Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Monogram Mitchell

For some reason, I only remember building Monogram models in my backyard on the picnic table. The 1973 B-25 Mitchell reissue was one of them. This was another early Gemco purchase, and built with minimal painting. I may have met my friend Phil by this time, and he had already been building models for some time. He would often come over to my house with his model building supplies, and we would build kits together. I remember he let me use a lot of his paints before I started buying them myself. Thank you Phil!
This was also another early model I kept in my collection much longer than others. In fact, when the original plastic gun barrels on the turrets broke off, I replaced them with toothpick ends painted black!
This was a fun model to rebuild after all these years. It's very simple, and although the box shows a nice chrome-silver sprayed factory model, the instructions say to leave it unpainted, since it's moulded in a brilliant natural color. It's not a very accurate model of the B-25J, but it was one of Monogram's first three plastic model airplane kits. The other two being the Douglas B-26 Invader, and the PBY Catalina.

One particular annoyance with this model however are the raised outlines for decal placement. This was a popular method model companies employed to help kids put the decals on in the right place. The problem is, decals adhere much better to completely flat surfaces. With the Microscale system though, this can be overcome to some extent without filing and sanding the outlines away, thereby preserving the original look of this historic model.
This is also another one of those early odd-scale kits designed to fit in a standard size box. I don't know how accurate the 5-inch rockets hanging under the wings are for a B-25J, but Monogram included them also in the B-26 Invader.
This is one model I remember with great clarity, and I'm happy to have it again on display in my office.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Look Mom, Moving Parts! Monogram's T-28D Trojan

Another early Monogram kit I built in '75 was the 1973 reissue of Monogram's T-28D Trojan. I'm pretty sure my Dad helped me pick this one out at Gemco because it was a North American aircraft. I remember building it in our backyard on J-5, on a picnic table we had. Lancaster had great weather almost year round for building models outside, and I remember building many of them in the warm sunshine.
This was one of the first kits I built that had lots of moving parts such as retractable landing gear, and sliding canopy. I remember always being pleasantly surprised in discovering these action features during assembly, because I never bothered reading about them on the box.

Building the T-28D again was a real joy. I followed the building and painting instructions to the letter, to enjoy the full 'vintage Monogram experience' as it were. I left the upper surfaces unpainted. Decals are all original and applied with the Microscale system. I chose the South Vietnamese Air Force markings, because these were the ones I chose back in '75 on my original. All the moving parts work, but the front landing gear is a pain to pull out of the wheel well. Best to leave it alone any way, since plastic parts don't stand up well to friction and repeated stress.
While not one of my favorite airplanes, Monogram's T-28D still holds a high place in my memory because of the neat moving parts and ease of assembly. In 1975 Monogram reissued the T-28 again, this time as a Navy "B" version. I remember seeing it at Gemco, but passed on it because I already had the "D" model.

Enter the Monogram Kits: F-105 Thunderchief

The 1/72 scale Republic F-105 Thunderchief had to be my first model airplane kit from Monogram. Like the Revell kits, Monogram's were plentiful and cheap. I liked the F-105 because I had seen an old desk top model of one in my friend's garage. The sleek shape of the 105 really appealed to me. My original Thunderchief was completely unpainted because I didn't have any paints yet at the time. You can see a picture of me and this model if you go to my earliest blog entry. I kept her for a long, long time; longer than some other models I built later and finished with paint!
I decided to do this rebuild in the spirit of my younger days by hand-painting the camouflage scheme. It was very time consuming, but worth the effort. From a foot away or more, she looks great. It's a very simple model to build, heavy on the rivets, and not a whole lot of other detail. There are much better 1/72 scale F-105s out there, but this one was one of the first. Revell had their own version around the same time frame - late 50s, early 60s - but theirs was a tad smaller at 1/76 scale, or something close to that.
I've always liked the crew ladder that came with this model, but not the crewman. He doesn't fit well onto the ladder, so I left him in the spare parts bin. I would have preferred to leave out the pilot figure as well, but on this kit, he's mounted to the seat, providing the only detail to the cockpit interior.
The 1973 reissue of Monogram's F-105 Thunderchief remains as one of my all-time favorite plastic model airplane kits.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Revell Goodyear Blimp Columbia

Christmas 1975 brought a lot of great presents: a Steve Austin Six Million Dollar Man action figure, a Crossman air pistol, a Yamaha motocross bicycle, and last but not least, a Revell Goodyear Blimp.

