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Product Lab - September 2009

This month we review Moebius Models' Iron Man, Mayfair Games Monuments, Revell-Monogram's 1:32 Ferrari 275P slot-car kit, and much more!
Published: August 10, 2009

1:8-scale Iron Man Mk. III from Moebius Models

Product: While the hero of the Paramount Pictures/Marvel Entertainment movie "Iron Man" is military industrialist and genius inventor Tony Stark, the hero of Moebius Models' kit is Stark's Mk. III armored suit, in which the inventor-turned-crusader battles globe-threatening bad guys. Iron Man's appearance and capabilities is a culmination of changes for the character introduced in the 1963 Marvel comic-book series "Tales of Suspense": capable of supersonic flight; weapons-resistant; and able to dish it out with repulsor rays emitted from the palms and feet.

Performance: Instructions begin with a list of modeling supplies. The most useful tool on the list will be a sharp hobby knife. Add to the list thin masking tape (such as Tamiya) and a burnishing tool (which can be as simple as a toothpick). The tools/supplies list and assembly notes are helpful to novice modelers. Even more helpful will be a little advice and supervision by a more-experienced modeler; interpreting the directions and building the figure is a little tricky, in spite of the "Skill Level 2" (ages 10+) label on the box.

The instructions suggest building and painting subassemblies before joining them and filling seams. Recommend to inexperienced customers that they build the subassemblies, fill seams and then prime the various parts. That will allow modelers to see any imperfections they missed. After cleaning those up, builders can join the subassemblies and get ready to paint.

The directions show photos of sprues and subassemblies over eight steps in a photo-text format. However, the photos show what may be an earlier tooling; the parts differed from those contained in my kit, creating doubt about location. This is especially true of the birdhouse-shaped connecting blocks joining the head and limbs to the torso; the instructions left me guessing. A little patience and common sense goes a long way to making sure the model fits together correctly.

When assembling and mounting the head (steps 1 and 2), customers should leave off the face plate (Part No. 1) and paint it separately to simplify masking later on.

Most of the parts fit tightly together, which can complicate test-fitting, as parts are hard to pry apart. I bored out locator holes with a hobby knife to loosen the parts enough to check or correct their fit. Some parts, like the shins, hand plates and shoulder armor suffered from sink holes and shortfalls of plastic.

Even with the fiddly joints, the fit and assembly produced a sturdy model able to withstand a lot of handling - a good thing with all the painting, sanding, masking, and more painting.

Marketing: It is unlikely that customers are going to have the paints they need on hand to finish Iron Man (unless they do a lot of hot rod paint jobs). So, there is a chance to make a couple of added sales when you sell the Iron Man kit.

The model's instructions list two options for painting with Testors enamels or Acryl: 1) metallic red and gold, the easier option; or 2) a base coat of gold with a transparent or candy red overcoat.

First, advise against painting the model with a brush. Spray paint or an airbrush is the only way to go here. Secondly, with either decision, masking tape is a necessity.

If your customer decides to go the second route, suggest using Testors candy red. I tested Tamiya clear red over a gold base coat, but the Testors candy red looked closest to the movie figure.

For the display base, I used a number of different paints, including Testors flat black (as a foundation), platinum, transparent blue and Tamiya clear yellow. Of course, your customers may have different ideas on how they'd like to see the base finished. Talk it through with them and see what sorts of colors you can provide.

All in all, Moebius' Iron Man cuts an exciting and powerful figure, and provided me with about 18 hours of modeling enjoyment. The subject should be popular with young modelers and comic-book fans. A little advice from an experienced modeler will help ensure satisfying results. If you have a "superhero" section in your shop, Iron Man certainly will draw attention to it.

See our review of Moebius Models' Gigantic Frankenstein.

Reviewed by Mark Hembree

Vital Stats
Product: Iron Man
Maker: Moebius Models
Scale: 1:8
Stock No.: 905
Availability: Contact Moebius Models for a distributor list

Bottom Line
  • Solid construction

  • Innovative finish instructions

  • Unclear photo illustrations, instructions

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    Monuments from Mayfair Games

    Product: Over the course of human history, many civilizations have risen and fallen. Some of these civilizations have left us reminders of their existence, often in the form of great monuments and the stories of their creation.

