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January 2009 Product Lab

Published: December 12, 2008
Ride the wind with the Ascent powered glider
Product: The Ascent BL 450 PNP is the new, updated plug-and-play version of E-flite's original Ascent. It comes with a fiberglass fuselage and built-up balsa wing, rudder and stabilizer. The wing and tail surfaces are prefinished in Ultracote and a snazzy trim scheme. Inside, a 450 brushless outrunner motor is already installed, as are two sub-micro servos and a 22A ESC with brake.

Performance: For the most part, assembling the Ascent was a breeze. The two wing halves are held together by an aluminum tube. Two dowels slid into corresponding holes in the fuselage hold the wing's leading edge in place, while two metal socket head screws fasten the wing down. One suggestion would be to replace the screws provided with a couple of 4-40 x 1/2-inch nylon screws. In the case of an accident upon landing, these will shear instead of tearing out the wing root or rear of the fuselage. A 3/32-inch hex wrench for the screws isn't provided, so make sure your customer has one before he leaves your store.

The most important thing to caution when assembling the rudder and stabilizer is patience. We used a triangle to make sure the stabilizer was square and used epoxy to attach both it and the rudder. In our haste to attach the tail, we didn't insert the pushrods into the elevator and rudder control horns before affixing them. This caused some minor consternation and forehead slapping, but we carefully cut the control horns free, put the pushrods in place and then reattached them with epoxy. Customers will have to loosen the pushrods at the servos to allow them to position the tail pieces.

E-flite provides a female EC3 connector to attach to a LiPo battery that matches the male connector already fitted to the ESC. If your customers aren't familiar with these connectors, Horizon Hobby has an article on its Web site that can help them with installation (Click here for help). Since we didn't have a charger that can accommodate the EC3 connector, we opted to replace the connector on the ESC with a Deans connector and use a matching female on our battery.

The interior of the fuselage is very tight and it takes a little work to get the ESC, battery and receiver to fit. To help make more space, we removed the Velcro battery strap and opted to use just Velcro tape on the battery tray and battery.

The main point of a powered glider is to get up a couple hundred feet, find a thermal and ride the air currents. The motor can be used intermittently to gain some altitude or bring the plane back to a spot where the pilot is more comfortable.

After a test glide, we launched the Ascent with a healthy toss into the wind. The Ascent with high rates was very responsive, despite somewhat bumpy weather for our test flight. Even with some turbulence, we were able to catch some thermals and experience stable gliding. The Ascent is a beauty in the air, and on calm days, would make for a very pleasant afternoon of leisure flying.

Marketing: Understand that the Ascent is no park flyer, and while you can use the motor to horse the plane around in a small area, that's really not what it's designed for. If a customer is interested in the Ascent, make sure that they have a large flying field available to them, where they feel comfortable reaching altitudes of 600-700 feet. It's at that height that one can really begin to enjoy the Ascent's soaring qualities.

The Ascent can do basic aerobatic maneuvers for some exciting variety and, depending upon conditions, probably has enough power on a single charge to stay airborne for an hour.

While a simple setup, the Ascent is not for beginners, although someone who is competent with a trainer should be able to get the glider up and back without difficulty.

Reviewed by Tim Kidwell, with Jim Haught and Paul Daniel

Product: Ascent 450 BL PNP
Maker: E-flite
Stock No.: EFL2700
MSRP/MAP: $309.99/$239.99
Other equipment used: Thunder Power 1320mAh 11.1V 3S LiPo battery; Spektrum DX6i transmitter; Spektrum AR6000 receiver
Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Goes together quickly

  • Looks great; flies well

  • Intermediate and more-experienced flyers

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    A Ferrari slot car by an Italian die-cast company
    Product: The Ferrari F430 is a champ on the track and a popular racer in the American LeMans and FIA GT championship series. It has also raced at the 24 Hours of LeMans and plus who doesn't like a Ferrari. So it's natural enough that noted Italian die-cast car model maker BBR has jumped into the slot car world with an F430.