Revell produced the blimp model specifically for the Christmas '75 season. It was available only at Goodyear tire shops. My first Revell blimp was bought for me by my grandparents for Christmas.
I should mention that only a couple years earlier, while we were still living in Cerritos, my Dad got me, my Mom, and my grandpa a ride in the Goodyear blimp Columbia. At the time I was hooked on blimps and zeppelins, having seen the Goodyear blimp fly around the L.A. area, and also having seen the movie ZEPPELIN with my Mom. That amazing ride in the Columbia was the capstone to my fascination with airships, and is one of my fondest memories.
In the early 70s I would have gone ape for a model of the Goodyear blimp, but no such thing existed. The old Hawk Graf Zeppelin, the Strombecker U.S. Navy blimp, and the FROG R-101 airship kits were all gone from hobby shop shelves by the time I started building models. By 1975 however, airship model kits were coming back into light. AMT, who produced mostly model cars and STAR TREK kits, released a very nice, and extremely popular Hindenburg. This may have been prompted by the release of Universal's THE HINDENBURG movie, but I'm not sure which came out first. Then came Revell's Goodyear blimp at the end of '75, then AMT followed up their Hindenburg with the U.S. Navy Akron/Macon kit.
This rebuild is the third Goodyear blimp I've put together. After my first one died, I got one of the 1977 general release versions which came in a slightly bigger box. According to Thomas Graham's REMEMBERING REVELL MODEL KITS, the blimp model was in such high demand, Revell decided to distribute the kit to all stores. I've also seen pictures of a larger scale blimp model Revell released in the 80s perhaps.
The model itself is more like a toy. The picture on the box shows a nice silver colored blimp, just like the real ones, but when one opens the box, he discovers the blimp halves are moulded in dull gray. The box says no painting required, but the dull gray just isn't very exciting. Painting it silver is a solution, but a silver painted blimp would be prone to fingerprints, especially on this model where one has to manhandle it to change the batteries, message paper, and operating switch. At any rate, it's a fun model to build without glue and paint, and brings back a lot of good memories. On all three of the ships I've built, I used the stickers for the Columbia, since that was the ship based out of Carson California, near my home in Cerritos. Stickers were included however for the America, Europa, and the Mayflower. I believe the actual Mayflower blimp was a bit smaller than the Columbia, America, and Europa. All four of these airships have been retired.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Revell Sopwith Triplane

My piano teacher gave me this model either for my birthday, or Christmas 1975 - I can't remember which. It's not that I wasn't appreciative of the gift, but I really didn't care for WWI biplanes, let alone triplanes. It was a plastic model kit at any rate, so I did enjoy building it to some extent.
Model airplanes given to me as gifts were a hit-and-miss affair. Some of them I liked; most of them I disliked. It was a rare occurrence when someone bought me a model kit that I would have picked out myself. Most people probably figured I'd like anything as long as it was a model, but I had pretty specific tastes. No cars, no ships, no tanks, and no biplanes. If there was any pre-war airplane I liked, it had to be a monoplane. Biplanes just all looked the same to me.
I was please to find a sealed one of these on EBay. It's the same one my piano teacher gave me: the 1975 "Collector's Choice" reissue. I had forgotten what a delicate little model this is. I do remember however how much difficulty I had putting the three wings together when I was ten. I experienced almost the same difficulty doing it again thirty-five years later! The wings are definitely a pain to get lined up and glued on right. So is the landing gear. I didn't paint my original, but I chose to paint this rebuild exactly per the directions.
Even though I didn't care much for this airplane when I was a boy, I had fun building it again in middle-age, and it brings back good memories of building up a good size model collection at J-5.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Ole Revell B-29 Superfortress

By the mid-seventies model building was such an insatiable hobby for me, I just had to build airplane kits wherever I went. One Saturday, my Mom and I drove up to Oxnard to visit my Aunt Doris. I guess I didn't have an unbuilt kit to take with me, so my Mom said we would stop somewhere in Oxnard and pick one up before we got to her sister's house. We ended up in a small discount store that had only a few model kits; the Revell 1974 reissue Boeing B-29 Superfortress being one of them. I chose it, my Mom bought it for me, and I slapped it together in short order at my aunt's house. At the time, I did not know this kit had been around since the mid-1950s.

