Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Knowing my fascination with airships, my Grandma and Grandpa came over to our house on J-5 one day with an AMT Hindenburg kit. I was ecstatic! These had just come out in 1975, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on one. I don't remember if this was a Christmas or birthday gift, but I remember my Grandpa opening the hatchback of his Datsun 240Z and pulling out the box.
My original Hindenburg was quickly put together, and left mostly unpainted, except for a few details painted black with my mother's paint used for ceramics. I put the decals on, but they did not stick as usual because of my dirty, grimy fingerprints all over the model. I had to use my Mom's clear fingernail varnish to glue the darn things on, which caused them to craze a bit. But it worked. Jeez, when would I learn! I loved this kit though, and flew it all over the house for months doing my best impression of four Maybach airship diesels at full power.
In 2009 I was glad to find a sealed one on EBay for my rebuild project. When I opened the box, a lot of memories came back. The pieces are moulded in gray, which is okay, but AMT should have pressed the kit in metallic gray styrene so that kids like me could have had a more realistic looking zeppelin without painting. At any rate, I sprayed this rebuild with Testors silver-metallic and it looks much better than the original gray. This is not an easy kit to build even though it has few pieces. The two body halves are quite thick, and warped, which makes gluing them together a real chore. They don't line up well and leave a noticeable line running along the top and bottom. This can be puttied and sanded of course, but it takes a lot of work. I filed and dry-sanded the seams to a point I thought looked acceptable. Really, none of the parts fit well on this model, and there are numerous accuracy problems such as wrong fin shape and size, over sized landing wheel and strut, engine car struts too thick, and decals too big. On top of all this, the engineers decided to simulate, or should I say over-simulate the Hindenburg's skin fabric texture. It looks as if the texture simulation is scaled 1/1! It gives the model a terribly rough appearance while the real airship had a nice smooth look to it, even up close. I guess the engineers at AMT were not striving for accuracy on this one as they had on their famous automobile kits. Why this is I don't know; their aircraft kits which came out around the same time were very good. Perhaps the company just wanted to get this model out in a hurry to coincide with Universal's "The Hindenburg" movie. Revell-Germany has made a much superior, but smaller scale model of the Hindenburg and her sister Graf Zeppelin II that fixes some, but not all of AMT's hideous errors. AMT's is 1/520 scale, and Revell's is 1/720th scale.
The AMT Hindenburg remains one of my favorite model kits from childhood because I still had a great fondness of airships, having flown in the Goodyear Blimp only a couple years earlier, and seeing the movie "The Hindenburg."