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November 2008 - Product Lab

Published: October 14, 2008
Pluma 3D ARF by Electrifly
Product: Flat foam R/C planes have become popular for several reasons. They're easy to build, won't break the bank, and can be flown just about anywhere. Electrifly's Pluma park flyer fits all of these and I think it would be a great addition to your store's R/C airplane inventory.

Performance: There is nothing difficult about assembling the Pluma, but keep a couple of things in mind before you begin. Have a softer area to work on than a typical bench or countertop. During assembly, you will have to turn over parts-or the entire plane-and this helps protect the foam.

Squaring up the top and bottom wings will take the most amount of time. Gluing them to the fuselage is easy, but carbon-fiber rods are needed to add strength and to keep the wings straight. Without paying proper attention to this step, the Pluma will not fly well.

Setting all the pushrods between the upper and lower wings is time consuming too. I had some other projects to get to while I was working on the Pluma, so I let it sit for a couple of days. When I got back to it, I noticed that the ailerons tended to droop a bit when the plane was on its mains. When I rotated the wings perpendicular to the floor, they seemed fine, so I decided to leave them to see how it flew.

The Pluma can be configured for outdoor or indoor flying. I set up our sample model for outdoor flight, following the hardware recommendations in the instructions. Flying the Pluma is a hoot, but should be done in winds of 5 mph or less. I wouldn't recommend the Pluma for beginners, but intermediate and advanced pilots should find it both responsive and challenging.

Marketing: On my first flight I throttled it up about 50% and just let it go. It needed no trim adjustments. I flew it on the recommended low rates for a couple of minutes and then went up to high rates. On high rates, it will do loops, rolls, knife edge loops, you name it. But it was after switching to the 3D setting that the Pluma really shined.

If there are any shortcomings with the Pluma, I would say that it's fragile. The wheel pants broke on the work bench and then again on my second landing. I left the plane by the back of my car and a gust of wind tipped it over, breaking the top wing. Both problems were easy fixes. Unless the Pluma is flown inside, I would leave the wheel pants off altogether.

Reviewed by Paul Daniel

Product: Pluma 3D Park Flyer ARF
Maker: Electrifly
Stock No.: GPMA1130
MSRP/Street: $69.99/$49.99
Other products used: RimFire 28-26-1000 motor (GPMG4525), 10" x 4.5 slo-flyer prop (GPMQ6660), Power Series 11.1V 640mAh LiPo 20C battery (GPMP0601) and Silver Series 12QA Brushless ESC (GPMM1810)
Availability: Great Planes

  • Relatively inexpensive investment

  • Easy to build; wing could be thicker

  • Fun to fly

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    1:32 MT900R Leyjun slot car from Ninco
    Product: Ninco has really stepped up the last couple of years, bringing out better looking and, most importantly, better performing slot cars.

    Case in point, Ninco offers a great looking new Mosler MT900 in light blue and white LeyJun markings. This is a car that puts past Nincos to shame in the speed department. Plus, it accurately reflects the racer that Japanese drivers Osamu Nakajima, Masaki Tanaka and Hiroya Iijima ran consistently well in the GT1 class during the 2006 Japanese LeMans series.

    Performance: Ninco has released several Moslers and all perform well, but this newest LeyJun model pushes the lightweight envelope with its transparent ProRace Lexan chassis that gives the car a whole new look and feel. Its speedy NC-5 Speeder sidewinder motor also is attached to a new motor support to increase its sturdiness and stability on the track.

    Other changes include cables that are no longer soldered to the motor, but feature push-on cable terminals that make them easier to fix or replace. Likewise, the interior with driver is made of Lexan, which Ninco says lightens the car a bit more, but also cuts vibration-generally a good thing.

