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Product Lab - September 2008

Published: August 14, 2008
Fine work is a snap with Badger's Velocity airbrush
Product: Badger has released its Renegade Series of high-performance, dual-action airbrushes. The family includes the bottom-feed Rage (Stock No. R3R, $149) with a .33mm tip; the side-feed Spirit (R2S, $159) and the gravity-feed Velocity, both with .21mm tips. All come packed in a latching hard case with plenty of foam to keep the contents safe.

Pre-production photos of the brush led me to believe the models are chrome plated, but the Velocity sample arrived with an attractive gunmetal finish. A vinyl cap protects the business end of the brush, while the .33-oz. paint cup is covered with a tight-fitting plastic cap. An adapter for Iwata hoses and an alternative spray regulator are included.

Performance: My first impression was how balanced the brush felt in my hand. It has heft and is a bit longer than previous airbrushes I've used, which is nice for someone like me with larger hands. A few pulls of the trigger got me used to the 'Tensionsense" control, and after a once-over to make sure everything was tight, I took the Velocity to the paint booth.

ICM's 1:48 Sd.Kfz. 222 made a perfect test subject for the airbrush. The first coat of Tamiya acrylic flat black thinned with Polly S Airbrush thinner went on flawlessly and gave me a chance to test the "Stopset" trigger setting. The knob on the rear of the brush turns very smoothly, allowing the operator fine control over the volume of paint coming out of the brush.

After allowing the base coat to dry, Model Master Panzer Schwarzgrau was applied with the same thinner. Again, coverage was even and the brush produced very little overspray. As a last test, I added a couple of drops of Model Master flat flesh to the Panzer Schwarzgrau and thinned it with isopropyl alcohol to spray into the center of the vehicle's panels to break up the dip-job grayness. The combination produced some tip clogging; I suspect this had more to do with the paint-thinner combination than the actual brush. Nonetheless, the Velocity was able to spray tight lines (down to a hairline) and put the paint where I wanted it.

The only caution I would offer is to watch out for the very fine needle; the tip bends easily. The brush comes with a 2-prong spray regulator that protects the needle and also comes with an alternative cap that leaves the tip unprotected.

Marketing: The Velocity is a good all-around airbrush for models up to 1:48 or so and an excellent detail tool for larger models. If your customer needs more paint coverage, I'd push the Rage (Stock No. R3R). If they like to have a clear view of the model while painting, point them toward the side-feed Spirit.

This is an ideal brush for someone looking to step up as their skills improve. It provides the type of control found on more expensive airbrushes at a very reasonable price.

The best way to display them would be in their cases. That way, your customers know their investment will be well protected. Be sure to stock extra needles and jars for the other models, and let your customers know you have them.

Reviewed by Hal Miller

Product: Renegade Series Velocity airbrush
Maker: Badger Airbrush Co.
Stock No.: R1V
MSRP: $154
Availability: Call 847-678-3104;

  • Nicely balanced

  • Smooth adjustments

  • Hard case for storage

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    Pro Boat's sleek Mini-C offers speed and stability
    Product: Pro Boat's Mini-C is a small, electric-powered catamaran great for racing, with its sleek design and quick acceleration. Inside the box, you'll find the assembled Mini-C, 2-channel 27MHz AM pistol-grip radio, boat stand, battery and battery charger.

    Performance: Customers will need to supply eight AA batteries for the transmitter and will have to screw in the antenna that is taped to the boat. Other than that, the Mini-C is ready to hit the water.

    With its small size, the Mini-C is ideal for small ponds and lakes, and even decent-sized indoor or outdoor pools. I was limited to running my boat within a small, clear area of water because there were weeds coming up just below the surface. Tell your customers to check the water for weeds and debris because they can easily foul the propeller.

    The Mini-C features a 380-size electric motor that provides quick acceleration, and a steerable drive system that really handles well. The electronics are protected by a magnetic hatch, which does a decent job of keeping water out of the interior compartment.

    I am not an experienced R/C boater, but I was able to pull some fancy maneuvers with this boat. Even though I was zipping around and making sharp turns in a small area, the Mini-C was stable thanks to its hull design and overall durability.

