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Product Lab - November 2006

Published: October 15, 2006
Soar with FlyZone's Red Hawk, SkyFly
Product: Red Hawk and SkyFly RTFs
Maker: FlyZone
Stock Nos.: Red Hawk, HCAA1960; SkyFly, HCAA1961
MSRP: Red Hawk, $89.99; SkyFly, $129.99
Availability: Great Planes

Product: If you have customers bitten by the radio-control flying bug, FlyZone's SkyFly and Red Hawk are good products to introduce them to. These trainers literally give a person everything needed to fly in one easy-to-assemble package and can get them airborne in a hurry.

Both products feature one-piece bodies with tail booms and pusher propellers powered by 380 motors. They also both come with rechargeable NiMh 7.2-volt, 900 mAh batteries, AC and 12-volt DC chargers, and three-channel radios. The Red Hawk has a V-tail, while the Sky Fly has a conventional tail. Instructional DVD's are also in both boxes. Eight AA batteries are needed for each radio.

Of the two, the Red Hawk is a shade smaller and a bit more basic. Its V-tail provides mixing of elevator and rudder. It's also got a slightly shorter wing; it's not quite as heavy as the SkyFly, which can be a plus when you're just starting out. The radio for the Red Hawk has a single stick to control the tail and a throttle slide on the rear of the case.

Performance: The planes are assembled in similar fashion. All the user has to do is install the landing gear, the elevator with associated rubber bands, and rubber-band the wing to the body. The nylon control lines are already attached to horns on the control surfaces.

The Sky Fly flew very well and was every bit as durable as the Red Hawk.
Either of these planes is a good way to start flying. The instructional DVD is helpful and inspires confidence in the flyer.

Marketing: These planes are for the entry-level flyer and possibly for a more experienced flyer to knock around with.

Before your customer buys the airplane, however, you might suggest he get Great Planes' Real Flight G3.5 flight simulator, which hass the SkyFly among its many planes. It gives get a good sense of how the plane will handle before taking the controls in a real-world situation.

Great Planes has a full line of replacement parts for both planes. Stock them so that your customers get back into the air quickly. Also, suggest your customer buy an extra battery or two so that they can keep flying while their other batteries are charging.

- Reviewed by Hal Miller

  • Easy and fast to assemble

  • Durable molded plastic body

  • DVD gives novices confidence

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    Green machine: Scalextric's Aston Martin DBR9
    Product: Aston Martin DBR9
    Maker: Scalextric
    Scale: 1:32
    Stock No.: C2644
    MSRP: $44.95

    Product: Long-time exotic sports car maker Aston Martin returned to racing in 2005 with its sleek DBR9 racer modeled after its DB9 street car.

    The car, racing in the GT1 class, used a lot of carbon fiber and aluminum to meet weight requirements, and its 6.0-liter V-12 engine created a massive 600 horsepower. The Scalextric version is the No. 57 with full team markings for Aston Martin Racing, complete with yellow nose trim, a Union Jack on the hood and side doors and a modified metallic British Racing Green that the team chose as its new color. This is the car as it appeared in the 2005 Sebring race, driven by David Brabham, Darren Turner and Stephane Ortelli, and their names appear on the slot car's roof.

    Performance: Scalextric cars are always smooth runners, with sweet-sounding motors that whine like no others in the slot business. The new green DBR9 is no exception, with its sidewinder Mabuchi SP motor. It looks great and runs well, too.

    The Aston Martin ran competitive times right out of the case, just better than my SCX Opel GTM car, turning in 7.1- and 7.2-second laps in alternating lanes. Only two of my Scalextric cars were quicker. A similar Scalextric Maserati had a best lap of 6.8 seconds.

    Performance is good; the Aston Martin holds the track well. I found it had a little more tail wag than the Maserati, no doubt slowing it just a bit. It's a tad longer with a flatter bottom than the Italian racer, so I'd recommend silicone tires as an add-on sale to give the British racer more rear traction.

    Marketing: This is a winner for any 1:32 scale slot track, and being a new model, should sit at the front of your slot showcase. If you have other LeMans-type cars, you would do well to group them all together in a display.

    -Reviewed by Mark Savage

  • Smooth runner

  • Gorgeous detail

  • Has lights, is digital-ready

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    Superb details make Proto 2000 switcher stand out
    Product: USRA 0-6-0 steam switcher
    Maker: Proto 2000 by Walthers
    Scale: HO
    Road names: Atlantic Coast Line; Chicago & North Western; Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific; Gulf, Mobile & Ohio; Central of New Jersey; Pennsylvania
    MSRP: $325 with sound and DCC; $225 standard DC

    Product: Proto 2000 continues its excellent line of steam locomotives with this USRA (United States Railroad Administration) 0-6-0 switcher. The nicely detailed, smooth-running model is available as a standard DC model or with a DCC decoder and QSI sound.

