Product Lab - October 2007
Published: September 14, 2007
|Losi unleashes another mini monster|
Product: The hits just keep on coming from Losi, even in little packages. Its Mini-LST2 is a dual-motored, ready-to-run monster truck short in stature and long on fun.
The 4-wheel drive vehicle features a dual-deck aluminum chassis, complete ball bearings, dual steering servos, chrome dish wheels with mounted mini Zombie-Max tires and a factory-decorated body in red, blue or silver.
The package also includes a 2.4GHz radio with 4 AA batteries, plus a 7.2-volt, 1100mAh Ni-MH battery pack and charger. It all adds up to a capable vehicle that can get on the dirt in a hurry.
Performance: There's nothing to do but take the Mini-LST2 out of the box, install the batteries in the truck and radio and charge the truck battery. How easy can RTR be?
While waiting for the battery to charge, I took a close look at the truck. Good things come in twos here, with the twin Frenzy 370s, the dual steering servos and the sturdy double-deck chassis.
The drive train is equipped with three diffs; metal shafts transmit the power between them and to all four wheels. Adjustable oil-filled shocks help keep the tires firmly planted no matter what the terrain.
To wring this little beast out, I enlisted the help of my son, Cameron. The kid might only be 6, but he drives lights-out.
Not able to wait for the dirt, we tested the truck on the grass in our front yard. The Mini-LST2 has loads of torque and made short work of a small hill, blasting across the yard almost like it was a sidewalk.
The dual steering servos, combined with the grippy mini Zombie-Max tires, make for extremely responsive steering. In fact, it was so responsive, we had to dial down the dual rate to keep the Mini-LST2 planted in high-speed turns. Adjusting the shocks also helped. Run time on a full charge is about 10-12 minutes.
After recharging the battery, we were off to a local construction site that had dirt and loose gravel. Again the truck showed its agility, jumping some small hills and holding its line when required. Cam was having so much fun with it he wouldn't even let me have a turn driving it!
He banged it around pretty good, and the worst damage it sustained was a popped ball joint that easily snapped back in place.
I had to take the truck back to the office to get a little time with it. Its size allows it to be run indoors, and it performs like a little champ on carpet.
Marketing: This mini offers a lot of value for the bucks. As equipped, it's quick and torquey, and it's not going to get away from novice drivers.
Losi offers a number of hop-up parts to make the Mini-LST2 lighter and faster, including a graphite upper chassis plate set (LOSB0902, $39.99) and the Insane 370 motor set (LOSB0836, $59.99).
This is one of those trucks you can sell to one person, and all their friends will want one, too. The great thing is, thanks to the included 2.4GHz radio system, they can all run them together without having to worry about conflicting radio frequencies!
Oh, and don't forget to push extra batteries; once they get to running these little trucks, they're not going to want to stop.
Reviewed by Hal and Cameron Miller
Product: Mini-LST2 Monster Truck RTR
Stock No.: LOSB0217
Availability: Horizon Hobby
You can't get easier setup
Reliable, sturdy drive train
Great size for indoors and out
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|MS Composit's semi-scale acrobat offers Unique foamy fun|
Product: 3D foamy airplanes are a blast to fly. They fit in the back of a car and can be flown at just about any park during a lunch hour.
What separates MS Composit's Unique from other planes in this class is that it's almost made entirely of EPP foam. EPP foam is extremely durable, which is good, since the plane is capable of low-altitude 3D maneuvers.
Performance: Not a beginner's plane, the Unique is for the customer who is well past the trainer stage in building and flying. The kit comes with the fuselage, wing, tail feathers and some other necessary hardware. Customers will have to provide a radio, motor and battery.
The Unique's instructions are a challenge. The kit is manufactured in the Czech Republic, and the text is written in three languages, including (sometimes confusing) English. While there are lots of diagrams, they aren't always easy to follow, and all measurements are metric.
To assemble the plane, customers can use regular cyanoacrylate glue (CA) for the wings and fuselage, since these parts are made of EPP foam. Foam-safe CA will have to be used on the rudder and elevator, since they're made of regular foam. Other items needed are CA accelerator and 3M tape.
The instructions were especially unclear concerning installation of the servo trays for the elevator and rudder. While illustrations were provided, they included no measurements for hole placement. I cut the servo holes where I thought the illustration showed but found that the rudder connecting rod was then too short. I soldered on an extension as a fix.
The wing assembly was also tricky, partially because of metric measurements, but also due to how the spars are inserted. With a No. 1 X-Acto knife, the builder cuts a slot in the wing 2mm deep in both the top and bottom, inserts a string into each and then wicks CA into it. Using a similar method, string is also inserted along both sides of the fuselage.
