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Product Lab - October 2009

This month, we reivew products from E-flite, Polar Lights, Tamiya and Hasegawa.
Published: September 14, 2009

1:10 Tamiya 1973 Ford Bronco CR-01

Product: Tamiya has been making high-quality model kits since 1946. Its motto - "First in Quality Around The World" - isn't just corporate fodder. The company actually does make some of the finest kits available on the market.

Each piece is precisely engineered to mate perfectly with the next, the end result being a highly detailed model that can stand up to the abuse of a beginning modeler, or the stress given by a seasoned racer.

The Ford Bronco 1973, based off of the popular CR-01 chassis, is an unassembled 1:10-scale 4WD kit requiring all electronics (aside from the included motor), paint and building supplies, and the ability to read and understand complex assembly instructions. The finished Bronco is absolutely gorgeous and looks equally as good on display as it does romping around in the dirt or crawling on the rocks.

Performance: The Bronco was my fifth Tamiya kit and definitely the hardest assembly to date. I struggled with identical plastic pieces, screws that differed in millimeters, and missed steps during assembly.

Each step should be read twice, assembled, then read again! Doing so will ensure you get it right the first time.

I found myself disassembling parts on a number of occasions because I installed them on the wrong side, or at the improper angle, or in the wrong hole on the chassis.

Once you get the Bronco put together, it's time to cut out and paint the body. Paint numbers are provided; two sticker sheets are included, making the finishing process a relatively easy task that can be completed in a few hours, thanks to the fast-drying nature of the Tamiya PS polycarbonate spray paints.

The CR-01 chassis is designed for general off-road use, as well as medium-duty rock crawling. It's not designed as a competition-level rig, due to its limited axle travel, but would be a great candidate for a spec-class competition.

With that being said, the CR-01 is an awesome performer on the rocks. It will climb its way over all but the burliest of rock gardens with true bead-locked wheels and tires that grip better than most.

Even if there are no rocks in your area, the Tamiya Bronco provides excitement just spinning the tires in the dirt or crossing small streams and mud puddles, thanks to the sealed transmission and axles. Just remind the customer to enclose the ESC and receiver in balloons if they decide to take the truck through water.

Brute strength and reliability are what separates the Ford Bronco 1973 from other crawlers on the market. Tamiya parts are as tough as they come and very rarely break. If anything does snap, parts are readily available.
The one weak link on any crawler seems to be the driveshafts, and Tamiya has included an extra set just in case.

Marketing: The Tamiya Bronco should be considered an intermediate to advanced build, but the popularity of crawlers coupled with Tamiya's awesome box art will draw all hobbyists to it.

If you do sell the Bronco to a beginner, make them aware of the time involved in the build, along with the electronics and paint that must be purchased. A great electronic speed control to sell with the kit is the Novak Rooster Crawler.

Also recommend a good metal-geared high-torque standard servo that can stand up to the rigors of crawling. Additional items that should be offered when selling the Bronco are a 6-cell NiMH or 2s LiPo battery, transmitter and receiver, charger, and Tamiya PS-1, PS-5, and PS-30 paints.

Any customer wanting a fun crawler should be shown the Bronco, but its $592 retail price can be daunting. Reminding them of Tamiya's legendary quality and performance can often seal the deal.

See our review of Tamiya's Rising Fighter.

Review and photo by Matt Gunn

Product: 1973 Ford Bronco CR-01
Maker: Tamiya
Scale: 1:10
Stock No.: 58436
MSRP: $592

  • High price, but high quality

  • Requires electronics

  • Somewhat complex assembly

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    1:12 Robby the Robot from Polar Lights

    Product: Long regarded as a classic science-fiction film, 1956's "Forbidden Planet" featured Robby the Robot, a mechanical man sprung from the mind of Bob Kinoshita who went on to design Robot B-9 for TV's "Lost in Space." Polar Lights has reissued its 1999 kit of Robby featuring a new base and fresh box art.