    Monuments is a card game by Stefan Risthaus and can accommodate 2-4 players who compete to build the great monuments of antiquity and write histories about them. Included in the box are a game board, four sets of player pieces, monument track markers and 120 cards.

    Performance: The object of the game is to accumulate the most victory points. Each turn, players can choose to take a monument turn: build or improve monuments, draw cards, or score points; or a historian turn: in which a player completes a history. If a player chooses to take a monument turn, he is allowed to perform three of the actions listed above (even repeating the same one three times if desired).

    Building a monument consists of playing monument cards from your hand and placing them in front of you in your monument display. The first player to build any single monument must place at least two monument cards; the second must play at least three. After two players have built a given monument, no other players can build that monument.

    To improve a monument, you add one or more cards to one of the monuments in your display.

    In order to simply score victory points, you discard two cards of the same symbol and count how many monument cards in your monument display have the same symbol. You automatically get the result and mark it on the board's scoring track.

    The historian turn allows you to take the top card from each monument in your opponents' monument displays. The number of cards determines the size of the history you've written, which is then noted on the board's history track. Also, the number of cards collected for each monument is recorded on the monument applicable monument tracks. The more cards collected for each monument means the higher value those monuments have at the end of the game.

    Once the draw pile cannot be replenished from the deck, the game ends and each player's points are tallied. You receive points for monuments you've built: more if you're the only one to have built a monument; or a share of points if you're one of two builders.

    Points are also awarded for histories equal to the number of pages of all the histories. The player or players who have the three highest scoring histories also receive bonus points. Finally, you are penalized for each history left unwritten.

    Marketing: If you think that all of this is a bit complicated, you're not alone. Monuments is said to target players who are 10 or older. I'm not sure that any 10-year-old that I know would necessarily grasp all of the mechanics in Monuments without adult guidance.

    Experienced game players have had some difficulties wrapping their minds around this game, and it's not one that is easily demoed.

    With that said, there are some pluses to Monuments that shouldn't be overlooked. Once players are familiar with the game, there is some strategy concerning when to write histories, when to build monuments and how to simply take points from other players by purchasing points for yourself.

    Brief descriptions of the various monuments are included in the back of the rules booklet. This does provide some educational value to the game, and I think that Monuments would probably be most suited for a classroom environment rather than a game you'd play on a regular basis at home. It could be used as a way to spice up learning facts about the Greek Acropolis or ancient Babylon.

    See our review of Mayfair Games' The Dutch Golden Age.

    Review by Tim Kidwell

    Product: Monuments: Wonders of Antiquity
    Maker: Mayfair Games
    Stock No.: MFG4109
    MSRP: $35
    Availability: Visit Mayfair Games for a distributor list

  • Complicated game experience

  • Educational possibilities

  • High-quality components

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    1:32 Ferrari 275P slot car from Revell-Monogram

    Product: In 1964 Ferrari entered two new prototype cars in the 12-hour endurance race at Sebring, Fla. By the end of the day, the smaller of the two, the Ferrari 275P, had won the race. The car also went on to win at Le Mans, setting a new average speed record that year of 121.5 mph and covering a distance of just under 3,000 miles in the 24 hour race. This classic car is the subject of the latest slot-car kit from Revell, and despite a minor manufacturing glitch, the car is as fun to build as it is to drive.

    Performance: The kit comes with an assortment of parts, all packaged neatly in several plastic bags. It builds quickly (about 20 minutes), and requires minimal tools. I used a plastic sprue nipper, a Phillips screwdriver, and a small amount of liquid plastic cement to complete the model. The single-page instruction sheet is broken down into six illustrated steps, and the kit includes a few replacement parts and screws. The model comes with two magnets (front and back) for those who race with them, as well as non-magnetic weights for those who don't. While switching back and forth is possible, it's about a 10 minute operation to take the car apart and swap the weights and magnets, so my preference was to build it with magnets and leave it that way.

