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Product Lab - August 2009

Reviewed this month are the Novus CX from Heli-Max, Mayfair Games' The Dutch Golden Age and Ninco's Corvette 'Monza,' and much more!
Published: July 9, 2009

Novus CX from Heli-Max

Product: Heli-Max's Novus CX micro helicopter is a beautiful little chopper. It comes safely nestled in a plastic tray with spare blades, 400mAh LiPo batter, AC charger and a 4-channel, 2.4GHz transmitter. Customers are going to need to purchase eight AA batteries for the radio.

Performance: The box, like many in the R/C world right now, claims that you can "fly it now!" and that the Novus CX is "easy to fly in your living room!" This may be the case for someone who has experience with flying coaxial helicopters, but may prove a bit of a challenge for complete novices. However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

What Heli-Max has delivered with the Novus CX is a coaxial micro heli (they call it a "nano" heli, but it fits the current micro market) that truly bridges the gap between what feels like a toy and what is a hobby product.

Let's start with the CX's construction. One of the first things I noticed is the aluminum landing skids and supports. This gives the Novux CX an edge on taking harder landings: important for novices. The skids are very fine, however, and can get stuck in a carpet's weave. I counteracted this by making a box top my landing pad.

Ball bearing on the main rotor shaft makes for very smooth, quiet operation. In fact, the Novus CX is the quietest micro heli I've flown.
Both motors provide ample power, and the CX is very responsive in the air.
It's this responsiveness in flight that makes the CX less suitable for new flyers. One of the very cool things about the CX is that it shares a more "mature" R/C helicopter feel with its siblings, the CP and FP. This means that flyers will have to be more active participants in the flying of this heli than similar products.

Because the Novus CX is heavier than other micro helis in its class, flyers will have to work the throttle more to maintain the desired altitude. Also, your customers should make sure that the battery is pushed forward in its tray. Due to its size, if it's just a little aft, the helicopter's CG is thrown off.

As with all of the Novus bodies, the CX looks very aggressive, with a cool simulated carbon-fiber canopy. The tail rotor is just for show, but adds realism when the chopper is in the air.

Marketing: Finally, Heli-Max has gotten into the 2.4GHz game with the Novus CX. The body for the controller is perhaps a little bit of overkill. Then again, it lends the CX more of a "hobby" feeling that a cheaper, toy-like controller lacks.

Our sample required a lot of trimming once it was in the air. Let your customers know that the first couple of flights should be done in a large room without many obstructions. They'll need it to get used to how the CX handles.

The hefty battery allows 10-12 minute flight times.

What I think customers will enjoy the most, is that the Novus CX, while a coaxial helicopter, feels like a single-rotor, fixed pitch heli. It treats the flyer like an adult, requires respect in the air, and pays that respect back with great flight characteristics. Once a pilot is familiar with the CX, he or she will be thrilled with how quick and agile it is, whipping out figure eights and performing touch and goes.

Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

Click here to read the review of Great Planes' Pluma.

Product: Novus CX
Maker: Heli-Max
Stock No.: HMX0803
MSRP/Street: $199.99/$124.99
Availability: Great Planes Model Distributors

  • Very well designed

  • Not for the pure beginner

  • Feels like a hobbyist's micro heli

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    The Dutch Golden Age from Mayfair Games

    Product: The Dutch Golden Age is a game for 3 or 4 players, and rated for ages 10 and up. Included in the box is a large, colorful board with a map of The Netherlands, an assortment of culture, arts, investment, spice and colony cards, influence and movement tokens, the Steward piece and dice. Also included are chits representing guilders (coins) and a full-color rule booklet.

    Performance: As the game's title would suggest, its setting is the 1600s, an era when Dutch merchants ruled commerce around the world, Dutch naval commanders served out defeats to the English, and the arts and science flourished at the hands of such masters as Rembrandt and Leeuenhoek.

    The object of The Dutch Golden Age game is to attain victory points in a number of different fields-culture, trade, arts or political affluence. The player to first reach 33 victory points is the winner.