    In the real world the F430 goes for upward of $225,000 in the U.S. market, and its 4.3-liter V8 cranks out an amazing 483 horses with a top speed of nearly 197 mph. No wonder these are racers.

    The interesting part here is that BBR's first slot car is a kit, not pre-built, so BBR fans will get to build their own Ferrari.

    Performance: The key to any kit is good instructions. Unfortunately, BBR includes only a diagram on the box to show you approximately where all the parts go. Figuring out all the plastic parts was a snap, and yes you could simply snap most together. Advise your slot car customers to use glue if they intend to race the car, as it's disconcerting when the driver's head begins rolling about the cockpit.

    Getting the cockpit and engine bay to fit together neatly takes a little work with a hobby knife, but generally, assembly was fine.

    The mechanicals were another story. Putting the wheels together, complete with awesome detailed disc brakes and red calipers, wasn't hard. However, hooking up the rear drive axle and gears took some doing. Most important is finding an incredibly small Allen wrench to fit the screw in the gear housing. Even then getting it adjusted just right to properly mesh the gears took several tries. Warn customers and be sure to sell them an Allen wrench set!

    One benefit is a variety of magnet housing locations on the bottom of this rather flexible chassis. I found the farther back the twin magnets went, the better performance became. However, grip is still not as good as with many Scalextric and Revell slot cars I've run. The car has speed though; its Songna motor is strong, but like many Ninco cars, this one makes a fair amount of noise as it runs. Overall performance is along the lines of older Ninco racers.

    Marketing: This first kit may become a collector's item, so that's one selling point. BBR fans may want to add its first slot car to their collection.

    Reportedly this is the first of four liveries to come, so you could build a market with racers looking for a new class of car for their race clubs or groups to run. An undecorated model also is planned, so that offers model builders among your customers even more options, and you more options to sell paint and decals.

    Reviewed by Mark Savage

    Product: Ferrari F430 Challenge
    Maker: BBR
    Scale: 1:32
    Stock No.: SL001
    MSRP: $59.99
    Availability: Hornby America

  • Superb detail

  • Kit fun for do-it-yourselfers

  • It's a Ferrari!

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    Build a PIKO Qwik-Kit over a cup of coffee
    Product: Need some buildings on your G-scale layout? Piko has an answer to your real estate needs with its Qwik-Kit line of structures. They snap together in a hurry and can stand individually or next to each other to create a main street-type scene.

    The colorful plastic structures, suitable for indoor or outdoor use, come partially built and predecorated. No painting is required as the trim and structure are already in two different colors. Signs, window frames and glazing are applied at the factory, so all the builder has to do is put the walls and roof together and add a supplied detail part or two.

    Performance: The buildings come attractively packaged in a box with a windowed front so the customer can see what the front of the structure looks like. All parts come flat, so the box doesn't take up a lot of room. Each of the buildings in the series is essentially the same; only the front and colors differ.

    The parts are molded with wood grain where applicable and other textures like tarpaper on the roof. Tabs on the interior of the walls key them to the others in the kit; it can only be put together properly one way. Each of the tabs has a hole in it; slipping one of the provided pins through two mated tabs secures the walls together. The pins can be removed if the builder wants to add walls from another structure to change the look or to take it apart for storage. I only needed a drop of glue to secure the smokestack to the roof. Superglue worked fine for this.

    Some of the building parts needed a little sanding to mate properly, but for the most part, the pieces of the building went right together. The resulting structure is very nice, with inviting graphics in its front windows. All the buildings in the series are different enough that when placed together, they present a varied scene.

    Marketing: These buildings are great for your customers who like to build but are short on time. They are also terrific add-ons for people buying Piko starter sets and track pieces.