    Marketing: The Mini-C is perfect for novices (or anyone, really) who wants a boat that is fast, stable and easy to steer without being too pricey.

    One marketing suggestion would be to provide customers with an exciting hands-on experience by hosting Mini-C races at a local pool or lake. Another would be to make a video of you or one of your employees piloting the Mini-C to play on a TV or computer in your store.

    Reviewed by Jenny Maaske

    Product: Mini-C Catamaran EP RTR
    Maker: Pro Boat
    Stock No.: White (PRB3700); Red (PRB3701); Yellow (PRB3702)
    MSRP/MAP: $139.99/$99.99
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Fast and stable

  • Quick acceleration

  • Complete RTR package

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    Tamiya Cooper S: an easy build, a zippy drive
    Product: A recent release from Tamiya in its 1:10-scale R/C car line is a 2006 Mini Cooper S. The kit includes an M-03L chassis, undecorated vacuum-formed shell, standard motor and detailed instruction booklet. The kit also comes with a Tamiya TEU-101BK ESC. The modeler needs to supply a 2-channel radio, receiver, steering servo, a 7.2V battery, appropriate paint for the shell and cyanoacrylate adhesive (CA) for the tires. No thread lock is necessary for this model.

    Performance: Though I've built an assortment of models, I'd never built an R/C car from the ground up before. So, from the R/C modeler's perspective, I'm considered a novice. I must say up front that I found the experience rewarding ? it was a great feeling to drive the finished model knowing that I'd built it myself.

    Opening the box, I was amazed at the number of parts that actually go into an R/C car. However, following advice from several seasoned R/C modelers, I worked very carefully and steadily, keeping the parts sealed in their plastic bags until called for in the instructions. As I finished each step, I marked it off in the instruction booklet.

    The chassis went together easily, mostly with screws, and I completed the bulk of the work in about six hours over a weekend. Though the instructions provide only brief text, the isometric drawings are clear and comprehensive. For the most part, the kit parts fit together smoothly. I purchased a basic Futaba 2PH radio, matching receiver and steering servo for the Mini, and they worked well with the Tamiya kit.

    My one complaint about our sample Mini has to do with the rear wheels. For whatever reason, they are pigeon-toed. After seeking advice from other modelers and comparing the M-03L chassis to other Tamiya cars, I completely disassembled the rear chassis to see if I could find the cause. For all my investigation, it appears the odd angle of the rear wheels is due to the rear frame (parts A4 and A5). It was unclear to me whether these parts were simply a defective molding or if it's an element of the design. While orientation of the rear wheels doesn't seem to affect the performance of the model, it is noticeable ? especially when the shell is in place.

    I finished the Cooper S in red and black (matching my own actual-size Mini), using Pactra racing spray paint. First, I carefully masked the interior of the shell and painted the roof, windows and fender trim black. I then removed the masking and painted the body red. While masking the trim and windows was a bit time-consuming, it paid off in the end. The self-adhesive finishing decals supplied with the car need to be cut individually from the sheet, and by doing a little extra painting, I effectively eliminated the need for half of the 56 decals that come with the model.

    Once the model was assembled, I charged the battery and took the car out for a test drive. The Cooper S has some fun zip to it, making it enjoyable to run. Of course, my friends who are R/C modelers are recommending a faster motor and all sorts of hop-up parts, but for now, I'm happy with how the car performs straight out of the box.

    Marketing: For someone who purchases the Mini, or other Tamiya kits for that matter, the basic list of add-on sale items includes a radio, receiver, servo and battery and charger. Also, from experience, it would have been helpful to know which type of CA to buy for the tires, as well as which paint to buy for the shell, before I'd opened the instruction booklet. Don't let your customers leave your store without those items. If they are new to the hobby like I am, they'll appreciate the guidance.

    Reviewed by David Popp

    Product: 1:10-scale R/C MINI Cooper S
    Maker: Tamiya
    Product No.: 58400
    Price: $203

  • Includes motor and ESC

  • 10-12 hours of assembly time

  • Requires 2-channel car radio, receiver, servo and 7.2V battery

  • Authentic Mini Cooper styling

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    ParkZone's Ember lights up the sky
    Product: The first offering in ParkZone's Etomic line of "ultra-micro" R/C planes, the Ember, like any good RTF, comes with everything your customer needs to fly - except experience - right in the box.