    One thing to note is that each player's turn can be very involved, depending upon the amount of influence and money he or she has at the time. To be successful requires a good amount of strategic thinking and good management of money and influence.

    The game turn, depending upon a player's influence and financial status can be very involved. During his turn, a player rolls the dice and moves the Steward around the edge of the board. This has the benefit of generating money for some or all of the players, depending upon which square the Steward ends up. The player then is allowed as many "free" actions, such as moving a movement token, gaining control of a guild or placing and influence marker. Of course, all of these things are governed by the amount of money a player is willing to or capable of spending at the time, so free actions aren't actually free.

    Special actions are taken at the cost of one influence marker each turn. The sort of special action depends upon the position of the marker and may include buying art, investing, sailing to the colonies or bringing another movement marker onto the board. The number of special actions a player can enact is limited by the number of influence markers he has on the board during his turn, with five markers being the maximum allotted to each player.

    Finally, a player has the option to auction off special actions that he isn't going to use during his turn. Bidding starts to the left of the active player and proceeds clockwise until all but one player have passed. The winning player pays the active player, takes the special action and then the active player continues with his turn.

    After each turn, the player adds up all of his victory points. If he eclipses 33, he has won the game.

    Marketing: The Dutch Golden Age has a steep learning curve, so first-timers should be warned that it will take a bit to get the turn sequence and options down. Don't worry so much about the strategy and winning the first time out as getting a rhythm for the game. Once that's achieved, entire games can be played in under an hour.

    The game says that it's targeted for players 10 and up. I think this is a bit misleading for the typical 10-year-old. The level of strategic thinking involved is probably geared more toward teenagers and older, so I wouldn't recommend this as a game for family game night with young kids.
    However, The Dutch Golden Age definitely fits the bill for more experienced game players looking for a game with multiple paths to victory.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

    Click here to read a review of Mayfair Games Catan Geographies: Germany.

    Product: The Dutch Golden Age
    Maker: Phalanx Games/Mayfair Games
    Stock No.: PHA6026
    MSRP: $45
    Availability: Visit Mayfair Games for a distributor listing

  • Great price for quality

  • Many paths to victory

  • Steep learning curve

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    Ninco 1:32 Z6R GT3 'Monza' Chevrolet Corvette

    Product: Sports car racing, which pits Porsches, Ferraris, Corvettes and other thoroughbreds of the automotive world against one another is a favorite subject for slot-car enthusiasts. The sleek and recognizable production-car based body shells, riding on low and wide easy-to-drive chassis also make modern 1:32 sports car models a great entry point for those looking to get into the slot-car racing hobby. The new Ninco 1:32 Corvette Z6R GT3 "Monza" is a great looking and performing car. Its quick track speeds and superb handling are sure to please racers of all skill levels.

    The prototype for the Corvette Z6R modeled by Ninco competed in the GT3 class of the FIA GT sports car racing series. The GT3 class was created in 2006. Cars in the GT3 class are closer to their production counterparts than the GT1 or GT2 class. The Corvette Z6R has also been used in recent endurance races set up FIA GT, including the famed 24 hours at Le Mans.

    The model is based on the car driven by Philipp Peter of Austria and Luke Hines of the United Kingdom during the 2007 season. Driving for PSI Experience Racing the team came in second at the 2007 Zhuhai International Circuit in China.

    Performance: Regarding the looks of the model, the record of the 2007 PSI Experience racing team is pretty much beside the point. All the graphics on the Ninco car match photos of the prototype and are crisply printed with good color separation. More importantly the paint scheme is just plain cool from the orange stripes on the gloss black body to the dark tinted windows to the skull and crossbones graphics on both sides of the monster-size exhaust outlet.

    The model's sleek high-impact plastic body rides ultra low on the plastic chassis and huge scale 24" low-profile tires. The see-through spoked wheels include the extra-large brake rotors behind them. This Ninco Corvette looks fast standing still and put up some impressive performance on the track.

    During some test runs on my home Scalextric track the Ninco 'vette earned those cool skull and crossbones in a good way. Pitted against an SCX Ferrari GTC, the Z6R consistently ran lap times that were almost 1 second faster.