    The easy construction makes it ideal for someone unfamiliar with building models, and it might be a good way to get the kids involved in the garden railroading hobby. The colorful façades, varied businesses and their affordability can have a town sprouting up on your customer's layout in no time.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    Product: Qwik-Kit Daily Grind Coffee House
    Maker: Piko
    Scale: G
    Stock No.: 1062723; also available: Music Shop, 1062721; Village Furniture, 1062722; Book Worm Book Shop, 1062724
    MSRP: $49.99
    Availability: Silvergate Distributors

  • Colorful, varied structures

  • Easy to build and disassemble

  • Affordable urban scenes

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    Piko lays G-scale track into the U.S.
    Product: Piko's line of G scale track for outdoor or indoor use is relatively new to the market, but it will feel very familiar to fans of large scale trains. That's because while the components are all new, they're very similar to those formerly available in the Lehmann LGB line. These similarities include high-quality code 332 brass rails made by the same supplier that Lehmann used, ties made from the same HDPE plastic, and in some cases even identical geometry. The main differences you'll see are that the ties have a slightly finer simulated wood grain and sharper corners. The Piko G track is made at the firm's Sonneberg, Germany factory.

    Performance: The Piko G system is similar to the Piko A system for HO scale trains. In the G system, the basic track unit is 600mm (about 24 inches). Straight sections are offered in 1200, 600, and both 320 and 280mm, plus some half sections (160 and 140mm) and one "fitter" piece of 95mm to allow double crossovers. (LGB used 1200, 600, and 300 plus a larger number of short sections.) The smallest Piko curve radius is also 600mm (again, the same as LGB), with 921 (R3) and 1243mm (R5) curves also in the program. By dividing the basic unit of 600mm into sections of different length, it's easy to combine straight sections, curved sections, and turnouts into complex junctions without the need for fitter sections. Piko offers a brochure that explains all this, but rest assured that the system is very straightforward. The information is also on the English version of the site.

    Track gauge on our sample pieces was right on the money at 45mm except at switch frogs, where it widens slightly to prevent wheels from picking the frog. Guardrails are spaced at 5mm from the running rails - again, the same as LGB. The R1 switches have straight sections of 320mm and spring-loaded points that stay in place until moved via a small lever (included). Rail joiners are sturdy brass with tabs to keep them locked to the tie strip and the code 332 rail mates precisely with LGB rail. Straight sections; R1 manual switches; R1, R3 and R5 curves; and flex track are available now, and additional components, including the R5 switches, switch machines, and track expansion packs are coming soon.

    I'm impressed with the Piko G track line. It's sturdy, good-looking, and the geometry is simple. Well done, Piko!

    Marketing: Your large-scale model railroad customers will appreciate the quality that's gone into the manufacturing of this track, and frankly, will notice little difference between it and the LGB product. All it will take to convince them is taking the track out of the box and letting them see it and feel its heft.

    Additional track sections are a perfect add-on to one of the company's recently released starter sets, which come with a circle of the same track.

    Reviewed by Terry Thompson

    Product: G Track System
    Maker: Piko
    Scale: G
    MSRPs: G-G600 Straight Track, 600mm, $17.99; G-R1 Curved Track, R1, 600mm, $9.99; Manual Switch, R1, $59.99; numerous additional components available
    Availability: Silvergate Distributors

  • Mates with other G track

  • High-quality construction

  • System has standard length and radii

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    Revell strikes back with Vader's TIE fighter
    Product: It's astounding how the Star Wars movie franchise still captures the imagination more than three decades after its initial release. Revell takes advantage of that interest with one of the latest releases in its SnapTite line of Star Wars models, Darth Vader's TIE fighter.

    Like the other releases of spaccraft from the movies, Vader's TIE fighter comes pre-colored and painted. It even includes a small vinyl figure of the Sith Lord himself that fits into the cockpit. The kit comprises more than 25 pieces and is classified by Revell as a Skill Level 1 build.

    Performance: This model is recommended for modelers 8 and up. It caught the eye of my son, Cameron, who has attained this august age, so I let him build it.

    All the parts sprues are individually bagged, molded in a bluish-gray plastic. The painted parts are crisply done. Both Cameron and I were surprised at how big the "real" TIE fighter must have been as we compared the model to the included figure.

    Cameron had no problem clipping the parts from their sprues, giving them a few swipes with a sanding stick and mating them together as the instructions indicated. He did encounter a few fit issues where the upper and lower halves of the body come together near the cockpit and left a slight gap. A more experienced modeler could easily improve the fit. Also, putting in the clear "glass" and assembling the opening cockpit hatch were a bit fiddly and required a little help.

