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Product Lab - November 2007

Published: October 12, 2007
Tamiya car good intro to kit building
Product: Tamiya's 1:10 electric 2007 Subaru Impreza Monte Carlo is a classic bathtub-style TT-01 chassis kit that's a good entry-level model for your customers who are new to kit building. A motor, LEDs for lights and an electronic speed controller are included; the customer will need to purchase paint for the body, a suitable radio and batteries.

Performance: I've built several TT-01 models, with varying degrees of hop-up parts (and some box-stock). My youngest son, Bill, has built a few 1:24 car kits, and I thought this kit might give him enough experience to try something a bit more complex.

Could he handle the job with guidance from me? How might this experience apply to hobby store customers and their children? We happily began work to see what we would learn.

There were no surprises in the Impreza's construction; it follows pretty much the same steps as other TT-01 kits. The bathtub-style chassis is rugged and dependable, without too many small parts or complicated subassemblies to test the patience of young, inexperienced builders.

Bill learned a great deal about how the various subassemblies relate to each other, and he now has a much better understanding of how these cars work.

"I learned a lot about being careful as we worked," said Bill, "and about keeping things organized so you don't lose parts." We emptied each bag of parts into its own container to keep everything corralled.

Despite generally smooth sailing, however, I doubt that the average 13-year-old could complete the kit without experienced help. The "newness" of the tools and parts slows things down quite a bit and makes it possible to make errors.

Still, I felt that Bill gained confidence with each step we completed, and I made sure he was actively involved in all phases of construction. I might put in one bolt of a pair, but he did the other.

As we worked, the parts became less like "numbered things on sprues" and more like interesting parts that made the model go together. Building the suspension, in particular, seemed to pique Bill's interest, as we built the shocks and installed them.

One of the few weak points of this kit, and others in this series, is the seemingly endless number of self-adhesive markings that must be applied to the body. There are nearly 100 of them in this kit, and they can test the patience of experienced modelers, to say nothing of a 13-year-old. This really slows down the process, and I confess to doing a fair amount of the "heavy lifting" here, to keep Bill's enthusiasm from lagging.

We opted not to install the LEDs for front and rear lights; we tried them on one other model and ran into some radio interference problems that may be peculiar to our neighborhood. I can vouch however, when working, they are bright and look cool.

"The car drives fine," said Bill. "It handles a lot like our other cars." For purposes of the review, though, we installed the kit-supplied motor. We'll upgrade to a Sport-Tuned motor (No. 53068, $23.50), because we've done that with all of our other cars. It's an inexpensive upgrade and makes racing more fun.

The most important lesson Bill learned while building this kit is the one I hoped for from the beginning. "You definitely appreciate it more when you build a car like this," he told me.

Marketing: The TT-01 kits are a good step up for customers who have driven pre-built cars. They are rugged, dependable and easy to repair. Consider stocking some of the many upgrade parts for the TT-01 chassis, motor and suspension, so customers who find a comfort zone with the basic kit can try hop-up parts later.

Reviewed by Bill and Jim Haught

Product: 2007 Subaru Impreza WRC Monte Carlo
Maker: Tamiya
Scale: 1:10
Stock No.: 58390
Street price: $197
Tested with: Futaba T2PH radio, eight AA batteries for transmitter, 6-cell 2000mAh NiMH battery for car, Pactra polycarbonate spray paint

  • Easy-to-follow instructions

  • Popular body style and markings

  • Many upgrades available

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    Fly year-round with E-flite's Sobre 3D Profile
    Product: Here in the Midwest, where I live, the outdoor flying season is over. But it doesn't mean I'm no longer able to do aerial stunts.
    Enter the Sobre 3D by E-flite. The Sobre is a profile foamie that does big-time aerobatics in a very small area such as a high-school gym.

    While it's not quite an ARF, it does go together fast. If you build the base version, without the E-flite Showstopper variable pitch prop system (VPPS), you could have it in the air in about three hours.

    This is not a beginner's plane. It's for your customer who has had lots of time with a trainer and is ready for something that's more fun to fly. It's made of Depron foam, which is super strong and lightweight at the same time - very important for a plane like this!

    Performance: The Sobre's instructions are clear and easy to understand. However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind that aren't mentioned in the instructions.

    First, the Sobre requires two servos: one for each wing. You'll have to either purchase a Y-harness or solder the two servo leads together. Less weight is better, so I chose to solder them together.

    While the instructions called for a micro receiver, I was able to get by with a Futaba 6EX, which is pretty small.

