Saturday, December 29, 2012

HAWK U.S. Navy TV-2

I remember buying the Hawk Lockheed TV-2 at Peterson's Hobbies & Crafts because the picture of the assembled model on the box looked very colorful and detailed. Upon opening the box at home however, I discovered a pretty basic kit molded in translucent white plastic! The decals were not the ones shown on the box cover, and the instructions also showed a different version. I built and painted the thing any way, and it looked horrible. I didn't paint the translucent white parts, and the red I hand-brushed using Testors flat insignia red - awful! But, I remember having lots of fun building it because the instructions had Captain Hawk, an illustrated character yelling out commands such as, "You're getting sloppy with that paint!"
In rebuilding this kit, I discovered why the kit shown on the box top differs from the kit inside. Apparently Hawk's original TV-2 kit from 1959 (shown left) had the correct early Navy version illustrated on the box, which jived with the decals and instructions. Hawk reissued the kit in 1965, but chose to show a TV-2 built by a professional modeler on the box top. This pro apparently decided to model a TV-2 in a later Navy scheme, and used his own decals from the scrap box. It's a nice looking model, but unfortunately deceives the buyer into thinking he can build the same thing.
I chose to build the kit in the original 1950s scheme. To my delight the parts were molded in a thick, semi-gloss white styrene, which meant I didn't have to paint them white. The red panel I painted using Tamiya gloss red. I stuck to Captain Hawk's painting suggestions in the plans, which results in a pretty decent looking model. The original decals had yellowed a bit, but went on nicely. This is one of Hawk's semi-action kits, with removable tail section and engine ala-Lindberg. The canopy also moves up and down; other than that there are no moving parts.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Airfix Britten-Norman Islander

To the best of my recollection the Airfix 1/72 scale B.N. 2 Islander is the last model airplane kit I built before I moved from our first Lancaster home on East Avenue J-5, to a new mobile home on 20th Street East. I remember picking it out from the shelf at Peterson Hobbies and my Dad saying, "Looks like an Aero Commander." That made me want to get it because I liked the Aero Commander. I would see the Rockwell company Commander fly over our house every now and then, and my Dad had great stories of being shuttled around in it during trips between Downey and Palmdale. I would have bought a model of the Commander if there were one available at the time. Comet's little Aero Commander 680 kit along with Aurora's reissue were long since out of production by the time I started building models; and I had no knowledge they even existed until years later when I started trolling through kit auctions on EBay. Nevertheless, Airfix's Islander was the next best thing, and I liked it. I still do.
The kit is molded in bright yellow, so overall painting is not necessary unless you want the model to look more like the real orangish-yellow of Aurigny's old paint scheme. Once the thing is all put together and the decals applied though, the original yellow doesn't look all that bad. Some dark red needs to be applied though on the tops of the engine nacelles, along with flat black de-icer boots. I painted the seats blue as per the instructions, but went a step further and painted the control panel and dash board flat black. Airfix instructions can be rather lacking in painting suggestions.
Build-wise the model is very detailed and accurate in scale, but suffers from poor fit, especially the fuselage halves and wing mount. Airfix decals over thirty years old can be hit or miss as far as usefulness, but the ones of this Islander rebuild were acceptable.
This is a fun little model to have again on the shelf, and reminds me of a time where I transitioned not only to a new home, but to mostly 1/72 scale aircraft.

Monday, August 13, 2012

AMT 1/48 Corsair, P-36, Vega, Temptest, and F9F

My Mom bought me the complete set of AMT's 1/48 scale plastic aircraft kits from the JCP Penny mail order catalog for Christmas, 1976. We were getting close to moving from our first home in Lancaster to a new double-wide mobile home further east of town. I already had the MiG-15, but the set came with another one. I didn't finish building the set before we moved, but I think I finished the F9F Panther because it was the MiG-15's nemesis.
I was very excited to get these models for Christmas, but I wouldn't have bought them on my own. I wasn't very keen on the Tempest, or the Lockheed Vega. For this reason, I'm going to skip over building them again so I can get on to projects that I was more interested in as a kid, and still am today.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Nichimo 1/20th Scale Hughes 500 - A Dream Come True!