    Molded in dark blue-gray plastic, the kit's major components include optional parts, such as claw hands, and a different chest plate to model different iterations of Robby from his long film career. Clear parts, as well a sprue of chrome-plated pieces, round out the contents.

    Performance: Although Robby is a 1990s mold, the fit and feel of the parts is more akin to the 1960s, which is nice in terms of nostalgia; however, it makes for a more involved build.

    I started by attaching the non-clear parts to the head, including the faceplate and transducer fins. The gray plastic was soft, cut easily and responded well to liquid cement.

    Next, I added the transducers, which look like ears. They proved a little problematic because they're molded in clear plastic halves, with the join splitting the clear fins right town the middle. It was almost impossible to eliminate the seam. Also, while the fins remained clear, the lower parts were to be painted the body color. I used quite a bit of putty to blend the clear parts into the head.

    The arms and hands fit OK, but I needed to do a lot of sanding and filing to obliterate the joint and make the arms in particular appear to be one part. I had the same issues with the legs and feet, and especially the body, where the seam was particularly deep, needing a couple of applications of putty and a little super glue to eliminate. I assembled the body components, but left off all of the face and head detail until after painting.

    Priming was essential to show other areas to be filled and sanded, including around the chest plate, at the arm-to-body joins, and along the robot's inseam. A good primer will smooth out sanding blemishes and provide a uniform surface for the metallic paint to come.

    Robby was a dark, metallic gray color overall; Testors Metalizer non-buffing gun metal, available in both ½-oz. bottles for airbrushing and in spray cans, is an almost perfect match to the movie. I airbrushed several light coats, gradually building up the color. Then, I mixed a few drops of Metalizer stainless steel into some gunmetal and airbrushed the upper parts of Robby's leg spheres, body, arms and head. This gave the finish a little more zip. I followed with a light coat of clear gloss.

    The detail-painting instructions were a little vague; a DVD copy of the movie and a few color shots of the robot proved useful. I used Tamiya acrylics to detail the chest plate and face, deepening their appearance with a wash of black artist's oils and Turpenoid. This worked really well on the weapons neutralizers and gyros. I used Testors clear parts cement to attach all of the clear parts as well as some of the chrome.

    I painted the base with a tan spray can followed by a mist of a light tan and a dark-brown wash.

    Marketing: Polar Lights' Robby the Robot is all about fun. None of the fit problems is insurmountable with basic modeling skills, and the sturdy parts help those with less modeling experience. I spent about 12 hours of old-school modeling entertainment on my robot, not including the hours spent watching the movie for research.

    I can easily recommend this kit to anyone: fans of the movie will love having a good-looking replica on hand, and kids will appreciate the ease of construction and the novelty of the subject. While many of my acquaintances can't tell a Messerschmitt from a Mirage, almost everyone I've showed the model to recognized Robby; he's elicited more positive response than just about anything else I've built recently.

    Recommend buyers pick up a tube of putty, some primer, clear part cement, and a bottle or spray can of Testors Metalizer non-buffing gunmetal while they're in the store.

    Reviewed by Aaron Skinner

    Product: "Forbidden Planet" Robby the Robot
    Maker: Polar Lights
    Scale: 1:12
    Stock No.: POL810
    MSRP: $18.49

  • Iconic subject

  • Builds like a '60s model kit

  • Fun for all levels of modelers

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    E-flite Blade S300 Helicopter

    Product: The S300, the latest in the popular Blade series, has a scale Schweizer 300C body and trim scheme. It's available in a ready-to-fly (RTF) version, complete with helicopter, 3.7V 110mAh LiPo battery, 2.4 GHz transmitter with Spektrum DSM2 technology, and eight AA batteries (four each for the charger and transmitter).

    A Bind-N-Fly (BNF) version is also available, which contains everything mentioned above except the transmitter and its batteries.

