There were 2,780 models in the contest, and the quality was very high across all categories. For example, I judged one category that had only 15 entries, but each one was outstanding, requiring us to study them for nearly 90 minutes in an effort to make the best decision we could. Entries in the automotive and ship categories seemed to be off from prior years, but that was just my impression and a solid number could easily debunk it. There appeared to be a ton of small scale armor, and I'm happy to report that their 1/35 siblings generally didn't feature the heavily modulated and weathered finishes that seem to be all the rage online and in print.
As usual a number of the models in the contest will be the most memorable for me years from now. Here are the dozen or so that stood out. Some placed in their respective categories while others will go back to the shelf with only the unofficial admiration of the contest attendees, which is sufficient.
My favorite model in the contest was this 1/72 PB4Y Liberator. Anyone who can make a Matchbox look this good is a superhero in my book. I don't think it placed, probably due to some minor nitpick that we judges obsess over, but it was one of the best examples of modeling among the kit-based entries.
You can imagine my devastation when I realized my humble P-51D found itself in the same category as this 1/72 TBD Devastator. It was beautifully built, the modeler folding the wings, and weathered. It won first place in its category.
Also among the 1/72 aircraft was this little Zero, whose finish was possibly the best among the models in any scale.
Painting and weathering 1/144 aircraft is a skill that few modelers possess, but the modeler behind this C-47 can work magic with paint and an airbrush. It was perfectly finished, and a better photographer could easily pass it off as a 1/48 model.
It's one thing to apply a natural metal finish, but distressing the aircraft skin and realistically weathering it is a skill above and beyond. This 1/48 Ki-84 was a standout among the many 1/48 single-engine categories.
Remember vacuform kits? Well it seems that some modelers are gluttons for punishment and still build them! Crazy, I know, but thank god they do. This Formaplane 1/72 Boeing Model 215 YB-9 bomber was built extremely well, and the end result is a very attractive, if not unusual, aircraft.
This Pzkpfw II caught my attention among the armor categories. Nicely painted with subtle weathering that allowed the model to shine.
My friend Mark Muller scratchbuilt this 1/35 Crossley fire tender. The only kit parts he used were the tires from a Churchill Crocodile. Mark is an impeccable modeler bordering on perfectionism, and it was great to see something new from his workbench. I was surprised that it didn't win Best Armor.
Maybe it's because I'll never be able to afford the real thing, but I've come to have a strong affinity for Ferrari cars. This 250 GTO was a stunner.
Here's the car which I believe won Best Automotive, a Model Factory Hiro 1/24 Porsche 917/30. The detail incorporated into the chassis and engine was unbelievable.
This Trumpeter 1/350 Jeremiah O'Brien caught my attention in one of the ship categories. Nicely painted and weathered.
My final favorite from the contest was this scratchbuilt 1/72 AeroVironment Helios HP01, which you may know holds the world altitude record of 96,863 feet. The modeler wrote on the entry form: "The main structure is music wire, tube, and 145 PE ribs. Upper wing surface is vacuform, "fuselage" pods and engine nacelles are resin castings. Custom decals from Red Pegasus." The unique subject matter alone makes it memorable, but it was perfectly executed from a scale modeling perspective featuring the prominent curvature of the long wing. From what I understand it's headed to The Children's Museum of Indianapolis for display, so if you're ever in town you can stop by and see it. I've long believed that having one of your models on permanent display at a museum is, to my mind, the ultimate sign of success as a modeler.
A big thank you to everyone who entered. Your willingness to bring your models to a contest is what makes it a success! If you didn't enter any models, you should next time.