I'm taking a break in my usual lineup of kits I built as a kid, to show you one I wished I had as a kid. The Nichimo 1/20th scale Hughes 500 helicopter was one of those untouchable model kits displayed behind the counter at Peterson Hobbies. I knew I could never afford it, and that it would probably be too complex for me to build. Thirty-five years later however, the opportunity finally came to procure one of these highly collectible action model kits.
These appear rather frequently on EBay, but for outrageous starting bid prices. In the case of this one shown here, patience payed off when I spotted it complete, but in a tattered box. The seller claimed all the pieces were included, so I took a chance and bid on it. To my surprise I won it for a much lower price than these usually sell for. The box was indeed in bad shape, but I wasn't getting this kit for the box!
This is an awesome model; extremely fun and challenging to build, especially if one chooses the motorized version because there are lots of gear boxes and wires to assemble. There's even a working miniature light bulb for the landing light! The interior is stunningly detailed, with everything from pilot's headsets, magazine pockets in the forward bulkhead, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, vinyl strapping material for the seat belts, and wire tubing for the turbine engine. If you choose to go with the display only version, you can mount the assembled engine into the fuselage and view it through an opening access cover. But the neat thing about going motorized is you can still build the highly detailed engine and display it externally on its transport dolly.
There's a lot of anticipation of the finished working product when assembling this model. There are many steps to completing the motorized workings, and no opportunity to test the thing out until you finally mount the chopper to the control platform. Then, and only then, with a push of a button, the kit comes alive with rotating blades. It's really quite amazing to see the thing work after all the labor involved.
There is a full color painting guide showing five versions, but the decal sheet only includes full body panel markings for one version - the American one. I chose to do the Japanese Kawasaki version, but that meant painting the decorative panels on the fuselage, tail boom, and fins. What a pain that was! I used Tamiya gloss blue, but there was a lot of bleeding through the masking tape that had to be painstakingly corrected afterwards. The original decals were barely usable, not wanting to come off the backing sheet. I had to coat them with clear gloss when they dried to ensure adhesion.

This is a really fun model to have on my office shelf, and goes to show one is never too old to have something dreamed of since childhood.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

AMT MiG-15 'fagot'

For Christmas 1976 my Mom bought for me all six AMT 1/48 scale model airplane kits which came out that year. I already had the MiG-15, but it was nice to get the other five (F9F Panther, Hawker Tempest, P-36 Hawk, F4U-1 Corsair, and Lockheed Vega) in the set. She got them from a catalog store, and they came together in a cardboard box. When I tore off the Christmas wrapping and opened the box, I saw all six kits neatly packed together - what eye candy!

At the time these kits came out, AMT was better known for their automobile and "Star Trek" model kits. Perhaps the popularity of their Hindenburg kit in 1975 prompted the company to explore a wider range of subjects. The interesting thing about these early AMT airplane kits is they are very basic and easy to build, yet are very accurate in scale. They have minimum surface and interior detail. For instance, this MiG-15 kit has a 'bathtub' type cockpit you drop into the fuselage once the two halves are glued together. There is no wheel well detail whatsoever. The decals include just the basic national insignia and markings. AMT molded all their kits in white styrene, and their instructions give no painting guidance other than "look at the picture on the box"! The box art doesn't help much either as the illustrations are rather cartoon-ish. AMT packaged these kits in a collapsible 'cereal' type box, with a little schematic of the airplane on one edge, and a short illustration of how great their kits are engineered on the other. Still, with all their simpleness, they make nice looking models if finished well, and go together nicely as a set, especially the MiG-15 and F9F.
The MiG-15 shown here is the third I've built in my lifetime. My first two were hand brushed with Testors silver, and were very streaky looking. This latest one was sprayed with Testors chrome. I painted only a few minimum details such as black gun barrels, tires, and exhaust cone. The interior was painted with Testors Russian interior green, with a brown-suited pilot.
Monogram came out with their own 1/48 scale MiG-15 the same year, which seemed redundant; but theirs was far superior to AMTs. Monogram's had a fully detailed cockpit with sliding canopy, wheel well detail, and markings for three versions. Interestingly, their North Korean Air Force markings were the same as AMT's, even duplicating the plane's serial number "2057"! Monogram included national insignia for the wings, while AMT did not.
It was right after Christmas 1976 we moved from J-5 to another part of town. I didn't get all six kits finished before we moved, and I may have left the newer MiG-15 from the Christmas set for last since I already had one on the shelf. But seeing as how I had bought one separately for myself before I got the complete set, I decided to build this one first for this blog project.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

FROG D.H. Vampire FB.5

On the heels of the FROG Gloster Meteor (see previous post) is this 1/72 scale DeHavilland Vampire 5. As I mentioned earlier, Al Letcher gave me one of these along with the Meteor kit, and they made a great pair. Back in the 70s, FROG's FB.5 was the only Vampire model kit available. Heller came out with another FB.5 in the 80s, but I have a hunch they got the molds from FROG when FROG went out of business. The FB.5 differed from Al's Mk. III Vampire in that the MK. III had rounded wing tips. At any rate, FROG's little kit was close enough to Al's Vampire and I liked having it in my collection, especially having seen it fly on several occasions at Mojave Airport.
I have faint memories of my original Vampire assembled. I can't remember if I painted it or not, or whether or not I built it wheels down or up. In rebuilding this kit, I chose to do it wheels up in memory of watching this great airplane in flight. The RAF camouflage scheme was hand painted, while the underside was spray painted with Testors silver metallic. I did not have a pre-mixed bottle of dark sea gray, so I tried mixing different colors to get the right shade. It was rather difficult, and after wasting too much paint, I settled with a shade I think is too blue. Nevertheless, a foot away or more it looks acceptable.

