Author Topic: Memories of a kit builder...  (Read 7301 times)

Hepcat

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Re: Memories of a kit builder...
« Reply #60 on: September 13, 2020, 02:19:15 PM »
Flush with Xmas season cash in late December 1966, I decided to make the two plus mile walk with the family dachshund in tow to McCormick's Hobbies which was by then my primary "go to" shop for model kits. The kit I selected was this large and impressive Revell Lancaster "Dam Buster":





I won't swear on it but I think that it was on the same trip that I picked up this Guillows Hurricane balsa wood kit:





I'd acquired a "ready-to-fly" Cox Spitfire with a Thimbledrone .049 engine while at St. Anthony's in the fall of 1965. Flying it though had turned out to be quite the challenge since it was line control. I'd crashed it immediately all three times I tried to fly it and had to send away to get a new body to replace the previous one I'd destroyed beyond repair. I'd therefore abandoned any thought of flying it again and it was hanging from my bedroom ceiling until 1999. I still have it.

Here's a picture I lifted off the net:





Nonetheless it was always great fun starting up the Cox Thimbledrone engine in the house because it made a tremendous racket. Therefore my interest in these Cox flying plane models hadn't disappeared. I dutifully assembled the balsa wood skeleton of the Guillows Hurricane kit and it looked pretty cool. I stalled at the next step of the project though which involved covering the balsa wood frame with tissue paper and applying some type of dope coating which was well beyond my basic skills.

 :-\
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Hepcat

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Re: Memories of a kit builder...
« Reply #61 on: September 16, 2020, 05:45:18 PM »
I also bought and built this snazzy Avro Arrow CF-105 either in the summer of 1966 or the spring of 1967:





I hung it from my bedroom ceiling with sewing thread where it would be safe from my sister's vacuuming depredations.

Interesting as well the history of the CF-105. It was intended to be Canada's air superiority fighter and thus keep the airspace above Canada free of pesky marauding Soviet aircraft. It was designed to be capable of flying at a height of over 50,000 feet at a speed of Mach 2. In early 1959 a state-of-the-art Orenda Iroquois engine was installed in one of the already assembled CF-105s in preparation for an assault on both the height and speed records for aircraft.







But the development program was very costly and the Conservatives under John George Diefenbaker had been elected under a campaign platform targetting the profligate spending of the Liberals. Worse yet the foreign orders needed to get the economies of scale needed to bring down the cost per plane had not yet materialized. The program was abruptly cancelled by the Conservative government on 20 February 1959. Two months later the assembly line, tooling, plans and existing airframes and engines were also ordered destroyed to keep the plane's technology from falling into the hands of the Soviets. This was evidently an ongoing problem at the time. Americans Klaus Fuchs and the Rosenbergs were among those who turned nuclear secrets over to the Soviets enabling the Soviet Union to build its own bomb in August 1949. Meanwhile Kim Philby and his fellow travellers from Cambridge University had also been happily turning over British "secrets" to the Soviets since before WWII.

In retrospect Diefenbaker's move turned out to be a terrible mistake. The decision immediately put 14,528 Avro employees as well as nearly 15,000 other employees in the Avro supply chain of outside suppliers out of work. Moreover Avro, which in 1958 was the third largest company in Canada, took such a hit that it ended up going out of business in 1962. The nascent Canadian aerospace industry was thus strangled on the vine. Or nipped in the bud if you prefer.

Worse yet Canada ended up having to buy 66 McDonnell CF-101 Voodoo fighters as well as agreeing to fund American nuclear-tipped Bomarc missiles on the DEW line to fulfill the role intended for the Avro-Arrow CF-105. But the total cost of the Voodoo and Bomarc purchases ended up amounting to more than the entire cost of the Arrow program!

Moreover the existence of American nuclear arms on Canadian soil proved unpopular with the Canadian populace. (I mean if you allow American nuclear missiles on Canadian soil, what next? Will the NHL fall under the control of American interests? Will American MLB and NBA teams set up shop in Canadian cities and draw an enthusiastic following? Will Canadian sports fans surrender every last vestige of Canadian sports sovereignty and embrace the NFL and American gridiron football in general? Oh, I guess those things happened anyway....  :( Well we didn't resist Brit imperialism very well so I guess it's not surprising that we're going down so readily to American cultural imperialism.) Diefenbaker's cancellation of the CF-105 was one of the key factors behind the Conservatives' defeat in the general election of April 1963. And by 1971 the Bomarcs were phased out of service.

Since my own CF-105 needed a credible threat in my bedroom skies to justify its cost, some months later in 1967 I bought and assembled this nifty Aurora MIG-19:






 
Interesting though that the MIG-19 that Aurora released in 1954 didn't actually resemble the actual MIG-19. Aurora had been duped by a picture that Aviation Age Magazine had published in 1951 of the new MIG-19 on which the Soviets were working.