    What's that mean to a racer? Well, I timed the new Mosler on my track and quickly got it to 6.67 and 6.69 seconds in the two lanes. That's super for a Ninco, my best times before being just under 7 seconds with Ninco's VW Touareg truck. So, this is certainly a fast Ninco, if your customers enjoy racing that as a class. Other makes often are faster. By way of comparison, my SCX NASCAR will do 5.93 seconds and a Scalextric Vette 5.69 seconds. The Mosler's longer wheelbase and slick rear tires help it handle better than most of the other Ninco's I've raced. There's still some tail wag, to be sure, but the car rockets off of corners, so will be a winner on tracks with long straights.

    Noisy? Well, yes, there's still that Ninco grinding sound, but it seems to grow quieter with each new generation of racers.

    Marketing: Here's a car you can recommend to your buyers who race, not just collect good-looking slot cars. The car is fast and more stable than previous models, so repeat business is much more likely.

    If you have a track in the shop, open one of these newer Nincos up as a demo model to prove its worthiness. Heck, you could do this every month and then sell off the demo model at a discount or use it as a prize if you sponsor races in your store!

    Reviewed by Mark Savage

    Product: Mosler MT900 R Leyjun livery
    Maker: Ninco
    Scale: 1:32
    Stock No.: 50 500
    MSRP: $?9.95

  • Excellent detail, attractive

  • Improved performance

  • Popular scale

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    Airfix's 1:48 Canberra
    Product: Resurgent Airfix has come out of bankruptcy with re-releases of much of its classic line, as well as some new kits. The Canberra - announced before the doors closed in 2006 - is now available.

    Molded in light gray plastic, the parts feature engraved panel lines which are heavier than necessary, but are cleanly cut. The major components, including the fuselage and large wings, are very thick so they hold shape; there was no evidence of warping in my kit. Clear parts for the nose and offset canopy are clear and I like that Airfix used engraved lines rather than raise to mark the edges of the windows in the nose; it made it very easy to apply tape and trim around it for masking.

    The front features a comprehensive cockpit and crew compartment, and the gear and bomb bays have molded frameworks. Posable options include bomb bay doors, crew door, and all flight control surfaces, even the flaps. A slew of weapons can be fitted, including numerous bombs, rocket pods, missiles and a belly gun pod.

    Decals are provided for camouflaged British and New Zealand aircraft, and a South African plane in high-speed silver.

    Performance: The cockpit goes together well and forms an insert for the fuselage. This model needs a lot of weight to keep the nosewheel on the ground. The kit calls for 100 grams (3.6 oz.). I packed two tire-balance weights in the area between the cockpit and the bomb bay, then filled every remaining crevice up front with pea-sized fishing sinkers soaked in super glue. When it was obvious that wasn't enough, I added more sinkers at the front of the bomb bay. I planned on modeling it closed with the gun pod fitted anyway.

    I needed putty to blend the cockpit insert into the fuselage and a little sanding to fair the nose, but it looked good after cleanup. The other parts fit with minimal sanding to remove seams, and I didn't need filler at the wing roots.

    After masking, I painted the model Tamiya gloss aluminum from a spray can. The decals are thick and have a dot pattern visible up-close, but the most went on well with help from Micro Sol. The only problem was the black wing-walk lines that tore several times during application.

    Marketing: Fans of '50s and '60s British aircraft will be drawn to the first mainstream injection-molded plastic kit of this iconic aircraft. It's not without challenges, but those are easily overcome with basic modeling skill, rewarding the builder with a large model. Superdetailers will be able to take it to another level.

    Airfix has announced two more versions - the B.2 with the fish-bowl canopy and the American B-57. Given the large number of users as well as color schemes, they should be popular.

    Reviewed by Aaron Skinner

    Product: English Electric Canberra B(I).8
    Maker: Airfix
    Scale: 1/48
    Stock No.: A10102
    MSRP: $50.75
    Availability: Hornby America

  • Big and impressive

  • Easy build

  • Lots of build for the money

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    Toledo, a different sort of swordplay
    Product: Toledo, Spain, has been famous for the quality of its swords since ancient times. Now, with Mayfair Games' Toledo, players compete to create the most magnificent weapons for the emperor of the Spanish Empire.