At some point in the future I may wish to model Al's Vampire using the 1/48 scale Hobbycraft Vampire Mk. III. It would go well with the Classic Airframes 1/48 scale Meteor N.F. 11. There is a less expensive option however to do both in 1/72 scale since Amodel from Russia has recently released a Vampire Mk. III, which would go well with the Matchbox Meteor N.F.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hasegawa A-4E Skyhawk

The 1/72 scale Douglas A-4E/F Skyhawk was either my second or third Hasegawa model. Judging from Squadron Mail Order ads in old SCALE MODELER magazines, this kit appeared in the U.S. around 1973. The one I got originally like the one shown here is the second issue from 1974 (it's hard to tell though because Hasegawa and their U.S. subsidiary Minicraft never dated anything!) The quality of this kit is far superior to the F-104J and the Mig-21. The parts are cleanly molded in light gray, with hardly any flash at all. My original one from '76 looked pretty good; I left the upper body and wings in the natural gray plastic, and hand-painted the underside flat white. I built the Marine Corps "E" version with drop tanks and two Bull Pup missiles.
For this rebuild, I spray-painted the upper surfaces gloss light sea gray, with gloss white under-surfaces. In homage to my original, I did the same Marine Corps version but this time I left the tanks and missiles off. The Skyhawk is a pretty sleek-looking little hot rod; and although it would have been unlikely for a Marine A-4E to go into combat with nothing but the twin 20MM guns, it's not impossible to imagine a slick Skyhawk going up for a test or training flight. That's the look I wanted - a slick underside to accentuate the plane's hot rod-iness.
A test of one of the original decals revealed they were too brittle to use without Micro Decal Film, so I put some on and they went on fine. The gloss surface helped them adhere without much trouble or additional products.
This is a nice little kit to have on display again, and reminds me of my later days of modeling at the house on J-5. There are only several more kits to go before a major transition comes in the history of my boyhood model airplane building.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Crushed Fishbed! The first of several models that never made it to the shelf

At some point during my time at J-5 I bought a Hasegawa MiG-21 Fishbed like the one shown here. This was another kit I remember working on in my garage while my friend Phil worked on a kit of his own. Phil let me use his Humbrol paints to replicate the camouflage scheme shown on the box cover. The Humbrol colors had a strong odor and were slow to dry. I put the Fishbed on some paper towels to dry, and for some reason, laid it on the garage floor near the doorway into the house. Dumb! While Phil and I took a break inside, my Dad walked into the garage for something and stepped right on the MiG, crushing it. When Phil and I went back into the garage to resume construction, I saw my Fishbed laying there in pieces, tacky, stinky paint and all. I was bummed, but once again it was my fault. This was the second model destroyed by accidental crushing (see Aurora C-141A) and the first of several that never made it to my shelves. I'm covering these thwarted kits for completeness, but I'm choosing not to rebuild them.

Friday, April 27, 2012

FROG Gloster Meteor Mk.IV

There's a much bigger story around this FROG 1/72 scale Gloster Meteor Mk. IV than just having built it when I was eleven years old. The bigger story is, I got to spend time with a real Meteor at Mojave Airport. It was owned by Al Letcher, and was actually an Armstrong Whitworth N.F. 11, later converted to a TT-20 target tow vehicle. Al also owned a DeHavilland Vampire Mk. III, and at the time (1976) they were the oldest two jet aircraft flying in the United States. I came to know Al because my Mom got a job as his secretary at The Letcher Mint in Lancaster. Al minted tokens for Las Vegas and Reno casinos, and also commemorative coins for the collector's market. His desire back in those days was to own and operate a Royal Air Force museum there at Mojave. He got off to a pretty good start with the Vampire and Meteor, and later a Hawker Hunter! But by the mid 1980s his interest wandered to helicopters, and all three jets were eventually sold. The Meteor now sits in a museum at Edwards AFB. But for those few glorious years in the late seventies, Al's Meteor graced the skies over the Antelope Valley. It was even used in the WONDER WOMAN T.V. series episode, "The Feminine Mystique" guised as America's new secret weapon, the 'XPJ-1'.