The B-29 "Dauntless Dotty" was one of Revell's earliest model airplane kits. It was part of a series of Air Force strategic bombers including the B-36, B-47, and B-52, all odd scale to fit in a standard size box. The B-29 and B-52C kits soldiered on through the 70s, and the B-29 even went on to be reissued again in 1980. It is very basic; no landing gear, over-sized rivets, over-sized propeller blades, and other numerous scale inaccuracies. This was not meant to be a precision scale model however, but a good-looking model a kid of the 1950s could build in an afternoon, without any painting.
On this rebuild, I hand painted the black de-icer boots, prop blades and tips. The canopy section has framework lines engraved on the inside, which make them look painted - almost. I chose not to paint it, but leave as is.
This is not one of my favorite models, but it is a rather historic kit in the Revell Catalog, and brings back good memories of that visit to Oxnard.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Revell Apollo-Soyuz!

The Revell Apollo-Soyuz kit of 1975 was the first U.S. manned spacecraft model I ever built. My Dad, having worked on the Apollo program from the early test days to Skylab 4, had recently started working on the Space Shuttle Enterprise at Palmdale Plant 42. He came home one day with this model, bought for me at the company gift shop. I immediately slapped it together with glue and a few basic paints I had at the time. I was very excited; there hadn't been a new model of any space program vehicles since Monogram and Revell competed with all their Apollo kits in the late 60s. Skylab was a disappointing no-show - neither Revell nor Monogram chose to produce a model kit of America's first space station. When this Apollo-Soyuz model appeared, it was a revitilization of space-themed kits. Two years later Revell would release another fantastic new space program kit, the Space Shuttle Enterprise and NASA 747.
Revell chose their popular 1/96 scale Apollo spacecraft as the centerpiece for this new kit. Originally, it came with a lunar module that could be hooked on and detached. The engineers at Revell tooled a new docking module, and a Soyuz 7K-TM. Both the Apollo and Soyuz are sparse on exterior detail, especially the Soyuz, which in real life has all sorts of little boxes and protrusions all over it. Both spacecraft also have semi-detailed interiors, which end up completely hidden after assembly. Perhaps Revell thought there was educational value to this - "Here kids, this is what the spaceships look like inside and here's how the men sit in them!"
On this rebuild, I chose to fill in the windows/portals with Micro Krystal-Kleer. The rest of it was finished per the original instructions. The exterior color for the Soyuz had to be done by mixing blue and green. It was a guess to get it right, but I think it looks pretty close. The real thing may have been a bit darker. The instructions said to paint the display stand black, but that didn't seem right. Revell also did not include any decals for the ASTP logo, so I hand painted it. That and the Micro-Kleer were the only deviations I took from the instructions.
Revell reissued this kit in 1996 packaged in a slightly smaller box than the original. This caused Jack Leynnwood's box top painting of the link-up to be scrunched. Serious collector's should look for the original 1975 version.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Revell Hughes OH-6A Cayuse

One of my all-time favorite model kits: the Revell 1/32 scale Hughes OH-6A Cayuse helicopter. This is my fourth build of this kit since 1975. The first time I saw this model was at a toy store in a San Fernando Valley mall. The box art really appealed to me (it still does) and the sleek, but egg-shaped look of the OH-6A has made this helicopter my favorite over all others.

