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Product Lab - May 2008

Published: April 14, 2008
Glowing praise for Moebius' Jekyll kit
Product: Moebius Models' first kit is a repop of the 1964 Aurora "Dr. Jekyll as Mr. Hyde." Moebius has produced three versions of the plastic kit. I built the "glow" kit from the square box. All the packaging evokes the original Aurora scary box art; even the oval Moebius logo resembles the old Aurora mark.

Performance: Comprehensive instructions echo the old kits and feature a half-page synopsis, "The Tragic Story of Dr. Jekyll," and a photo of the built model.

Most of the moldings are pretty thick, although a few of the more fragile pieces are specially packed within the bagged sprues. The plastic seemed hard, oily and resistant to the Testors liquid glue I was using; I opted for superglue gel to fill gaps on larger opaque parts. I used Testors clear cement on the luminous parts.

The instruction sheet clearly states, "Do not paint the glow pieces." I wanted the kit to glow, but I also wanted more than bare, green plastic in daylight. I found that brushing a very thin coat of acrylic paint, followed with light sanding to bare the high spots, allowed luminescence and lent detail in nocturnal viewing.

First, I assembled the shirt, pants and shoes. The trouser seams were not a perfect match, but easy to sand smooth. The arms, head and lab coat were assembled next and left unattached for easier painting. The head halves didn't match at the top. Instead of sanding, I flowed superglue against the "step" and combed it into hair.

The arms and head are luminous, so I coated them very thinly with Testors acrylic paints, using a light tan for flesh and thinned flat black for hair. When painting the face, I lightly sanded each layer to preserve the glow and finished with a wash of burnt sienna artist's oils. The eyes are gloss white with a pink wash. Most figures of this scale require irises, but not my monster - this guy is completely dialed!

I lightly sanded the hair to add highlights and maximize glow.

The laboratory equipment consists of a tall, spindly table, a well-detailed stool and luminous parts including beakers and a test tube. I left most of the luminous elements bare for maximum "glowage."

The table and stool went together easily, but the parts are marred by mold imperfections and part numbers. I did a little filling and a lot of sanding to repair them.

The laboratory floor's planks and nails are cartoonish, with lines that undulate as if seen through the addled doctor's eyes.

Getting the lab coat, head, arms, and pants/shirt assembled was a little tricky. Two locating holes at the end of the left sleeve offer adjustability so the arm and hand can angle properly toward the throat. The feet fit well, and I was delighted to find the figure stood on its own.

Finally, I tacked the fateful beaker into the doctor's right hand and set everything on my windowsill to soak up the sun and charge the "Frightening Lightning" for the night to come.

Marketing: This kit is a lot of fun that's appropriate for Boomer-age returning modelers as well as their kids, who are likely to succeed with the large, uncomplicated parts and clear, detailed directions. It's a great kit to share with a young, beginning modeler. And it glows in the dark!

Don't hesitate to bring it to the attention of "serious" modelers who might get a kick out of it (or know someone who will). A shadow box (perhaps equipped with a black light) would make an eye-catching shelf, counter or storefront display. A nice seasonal touch at Halloween!

Reviewed by Mark Hembree

Product: Dr. Jekyll as Mr. Hyde
Maker: Moebius Models
Scale: 1:8
Stock No.: 482
MSRP: $24.99
Availability: See distributor list at

  • Great throwback kit

  • Some build challenges

  • "Frightening Lightning" cool

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    Sink your teeth into Monarch Models' Nosferatu
    Product: Monarch Model's 1:8-scale Nosferatu is its first installment in a line of styrene models following in the footsteps of the classic Aurora kits. It should be emphasized, however, that this kit is made from all-new tooling and is not just a repop.

    The first things you'll notice upon opening the box are the uniquely colored, metallic burgundy parts (very Aurora) and an excellent, full-color, concise instruction sheet.

    Performance: I tried to build Nosferatu from a novice's point of view. Monarch has done an excellent job making a very detailed but simple kit. Nosferatu's pieces are smooth and fit together almost flawlessly.
    Plastic models often have gaps or irregularities that require filling. Not so here. Besides clipping the parts off the sprues and flattening any resulting burs with a razor, I did nothing to any of the seams. That isn't to say that seams aren't visible, but the model will build nicely without taking more advanced measures.

    All the kit's parts go together very easily, and the instructions are clear. It was basically impossible for me to put wrong pieces in the wrong place. I even tried to mess up, just to see if an unwary builder could make a mistake. The model is engineered so that a modeler would have to intentionally glue pieces out of place.

    The metallic burgundy plastic is so striking that a novice can concentrate on snipping pieces and building a decent model that is still cool to display without having to worry about paint.