As I mentioned in my post about the Grumman HU-16E Albatross, Mojave Airport was a magical place for a plane-crazy kid like me. Al's own aircraft made the place even more exciting. Al would let me sit in the cockpits of the Meteor and the Vampire, and that was a real privilege. He even let me scrub the underside of the Meteor with kerosene! How many 11-year old kids get to do that? I treasure the memories of Al and his wife Ada; they were like family to me. Al knew I liked to build model airplanes so he gave me a FROG Meteor MK. IV kit along with a FROG Vampire FB.5. I remember him telling me there weren't any models available of the exact variations of his Meteor and Vampire, and that the two FROG kits were about as close as one could get. I didn't care, they were model airplanes and I was thrilled to receive them and put them together. They were prized items in my collection, and I even refurbished the Meteor when I was in High School. I gave it a coat of silver with my airbrush, and put some new decals on it.
My rebuild pictured here was a bagged kit I found at a model swap meet in Missouri, but I later found an empty box for it on EBay. The kit was missing the display stand and the pitot tube, but that was okay. I knew I was going to build it wheels-down and the pitot tube would easily be replaceable with either plastic or brass wire. It was fun to build again, and easy to paint since the whole thing is silver. The original decals were thick, but went on fine. I love having this model back on the shelf. It meant a lot to me to as a kid, and still does today.
I should mention also that Matchbox eventually came out with an A.W. Meteor NF in 1/72 scale as well as Classic Airframes, who released a beautiful but dreadfully expensive Meteor NF in 1/48 scale. In 2006 I built a Matchbox Meteor to look like the XPJ-1 from WONDER WOMAN. I put it up for auction on EBay as a one-of-a-kind collector's item, but it didn't generate many bids. I might do another one later to match Al's white 'Mojave Meteor' from days gone past. Al painted the meteor gloss white, and put RAF roundels on it. He knew this wasn't historically accurate, but was more concerned about keeping the aircraft cool since it was kept outdoors in the hot desert sun.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Airfix 1/72 USAF F-86D Sabre "Dog"

Sometime in 1976 I sat down at my Dad's workbench in the garage, and with Paul McCartney & Wing's "Let 'em In" on the radio, I started work on my second Airfix model kit, the F-86D Sabre. I remember being impressed with the quality of this model; the parts seemed to fit better than most kits I had built up to that time. I hand-painted a few parts such as the radome and anti-glare panel, but left the rest in the natural silver-gray plastic.
When it came to rebuilding this kit 36 years later, I knew it had to be shinier than the dull plastic color. I wanted it to look like the one on the box art, so I sprayed it with Testors chrome; which in my opinion is the poor-man's version of Liqua-Plate or some such other esoteric hobby product intended to replicate bare aluminum. I think it looks good and somewhat vintage-like. After all, if one really wanted to stay within this kit's original context, that is, an English kid in 1975 would have brush painted it with Airfix or Humbrol silver, it would look a lot like my rebuild pictured below.
I really enjoyed building this model again, as I have with most of the others. Maybe it's because my memories of doing so the first time are still so vivid. One thing I did differently the second time was to build it 'gear up' like the one on the box top. One reason for this is the nose wheel piece is famous for its weak strut, which breaks very easily. I remember my original breaking several times right where the nose wheel forms with the compression cylinder. I say this is "famous" because it's mentioned in the review of this model in a 1976 issue of SCALE MODELER magazine. Another reason is I like the way the Sabre looks in flight mode with the wing tanks. So why not forget the gear this time? I know there are modelers out there who absolutely have to have a wheels-down model every time. But for me, it's nice not to have mess with the extra assembly and painting every now and then.
This is one of my favorite Airfix kits because it was still pretty new when I bought it the first time, and is an excellent quality kit. This rebuild may not be the last time I'll build one of these.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hasegawa's Classic 1/72 F-104J