I don't remember painting my first one, but I bought another one a couple years later - 1977 perhaps, and painted it according to the directions. I built a third one about two years ago, straight from the box, and it looked exactly like the fourth one pictured here. I enjoy building this model a little bit more each time. Perhaps I'll build another one; but next time I'll do the civilian Hughes 500 version with red seats and tan interior.
What I've always liked about this model is the detailed interior. The military version has drop down canvas seat packs moulded into the rear bulkhead piece. An ammo box is glued to the rear floor, and some sort of fake-looking gun sight is glued onto the center bulkhead, between the two pilot seats. I don't know if this model was based on an early concept or prototype drawing of the OH-6A. It wouldn't surprise me since the 1/72 scale OV-10A Bronco kit, released the same year of 1970, is based on the early Marine version. I searched for photos of early OH-6As on the Internet, and I did see a few showing the external Gatling gun in an aerodynamic enclosure, but I couldn't see any large sighting devices between the pilot and gunner's seats. At any rate, I chose to glue it on, since I was sticking to the directions as closely as possible.
One liberty I did take was to paint to canopy framework olive drab, where the directions give no guidance on this. The Hughes 500 and OH-6A have a large panel on the front windshield bubble, with what looks like an air vent and a landing light mounted into it. To leave this large panel clear on the model just doesn't look right. I left the rest of the model in its correctly moulded olive green color - although the plastic is glossy. Color pictures of early OH-6As reveal a semi-gloss olive finish, so leaving the model glossy isn't that big a deal.
The decals are original to the kit, and went on nicely using the Microscale system. MicroSol is necessary to get the "U.S. Army" decal to conform to the plethora of rivets on the tail boom. This is the dilemma one faces when building model kits straight from the box, without any super-detailing.
The parts fit together pretty well on this model; but the biggest weaknesses are the clear window pieces. They are crazed pretty badly from the injection moulding process, and distort the interior when viewing any closer than one foot from the model. They do not fit well either. There are no alignment pins or grooves - they just lay into the window hole from the inside, and the builder is expected to glue them in somehow. Although I'm sure I used tube cement on these windows for my first two models, I used liquid cement on the later two. This works much better, but one has to be careful not to get one iota of glue on the clear pieces, or else the error sticks out like a sore thumb. One could also use Micro Krystal Klear to cement them in, but I would be afraid of accidentally punching them in with the thumb or fingers during handling of the model.
The kit comes with a pilot figure, but he is terrible looking no matter how well you are at painting figures. His arms are moulded along his side, and there is a huge seam that runs around him that must be filled after gluing his two halves together. It ain't worth it! On all but the last three kits I've built of this one, I let the pilot figure go into the trash can still affixed to the runner.
This is a great companion model to Revell's other 1/32 Vietnam U.S. Army helicopter kits such as the Huey and Huey Cobra. Too bad Revell didn't just carry on and release the whole set of Army choppers in 1/32 such as the Chinook, Sioux, Skycrane, and Choctaw, among others.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Revell OV-10A Bronco

I think my Dad picked this model out for me when we were at Gemco or Peterson's Hobby & Crafts. He probably liked it because the box said "North American-Rockwell" on it. Dad was working for Rockwell at the time on the space shuttle Enterprise.
This is a frustrating little model to build, especially if you want to paint the wing and undersurfaces white. The wing is moulded in two pieces which, according to the instructions, look like you can paint them white, glue it to the fuselage, and you're done. If you do that however, you discover a small area forward of the wing, centered on top the fuselage, which needs to be filled in with white. To do that requires a lot of precision masking to get it right. The undersurfaces also need to be carefully masked to replicate the wavy demarcation lines. Being a 1/72 scale model, I chose a sharp, masked line against the moulded olive green surface. It looks good from at least a foot away or more. Closer examination however reveals a lot of uneven joining surfaces. The wing fits horribly onto the fuselage, and most of the other parts don't fit that well either. This is typical Revell quality from the 1970s. Good subject, excellent packaging, but poor fitting parts.
My original try at this model revealed a lot of glue smudges and decals that flaked off days after completion. I may have had one or two colors of paint to use as well. I think the first bottle of model paint I ever bought was Testors gloss gray, and the OV-10A was one of the first kits I tried painting a few pieces on. I distinctly remember painting the interior gray as per the directions.
On this rebuild, I chose to stick by the plans, but with a lot more precision. The wings and undersurfaces were spray painted with Tamiya gloss white. Everything else was hand painted. Not enough nose weight can be added to the tiny front section to keep the model sitting on all three wheels, so Revell included a spike to prop it up. The problem is, the spike is not long enough, so the front wheel sits up off the ground. Serious modelers would have passed this one up in the early 70s and prefered Airfix's OV-10A. At any rate, this one was fun to build again, and brought back some good memories of my early collection of model airplanes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Revell B-52C Stratofortress