The plane pictured by Aviation Age was based on the Focke-Wulf Ta-183 Huckebein that the Germans were about to put into production as their latest air superiority fighter in 1945 when the Allies captured the Focke-Wulf plant. The Soviets though had also got their hands on blueprints for the Ta-183 Huckebein when they overran the German defence ministry building in Berlin in 1945:





But the MiG-19 that the Soviets eventually introduced in March 1955 actually looked like this:





Who cares though? The Jo Kotula box art for the Famous Fighters edition of the Aurora MiG-19 was fabulous and the Aurora model kit was a great looking plane kit. The Focke-Wulf Huckebein/Aurora MiG-19 should have been built by somebody even if it was only by kids such as myself!

I don't actually remember where I bought either the CF-105 or the MIG-19 kit. All I remember is that I'd been admiring the MIG-19 kit for a number of months before buying it on impulse at a different store (Coles or Tuckey Hardware perhaps) from the one where I'd first seen it (maybe Les' Variety). Nevertheless both fighters hung proudly in the airspace above my bed well into my university years.

 8)
« Last Edit: October 16, 2020, 09:39:16 AM by Hepcat »
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Hepcat

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Re: Memories of a kit builder...
« Reply #62 on: September 21, 2020, 02:15:23 PM »
The Revell model kits based on "Big Daddy" Roth's show cars were selling so well in the early 1960's that other model kit companies began scouting the show car circuit for custom rods on which they could base competing kits of their own. One of the very earliest of these was Monogram's Li'l Coffin.

The Li'l Coffin had been built by Dave Stuckey of Wichita, Kansas. The body was based on a 1932 Ford two door sedan and it was powered by a 1954 331 cubic inch De Soto hemi with six carbonators. In 1963 the Li'l Coffin won the Top Custom Car award at the Oakland Roadster Show, the premier rod show in the nation.   

So impressed were Monogram executives by the Li'l Coffin that they bought the car and exhibited it at the 1964 New York World's Fair! The Li'l Coffin kit that Monogram put out in 1964 remains an all-time classic.

The bigger kids down the street, Fred and Mike, had one when I was a kid so I always coveted one as well. I finally bought one on impulse in 1969 or 1970. I had real problems trying to assemble the thing though because some of the parts didn't fit together very well. It turned out to be the last model kit I assembled as a "kid".

Here's a closeup shot of the unbuilt one I have today:



 8)


« Last Edit: September 21, 2020, 02:36:57 PM by Hepcat »
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skully

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Re: Memories of a kit builder...
« Reply #63 on: September 22, 2020, 03:28:44 AM »
Hi Hep.  I too had this kit when it first came out, and yes, it was a difficult one to assemble.

spideydroogy

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Re: Memories of a kit builder...
« Reply #64 on: October 01, 2020, 10:58:26 AM »
I loved the story of the Mig. Very informative.  Thank you for sharing that.  My first kit was Bachmann's Dogs of the World Cocker Spaniel when I was six years old.  And yes, I still have it.  My older brother always got a couple of kits for Christmas. The Lindberg USS Yorktown.  Also, the Revell Mercury rocket with the launching pad.  Didn't get my first Aurora until I was 10 years old. Dracula was my first. Then, the Mummy, Godzilla and the Blue Knight.  I then moved on to military models, airplanes and tanks vehicles.  We had a toy shop across the street that carried some models. Very few hobby shops in our area in the late sixties. We mail ordered a lot from the Squadron Shop.  Fun times sitting in my room building and painting.  Later, we had a subscription to Scale Modeler magazine.  I learned a lot of new techniques from that magazine as well as the Squadron publications.  I wish I still had those.  I made the mistake of giving them away thirty years ago. Wahhh! >:(
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Hepcat

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Re: Memories of a kit builder...
« Reply #65 on: October 01, 2020, 09:15:37 PM »
Did you paint the Cocker Spaniel yourself?

 ???
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spideydroogy

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Re: Memories of a kit builder...
« Reply #66 on: October 06, 2020, 11:39:56 AM »
Yes, I did the paint back in 1964 when I was six years old. Now that I look at it, it looks like a zombie spaniel!
"Time flies like and arrow, fruit flies like a banana."
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Hepcat

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Re: Memories of a kit builder...
« Reply #67 on: October 06, 2020, 01:12:16 PM »
When you were six? I don't think I could do a better paint job today.

 :o
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Hepcat

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Re: Memories of a kit builder...
« Reply #68 on: October 10, 2020, 12:10:46 PM »
The Li'l Coffin kit that Monogram put out in 1964 remains an all-time classic.

The bigger kids down the street, Fred and Mike, had one when I was a kid so I always coveted one as well. I finally bought one on impulse in 1969 or 1970.... It turned out to be the last model kit I assembled as a "kid".


