Sunday, October 31, 2010


SMN report
The new Airfix Model World magazine, promo’d by Key Publishing as ‘your complete guide to the world of scale modelling’ will have its official launch this coming Thursday. For older model fans, AMW is a rebirth of the much-loved Airfix Magazine, last published in October 1993, but this new version promises to be bigger and better, with more pages and a more colourful format.

The new mag will focus on model aircraft, but also feature cars, ships, sci-fi and space, armour and figures, plus news, reviews, and plenty of step-by-step tips. An 'Ask the Experts' feature should be useful too.

The lead article in the first Airfix Model World promises to home in on the 1:48 scale FAW2 Sea Vixen carrier jet that flew from Royal Navy flat-tops from April 1964. The pic above is from Airfix, depicting an unpainted test-shot before full-scale production of this interesting kit. It will be available soon.

Airfix Model World will be available by subscription or on newstands - look out for it from Thursday on.

See the AMW website here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


SMN report
Last week saw the 2010 Tokyo Hobby Show, and Hong Kong-based DML - Dragon Models Limited - put on quite a display there. Founded in 1987, DML is well-known for its excellent action figures, ready-built diecasts, and of course an ever-expanding range of plastic kits.

Farewell to the Harrier - in UK service anyway
So what’s on offer from Dragon at the moment? Well, there’s a smorgasbord of choice, so we’ll just pick and choose a few current faves. The Harrier II-Plus twin-kit to 1:144 scale makes up into a pair of tiny but tasty aircraft - and for this reviewer at least, a sad reminder that next year the Harrier will be phased out of UK military duty. But (grrr) the UK is the country that developed this formidable flying machine in the first place. Let’s hope that UK politicians don’t regret that decision...

Tanks and ships
On the humanoid front, the 1:35 scale 1940 German ‘Ghost’ Division tank crew kit assembles into a four-man set of beautifully sculpted and detailed figures. Away from World War II and up to date, the USS Independence LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) is a trimaran stealth vessel, built to project seapower as a seaborne assault transport. The LCS is a 2800-tonne design, yet can race through the water at more than 80 km/h (50 mph). Dragon’s kit is to 1:700 scale, which allows for a decent level of detail including Seahawk helos, Phalanx defence system, and nicely crafted photo-etch parts for the nets which surround the flight deck.

Bigger and bigger
Dragon has a wide range of kits, and in bigger scales, the 1:48 Messerschmitt Bf110 is particularly well-crafted, as is the 1:35 scale Bell UH-1N Huey, the combat vet chopper that formed the backbone of helicopter operations throughout the Vietnam War. This is such an excellent scale for military fans - and aircraft to the same scale are just so darned BIG! We love ’em.

See the Dragon 1:48 scale Bf110 kit here.

The ace 1:35 scale UH-1N Huey helicopter (our all-time fave helo) kit is here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1-2  Tokyo Model Show.
3-6  Dragon kits to various scales.
Pictures courtesy DML.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


SMN report
We came across a pile of old MPC Star Wars kits in the SMN Garage the other day. The boxes are somewhat battered and bent, but the components inside seem good as new, so the kits are now in the studio, warming up for a build in those winter nights to come. Pick of the bunch is the good old Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s starship that he piloted against the mighty forces of the evil empire.

White and weathered, or bright and cheerful?
It’s fair to say that the standard white paint job of the Millennium Falcon has been used as the basis for almost all builds, big and small. It’s possible of course, to overdo the weathering on surface details, and you can see a borderline case in the top pic above. It looks great, but maybe R2D2 should give the ship a wash and polish! Of course, there is absolutely no reason to stick to white - it’s certainly a standard spacecraft scheme, but there’s nothing to stop a civilian-model starship being finished in bright colours, much like a present-day jetliner.

Franco Brambilla
And while we’re talking about dreaming up fresh concepts and marking schemes, the work of Italian artist Franco Brambilla springs to mind. His work has appeared in such highly-regarded tech zones as Wired, MacUser and the London Daily Telegraph. Brambilla’s illustrations might give you some thoughts for how to approach sci-fi subjects in general, and his Millennium Falcon parked up in Florence, Italy, is just too cute for words. I’ve visited this spot myself, and of a weekend evening, it’s packed with Florentini young and old - babes in prams, kids on Vespas, lovers hand-in-hand, and black-clad elderly aunts frowning at them. So you can imagine the consternation that a honeymooners’ starship would cause!

