Saturday, February 14, 2015

Holy Grails & ASTRO PLAN 太空历险记/星原战记

Just about a year without a blog post.  Oh, well...

No model kits, model rockets or dinosaurs.  A change in employment and lots of business work & challenges have kept me limited primarily to just buying toys, and fixing rather worn & broken ones that were inexpensive, budget-oriented acquisitions.   I did manage to fill in a couple of spots on my robot toy 'holy grail' list, thanks to online camaraderie, trades, or generally being willing to take an items that was worn or flawed...

One of the best two scores was an original Takatoku 1/55 Armored Valkyrie armor set from MACROSS.  No decals other than what a previous owner had applied, and a battered box that suffered from some bad mildew at some past point.  The color is pretty good and the parts cleaned up nicely.  I should be able to cobble together similar decals for some of the missing spots.

The other was a great lucky find by a Facebook contact, which I traded a rare Microman piece for.  A Gakken "Henshin Robo" (USA) edition of the gigantic transformable MOSPEADA Legioss fighter - Zeta variant.  Pristine minty new in an excellent box, like it fell right out of 1985!  I scanned the decals for archive, so I'll be using the originals.

I also scored a boxed 1/55 Takatoku VF-1S Valkyrie from a Facebook contact. Again, probably more battered than most collectors would want.  Unused decals were included, which I really want to develop into a reproduction set.  It might have had an arm replaced somewhere along the way, and I had to repair the front landing gear clutch.

Last, but not least, was a cheap, broken and dirty 1/55 Takatoku blue Max VF-1J.  Dirt cheap, some collector's abandoned repair job judging by the miss-assembled head joint, and the missing crown gear, spring & screw in its shoulder (which I had replaced prior to this shot). Also needs a gun pod and a lot of white strips and other decals.  But it's still a real blue Max.

Another couple of pieces that came to me early in 2014 were two large ASTROPLAN [ 太空历险记/星原战记 ] variable fighter mecha.  They're from a Chinese animated production notorious for replication of Macross Frontier & Gundam designs, and inconsistent production values.  But one thing that was consistently great were their variable fighters based on the Chinese YF-10 & VF-11 fighter planes, rendered as transforming mecha similar to the mechanics of the 1980's Macross VF-1 Valkyrie toys  & models, but with the textures and styling of the newer Macross variable fighters.

These things are huge and colorful!  Some careful dis-assembly and tweaking, and a little work with a panel line marker and they're absolutely beautiful.  This is the YF-11, a particular variant for the hero team's female member, Xi Jing.  I had to tweak the feet to open properly, and did some panel line inking.  They're a little fragile in some respects.  Rather like the better knockoff  VF Valkyries in weight and fragility, but quite a bit nicer.  They probably wouldn't handle much kid play, but they're fine for Variable Fighter collectors...

This is one of the YF-10 variants.  Note the size... and resemblance... compared to Bandai's chogokin Macross Frontier [v1] VF-25S.

They come with a bevvy of missiles and bombs, and have slightly flexible PVC hands which helps it hold the gun pod nicely.   Articulation is decent, with clicky crown gears, PVC where parts might get flexed and broken, and reasonable articulation.  Overall, they probably just needed some more debugging and more solid materials.  But who can say what the development budget was or what else impacted the design & manufacturing choices?  All I know is that they look great, and fit in nicely with some of my biggest mecha.  There are 6 versions, three character-specific colorways for each of the two fighter types, and they've got beautiful boxes with poster instruction sheets.  Each variant in the show has its own special unique weapon & attack, but the toys just come with the same shared rifle & missiles.

The Astro Plan toys are actually dirt cheap in China at the current exchange rate.  These two birds cost about $7 USD each.  I got them via TaoBao, using a very nice proxy service.  The real expense is shipping, because they're so huge in their boxes (which you will absolutely want, because they look so great), and any shipping other than EMS or FedEx from China is considered very slow unreliable... so you're all-in on shipping.  They're also becoming rare, with fewer & fewer TaoBao shops offering them.

If you want to try to get some of your own AstroPlan toys & models, try THIS SEARCH of AstroPlan products, looking for the ones with RED TIPPED MISSILES visible in the box window if you want these big ones.  There are several smaller, less-elaborate ones in very similar packaging that TaoBao sellers are offering for the SRP of these larger ones - which is about 50-70 HKD.  There are also model kits and event smaller sized ones.  But for all the effort and mailing expense, you might as well just get a couple of big ones.

Maybe next, an appreciation of Matchbox's ROBOTECH toy line - which is cheap, and much of which originated in Japan (even the infamous 3 3/4" character action figures).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My apologies for the silence.  I've been spending more time with my hobbies that updating my blog!  Following up on my last post, here's the current state of my large Mattel Shogun Warriors collection:
They're shaping up nicely.  At the end of December, 2013, I got a repro Brain Condor for Mazinga and a set of Japanese re-issue Scramble-Dash Wings for him. 
(I also scored horns and a shooting fist for Gaiking, and a repro Bowfist for my childhood Raydeen.)
The wings for Mazinga are current available at eBay for a paultry $45, and they are amazingly amazing!  
This outfits him like the smaller diecast toys.