    Otherwise, the kit went together very easily without glue and produced a model he was very happy with. The level of detail is fairly basic, but this menacing spacecraft does have some interior detail. The kit also includes a stand so the TIE fighter can be posed "in flight."

    Marketing: The obvious market for this model is the beginner; it doesn't get much easier than this. The great thing is, it appeals to children and adults, so there's a wide audience out there.

    Don't discount this model's interest to the experienced modeler, either. It's a good base model for someone who wants to go all-out and add more detail and a little more paint to produce a more finished-looking model. Best of all, the price is right.

    Product: SnapTite Star Wars Vader's TIE Fighter
    Maker: Revell
    Stock No.: 851857
    MSRP: $26.50
    Availability: Great Planes Hobby Distributors

  • People still love Star Wars

  • Kit is easy to build

  • Pre-painting gives a nice finish

  • ParkZone's ultra-micro Vapor huge fun
    Product: The second offering from ParkZone's Etomic line, the Vapor comes in two versions. The first is a complete RTF package that includes the Vapor, a 3.7V 70mAh LiPo, 2.4GHz controller with Spektrum's DSM2 technology and AA batteries for both the included charger and transmitter.

    The second version is called a "Bind-N-Fly," which is perhaps one of the coolest innovations in R/C since 2.4GHz technology hit the scene. The Bind-N-Fly (BNF) version provides the plane, LiPo battery, charger and AA batteries, but no transmitter. BNF allows customers who have a compatible E-flite, JR or Spektrum transmitter with DSM2 technology to bind the Vapor to that transmitter, making the radio that comes in the full RTF package superfluous.

    Since micro and ultra-micro flyers are so fragile, packaging has become very important. The box and foam insert are designed as easy, secure and reusable storage for the Vapor and its components.

    Performance: The Vapor's appearance really does warrant its name. The wing, tail and main boom are all fashioned from very lightweight carbon; the whole thing weighs only 15 grams. The rounded wing and control surfaces conjure up images of classic planes and indoor free-flight models. The wing and tail feathers are covered with a polyethylene film, which is extremely light, but has a high tensile strength for its weight. The wings are decked out in an aggressive black and purple trim scheme.

    For its weight and composition, the Vapor is very robust. However, caution your customers to unpack and handle the Vapor with care; it can't take the abuse that a flat foamie can, and requires a light touch. As I discovered with ParkZone's Ember, the best way to handle the Vapor is to hold it by the central rib on the main wing with your thumb and forefinger.

    Also, a quick look at the Vapor's manual told me that the recommended flight area was 15 by 15 feet with an 8-foot ceiling. As it turned out, we had more than enough room in the office.

    After testing the throttle and control surfaces, I was off to our indoor flying site. I held the Vapor by its delicate fuselage, throttled up to about three-quarters and let it go. Instantly, it was off and sped to the other end of the room. It was a thrill to throttle back and take a leisurely turn at the other end of the room, fly back along the wall and then whip around for some speedy figure-eights.

    The large control surfaces make the Vapor very responsive to inputs, and I didn't have to do any trimming to get the plane to fly straight and true. The wing flexes a great deal, especially in sharp, high-speed turns, but provides plenty of stability. What really amazed me about the Vapor was how slowly you can fly it and keep it in the air. With a little practice, it's possible to hover like a 3D plane.

    Marketing: There are a number of nice elements that make the Vapor a great model. If your customer needs a controller, the RTF is the way to go. If they already have a compatible DSM2 transmitter, save them some money by guiding them toward the BNF. What's more, new BNF models will be compatible with the Vapor's controller.

    The Vapor is a gem of an indoor flyer. It is slow, graceful and responsive, allowing it to be flown in smaller areas. In larger rooms, like a gymnasium, pilots can enjoy faster flights and some lesser aerobatics.