Since the Unique has a long fuselage, the rudder and elevator servos are placed far aft. Builders should be warned that they'll have to either solder long leads on or use extensions. For the two aileron servos, your customers will probably have to use a Y-connector or solder the leads together.
The instructions show speed controller and receiver placement. For balancing the plane, however, depending on what is chosen to power it, the battery should be temporarily held in place until the center of gravity is found. After that, the battery location can be permanently delineated with the use of Velcro or other preferred method.
The Unique has landing gear, but unless it's flown off a hard surface, it has to be hand launched. For me, after a gentle toss, up it went. It has pretty much unlimited vertical climb and flies nice and slow too. It will do loops, rolls and spins with ease.
Marketing: There are plenty of opportunities here. To get the plane in the air, customers will need a motor, propeller, ESC, battery, servos and receiver. If they want to go wild with 4D, they can also get a reversible prop, which requires another servo. They will also need a charger if this is their first venture into LiPo batteries.
Something else that you can tell your customers is the Unique has great flying characteristics outdoors in winds that would knock other aerobatic foamies out of the air or make flight so erratic that it just isn't any fun. I took the Unique out in winds that actually blew the tail feathers off, and I was still able to land it, make repairs and fly it again.
Reviewed by Paul Daniel
Product: Unique EPP Foam ARF
Maker: MS Composit
Stock No.: MS-21000
Other items used: AXI EM-300/34 outrunner brushless motor; APC 9x6 propeller; Jeti Advance 12 Plus ESC; Common Sense 3S 800mAH LiPo battery; 4 Hitec HS-55 servos; Futaba 6EX 2.4 GHz transmitter system
Availability: MS Composit; call 317-578-1955 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
For more advanced flyers
Sturdy EPP foam construction
Good outdoor flyer
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|Fly free and easy with HobbyZone's Aerobird 3|
Product: The Aerobird 3, though easy to fly, is not a beginner's aircraft. However, its foam construction and rubber nose provide durability and ease of repair. The box contains the Aerobird 3's airframe, wing, electric motor, ZX10 transmitter, 6-channel receiver, DC peak charger, batteries, 40-page instruction manual and instructional DVD.
Performance: The plane comes with the motor, receiver, servos and linkages already set up, leaving little for the customer to complete. A formed-wire landing gear slips into a corresponding receptacle in the bottom of the fuselage.
Six rubber bands secure the high wing to the fuselage saddle. Guide markers along the leading and trailing edges visually indicate the correct alignment. A 7-cell, 8.4V, NiMH battery pack powers the 6-channel receiver, servos and 380-size motor. The included DC peak charger plugs into a car cigarette lighter and will charge the battery in about 40 minutes.
The Aerobird 3 will stay aloft for around 10 minutes on a fully charged battery. It can be hand launched or take off unassisted from a paved surface. The transmitter has a mode switch for regulating the V-tail's control-actions.
The "A" position (sport mode) allows slower turns, has a longer reaction time and is best to use while the pilot develops a feel for the craft's behavior. In the "B" position (pro mode), performance is peppy enough for more advanced maneuvers.
Marketing: The completeness of the Aerobird 3 kit guarantees your customer will have an enjoyable flying experience. It can be assembled in the back of a minivan right at the flying field in less than an hour. Definitely for a pilot with some experience, or a beginner with an instructor, the Aerobird 3 makes a friendly transitional craft, fitting into a slot between a basic model and one with ailerons.
Reviewed by Alvin Popp
Product: Aerobird 3 RTF Electric
Stock No.: HBZ3600
Availability: Horizon Hobby
Complete flyer in a box
Quick and easy assembly
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|Fujimi's Cayman S Porsche is one your customers can afford|
Product: Fujimi's Porsche Cayman S is beautifully detailed and cleverly engineered, much like its full-sized counterpart.
Inside the box, you'll find individually bagged parts trees. Most of the sprues are molded in black, but separate trees include satin-finish and high-shine plated parts, crisply molded clear parts and four rubber tires. The body is molded in bright red plastic.
Performance: Strictly speaking, this is a curbside kit, but because the Cayman has a mid-mounted engine, there's really no hood to open. The model's engine and exhaust-system detail is top notch. The front wheels can be posed, and all four wheels rotate on pins hidden inside the brake discs.
The interior is fully detailed, and separate door panels make painting and detail work easier. Instrument-face decals brighten up the six-piece, left-hand-drive dashboard.
Some of the kit's details, such as the rear bumper, differ slightly from the North American version of the car; customers may need to check references and do a little adjustment or scratchbuilding. The body is a beautiful piece of work; the side intakes and rear wing are separate pieces.
