pair steer.

Only a left-hand drive interior is supplied (which is fine for the Bond car), though you can choose full manual or Touchtronic automatic, with various optional parts and decals. Either way, you get photo-etched parts for the appropriate foot pedals. Photo-etching is also supplied for the lower grille mesh, while the classic Aston Martin shape upper grille is on a chrome-plated runner.

Decal selection
You get waterslide decals for some of the grilles, instruments, under-bonnet labels and AM badges, and ‘metal transfers’, which are self-adhesive, for  the Aston Martin logo on the engine block and glass for the rear-view mirrors.

Intriguingly, although Casino Royale is the movie mentioned, the Tamiya car more closely represents the DBS in Quantum of Solace - well, the licence plate (with a bit of judicial re-jigging) is correct anyway! However, whether you want to add criminal damage and remove the driver's door is up to you!

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  The box-top is to Tamiya’s usual design style, and very handsome it is, too.
2  Box-side illustrations show the car in Titanium Silver, perhaps a nod towards the Goldfinger DB5?
3, 4  The top section of the engine block is moulded as one piece with the inner wheel arches.
5  Photo-etched and chrome plated parts.
Quantum of Solace DBS looking somewhat worse for wear, and minus a door.

The kit was supplied by Tamiya’s UK importer, The Hobby Company here.

If you like Bond in general, there’s a selection of stuff to enjoy here.

To find out more about the real thing, visit Aston Martin here.

Quantum of Solace picture courtesy the Strangways movie blog here.