    Finally, the Vapor will stand up to some minor scrapes and dings. For instance, I got a little overzealous in one flyby and tangled the plane in window blinds. The worst it came out with was a tiny peeling of the film from the edge of the wing.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

    Product: Vapor RTF (PKZ3300, $179.99/MAP $129.99); Vapor Bind-N-Fly (PKZ3380, $134.99/MAP $99.99)
    Maker: ParkZone
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Can fly almost anywhere indoors

  • Comparatively good price point

  • RTF or use with DSM2 radio

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    Famous F4U Corsair available as a foamie from Parkzone
    Product: ParkZone introduces the F4U Corsair to its successful line of electric warbirds. The bent-wing-bird is reproduced on a smaller scale and comes with everything necessary to get flying within a few hours of opening the box.

    The attention to detail is outstanding for a foam park flyer. The ParkZone bird maintains all of the original Corsair's most noticeable traits, such as wing inlets, cowl flaps, chrome spinner, three-bladed propeller and landing-gear doors. The F4U is painted in the markings of one of the most successful Corsair aces, Ken Walsh, and bears a tasteful bit of nose art on the cowling.

    Performance: Building on the success of the ParkZone T-28, the Corsair comes with a 480 brushless outrunner motor and a 3S 11.1V LiPo battery. The RTF kit comes with a 2.4 GHz Spektrum DX5e 5-channel radio system. An E-flite 30A ESC provides speed control.

    The control surfaces on the Corsair consist of ailerons, elevator and rudder. Assembly took only 10 minutes, and after charging the LiPo, I was ready to go on my own Baa Baa Black Sheep mission.

    My first flight was conducted with the fixed-landing gear in place and the included two-bladed propeller. Since the Corsair has a steerable tail wheel, it tracked well on the extremely short takeoff roll. The light weight of the aircraft allows the brushless motor to power it into a steep climb, even with the drag-inducing landing gear doors hanging out in the wind. After a few adjustments of the elevator trim, the aircraft was flying straight and level. The Corsair performed beautifully and had absolutely no problem flying loops, rolls, wingovers and inverted flight. On the landing approach, I had a bit of a crosswind, but the aircraft landed with no problem due to the large rudder.

    For my next flight, I chose to install the three-bladed propeller. I was initially concerned that the performance of the aircraft would be sacrificed for scale looks, however, this was not the case. Once again, the aircraft flew very well; any loss of thrust was unnoticeable. On the second flight, however, the wind picked up, and it became difficult to keep the aircraft from getting tossed around. The lightweight foam construction of the Corsair does not ride rough air as well as the older, heavier ParkZone warbirds.

    On my third flight, I elected to remove the landing gear and hand-launch the aircraft. Upon launch, the aircraft flew into a steep climb and seemed as though it would never stop, which to me confirmed that the motor and battery combo is definitely an improvement over past ParkZone birds. After performing a few high-speed, low-altitude passes, I climbed higher for more extensive maneuvering. At one point in the flight, I decided to fly an outside loop. Unfortunately, as the aircraft came down inverted towards the ground, the vertical stabilizer struck the ground and broke away from the aircraft. Fortunately, the aircraft is made out of Z-foam, and a little bit of glue was all I needed for repair.

    Marketing: From an aesthetic standpoint, the new foam construction doesn't look as clean as previous ParkZone aircraft, but the airplane is much more durable.

    Overall, the Corsair proved to be an excellent airplane. Good scale looks combined with equally good performance in a ready-to-fly package should make the plane a solid seller. I would offer the plane to those customers seeking their third airplane and the convenience of a park flyer.

    If you display a model in your store, the unique looks of the Corsair will make it stand out among similar-sized models. The aircraft is also available in a plug-and-play version for those hobbyists who prefer to use their own radios.

    Reviewed by Jason McNally

    Product: F4U Corsair RTF
    Maker: ParkZone
    Stock No.: PKZ4600
    MSRP/MAP: $379.99/$279.99
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • This is one tough bird!