    The plane itself has a broad, foam wing with plenty of dihedral, and a carbon-fiber boom for a "fuselage." The controller is a 2.4GHz 3-channel radio that binds to the Ember. Eight AA batteries are supplied for both the radio and charger, while a tiny 3.7V 70mAh LiPo battery powers the plane.

    Performance: Getting the Ember ready to fly is as easy as carefully unpacking it from its protective foam housing, putting the batteries in the radio and charger and charging the LiPo for 20 minutes.

    The real shock comes when handling the Ember for the first time. It's incredibly light, weighing in at around 20 grams with the battery onboard. It took me a little bit to figure out how to handle it without feeling as if I were about to damage it. Holding it by the main wing brace with your forefinger and thumb is probably the safest way to carry it, while hand launches are best achieved by pinching the dainty fuselage.

    When we received the Ember, I was jazzed. We've had other micro planes in the office that priced out at twice what the Ember cost, and we thought that a more affordable indoor flyer had finally arrived. And it has, for the most part. After charging it, I took the Ember down to where we've flown other indoor birds, a space roughly 25' x 30', with an 8' ceiling. I took what could be described as a strafing run from one end of the area to the other and promptly decided that the space was too small. So I went back to the manual to see what the recommended flying area was: 40' x 40' with a minimum ceiling height of 20'.

    Disappointed in my first attempt, I had to wait for a calm morning to take the Ember outside for a proper breaking in. Without a breeze, the Ember flies beautifully outside. It is responsive and forgiving. I was even able to do a nice looking loop after a dive. Not surprisingly, even a breath of wind, as I found out, can push the Ember all over the place, making for a very trying session.

    But I still wanted to fly indoors. So, I received permission to fly in a local school gymnasium. This time, I took off from the floor and was in the air after about six feet. I flew tight spirals and large circles and figure eights. And while it is possible to fly in the space of half a basketball court, it's far more fun utilizing the whole space. I even pulled a loop, although I had to use just about all the ceiling height to do it.

    Marketing: While flying outside is possible, inside is where the plane truly belongs and where flyers will get the most bang for their buck. The Ember's small size and ready-to-fly status are sure to attract attention. Make sure that interested customers have an indoor space large enough to accommodate the Ember. A living room is far too small.

    Durability is always a question with such fragile models. I had two mishaps with the review sample. Once, I simply overshot my landing and glided into a closed door. The second time, I collided with a low-hanging spotlight, but I was able to recover for a landing. Both times, our plane came out no worse for wear.

    Lastly, make your customers aware that the Ember is not a trainer, nor is it meant for children. It requires both patience and a light touch.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

    Product: Ember RTF
    Maker: ParkZone
    Stock No.: PKZ3200
    MSRP/MAP: $189.99/$139.99
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Not for beginners/children

  • Requires large, open room

  • 10-minute flight times

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    Fujimi's Mini Cooper small in size but big in detail
    Product: Japan's Fujimi has long been known for a line of modern cars; its Mini captures the lines of the new Cooper very well.

    It's curbside, so there's no engine, but the chassis, suspension and interior more than make up for it. The body, bumpers and rocker panels are molded in bright red plastic that will need priming for lighter colors. Mold seams, inevitable on complex shapes like the body, are kept to a minimum - the heaviest were along the bumps behind the headlights.

    The chassis includes oil-pan and transmission detail that is mostly hidden when the front suspension is attached. Interior decoration includes a tub with center console and back seat, separate bucket seats for the front, a dashboard with decal instrument faces, pedals and shift levers. There are unused manual pedals and shifters on the sprue.

    The clear parts are thin and very transparent, with lens detail on the lights. Plated bezels and grilles have a smooth, satin finish. Decals provide badges, hood stripes and Japanese license plates with individual numbers to create your own registration.

    Performance: After painting the chassis, I attached the suspension. The struts and springs are simplified, but are almost invisible when the wheels are attached. Judicious glue application left the front wheels posable. I left the wheels and tires off until after painting.

