Before there were Thunderbirds, there were Skyblazers.
So, with not a lot to show for recent model building progress, maybe it’s time to step back and show you some of what I have in the display case. I like retrospectives so come back with me and enjoy some of my model building past. A few of these only exist on film now, as there came a Great Purge once. Most modelers know that this is the way of things in scale modeling. Builds come and builds go. It’s the circle of life or something clever like that. For me, I decided one day that much of what I had built could be redone someday if I chose to do so without too much difficulty, and with much better results. None of the finished kits I tossed were rare. None of them were really contest worthy or even sentimental. So they left. A few probably ended up on the Island of Misfit Toys, others just gave the last full measure of recycling and are now plastic sporks at your favorite drive through. I did keep a small handful that were better efforts, but that was pretty limited since I was giving priority to reclaiming space instead of holding on to nostalgia. Here is a limited gallery of my trip through the years:
I once covered a piece of plywood with 220 grit sandpaper cut into squares which were painted several tones of gray to represent a concrete apron. I dumped a bottle of black food coloring into a small bottle of Elmer’s white glue and made “tar” sealant for the expansion joints. A bit ham handed attempt at a display base, but as you can see, it worked for my meager early attempts at photography. This is a Hasegawa 1/72 F-4E with spurious tail codes from the spare decals box. I have lost the memory of why I did that. Probably the original decals went all yellow. These images with the base are all circa early 90s.
The first and only model kit I built as a review for the IPMS Journal. Emhar 1/72 F-94C early. Testors Metalizer finish, with a True Details resin cockpit and wheels. Loved the kit, but I was less sensitive to limited run kits back then.
Heller 1/72 F-84F with Microscale Thunderbird decals on the left. Hasegawa 1/72 F-16 on the right. At one point I was going to build a full 1/72 scale set of every aircraft flown by the Thunderbirds. This is the sum total of that intention. I had all the kits. None of the ambition.
Monogram 1/48 F-106A with Experts Choice decals for the 318th FIS. I wish I had a photo of the weapons bay. I spent two or three days hand painting all the plumbing and wiring that Monogram crammed into that space. Including all the blue anodized AN tubing connectors, and colored tubing identification markings. I built this not long after graduating from A&P school. No, seriously…….
I still have this one in the display case. Testors/Italeri 1/72 B-58A converted from the TB-58 version of the kit. I moved the second cockpit aft 5/8″ and used a brass photo etch cockpit set from Airwaves. At the time I could only find the TB kit, as nobody had the straight bomber version in stock. Pre internet days. Phone calls only. I also used Microscale decals to represent ‘Greased Lightning’, the record setting Hustler that is at the SAC Museum. The finish is again Testors Metalizer consisting of at least 8 custom mixed shades sprayed on using cut parafilm for the masking. An absolute nightmare of a method for replicating the multi toned natural metal skin of a B-58, but I got it done somehow. However, it was too late to make the 1994 IPMS Nationals at Omaha. With two weeks to go till the convention, I had an emergency appendectomy and all my model mojo must have been extracted too. I just couldn’t manage to finish it in time. I often wonder how well it would have done, then I recall the scratchbuilt 1/32 B-58 at the show that overshadowed pretty much everything else. Probably just as well mine was still at home. 25 years later the decals are giving up and a couple seams are starting to show through, but I will never trash this one.
A whole different class of model kit from anything I had built before. The Accurate Miniatures 1/48 TBF-1C. I still can’t believe how nice this kit is 23 years later. This was in my non weathering period of modeling. Clean as a whistle. Gotta build another one someday. The red-orange background was an experiment to find a better color than the ever overused light blue. I think I like it. I think it counters the gray white scheme quit well.
Monogram 1/48 F-105D. Started in 2003, I just finished this kit in 2018. No, it wasn’t that hard. Just never could get it wrapped up. Too many other projects just kept getting in the way. I completely rescribed the kit and used TwoBobs decals for the 466th TFW ‘My Kharma’ Thunderchief. The AGM-12C Bullpup missiles are Eduard Brassin resin and are fabulous. Might not be correct for a 1983 F-105, but I claim artistic license. After 15 years on the shelf it deserved a bit of character to come along and elevate its presence in the display case.
Eduard 1/48 I-16 Type 24. I just love the look of these stubby little fighters. And the kit is just as enjoyable. This is the weekend version, which I typically find takes me about 6 weekends. Pfff. There is no truth in advertising.
