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Product Lab March 2009

Published: February 13, 2009
Get your wings: E-flite's Apprentice 15e
Product: I have seen many electric R/C trainers over the years that proved to be heavy, underpowered aircraft, clearly unsuitable for the novice flyer. It was with great skepticism that I approached the
E-flite Apprentice 15e, but after taking one look at the features listed on the box, I was already feeling optimistic about getting it into the air for the first time.

For starters, this aircraft is an all-in-one package that features 4-channel control and quality Spektrum 2.4GHz radio equipment. The next thing I noticed was the large size of the Apprentice. With a 58-inch wingspan, it's more in line with the 40-size nitro trainers than electric park flyers.

Opening the box revealed a beefy fuselage that dwarfed the receiver, along with an ESC and sub-micro servos. It was clear that even though this is a large model, no weight-saving measure was too small. The model is constructed in an ultra-light Z-foam that provides great impact resistance and ease of repair.

Mounted in the fuselage is a powerful brushless BL15 840kV motor and a large (11x8) propeller. Power for the motor is provided by a 3-cell 3200mAh battery that slides into the bottom of the fuselage. A 12V battery charger comes with the model.

Performance: Assembling the aircraft was very straightforward. The two wings come together with a carbon-fiber spar; two plastic plates reinforce the leading and trailing edges. The empennage slides together easily and is secured to the fuselage with two pins. Main landing gear simply snaps into place, and the nose gear slips into the firewall and is secured by one screw. Assembly of the model takes no more than 20 minutes, and the battery charges in a little over an hour.

Once I assembled the model, I quickly took it to the field. The winds were about 10 mph on the day I flew, but the manual assured me this model was capable of flying in 15-mph winds. At the field, I attached the wings with the included rubber bands and installed the battery. Prior to flight, I checked the control surface trim and performed a range check.

Once the model was ready for flight, I taxied it for about 10 feet and then throttled up to full power. The Apprentice was off the ground in a short distance and showed good power-to-weight ratio.

In the air, the Apprentice had a very light feel to it but handled the wind with ease. The large control throws allowed precise maneuvering and took out the "random floating" associated with many other park flyer trainers. Stalls were very mellow; I noticed no unpredictable flight characteristics.

The aircraft was also capable of mild aerobatics, which provides some growing room for new pilots. Landings were effortless and the model seemed to settle nicely onto the ground.

Marketing: The Apprentice 15e is simply a training aircraft; a very durable and predictable one at that, which is everything a good trainer should be. The added bonus of buddy-box capability allows for hands-on training without the worry of damaging the model.

The quality Spektrum radio equipment, which can be used with additional models as the flyer gains experience, enhances its value. E-flite has hit the mark with this trainer. It could become a big seller in your store.

Reviewed by Jason McNally

Product: Apprentice 15e Electric Trainer
Maker: E-flite
Stock No.: EFL2725
MSRP/MAP: $421.99/$299.99
Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Sturdy, well-built trainer

  • Quality radio equipment

  • Stable flight characteristics

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    Scalextric's "Little E" machines could mean lots of green
    Product: At this point, there are few customers who won't recognize NASCAR's No. 88 ride of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (Little E). He's regularly among the top two or three NASCAR drivers in popularity and switched to the Hendrick Motorsports team last season.

    So here comes Scalextric with not just one, but two versions of his Car of Tomorrow (COT) No. 88 Chevy Impala racer: one in metallic blue National Guard trim and one metallic green in Amp Energy drink livery. Now you have two ways to hook your Little E-loving slot-car customers.

    Performance: The side-winder chassis design, rugged body exterior and detailed interior make this car a joy to race. Like its predecessor NASCAR models, the No. 88 has good traction and quick acceleration, but this one's slot guide also seems to center better than earlier models.

    I've now raced it on both my winding layout and a larger track with longer straights. That's where the Scalextric really performs as it jumps out of the turns. On my track, my older Scalextric car completes a lap about .015 of a second quicker, and the new COT model is just a tick behind my SCX model. So your customers will be happy that performance is in line with the competition.

    Compared to the earlier Scalextric model, the COT version has more detail and a much more exciting paint job. There are more decals and a nice lustre to the body, plus the interior looks well finished, with a realistic driver figure.