    If the variable pitch system is used, follow the instructions included with it. Using the VPPS requires a radio that can function in heli mode and takes a fair amount of time to install and program into the radio. The battery will have to be moved back to balance the plane properly with the extra weight of the VPPS on the front.

    They may look nice, but forget about the wheel pants if the plane is going to be flown off grass. They'll just break off.

    For my money, installing the VPPS is more than worth the time. After a couple of trim passes, I was doing super tight loops, snap rolls, rolling turns and a bunch of other maneuvers I'm sure don't even have names.

    What's great about the Sobre is that while it will do some fast aerobatics, it will also slow down to the point that you can actually reach out and catch it.

    I flipped on the VPPS with the plane in level flight and it was almost like it had brakes. Forward speed went to nothing. The Sobre started backing up and I flew it backwards for a while using the elevator. I pulled off a snap roll in reverse and my friend, who is a pilot of full-sized planes, started laughing.

    I recommend that any experimentation be done "three mistakes high," until customers get used to flying this way. Another nice thing about the plane is that it can handle a wind that might ground other flat foamies. It can also fly in a large gym. The Sobre is truly a year-round flyer.

    Marketing: For those who are looking to move into 3D aerobatics, the best way to sell this plane is to fly it in a demonstration.

    It's so responsive and maneuverable that just watching it is fun. Working with a local high school, you might be able to fly demos in the gym.

    As always, there are add-on sales that you should make, like foam-safe CA and accelerator. A 6-channel transmitter (with proper mixing and dual-rate capabilities), micro receiver and four sub-micro servos (five if VPPS is used) are required. Customers will also need a motor, 10A brushless ESC, 8x3.8 or 9x4.7 Slow Flyer Prop (used without the variable pitch system), LiPo battery and charger. Extra batteries are always a good add-on too.

    Reviewed by Paul Daniel

    Product: Sobre 3D Profile
    Maker: E-flite
    Stock No.: EFL1100
    MSRP: $59.99
    Tested with: Futaba 6EX 2.4GHz radio system, 10A brushless ESC (EFLA1010), Park 370 brushless outrunner motor (EFLM1210HS), Showstopper VPPS variable-pitch prop (EFLPVPP100), four S60 servos (EFLRS60), S75 servo (EFLRS75), 730mAh 3S 11.IV LiPo
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Agile, fun to fly

  • VPPS definitely worth the effort

  • For experienced flyers

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    Quest for power in Talisman from Black Industries
    Product: Talisman, a game meant for two to six players, 12 years and up, has been released in three previous editions over the years, along with a number of supplements. This latest edition has gotten a facelift with a newly designed board and artwork.

    Also included in the weighty box are 14 character cards and playing pieces; over 100 adventure, purchase, alignment change and talisman cards; plastic life, strength and craft counters; six-sided dice; and antique-looking gold coins.

    Performance: In the game, players quest to become king over the realm of Talisman. The game board is divided into an outer, middle and inner track, each with obstacles of increasing difficulty. The first player to move into and overcome the innermost track, claiming the Crown of Command, wins the game.

    Fourteen characters - including the likes of an elf, dwarf, wizard, warrior and thief, among others - are provided, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. These differences and the fact that characters are handed out randomly keeps players on their toes and makes for interesting variations in play game after game.

    Game play is simple and straightforward. Each player, on his turn, rolls a die and moves the number of spaces indicated. The space a player lands on determines what sort of action he is expected to take. Usually, an adventure card is drawn, and the player can try to defeat or evade a foe, pick up some loot or gain a follower who can help him in his quest.

    Other areas, like the tavern and graveyard, require the player to take his chances with a roll of the die, with effects ranging from healing to losing gold.

    As players defeat foes and overcome obstacles, they are able to make their characters stronger, buy better equipment and acquire magical items. However, players have to watch each other too. Someone might want what you have and just might decide to take it by stealth or even brute force!

    If there is one drawback to Talisman, it's the 20-page rulebook. While a hefty read, the rules are presented clearly and are easily referenced. After a few turns, players should have most of the rules down. I played Talisman with my wife and kids on a Sunday afternoon, and by the third turn, my 10-year-old knew the majority of the rules. Well before the end of the game, my eight-year-old did too. They're looking forward to the next time we play.

    Talisman is simply the best board game I have ever played, and I play a lot of board games. It's fun and combines elements of classic board games, like Monopoly and Sorry!, but also incorporates some basic role-playing principles too: pick a character and improve its abilities, which is a game mechanic that makes video games popular.

    Marketing: "The marketing of Talisman all comes down to people playing the game," says Caroline Law of Black Industries. She recommends giving demos of the game in your store.

