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Product Reviews - November 2004

Published: October 14, 2004
R/C: Hobbico MicroCycles; ProExotics Temp Gun
Rumble Into Action with MicroCycles
Reviewed by Gregg Voss

This rocks!" That was the comment from Ben, my co-worker, when he took one look at Hobbico's new MicroSizers MicroCycles, shortly before taking one for a spin around the company parking lot. Ben rides a full-size Yamaha R6, so he can appreciate a cool bike when he sees one.
And these are cool - in fact, ridiculously cool, which means it could be the big Christmas hit, just like the original MicroSizers were two holiday seasons ago.

Why? For starters, they're self-righting, which means a driver won't have to chase after them to get them going again (though a clear-plastic self-righting attachment also is included, but isn't necessary for running). What's more, the turning radius is nice and tight for the scale, so you can easily turn and bring the MicroCycle back to you. In fact, this is a safe way to learn how to operate an R/C vehicle that's moving toward you, a skill that could be applied to aircraft.

Something else I thought was neat was the cycle's ability to ride on its back wheel, so it looks like it is doing a wheelie. It handles small bumps, like cracks in the asphalt or the separations between concrete blocks, reasonably well, though I did experience a number of tip-overs. It's not particularly fast, but the inclusion of four cones and a ramp jump make up for that.

The Moto Grip controller is shaped like the handle of a full-size motorcycle, with an antenna that screws into the top and left/right turn toggle. Perhaps best of all, the MicroCycle charges when attached to the antenna end of the controller, like the original MicroSizers. In 45 seconds, a driver can be zipping all over a table or the asphalt.

The directions suggest not using them on carpet, but I had no problems.
The MicroCycles come ready to run in six colors on two frequencies - red, pearl orange and silver (Nos. HCAC0991-93, 27 MHz) and red, blue and lime green (Nos. HCAC0994-96, 49 MHz). Each MicroCycle has a street price of $19.99, and measures 3.67 inches long. It comes in a box with separate clear-plastic windows to show off the motorcycle/driver and the controller. Hobbyists will need four AA alkaline batteries for the controller. Available from Great Planes.

Temp Gun Proves Big Things Come in Small Packages
Reviewed by Gregg Voss

I saw this neat little device at April's RCX show in Anaheim, Calif., and it wasn't hard to imagine its potential applications in the model-hobby industry, especially R/C.

Pro Exotics' Temp Gun (which measures just 43/4 x 13/8 inches) will provide R/Cers real-time temperature information for engines and motors with just a click of its "Scan" button.

The product (No. PE1, $25) comes in a clear all-plastic blister pack with wrist strap. The battery is pre-installed, and during its initial use, you press the Mode button, just under the scan button, to choose Celsius or Fahrenheit (which is permanently saved), and "Min," "Max" or "Lock" options (which are not). Lock provides a continuous stream of temperature readings, from -27 to 428 degrees; Max and Min provide the maximum and minimum end of a recorded temperature range. R/Cers likely will want to click on Max to gauge the temperature of their engines after a run, to help determine richness. But you don't have to choose one of the three to use the Temp Gun - simply press Scan, and you'll receive a temperature reading.

R/C reviewer Rod Gonzalez and I tested the Temp Gun on his 1:8 Tamiya TNX, and we found it amazingly simple to use. Simply point it over the top of the engine cylinder head and press Scan. In 1 second, you receive a temperature reading on the nice-sized LCD display.

After Rod ran the TNX, I did temperature tests while he made needle adjustments, and the Temp Gun picked up the slightest changes, especially in the Lock mode. The highest readings we recorded were in the 190-degree range. It's also perfect for taking tire and track temperatures.

Later, I noticed fellow associate editor Fred Jandt testing a 1:32 Lamborghini Murciélago slot car from Autoart, so after a number of laps, we used the Temp Gun to gauge the motor temperature, which topped out at 83 degrees.