    After gluing the legs, feet, body and arms and head, I primed the subassemblies in black and light gray. I also checked the Web site listed on the instructions and found an alternate paint scheme from the one shown, which was a little more faithful to the original monochrome movie.

    I took something of a middle road, keeping the head and hands gray and layering in muted colors for the coat, pants and shoes. Nearly all of the painting was done in four coats of each color: base, wash, highlight and details. After those were dry, I went ahead and assembled the entire figure.

    Marketing: Many models today run into the problem that success is too difficult to obtain, especially for beginners.

    Not so with Nosferatu. It is an excellent beginner's model and diorama base, with great expert-level potential for those customers who have a penchant for extreme modeling.

    Adding details, decals, effects and all manner of dress-ups to the base and figure would be a breeze. There are even a few optional parts that I chose to leave off, like rats, a centipede, a spider and web.

    The box that the model comes in is a great marketing tool in itself. It is constructed and detailed like the old Aurora kits, right down to Monarch's similar badge.

    Of course, if you have the room, you should consider putting one together and painting it for display.

    Reviewed by Craig Johnson

    Product: Nosferatu
    Maker: Monarch Model Co.
    Scale: 1:8
    Stock No.: 402-98
    MSRP: $24.99
    Paint used: Reaper, Reaper Pro, Deco Art, Delta, Partha
    Availability: For distributor list, e-mail or fax 519-472-1475

  • Appropriately priced

  • Excellent molding

  • Awesome for all skill levels

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    Battle for humanity's future in Asmodee's Frontiers
    Product: Is Frontiers a wargame played on a free-form map or a miniatures game that includes cardboard pieces? Good question; the answer is "yes."

    The box feels solid for the price. The game includes lots of high-quality, full-color components with engaging artwork, plus the supporting counters, maps and other tools for play. Counters display all unit stats, which simplifies learning and keeps the action moving.

    Performance: With its easy rules, fast play and miniatures-like feel, this game should sell well to players interested in science fiction, war games or miniatures games. Existing miniatures players will find it appealing for use with their children or non-gaming friends.

    Marketing: Frontiers' look and play make it accessible to a wide range of customers. It could serve very well as a gateway product to interest customers in traditional miniatures games like Confrontation or Warhammer 40K. Even though the rulebook seems a bit thick, let customers know that the first five pages are back story and that the rules don't really begin until Page 6.

    Watch for expansion products from Asmodee in the future. The game designers already published several free, printable expansions on their Web site (, although the info is currently only in French. As an extra service touch, consider giving buyers a copy of the translated English FAQ document from Board Game Geek (, in the Files section).

    Reviewed by John Kaufeld

    Product: Frontiers
    Maker: Asmodee Editions
    Stock No.: FRON01US
    MSRP: $29.99
    Availability: Game distribution or direct; e-mail Asmodee Editions for more information

  • Easy to learn

  • Fun to play

  • Gateway to more tabletop games

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    Walthers re-creates unique Flexi-Van flatcar and containers
    Product: Walthers has done a fine job of re-creating a unique car from the early days of rail container traffic with its model of a Flexi-Van flatcar and containers.

    First tried by the New York Central in the late 1950s, the Flexi-Van system used a flatcar with special rotating platforms. Trucks carrying the special containers backed to the sides of the flatcars. The containers slid into place on the platforms and were rotated into position on the cars.

    The Walthers models match prototype Mark III cars, which had end platforms and were built through the mid-1960s. The introduction of all-purpose flatcars and overhead cranes for loading doomed Flexi-Vans and their specialized equipment, and they were out of service by the early 1970s.

    Modeling: Walthers' Gold Line series model of the car uses a cast-metal center sill for weight, with plastic castings at the middle and ends to support the containers.

    The car is ready to run, but includes grab irons to be added by the modeler. The injection-molded styrene 40-foot containers come in two styles (with and without side doors), and feature separately applied door latch and logo board details. Walthers is also offering the containers singly with bogies (wheels) and landing gear.

    The NYC was by far the largest Flexi-Van operator, but several other railroads ran the cars as well. All of the road names offered by Walthers ran Flexi-Vans, but some used other versions of the car.

    Marketing: The timeframe for the prototype cars and containers was rather limited (1961 into the early 1970s), but the Flexi-Van's distinctive appearance should make it popular with modelers of that period. Flexi-Vans could be found on dedicated trains (mainly on the NYC) and traveling in multiple-car sets on passenger and freight trains on the NYC and other railroads. Since they often traveled in groups, look for opportunities for multiple sales.