    In addition, the car is Digital Plug Ready (DPR), which means that within a minute or so you can open a small plastic door on the underside and insert a Digital Plug (No. C8515) to convert the car to digital racing. Racers also can easily adjust the Magnatraction magnets and pop out the pickups once those are worn.

    Marketing: What's not to like about a good-looking Dale Jr. car? By displaying this in your shop window, you can draw some folks in, just because it's Little E's car. Plus, you can sell them on the fact it's a COT; the most up-to-date NASCAR racer yet in 1:32 scale.

    Note that Scalextric is producing several other popular racers' cars - Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Casey Mears, plus a white unmarked version customers can paint themselves - to take advantage of the continuing NASCAR surge.

    Reviewed by Mark Savage

    Product: NASCAR COT No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
    Maker: Scalextric
    Scale: 1:32
    Stock Nos.: C2958 (Guard); C2895 (Amp)
    MSRP: $47.99 each


  • Fast and competitive

  • Gorgeous detail

  • Popular NASCAR driver

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    HobbyBoss ups the ante on MiG-17 models
    Product: HobbyBoss' new kit is a step up from previous 1:48-scale MiG-17s. The box art features a North Vietnamese MiG-17F, Red 2011, one of three aircraft (the other two are Soviet and East German) for which markings are provided on a six-color Cartograf decal sheet. The gray and clear injection-molded parts show minimal flash and mold seams, which are easily cleaned up with light sanding. Panel line details are recessed, fine and consistent, with subtle rivet detail.

    The English and Chinese instructions include directions for decals and a parts map. Exploded-assembly drawings show all parts by number. Some parts have color notations, and colors are keyed to several paint manufacturers.

    Performance: Perhaps the best part of the kit is the cockpit, made of nine well-engineered, good-fitting parts. Only the instrument panel lacks detail; a decal would have been a nice addition.

    The intake splitter, which attaches to the front of the cockpit, contains the nose-gear well and an avionics deck. There is space below the cockpit floor for nose weight. Modelers should add it before gluing the belly cover (Part A2) in place. My model needed about ¾ oz. of lead.

    The engine will not be seen if the fuselage is closed up, but the detail is good, although Part F15 appears to have been drawn backwards; it fit fine when reversed. To display the engine, I left the aft fuselage detached and placed it on a stand from a Tamiya MiG-15 kit.

    Upper and lower wing panels require little cleanup, and separate ailerons and dropped flaps fit easily. The wingtip pitot tubes are delicate and should be saved until other assembly is completed. I lost one in my carpet and had to make a replacement from steel tubing.

    The curvature of the avionics bay cover (Part A10) and the bottom of the fuselage around the nose-gear well (Part A2) do not match the fuselage. A10 could be left off to display the avionics bay; Part A2 required lots of rubber bands and bar clamps. Part A16, the nose ring, needs sanding to fit.

    The wings and horizontal stabilizers needed no filler, and the posable elevators and ailerons are nice.

    The best fit was the windshield, which clicked right into its recess. The canopy sits without stress on the fuselage, and the landing-gear struts plug in and self align. The outboard wheel halves are an aid to painting. I had to file the two pieces of the nose-wheel strut.

    Marketing: The MiG-17 Fresco (Walk Around No. 46), published by Squadron Signal, would be a useful reference for modelers interested in building this kit. Its pictures helped me create a more accurate model.

    Were I to build this kit again, I would replace the gun barrels with metal tubing. The kit's cannon barrel also could be enhanced, and this is a task that your more experienced customers may want to undertake.

    Very close to scale, HobbyBoss' MiG-17F is an accurate kit, and while it's recommended for ages 14 and up, a couple of kits' worth of experience and the ability to use of an airbrush would indicate sufficient skill. I enjoyed this model - it's a good one!

    Reviewed by Al Jones

    Product: MiG-17F Fresco C
    Maker: HobbyBoss
    Scale: 1:48
    Stock No.: 80334
    MSRP: $37.99
    Availability: MMD

  • Top-notch moldings

  • Excellent detail

  • Some sanding, filing required

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    Thanks to Corgi, the Albatros D.V flies again
    Product: The Albatros D.V fighter plane, one of the icons of the German World War I air arsenal, is the subject of the latest release from Corgi's die-cast metal Aviation Archive series.