    Get a store copy and play it with your staff or some friends. After you have the basics down, you'll be able to talk to your shoppers about the game.

    Black Industries has also supplied to distributors posters, fliers and special-edition cards specifically for retailers. Ask yours how to get your hands on them.

    Reviewed by Craig Johnson

    Product: Talisman
    Maker: Black Industries
    Stock No.: 60011083001
    MSRP: $50
    Availability: Most game distributors or e-mail

  • Fun, lots of re-playability

  • Appeals to a variety of gamers

  • Plenty of sales support

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    Explore the Orient with Out of the Box's 10 Days in Asia
    Product: Do your customers know Bhutan from Brunei? Or Maldives from Myanmar? If so, they'll have an advantage when playing 10 Days in Asia. But if they're like most people who have a hard enough time just figuring out where American states and Canadian provinces are, particularly in relation to each other, this game will be a challenge - yet a fun and educational one as players chart a course across the world's largest continent.

    Performance: Like the other games in Out of the Box Publishing's 10 Days series (Europe, USA, Africa), 10 Days in Asia is for two to four players, ages 10 and up and takes about 20 to 30 minutes to play.
    The object of the game is the same as others in the series: to use country and transportation tiles to assemble an itinerary, in this case, across Asia.

    The game includes 57 country tiles, with duplicates for seven countries and 23 transportation tiles (although the instructions that came with our game indicated 21). The first person to complete a 10-day journey in which each day legally connects to the subsequent day is the winner.

    There are a couple of features that set 10 Days in Asia apart from the other 10 Days games. First, of course, is the region. Asia has numerous irregular boundaries and is spread out more than the other continents, with some countries divided up in seemingly arbitrary fashion.

    For example, consider Indonesia, the world's largest archipelagic state, consisting of 17,508 islands. The 10 Days in Asia board includes some of those islands. Also located by Indonesia is a line indicating a division between the Indian and Pacific oceans, an important feature to note when drawing a "ship" tile. Nearby, there's Malaysia, a country that has two distinct geographical areas divided by the South China Sea.

    And did we mention islands? Asia has a multitude of island nations: Bahrain, Sri Lanka and Singapore, just to name a few. Some connect to other countries via ferry and bridge connections, which don't require tiles designated for this purpose, while other countries require ship tiles to make it to the mainland, making for tricky game play.

    10 Days in Asia has a feature none of the other 10 Days games has: trains representing four railroad lines (Mideast, Siberia, Southeast Asia and China). Railroad tiles are few - only six, compared with 10 airplane tiles and seven ship tiles - and can be used for any of the lines, so a player drawing one of these tiles can use it to leapfrog great distances and connect far-flung places in as little as one day.

    In terms of game play, these geographical quirks make for lively conversation, furrowed brows as players huddle around the board to study the map and a better grasp of where some of the world's hot spots are and what might make them that way once you see the places they border.

    Overall, 10 Days in Asia, with its mix of strategy and luck, is every bit as fun as the other 10 Days games, and maybe even more so to those who know less about this region of the world and want to learn more.

    Marketing: In 1987, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation establishing the third week in November as Geography Awareness Week. This year's observation will be Nov. 11-17, and the featured region will be none other than Asia.

    The National Geographic Society uses this time to promote the importance of geography to the public and to schools throughout the United States and Canada.

    Why not piggyback on this event by featuring 10 Days in Asia and other geographical and Asian-related items you carry? Set the game out for people to play. Let local schools know you carry these games. And don't forget Scout groups that may have members working on geography badges.

    Reviewed by Sue Brettingen

    Product: 10 Days in Asia
    Maker: Out of the Box Publishing
    Stock No.: 1013
    MSRP: $24.99

  • Fun and educational

  • A mix of strategy and luck

  • Presents tie-in to schools, Scouts

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    Blast off with Starlight Model Rockets' Hyperon, F-32 Avenger
    Product: Those familiar with model rockets won't be surprised by the contents of Hyperon's package: a balsa nosecone and laser-cut fins, cardboard body tube, shock cord, a chrome Mylar streamer, string, sticker decal and assembly instructions.

    Starlight's F-32 Avenger is an advanced kit, and while it has the balsa nosecone and fins like the Hyperon, it also contains water-slide decals, a Mylar parachute and miscellaneous parts for a more aggressive looking rocket.

    Performance: Hyperon is a small rocket, meant for high flights and quick recovery. Its design is very straightforward, with a little twist in that it has a cardboard ring fin that encircles the three balsa fins.

