Check out our contents page and then flick through the pages of this issue and you could be forgiven for thinking that we had some kind of plan in mind when we put it together. If only that was the case! Somewhat by accident this issue features, almost exclusively, articles that deal with techniques that will in turn help you build better models - so long as you try them out! I could be argued that the majority of techniques that we use week in week out, are there to help with the painting and weathering of our models. Construction ideas have certainly been almost set in stone over the last few decades and so any developments that have taken place, have been as a result of modellers trying to create either more interesting, or more realistic, models. This month certainly seems to back up that theory with a whole raft of ideas on show - many of which are new and somewhat experimental! This month you will find around half a dozen features that illustrate different approaches to the finishing of a wide variety of subjects - be they either vehicles, or aircraft, from the box, or detailed.
Whenever I plan a new project, the one thing that can get in the way of me actually making a start, is the time that I imagine the whole thing will take to finish. Sometimes I will open a box, look at the hundreds of parts that lie within and think to myself that it will just take too long to complete! I move on to what I see as a simpler project and so the pattern repeats until I actually decide that all of my projects seem to take forever and then actually make a start! Of course, the truth is, that modelling is a hobby in which you simply have to put in the time to reap the reward of a fine model at the end of the journey. If you think that you can build up the necessary skills to be able to build and paint nice models without putting in the hours, you'd probably be better off doing something else! And yet there are times when all of us crave a simple, short project and then find ourselves bogged-down with one that is anything but...
If there is a theme running through this issue, it is that you don't always have to rely on kits or the after-market to provide you with what you need to get a job done. Sometimes, you can build what you need from scratch and make something truly original along the way! Historically, our great hobby began with building models from scratch, using raw materials to create a reasonable facsimile of a full sized object, machine, or structure. Of course, over the years, this has been made more and more redundant, the advent of kits and smaller accessory sets helping to recreate almost everything that you could ever need. But of course, there are always holes in the lists of available replicas, holes that will only ever be plugged by those willing to dive in and build something for themselves - just as we can see in this issue. Amongst the features published this month that concern themselves with kit-built projects (Alan Firbank's Sea Vixen and Dai Williams' Snow Tiger), we have a number of items that include scratch-built models to a greater or lesser degree. Per Olav Lund's 'Ragnarok' includes a stunningly rendered bridge that he's assembled from little more than Styrofoam, Plasticard and details from the spares box.
Dragon has released a number of fine Panzer III tanks in 1/35 scale before, including the recent Ausf.E (Item No.6631) and Ausf.F (Item No.6632). Now, Dragon has produced the very first Panzer III Smart Kit, and what a stunning creation it is. The Smart Kit depicts an Ausf.H variant, the first Panzer III version to be fitted with a 5 cm Kw.K L/42 cannon. An order for 759 Ausf.H tanks was placed in January 1939, but as it turned out, only 308 were produced up till April 1941 before the Ausf.J entered production. To accommodate the bigger gun, the tank turret was redesigned and a turret basket added to the rear. Furthermore, additional armour plates were bolted to the rear, glacis and front superstructure of the hull. Mechanically the tank received a new transmission with redesigned sprocket and idler wheels. This 1/35 scale Smart Kit has a great many brand new parts. For starters the lower hull, rear plate, glacis plate and front superstructure plate are all newly tooled. Add to this a new mantlet with 35 mm thick armour, and a new vision block.
Many of you will recall that in the last few years, Historex Agents have been giving away a small range of Napoleonic 1/15th scale resin busts from the Historex offshoot, Nemrod, with every purchase over £35. Having seen them, I, being a total Napoleonic nut of course wanted them but couldn't really afford to spend that much on other kits. So I resorted to a subterfuge. As I am lucky enough to spend a lot of my time writing kit reviews, many of them supplied by the said firm, I approached Lynn Sangster and, well, to put it bluntly, I begged! I'm sure that the tear that also accompanied this abject begging went some way toward him relenting and allowing me to have a sample of each one. I now have eight of the original giveaway busts, all painted, and recently two more arrived in time for Euromilitaire. However, at last and due to popular demand, Historex NCO of France decided to put them on the general market and they can be purchased for a very modest £8.75 each. Not bad, eh?
Well, the magazine is officially two years old with this issue, No. 12, the Chance Vought, or Vought, or Goodyear or Brewster, F4U or FG-1 or F-3A, Corsair. Almost as many manufacturers and designations as the Harrier in the last issue, but also like that aircraft, one immortal name. It is a very fitting aircraft with which to celebrate our anniversary, being a definite classic, but at the same time an unusual one, rather like Aviation Classics itself. The Corsair was a big, heavy aircraft for a fighter, not possessed of the classic good looks of a Mustang or Spitfire. This was a big tough bruiser, powerful and mean looking. I remember first being entranced by the Corsair and its unusual appearance when I was a kid, building the Air fix kit of the aircraft. It was noticeably bigger than all my other Second World War aircraft models, and its wings, when finally glued on, made me question if I had it the right way up.
I find this page hard to write, especially when I am angry. One day my best friend counselled me thus: "If you feel anger, write about it, it will give you perspective and calm the emotion." Okay, it's worth a try, thought I. That said, you are looking at the 24th draft of this introduction. See, I told you it was hard. I started writing about the Harrier years ago. I was captured by the unusual capabilities of the aircraft, the very oddness that is the essence of a Harrier in flight. So many great engineers and aviation pioneers tried and failed to create a working V/STOL fixed wing aircraft, then in the middle of this struggle, a Frenchman is introduced to two Englishmen by an American... and against all odds they succeed, not just succeed, but succeed brilliantly. It sounds like a set-up for a joke, but the "punchline" was the world's first operational single engined fixed wing vertical/short takeoff and landing aircraft, the Harrier.
Just so you know, and I make no excuses for this, I have found that this is the hardest page to write in the whole magazine. Summing up an entire edition in a few paragraphs, particularly when you are dealing with such a large subject as this, is difficult without leaving out something important, making it sound glib, or worse still, trite. Consequently, when it came to the Mosquito, information was not the problem. The problem was trying to understand the true nature of a legend, and express it clearly. A lot of people listen to music when they write. I listen to The Goon Show and Monty Python. There is something about the absurd constructs and lunatic juxtapositions that seem to free the mind. The Gumby Theatre was playing and there, right at the end of the sketch, was inspiration. "Adapted... by putting it on a piece of wood and banging a few nails through it". Admittedly, the Monty Python boys were talking about Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, but they could have been talking about the Mosquito. Suddenly, I got it. I understood the legend.
As I began my second issue as editor, I found myself dealing with an aircraft I thought I knew well, the F-86 Sabre. As time went on however, more and more came to light that I was unsure of or found questionable despite the oft-documented history of the type. This is where I really began to understand the power of friends. Doug Dildy, an ex-F-15 driver and a tremendous aviation historian of note, introduced me to Dave Powers. Doug was writing the excellent Korean War section of the magazine and suggested Dave as the man to cover the naval variants of the Fury. As a docent at the National Naval Aviation Museum, Dave was well placed to research the types in depth, and did an astounding job as you will see. Of course since we were covering a Naval topic, Norm DeWitt s suggestion of a piece on the 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation was another great idea. He and Keith Draycott have produced an excellent piece on the celebrations.