    Toledo can be played by two to four players, ages 10 and up. Included is a large board depicting the city of Toledo, 20 colored wooden playing pieces (five each of red, blue, green and yellow), 90 game cards and numerous thick, cardboard tiles representing businesses, steel, swords and skills. Also included are 20 colorful plastic gems.

    Performance: Toledo has a number of elements that work together to provide a multitextured playing experience. Each player chooses a particular color and must decide how to place businesses - including steel merchants, gem merchants, fencing masters and swordsmiths - to best benefit themselves. Players use businesses to purchase commodities to make swords, improve fencing skills and to create the swords they will eventually present to the emperor.

    Players start the game with five playing pieces at the cathedral. By playing movement cards, players can move the pieces along the streets of Toledo, stopping at the various businesses to buy what they need to make swords.

    If a player trades at a business he owns, he pays nothing for what the business offers. If he trades at a business owned by another player, depending upon which street the business is on, he must pay the other player a single movement card of the appropriate value.

    There are only a limited number of swords that the players can create, varying from simple to elaborate, and each has a different point total associated with it. Once a player has enough steel and gems to make the sword he wants, he stops at a swordsmith and takes a sword of the appropriate value.

    While traveling through Toledo, it's possible to hinder the progress of other players, mainly by challenging opponents to a duel. Duels consist of up to three fencing rounds, in which the attacker draws the top card of the movement deck.

    At the bottom of the card are two figures: one appears to be attacking, the other is defending. If the attacker is highlighted, the challenging player wins the round. If the defender is highlighted, the defending player wins the round. Whichever player wins the best two out of three rounds wins the duel. The loser sends his playing piece back to the cathedral to start over again.

    Once a player moves three of his pieces into the alcazar at the top of the board, the game ends, and players tally the points for swords presented to the emperor. The player with the highest point total wins.

    Marketing: Toledo is a family game. Once the rules are learned, it's easy to play, and the difficulty of the game is really determined by your opponents' own skill and strategy, although some luck is involved.

    It's also a game that can be played by just two people, with room for two more, meaning that Toledo is well suited for a married couple, good for a night's entertainment with a couple of friends or as an afternoon game with the kids. It's very engaging and can be played repeatedly with much variation from one game to the next.

    Toledo provides value, with quality pieces that won't be easily destroyed, hours of entertainment and something that won't go out of style once the new video game console arrives in a couple of years.

    Review by Tim Kidwell

    Product: Toledo
    Maker: Mayfair Games
    Stock No.: MFG4110
    MSRP: $49
    Availability: Contact Mayfair Games at 847-677-6655

  • 60- to 90-minute game length

  • Moderate learning curve

  • Good entertainment value

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    Sterling Publishing offers good guides for handy people
    Product: Former American Woodworker Editor Andy Rae knows his tools. Two decades of woodworking experience and years of research have gone into Choosing & Using Hand Tools, and if your customers are into making sawdust and wood shavings, they'll love this book.

    Performance: If you've spent any time in a woodworking shop, you know how important it is to have the right tool for the job.

    Rae, now the woodworking editor for Lark Books, has an astounding collection of hand tools, some of them more than a century old.

    In this 208-page paperback, Rae offers suggestions on the indispensable tools for any woodworker, and how to use and care for them. He also has tips for buying used tools, and shows many that are native to other parts of the world.

    Some of the types of tools covered are vises and workbenches, striking, pulling, boring and scraping items. He also covers edged tools and saws. All are lavishly illustrated with color photos.

    If your customers still value fine craftsmanship - and many of them do - they will enjoy this book.

    Product: One thing a do-it-yourselfer can never have too much of is information. Chris Marshall has assembled a book that gives the home handyperson a starting point for many common projects and clear instructions on how to see them through.

    Performance: As a homeowner and someone who doesn't do general contracting work every day, I found Trim Carpentry Projects, a 160-page paperback, a fantastic resource.