Next in the series of Revell model airplane kits I've built is this odd-scale Boeing B-52C Stratofortress. I originally bought this kit at Gemco, probably because it was cheap. This is Revell's 1970 reissue of their B-52 kit from the 1950s. Revell updated it in Vietnam era Strategic Air Command colors. It's a very basic little model, with no landing gear, sparse detail, and a couple of decals for the top wing. The parts are moulded in black, which makes painting easy.

The box shows the factory display model painted in some odd colors, while the instruction manual says to paint the camoflage scheme with dark green, medium green, and tan. I chose to use Testors dark green, SAC camo green, and SAC camo tan. While these colors were not available in stores when I first built this kit in 1975, I chose to use them on this rebuild for improved appearance. The camoflage pattern is hand painted, using the picture on the box as a guide. To help hide the brush stroke pattern, and minimize decal silvering, I sprayed the top of the plane with Testors gloss, then flat after the two decals dried. This went a little above and beyond the "out of the box" method of construction, but I felt it was necessary to give the model a much more improved look over the first one I did 35 years ago.
When I built this kit back in '75, I didn't paint it. It was all black with some glue smudges and lots of greasy fingerprints. This new one looks much better, and while it's not exactly an accurate model of the B-52C, it looks nice on the shelf. After all, this was one of Revell's early model kits, intended for young boys of the 1950s to slap together with glue in short order, and build up a collection of current USAF bombers and fighters Revell had to offer.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

SR-71 Gone But Not Forgotten!

There are no more SR-71s flying, but one can still enjoy building a model of it, even if it is forty years old. This is the Revell 1/72 scale Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. This kit was originally produced in 1967, just one year after Revell released the 1/72 scale YF-12 interceptor. Most SR-71 kit boxes have the year 1969 printed on them, however Revell continued to produce the kit with the same box art well into the 70s.
Straight from the box, the Revell SR-71 is pretty rough looking. It's as if the engineers at Revell were in a hurry to get this kit on dime store shelves. The fuselage and wings are basically two large flat pieces that fit together, rather poorly. A large gap runs around the bottom fuselage edge. The engine cowlings fit poorly as well. The verticle fins don't fit too well either. It's sparse on detail, although there isn't much detail to see on the real plane either unless you get real close to it.
Revell made the obvious choice to mould the kit in black styrene; that way inexperienced modelers could built it without painting. I didn't paint my original one back in '76, so I left this rebuild in the original black as well. This time however I ran a Dremel tool with a polishing wheel over it to rub out scrathches and marks. The orginal decals went on well using the Microscale system. Micro Sol was necessary for the wing markings to conform to the ribbing on the wing panel.
This is a pretty simple model - not much to it. Interestingly, the YF-12 kit is of much higher quality.

Revell SR-71 Blackbird!

In the backyard of our new home on J-5 in Lancaster, we had a redwood fence surrounding it. The back part of the fence faced directly towards Palmdale Air Force Facility to the South. I could stand on the lower cross brace of the fence, look over the top of it with my arms hanging over, and watch the various airplanes take off, make a right turn, fly right over our house, and make another right turn to land back at Palmdale for another go-around. It was truly amazing as a 9-year-old kid to see this going on all day long. One day, I saw a strange black airplane take off from Palmdale, and when it made it's right turn towards my house, it looked like a bat, or a kind of strange winged creature. I was actually a bit frightened by it, at the same time amazed by it. It flew by with a loud jet noise, and I ran into my house to tell my Dad about it. He said it was the SR-71.
A few weeks went by, and I saw the Revell SR-71 model at a toy store in some mall we were at in L.A. I had to have it. The box art reminded me of that day when I first caught glimpse of this amazing airplane.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Eye Candy! Revell DC-7 Completed