    The Avenger, while not a huge rocket, is heavier than the Hyperon and won't fly as high. Among its many building challenges is an asymmetrical fin design that makes it look a lot like a sci-fi fighter, with dowels on the wing edges representing wing-mounted cannons.

    One thing that impressed us about both kits is that Starlight has pre-marked where the fins and launch lug should be glued - a definite bonus for model rocketry newcomers and a handy aid for experienced builders.

    On the other hand, the instructions for both left a lot to be desired. While most people could deal with the photocopy- print quality, the diagrams are more like pencil scribbles.

    Does this affect the build? Not for an experienced modeler. However, it might challenge a novice. The shortcomings are particularly apparent in the Avenger's instructions, with some missed building steps leaving the builder to muddle through as best he can.

    Hyperon's ring fin did present a minor challenge. Recommend that customers use a medium cyanoacrylate (CA) glue to attach it, since CA will dry quickly, speeding up this portion of the build. Also, customers should make sure to use plenty of glue when inserting the engine mount into the tube.

    The Avenger's decals were probably the most frustrating part of the build. They were very thin and brittle. The red wing stripes needed touching up with paint; the cockpit decal shattered so badly that it couldn't be used.

    However, both rockets fly like champs and look cool on the launch pad. Hyperon's streamer does an adequate job of slowing the rocket down on descent, and the Avenger's chute makes it easy to spot in the air.

    Marketing: Hyperon and the F-22 Avenger have excellent price points for rockets in their categories. Each also present a great opportunity for add-on sales, such as spray paint, sanding sealer, CA and white glue, medium- and fine-grit sandpaper, rocket motors, igniters and recovery wadding.

    Bob Jablonski from Starlight Model Rockets has said that the instructions for the Avenger have been gone over and improved since we received our review kit. If you have any questions, you can contact Starlight at 574-936-4469.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell and Jim Haught

    Product, stock no., MSRP: Hyperon (No. MR4004, $5.45); F-32 Avenger (No. MR3004, $12.95)
    Maker: Starlight Model Rockets
    Availability: Stevens International

  • Instructions a bit rudimentary

  • Good fliers

  • Great price point

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    Constructo Junior's Bounty sails, with the right tools
    Product: The Bounty comes with a pre-shaped, solid-wood hull, paper sails, string for rigging and all-wood construction. Also included are cannons and a launch made from white metal, black and white paints and a little tube of glue. The instructions consist mostly of pictures and are accompanied with a tip sheet.

    Performance: I was excited to sit down with my 10-year-old daughter, Daelen, to build this kit. Meant for builders 10 years and up, I thought the Bounty would be a good introduction to wooden models for both of us.

    Upon opening the box, we checked the parts and discovered that the wheel and tiller were missing. While it bothered me, we decided to push on with the build.

    A big selling point for the Bounty is that the instructions are easy to understand, being only pictures.

    As Daelen and I got into the kit, the pictures were sometimes confusing, and we'd have to puzzle out what exactly we were meant to do by comparing the instructions to the box art and then perusing the rather text-heavy tip sheet.

    A very delicate touch is required to remove some of the wooden parts from the surrounding scrap. Also, many of the pieces needed modification for them to fit correctly.

    Daelen and I spent about 20 combined hours working on the Bounty. The ship looked nice once it was completed, even without the missing pieces.

    Marketing: Not everything required to build the Bounty is included in the kit. Customers will need a hobby knife, a brad pusher, paintbrush and fine sandpaper. We used cyanoacrylate glue throughout the build, rather than the white glue that was supplied with the kit. The build would have taken much longer with the white glue.

    If customers report missing pieces, contact Constructo directly to help expedite replacement.

    Reviewed by Craig and Daelen Johnson

    Product: Constructo Junior: Bounty
    Maker: Constructo
    Stock No.: 80420
    Street price: $27.95
    Availability: Great Planes Model Distributors

  • Nice-looking model

  • Need to check parts

  • Adult help a must for kids

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    Revell speeds off with the 1965 Lotus Cortina
    Product: Lotus Engineering's Cortina entered the motor sports arena in the early 1960s. Lotus built 1,000 of the racing Cortinas, each with a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine.

    Scottish driver Jim Clark drove Lotus Cortinas in 22 races in the mid-1960s with great success. Revell of Germany's latest 1:32 slot car comes decorated for the Cortina that Clark drove at Oulton Park in 1965.

    Performance: Revell came out with the Cortina a couple years ago, and this version runs every bit as well as that did.