    Reviewed by Jeff Wilson

    Product: Proto 2000 F7 A and B Flexi-Van flatcar and containers
    Maker: Walthers
    Scale: HO
    Road names: Illinois Central, Milwaukee Road, New York Central, Seaboard Air Line, Southern, Western Pacific
    MSRP: Car with two containers, $42.98 ($45.98 for IC and Southern); single container with bogie, $12.98

  • Excellent paint and graphics

  • Metal wheels

  • Coil-spring couplers

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    FlyZone's Diablo RTF a docile ducted-fan trainer
    Product: At one time, the mention of a ducted-fan jet trainer would have scared off almost everybody. Enter the FlyZone Diablo. At $249.99 retail ($199.99 street), this plane comes with everything your customer will need to get into flying radio-controlled planes and look cool at the field.

    This couldn't be further from the old boxy trainers everyone used to have.
    The Diablo, made of FlyZone's AeroCell foam, is virtually ready to fly right out of the box. The radio gear is already installed in the plane so all that's left to do is attach the fan unit, wings and battery without glue or tools.

    Thought was put into the controls on the radio. Since the Diablo comes as a 3-channel trainer (throttle, elevator and rudder), pitch and roll are controlled with the right stick, leaving the left for throttle only. Traditionally, the rudder would be on the left stick.

    Flying the Diablo set up this way makes it a lot easier to learn. Plus, there is the option for a buddy box so your customer can get training from a more experienced pilot. I also like that the included charger for the 1500mAh LiPo battery can be used either plugged into an accessory outlet in a car or into a wall.

    Performance: Stress to your customers that they should double check the CG. During my first flight, I thought I had the Diablo balanced, but it turned out to be tail heavy. I ended up putting a half ounce of lead in the nose.

    The second flight was much better. The plane lifted right out of my launcher's hand and flew nicely. The Diablo needs to be slowed down as much as possible before landing because the fan unit is on the bottom of the plane and tends to ingest any surface it's landed on. Also, the bottom of the fan unit is a bit thin and will crack in the event of a harder landing.

    Upgrading the Diablo is simple. Remove the wings that came with the model (held to the fuselage by a carbon rod and magnets) and replace them with shorter ones equipped with ailerons and servos already installed. The single-fan unit is replaced with a dual-fan unit. At $34.99 and $24.99 respectively, for less than $60, your customer essentially has a new plane.

    Minor adjustments must be made for the radio. Pitch and roll remain on the right stick while the rudder is moved to its traditional left side stick on the radio. No Y-harness is needed, since plugs on the receiver are ready for the upgrade. However, the rudder input will need to be reversed on the radio.

    In theory, with extra power and a shorter wing, the Diablo should have been faster. It took a second launch to get it into the air, and in the turns, I constantly had to use rudder and ailerons. It is underpowered; I used a battery with 670 more mAh for better performance. It actually flew better in the trainer configuration.

    Marketing: I think Diablo has potential. There is nothing like it on the market. It looks cool, which should make it an easy sell. For retailers, it leads to future purchases, like the upgrades.

    I would also suggest the Great Planes Ammo 20-40-3500 in-runner brushless motor to replace the 370 brushed motors in the dual pod. Doing so requires two 25A brushless ESCs. While the additional investment pushes the overall cost of the plane into the $400 range, customers will appreciate the improved performance.

    Reviewed by Paul Daniel

    Product: Diablo RTF
    Maker: FlyZone
    Stock No.: HCAA28
    MSRP/Street: $249.99/$199.99
    Additional parts: Advanced Wing (No. HCAA3441, $39.99); Twin-Ducted Fan Unit (No. HCAA3440, $29.99)
    Availability: Great Planes Model Distributors

  • Great concept

  • Extremely durable

  • Good value as a trainer

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    Lone Tree Creek's Ski Whiz replicas a ride back to 1972
    Product: In the early 1970s the snowmobile market was rife with big-time players, all vying for a piece of the market. Farm implement makers like John Deere and Massey Ferguson were dueling for snow lovers' attention.

    Thousands of sled riders owned the square Massey machines, and among the most popular were the 1972 Ski Whiz models that Massey marketed as the smoothest ride in snow country.

    Now, following on the release of its finely detailed John Deere Model 400 and 500, Lone Tree Creek rolls out two gorgeous Massey Ferguson Red Ski Whiz snowmobiles, the 400 and 500 SST. Only 1,000 are being made of each model, so there's a fair amount of exclusivity with this product.

    Performance: The detail is particularly good here and similar to that on the green John Deere sleds that Lone Tree turned out last year. In fact, these look slightly better.

    For the modest retail price of $52.50, these sleds offer a lot of detail and functionality.

    The big hood opens and tips forward to reveal the motor, clutches and belts inside. The handlebars also turn and modestly adjust the skis so you can pose the sled with skis turned in either direction. The skis are nicely detailed and offer some adjustability too.