    While the kit went together smoothly, an important item to note is that, as it comes from the factory, the motor for the car is wired incorrectly. Revell is well aware of the problem, and has a fix posted on its Web site. It also lists the same problem with Revell's Ferrari 250 GTO. The correct wiring is also shown in the instruction sheet.

    Basically, the wires from the braids to the motor are crossed. You can unsolder the leads to the motor and switch them (which is what I did), or you can carefully disassemble the pickup braids on the guide and swap the leads there. While this problem was really just a minor inconvenience, don't let the car leave the store without alerting the customer of this situation or you'll probably hear about it.

    The finished model is quite attractive, and the lettering and decals are crisp and clean. Unfortunately, the cockpit detail is minimal at best, as there is simply a plastic plate that covers the motor area. The driver figure and steering wheel begin just below the top of the door.

    The car handled well on my SCX track, and is enjoyable to drive, however I may consider removing the rear magnet and running the car with just one, as it tends to stick to the track too well with both installed.

    Marketing: The car comes packaged in a traditional clear plastic box, so you can see the shell and its detail clearly. The other kit parts are safely hidden under the packaging, so there's no danger of them becoming lost.

    Building the car was fun and could be a good selling point. The motor wiring, however, could be a stumbling block for purchasers, especially those who are younger and don't have any soldering experience. However, for anyone who plays with slot cars regularly, the motor shouldn't cause any trouble, though it's best to advise potential purchasers of the problem before they buy the car.

    See our review of Revell-Monogram's 1:32 Lola T-70 slot car.

    Review by David Popp

    Product: 1964 Ferrari 275P
    Maker: Revell-Monogram
    Product No.: 85-4896
    Price: $45.99 each

  • Kit builds in 20 minutes

  • Accurate painting and detailing

  • Motor leads will need to be reversed

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    HobbyZone Super Cub LP

    Product: When it comes to radio-control products, many of your customers crave instant gratification, meaning they have little time to actually build something and learn how to use it. HobbyZone is marketing its Super Cub LP to those people. Everything needed to fly it comes in one box - plane, radio, batteries, instruction manual and a DVD to bring it all together - at a reasonable price point.

    Performance: The plane goes together quickly (15 minutes), so the first thing to do is charge the included LiPo battery with the balancing charger. This takes an hour, the longest your customer will have to wait to do anything with this plane.

    I found a couple of things to keep in mind. The included Phillips screwdriver is a bit too small to assemble the plane, so I used a larger one that I had in my hangar. Your customer should also take care in removing the elevator from the packing. I had to cut the foam and then remove the elevator.

    When assembling the tail, I found that the tail wheel did not fit into the plastic housing, making the rudder hard to move, so I left the tail wheel outside of the housing and used some tape to hold it in place.

    Although the plane comes with a nice DVD that includes flying tips, I would strongly suggest help from an experienced R/C pilot. If you don't have somebody on your store staff, direct your customers to a local club. It's one thing to read an instruction manual and look at a DVD, but there is no substitute for talking to a live person.

    The Super Cub LP is a very docile plane with great self-recovery characteristics. It can take off on short grass in less than 15 feet and climb out quickly with the geared brushed motor. It can also be hand-launched. Its Anti-Crash Technology (ACT) uses sensors on the top and bottom of the fuselage to monitor the position of the plane relative to the ground. The sensors are turned on by a switch on the transmitter.

    I took the plane up "three mistakes high" and turned on the ACT. When I climbed, the power was automatically reduced, but when I intentionally put the plane into a steep dive, it just kept heading to the ground. This tells me ACT should not be used as a crutch.

    There is also an option to add floats. They're quick to assemble and made out of the same tough Z-Foam as the plane. They're also easy to mount and remove from the plane. Since the floats add drag and weight, there is a 10x8 prop to compensate.

    On the water, the plane is no longer a trainer aircraft. The throttle transition has to be gradual; the plane has to be pointed directly into the wind, since there is no water rudder. The plane will lift off on its own, but doesn't react to being yanked into the air. Gentle inputs are required on both the elevator and the rudder.