The 1/72 scale Lockheed F-104J is the first model kit by Hasegawa I ever built. I bought it at Peterson's on a shopping trip with my friend Phil. I remember painting a few details on it such as the white wing tops and black anti-glare panel, but that was about it. It remained in my collection up until we moved from J-5.
Building this kit again was fun, but I was surprised at the low quality of the parts. The F-104J must have been one of Hasegawa's early airplane kits because the parts do not fit well, and the plastic is molded in a hard, brittle, silver-gray. There was a fair amount of flash on some parts. At some point in the early 70s Hasegawa must have had a quality improvement initiative, because other kits such as the A-4E Skyhawk (post forthcoming) are like night and day compared to this one.
For this rebuild I chose the Japan Air Self Defense Force version "666", same as my original. Instead of leaving the fuselage bare plastic though, I sprayed it with Testors primer gray, which seemed to match the Federal Standard shade of gray recommended on the instruction sheet. For the shiny aluminum part around the tail pipe, and the canopy framework I used metal foil with Micro Metal Foil Adhesive. I chose to omit the under wing fuel tanks and Sidewinder missiles in order to keep the Starfighter's sleek appearance. I don't think Hasegawa ever released an airplane model kit with a display stand, so wheels down is always the "option" unless one wishes to hang their kit from the ceiling.
This is an okay kit, not my favorite, but it was fun to revisit. I'm looking forward to rebuilding Hasegawa's better kits such as the A-4E, Mig-25, and Thunderbirds T-38.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monogram Douglas TBD-1 Devastator

The Monogram 1/48 scale TBD-1 Devastator was the most advanced model kit I built during my early days on J-5. I remember buying it at Peterson's; my friend Phil was with me, and he pointed it out. Phil was a more experienced modeler than I was, and he liked large kits with lots of detail. I on the other hand had bought mostly reissues of older kits from the 50s and 60s. On the day I got the Devastator, Phil got a Hasegawa 1/32 Boeing P-26 Peashooter. We took our kits home and starting building immediately. Phil let me use some of his paints, and I put the TBD together fairly well. It was one of my pride & joy kits on the shelf.
Monogram released the TBD kit in 1974. It was a time of renewal for Monogram; they hit a low spot in quality in 1970, and came back in 1973 with their 1/72nd scale F-82 Twin Mustang. In '74 they released a 1/72 F-15A Eagle, and three 1/48 scale WWII airplanes: P-61 Black Widow, Do-335 Arrow, and TBD-1 Devastator - all fine kits. There were two versions of the TBD-1 released within a short period of each other. The original release in 1974 was packaged in a "tall box" and included a black & white pamphlet on building dioramas by Shep Paine. It shows a crashed TBD in the water during the battle of Midway. Later editions were packaged in a "short box" and did not include the diorama sheet. On the short box version, the nice color picture panels of the factory model on the box sides are cropped on the top and bottom, and part of the lithography on the box top is rearranged. I got the original 1974 version at Peterson's, and for my rebuild, I found a sealed one on EBay. There are however tons of later "short box" versions up for auction.
When I started on this rebuild, I took each step very slowly, and painted each piece as I went along. This was a more time-consuming method of construction, but it reduced some problems such as over-spray and touch up during final assembly and painting. I chose to make the pre-war version with silver fuselage and yellow wings & tail. I used Tamiya spray yellow, which is a fine product, but it's a little thinner than Testors, and did not cover the ribs on the wings very well. About seven coats were required to get it acceptable. Because the kit was still factory sealed, I expected the decals to be like new as well. Just the opposite was the case - they were dried-up and almost completely unusable. I was extremely disappointed; all the other vintage Monogram kits I had rebuilt up to this point had decals that gave me no trouble. I didn't want to have to buy another TBD kit in hopes of getting a good decal sheet, so I soldiered on with the originals using two thick coats of Micro Decal Film, Micro Set, and Micro Sol. A lot of TLC was needed to apply each decal, especially those on the wings which had to conform over the ribbing. After the decals dried, I coated them when Testors clear acrylic, and Micro Coat Gloss. It took almost as long to put the decals on this model as it did to assemble it- about a month all together.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hawk SNJ

Here's the other kit I got at the dime store in La Mirada back in the summer of '76: the Hawk 1/72 scale U.S. Navy North American SNJ trainer. What a nice little kit for its time. In an era where manufacturers were cranking out toy-like plastic model kits that could be slapped together in an afternoon, Hawk went the extra mile to create an accurate, finely detailed kit of this famous airplane. They made it in two versions, the Navy SNJ you see here, and a USAF T-6 Texan. It has recessed panel lines and fine, flush-rivet detail. The only exception is the cockpit interior, which has two slightly over sized ape-looking pilots. This kit has been around since the late 1950s, and is still available by Testors. That first SNJ I got in La Mirada was molded in thick, white plastic. Navy SNJs were painted gloss yellow as illustrated on the box cover, but I chose to leave it white, either because Steven didn't have any yellow paint, or I just wanted to finish it in a hurry.
When I was searching for Hawk SNJ kits on EBay to rebuild, I noticed they were molded in different color combinations including white, orange, and yellow with black wing! I took a chance and got a factory sealed one, and upon opening it, I was pleased to find I had gotten an all-yellow molded version. The natural yellow of the plastic however was a little too dark, so I was going to have to spray it a lighter shade of yellow to match the Navy's. At least I wasn't going to have to paint black plastic with multiple coats of primer and yellow! And so it came to pass, I built the kit in a day, and sprayed it with Tamiya gloss yellow. The decals were still usable, but they were very thick. I knew this was going to be a problem with the black anti-glare panel piece. On its own, it didn't want to conform to the curvature of the nose section, and the cowling. On top of that, there are two steps forward of the front windshield which the decal has to conform to. Copious dousings of Micro-Sol along with some small incisions with an X-Acto knife were necessary to get this decal piece to properly adhere. It worked well in the end, and prevented me from having to paint this panel black instead (I like to use the original decals whenever possible.)
The hawk SNJ looks great in yellow, the way she's supposed to look. I might build the T-6 version as a companion to her some day. They'd make a great pair!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Aurora Huey Cobra

