Monday, October 3, 2011
Entex Spruce Goose
Talk about a classic! The Entex Spruce Goose model kit has been in steady production since the early 1970s. It's no wonder though because the real airplane is so famous, and has been a tourist attraction for nearly thirty years. Entex came out with this fine model kit when the "Goose" was still hidden in its corrugated tin hangar near Long Beach harbor.
After Hughes died, and the Goose was brought out of secrecy and put on display next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, one could still buy the model kit at the gift shop; but by then Entex had gone out of business, and the kit was packaged by several companies such as Anmark, Wrather Port Properties Inc., and Craft, which later morphed into Minicraft. If you go see the Goose today at the Evergreen Air Museum, you can still buy the same kit by Minicraft at the gift shop. The box art has been updated several times over the years, but the parts are still the original Japanese molds made for Entex thirty-something years ago - amazing!
My grandparents bought me my first Entex Spruce Goose model in '75 or '76. My Dad and I put it together in short order; it didn't need any painting to look good. The kit is in 1/200 scale, which was an odd scale at the time, but it seemed just the right size to fit on an average book shelf or desk. At 1/144 scale, it would have been a bit big. Being such a large airplane scaled down so small, there aren't many pieces to it, but the propellers are a problem. They're very thin and fragile. The props on my first Goose broke off very quickly due to heavy play around the house. One day I "flew" it down to a neighbor's house to show a man, who was a C-141 pilot based at Norton AFB. I was proud to show him my new model, but I clearly remember him saying, "Hey, it's the Spruce Goose with a bunch of busted propellers!" I was a bit insulted, but he was right. This first Goose ended up suffering even more abuse when I would routinely take it to friends houses who had pools, and I would recreate the famous first flight in the water. It didn't last long after a few summers, but I bought another one in the 80s and did it up right that time with my Badger airbrush.
This newest rebuild is an original Entex version. The decals wouldn't budge from their backing sheet, and I didn't want to go out and spend $25 dollars on a new Minicraft kit just for the decals. So I improvised with some leftover letters and numbers from an AMT Starship Enterprise model. Thanks AMT, that decal sheet really comes in handy in a pinch!
I was tempted to leave the model in it's original silver-gray molded plastic, but there is way too much crazing on the pieces, which doesn't look good when finished. So I spray painted the whole thing with Testors silver, and painted the props flat black with yellow tips to match photos of the real Goose as she was being prepped for flight. The instructions also say to put some weight in the nose, but not how much. This is so the model will rest properly on the display stand. It requires a lot because the thing is so tail heavy. Speaking of tail, one will notice the real Goose has some reinforcements applied around the tail boom. These were added some time later inside the hangar after her one-and-only flight. The model kit doesn't have these, and so is an accurate representation of the Goose as she was originally built.
Recently a resin model company released a Spruce Goose in 1/72 scale! Can you imagine the size of it? Who's got that kind of room in their house? The Entex Spruce Goose is a much better option, being just the right size for display, crisply and accurately molded, and a fun model to build. It will always be one of my favorites.