    This limited-edition release (2,001 pieces) is decorated for Ernst Udet's plane. Udet was the ace with the highest number of kills on either side to survive WWI.

    The Albatros D.V entered production in April of 1917, and was designed to be a replacement for the firm's successful D.III fighter aircraft. The D.V model used the same engine for power as the D.III: the 170 hp Mercedes.

    Unfortunately for early pilots of the D.V, the first production models of the plane were prone to structural failures, leading Albatros to make several modifications, resulting in the 180 hp D.Va variant. More than 1,500 D.V and D.Va aircraft were produced during the war, and many were still flying by its end.

    Many pilots did not like the DV, as it proved to be sluggish in the air. Only two original D.V aircraft survive today, one of which is in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

    Ernst Udet entered WWI as a volunteer motorcycle messenger, but eventually became a pilot after taking private flying lessons. He was a skilled pilot and an aggressive fighter, working his way up to command his own Jasta (fighter squadron). At the end of the war, Udet had 62 kills.

    Performance: Corgi's 1:48 Albatros D.V comes fully assembled and includes a certificate of authenticity and a display stand. The model is made from die-cast metal and plastic parts and features crisp lettering and a smooth paint finish.

    The lozenge camouflage printed on the wings is well rendered, and Udet's personal white, black and blue paint scheme is very striking.

    The model has many separately applied details, including engine piping, wing-mounted radiator, spinning propeller and a pilot figure. The wiring between the wing struts is exceptionally fine and much better than the wiring found on some of the other 1:48 die-cast planes in my collection.

    I did find two things that I felt detracted from the model. One is that the cockpit, which is clearly visible, is unpainted tan plastic. This detail is quite noticeable and not easily corrected by those wishing to paint it in suitable colors. The second item has to do with the construction of the wings, which are die-cast metal tops and sides with plastic inserts underneath.

    On the model we received from Corgi, the plastic insert for the upper wing is clearly warped. However, unless the airplane is picked up and flipped over or displayed such that it is viewed from below, this flaw isn't all that noticeable.

    Marketing: Overall, this is a striking model and another solid release from Corgi. If your shop tailors to die-cast aircraft collectors, you should have no problem selling the Udet Albatros D.V.

    The compact box features a color photo of the model and will display well on a shelf or counter. If you want to show off what's inside the box, while the box lid may be removed, you will be better served presenting the plane in a glass case.

    Corgi has some of the best packaging I've seen for protecting die-cast models in shipping. However, it doesn't provide a very clear view of the product when you take off the box lid.

    Corgi has a number of WWI fighters in this series, so if you find a customer for the D.V, you'll probably be able to sell them one or more of the other planes as well.

    Reviewed by David Popp

    Product: Albatros D.V, Ernst Udet
    Maker: Corgi
    Scale: 1:48
    Stock No.: AA37803
    MSRP: $39.99
    Availability: Hornby America

  • Fully assembled

  • A couple of fit and finish issues

  • Accurate details

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    1:72 Mi-8 'Hip-C' from HobbyBoss
    Product: HobbyBoss' Mi-8 is a great model of one of the most-widely used Russian helicopters.

    Molded in light gray plastic, the parts feature fine recessed panel lines, and sharply defined surface details.

    Cockpit detail includes seat, control and collective sticks, instrument panels, and bulkhead with lots of detail molded on to produce a busy-looking space in this scale.

    The cargo compartment has a floor and ceiling with surface detail inside the fuselage halves completing the cabin. There is a separate side door but the Hip's characteristic clamshell doors at the rear are molded closed.
    The clear parts, including a single large nosepiece, are thin and clear with well-defined frames.

    Decals provide markings for generic Russian Mi-8 in middle stone and olive green and a post-reunification Luftwaffe search-and-rescue Hip in dark green and tan.

    Performance: The sequence of the unnumbered steps on the single sheet of instructions is a little hard to follow. Paint callouts are indicated but they are inconsistent. Colors are referenced to Gunze Sangyo, Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya, and Humbrol paints, taking the guesswork out of finding a match.