Fine Molds 1:72 scale kit
For model fans, there’s quite a choice of Falcons from which to pick. Best of the lot is almost certainly the 1:72 scale Fine Molds offering, and it’s coming back in reissue form, for a while at least. Fine Molds President Kunihiro Suzuki and his staff took hundreds of reference photos of the model used for principal photography in the original movies, and their care and attention shows in the production of this totally ace kit. When completed, the model is some 300 mm (12 in) across, slightly smaller than the MPC-Ertl kit that came from the SMN garage. Among the Fine Molds kit's features are 900-odd parts, open or closed landing ramp, display stand, and deployable landing gear. Eleven figures come with the kit, including Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan and C3PO. A first is full engine detail, which adds a certain something, though it would be oh-so-good if they were based on reality - that way humans could be off-Earth and exploring the Universe by now!

See the Millennium Falcon at Hobby Link Japan here.

More Star Wars stuff here.

Franco Brambilla’s site is here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1-2  Millennium Falcon from Fine Molds.
3-7  Science fiction concepts from Franco Brambilla.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


David Jefferis reports
That’s not the hippie Woodstock, but the handsome town in folksy Olde Englande, on the edge of the beautiful Cotswold Hills. Here the local Oxfordshire Museum has regular displays on all manner of subjects, and at the moment it’s a Superhero show, based on the private collection of Kevin Losonczi.

Robots and Aliens
Kevin has been an avid fan of the Superhero genre since he was a teen, and now has 1000-plus items including many one-offs and rare pieces, including massive 1:1 scale Terminator, Predator and Robocop figures. The pull is a link to Kevin’s childhood in which his dreams were packed with magic that included having the extra powers of Superheroes.

For model fans, science-fiction and Superheroes are well catered for, though it’s fair to say while the choice in ready-made figures and equipment is huge (just cruise the aisles of Toys ‘R’ Us to see what I mean) the number of model kits is not quite so expansive. Still, let’s not complain, as Moebius Models covers a wide range these days - and there isn’t a dud among them.

Moebius Iron Man
Among the newer kits is Iron Man (reviewed by Mat Irvine not long ago) and Iron Man 2 in various versions, and modelled from digital files used for the movie. It’s fair to say that on scale models, chrome usually looks rather gaudy, and some dulling down usually helps in the realism department - and it’s true here, though don’t let that put you off these great little kits. 

Visit Kevin’s collection here.

Visit Moebius Models here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  Iron Man bust.
2  1:4 scale Incredible Hulk.
3  Spider Woman
4  Spiderman and Batman.
5-6  Moebius Iron Man kits.

Monday, October 11, 2010


SMN report
We’re on something of a Dinky Toys hunt at the moment, helped by the discovery of the trio of childhood sweethearts seen in the pix above. They’re in a bit of a state and need more than a hint of TLC to bring them back to life, which will be a nice indoor project for those long winter evenings to come – and they’ll be even longer in the UK when the clocks change to the deep, dark dungeon of Winter Time** at the end of the month.

Familiar Dinky
So far as the vehicles are concerned, the Austin Van was a familiar sight in my childhood home town. One that belonged to the Daltons electrical dealer spent much of its time trundling around delivering black-and-white TVs, with cases big enough to denude half the South American forests. Actually I’m not kidding - restrictions on mahogany were imposed in the 1990s. Note the aspiring-signwriter daub on the van side! The Commer Breakdown Truck was a favourite in the Dinky Toys range for many years, as was the Dinky Caravan, though this resembles nothing like any caravan I saw on any vacation site, ever.

Caravan towing mechanism
A similar design is now in production again in 1:76 00-scale for UK rail fans, so maybe the ghastly thing predated the era of my caravan vacations. I recall at the time really disliking Dinky’s cunning (but inaccurate) towing mechanism, meaning that the Caravan ran on three wheels, with its upswept hook nestling into the tinplate chassis rear cut-out of most Dinky cars at that time. To a literal-minded boy (especially one who helped his Dad to hook up a real thing), this was cheating - where was the towhook? Real caravans didn’t roll on their jockey-wheel!

Dinky Toys values
Pricewise, these Dinkys are worth little in their present state, and even refurbed they’ll command (rightly) nowhere near the price of a mint-and-boxed original example. And these are pretty good - a current quoted price for a clean breakdown truck is in the region of  £105 GBP ($166 USD). Still, if the aim is to bring back three Dinkys from the grave and make them shelftop wonders, then we’ll be well pleased.

**Note to politicians: Please keep Summer Time, or at least bring the UK into line with Europe!

See Dinky Toys stuff here.

Online valuations at the useful Toy Mart site here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


SMN Report
Oops, looks like we missed out the Andy Yanchus picture on the last post.

So here you are, the man himself - plus a small part of his collection. There's something for everyone in just that one glass display case - whether it's Wonder Woman or AT-AT Walker, Robin or robots, they all seem to be in there.

Of course, we're fans of them all – and the Wonder Woman in particular reminds us of a Superheroes exhibition recently on display near SMN Towers, so we'll feature that in the very near future.