When I built this model the first time in 1975, I did a pretty good job on the assembly, but a horrible job on the decals. The decals are what really make this kit shine, and credit must go to Revell for producing such high-quality, colorful decals for both this kit, and the TWA Connie. Thankfully, the decal sheet in this old kit was still usable; I only had a couple break on me during application. Revell included all the decals necessary to "paint" the aircraft with the deep blue parts. All one has to do is paint the upper fuselage gloss white, and everything looks good. As a kid, wrapping these blue decal panels around the nose was a fruitless endeavour; it was totally beyond my skill level. This time however, I used the Microscale decal system. Micro Sol was the key element to get these decals to form around the curvatures of the airframe for that 'painted on' look. The stuff really works good, and I'm thankful such a product exists for modelers.

I left the natural metal parts of the aircraft in its original moulded silver-gray. Dark gray was used on the area behind the nacelles, and part of the cowlings as per the instructions. That's about it. The decal application is what took the most time on this one. I applied them slowly over time, putting a few on, letting them completely dry, then applying some more. This prevented over-wrinkling and movement, since many of the blue panels overlap.
This DC-7 was more fun to build than my first one. Painting the top white and applying the decals properly sure made a difference.

Revell United Airlines DC-7

I decided to build this 1974 reissue of Revell's old DC-7 on the heels of the TWA Super-G Connie. 1973, and 1974 were golden years of reissuing old kits for Revell, Monogram, Lindberg, and Airfix. In '74, Revell chose to update and rebox the old Eastern Airlines Constellation, and the American Airlines DC-7. This was a surprising move by Revell, since commercial airliner model kits were dipping in sales by the early 70s (according to Thomas Graham's REMEMBERING REVELL MODELS.) At any rate, the TWA Connie and United DC-7 appeared in the 1974-75 and 1977 kit catalogs. Were they good sellers? Who knows; there are still lots of them, even sealed ones available on Ebay. I bought both of them in 1975 at Gemco, in Lancaster, and they are still two of my favorite model airplane kits.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Revell Connie Finished!

When I built this kit for the first time in '75, all I had was a tube of glue; no paints, and no tools. At the time, I didn't know decals don't adhere very well to plastic covered with greasy kid fingerprints, dirt, and glue smudges. In fact, I completely gave up on the TWA decals, and asked my Dad to paint "U.S. Navy" on the fuselage with my Mom's ceramic paints. 35 years later though, things are different. In keeping with the spirit of revisiting my childhood model airplanes, I built this Constellation with a minimum of tools and paint. All I used were the recommended items in the "tips and building" section of a 1975 Revell kit catalog: knife, scissors, tape, surfacing putty, 500 grit sandpaper, a couple of jewelers files, tube glue, liquid glue, Micro Set, and three paint brushes. The instructions called for white, silver, light gray, and black colors to be used. I had to take the liberty however of using an additional product. In order to ensure the original beautiful TWA decals adhered to the surface, I used Micro Sol for that "painted-on look." In rebuilding these old kits, the Microscale system is crucial if one wants to use the original decals. Fortunately, I did not have to use Micro Liquid Decal Film, even though a couple of the decals broke apart during application.
For a beginners model, this is a very easy one to build. However, if one wishes to paint it, that's another story. A fair amount of masking is required to get the silver and light gray panel effect on the wings to look right, along with the black de-icer boots. And there's the white upper and silver lower surface on the fuselage. I spray painted most of these surfaces and brush-painted the black boots on the tail pieces.
I enjoyed building this kit again; it brought back a lot of memories, mostly of the days when I would rush through building a model so I could immediately play with it outside.