Robyn Markland, co-owner of Pro Exotics with Seattle Seahawks linebacker Chad Brown, tells me that two new versions were to be released early fall - one with a red sighting laser and a tighter infrared cone so it can be used from a further distance (No. PE2, $45) and another that's a high-temperature unit, recording up to 1,000 degrees and featuring a thermocouple jack that can read up to 2,500 degrees (No. PE3, $100).
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Models: Trumpeter 1963 Nova
Trumpeter sates modelers' desires with its new nova
Reviewed by Mark Melchiori

To follow up its much-anticipated 1960 Bonneville kits, Trumpeter has released the equally expected 1963 Nova kits in coupe (No. 02503) and convertible (No. 02504) form ($35.95). This review is based on the ragtop; however, most comments will apply to both kits. Because the Nova and Pontiac kits were tooled basically at the same time, the parts breakdown is similar.

The 1:25 Nova convertible kit consists of 163 plastic, 13 photo-etch and 8 vinyl parts. Two metal coil springs round out the parts count at 186. Most of the parts are molded in white plastic, along with some clear and clear-red pieces. The chrome in this kit is outstanding. It is very bright and durable; it looks as though there is a layer of copper plating under the chrome, just like the plating on the full-scale car. And, like the Pontiac, there are some parts - the gas cap, antenna and door handles, for example - that are not on the chrome tree and will need to be sent out for plating or a coat of Alclad.

The Nova body is well-molded. My sample had no warpage, but the mold lines were quite large for a newly tooled kit. The hood and trunk are separate parts that are very thin. They each have separate inner braces that must be carefully glued in place. I would suggest taping the panels securely in place before attaching the braces. This should keep the parts fitting properly, unlike the hood on my sample. Trumpeter includes an impressive-looking set of photo-etched hood hinges in the kit but, like the Pontiac, it took some doing to get them to stay together. All of the body emblems are on the etch-fret, as well, and they look good when installed. The chrome trim for the body sides is three parts, but warn customers not to apply them backwards, like I did.

The engine is unusual for a model of a 1960s American car - it's a straight six! The engine and transmission are nicely molded, with lots of separate parts, and the intake and exhaust manifolds are especially well done. My only real gripe with this engine is that the crankshaft pulley does not attach to the engine.

The interior is nice. It builds up off of the chassis floor, with separate side panels that feature handles, cranks and chrome trim. The front and rear seats have separate backs. The dash has a separate chrome instrument bezel; however, there is no molded gauge detail and no decals are provided, leaving an unfinished appearance to the whole assembly. The front of the dash does not match the curvature of the cowl, leaving noticeable gaps through the windshield. Also, there is no package shelf behind the rear seat, which leaves a large gap between the seat and convertible boot.

The chassis is the highlight of the kit. The pan is a single piece to which the front stub, rear frame rails and suspension all attach. Of special note are the single-leaf rear springs, which are correct for this car. The front suspension has steerable wheels, though Trumpeter's method for achieving this does not work very well and looks very toy-like. The tie-rod is about 1/16-inch too short, resulting in a toed-out appearance. Metal coil springs are included for the front, and while they are hard too see, they do look nice.

Available from Stevens International.
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Die-Cast: Highway 61 1974 Chevy Custom Van; Exact Detail Replicas 1970 LS6 Chevelle
Party on with this Chevy custom van
Reviewed by Hal Miller

In the late 1960s, the lowly van became something other than a vehicle to transport and deliver goods. It became a way to transport you, and a bunch of your friends, to the good times. In the 1970s, with gas prices skyrocketing, the van became the place to have your good times.

Highway 61 has captured both the spirit of the vehicle and the era in its 1:18 1974 Chevy Custom Van. When you see it, you're going to want to dust off your Farrah Fawcett poster, put on your Earth Shoes and shove The Eagles' "Hotel California" into the 8-track player.

Faithful to the original, the van (No. 50171, $49.99) is one heavy chunk of metal, with a wide, aggressive stance provided by its Goodyear C60-15s on chrome rims. It looks like it's ready to suck down gallons of leaded gas, sporting cherry-red paint set off by a striking flame job. And of course, what 1970s van would be complete without an array of body windows? This van has plenty: Round opera-type windows at the rear of the body, a moonroof and an opening vent-skylight so your passengers in the back don't get overheated. A chrome-rimmed spare-tire carrier adorns one of the back doors.