    The Ninco model has a 14.8V 18,000 rpm motor that's very quiet. The Z6R is the smoothest running and fastest Ninco model that I've driven. The car's rear-mounted magnet is just strong enough. I barely had to let off the throttle through a curve.

    My only complaint about this car is that, unlike the SCX Ferrari, it doesn't come in a version with working headlights or taillights. My slot car club regularly runs simulated 24-hour circuits that include a night leg. That said, I think I have a winner for any daylight GT-style events.

    Marketing: If you're looking to recommend a model to a novice slot-car racer, the Ninco Corvette Z6R is an excellent choice. The car handles curves easily and has enough power to be a true competitor once a racer is comfortable enough to really open up the throttle. Unlike open-wheel IRL or F1 cars with their thin-profile front struts, wings, and other detail parts, the Ninco Z6R, as well as other GT cars, have less body parts to damage should the car go "off road" and strike a barrier.

    This low-slung 'vette decked out in its sleek FIA GT livery should warrant it a prominent position in the front of your slot car display case. With its forgiving yet fast and reliable performance you can recommend it to first-time racers and veterans alike who are looking for a car to take them to the 1:32 winner's circle. -

    Reviewed by Dana Kawala

  • Easy-to-drive yet fast

  • Great graphics and detailing

  • Corvettes remain a popular subject in the hobby

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    EMD GP7 from Atlas O

    Product: EMD's GP7 wasn't the first road-switching locomotive, but it did launch the company's General Purpose line and establish it as the leader in the field.

    More than 2,700 GP7s were produced from 1959-64, with about 80 railroads big and small ordering at least a few units. Several railroads owned more than 200 of the 1,500-hp locomotive. While nearly all have been retired by the Class 1 railroads, many are still in service with short lines, leasing companies and individual businesses.

    Atlas O's first run includes units painted and detailed for Santa Fe, Maine Central, Lackawanna, Reading, and Louisville & Nashville. Two-rail Gold models include QSI Quantum control and sound; 3-rail versions have TMCC. Unpowered and undecorated models are also available in both configurations.

    Performance: As an O scale modeler, I was overjoyed (seriously) to see a company finally produce an accurately detailed GP7 in something other than brass. Several companies - including Atlas O - have produced models of the GP9, and it was a good stand-in for a 7, but there was always a nagging feeling knowing it wasn't exactly right.

    Now, it's right. In fact, Atlas O's GP7 may be slightly better executed than the GP9, which is well done.

    As far as the general GP7 details go, the high-mounted multiple-unit connection stands are there, as are the cast handrail stanchions and identifying louvers in the long hood.

    The sample we received is painted and detailed for Louisville & Nashville in its as-delivered paint. All lettering and striping is crisply done - even the trust plate can be read. L&N's original series of GP7s came with four headlights at each end; the top casing represents a Pyle-National Gyralite while the bottom lights are the "stock" twin-beam variety. Both sets of headlights are represented on the model, but out of the box, the top lights don't mimic the figure-8 movement of the Gyralite.
    The unit is equipped with dual-mode digital command control (DCC), allowing users to operate it with DCC throttles or on conventional DC. On the latter, sound and other effects can be controlled with QSI's Quantum Engineer controller.

    Like the other Atlas O locomotives we've tested, twin can motors move the unit smoothly and with plenty of power. The sound on the QSI system is excellent.

    Marketing: Outside of letting your customers know you have it, this is one of those locomotives that sells itself due to its real-life popularity from the 1950s until the present day. Whether your customers are looking for 2- or 3-rail power, they'll want at least one of these. Since so many railroads owned these locomotives, they will be in demand in every region. In other words, if Atlas O didn't produce a roadname popular in your area in the first run, chances are it will eventually.

    Don't forget to tell your customers that to take full advantage of the locomotive's capabilities, they'll have to own a DCC system, a Lionel TMCC system, or QSI's Quantum Engineer controller.