    The rubber track underneath turns and is finely detailed, including the Massey Ferguson logo stamped into the track. The six sets of bogie wheels all turn to let you rotate the track too.

    On the back is a rubber Ski Whiz snow flap and a storage box that opens. A detailed yellow gas cap is also in back, just above the two taillights with the Massey name printed below them.

    There are chrome bumpers front and rear and nice detailing on the minimal gauges on the sled's black dash. Handlebars include brake and throttle handles, and just in front of the vinyl seat is a storage box that folds down. That's pretty realistic for a 1:16-scale model at this price point.
    Logos are good and well printed with Ski Whiz in black on a silver band along side the sled and another Massey logo on the nose, between the two realistic-looking headlights.

    These are stylish 1970s machines!

    Marketing: If you've got a hobby store in the Northern Tier states, especially the snowmobiling hot spots of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota or New York, or you're in Canada, you're sure to have some Baby Boomer - or older - gearheads, who used to ride these square yet hip sleds.

    They'll love these, and if you display these along with the previously released Deere models, they'll make a good presentation in the shop to get some attention. Aiding in that is the attractive packaging Lone Tree has developed. Here the sled comes tightly confined in a clear clamshell package inside a box with a huge window to properly show the sled.

    The box has an attractive wooded mountain scene as the background and is clearly labeled across the box's front. Each end shows a 1970s marketing scene with the sled and a rider or two and the slogan, "Smoothest ride in snow country."

    Boomers are the guys with the cash. This is a product that will score a direct hit in that market. Let your sledding customers (particularly the snowmobiling clubs in your area) know you'll be stocking these antique snowmobile replicas so they can make plans to collect all that Lone Tree Creek produces.

    Reviewed by Mark Savage

    Products: 1972 Massey Ferguson Ski Whiz 400 SST (No. LA400SST)/500 SST (No. LA500SST)
    Maker: Lone Tree Creek
    Scale: 1:16
    MSRP: $52.50 each

  • Unique, fun product

  • High quality and detail

  • Functional parts

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    ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Tamiya's Plasma Edge slices through the competition
    Product: Tamiya's Plasma Edge is the latest "buggy" model that's based on the popular DF-02 chassis. The four-wheel independent double-wishbone suspension is equipped with oil dampers for rugged off-road terrain.

    A single Type 540 motor powers the Edge, with a 19-tooth pinion gear and 70-tooth spur gear standard. A two-channel radio with one standard-size servo is required; a TEU-101BK electronic speed control is included with the kit. The ball-bearing-equipped gearboxes are sealed front and rear.

    A standard six-cell battery and charger must be purchased separately.

    Performance: My first Tamiya R/C vehicle was the RTR Rising Storm, which is based on the same chassis as the Plasma Edge, so I was familiar with its looks and handling; however, I had yet to build a DF-02 model, so I was interested to see how it would differ from TT-01 kits.

    Surprisingly, there I found little difference between the two chassis; a modeler who has built a TT-01 kit will have no trouble here. I wouldn't recommend it as a first effort for inexperienced modelers, but after the construction sequence becomes familiar, a DF-02 chassis should be easy to build - and fun.

    The instructions are clear; the parts count is fairly low; and there are natural "breaks" in the construction so that a few steps can be accomplished at each building session.

    The lightweight clear polycarbonate body will need to be painted from the inside, as is typical for the vehicles. My local hobby store did not have the suggested Tamiya PS-49 Polycarb Metallic Blue paint, so I used PS-46 Purple instead, backed with PS-5 Black to make the color stand out nicely. And just for kicks, I reversed the spoiler's position so that its end plates faced down instead of up.

    The completed model looks good and handles fine; the suspension works well, and there's plenty of power for the beginner. However, I'm anxious to upgrade to the inexpensive RS 540 Sport Tuned Motor (#53068, $23.50) and possibly do some experimenting with different gear ratios in my never-ending quest for more speed.

    Marketing: Buggies are fun - period. They look fast, even when they're standing still; they go fast, so their performances matches their appearance; and they are great fun to race off-road.

    Construction is interesting for the newcomer, but not so challenging that it becomes a chore, so the project won't get bogged down. A few evenings' work and you're ready to go!

    With the variety of available upgrades, advanced modelers can "tweak" the model in several ways to get just the right performance.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this project, and I believe your customers will, too. It's a good-looking buggy that caught my sons' eyes as well as mine, so there's multigenerational appeal too.

    Reviewed by Jim Haught

    Product: Plasma Edge Off-Road Buggy kit
    Maker: Tamiya
    Scale: 1:10
    Stock No.: 58399
    MSRP: $163
    Availability: Contact your Tamiya distributor

  • Good second-step kit

  • Fun to build and drive

  • Upgrade parts available