Thanks for the pic, Andy - and to Mat Irvine for taking the shot.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Mat Irvine reports
If there was one thing that the original Aurora Plastic Company of Hempstead, Long Island, was famous for, it was monster figures. Other companies may have done figure kits, some may have had similar subjects, but it was Aurora that became synonymous with these creatures of the night.

Monsters DVD
The original Aurora company is long gone - as dead as most of its monsters - and as long ago as 1976, most of the tooling that survived was acquired by Monogram. But Aurora certainly hasn’t been forgotten. And to this end, enthusiasts Dennis Vincent and Cortlandt Hull bring you ‘The Aurora Monsters’ - the DVD. With extras, this provides two hours of stories and interviews with people associated with creating the Aurora monster legend, all hosted by Zacherley the Cool Ghoul, with Gorgo the Gargoyle.

What's on the disc?
To UK TV viewers, Zacherley’s name will almost certainly be unfamiliar, but in the US, particularly in earlier years, his was the face that introduced all those old Universal movies that are now found on TV, and in many ways more famous than the movies themselves. The Zacherley-Gorgo duo introduces the main DVD, then - by Gorgo supposedly finding and running some old film stock - this leads into the interviews. These include my old friend Andy Yanchus in New York, who was Project Developer for Aurora, and worked on, if not the original figure series, certainly the later Monster Scenes. On the DVD, Andy regales you with stories of how Aurora got into terrible trouble with parental groups, who assumed all this monster mayhem was injuring their little darlings. Mind you, ask the kids, and it was the opposite view - they loved it all!

Box artist
Also present on the DVD is one of the most famous box-art illustrators ever, James Bama, who did all the monster boxes for Aurora, some again for reissues. Then there is Ray Meyers, who was one of the original sculptors for the company and managed to get incredible likenesses of actors who portrayed the movie monsters.

The interjections of Zacherley and Gorgo is a bit of an acquired taste, Gorgo coming across at times like the Muppet Kermit the Frog on speed, but the spooky setting looks effective, considering it must have been done on an incredible tight budget . 

Taking over the Aurora mantle
Aurora may have gone, but new companies have taken over much of the catalogue. Some are ‘garage’ outfits (ie specialist) Sideshow Collectibles, while others use traditional injection-plastic techniques. They lease old tooling from Revell-Monogram, retro-engineer original kits, cut new tooling from original parts, or create brand-new kits ‘in the Aurora style’. Two of these companies, Polar Lights and Moebius Models are mentioned on the DVD (the other is Monarch Models), with the Moebius CEO Frank Winspur interviewed.

The YouTube clip above is from the DVD; thanks to Andy Yanchus for the review disc.

Visit the DVD website here.

Visit Moebius Models here.

Visit Sideshow Collectibles here.

Have a look at a range of monster and fantasy stuff here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  DVD cover, featuring six of Aurora’s most famous monsters: Phantom of the Opera, Wolfman, Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon.
2-3  DVD frame grab and publicity still of Zacherley and Gorgo. Note the Aurora Frankenstein box.
4  Illustrator James Bama.
5  Sculptor Ray Meyers.
6  Frank Winspur (left) and David Metzner of Moebius Models.

Friday, October 1, 2010


SMN report
Here’s another in Corgi’s long-running 1:50 scale ‘Vintage Glory of Steam’ series, and it’s well up to the standard set by others in the range. This one is the Burrell 7 NHPP DCC Works No 3159, a road locomotive delivered to Anderton & Rowland in 1909, to haul A&R’s fairground machinery and exhibits around south-western parts of the UK.

Nostalgic steam fairs
Steam power is a real nostalgia-inducer these days, with summer steam fairs giving owners and public a chance to revel in these huge monsters of times past. Of course, they were not all huge beasts - as you can see in the pic above, there are plenty of scale models around, complete with a working engine for reduced-scale fun. Cheaper on the coal needed for the furnace too!

Working traction engines
These machines were built to work, and hard too. A long leather drive belt enabled owners to supply power for almost anything required, from sawing logs and threshing grain to hauling fairground stuff and, by adding a heavy steel roller on the front, you had a roadroller. This flexibility made them highly useful machines, though like metal dinosaurs, they become more than a little slow and cumbersome for the changing conditions of the early 20th century.

By the mid-1920s, a typical traction engine had become far more expensive to run than a truck with an internal-combustion engine. 
Visit Corgi here.

Have a look at some traction engines here. Note there’s a discount on Corgi’s price.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  Corgi Anderton & Rowland Showman’s traction engine.
2  Working small-scale replica, roughly 1:10 scale.
3  Controls of a full-size engine.
4  Show-winning vintage steam.
5  Using a leather belt to power a sawing machine.