The windows are a single drop-in piece; the rear window has a delicate defroster grid. The taillights are one of the kit's nicest features. Each lens is two pieces, with a translucent-red surround and a drop-in clear center.
Exterior decals include Porsche crests for the nose and wheel centers and Cayman S script for the rear end. The decals went perfectly on the review model without any setting solution. They released from the backing paper almost immediately after being dipped in water, so builders should be ready to work quickly.
Marketing: Suggest that customers install the clear parts with Microscale's Micro Kristal Klear (No. 960, $2.50). Those who are thinking about painting their Cayman a lighter color should apply several coats of primer first and check other sources for trim colors, since Fujimi's paint instructions are for the red Cayman.
Reviewed by Matthew Usher
Product: Porsche Cayman S
Stock No.: RS-20
Availability: Dragon Models USA
Fantastic detail and fit
Clever two-piece taillights
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|Dead Man's Treasure offers up pirates, ghosts and cannons|
Product: Like pirates and treasure? Like blowing up your enemies with cannons? If so, Dead Man's Treasure is for you.
For three to five players, ages 8 and up, this fast-moving game from famous board-game designer Reiner Knizia comes with six island boards, two pirate pawns, 20 treasure tiles, 40 pirate cards and a colorful 4-page instruction booklet.
Performance: The game is quick to set up, easy to learn and plays in 20 minutes or less.
Essentially, Captain Flint buried his treasure, consisting of 20 tokens with random values printed on them, on six different islands before he died.
During game play, players use numbered cards to place hidden bets on the islands of their choice in an attempt to gain control of that island. At the end of the game, the bets for each island are tallied, and the player with the highest total points wins the best treasures.
There are two additional elements that make this a fun game. One is that each player gets one cannon card, which he may use instead of a bet. When a cannon card is revealed, it wipes out all bets on that island, making for some great fortune-reversing game play.
Also, there are two pirate pawns in the game: one for the ghost of Captain Flint, who is trying to protect his treasure, and the other for Pirate Ben Gunn, who is searching for it. When a bet is placed on an island containing one or both pawns, it advances them to the next island.
Game play stops when either pawn circles the board and returns to its home island. The island that Captain Flint ends on is considered haunted, and no treasure is awarded. The player who wins the island where Pirate Ben ends the game receives 10 bonus treasure points.
Marketing: The game comes in a colorful, compact box that is easy to display. With all the interest in pirate toys and movies these days, Dead Man's Treasure should be fairly easy to sell.
However, games always sell best if you can demonstrate them in the store, and the game could be set up on the counter, ready to play a sample round.
Reviewed by David Popp
Product: Dead Man's Treasure
Maker: Playroom Entertainment
Stock No.: PLE22100
Availability: Playroom Entertainment; call 866-999-9654 or e-mail email@example.com
Easy to learn
Three to five players
Fun, fast, unpredictable play
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|Goblin bodgers battle it out in Privateer Press game|
Product: With mechanical parts named Chthonic Grinder, Quantum Vacuum and Vicious Siphon, players might ask what they've gotten themselves into.
In Privateer Press' new stand-alone card game, Infernal Contraption, two to four players take on the roles of mischievous goblin bodgers (think diminutive mad-scientist tinkers with green skin and pointy ears) who are trying to build machines that will deplete the resources of the other bodgers.
The game comes with a deck of 124 playing cards and a nice box that has both the rules printed on it and plenty of room to store the cards.
Performance: For starters, there are four different parts cards: contraptions, upgrades, consumables and power sources. Contraptions are the working parts of a bodger's machine that will, when activated, hopefully create an effect that will take parts away from an opponent. Contraptions have to be powered in order to work.
Adding an upgrade to a contraption usually makes the contraption's effect stronger, but sometimes at a cost. Some cards have effects that can only be used once and are then removed from the game. Known as consumables, these always have to be played off a power source in order to work.
Finally, power sources are just what the name implies. These cards are played to provide power to contraptions and consumables so they can be activated.
On the sides of each card are four sockets which allow cards to be connected to each other. The socket types are gears, voltaic coils, steam pipe, alchemical apparatus and universal. Cards can only be played next to other cards if their sockets match. Any sort of connecting socket can be played next to a universal socket.
Every player is given a Power Core card to begin the game, which they place lengthwise (horizontally) on the table. The remaining cards are shuffled and distributed evenly among the players to form their parts piles. Players draw seven cards into their hand from the parts pile. It is with these cards that they will build their machines.