    Included with each version is a spare set of upper and lower rotor blades; rotor blade trim tape; spare servo shaft retainers; spare canopy mounting O-rings; numbers and letters; and a small Phillips screwdriver.

    Performance: Performance, in a word, is terrific. This micro coaxial helicopter is a joy to fly. I test-flew the RTF and BNF versions, and each was excellent. Binding the helicopter to my Spektrum DX6i transmitter was simple, with minimal trim required for stable hovering flight. The RTF version likewise flew well right from the box, which bodes well for the beginning pilot.

    The only nit I would pick with this model is that the landing gear seems to be a bit too short in back; perhaps that's a scale consideration, but the skids stop just behind the aft mounting bracket. This contributed to a tendency for both models to tip backwards slightly on takeoff. That's correctable when you know it's coming, but the novice pilot may struggle a bit.

    By way of comparison, the previous mCX's gear extends roughly ¼-inch past this point, with no takeoff issues. The layout is almost identical, and I imagine the shorter-length gear may stop near the model's center of gravity, making it a bit more touchy.

    That aside, the S300 is durable, maneuverable, controllable, and inherently stable.

    The spare rotor blades are a nice touch, because the model flies so well that it's easy to be aggressive with it, which can result in some hard landings and occasional need for repair. And the replacement blades are white, so if only the lower blades are replaced, they will be more noticeable than the upper (black) blades, giving the illusion of a single-rotor helicopter in flight.

    Flight time on the stock battery is approximately seven minutes, varying a bit with the amount of maneuvering.

    Marketing: This is flying fun in a box. Keep an mCX S300 handy in your store, and let your customers try it. They will be amazed at how easy it is to fly, and simply, how much fun it is to maneuver.

    Your customers are likely to find, as I did, that the S300 is so much fun that one battery is not enough. Fortunately, spares are readily available (EFLB1101S, $7.49).

    And because I have several models that use these batteries, I ordered the E-flite's four-port charger (EFLC1004, $39.99) and its 6V power supply (EFLC1005, $14.99). That should keep things moving on the old flight line, as well as clearing up the clutter that can be created when the
    supplied chargers start to stack up.

    Good looks and fine handling characteristics make this a model I recommend highly - for the experienced pilot who wants a break from high-end models and the novice who just wants to try helicopter flying. I am very happy with mine, and I look forward to many more hours of flying fun.

    See our review of E-flite's CX3.

    Reviewed by Jim Haught

    Product: Blade mCX S300 BNF (EFLH2380, $139.99/MAP $109.99); Blade MCX S300 RTF ($179.99/MAP $139.99)
    Maker: E-flite
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • RTF or BNF versions

  • Easy to fly, yet maneuverable

  • Fun in a box

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    Pack & Stack from Mayfair Games

    Product: Moving can be a tedious and time-consuming affair, but not so with Mayfair's Pack & Stack. Included in the big colorful box are 30 truck cards, 64 point markers ranging from one to 50 points, five different-colored six-sided dice and 96 wooden pieces colored by size (and matching the dice).

    Performance: The principles behind Pack & Stack are simple: receive your load, pick your truck, load your truck and score, or more appropriately, lose points.

    Starting with the youngest player, everyone takes turns rolling all five dice. The numbers rolled determine which wooden blocks each player receives to load onto his truck.

    The trucks are shuffled and stacked into a pile, face down. Each player picks two trucks (or one truck in a five- or six-player game). The players simultaneously flip their trucks over and as quick as they can, look over the available trucks, decide which one is the right one for them and snatches it. A player can't choose one of his own trucks!

    The last player to choose a truck must take one from the truck pile without knowing what it looks like. Too bad, slow poke! All the unused trucks are discarded.

    Now, players can take their time loading their trucks. This consists of stacking the blocks in the space provided on the truck tiles. Some trucks can be stacked as much as four cubes high. All the space on a truck must be filled in order not to lose points. For every empty cube on his truck, a player must pay 1 point to the bank.