    Performance: Superb detail highlights the Proto 2000 model. The 0-6-0 includes many separate factory-applied details, including bell, headlight, piping, bell and whistle cords, brake shoes, air pumps, sliding cab windows, handrails and grab irons and a cab interior with backhead details and seats. The model includes a molded cab curtain, optional for the modeler to install. The tender bunker style varies by prototype, with an oil bunker and different styles of coal bunkers as appropriate.

    The model runs beautifully, with the excellent slow-speed control vital for a switch engine. The sound is very good, and will work on both DCC and standard DC, but DCC provides much better control. An optional driver set with traction tires is included if the modeler wants to increase pulling power.

    A detailed operations manual includes instructions for sound and DCC operations, and there's also a nice booklet covering the history of the prototype locomotives.

    Marketing: The model is appropriate for layouts set from the late 1910s through the end of the steam era.

    These versatile steam locomotives are perfect for small layouts. And, for modelers with large layouts, multiple road numbers are available for each road name. As with any sound-equipped model, giving customers a demo will help to spur sales.

    -Reviewed by Jeff Wilson

  • Optional factory sound, DCC

  • Fine detailing

  • Perfect for small layouts

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    CMC's Maserati 'Birdcage' a fine addition to any shelf
    Product: Maserati Tipo 61 "Birdcage"
    Maker: CMC
    Scale: 1:18
    Stock No.: M-047
    MSRP: $245

    Product: There aren't many companies that constantly take die-cast models to a new level, but Germany's CMC regularly does, and its gorgeous white and blue Maserati Tipo 61 is the latest proof.

    The "Birdcage," as it was known because of its intricate tubular spaceframe chassis, was a sexy sports car that raced in the late 1950s and early '60s in SCCA competition and in Europe. Like the Scarab, Jaguar D-Type and Ferrari Testa Rossa, this was a notable racer with a storied past.

    Performance: Wow! That's what customers will say when they see the Birdcage. Friends and co-workers were astonished as I opened the hood by unhooking a couple of realistic metal latches or flipped open the gas cap. A good die-cast 1:18 scale car will feature fine detail on the surface and under the hood, but in great die-cast, things like the latches really work.

    Reports vary, but either 16 or 17 of the Tipo 61 were built; the CMC version is a duplicate of the No. 5 racer that American Dan Gurney and Britain's Stirling Moss drove to victory in the 1960 1,000-km sports car race at Germany's Nürburgring. In blue lettering on the side are Team Camoradi markings. That sounds sexier than it is. Camoradi was an abbreviation for Casner Motor Racing Division, a team fielded by American "Lucky" Casner, who drove the car to a win in Germany the following season with Masten Gregory.

    CMC's model is equally successful in its execution. No less than 1,140 parts are used to bring this scale Maserati to life. Of those, CMC reports 507 are made from stainless steel, copper and brass. I couldn't count them all, but opening the hood or examining the racer's underside certainly will drive home the quality of parts and workmanship.

    Marketing: This CMC replica will appeal to your most discerning collector and likely those most familiar with sports-car racing history. Use this as a showpiece and conversation starter to inspire new collectors until your primo customer is ready to commit to this and other CMC masterpieces!

    -Reviewed by Mark Savage

  • Breathtaking detail

  • Historic accuracy, significance

  • Appeals to high-end collectors

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    Silver Dolphin's Uncover a Frog jumps out at readers
    Product: Uncover a Frog
    Maker: Silver Dolphin Books
    ISBN: 1-59223-456-9
    MSRP: $18.95

    Product: The Muppets' Kermit the Frog once sang, "It's not that easy being green." Many a frog has been killed in the name of science. Now comes a kinder, more gentler way to study frog anatomy. Uncover a Frog, a 16-page hardcover book by Aimee Bakken, means you won't have to wield a scalpel or inhale formaldehyde fumes.

    Instead of making incisions, readers turn pages to peel away various layers of a plastic frog model, including skeletal, nervous, respiratory, digestive, muscular and other systems.

    Performance: Unlike Kermit the Frog, real frogs don't talk or play banjo, but children may find them just as fascinating once they've read this book. For instance, they'll learn that a group of frogs is called an army and that some frogs eat bats!

    Uncover a Frog features an imaginative layout; there's a fly on the end of the frog model's flicked-out tongue. The model remains the center of each page, but it's surrounded by colorful pictures of various types of frogs, with diagrams that indicate internal and external parts. Facts are grouped under descriptive subheads or centered inside word balloons.

    There's a lot to look at, which makes the book interesting throughout repeated readings. Intended for ages 8 and up, Uncover a Frog appears to contain a fairly sturdy frog model, but be aware there are small parts that stick out slightly and could break if readers get too rough.

