Saturday, October 22, 2016

Book review: B-25 Mitchell in Civil Service

I’ve had an affinity for the B-25 going way back to my teenage years. One of the first models I built was Monogram’s B-25, and a few years later I found that an airworthy B-25 was occasionally tied down at a nearby airport. Then in 1985 I got a flight in a B-25 at (if I recall correctly) Sun ’n Fun, the big Central Florida airshow. Today I have two Hasegawa B-25s in the stash, as well as a Minicraft 1/144 kit, and I’ve been patiently looking for the HK Models 1/32 kit for the right price.

A few weeks ago while browsing the Warbird Information Exchange forums I found a promotional link to Aero Vintage books, where Scott Thompson’s book B-25 Mitchell in Civil Service is offered at a discounted price of just $10. It’s rare these days to find a true bargain, so with a couple of clicks and a short one-week wait and the book was in my hands.

And it’s a very nice book. As you know, in the downsizing that followed World War Two thousands of aircraft were scrapped or sold, and this book traces the path of many of the B-25s that wound up in civilian ownership. Chapters focus on executive and research use of the B-25 (a role in which the B-25 served in the USAF for many years after the war), air tankers and agricultural sprayers, and conversions for use by Hollywood for air-to-air filming and photography. The history of the B-25’s post-war usage is accompanied by dozens of fascinating photographs showing the B-25 in a myriad of civilian markings and, sadly, disrepair.

Interjected throughout the book are fascinating stories about several pilots who flew the B-25, such as one who flew avionics test flights for Bendix, an air tanker pilot, two who flew B-25s for movies, and another who restored the B-25 that I flew in as a teenager, 44-31508/N6578D. (On a side note, that aircraft is now in Australia, having been purchased by Reevers Warbird Roundup. It’s in restoration and will be unveiled in April 2017. Warbird News wrote about its acquisition.)

The books wraps up with a substantial history of individual B-25s.

If you’re a fan of the B-25 you’ll appreciate the history of industrious engineers and pilots who extended the life of the aircraft well into the 1960s, and beyond if you consider the 25-30 B-25s that are airworthy today. (Someone let me know if that count is inaccurate.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

More eBay insanity

A few months ago I wrote about some of the silly postings I’d seen on eBay, and needless to say the insanity continues. I don’t expect it to stop, which gives us another opportunity to enjoy and laugh at some of the crap people try to sell on eBay and via other venues. Enjoy!

This Testors F4U Corsair was described as “parts only…as is,” and “nice.” I think a more accurate description would’ve been “Testors F4U Corsair, nothing but sprues.” At least the Buy It Now was only $2.00, which buys you a good bit of sprue to stretch.

This “rare” Dragon 1/35 Shilka was offered on one of the buy/sell forums for $38 earlier this year. Nevermind that a.) there were five kits just like it on eBay at lower prices, b.) the last kit like this one to sell on eBay went for $22, and c.) there were two new-tool kits in the pipeline at the time.

If a decal sheet can be considered “rare,” the Two Bobs F-14A Splintered Tomcat sheet would qualify. An eBay seller listed this one at a Buy It Now price of $70. I could admire this capitalist for being optimistic, but see that he’d had it listed at that price for more than eight months makes me think otherwise. If your high-priced item hasn’t sold in, I don't know, six months, it just might be overpriced.

Described as having been acquired from a police locker, the seller of this “Vintage Model Kit panzer Kampfwagen ll Ausf F/G” priced at $109.99, should be arrested for price gauging.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

MiniArt’s new crockery and glass set

MiniArt just announced a new kit that will be of great interest to armor and diorama modelers, so in anticipation of its release I thought I’d look ahead and anticipate the questions and comments that will surely be made on the forums. Enjoy!

  • Can anyone tell me if Europeans in 1940s drank their coffee with or without milk? Did it vary by country? I need to know how light or dark to paint the coffee.
  • Wrong scale.
  • Which Alclad color should I use for the coffee pot?
  • Can I use the beer mug for a diorama set in Vietnam?
  • Can someone recommend the best paint to use for the green teapot?
  • Squadron is showing this as out of stock.
  • The deer emblem on the porcelain mug looks wrong. The rear of the deer looks a little too rounded compared to pictures I’ve studied.
  • How about a 1/35 T-34/100?
  • The whiskey decanter is completely misshapen. It’s a caricature of the real thing.
  • How can I represent the steam that’s rising from hot coffee?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Inspiration: Francois Verlinden

I’ve met many excellent modelers in my 30 years in the hobby and seen the work of hundreds online and in print, but there are a handful that have truly inspired me, whose techniques, craftsmanship, or approach to the hobby shaped the modeler I am today. This is another installment in a series of articles to acknowledge their contributions.

You’ve probably heard about Francois Verlinden’s retirement by now. A few weeks ago photos were posted to Facebook showing the closure of his warehouse outside St. Louis. It’s a sad time for the hobby, but we have much to be thankful for given Verlinden’s presence in the hobby.

When I started building plastic models I focused solely on aircraft, but an early mentor introduced me to armor, sometime around 1983 I think. At the same time he introduced me to Francois Verlinden’s work just when his business was taking off. My mentor had incorporated some of Verlinden’s techniques into his own armor modeling, and I dutifully followed his lead by doing the same. All these years later I can credit my mentor and Verlinden for my interest in armor, even if the techniques we use today have significantly changed over the years.

I saw Verlinden do a presentation at the 1984 IPMS National Convention, which I recall was simply a slide show of his work, but what we saw was inspiring at the time. He painted and weathered armor with much more contrast than we’d ever seen before and the results were stunning. In the years that followed I bought some of his books — those about modeling techniques as well as the Lock-On series featuring what we might today refer to as “walkarounds” — and several issues of Verlinden Productions Modeling Magazine. They made me a better modeler.

Several years later I was driving through Missouri and had time to stop at VLS’s headquarters and see Verlinden’s models in person (as well as Bob Letterman’s dioramas). I have to admit that their work didn’t look quite as good in person as it did in photographs, but the ambition of their efforts was a point of inspiration. I don’t think it’s a surprise that many modelers today are drawn to big, expansive dioramas, in part due to Verlinden and Letterman’s early work.

Verlinden’s products, while not always the easiest to build, set a standard for the products that we now enjoy from the aftermarket industry. His company produced products for armor, aircraft, and figure modelers. Other modelers and entrepreneurs with good product ideas followed Verlinden’s lead. I’m sure many of you still have a Verlinden conversion or detail set in your stash.

It’s unfortunate that the Verlinden brand didn’t continue beyond its founder’s retirement, but his presence in the hobby laid a foundation that many others built upon.

Read more about other inspiring modelers.