Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cashulette Saturn V with Gantry & Crawler

Here's another space model kit my Dad came home from work with and gave me. Bought from the Rockwell company store at Palmdale Plant 42 no doubt; the store probably had these on sale as this kit went out of production by the early seventies. It was originally produced in Jacksonville Florida by a company named Countdown, and was later issued by Cashulette Engineering. I had the Cashulette version in '75, and I was excited to find an unbuilt Countdown version on EBay a couple years ago. They are very much the same including the box art. This Countdown version I rebuilt however had an unmarked Saturn V rocket, while my old Cashulette one had the black roll patterns and USA markings pre-colored on the white plastic rocket body. I liked the pre-colored one better because this Countdown version uses stickers, and they don't stick very well after forty years. I had to use some Micro Metal Foil Adhesive to get them to stay on.
This model is extremely fun to build because there is no painting, and not much to it. I used Plastruct liquid cement on almost the whole model which was perfect for the kind of joints and attachment points this kit has.
I remember not being satisfied with the orange color of the gantry on my old one, and I painted it red to match the photo on the box. I actually made it look worse! I also remember taking pictures of it in my back yard on J-5 with an old Kodak Brownie camera. Most of the shots I took of it were blurry because I didn't understand the Brownie could not take pictures close up. I still wish I had those old pictures though because a couple were in focus, and in vivid color.
It's nice to have this model again to look at and enjoy. It looks like it could be a toy, but it's really a fine scale model when one considers the challenge of shrinking down such a huge, complex object, and engineering it to be assembled in parts of styrene plastic. I wonder where the moulds for this kit are; hopefully they weren't scrapped and melted down. It would be nice to see a reissue of this model again some day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Aurora North American XB-70 Valkyrie

Here she is, the creme-della-creme of Aurora's USAF bomber kits: the XB-70 Valkyrie. Aurora and Lindberg were quick to produce model kits of this experimental SAC Mach-3 bomber, and interestingly, were the only ones available for almost two decades until Italeri released a beautifully detailed one in the nineties. Both Aurora's and Lindberg's were engineered from early concept drawings from North American, and Aurora's came out ahead in accuracy and quality. Lindberg's version was smaller, but did have some cool features such as retractable landing gear, and movable wing tips. It was terribly inaccurate in shape and detail though compared to Aurora's. Aurora's is simple with relatively few pieces, and no moving parts. It's an odd scale, and this frustrated serious model builders for years who were trying to build a fleet of USAF bombers in constant scale. Contrail came out with 1/72 scale vacuform version to fix this problem, but not all us modelers are, or were into vacuform.
I did this rebuild as simple as possible in memory of my original. I left it in the original white plastic, with only a few painted details such as black anti-glare panel, and silver struts and tires. The six jet engines are nicely detailed, but once you glue them into the lower intake assembly, you can't see them unless you peer into the narrow intake openings; and then, all you see are the front fan blades.
Out of the four Aurora kits my uncle Norman built for me back in '75, the XB-70 lasted the longest - well into my high-school years. It's long life finally came to an end one day though, when the lower intake assembly busted off from the wing. It looked to me like the top wing assembly should fly, so I tried throwing it in my back yard. The dang thing flew! Well, somewhat. It didn't fly very straight or for very long, but it actually rode some air for a few seconds before falling to the ground in pieces. The Aurora XB-70 will always be one of my favorite kits from childhood.

Aurora Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar

This is one of my favorite Aurora models. It's almost toy-like with it's opening rear clam shell doors, loading ramps, and cargo on pallets - I got a lot of quality "play time" with it. It was for many years, the only plastic model kit of the C-119, other than a very hard-to-find version from FROG, which was not widely available in the U.S. As with most of Aurora's other kits, the C-119 was produced well into the seventies. Early versions were moulded in gray, but later ones such as my rebuild pictured here are moulded in silver, which makes for a better, unpainted model. The model has raised lines for decals placement, and I painted in the "USAF" markings with a black paint pen. The stars & bars and other markings are from the original decal sheet, but the stars & bars started curling and flaking off shortly after assembly.
Italeri released a superior version of the C-119G in 1/72 scale in the 1980s. Testors co-released the kit in the U.S., and it is by far the best kit out there of the Boxcar. Italeri converted their "G" model moulds to produce a "C" model Boxcar, which is also a very fine kit. But the old Aurora Boxcar will live on in my memory (and my office shelf) as one of my favorites.

Aurora Convair B-58 Hustler

Uncle Norman built my original B-58 with the wheels up, and no decals. I suspect he bought it at a swap meet and it was missing the landing gear and decals. When it was given to me, I tried enhancing the detail on it with my Mom's black ceramic paint by painting "USAF" and the nose cone. It helped a little bit, but remained a pretty drab-looking model. This rebuild is much better because I sprayed it silver, and did my best to use and preserve the original decals. This is another one of those early model kits that have raised areas on the surface for decal placement - I hate that! Even with Micro-Sol, the decals didn't lay down well and I had to coat them with Testors clear acrylic.
The model is good size, but pretty simple. It has a clear windshield piece, but no clear parts for the side windows! The weapons pod is detachable, but I chose not to put it on, because it makes the plane wobble too much on the stand. I did this rebuild gears-up in memory of my original one.
The B-58 was a popular model when the plane came out in the late 50s because it was so sleek and awesome looking. Revell, Monogram, Comet, and Lindberg all had their own versions of it.

Aurora TWA Boeing 727

The Aurora Boeing 727 was engineered from early drawings and concept art from Boeing before the real airplane rolled out of the hangar. Because of this, there are some innacuracies with it such as the shape of the engine exhaust outlets, and the windhield. There's hardly any detail on the outer surfaces, but with commercial airliner models, that's usually not a big deal since real airliners are fairly smooth and streamlined. The TWA markings on this model are also a little different than what the real TWA 727's ended up having. Aurora released the 727 model in different airliner liveries such as United, American, and Eastern Airlines. The kit was originally released in the early sixties, and soldiered on as late as 1974. It's close to 1/100 scale. It has relatively few parts and is very easy to build and paint. My original 727 that uncle Norman built for me was unpainted, but he put the TWA decals on. They started flaking off shortly after it was given to me, and I tried re-adhering them to the model with my Mom's clear nail polish. The polish melted a few of the decals, and made the thing look worse, but I still liked it and kept the model for a long time. It eventually came under fire from my BB gun in the back yard, and still exists in pieces somewhere deep in a Lancaster landfill.

Four Aurora Beauties! C-119, B-58, XB-70 & 727

Around the same time my grandparents gave me the AMT Hindenburg model, they also gave me four Aurora model airplanes. It was another huge surprise watching my grandpa open the hatchback of his Datsun 240Z and seeing these four planes laying there in the trunk waiting for me - it was like a dream. But they were already built by my uncle Norman. Norman is my Mom's brother, and he was transitioning from California to Hawaii in 1975. He stayed a while at my grandparent's home in Downey, and must have had some time on his hands. My grandparents told me he got the models at swap meets, and really enjoyed building them for me. Norman also built a Revell Pan Am Boeing SST, and an Entex Spruce Goose for me (which will be covered in a later blog entry.) Even though I did not originally build these four kits back in '75, I though it would be fun to find unbuilt ones on EBay, and do them up right just for memory's sake. All four of my original kits were unpainted, and uncle Normam either chose not to put the decals on the C-119, and the B-58, or they were missing from the kits to begin with. I'll cover each kit separately.