This is the Eduard 1/72 F6F-3 Hellcat kit Profipak version. My vote for best model kit I have built thus far. I made a few improvements here and there, but not because the kit is deficient in any way. I was pushing myself to use some new techniques and get better as a modeler. I stuffed an Eduard color etched set into the cockpit, wired the brakes and the engine ignition harness, drilled out openings, added antennas, weathered with oils and pastels, faded the paint, and managed to place Third in its category at the 2017 Nationals. I was ecstatic. But the fun wasn’t over……
A few minutes later, I found out that this kit also placed Third in its category for large scale submarines. Riich Models 1/200 USS Gato 1942. Not a kit for the faint of heart. I filled in the port side anchor well, faded the paint, and used pastels for rust and other corruption. This kit has some of the finest photo etch railings I have ever seen. It was near impossible to glue them to the deck without leaving obvious glue marks. The deck gun was something like 25 different parts. Some of which didn’t get added because at about 19 parts I had had enough. Should have rigged antennas, but see the previous comment about enough is enough. But wait, there’s more…..
There’s too much detail about what I did to this kit to write it all up here. 7 months of solid modeling went into Trumpeter’s 1/350 USS Texas BB-35. With 800+ parts it was hardly necessary to increase the parts count, but I’m slightly nuts anyway. So I worked in quite a bit of aftermarket to help things out. Trumpeter has a frustrating way of doing things, and I didn’t fix all the issues. I had to reign it in and make some judgement calls about what to do and what not to do. In the end, I have to say that this is probably the most rewarding model I have ever built. It isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough to be my third Third place award of the 2017 Nationals.
As I’m writing this up it occurs to me that a large part of the enjoyment I get from modeling comes from the fact that almost every kit I build has its own unique story behind it. I don’t know if other hobbies have that kind of thing going on, but I wouldn’t doubt it. Something as personal as building a model kit with your own hands using your own skills has to play a part in the creation of not only the object itself, but of the story that goes along with it. I love this stuff. The achievements are one thing. But being able to remember back to the days of building models on newspapers spread on my bedroom floor with nothing but a tube of glue and a nail clipper is a reward all its own that I never want to forget. The display case holds the trophies of today, but I treasure the memories of models and years gone by in my heart. If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go build a Revell Baa Baa Black Sheep F4U Corsair. This time, I’ll get it right.
Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away. A good deal of the joy of collecting vintage color 35mm aviation slides has been finding rare subjects, finding slides that are well composed and in focus, and the delight in the quality that has been Kodak Kodachrome. Those red bordered cardboard 2×2 treasures didn’t take long to get me hooked on collecting. If they were shot with any kind of good camera and by a photography who cared about more than just getting an image, they usually yielded something to be treasured for a very long time.
Around the WWII time frame, Ansco produced a color slide film called Anscochrome as a direct competitor to Kodachrome. It had a higher speed, and the added attractions to some in that it could be processed by a home hobbyist rather than having to be sent back to the manufacturer for developing, like Kodachrome.
But the darker side of Anscochrome film is something that wasn’t realized until well after Ansco went the way of the dinosaurs. The stuff wasn’t made to last. Which is a real downer when you consider just how many irreplaceable memories were entrusted to the film. At first, colors faded. Then they shifted to other colors entirely. Finally, after enough time the color emulsion itself degraded in to eye spots, spider web cracking and finally, just plain let go of the film backing altogether. I imagine that there are an untold number of these slides and memories still sitting in shoe boxes and loaded slide projector magazines that are stored in overheated attics, frozen garages, and mildewy basements which haven’t seen the light of projection in decades by their owners. Owners who would be shocked and saddened to find out that Billy’s 3rd birthday or Nanna’s ride on Disney’s teacups is now but a lost wisp of time.
Occasionally I have to see this same thing with old aircraft slides. Sometimes groups of slides I come across have Anscochrome in them and it is just sad to see how badly they have faired since they were shot. Especially the rare subjects that themselves are long gone now. Never again to be seen on an airshow tarmac. Oh, for a time machine and a satchel full of Kodachrome.
If you are weak of stomach, and cringe at the sight of sacred aircraft desecration, avert your eyes. This won’t be pretty:
Douglas A4D-1 early Skyhawk
Long before the U.S. Air Force flew stealth anything, they flew their first jet bomber. The North American B-45A Tornado. This is the 8th production airframe.
Grumman F9F-6 Cougar. From back in the day when the Navy was colorful.
Photos of SAC controlled Republic F-84F Thunderstreaks are rare enough. Having one ruined by orange photo bombing amoebas is hard to take.
Here’s an odd duck. Lockheed F-94B modified to test the nose radar section of the IM-99 BOMARC missile. Redesignated to NF-94B.
And speaking of missiles. Northrop SM-62 SNARK on a transporter. SNARK images aren’t so rare, but you don’t see the transporter that often. Bet that was a nervous ride knowing there was a break-away warhead section sitting right over your tractor cab.
Heartbreaking to see the degredation on these unique slides. Hurts to see them and think “what might have been”. Nothing that Photoshop can really fix. Kodachrome, baby.
“I can do better next time.”