The front and rear doors open, as does the side sliding door, revealing a top-notch interior. Up front, the driver and passenger seats are captains chairs, and yes, they swivel. There's plenty of room for beverages in the cupholder table that extends from the center console, just below the 8-track player with a tape sticking out. And look on the floor - you'll want to run your finger over the red "shag" carpet! Overhead, there's a shelf, complete with a CB radio. Out the back window there's an accompanying antenna.

In the back, there's a simulated cabinet that might house an amped-out sound system or fully stocked bar. At any rate, it has a "mirrored" door. And of course, what custom van of this era would be complete without a bed? There's one here, and it looks comfy.

While much of the van is excellently executed, there are a few minor fit problems. The front doors open too wide, and one of the sets of hinges isn't spot-on, so the passenger door on our sample didn't fit tightly to the body. Also, you might want to widen the holes for the side mirrors; ours kept falling out. Additionally, a drop of CA will help keep the CB and radio antennas in their mounting holes.

1970 Chevelle a slice of muscle-car heaven
Reviewed by Gregg Voss

I've always been a big fan of muscle cars, especially those from that halcyon era of the late 1960s/early 1970s. I remember some of the full-size versions, because a neighbor down the street from where I grew up was always working on them in his garage.

One of the many he had over the years was an early 1970s Chevy Chevelle, much like the 1:18 1970 Chevelle LS6 die-cast model (No. 601, $109.95) I recently received from Exact Detail Replicas. The model, done in dark red with twin black racing stripes, brought back a lot of memories.

Exact Detail's car is a convertible, and comes with a piece simulating the retracted roof, which I liked better than the (included) closed roof, because it allowed me to see the incredible detail of the car's interior. The instrumentation setup is particularly well done, with clear-plastic faces for the speedometer, tachometer and clock, and a chrome gearshifter. The steering-wheel spokes are molded in silver, and even include the Chevy bow-tie logo in the middle. The steering works, by the way, and isn't sticky like other models. The seatbacks have some give (but don't fold forward), and other little details, like the chrome door locks, handles, seatbelts and even back seat ashtrays, are a treat.

The exterior paint job is breathtaking; I could see my reflection in the hood and trunk. The doors are flush to the rest of the body, though the passenger side door was a bit loose, as was the windshield frame.
The hood lifts cleanly to show off the fully wired and plumbed 454 cubic-inch engine, which was capable of 450hp at 5,600 rpm on the full-size. Once again, the details are what "make" the engine compartment - the block is orange, the air filter has the familiar 454 logo on the top and the container for the windshield wiper fluid is blue. Another cool feature: A wire leads up to the vent on the engine scoop, which folds up and down. The undercarriage shows a nice view of the engine, silver-molded exhaust system and drive shaft.

There is a spare tire in the trunk, along with the familiar wallpaper-like flooring and warning stickers on the inside. Even the latch is correctly a copper color.
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Specialty: 21st Century Toys F4U-1 Cosair; Upper Deck VS System TCG; B-Bel "Trading Spaces" Design and Redesign House
Large-scale corsair a sight to behold
Reviewed by Gregg Voss

I've mentioned this in previous reviews, but I was a big fan of the TV show "Black Sheep Squadron," which ran 1976-'78. It starred Robert Conrad as Major Greg "Pappy" Boyington, and a young John Larroquette, both as members of the famous U.S. Marine fighter group (VMF-214) that, despite a lack of adequate equipment, kept the skies clear of Japanese planes and helped stem their advance in the South Pacific.

So it was with great anticipation that I received 21st Century Toys' massive 1:18 F4U-1 Corsair (No. 10127, $67), including a pilot action figure … whom I promptly named "Pappy."