    Once in the air, the flying characteristics change because of the added weight. The plane resists a lot of input from the rudder because it causes a "pendulum" effect. Landing is the easy part. Simply pull back the power and glide it in. If the approach is too fast, the plane will skip off the water.

    Marketing: Other add-ons besides the floats include an aerial drop module, which allows the pilot to drop streamer bombs or a parachute; and a sonic combat module. Each plugs into a port on the bottom of the plane. An extra 3S 1300mAh LiPo is a must. After your customer masters the Super Cub LP, suggest the T-28 Trojan.

    See our review of the HobbyZone Millennium NTU R/C helicopter.

    Reviewed by Paul Daniel

    Product: Super Cub LP
    Maker: HobbyZone
    Stock No.: HBZ7300
    MSRP/MAP: $219.99/$179.99
    Other equipment used: Float set (No. HBZ7390, $24.99)
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Fast build; easy to fly

  • Water raises degree of difficulty

  • Plenty of up-sell opportunities

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    Athearn N-scale EMD F45

    Product: EMD's SD45 locomotives were the company's mid-1960s response to railroads looking for more horsepower and speed on their freight and passenger trains. Santa Fe liked the locomotive for passenger trains, but thought it needed a cowl-bodied unit. The dual-service FP45 was born, and a year later, the (mostly) freight-only F45 came out.

    The cowl carbody and squared nose - the latter both a nod to the past and a precursor of diesel models to come - set it apart from the other designs of the day.

    Santa Fe purchased the most F45s with 40 units; Burlington Northern followed with 32 and Great Northern with 14. Twenty of the Santa Fe units were equipped with pass-through steam lines for passenger use.

    Performance: Athearn delivered its DC-powered FP and F45s in late 2008. The latest releases are equipped with Soundtraxx's Tsunami Digital Command Decoder and sound.

    The carbody itself is full of detail. The rivet strips running horizontally are rendered nicely. The handholds next to the doors are cast into the body, but I had to run my fingernail over them to make sure. Because they are highlighted in yellow paint, they look separately applied.
    The railings on the front and rear of the locomotive are individually applied, and while they're very thin in cross-section, they're durable enough to withstand some handling.

    The paint job is first-rate, with all lettering sharp and clear. There is even an EMD builders plate under the cab and stenciling for fuel and at other points around the locomotive.

    The model is powered by a 5-pole, skew-wound motor equipped with two brass flywheels. The "prime mover" is housed in a split die-cast frame with a downward-facing speaker on top.

    I'd heard the Tsunami sound system in use with a steam locomotive and was really impressed with how it sounded. However, I hadn't heard its diesel counterpart and honestly, I wasn't expecting much from an N-scale locomotive.

    I'm happy to say I was pleasantly surprised. Even from the engine startup, it sounded good. The horn and bell sounds are nice and crisp; the turbocharger whine is audible and the dynamic brakes really sound like they're under load when activated.

    And if your customers don't like the sound as it is, the Tsunami has a built-in equalizer so they can fine-tune it to what they like.

    The decoder has 10 functions, including a long whistle and a short whistle. Make sure your customers know the short whistle is activated by the F3 button; I was expecting a coupler crash sound there, but it's F6. Other sounds and functions include radiator fans and headlight dimming; F8 turns the sound off.

    Marketing: Only a handful of railroads owned FP45s and F45s, but they were some of the most visible operations in the U.S.

    In the case of Santa Fe, these locomotives toiled away in regular service until the late 1990s, so they appeared in a variety of paint schemes, all of which are available from Athearn.

    The sound is going to call attention to these locomotives, so get them on a track in your store so they can sell for you!

    See our review of Athearn's HO 4-8-8-4 Big Boys.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    Product: EMD F45 with DCC and sound (Santa Fe 1939 tested)
    Maker: Athearn
    Scale: N
    Stock No.: ATH16853
    MSRP: $199.98
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Iconic diesel of its era

  • Sound quality is excellent

  • Check instructions for functions

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    Atlas O Trainman GE U23B

    Product: The U23B represents General Electric's most successful follow-up to the U25B and helped the company establish itself as a legitimate power in the locomotive building industry. Numerous railroads bought the U23B, which was produced from 1968-1977. Big buyers were Louisville & Nashville with 90 units and Penn Central with 77. Santa Fe, Missouri Pacific and Chesapeake & Ohio also purchased them in quantity.