    From the tools needed to the projects themselves, Marshall has assembled enough information to get the jobs done.

    Projects covered include making your own molding, replacing windows and doors, basic framing, crown molding, baseboard and wainscoting treatments for walls.

    Each project is photographically illustrated with step-by-step instructions and gives a variety of ideas for finishing. I found the advice easy to follow, and it helped me avoid a number of pitfalls.

    Marketing: Many of your hobbyists are also woodworkers and do-it-yourselfers, so why not take advantage and appeal to their other hobbies? A section of books on basic home projects and tools might surprise your customers, and with their price points, be a good impulse buy.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    Product: Choosing & Using Hand Tools by Andy Rae
    Publisher: Lark Books
    ISBN: 978-1-60059-274-4
    MSRP: $17.95

    Product: Trim Carpentry Projects by Chris Marshall
    Publisher: Shady Oak Press
    ISBN: 978-1-58159-363-1
    MSRP: $14.95

    Availability: Sterling Publishing; call 212-532-7160, e-mail or visit

  • Appeals to handypersons

  • Well illustrated, easy to follow

  • Priced right for impulse buying

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    King of Cool's legacy lives on with Autoart's Jaguar model
    Product: Jaguar used to be a magical automotive nameplate, signifying speed and sexy lines with curves in just the right spots. The British sports cars were fast and victorious, taking LeMans 24-Hour Endurance race wins in 1951 and 1953 with the C-Type and 1955-57 with the D-Type.

    But Jaguar pulled out of LeMans style racing after that. The company hatched a plan to convert the leftovers into road cars by removing the dynamic rear fin and adding bumpers.

    The company dubbed these models the 1956 XKSS. Only 16 were sold, 12 to U.S. buyers, including one to Riverside Raceway designer James E. Peterson, later purchased by actor and racer Steve McQueen.

    Performance: This 1:18 Autoart model is a sterling recreation of that car, which McQueen had repainted from its original cream color to a dark green. He also had the interior redone in black leather from its original red.

    The model has a beautiful finish, wire luggage rack on the trunk, gas cap behind the driver's seat, a faux black canvas top folded behind the seats, and nicely detailed lights, bumpers and wheels.

    The hood opens forward to reveal the finely detailed straight-six engine with dual-overhead cams, the battery, wiring and extensive plumbing.

    Badging on the hood is finely done. The gauges and wood-look steering wheel are well executed in the cockpit. The Jag's tiny half-doors open easily and fit well when closed, as does the small trunk that opens to reveal a spare tire. Fit and finish are awesome!

    Marketing: This would be a gorgeous and historically significant model on its own, but the tie-in with McQueen, whose popularity remains strong, even 28 years after his death, adds to this model's marketability. Shops in Southern California may find this an especially good fit, as the real car sits in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

    Reviewed by Mark Savage

    Product: 1956 Jaguar XKSS (Steve McQueen collection)
    Maker: Autoart
    Scale: 1:18
    Stock No.: 73526
    MSRP: $99.95
    Availability: Gateway Global; call 866-288-6278

  • Excellent engine detail

  • Famous make and model

  • Steve McQueen aura

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    Proto 2000 offers quality repica of rare diesel switcher
    Product: Proto 2000's latest offering is this smooth-running model of an early Fairbanks-Morse diesel switcher, the 1,000-hp H-10-44. Only 195 of the real locomotives were built, from 1944 though 1950. Many survived through the 1970s. Their unique appearance and sound makes them favorites among both railfans and modelers.

    Performance: The nicely rendered model features a multi-piece plastic shell over a die-cast frame. The shell is comprised of three sections - cab, hood, and walkway - enabling the manufacturer to offer multiple prototype variations of each. Separate details include flush-fitting windows, finely molded handrails and grab irons, windshield wipers, uncoupling levers, air hoses and hood-door latches. The roof features a see-through etched-metal grille with a radiator fan visible beneath. The cab features interior detail, including painted figures. The paint and lettering are first-rate.