In summary beginning with the late 1940's model kits were hugely popular with boys until video games arrived on the scene and became the all-consuming interest of kids in the 1980's. Model kits in the post WWII period could be found not just in dedicated hobby shops and toy aisles in department stores but everywhere from corner variety stores to hardware stores and book stores. Every little boy seemed to be drawn to build something, whether cars or planes or ships or figures.

In that regard I was no exception. The major difference though was rather than being drawn primarily to cars or ships or warplanes or Aurora monsters and "Big Daddy" Roth Finks, at one point or another I was enthusiastically drawn to every one of these categories! Moreover my interest in model kits never left entirely. My memory of and nostalgia for the Aurora monster, Revell Roth Fink, Hawk Weird-Oh and Monogram Fred Flypogger kits kept the ember of my interest in model kits from being completely extinguished while I was finishing high school, going to university and then embarking on that for whatever reason people call a "career".

When at a Toronto comicon in 1981 or 1982 I discovered that unbuilt original Aurora monster model and other figure kits could still be found and bought (for a price), I started to do precisely that. Over the last 35-40 years I've built up a rather nice collection. Here are some pictures I've taken of my main model cabinet in my collectibles room:







 8)
« Last Edit: October 12, 2020, 09:57:46 AM by Hepcat »
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Hepcat

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Re: Memories of a kit builder...
« Reply #69 on: October 15, 2020, 01:43:15 PM »
Model car racing a.k.a. slot car racing has to me always seemed to be a natural evolution of model kit building. I mean what could be cooler than racing the model car you've lovingly constructed yourself against other such cars? The problem of course is that most commercial slot car tracks had closed by 1970.

The one track of which I was aware in Toronto in 1979-80 was located in a  cramped second story shop on the west side of Yonge Street and was as a result narrow and unappealing. Worse yet the polarity of the lanes had been reversed since the 1960's and my Monogram Ferrari ran backward. Plus it barely ran anyway when I reversed the wires since the tires had hardened after fifteen years.

Worst of all though slot car racing had gravitated away from its model car origins. The "cars" no longer featured styrene plastic bodies but were made of Lexan or other kinds of thin transparent flexiplastic which were then painted from the inside. Nor did the bodies closely resemble any stock or race cars but were instead wing car thingies designed to minimize air resistance:



And they could even be equipped with orange tires of all things!



In short the "cars" didn't act to rekindle my interest in model car racing.

In 1988-89 or so I discovered a slot car raceway on the west side of Hurontario Street just north of Dundas Street in Mississauga. The track was of decent size but what really perked my interest was that the shop had a M.I.B. Monogram slot car kit from very late 1965 or early 1966 for sale:



I hesitated a bit because by the time Monogram had released this kit the car bodies were made of some other sort of flexiplastic which didn't please me. Plus I knew that by buying this one M.I.B. slot car kit I'd be opening yet another collectibles category for myself. I couldn't resist buying it anyway though and yes, ever since then I've been buying up appealing M.I.B. slot car kits from the 1960's whenever I've been able to find and afford them.

Even though I then found another slot car raceway in an industrial mall in Oakville off Trafalgar Road just south of the 401 which was a bit closer to my house in southwest Mississauga, I wasn't prompted to take up racing since I just didn't like the flexicar thingies that were being run at most slot car raceways at the time.

By 1995 both the above tracks had closed but two more had opened that were just about as convenient. One was in Oakville on the west side of Kerr Street and the other was on the south side of Lakeshore Boulevard near Islington Avenue in Toronto. I also discovered the much grander Raceworld facility way up north on Steeles Avenue just west of Toronto's main drag of Yonge Street. When I mentioned this to my best buddy Greg P. at the office in downtown Toronto, he was very much excited. Not only did he have pleasant memories of the home slot car set he'd had as a kid in Winnipeg, but the Raceworld location was fairly convenient for him.

By this time the predominant form of racing had morphed to cars with NASCAR bodies formed from flexiplastic. They could look pretty good painted from the inside with plasti-cardboard decals on the outside if you had some skill cutting these decals out from the sheet with an X-acto knife to get just the image you wanted. Greg did and decaled up a fabulous replica of Richard Petty's car. I didn't and my Maxwell House Ford looked pretty cruddy from up close. Nonetheless, the cars had no interiors and you could see the metal slot car chassis if you looked through the clear windows. This put me off quite a bit.

Greg was also a more skillful driver than I was. Within a few months though Greg took off for another brokerage house in Calgary and without my racing partner I quickly lost interest as well. I just wasn't drawn to the flexicars, NASCAR bodied or not since they weren't really model cars.

Nonetheless my interest in model car racing would continue to be piqued whenever I saw pictures of fabulous tracks such as these on the internet:

Florida









Buzz-A-Rama in Brooklyn, New York



PJ Raceway in Ronkonkoma, New York



TSS Hobbies in Monroe, Michigan



Chicagoland Raceway



Buena Park Raceway, California



 :(

« Last Edit: October 16, 2020, 09:31:26 AM by Hepcat »
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