  • Great scale looks

  • With radio or plug-n-play

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    HobbyBoss' LWS adds variety to military model collections
    Product: HobbyBoss' new Land-Wasser-Schlepper is molded in light gray plastic and shows excellent surface detail. Complex molding techniques have allowed HobbyBoss to mold the hull in one piece, as well as the deck and cabin. Many parts have ejector-pin marks, and while they are mainly in hidden areas, some require filling.

    The kit provides basic interior components and features one-piece vinyl tracks. Also included is a small photo-etched metal sheet with grilles for the engine deck and die-cut masks for the clear parts.

    The instructions feature clear diagrams, but several parts are not called out, especially where they are duplicated on each side of the model. Typical of many kits, no detailed painting instructions are included. A two-sided color markings diagram covers two vehicles. The decal sheet provides additional numbers if you wish to individualize your LWS.

    Performance: Assembly starts with the running gear. As is my preference, I leave this off until the main painting is complete. The fit of the deck to the hull is very good. I painted the interior of the hull flat black around the areas where the engine deck screens go to make the hull look less empty.

    I painted the interior of the cabin flat white, picking out several details with different colors. The instructions add most of the exterior details to the cabin before installing it on the deck, but I waited until after gluing the cabin in place. The fit was excellent.

    Cabin hatches can be posed open or closed, but because their interiors were marred with several ejector-pin marks, I glued all of the hatches shut. The tracks fit well, but the one-piece vinyl tracks don't sag as they should.

    The finished model closely matches the dimensions given in the Standard Catalog of German Military Vehicles by David Doyle (Krause Publications). The model was short by only .1 of an inch in length and was about .2 of an inch wider. Because these vehicles were built by several different shipyards, they no doubt varied slightly in construction and size.

    While information on the LWS is a bit sketchy, most references indicate that the vehicles with Panzer IV-style running gear are later versions. But, HobbyBoss calls this an early-version vehicle.

    True Details has released a nice set of resin cast rope bumpers for the Hobby Boss Land-Wasser-Schlepper. Virtually every picture of the LWS shows it adorned with a set of the bumpers, but they would be almost impossible to accurately represent in injection molded plastic, and none is included in the kit. The six resin pieces are easy to remove from their casting plugs.

    The fit of the parts is very good, but required some tweaking to soften the resin slightly; I used a hair dryer for this. I also had to shorten the rear piece slightly to get a tight fit to the rear of the LWS and peg each piece at its joins with a short piece of plastic rod. Once painted, washed and dry brushed, the detail in the castings really stood out and dressed up the kit.

    Marketing: Any modeler with a little bit of experience should be able to build HobbyBoss' LWS. It's a unique subject and can make for a very nice diversion from building other armor models. It will also add variety to any collection of German World War II armor.
    True Details offers resin upgrades for the kit, and while the vinyl tracks don't have the sag that real tracks would, they can be painted to look nice and remove the sometimes time-consuming and frustrating task of building tracks link by link.

    Reviewed by John Plzak

    Product: Land-Wasser-Schlepper Early Version
    Maker: HobbyBoss
    Scale: 1:35
    Stock No.: 82430
    MSRP: $69.99
    Other items used: True Details Gunwale Bumper (No. TD93501, $14.98)
    Availability: MMD

  • Injection-molded, 240 parts

  • Easy assembly

  • Instructions missing some info

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    Get Lost all over again with Moebius Models' Chariot
    Product: From the 1960s TV series Lost in Space, the Chariot was a bubble-topped, tracked vehicle deployed by the stranded "space family" Robinson to explore their desert planet.

    The Moebius kit includes 175-plus injection-molded plastic pieces and vinyl tracks. Also included is a 23-piece "B9" robot from the show; it can be built in its entirety, or you can build the upper half and mount it on a pedestal inside the vehicle. Instructions are a glossy 6-panel trifold with color photos, text instructions, a lengthy history and a paint guide for Testors enamels.

    Performance: I like campy subjects as much as the next guy, but the Chariot's plastic is no joke. All of the styrene pieces are comprised of the same material as the clear top (with some parts impregnated with pigment) and it acts like it - brittle, prone to stress marks and resistant to paint and glue.