I was concerned this product would be too toyish, but once I got the package open and the plane off of its plastic base, I couldn't help but be impressed. The rivet lines appear accurate, as do the Marine markings. The wingtip lights are painted red and the prop tips are accurately yellow, and there are even logos for prop maker Hamilton Standard, a nice touch.

There is a bit of assembly, but it's not unmanageable. Modelers snap the horizontal stabilizer and main wings into the gull portions that protrude from the fuselage, snap in the extra fuel tanks and, of course, drop "Pappy" into the cockpit, which is quite detailed.

Once I completed assembly, the Corsair looked like it was ready for battle. The main and tail landing gear are retractable, and the main wings fold up, just like the full-size, so finding space for it when it's built shouldn't be a problem. There was only one thing that concerned me: You have to snap the tabs on the main wings into the gull sections when unfolding them, and though mine snapped in fairly well, the main wings weren't flush on either side. They were close, and I could have forced them, but I was worried about breaking the tabs.

There were some other minor issues as well - the cockpit canopy seemed too loose, and the rear landing gear didn't snap into place as well as the front when retracted. Nonetheless, I was impressed with this piece … so much so, in fact, that I'm considering hanging it from my office ceiling. That way, "Pappy" can be in the midst of combat all the time!

VS system pits Marvel against DC
Reviewed by Fred Jandt

Upper Deck ups the ante in the trading card game (TCG) industry with its latest games based on Marvel and DC Comics. Upper Deck's VS System are interchangeable with any other VS System TCG. This means that Batman and crew can take on the X-Men, or Spider-Man can go up against the villains of Arkham Asylum.

The game plays much in the same way as Yu-Gi-Oh, with some noticeable differences. Cards in the VS System, including characters, equipment, locations and plot twists (game affecting cards) are purchased by points generated in a Resource Row. Cards placed in the Resource Row generate one point each. Some cards may be played out of this row if enough points are available, but others are there solely as point generators.

The object of the game is to knock out or bypass your opponent's characters to take away all 50 of your opponent's endurance points.
The game is a quick play, and it's easy to get started. We missed a few rules the first time through, but still had fun … which is a key aspect when playing with kids. The artwork is well done and it is fun to try getting favorite characters on the board.

Marketing this game can be done in a variety of ways. First, if you have TCG fans in your store, this is a must simply because it is fun to play and challenging at the same time. Its system is different enough from most out there to give experienced players something new to try.

Also, the fact that any VS System game can be played with another is pure genius. Not only can you pit DC and Marvel characters against each other, but who wouldn't want Batman and Daredevil teaming up together? Or, make your own rogues' gallery of the greatest villains from two comics universes.

Upper Deck plans to support the Marvel and DC TCGs with tournament and organized play events for stores and conventions, so be sure to get in touch with them if you bring this in.

"Trading Spaces" comes home with this kit
Reviewed by Fred Jandt

B-Bel breaks the mold when it comes to dollhouse design with its new "Trading Spaces" Design and Redesign House (No. 709, $79.99). The two-story building was easy to put together - just slide the cardboard walls and floors into the frame and snap the top story onto the lower. Then fit in the doors and put on the roof. The house looks great with the doors closed, as they double as its front façade, but the really cool stuff is definitely inside.

I was impressed with the sheer number of accessories that came with the house. A full set of furniture for four rooms (bedroom, living room, kitchen and nursery) is included, along with more than 150 other accessories.

Now, here's the secret to this product's success: Everything can be decorated with the included paints, stencils, stamps, modeling dough and other materials. The included decorations give plenty of tips on how to design each of the rooms to suit particular tastes.

But what truly blew my mind about the "Trading Spaces" House is that it is wired for electricity! Yep, the house has lights. Batteries located in the main beams in the back power "outlets" in each of the rooms.

Hanging lights can be mounted to each room's ceiling, or builders can just put a lamp in the room. Either way, it can be lit up with a single flip.

Design TV shows are one of the hottest tickets today, and of them, "Trading Spaces" is king. Take advantage of that notoriety in your store with a great kit like this one. And for hobbyist parents, this will be a must-sell for their kids who want to get into hobbies. Call: 866-673-3310.
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