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.