    It is important to thoroughly wash all the parts and let them air dry, as the plastic itself seems oily. I also found that enamel paint adhered better than acrylic paint.

    Text instructions are accompanied by a picture of the completed step. However, the photo often does not show placement of pieces covered in the step, which requires consultation of pictures from other steps, the box art, or by surfing images on the Web. I found myself flipping back and forth through the instructions. The most reliable reference for the numbers and placement of parts is the exploded diagram on Panel 2.

    On the same panel are assembly tips. Heed them, especially in regards to removing parts from the sprue with a saw rather than clippers. Clip too close to a part and it will show a stress mark, even through paint.

    The vinyl tracks and plastic parts are incompatible, with the vinyl "eating" the plastic. I separated the two immediately after opening the box, sanded the marred parts smooth and filled dents with super glue. Primer and paint on the road wheels should insulate the plastic from the vinyl tracks and prevent further degradation.

    There are no instructions for joining the flexible vinyl track. I joined each track with super glue and, when I was satisfied it had cured, stretched it over the assembled running gear.

    To paint the frame of the bubbletop, I used an aircraft modeling trick: mask the outside, paint the frame international orange, let dry, then overcoat it with bright silver. This leaves the orange visible from the inside and the silver on the outside. There is a masking set for this kit available from Aztec Dummy that makes this easier.

    Considering the size of the clear plastic tub of the bubbletop, it fit the hull well. The instructions would have you tack the doors in place with masking tape, then trap the door pins in locator holes in the clear top and the hull bottom. However, growing frustrated with flapping doors, I tacked them in place with white glue and had an easier time joining the upper and lower halves.

    I airbrushed the bubbletop with Pledge Future floor polish, a clear acrylic that enhances the clarity and brilliance of clear parts. I'm not sure why, but the polish did not look right on my bubbletop. I don't recommend it for this kit; just polish the clear plastic.

    Marketing: I recommend Moebius' Chariot for intermediate and advanced modelers, since it requires patience, refined modeling skills and some problem solving. However, these challenges can be overcome and shouldn't be a deterrent.

    What's more, Moebius has the market locked up on this kit, and it builds into a good representation of the original vehicle in all its campy glory.

    Reviewed by Mark Hembree

    Product: Lost in Space Chariot
    Maker: Moebius Models
    Scale: 1:24
    Stock No.: 902
    MSRP: $49.95

  • For experienced builders

  • Appeals to the nostalgia market

  • Plastic has some issues

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    Osprey's Modelling Scale Figures is a handy how-to manual
    Product: Known for books about military history, whether it's the uniforms of French dragoons during the Napoleonic wars, or the tactics used by Hannibal, Osprey Publishing has become a common name amongst wargamers, modelers and history buffs. Osprey is now offering more how-to books, and Modelling Scale Figures, written by Mark Bannerman, with a special foreword by renowned modeler Shep Paine, is an 80-page manual relating the ins and outs of assembling, modifying and painting miniature figure models.

    Performance: Most of the modelers I know are in one of two camps: those who hate modeling figures, and those who love it. There is very little middle ground, and as one modeler put it to me, painting figures is more an art than finishing a tank.

    While not everyone would necessarily agree with the statement, modeling figures does require a different skill set than modeling armor or cars, and Bannerman's book takes the reader through the steps required to successfully finish a model figure.

    Modelling Scale Figures offers tips and techniques valuable to both beginners as well as experienced modelers who may believe their skills have reached a plateau. Bannerman walks novices through the various types of figures available, discussing the pros and cons of plastic, resin and white-metal models. He touches on scales, tools of the trade and briefly talks about modifications and scratch-building figures.

    The modifying and scratch-building portions could be more expansive, but then again, an entire book could be devoted to these subjects, so the light treatment is understandable.

    The real meat comes with the chapter called "Painting and Finishing." It's here that Bannerman gets into the nitty-gritty of brushes, eyewear and paint choice. Being a longtime user of acrylics for painting figures, having given up enamels after a discussion with an artist in 1987, I was interested in Bannerman's take on enamels and the use of oils. He talks about both of these mediums in detail, and convinced me to try my hand at both.