I wish I could remember what order I built my model airplanes starting in 1974; I can however pin two of them to the summer of '76 because I built them at the house of Manny & Virginia Ybarra, good friends of ours who lived in La Mirada, California. I spent a week there that summer and mostly remember the kid who lived in the house behind them, and going to see "Logan's Run" at the theater. The boy's name was Steven, he was a year or two older than me, and he liked to build model airplanes too. We must have been bored one day, so Virginia gave me a couple bucks to buy a model kit at the dime store across Leffingwell Rd. Leffingwell is an extremely busy four-lane city road, and was difficult to cross even back then (you can see our trek below.) We made it though, and I bought two kits: an Aurora AH-1 Huey Cobra, and a Hawk SNJ. I don't remember what Steven got, but this little dime store had all the Aurora helicopter kits from the 1970s including the now very rare Lockheed Cheyenne. I wish I had gotten them all, but the Cobra was the only Aurora chopper kit I built from the series.
When we got back to Virginia's house, we started building immediately. I didn't bring any paints with me, but Steven brought over his, and I painted the Cobra minimally, mostly just a few interior details, and the rotor blades. It looked pretty good because Aurora, thankfully molded the kit in a matte olive drab color. On the rebuild you see pictured here, I again painted only a few details. All the instruction sheet says is to paint the model in accordance with the box art. Now that's not very helpful! But many model companies such as Aurora, Lindberg, and Hawk, did this; it's as if the model engineers couldn't be bothered with painting guides or instructions. Revell and Monogram were much better at this. Lack of painting guidance aside however, the Aurora Huey Cobra is a nicely scaled and molded model kit. You can see that by the late 1960s, Aurora was making an effort to get away from toy-like models to more accurate ones for serious hobbyists. I don't know how it compares to the other choppers in the line such as the Jolly Green Giant, Cheyenne, Huey, and Sky Crane. I have seen the Chinook, and it hearkens back to Aurora's earlier toy-like days, probably because it's an earlier kit than the other helos.
I enjoyed building the Huey Cobra again; it looks almost exactly like my original! It brings back good memories of that summer in La Mirada, hanging out with another kid who appreciated models - something a guy my age now sorely misses. By the way, before I left Virginia's house to go back home, Steven gave me his unpainted Monogram 1/48 DeHavilland Mosquito! I painted it when I got home, and it was a treasured addition to my collection for some time afterwards.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Aurora Snaparoos! Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!

My blog would not be complete without mentioning the Aurora Snaparoos set of four jet airliners. Gemco had all the different Snaparoo sets, but I remember the only one I was interested in was the airliner set, because it had a Fairchild F-27. These little kits are similar to what a kid would get in a cereal box - simple little models where you could twist the pieces off the runners, and snap together in a matter of minutes. The box shows the four little airplanes nicely painted; even the F-27 looks like it's in Hughes Airwest livery. No decals are included however, and painting these things would really be a pain if one tried. I found a factory sealed box of these on EBay, and opened it up to relive the good memories. I believe I got the Snaparoo jet airliner set originally in the summer of 1975. The box shown here is dated 1975, so they had probably just come out when I got mine that summer. The Snaparoos are one of Aurora's last model kit products; the company would be out of business the following year.
It would be fun to put these together again after 37 years, but I just can't. I'd rather leave them in their individual packages. The box is in such great condition too, fresh and bran-new looking. I'll just leave the box on display with the rest of the built kits.