    For each block that is left off of the truck due to space constraints, the player pays twice the piece's size number. The person who paid the fewest points receives 10 bonus points back.

    Players keep playing round after round until one or more of them no longer has any points. The player with the most remaining points wins.

    Marketing: This game is an absolute blast to play, especially with kids who can get very animated over a good or lousy truck pick. Interaction is a must. Good eye-hand coordination and quick reflexes don't hurt.

    The quality of the game pieces is such that they will last practically forever, and I've played it with my nieces and nephew who range from 7 to 12 years old. They've all had a great time with Pack & Stack, and aren't exactly gentle with toys and games.

    Pack & Stack is a great example of a high-end game that can appeal to children, teens and adults. It would be a great introductory game for a family with a child in grade school: easy to learn and plenty of laughs to be had.

    Don't be afraid to suggest Pack & Stack as a fun way to teach math and spatial relations.

    Read our review of Mayfair's Monuments.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

    Product: Pack & Stack
    Maker: Mayfair Games
    Stock No.: MFG3308
    Availability: Visit for distributor information

  • Very easy to learn

  • Dynamic play

  • Has educational value

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    E-flite PT-19 450 ARF

    Product: The E-flite PT-19 450 ARF is a high-quality scale design that can be completed either as a radio-control (R/C) or control line (C/L) model airplane. During World War II, the PT-19 was one of the primary training aircraft for the Army Air Corps, helping pilots prepare for flying more advanced aircraft.

    The eye-catching design comes 90% pre-built and is covered with blue and yellow UltraCote. The PT-19 features a convenient bolt-on tail which makes assembly quick and easy. A large magnetic hatch provides easy access to the battery and radio equipment, which allows you to change the battery quickly at the flying field. The steerable tail wheel delivers excellent ground handling during takeoff and landing when setup for R/C. The tires have a high level of scale detail that greatly enhances the looks of the PT-19 both on the ground and in the air.

    The package also includes all the necessary internal hardware components for the C/L version. A wingtip weight box allows for precise lateral balancing of the C/L plane. The PT-19 includes two types of aileron hatch covers: one for R/C and another for C/L. When using the control line set-up, the bell crank takes only a few minutes to prepare and you are ready to fly!

    Performance: The PT-19 can be set up for several different E-flite power systems. The recommended power system uses the E-flite Park 450 BL Outrunner Motor, 890Kv (EFLM1400), E-flite's 30A Pro SB Brushless ESC (EFLA1030), E-flite's 3S 11.1V 2100mAh LiPo battery pack (EFLB21003S), and an APC 10x7 e-prop (APC10070E). I suspect that this power system is best for most intermediate level pilots.

    For even more power, I used the E-flite Park 480 BL Outrunner Motor, 1020Kv (EFLM1505), the E-flite 40A Lite Pro SB Brushless ESC (EFLA1040L), E-flite's 3S 11.1V 2100mAh Li-Po battery pack (EFLB21003S) and an APC 12x6 e-prop (APC12060E). This power level provides strong aerobatic performance for R/C flying!

    I did not test the PT-19 using the C/L setup and could not find anyone proficient in that skill so my findings are only for the R/C setup. However, I found the PT-19 very relaxing to fly and feel that it is well suited for intermediate level pilots. The model can perform all the basic aerobatic maneuvers, even in some wind, and still acts like a trainer when slowed down. As an advanced R/C flyerer, I was impressed with the quality and appearance of the PT-19 design. Because the plane looks very scale, it may have a wide range of potential customers.

    Marketing: The PT-19 has a great look that will attract many modelers. Its unusual ability to switch from R/C to C/L in just a few minutes makes the design unique in the industry. However, I am uncertain if this trait will add marketability.