Machines are built in a horizontal line called the "main line." Any sort of card except a consumable can be played into a machine's main line. Cards can also be attached vertically along the top and bottom of the machine. These are called "plugs." Any card can be played as a plug, and consumables must be played as plugs on a power source.
On his turn, a player adds one card from his hand to his machine for free. For each additional card he adds to the machine, he has to discard one from his hand to the communal scrap heap. After adding as many contraptions and upgrades to the machine as he wants (or can), the player chooses an opponent and "flips the switch!"
Proceeding from left to right, the player reads the effects of each card in the machine and resolves them, typically sucking cards out of the opponent's parts pile, stealing them from his hand and busting up his machine. After reaching the last card in the machine, it shuts down. The player replenishes his hand back up to seven cards from his parts pile, covers his head and hopes that the guy he just put through the Improbability Matrix doesn't come looking for a little satisfaction.
Winning is simply a matter of being the last bodger in the game with cards in his parts pile.
Marketing: Demoing Infernal Contraption is the best way to get customers interested, according to Nathan Letsinger of Privateer Press.
You can demo the game with as few as 30 cards - plenty for two players to get through a single hand and more than enough to demonstrate how fun the game is.
Reviewed by Tim Kidwell
Product: Infernal Contraption
Maker: Privateer Press
Stock No.: PIP60001
Availability: For distributor list, call 428-643-5900 or visit www.privateerpress.com
For ages 10 and older
Games last about an hour
Fun, with lots of replay value
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|Encyclopedic resource for John Deere tractor enthusiasts|
Product: Author and John Deere historian Don Macmillan bought his first Deere in 1943 and was appointed the first Deere dealer in the United Kingdom in 1958. Having written many books about the John Deer Co., he traces the history of Deere's earliest tractors in The John Deere Two-Cylinder Tractor Encyclopedia.
Performance: Tracking changes model to model can be complicated by lost records or by records indicating changes that occurred with a specific model even though early runs of that model failed to incorporate those modifications.
Macmillan does a fine job of negotiating these difficulties, pointing out places where records were lost, where older features remained on first runs of new models and where modifications occurred within model runs, providing invaluable information for tractor lovers and collectors.
Deere's survival was tied directly to the success and development of its products. The encyclopedia illustrates how the Model D put the company back in the black in the '20s; how the two-cylinder engine remained Deere's main power source through the '50s; and how the successful models A and B were developed and marketed in the '30s despite limited resources.
There are some errors in the book. For example, the cubic-inch displacement for the 1923 Model D, miscalculated as 482, should be 465. Two graphs for the Model 50 tractor actually show stats for Model 40 or 60 tractors, and the horsepower data for number-series tractors is confusing.
Marketing: Problems notwithstanding, this book is readable, informative and nicely illustrated. It would make a valuable resource for modelers looking for prototype shots, die-cast tractor collectors and hobbyists interested in restorations or American farm history.
Reviewed by Jim Bray
Product: The John Deere Two-Cylinder Tractor Encyclopedia: The Complete Model-by-Model History by Don Macmillan
Maker: Voyageur Press
Availability: MBI Publishing
Interesting subject matter
Well-written and researched
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|Lone Tree Creek re-creates '70s John Deere snowmobiles|
Product: John Deere was one of many big machinery makers that jumped into the burgeoning snowmobile market in the early 1970s. Its name, along with its familiar green-and-yellow color scheme, made its sleds popular until Deere ended its run in the mid-'80s.
These 1:16 scale versions of Deere's 1972 Model 400 and 500 are superbly painted sleds, and the first offerings from Lone Tree Creek, a new die-cast company based in South Dakota. Lone Tree's owner, Lee Friesen, promises more in the coming year.
Performance: Several sledheads I know are oohing and aahing over these miniature machines, saying these look just like the ones they learned to ride. The detailing is good, and the die-cast sled bodies and chassis give the model considerable heft in a collectibles market where plastic is the norm.
The metal hood is hinged and folds forward to reveal a small 2-stroke engine, working steering mechanism, battery, wiring and gas tank. The hood snaps shut and fits snug to the clear windshield trimmed in black. Handlebars include the throttle and brake levers, and the simple dash includes a speedometer.
Each sled is properly labeled with 400 or 500 model stickers, and the tail flap includes the "leaping deer" corporate logo. Both models also feature a headlight and a black hood air intake with John Deere printed on it. Plus, underneath are detailed bogie wheels and a rotating track. The 500 includes a seat back to accommodate a second rider.
Each unit is sold separately and as a set. The models include tiny snowflake Christmas ornaments.