    Some of these units saw mainline service into the 1990s; a number can still be found working for short lines and industrial owners.

    Trainman's initial run of these models includes Santa Fe, Delaware & Hudson, Lehigh Valley and Louisville & Nashville. The second run of the units, scheduled for December delivery, will include Conrail, Missouri-Kansas-Texas, Missouri Pacific, and Delaware & Hudson "Spirit of Freedom" liveries. All come in two road numbers, except for the D&H "Spirit" unit, numbered 1776.

    Performance: I've thought for a while now that Atlas O has been on to a good thing with its Trainman line. The U23B is just another example of the right locomotive at a reasonable price with the corresponding level of detail.

    Our Santa Fe sample of this locomotive is crisply painted. The handrails and other details like cut levers, horns and the brake wheel are separately applied, and there are even chains guarding the walkways between units at the front and rear.

    The unit is adequately and smoothly powered by two vertically-mounted can motors. DCC is easily installed if desired. Basic 3-rail units have horn and bell sounds; TMCC-equipped units feature RailSounds, Crew Talk and operating Electro-Couplers.

    The 2-rail version operated reliably on the 36-inch radius curves on my layout. The same radius is recommended for 3-rail.

    Marketing: All scales of the Trainman line allow you to sell add-on items like DCC decoders and detail parts to help customers match specific units. Be sure you mention them when selling or at the checkout.

    See our review of the Atlas O EMD GP7.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    Product: GE U23B locomotive (2-rail tested)
    Maker: Atlas O Trainman
    Scale: O
    Stock No./MSRP: 3-rail TMCC 20 031 ***; 3-rail 20 021 ***; 2-rail 20 041 ***
    MSRP: 3-rail TMCC $399.95; 3-rail and 2-rail $249.95
    Availability: Many model-railroad distributors

  • Great value for the money

  • Acceptable level of detail

  • Don't forget to sell add-ons

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    Specialty Press' The Apollo 11 Moon Landing

    Product: Forty years ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle on the moon's Sea of Tranquillity - man's first physical contact with another world. Jenkins and Frank's book offers a comprehensive look at the mission, from training through splashdown and beyond. Also included is a look at the planned "return to the moon" Constellation Program, now in development.

    Performance: It's getting increasingly difficult for space geeks like me to locate new or unpublished material on this mission, so I was pleased to see some previously unpublished images, as well as fresh insights in the text.

    For instance, I didn't know that perhaps the most famous Apollo 11 image - that of Buzz Aldrin walking past one of the crumpled landing probes, with Neil Armstrong's reflection in Aldrin's gold-plated helmet visor - was actually manipulated before release; Armstrong didn't quite get the top of Aldrin's helmet in the frame, so some retouching was necessary. The "we never went to the moon" group will have fun with that info!

    Unfortunately, the book does contain some errors. For example, the authors state that color TV transmission was not possible on Apollo 11; it had already been used successfully on Apollo 10, but that mission's TV camera could not be "recycled" in time for Apollo 11.

    Marketing: Emphasize that there is new material here, especially the exciting color images of the lunar surface. Descriptions of the Saturn V launch vehicle and other hardware help put into perspective the massive effort involved in making the moon landing successful.

    For those who are too young to remember Apollo 11, this photographic retrospective provides an exciting look at man's greatest adventure to date. And for those of us who do remember the excitement of that Sunday in 1969, it's a very pleasant way to reminisce. I recommend this book to readers of all ages.

    Reviewed by Jim Haught

    Product: The Apollo 11 Moon Landing by Dennis R. Jenkins and Jorge R. Frank
    Publisher: Specialty Press
    ISBN: 978-1-58007-148-2
    MSRP: $16.95

  • Extensive overview of mission

  • Rare/unpublished images

  • Some minor inaccuracies

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