    An enclosed motor drives all axles; all wheels pick up electricity. Models are available in standard DC versions or with a factory-installed Digital Command Control decoder with sound. A PC board atop the motor contains the wiring. On DCC/sound models, the speaker is located under the model (covered by the fuel tank cover).

    Our samples were equipped with sound and DCC, and both ran smoothly and quietly. Slow-speed operation and control are excellent - vital for a switching locomotive. The sound quality is very good, nicely capturing the unique rumbling of an F-M opposed-piston diesel.

    Marketing: Modelers of the late-steam through early-diesel eras will enjoy these models. The H-10-44 is an ideal locomotive for small layouts, and it will be at home performing switching duties on larger model railroads. Demo a sample so customers can hear the unique sound of an F-M opposed-piston engine. This is a nice model of a rare-but-popular diesel switcher.

    Reviewed by Jeff Wilson

    Product: F-M H-10-44 diesel switcher
    Maker: Proto 2000 by Walthers
    Scale: HO
    Road names: Milwaukee Road; Chicago & North Western; Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (zebra stripes); Baltimore & Ohio; Central of New Jersey; New York Central; Nickel Plate Road; Pennsylvania
    MSRP: Standard DC, $139.98; with DCC and sound, $249.98

  • Optional DCC and sound

  • Smooth and quiet

  • Lots of factory-added details

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    Flegling pilots take flight with ParkZone's Micro Citabria
    Product: The ParkZone Micro Citabria comes with everything you need to fly, including the batteries for the supplied transmitter and charger. There is nothing to assemble. You simply install the batteries into the charger and transmitter, charge the single-cell LiPo battery for about 15 minutes and you're ready to fly!

    The eye-catching box design is as impressive as the plane itself. It provides an easy way to store the charger, transmitter and plane for safekeeping or transport.

    The components can be quickly removed and stored. The charger also acts as a display stand to attractively hold the plane in the air.

    The Micro Citabria comes in three sunburst color schemes (yellow, red and blue).

    The package also includes a small bottle of light oil for long-term maintenance of the gears between the motor and prop. Instructions are included on how to lubricate the gears, if needed, but I did not find it necessary.

    Performance: The 2.4GHz radio system supplied with the Micro Citabria provides true 3-channel proportional flight and maneuverability.
    This includes rudder, elevator and throttle controls. The 2.4GHz technology eliminates interference and allows for multiple planes to be flown at the same time. This is a great feature when flying with friends.

    Note that the 2.4GHz radio system that comes with the Micro Citabria is not DSM2 compatible, which means that it won't work with other Spektrum radio systems sold by Horizon Hobby.

    Since no assembly was required, I was off to my local school yard after charging the flight battery for 15 minutes. After testing all the controls, I gave the Micro Citabria a light toss and flew it for about 15 minutes.

    The little 0.7-oz. plane flew very well in light wind conditions. I was impressed with the amount of control I had; I could easily fly it in a small area. The plane is so light that it would be difficult to damage when flying over grass.

    I found the Micro Citabria very relaxing to fly and feel that it is well suited for beginners. As an advanced R/Cer, I was impressed with the technology that went into the Micro Citabria, including the packaging.

    Because the plane design looks true to scale, it may have a wide range of potential customers.

    Marketing: Since the ParkZone Micro Citabria comes with everything you need to fly, it makes a perfect gift for entry-level hobbyists.

    The attractive box will help sell the product. A sample unit can be on display using the supplied charger that also acts as a stand.

    The plane is light enough to fly indoors and the power system strong enough to fly outdoors in calm conditions.

    Some key spares to keep on hand would be the ParkZone 3.7V 70mAh LiPo battery (PKZ3001) and prop with spinner (PKZ3102).