Sanshoh F-15A Eagle in 1/100 Scale

Peterson Hobbies and Crafts in Lancaster stocked many imported model kits from Japan. I liked these kits because they were different from the usual Monogram and Revell lineup at department stores, and they were cheap. Sometime in 1976 I spotted the Sanshoh F-15 Eagle and bought it. I don't remember being a big fan of the F-15 because it was too new and common. But I do remember putting it together, leaving it mostly unpainted in the original but incorrect Air Defense Command gray-colored plastic.
Finding this old kit again on EBay wasn't hard; there are lots of them being auctioned off, still unbuilt. It was interesting though to find this kit, and it's companions (Mig-25, F-14, Mirage IV) were produced in Japan by both Mania, and Sanshoh sometime in the mid 1970s (the Japanese kit makers except for Tamiya never put a date on anything!)Who made it first? I don't know, but it's still available today by Academy.
At 1/100 scale, it's small, but fits nicely on a bookshelf. For the casual, non-airbrushing builder like myself, the paint scheme presents a bit of a problem. Early F-15s were painted in the USAF's proud new "Air Superiority Blue" (ASB)color scheme. F-15s were solid in this scheme, while the Air Force experimented with it in a two-tone camouflage for a couple of early F-16s, a YF-17, and an A-10 or two. In 1974, both Revell and Monogram molded their F-15A kit in the correct ASB, so quick-building kids could have a realistic looking model without painting. If one wanted to build Hasegawa's or Sansho's F-15 however, the builder had to mix blue and white paint together to get the proper shade. Serious modelers who airbrush do this all the time without much ado. On this rebuild, I wanted to brush paint it, and so wanted a pre-mixed ASB. The only pre-mixed bottle of ASB I could find at my local hobby store was by Mr. Hobby. It's a thick, goopy acrylic that requires a special thinner. I brushed it on, unthinned, and it covered well, but dried semi-gloss with some visible streaks. Oh well, it sure looks better than my original one. The decals went on just fine with no breakage. I chose to make it gear up on the display stand. Unfortunately the gear door pieces did not fit well into their respective places, and required a lot of trimming, making the bottom area rather rough. All other pieces fit very well - it's a pretty crisp and accurate little kit. I would have liked to applied the prototype's day-glo red/orange panels, but again, nobody makes a pre-mixed bottle of this color, and I didn't want to mix-and-brush it. So, it complies with the scheme of the first production F-15As to come off the line: all ASB, with minimal USAF markings. A fun kit to revisit, and brings back good memories of those trips to Peterson's in search of inexpensive Japanese airplane kits.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monogram Piper Tri-Pacer

I remember building the Monogram Piper Tri-Pacer on the picnic table in my backyard at J-5. It was a typical warm, sunny day. I liked this model because of its opening doors and removable cowling cover. To the best of my memory, the "white box" version I got back then was molded in white, and I attempted to paint the trim in red. I don't think it looked to good, but I enjoyed playing with the model for a long time afterwards.
I found a sealed 1973 "white box" Tri-Pacer on EBay to rebuild. When I opened it up however I found the parts were molded in glossy "Piper Cub" yellow. This presented a problem. If I wanted to paint the model in factory Tri-Pacer colors, I would have to paint the whole model cream white, then apply the red trim. This was not something I was in the mood to do as it would take hours of painstaking masking. So, I did an Internet search for pictures of Tri-Pacers and found many are solid yellow just like their smaller Cub cousins. I decided to leave it the natural yellow with gloss black seat cushions and flat black floor. I also applied the Civil Air Patrol decals in memory of my own service with CAP from 1985 to 2003.
The Tri-Pacer is a really fun model to build, and can be finished in a single day with minimal painting.

Fujimi F4U-4 Corsair

I only bought and built one Fujimi model airplane kit when I was a kid and that was the 1/72 scale F4U-4 Corsair. I got the one released around 1976 with Navy and Marine Corps. markings. I must have gotten it at Peterson's since he was the only store in Lancaster selling imported kits from Japan. And, I probably got it at the time because "Baa Baa Black Sheep" was on T.V. and I watched it religiously; I don't think I missed a single episode during its first season.
This little Fujimi kit is pretty good; its molded in dark blue and the pieces fit together nicely. Still, it's pretty basic and could be compared to the Revell or Airfix kits on the market around the same time.
I had to search long and hard to get the 1976 version again to rebuild. There had been a few on EBay, but they were over $20 dollars! Finally, I found one around $10 dollars and got it - the one you see here. Rebuilding it was fun and brought back memories of watching "Black Sheep" in my room on my little Sharp black & white T.V. I may have painted a few parts on my original, but what I remember most is the deep, dark blue color of the plastic, and the red & white checkerboard decal for the Marine version. I chose to make the Marine version again, and to my delight the old decals went on beautifully - no deterioration from age. I love that!
It's nice to have this kit on the shelf again after all these years.