Marketing: Snowmobiles are popular in the northern-tier states and Canada, with nearly 1.7 million sleds registered in the U.S. and almost 700,000 registered in Canada. That's a big market. Put a sign in the window in early November or display the box there. Call your local snowmobile club or association and let them know what you've got. Snowmobilers are gearheads. They may find some other items, like R/C, plastic models or die-cast, to flip their ignition switches!
Reviewed by Mark Savage
Product: John Deere Model 400 and 500 snowmobiles
Maker: Lone Tree Creek; call 605-387-3845 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Stock Nos.: LDW72400 (Model 400), LDW72500 (Model 500), $52.50 each; LDW72450 (set of 2), $109.20
Unique product for new market
Good fit and finish
Could draw new customers
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|Sloter's No. 7 Lola T280 slot car is a looker|
Product: This 1:32 slot car from newcomer Sloter is of the yellow "Switzerland" model, No. 7 Lola T280, that raced at Le Mans in 1972 as the secondary car to Joakim "Jo" Bonnier's No. 8, which set fastest lap before an accident that killed Bonnier. The No. 7, with primary driver Hughes de Fierlandt, dropped out earlier to finish 49th.
Performance: Sloter's Lola looks great. I like the Swiss-cheese paint scheme, and the Shell and Cibie logos, among others, are crisp and properly located. The Lola's body is nicely shaped with good detail, including mirrors, roll bar, the Ford Cosworth V8's exposed top and a bit of engine in back with twin pipes. Also, the driver figure is complete, not sawed off at the waist.
The car feels light; magnet strength is moderate. Under the body is a Mabuchi sidewinder motor that gives the car good straight-line speed. However, the magnet and hard rear tires don't provide the car with much grip. There's some serious tail waggle that slows you out of corners.
I set a time of 6.69 seconds on both lanes of my track. By comparison, my best Revell-Monogram cars can hit 6.1 regularly. However, the Lola easily beats a number of SCX and Scalextric cars. I'd consider it a middle-of-the-pack runner.
Marketing: Racers looking for new cars will be happy to see the Lola in stock, and this particular racer is attractive and could be a good mover based simply on appearance. Sloter also offers a Ferrari 312 PB and new Zytek 05S, good for your Le Mans fans.
However, for the price, I'd like better performance, and I'd expect the lights, front and rear, to function. Sloter cars also come in cardboard boxes, while most others are in clear plastic. Sloter, started in 2006, is now exclusively distributed by REH Distributing, but others may join soon.
Reviewed by Mark Savage
Product: Lola T280 Ecurie Bonnier, Switzerland
Stock No.: 400207
Availability: REH Distributing; call 800-543-7414 or e-mail email@example.com
Excellent detail and finish
A bit pricey
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|Wild Planet's Purse Pals prove great fun for young gals|
Product: Specialty toy and game manufacturer Wild Planet is going for the girls' market with its Purse Pals.
The toys, aimed at children 5 and up, include a plastic purse that opens into an interactive playhouse. Each purse has a resident pet that kids can move to various rooms inside the house to do things like eat, play and be groomed.
Electrical-contact nubs in the rooms match contacts on the pets' feet; when the pet is placed on the nubs, a small LCD screen tells the owner what the pet is doing and how it's feeling. Sounds accompany the on-screen action.
The purse requires a pair of AAA batteries and comes with a temporary battery pack for demonstration purposes.
Performance: If you or your kids have ever played a Tamagotchi-type game that features an electronic pet, you'll get the idea of how to play with the Purse Pals very quickly.
My daughter, Olivia, took to the Purse Pals right away. First, she liked the purse itself; then, she thought the pet inside was really cute. When she found out it actually did things, she really liked it!
Olivia had fun moving her pet from room to room and seeing how each set of contacts produced a different result. One of the things she liked most was when another pet "visited" her pet's purse and a party ensued!
The more you play with the pet, the happier and healthier it will be. It's not as complex as some of the electronic pet games I've seen, but provides a little more interactivity thanks to the physical pet and its movement.
Marketing: With so many hobby products aimed at boys, it's nice to see one for girls. The price point on Purse Pals makes them attractive as impulse buys. Different pals and colors will help multiply sales.
Reviewed by Hal Miller
Product: Purse Pals
Maker: Wild Planet
Stock Nos./MSRPs: Poppy the Puppy, WPT41002; Callie the Kitty, WPT41003; Pajamas the Pony, WPT41004; Nibbles the Bunny, WPT41005; Cheeks the Hamster, WPT41006; Gumdrop the Turtle, WPT41007; $19.95 each; Collector's Bundle (all six), WPTPPBNDL, $109.95
Multiple Pals = multiple sales
Sturdy, colorful designs
Game play is easy to learn
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