    See the review of EMD F-units from Atlas O.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    Product: EMD GP7
    Maker: Atlas O
    Scale: O
    Stock No.: 3902-2 (Louisville & Nashville 430 2-rail Gold); other roadnames include Maine Central, Lackawanna, Reading, Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, Santa Fe and undecorated; also available are 3-rail TMCC and unpowered versions.
    MSRP: 2-rail Gold and 3-rail TMCC, $469.95; unpowered, $209.95
    Availability: Various model railroad distributors

  • Most railroads owned them

  • Excellent detail and sound

  • Multiple control options

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    "Kaiser-Frazer 1947-1955 Photo Archive" from Iconografix

    Product: Kaiser-Frazer cars had a meteoric rise and descent after World War II, often leading the industry in styling, but egotism bankrupted the company after nine years.

    The independent automaker was started by Henry J. Kaiser, an industrialist, and Joseph W. Frazer, an Easterner blueblood with vast auto industry experience.

    Performance: The tale told succinctly in "Kaiser-Frazer 1947-1955 Photo Archive," a 128-page paperback, is one that any car lover would enjoy. But the book, by automotive historian Patrick R. Foster and Bill Tilden, is, as the title indicates, a photographic history of the short-lived company.

    The three-page introduction gives the company's basics; the remaining pages supply a full inventory of the make's nine model years of Kaisers and Frazers. How arrogant was Kaiser? His economy car model was named the Henry J., after him! The photos are generally press or publicity photos, all in black and white, that paint a picture of why Kaiser-Frazer cars were immediately so popular after WWII and regained some of that luster in the 1950s before the company folded its tent after the 1955 model year.

    Particularly entertaining are shots of the Kaiser Traveler and Vagabond models, early hatchbacks with a tailgate that folded down to allow for carrying longer cargo. There's a shot of a then-young entertainer, Burl Ives, on Page 48 and some 1951 show cars with wild interiors on pages 80-84. Fun stuff!

    Marketing: These and other Iconografix books about particular auto makes, such as Rambler, DeSoto and Mercury, are excellent for modelers looking for accurate and clear photos to use as a basis for their own scratch-built cars. Stock a collection of these in a rack near your plastic model car kits.

    Reviewed by Mark Savage

    Product: Kaiser-Frazer 1947-1955 Photo Archive
    Maker: Iconografix
    ISBN: 978-1-58388-239-9
    MSRP: $32.95

  • Unique auto brand

  • Historical curiosity

  • Quick and easy read

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    Die-cast Cat 797F Off-Highway Truck from Norscot

    Product: As the Cat 797F is currently the largest production mining dump truck in the world, this 1:50 replica is also one of the heaviest pieces of die-cast around. It weighs about 9 lbs., is a foot long and dwarfs an O-scale locomotive. The real thing has a 24-cylinder diesel engine and can haul 360-400 tons of material.

    Performance: Fortunately, dealing with the die-cast version is much more manageable. And while it's going to look great displayed on a shelf, in a diorama or even on a model railroad layout, I found it's also fun to drive around your desk.

    That said, you better have a decent-sized desk. The front wheels on the model turn left and right, but it takes a lot of area to turn a full circle.

    Other operating or moving parts on the vehicle include the dump bed, which raises; an opening engine hatch; fold-down stairs on the front walkway; and an "operating" rear suspension. Rock knockers also hang from underneath the rear of the bed.

    The cab doors don't open, but the office's interior is detailed; the rear-view mirrors move in case you need a little more clearance or just a position change. All handrails on the truck are metal and have a reasonably scale profile.

    There were only a couple of things about the truck that I found disappointing. One was the engine, which I think should be a bit more detailed given the price of the model. While it doesn't show unless the access hatch is open, anyone looking at the model is going to want to know what makes this giant move.

    The other thing is purely cosmetic: the tires were too shiny, like they'd been dipped in great vats of Armor All before they left the Michelin plant.

    Neither of these is a deal killer, though. Overall, it's one impressive model of a truly monstrous truck.

