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.