    I must say that the effective use of enamels still eludes me, but I am convinced that with a little more practice, oils could become a mainstay in my bag of figure-painting tricks. The biggest drawback for both these paints is the amount of time they require to dry before moving on to the next step in finishing.

    In his discussions of paint, Bannerman goes over the properties of oils, enamels and acrylics, as well as how to do some fine work in each, like painting shields and tartans. He also spends time tutoring the reader in techniques to successfully finish a horse, which can be applied to other figures just as well.

    The book is rounded out with information about modeling small- and large-scale figures, including fantasy and World War II.

    Marketing: Unlike other figure modeling books on the market, Modelling Scale Figures uses full-color images throughout. This means a lot, especially since you want to be able to see the difference that shading and blending are supposed to make.

    Bannerman has an easygoing, conversational style that, while a little wordy at times, is accessible to everyone.

    This book would be a great additional sale to someone who is just starting out modeling figures. It is also a wonderful source of advice for those who have modeled figures but want to do it better.

    Sometimes it is tough for more advanced modelers to pick up a book that goes over something that they already know. However, as I found out, Bannerman touches on some aspects of modeling that I'd forgotten or didn't know.

    It is these sorts of tidbits that make this book a welcome addition to my library, and should make it welcome in others.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

    Product: Modelling Scale Figures by Mark Bannerman
    Publisher: Osprey Publishing
    ISBN: 978-1-84603-238-7
    MSRP: $19.95

  • Very accessible writing style

  • Full color, lots of useful info

  • Good for novices and experts

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    Get your customers going in G with a Piko starter set
    Click here to see a video review of the Piko starter set.

    Product: For dealers who have been wondering when some G-scale starter sets were going to cross the Atlantic, the answer has arrived from Germany's Piko via Silvergate Distributors.

    The model railroad company's most recent offerings are sets featuring an 0-6-0 saddle-tank steam engine with engineer figure in the cab, a boxcar and a caboose. The rolling stock is usable indoors or out. The sets are made in Germany.

    The sets also include 12 pieces of 600mm radius curved track forming a 47-inch circle, a 20-volt transformer and speed control. All wires to connect the transformer, control and track are in the box. The track is made of "virgin" marine-grade brass and UV-stabilized polyethylene for outdoor use.

    Performance: Piko's sets come attractively packaged with windows on the front of the box displaying the locomotive and cars. Setup literally takes minutes: just take the track out of the box and slip it together - the joiners are already installed. For added security, the end ties are notched on the bottom to accept provided locks that ensure the track won't come apart until it's time to add more or take it down.

    The transformer plugs into the wall and connects to the speed control with color-coded wires. The wires are already stripped and tinned at the ends to prevent them from fraying, which is a nice touch. The color of the wire matches the press-down post on the speed control; just push down to reveal the hole, stick the wire in, and release. Instant connection! The wires from the speed control to the track connect the same way. Power is delivered to the track through a pair of a screw-tightened clips.

    With a twist of the speed control dial, the customer is running a train. Easy!

    The train itself is very basic and couples together easily. The locomotive picks up power through metal shoes between the wheels that contact the rails. The diminutive steamer runs smoothly and has no problem toting the boxcar and caboose endlessly around the circle.

    Marketing: It won't be long before your customers want a little more track to run the train on. Piko has them covered with straights, curves and turnouts in length and radii that mate with other popular G-scale track.

    This is an excellent set for someone looking to get started in G, or even for someone just looking for a large-scale train to run under their Christmas tree. Other Piko cars and locomotives are also available from Silvergate.

    Also available to spruce up the budding layout are easy to assemble Kwik-Kit buildings. Don't forget to mention them!

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    Product: Complete Starter Set
    Maker: Piko
    Scale: G
    Stock Nos.: 1038101 (Union Pacific); 1038100 (New York Central); 1037100 (Deutsches Bahn)
    MSRP: $417.99
    Availability: Silvergate Distributors

  • Easy and foolproof setup

  • Colorful rolling stock

  • Everything's in the box

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