Revell Lockheed 1049 Super G Constellation

When we moved to Lancaster in late 1974, our house on J-5 was not finished yet. So, we lived in a motel on Sierra Highway. It was only for a few weeks, but it seemed like months to me. The school year had just begun, and I was in the fourth grade at El Dorado school on Ave J and 5th Street East.
One day, in class, I could hear the rumbling of some large, propeller-driven airplane getting closer, and closer. I couldn't stand it; I just had to run out and see what it was. As I got up, my teacher warned me to stay in my seat or face the consequences. But I didn't listen. The plane was so close, and I couldn't control myself one second longer. I ran out of the classroom, looked up, and saw flying at treetop level, a Lockheed Constellation! It had some funny-looking bulges on it, so it was probably an Air Force EC-121, or a Navy WV-2 (or something of that type.) It was late 1974, and there were still a few of these flying with the reserves. Perhaps I saw one of the last ones before it was sent to pasture.
What does this have to do with model airplanes? Well, I'm sure this sighting was the reason I got the Revell TWA Constellation at Gemco.

The Lancaster Years

This picture represents a turning moment in my life. My Dad snapped this photo within minutes of me gawking at the first C-141A Starlifter I had ever seen fly overhead - real low. It was shooting touch-and-go's at Palmdale Air Force Facility a few miles away from where we were standing. The house in the background is our new home on East Avenue J-5, in Lancaster California. Dad was transferred from Rockwell Intl. Space Division in Downey, to Palmdale to begin work on the Space Shuttle.
There were other airplanes flying overhead that day too: a Flying Tigers DC-8-61, and C-130s. I was hooked on airplanes from that day forward. As soon as we moved into that house, I started building models. Most of the kits I got were from Gemco, the largest department store in Lancaster at the time, and a pretty good one too. They had a great selection of model kits, mostly the 1973 & '74 Revell and Monogram releases, plus some Entex, and Aurora kits as well. Thrifty Drug and Discount Store had the Lindberg kits, and K-Mart had mostly Revell and Monogram kits.
I don't remember what the first model airplane was that I built when we moved, but it was either the Revell TWA Super-G Constellation, or the Aurora C-141A Starlifter. I guess I'll start with the Revell Connie.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My First Model Airplane

The very first plastic model airplane I built was the Aurora 1/48 scale Nieuport 11 WWI French bi-plane. The year was 1974 (I think.) I was eight years old, living in Cerritos, California. At this time of my life I was crazy about zeppelins, dirigibles, and blimps, not airplanes. I think the box art of this kit must have appealed to me after having seen the 1971 movie "Zeppelin" with my Mom a year or so earlier. The box showed a German blimp-like balloon going down in flames, with a Nieuport victoriously wizzing by. My first attempt at modeling was horrible. Glue all over my fingers; glue all over the model. And the complexity of assembling a biplane, with its struts and wing alignment was too much for me. The model survived in pieces for a long time afterwards in my room, as a monoplane with no landing gear. But, it has a special place in my heart and mind as being the first of hundreds of model kilts I would build. The model you see here is a 1976 reissue, Aurora's final version of this kit before going out of business. I built it straight from the box with no painting, in homage to my original one back in '74. Decals were applied using the Microscale decal system, to ensure adhesion.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Welcome to my blog on building model airplanes from my childhood. I made this blog so others can follow along with me as I build over one-hundred plastic model airplane kits, most of them from the 1970s. My plan is to build them a little bit better than the first time. It's also a fun trip down memory lane. Here's the short history of my model building:

1974 - Built my first model airplane - an Aurora 1/48 scale Nieuport 11
1975 - Kit building really takes off after moving from Cerritos to Lancaster, California.
1975 - Purchased most of my models from Gemco and K-Mart dept. stores in Lancaster.
1975 - Met Phil Landon in the 5th grade; he turned me to shop at Peterson Hobbies & Crafts in Lancaster. Almost all models I built after that were purchased at Peterson's.
1978 - Got my first airbrush, a Badger 350 for my 13th birthday.
1983 - All model building comes to a halt when I enlist in the U.S.A.F.
1986 - Start building models again for display in my work center.
1988 - My model building skills finally reach peak quality with the help of newer airbrushes, hi-tech add-on parts, and professional techniques.
1995 - Model building comes to an abrupt halt again for the second time in my life due to purchase of first personal home computer, and marriage.
2006 - Model building starts again; revisited some older kits from the past purchased on EBay.
2010 - Found and purchased almost all model airplane kits from childhood on EBay. Started building them with the very first: the Aurora Nieuport 11.