    Review by Greg Covey

    Product: Micro Citabria RTF
    Maker: ParkZone
    Stock No.: PKZ3110
    MSRP/MAP: $199.99/$119.99
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Completely ready to fly

  • Charger and batteries included

  • Fly inside or calm days outside

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    Tamiya revives smaller-scale R/C line with 1:35 Panzer IV
    Product: In addition to its plastic-kit line, Tamiya has always been a major force in radio control. Over the years the company has issued several 1:16-scale radio-control armor kits, but smaller, 1:35-scale versions have been less frequent. The company appears to be reviving the smaller-scale line with this Panzer IV; a Panther G is already available and an M4A3 Sherman is on the way.

    The kit appears to be based on Tamiya's mid-1990s static Panzer IV kit, with the radio system, motors, hardware and a new lower hull included. It's not a semi-scale toylike R/C kit. It's a well-regarded scale model that's been modified slightly for R/C operation.

    Properly assembled and weathered, it's indistinguishable from a standard scale model, other than its much-longer-than-usual antenna.

    Performance: The parts arrive in typical Tamiya fashion - everything in the box is separately bagged. There are several tiny bags of screws, bolts and other hardware; my first step was to inventory everything. I used an old plastic ice-cube tray to sort the tiny parts.

    Some parts are particularly tiny. The return rollers turn on highly polished metal shafts, which are secured inside the hull with 1.2mm E-clips. Use your best tweezers, your brightest work light, and do whatever you can to keep the tiny clips from disappearing into the carpet as you snap them onto the shafts.

    Things get started in the lower hull, which is jammed full of motors, four AAA batteries and the MC-04 receiver. The drive motors and their gearboxes arrive assembled with simple plug-in wiring.

    All of the motorization parts attach to the hull with tiny Phillips screws, which tap into the unthreaded plastic mounts as you tighten them. I used jeweler's screwdrivers and worked slowly to make sure I didn't strip or cross-thread anything.

    I only had one hiccup inside the model; I accidentally pulled a wire loose from one of the drive motors as I threaded the wiring to the receiver. I was able to re-solder it without too much difficulty. Route the wires carefully: there are lots of them packed into a small amount of space, and they can't interfere with any of the internal running gear.

    Once the hull is closed up, the balance of the model builds just like a standard Tamiya kit - it's a full-on scale model, with all the parts and detail you'd expect.

    The kit's not a beginner-level project, but patient modelers with a moderate amount of experience shouldn't have any trouble. The kit's complicated, but the parts fit is excellent, and because it's "armor-standard" 1:35 scale, there are plenty of figures and detail parts that can be added.

    I airbrushed the model using Tamiya's acrylic paints. The tracks are vinyl loops, and you can adjust their tension via the idler wheels in the back. I didn't paint the tracks, but I did give them a coat of acrylic clear flat to make them less shiny.

    Marketing: A 9-volt battery powers the Actcom transmitter; two circles of pie-shaped buttons control things.

    Having grown up in the era of toylike motorized armor kits, I have to admit I was a little skeptical about how the model might operate. Firing up the model for the first time took care of all those concerns.

    The motors operate smoothly at a realistic speed, and the control buttons are easy to get the hang of. With four channels, all the functions work independently, so you can steer, elevate the gun and rotate the turret all at the same time.

    The model has no suspension and is too delicate for rough terrain (or even carpet), but I've had plenty of fun just driving it around on my workbench and desk. Building the model didn't present any major challenges, and I liked the fact that the radio, receiver, motors and running gear come with the kit; there's no hardware guesswork.

    Tamiya's 1:35-scale R/C armor kits might make your static-model customers give radio control a second look. The R/C kits are every bit as dedicated to scale fidelity as the static-model kits.

    Reviewed by Matthew Usher

    Product: R/C German Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. J
    Maker: Tamiya
    Scale: 1:35
    Stock No.: 48206
    MSRP: $223
    Paint used: Tamiya
    Availability: Tamiya USA

  • Highly detailed

  • Realistic R/C functions

  • Not for beginners

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