    Marketing: The visuals of Uncover a Frog make it a real attention-getter. Even if you don't have much shelf space, consider finding a spot where you can prop this book open.

    -Reviewed by Sue Brettingen

  • Humane way to study anatomy

  • Fanciful and fact-filled

  • Holds up to repeated readings

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    WizKids' HorrorClix is a ghoulishly good board game
    Product: HorrorClix starter set and four-figure booster packs
    Maker: WizKids
    Stock Nos.: WZK0665 (starter set); WZK0667 (booster packs)
    MSRP: Starter set, $14.99; booster pack, $7.99

    Product: Following up on its string of successful collectible miniatures Clix games, WizKids has released HorrorClix, a horror-film genre game. The HorrorClix starter set has everything needed to play the game, including the rule book, a two-sided full-color game map and six miniature HorrorClix figures.

    Also included is a pair of dice, a set of plot-twist cards, 3D objects and a dozen tokens representing the ever-necessary "victims." In addition to the starter set, WizKids offers separate booster packs, each containing four randomly inserted figures and extra plot-twist cards and victim tokens. The complete first-edition set of HorrorClix contains more than 100 figures representing zombies, ghosts and other nasty stuff.

    Performance: Once you understand the game mechanics, a complete game can take from 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the number of players. Players begin by selecting their teams of monsters, monster hunters, or both, as well as several plot-twist cards. They then face off in one of the two arenas (a graveyard or a haunted mansion) loaded with helpless-victim tokens.

    The object of the game is to slay or save as many victims as you can while attempting to be the last player standing. During the game, the players use their plot-twist cards in an attempt to change the outcome of events to their favor.

    Like WizKids' other Clix-family offerings, the key component to this game is the special dial base on each miniature. The base has all the stats for that game piece, including any special powers the character or monster may possess. As play progresses, the player clicks the dial for each of his pieces to record damage received or health points gained by that figure. When the dial runs out of clicks, the figure is eliminated from the game.

    Marketing: The HorrorClix figures are nicely molded and painted, the game is easy to play, and trying to collect all the figures in the set (from randomly packed boosters) can be something of an addiction. Have a game set out for your customers to try, and expect to hear some shrieks!

    -Reviewed by David Popp

  • Starter set has complete game

  • Add-on collectible boosters

  • 20- to 60-minute playing time

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    There's more to Hobbico's Visual Echo than meets the eye
    Product: Visual Echo lenticular puzzles (Series 3)
    Maker: Hobbico Puzzles
    Stock Nos.: HCAY0141 (Migration), HCAY0142 (Wonderland), HCAY0143 (Away Finding Shells), HCAY0144 (Ride the Wild Wind), HCAY0145 (Happy Hour), HCAY0146 (Raining Cats and Dogs)
    MSRP: $13.99
    Availability: Great Planes

    Product: Recently, a new kind of puzzle-the Visual Echo - caught my eye. Finished Visual Echo puzzles are three-dimensional. The puzzle is printed by a method known as lenticular printing.

    Lenticular is defined as "of or relating to a lens," which is a good description of this puzzle and its pieces. The puzzle is printed with a thin lens over the picture, which creates the 3D effect, so all the pieces have ridges on them.

    While this gives the overall picture depth when the puzzle is in individual pieces, the reflection of the light off of the lens causes the colors to vary, depending on the angle you're looking at them. This makes a Visual Echo puzzle more difficult to put together than a standard jigsaw puzzle.

    Performance: My fiancé, a couple of friends and I used typical puzzle-making methods to assemble the Visual Echo, starting with the border pieces, then separating pieces by color schemes, or picking out individual parts of the puzzle to build on.

    I noticed how the lenticular printing method and the lens material on top of the puzzle made the pieces thick and strong. Pieces actually snapped together and stayed put nicely.

    We also liked the way the puzzle looked after completion. You could clearly see the 3D layering effect.
    Putting these puzzles together took patience and perseverance. Four of us worked on the "Raining Cats and Dogs"-themed puzzle for four hours and got about halfway through. My fiancé and I worked an additional six hours to finish it.

    Marketing: These puzzles, the third in a series of Visual Echo products, feature six dazzling designs created by New Zealand artist Royce B. McClure.

    The front of each box features a 1:16 image of the finished puzzle, but to give customers the full 3D effect, consider placing a finished puzzle on a countertop or table, or have the pieces out so people can try their hand at them.

    With its $13.99 price tag, Visual Echo puzzles make for reasonable holiday gifts that will appeal to the young and old.

    -Reviewed by Joni Hauser

  • Challenging and addictive

  • Durable puzzle pieces

  • Dazzling 3D appearance

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