Friday, May 17, 2013

A True Classic: The Monogram 1/144 Apollo Saturn V

When the Apollo program was gearing up for the first lunar landing, both Revell and Monogram were quick to offer the public scale models of the Apollo hardware. When it came to the full-stack Apollo-Saturn vehicle, Revell had their monstrous and complex 1/96 scale kit, while Monogram chose to make a simpler, more manageable one in 1/144 scale. Both are undeniable classics because they're still available today in quantity - the 1/96 scale giant from Revell/Germany, and the Monogram one by Revell/Monogram in the U.S.
When I was around three years old, my Dad bought the Monogram Apollo-Saturn, probably from the North American company store in Downey. I have faint memories of him putting it together at a picnic table on our back porch. The finished kit stood proudly in our music room (shown here) and later on the fireplace mantle (probably because me and the other rug rats kept messing with it.)
I've never built the original Revell Apollo, but the Monogram one you see below is my third. It was a vintage kit from 1968, just like the one my Dad built 45 years ago.
Monogram's kit must have been engineered from early plans of the Apollo-Saturn hardware, because the interstage ring has eight ullage motors around it, and the Command and Service Modules appear to be the Block One type. The box top has a nice illustrated painting diagram of the 500F Facilities Test Vehicle, while the instruction sheet guides the builder to paint the rocket closer to what Apollo 4 looked like during stacking in the Vertical Assembly Building. I'm not sure about Apollo 6, but by the end of 1968, the Apollo 8 stack had six ullage motors on the ring, shorter black panels on the first stage without horizontal stripe, and the Service module was silver with some white panels. This is what Apollos 9 through 17 would look like following.
If I'm correct, Monogram never bothered to update their Apollo-Saturn model kit to look like the later vehicles. In fact, the last boxing from 1994 still shows an Apollo Saturn vehicle leaving earth's atmosphere with the old 500F roll pattern on the first stage!
For this rebuild, I chose to make it exactly in accordance with the instruction sheet, which in my opinion, comes out looking pretty close to Apollo 4; except Apollo 4 had American Flags on the first stage, and in some photographs, appears to have a silver Service Module. At any rate, Monogram's Apollo-Saturn is a historical snapshot in plastic of a time when Apollo was still going through development and improvement.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Monogram 1/72 F7F Tigercat

Next off the assembly line is this vintage 1973 Monogram Grumman F7F Tigercat. This was another model kit that I really liked as a kid, but for some reason never bought or received one as a gift. It's taken 37 years to finally build it. About half-way through the construction process however, I discovered it was missing one of the main landing gear struts. Though it's one of Monogram's high-quality 1/72 offerings from the mid-sixties, it was engineered for gears-down only. The main gear doors are permanently molded in the open position on the nacelles. I figured rather than throwing the kit in the trash and getting another one later, I'd just modify this one into a gears-up bird. After all, it came with a display stand. So, using a great deal of thumb and forefinger pressure, I snapped the gear doors off the nacelles, filed and sanded the openings and the doors so they would fit flush, and she looks fine. I gave her a coat of Testors spray Dark Sea Blue because the molded blue plastic was too light and dull for a post-war Navy bird. The original decals went on without a hitch.
In my opinion, the Tigercat is one bad-ass looking twin fighter, and I'm happy to have a model of it (finally) in my collection.