Monogram A-26 Invader

Having seen a couple of privately-owned A-26s at Mojave Airport when I was a kid, I was excited to get the 1973 "white box" Monogram "B"-26 Invader at Gemco. I always though it was a sleek-looking airplane. I can't remember if I got the A-26 before the B-25, but they are two of Monogram's earliest plastic airplane assembly kits, having first appeared in 1955 along with a PBY Catalina. It seems to me the A-26 was tooled before the B-25, because it's a lot rougher; the parts fit together much worse than the B-25.
This kit is in 1/67 scale in order that the pieces would fit in a standard-size box. This was the case for a lot of early Monogram and Revell kits. There really isn't much else to say about this rebuild. I put it together in one day, leaving it mostly unpainted except for what is recommended in the instructions.
At the time I built my first A-26, Airfix already had a far-superior 1/72 scale A-26 on the market, but I don't recall ever seeing it at Peterson's Hobbies. If I had, I most likely would have gotten it. But, the Monogram Invader was just fine for me way back when and I enjoyed building it again all these years later.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Entex "Air Giants" Lockheed C-5A Galaxy!

Finishing out my collection of Entex "Air Giants" is this little C-5A Galaxy in 1/480 scale. I remember seeing the larger 1/144 scale Otaki C-5A (in Entex form) at Peterson Hobby and Crafts, but knew I could never afford it. It was always one of those special "untouchable" kits displayed high on a shelf behind the counter. So I settled for the next best thing, the "Air Giants" version for .89 cents. This model isn't much of a giant when finished, but it's crisp, accurate, and takes up hardly any shelf space.
The original one I built in '75 was molded in white, and I remember painting the wings and lower surfaces gloss gray. The rebuild shown here however was molded in the correct gray, so all I had to do was paint the upper fuselage white. The decals were barely usable; the thin blue stripe which separates the gray from the white on the fuselage was unusable, but its absence is not really that noticeable at this scale. The original Fuji and Entex versions of this fine little kit include early USAF C-5A markings. If you buy the current Academy version, you get a slightly later version with MAC emblem for the rear fuselage, and no cursive "galaxy" script for the forward section. No landing gear is included for this model, just a display stand.

There were several other "Air Giants" available at Gemco when I was a kid including the XB-70, Guppy, B-1, B-52, P-2 Neptune, B-17, and Martin P5M. I didn't buy any of those, and now I wish I had to complete the set. Entex also had a neat little set of airliners in what was labeled "pocket-pak" kits. These included a DC-8-62, 727-200, 737, 747, Concorde, and Boeing SST. These were even smaller than the "Air Giants".

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Entex "Air Giants" Pan Am 747

Continuing with Entex "Air Giants" is this 1/380 scale Boeing 747. When I built this model first time as a kid, it looked pretty good. I don't remember painting it, but I did a pretty good job on the decals. Like the DC-10, it came with itty-bitty landing gear parts, and I can't remember if I put them on or not. Unfortunately, Entex decals, at least on these "Air Giants" kits don't have a very long shelf life. The long fuselage stripes broke apart and were useless. I had to mask and spray paint a thin blue line to replicate Pan Am's livery. The other smaller decals were okay, but were hard to budge off their paper backing.
As far as I know, the "Air Giants" 747 is the largest model in the set, being even bigger than the C-5 Galaxy which will be covered in the next post. It's highly detailed and accurate in shape with one exception: the glass cockpit windows. Fuji, or whoever engineered this kit back in Japan would have done better to just engrave the windows in the fuselage pieces rather than stick a clear piece in - it makes this otherwise excellent little kit rather toy-looking.
Building this little model again reminds me of the days sitting at my little school desk in my kitchen/dining area on J-5, which is where I built many models, including the four Entex "Air Giants," the Aurora DC-9, and Revell Constellation among others.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Entex "Air Giants" DC-10 Prototype

Second of four Entex "Air Giants" I built as a kid was the McDonnell-Douglas DC-10. This little kit is pretty detailed for its small size, and accurately shaped. It might be a scaled-down version of the 1/100 scale Nitto DC-10, which Entex also marketed and sold in the U.S., but I'm not sure. It has tiny little landing gear pieces that even a ten-year-old's fingers would have trouble negotiating. I remember not messing with them 37 years ago, and I didn't miss with them again on the rebuild pictured here.
What's neat about this model is the decal set provided - DC-10 "ship one" or demonstrator. This airplane could be seen flying around the Long Beach area in the early 70s, but I don't think I ever saw it flying around Palmdale like I saw Lockheed's L-1011 prototype.
The Entex "Air Giants" are favorites of mine because of their low cost and high quality. I wish I had collected the entire set way back when, but I only had the TU-144, DC-10, 747, and C-5A.