    Marketing: This is one of those pieces you definitely need to take out of the box and put in a glass case, maybe next to one of Norscot's smaller 1:50 vehicles just to show the size of the 797F. It may draw traffic to that part of the store.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    Product: Cat 797F Off-Highway Truck
    Maker: Norscot
    Scale: 1:50
    Stock No.: 55206; also available in white, 55203
    MSRP: $377
    Availability: Various die-cast distributors; white version exclusively from b2bReplicas

  • Attracts lots of attention

  • Engine detail is sparse

  • Overall, it's a winner

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    1:32 Lola T-70 slot car from Revell Monogram

    Product: Lola racing cars continue to be some of the most successful racers in the world, but in the 1960s and '70s Lola chassis were popping up in every series - and winning!

    Noted Ford GT and Formula 1 car designer Eric Broadley was instrumental in the Lola T-70 sports car design. This was a semi-monocoque racer made of light steel and alloys with a Fiberglas and reinforced plaster body featuring the soft sweeping curves that made racers of the era so exciting visually.

    More importantly, it was fast and could accommodate either a Ford or Chevy engine, so was popular for several years in the U.S. Road Racing Championship and famous Can-Am series that featured racing legends such as Gurney, McLaren, Hulme, Surtees and Follmer.

    John Surtees won the 1966 Can-Am title in a T-70 and George Follmer raced competitively in a T-70 during the 1966 and '67 seasons, his best a third at Laguna Seca in California in 1967. Here Revell Monogram reproduces that silvery-blue #16 that Follmer drove. It also has released a red model of Surtees racer (stock no. 85-4885).

    Follmer may not be as widely known as the other greats of that era, but he was a notable road racer, winning the 1972 and '76 Trans-Am titles, along with the 1972 Can-Am championship, while substituting for an injured Mark Donahue. Follmer also raced in three Indianapolis 500s, a season in Formula 1 and numerous NASCAR races.

    Performance: This smooth sports car is another fine effort from Revell Monogram (see the review of Revell's 1965 Lotus Cortina), using its vast stock of molds from past model kits. Many of us 45+ year-olds remember building models of these racers as kids or teens, and that's part of the draw here.

    These Lolas, like past Chaparrals and Corvettes, look great and show the detailing of those original models, and then some. Here there's the gorgeous paint job and white and red-trimmed numbers on hood, deck and sides. Plus there are original looking tampo paint logos of the era, like Union 76 and Champion, and Follmer's name on the car's side.

    The driver is well detailed and as is the engine top that protrudes through the rear cover. There's a roll bar, chrome gas caps and twin tailpipes out back.

    Yet if it didn't run like a bandit, this Lola would just be another pretty face to decorate a customer's layout. It's more than that, like most recent Revell Monogram cars.

    The sidewinder motor, rated at 19,000 rpm, gives it excellent acceleration and the car's wide stance makes it stick well to the track. The heavy-duty magnet helps there too and it can be adjusted, but you need to unscrew its caddy to move it around.

    As a test on my track, I ran it against my best Scalextric, SCX and Ninco cars, plus a couple other Revells. Only one Revell racer was quicker and two Scalextric Vettes. This turned laps in the 5.89-5.92 second range on both inside and outside lanes and exhibited only moderate tail wag. Times below 6 seconds are good for my track. However, the Lola did tend to roll onto its top once it came loose.

    Marketing: For slot car enthusiasts hitting their mid-40s to age 60, the Lola will stir happy modeling memories, and fond racing memories too. This is a well executed version, and it looks like Revell will have other models featuring other drivers too. That gives you the opportunity to sell multiple Lolas.

    Encourage your customers to conduct series races on their tracks, all the racers using the same model (Lola in this case). Or host such a race in your store.

    I'd advise racers to buy some silicone tires for this too, a great add-on sale. With silicones this will likely kick major booty on most tracks, and if that's not a selling point, I don't know what is.

    Reviewed by Mark Savage

    Product: Lola T-70 Mk. II #16 George Follmer
    Maker: Revell Monogram
    Scale: 1:32
    Stock No.: 85-4826
    MSRP: $44.95

  • Fast

  • Excellent detail

  • Good value

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