    The plane can easily fly with some wind and should have plenty of power with the recommended Park 450 setup. I believe that the excellent quality, appearance, and performance will attract a wide range of customers from newer pilots looking to step up from a trainer to experienced pilots that fell in love with their original blue and yellow trainers. Due to the advanced state of radio technology (like Spektrum 2.4GHz radios), I think that most customers will prefer to fly this higher-end model as an R/C model. That being said, keeping a few of the beautiful wooden E-flite Control Line Handles on display can only aid in attracting attention to the product.

    Some key spares to keep on hand would be the E-flite Control Line Handle (EFLA170), 52-foot control line wire set (EFLA171), and the E-flite ESC Timer (EFLA172). E-flite also sells 1:9-scale military pilots (EFLA150) to dress up the PT-19. Four E-flite S75 sub-micro servos (EFLRS75) are required.

    Read out review of E-flite's Apprentice 15e.

    Reviewed by Greg Covey

    Product: PT-19 450 ARF
    Maker: E-flite
    Stock No: EFL2675
    MSRP: $169.99
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Switches from R/C to C/L and back again in just a few minutes

  • 90% Pre-built out of the box

  • True scale outline using balsa construction and UltraCote covering

  • Easy access magnetic battery hatch

  • Steerable tail wheel

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    1:20 Hasegawa Falke Antigravity Armored Raider

    Product: Born from the manga (Japanese-style comic book) story Mschinen Krieger/SF3D, the Falke is a sci-fi kit representing a fighter-type "aircraft."

    The kit has a pilot with optional helmet, crew chief, and rotary cannon. The crew compartment hatch can be opened and closed. Included are painting and decal-placement placards for the six markings.

    Performance: Suggest to your customers that they start the model by assebling the figures first. It's logical, since the pilot goes into the cockpit after the first assembly step. The figures will need work, as they come in multiple parts and have sizeable mold seams.

    I found that the cockpit's backrest interfered with the hatch above and wouldn't allow it to lay flat. Warn customers that they should test fit the back rest and then trim the part with a motor tool.

    While the hull halves fit together fairly well, the seam divides four "plates" at the Falke's corners, which are supposed to be appear as sheet metal. To achieve this, rather than try to fill the seam with putty, I made new plates from .010" sheet styrene and sanded off the mismatched plates. If you carry sheet styrene, you might suggest this fix to your customers, too.

    Marketing: The Falke kit suggests six potential paint schemes, and therefore, a number of possible paint selections. I went with JG5 Unt. Offz. Wesley "Ghost" Smith's black stealth scheme.

    The model was painted overall with Floquil grimy black, with Testors marker-red recognition stripes (with a little white added). The antigravity globes are Testors RLM 76. Testors Metalizer burnt metal, aluminum, and titanium appear in the hot section at the rear of the aircraft. For the cannon, I used burnt metal and burnt iron.

    Consider putting together a "finishing pack" for the Falke based on this paint scheme, using the colors suggested above, along with a can of Testors Dullcote.

    The decals went down OK over a gloss coat. However, except the top of the skull decal for the scheme I chose did not fit. My fix was to paint it with Tamiya flat white. However, knowing ahead of time there is a fit problem, customers should be able to trim the decal to make it fit better.

    Definitely hardcore sci-fi modelers will be attracted to the Falke. While a little tricky to build, the Falke could be a model attractive to younger builders with some experience who like the idea of Halo- or Gears of War-type vehicles.

    There is also the potential for older modelers looking for a change of pace to take an interest. Armor and aircraft modeling skills can be put to use without worrying that the model doesn't have all the panel lines, rivets, or correct shape. Just build and enjoy!

    Reviewed Tom Foti

    Product: Falke Antigravity Armored Raider Pkf 85
    Maker: Hasegawa
    Stock No.: MK01
    Scale: 1/20
    MSRP: $85
    Availability: Dragon Models USA

  • Finally an injection-molded kit of this subject

  • Fit issues with figures and hull

  • Hatch skull decal doesn't fit

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