Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Monogram Wright Bros. Kitty Hawk

I mentioned in my post on the Revell Sopwith Triplane that I did not like biplanes as a kid - at all. Imagine my disappointment then, when at a fifth-grade Christmas gift exchange in late December 1975, I unwrap a Monogram Wright Brothers Kitty Hawk. Not only is it a biplane, but a really, really old biplane! I was so put out by the whole thing; especially since a couple of my classmates got really cool models like the Monogram F-15 Eagle, and Revell A-5 Vigilante. Why did I get stuck with the Kitty Hawk!
I took it home and figured I'd put it together just for something to do. I didn't care to make the effort or take the time to line up all the struts properly, and the thing came out looking pretty sad. It didn't last long in my collection.
For my rebuild project, I'm not skipping over any airplane kits just because I didn't like them originally. So, I built a new Kitty Hawk and actually enjoyed it this time. Now I appreciate the engineering of this kit, having studied the instructions and followed each step by the letter. I even rigged the thing with original Monogram thread from an old Grumman Gulfhawk. The rigging really enhances the realism on this model, but is also a pain to apply. Only a few parts need painting on this model which is a bonus considering the time spent on the rigging.
Monogram (now Revell-Monogram) has been cranking this kit out since the late 1950s, and I could have easily purchased a new one; but I chose to get a 1973 "white box" version just like the one I had back in '75. There are lots of these available on EBay really cheap, perhaps because many kids like myself weren't interested in antique airplanes, and passed on it. It's a very educational model though, since the builder gets to see in miniature just how the original plane was designed and how it worked. It's still not a favorite of mine, but I like it a little better now than I did before.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monogram U.S. Navy DC-3

In 1975 Monogram re-released three airplane model kits they passed over in '73 when they reissued almost their entire catalog of aircraft: the Lockheed Constellation, Ford Trimotor, and Douglas DC-3. For all three the markings and box art were updated. For instance, the original TWA Connie became a USAF C-121, the TWA Trimotor was dressed in current Island Airlines livery, and the TWA DC-3 became a U.S. Navy R4-D.
I remember seeing all three at Gemco, but the only one I bought was the Navy DC-3. My original was mostly unpainted and the Navy markings didn't stay on very long.
This rebuild presented the opportunity to dress it up in all the proper colors including white upper fuselage, red tail stripe, and shiny chrome silver to enhance the bare-metal surfaces. I think it turned out pretty good. Monogram's odd-scale DC-3 is I think the oldest plastic assembly kit of the DC-3, having originally come out in the mid 1950s. The basic shape of the airplane looks accurate, but it suffers from poor-fitting parts, and exaggerated rivet lines. It's hard to cover these old imperfections with an updated paint scheme and Navy decals. The kit lends itself better to the original TWA version, which can easily be slapped together in short order without any paint at all. Still, I like this 1975 reissue because it brings back good memories of the summer of '75 on Avenue J-5 in Lancaster. I flew my original DC-3 around the house and neighborhood quite a bit, racking up many hours of flight time, just like a real DC-3.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lindberg 1/48 Me-262 With All the Bells and Whistles!

Lindberg's large-scale action model kits were very popular in the late 1950s, and early sixties. By the time I was building models in the mid-70s, Lindberg was still cranking out their most popular kits including this Messerschmitt Me-262 twin-jet WWII fighter-bomber. It has lots of working features such as opening canopy, engine access covers, machine-gun bay access covers, working flight surfaces, and retractable landing gear. The first time I built this kit I loved it! The working parts really made this a fun model to play with, plus, it was very educational. With a model like this, a young kid could have an intimate working knowledge of the major systems of this airplane. Unfortunately, action model kits didn't endure much into the 1970s. By then, the kids who built the first plastic kits in the 50s were highly experienced builders, and demanded better accuracy and detail from model companies. Working parts tended to impede on external accuracy, so things like dropping bombs, retractable gear, moving flaps and such became a thing of the past. Lindberg's Me-262 can still be bought today, but it's nowhere near as accurate or realistic looking as say, Tamiya's or even Monogram's.
But if one wants to build something just for the fun of putting hinged airplane parts together and playing with them afterwards, this is the one!
The Me-262 pictured here is the fourth one I've built in my lifetime. All four I've done are the Lindberg 1974 reissue (box pictured above.)I love the sound of a sealed Lindberg model kit. Almost always the parts are all loose off the trees, and rattle around in the box. Oh, what a sweet sound!
Typical of Lindberg, they don't give much painting guidance, so I left this rebuild in the original green plastic with only minimal painting such as the wheels and tires. All the parts work, but they aren't very durable. The hinge pins tend to break off after repeated operation, so I've left the gear down and panels closed for display.
The decal sheet for this model has always had six German crosses, which of course is total nonsense. But Lindberg, like many other U.S. and European model companies were sensitive to anxiety brought upon by the sight of swastikas; so they substituted the tail swastikas with crosses. I went ahead and put them on in keeping with the original look and design of this kit.
While not a major good-looker, the Lindberg Me-262 still remains a favorite of mine because of its cool action features and assembly fun.