    The main difference is the limited-edition (3,500 pieces) Jim Clark paint scheme. This model features solid plastic and metal construction, and the details, paint and body decorations are crisp and neat. The Cortina includes a half interior with driver, steering wheel and fire extinguisher. The dashboard is complete with simulated gauges.

    The Cortina is a fast car. Despite its appropriately narrow tires, it corners effectively, making it competitive with other cars of this class. The one flaw in the model is that the car has no real ground clearance. The gear housing rests nearly level with the back wheels.

    In my tests, when the car was driven on track with surface irregularities, the housing would lift the rear wheels off of the track, leaving the car high and dry with wheels spinning.

    This didn't seem to be a problem on tracks without hills or banked curves, and at racing speeds, the Cortina was able to overcome these brief moments of ground friction on its own. Still, the model is a fun slot car to drive.

    Marketing: The Lotus Cortina includes a limited-edition display box, with cool historic photos showing Jim Clark and his car at the Oulton Park race.

    However, as a word of caution, the box is not sealed, and the model can be easily removed from the packaging. When selling the car, you'll want to display it in a showcase, just to be safe.

    Reviewed by David Popp

    Product: 1965 Lotus Cortina slot car
    Maker: Revell of Germany
    Scale: 1:32
    Stock No.: 08398
    MSRP: $53.95

  • Fun to drive

  • Solid construction

  • Limited-edition model

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    Dragon continues tradition of quality warbird replicas
    Product: Dragon puts out some of the finest die-cast World War II aircraft on the market. Two of its latest examples, the F4F FM-2 Wildcat
    and the P-47D-40 Thunderbolt continue that tradition.

    One of the best-known aircraft of the war, the Wildcat is most likely the plane you'll see if watching any WWII movies about Pacific air battles, or tune into any History Channel tale of dogfights or the Battle of Midway.

    More than 7,200 Wildcats were made in various forms for the war. This one is the White 29 that Lt. Hatherly Foster III (now there's a name!) flew from the escort carrier U.S.S. Petrof Bay near the end of WWII in 1945. It was a support aircraft in the invasion of Okinawa.

    Wildcats were made by Grumman and General Motors; GM making the FM-1 and FM-2 versions through the end of the war, while Grumman stopped in 1943 to turn its attention to other types.

    This model is one of the later FM-2 versions built by GM. It has a taller tail to compensate for a stronger engine than in earlier models.

    The bigger P-47 Thunderbolt, commonly called the Jug, was the largest single-engine fighter in the U.S. arsenal and was the mainstay of the U.S. Army Air Force because it had a long flying range, a ceiling of 40,000 feet and a top speed of 440 mph.

    Made by Republic Aviation, the P-47 carried eight .50-caliber machine guns and had a maximum bomb load of 2,500 lbs. It could also carry 10 5" rockets beneath its wings. With more than 15,600 planes made, it was the most heavily produced fighter of WWII.

    This particular P-47 was flown in 1944 and '45 by Howard M. Park, 9th AF/406th FG/513th FS. These were good in combat, but most valuable for attacking ground targets and were considered pursuit planes.

    Performance: These 1:72 planes are beautifully executed, with flawless paint jobs and fine detailing. All markings are crisp and look authentic, plus they have a certain heft to make them seem much more like collectibles than toys.

    Dragon makes propellers that turn, weapons that can be removed, detailed cockpits with gauges and controls and a canopy that slides open and shut.
    In addition, there's good detailing around the engine opening and where the landing gear attaches, if you choose to pose the plane at rest. A black plastic stand is provided to pose the plane in flight.

    Adding to their collectibility is the authenticity of each specific model and the fact that even if you buy several similar planes, they have individual markings, which can create a stunning display. These are the cream of the crop for collectors of this scale.

    Marketing: Dragon presents its Warbirds Series in beautifully decorated boxes clearly showing the aircraft. Flip open the cover and the model is securely sealed in plastic, but visible for the consumer to inspect; a great selling point.

    These are like many die-cast collectibles in that the variations in the paint schemes make owning more than one very attractive. Displaying a good variety of the Warbirds will not only present an attractive eye-catching display, but will encourage collectors to keep coming back to buy more or the latest aircraft. Note that Dragon also offers a variety of other WWII aircraft in different scales, such as 1:144.

    Reviewed by Mark Savage

    Products, stock nos., MSRPs: F4F FM-2 Wildcat, 50192, $25.95; P-47D-40 Thunderbolt, 50203, $30.95
    Maker: Dragon
    Scale: 1:72
    Availability: Dragon Models USA

  • Excellent casting and detail

  • Authentic markings

  • Modest price

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