    I painted the interior a combination of Russian interior blue/green and light gray based on photos. Building the cockpit and cabin structure seemed awkward at first but the assembly fit perfectly when I sandwiched it between the fuselage halves. Take the time to align the floor and ceiling with the lines engraved in the cabin halves and you shouldn't have any problems.

    The only fit problem I had was the oil cooler intake (Part B12). It was too small requiring sanding for it to blend into the body.

    The windscreen went on well needing just a little super glue around the bottom to fit perfectly.

    There is no droop in the main rotor blades, so I placed the rotor upside down in a plate and heated the plate with a hairdryer. This worked well but be careful not to overheat them - they are thin and easily distorted.

    I masked the windows and airbrushed the German Mi-8's three-color camouflage with Gunze Sangyo and Tamiya acrylics. The decals are thin and opaque, snuggling down with a little Micro Sol. An artist's oil wash brought the fine panel lines to life.

    Marketing: Final assembly went quickly and the finished model looks like a Hip including the correct butt-down stance. It measures very close to published dimensions. The kits includes an IR jammer molded behind the engines, a detail I couldn't find on any of the German Mi-8s I looked at. Also, the kit includes filters on the intakes, another piece of equipment not used on German helicopters. There is no provision for weapons pylons commonly found on Hip-Cs, but a couple of unused parts are add-on cockpit armor used on some Mi-8s and Mi-17s.

    I spent about 20 hours on my Hip, a lot of that masking and painting, and builders with a little experience shouldn't have any problems.

    Reviewed by Aaron Skinner

    Product: 1:72 Mi-8 "Hip-C" Helicopter model kit
    Stock No.: 87221
    MSRP: $25.99
    Manufacturer: HobbyBoss
    Availability: MMD

  • Clean moldings

  • Good interior detail

  • Minor fit issues

  • Some details don't match decal options given

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    1:32 Bowler 'Test Car' slot car from Ninco
    Product: Rally Raid, also known as cross country rallying, is a form of long distance off-road racing (up to 560 miles) that takes place over several days. These races include the Dakar Rally, Central Europe Rally, Spanish Baja and Russian Baja Northern Forest. It's also becoming a popular segment in slot car racing which is why Ninco has produced their latest, the Bowler Nemesis "Test Car" 1:32-scale car.

    Performance: The full-size vehicle began life as a Land Rover and was re-engineered for off-road rallies. This smaller version comes with the traditional Ninco Raid series mechanics, NC-7 Raider motor, 4-wheel drive, ProShock-2 suspension and long "pro-arm" guide.

    The detail on the body is right on after looking at pictures of its big brother. On the track, I was impressed with a traditionally top-heavy car not handling well in the turns. While it's not an F-1 or sports car, the Nemesis holds its own. The group I race with has some interesting events and one of them most recently was a rally race. While there were traditional straights and turns, there was a hill portion which the Nemesis had no problems with. After I got into a groove, the car would actually re-slot itself. There was also a rough portion of track that included bumps and sharp turns over simulated dirt where the 4-wheel drive helped power it through. The tires supplied are "grippy" for this type of vehicle.

    Marketing: You could create a Rally Raid section in your store where you sell your other slot cars. There are a variety of other vehicles on the market plus specific track for this segment of racing. I think I'm a typical consumer in that if I see and get to touch something, I'm more apt to buy it so a full-blown off-road track would act like a magnet for products like this.

    Reviewed by Paul Daniel

    Product: 1:32 Bowler Nemesis "Test Car" slot car
    Maker: Ninco
    Stock No.: 50508
    MSRP: $69.98
    Availability: Model Rectifier Corp.

  • Eye-catching color

  • Good performance

  • Fun to race against other Raid vehicles

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    1:24 Nissan R35 GT-R and detail kit from Fujimi
    Product: This is review is a little unusual in that it covers both Fujimi's R35 GT-R and a detail kit from Korean KA Models. So in the interest of disclosing just what the photo model owes to the detail kit, let's immediately point out the most visible deviations from the stand-alone plastic kit:

    The shiny drilled brake rotors surfaces come from the detail kit, as do the three screens for the front grilles and rear diffuser. At the rear are four machined aluminum exhaust tips, which spare you the inconvenient parting marks on the otherwise sharp chromed kit pieces. And perhaps the most obvious upgrades are the little Nissan crests at the wheel centers; those are available both as etched pieces and as transfers in the detail kit, and unfortunately, Fujimi fails to provide any counterparts on the standard kit's decal sheet.