    Mirroring the full-size car, the interior painting is complicated, consisting of a series of different blacks. I used gunmetal in place of silver here; the trim on the real car is dark metallic.

    There's a lot of masking involved with painting the Mini. After airbrushing the interior and pylons black, I masked and sprayed Tamiya Italian red. The rocker panels, wheel-arch flares and spoilers are all black. I painted them freehand, along with the trim on the white roof.

    Masking the black surrounds on every window took time. The areas that need to be black are textured, but can be hard to follow. Most of the glass wraps around the outside of the pillars. I used clear parts cement to attach them. The windshield needed serious persuasion to stay in the frame.

    After applying an oil wash to the white wheels to make the hub detail pop, I added the very nice Pirelli tires. The front wheels fit well and turn, but I found the rear a little loose so I glued them with CA. The chrome trim fit perfectly; the model looks sharp for it. Fujimi supplies wire screen and a cutting template to detail for the front spoiler intake.

    The chassis is a snug fit, requiring careful squeezing to seat, but the model is rock solid without glue. With wipers, wing mirrors, antenna and decals, my Cooper looks ready for the road.

    Marketing: You just have to drive around today to see how popular the reinvented Mini is. Fujimi's kit nails the look of the car. Careful painting will reward modelers with a great replica. It sits right, capturing the aggressive, front-heavy posture of the full-size Mini.

    Simplified drive train details make construction easy, but complicated masking and painting will frustrate beginners. Anyone with a few cars under their belts should have no problems. Fujimi produces smart models, and it's good to see kits like this.

    Reviewed by Aaron Skinner

    Product: Mini Cooper
    Maker: Fujimi
    Scale: 1:24
    Stock No.: FUJ12197
    MSRP: $25.95
    Paint used: Tamiya, Gunze Sangyo, Model Master Acryl
    Availability: Dragon Models USA

  • Easy construction

  • Great detail

  • Painting challenges

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    Atlas O's F2/F3 units ready for heavy hauling
    Product: EMD's F-units are the iconic face of the early diesel era. The revolution started by the company's FT model took its next evolutionary step with the F2 and F3.

    The latter models have come to O scale in ready-to-run form courtesy of Atlas O. Both A and cabless B units are represented where applicable to the prototypes.

    Both 2- and 3-rail versions feature metal grabirons; a die-cast chassis, fuel tank and trucks; twin flywheel-equipped motors; and directional lighting.

    The three-rail version, equipped with Lionel's Train Master Command Control, also has an operating exhaust unit, electro-couplers and an alternate scale pilot.

    Two-rail Gold locomotives come with QSI sound and digital command control; Silver version models operate on DC with no sound.

    Performance: First announced in late 2006, it's an understatement to say these models have been eagerly anticipated. It's safe to say, though, that they were worth the wait.

    Our samples were 2-rail Gold versions. Upon opening their box, users encounter a yellow slip of paper advising them to read the directions before running their locomotives in either DC or DCC modes. Dealers might want to reinforce this advice, because the units come programmed with Regulated Throttle Control (RTC), which mimics the effects of load and inertia as the locomotive starts.

    RTC makes the locomotives start slowly and smoothly, and the user can hear the laboring of the prime movers as they work to pull their train.

    Additionally, there is a "heavy load" function that allows a train running uphill to increase the sound of its prime mover's rpms without changing the speed of the train. If the user desires, these effects can be deprogrammed by using the programming sequence in DC or changing CVs in DCC.

    One additional note: DCC users should keep the function list handy, because some of the function buttons perform different tasks depending on if the locomotive is moving or stopped.

    Outside, the locomotives are beautifully done, with well-applied opaque paint and loads of details. The grilles at the top of the carbody are etched metal; you can see the interior frame members through them.

    Depending on the prototype, the locomotives are equipped with the small early-style number boards or the later, larger rectangular ones.

    The truck frames are highly detailed, but the trucks themselves are a departure from past Atlas O offerings, with exposed gearing and pick-up wipers underneath. The gearing isn't especially visible, but it's advisable to run these locomotives on a layout and avoid track on carpet or other surfaces where debris might get into the works.