    That's about the only thing they overlook, however. Fujimi may not provide for an engine under the completely detailed opening hood, but the 149 parts they load into the remaining areas of this curbside make for the most crisply detailed plastic 1:24 R35 GT-R on the market.

    Performance: The standard kit parts include plastic grille screens with mesh patterns molded open, and a complete set of metal transfers, including mirror faces, the lower trim border for the top front grille, a decklid "NISSAN" badge, and GTR scripts.

    For the interior, Fujimi foregoes the separate door pulls and the left-hand drive option seen in the Tamiya kit, but in return, it offers far more convincing three-piece seats up front, and separate back cushions for the rear seats; this is a boon if you choose gray or any other color for the seats, since you'll only have to mask the lower cushions.

    To this, the detail kit adds shift paddles, pedal surfaces, window switches, air conditioning vents, a radio face plate, gauge nacelles, a cupholder cover, a dash-top grille, and five speaker grilles from the photo-etch sheet; plus door lights and trim rings for the speakers and cupholder from the metal transfer sheet. There are also full photo-etched seatbelt buckles and clasps for you to use from the detail kit, if you provide belt material. If you choose to use the photo-etched gauge plate, you should be aware that they will not line up with Fujimi's gauge decals.

    The detail kit also features sharply etched rotor hub rings in addition to the drilled surfaces. These parts appear to correct one subtle inaccuracy in the plastic kit: the rotors are engraved with holes drilled directionally for each side, where the photo-etched pieces correctly point one way, irrespective of the side they're on.

    Marketing: Fujimi's chassis is far and away the best you'll find for this subject in 1:24 scale. The transaxle and the forward exhaust system through the cats are molded to the chassis plate, but everything else is separate. There are accurate suspension subframes and driveshafts front and rear, along with sharp upper suspension arms and finely detailed uprights; and from the rear cats back, a 5-piece exhaust system settles nicely into place.

    Undertrays cover up a fair amount of this detail, which is why other manufacturers don't bother - but once customers see some of the detail poking through the cracks, they'll see the dividends paid by Fujimi's clever approach.

    If the body shell deviates from the 1:1, it's only in ways that seem to flatter the actual car. The upper borders of the greenhouse at the side windows seem to have a bit more grace and elegance than strictly accurate, and the front fascia eschews that small beveled edge around the front air intakes. Otherwise, it's very close; and while buiders have to mask the front end to paint the grille area, Fujimi saves them trouble elsewhere with separate parts for the rocker panels, front air dam, and rear diffuser panel. And although the standard metal transfer sheet in the plastic kit is pretty complete, the detail kit's metal transfer sheet adds a slimmer trim border for the top front grille and a few extra choices for Nissan/GTR body scripts - a Tamiya kit would certainly benefit from the leftovers.

    Customers may need to file the body's side window openings at the beltline for the window unit to snap in a little easier, and while they're at it, they should probably file down the inner flange towards the rear of that piece so it doesn't interfere with optimum interior fit. Customers may also find it necessary to file down the chromed projector beam housings so the headlight covers nestle in a little tighter. And getting the body on may be a bit hairy until the rear diffuser is over the tailpipes and lined up with the mounting pins at the rear of the chassis; if builders leave the hood off until the end, they'll find it easier to guide the front fascia's bosses over the delicate pins up front.

    Other than that, the build is quite satisfying, especially considering the number of parts. Fujimi's GT-R makes a strong case as the best overall R35 GTR kit on the market - and if Fujimi ever offers a version with an engine, there won't be any dispute.

    Reviewed by: Chuck Kourouklis

    Product: 1:24 Nissan R35 GT-R
    Maker: Fujimi
    Stock No. FUJ03767
    MSRP: Around $30
    Other products used: KA Models Detail-up set (No. 11172, approx. $12)
    Availability: Dragon Models USA

  • High standards of accuracy

  • Nearly trouble-free fit

  • No engine; precious little else

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