    Marketing: Thanks to the number of railroads that owned these early F units and their place in railroad history, you don't have to work too hard to get them off your shelves.

    Atlas O has already announced another run of these locomotives in Santa Fe, Gulf Mobile & Ohio, Denver & Rio Grande Western, Southern and Lackawanna (new numbers) liveries. They are slated for delivery this fall.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    Product: EMD F2/F3 A and B locomotives
    Maker: Atlas O
    Scale: O
    Roadnames: Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; New York Central; Rock Island; Lackawanna; Boston & Maine; and Southern (A and B units where applicable; multiple numbers per railroad)
    MSRP: 3-rail TMCC, $479.95; 2-rail Gold, $479.95; 2-rail Silver, $419.95; unpowered, $199.95

  • Used by many railroads

  • Loaded with detail

  • Extensive programming options

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    Wild Planet's Skeleflex sets are creepy, creative fun
    Product: Wild Planet, a specialty toy and game manufacturer, adds a creative series of sets that allow kids to build skeletons of dinosaurs or creepy alien creatures.

    The sets consist of bone-shaped pieces neatly packaged in sturdy plastic storage cases, and are aimed at children ages 7 and up. Each set makes a complete creature, which can be posed in different ways, thanks to movable ball-and-socket joints.

    The set pieces are interchangeable and are also compatible with those found in Wild Planet's Powerflex Lab (a motorized core with a T-Rex skeleton model, available separately).

    Skeleflex sets come in bone- or skull-shaped reusable cases with a full-color, well-illustrated instruction sheet showing how to build the alien or dinosaur featured on that set's packaging.

    The parts from each set are molded in colors that match the case, so a kid can combine different models to create a massive make-believe beast, then easily sort the bones into component sets when playtime's over.

    Performance: My son Daniel, 9, had a lot of fun assembling a pair of sample Skeleflex sets (a 20-piece dinosaur set and a 30-piece space alien). The bone-shaped packaging caught his attention and fired his enthusiasm.

    Each model took him about 20 minutes to put together and, thanks to Wild Planet's exceptionally clear instruction sheet, he had no missteps or confusion along the way.

    The model pieces are both crisply molded and sturdy enough to stand up to repeated play. The snap-together fit was on the snug side and required enough force that Daniel thought that "a little kid" might need some help. On the other hand, the snug fit made the model easy to pose, and the models do not fall apart when played with.

    The cases are reusable (and are wonderfully creepy-looking), but the models would have to be disassembled to fit back inside - hard to image a kid wanting to do that more than once or twice.

    I caught up with Daniel later in the day, when he was using the ferocious-looking winged space alien to terrorize the inhabitants of his sister's dollhouse, and asked his opinion of the Skeleflex kits.

    Daniel thought most boys would really enjoy building and playing with the various creatures.

    "They're great," Daniel added, "because you can put them together like a Lego set, only these pieces are shaped like bones - and that's just so cool!"

    Marketing: Quality components, fanciful packaging and an attractive price range make Skeleflex models a good impulse purchase.

    The kits would be an especially good suggestion for customers seeking a gift for a boy in about the 7-to-12 age range. Interchangeable parts and an appealing assortment of creatures may spawn multiple sales.

    Reviewed by Carl Swanson

    Product: Skeleflex building sets
    Maker: Wild Planet
    Stock nos./MSRPs: Small sets ($14.95), more than 20 bone pieces, bone-shaped cases including Ceratosaur, WPT57007; Plesiosaur, WPT57008; Velociraptor, WPT57009; Triceratops, WPT57010; Alien Fang-O-Flex, WPT57013; Alien Quadmo, WPT57014; Alien Skorflex, WPT57015; and Alien Skullkor, WPT57016; medium sets ($22.95), more than 30 bone pieces, skull-shaped cases including Spinosaurus, WPT57019; Stegosaurus, WPT57020; Alien Akafly, WPT57021; and Alien Octoattack, WPT57022

  • Many monsters = more sales

  • Attention-grabbing packaging

  • Satisfying hands-on project

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