Next update I'll share some of my sources for Shogun Warrior restoration...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Restoration Shogun Warriors

Myself and the family attended MEGOMEET again this year, and one of the attendee/dealers set me up with three classic Mattel SHOGUN WARRIORS, missing parts and with some wear & tear:

DAIMOS - the center one - is very rare, and a great score.  It's missing his right shooting fist, which is a common problem, and two giant missiles for his leg-mounted rocket launchers. It also has a coat of red spraypaint on its red legs.  Go figure...

To the left of the trio is the early, nicer release of MAZINGA.  He's in great shape except he's missing all his accessories and weapons.  Those can be found easily enough as repros or by scrounging eBay and the good will of friends in other robot-toy collecting groups.

Behind one of our curious cats is GAIKING.  He was tossed in as a freebie, and is missing both arms, both horns on his head and all 6 of his missiles.  It does have the right fist-launching forearm.  Again, repros can all be had.

The Raydeen (left) I still have from my childhood is one of my true personal treasures, so I'm happy to have gotten these! 

This trio of giants can be restored with some careful searching for original or reproduction parts & decals, some do-it-yourself, and some paint-removing techniques in Diamos' case.  I haven't engaged in any serious Shogun Warrior restoration.  But as I work on these guys, I'll share links and info for parts & restoration information

Friday, December 14, 2012

Stegosaurus Herd....

I haven't updated things in a while here, mostly because my hobby time has been spent with the actual hobby activities, and not really documenting them much.  I'll endeavor to add some new content here soon.

In the mean time, here's a shot of my collection thus far of the Pyro Stegosaurus kit.  This is all exactly the same kit, from the same steel mold, in various editions from the first by Pyro (the orange one in the foreground on the left) to the most recent release by Lindberg (the green, realistic-looking one in the foreground on the right).  This is by no means a complete collection of editions of the kit.  There are at least 3 editions not represented at all.

The grey one in the center is actually my first-ever model dinosaur, surviving from my childhood.  It is the Life Like edition of the kit, purchased for me at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA, sometime in the middle of the 1970s.  It is cast in purple, but painted in grey house paint & Pactra 'Namel paints.  The cave-man for that one was lost long ago.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Aurora's Prehistoric Scenes exhibit

A couple of years ago, I loaned my Aurora Prehistoric Scenes collection to the Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum in Wheeling, WV as part of a special exhibit of vintage dinosaur plastic toys they were developing.  It was quite an honor, and a nice opportunity to spend time with a collection that unfortunately spends most of its time in storage due to their size and fragile nature.
I grew up with the Prehistoric Scenes, although I was introduced to them around 1976, after Aurora had closed shop.  There were so many of the kits manufactured and they were so popular that it still wasn't difficult to obtain them all the way through the end of the 1970s.  They were huge (1/13 scale), complex, and had piles of accessories.  They were also snap-together, articulated, wildly-colored and possessed more of the nature of a toy playset to me than a fragile display model. Several have remained in production even today by successive owners of the kits' molds, and the giant Red Rex was recently reissued.
All but two of my original surviving childhood kits wound-up being given to a neighbor kid when I was in college, to foster an interest I learned he had in dinosaurs.  When I left college, however, and had become an active toy & model collector I managed to rebuild and expand on my childhood collection over the course of about 4 years - just prior to the birth of eBay.  Probably the last couple of items I got on eBay were very inexpensive scores on the Sailback (Dimetrodon), Allosaurus and Mammoth.  As I build them, I like to keep much of them in the unusual colors they were cast in.

I've got a slideshow of photos of the exhibit I took when I set it up.  Click HERE.  Later, the museum's staff delicately spread it out into three cases.  The exhibit was up for about 4 months.

 While my collection is complete parts-wise, many of my kits are unpainted or awaiting full restoration and had to be displayed as such.  I had to spend a couple of weeks stripping kits that I'd purchased built-up.  A few items had to be hot-glued into position on-site for display - a concession I was happy to make to share the kits, but which will give me some extra work to undo some day later.

The display had little informational display cards I wrote up, as well as copies of design illustrations by the late Dave Cockrum - famous comic artist and the designer of several of the kits, including the famous red Tyrannosaurus Rex.  I also included a couple example of the Pyro/Life-Like dinosaur kits which were also contemporary to my original Aurora kit experiences.

If you're interested in the Prehistoric Scenes, check out this excellent website dedicated to the series, and its associated forum of engaged collectors.  Share stories and trade parts! And please don't forget to leave a comment here if you have fond memories of these dino kits...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Vintage rocket: MPC Nike Patriot

Time to put some Rockets into this blog, to go with the Robots and Dinosaurs!

This came in a week or so ago via eBay for about $7 + shipping, which was an excellent deal. This is the Nike Patriot from the defunct MPC model kit company, released from about 1971 until about 1978.   MPC typically made plastic model kits, but ventured into rocketry on the strength of their excellent overall product development and their ability to create lots of high-quality injection molded plastic parts for their kits, bridging the gap between typical model rocketry building and plastic kit building.  These kits have been out of production for over 30 years, but can still be found warehouse-new.  This one came from the archives of a significant rocketry collector and historian, who passed away a while ago.

The "Nike Patriot" is a fictional design, and predates the actual Patriot missile system utilized by the US military by about a decade.

I've been looking forward to building one of MPC's rocket kits since I learned of them a couple of years ago when I got back into model rocketry.  I didn't hesitate to open the kit's plastic wrap and delve into the contents.

Two sizable and wonderfully well-made body tubes, plastic fin-can & motor mount, plastic transition and nose cone.  The only real issues were that the sticky tabs for attaching the parachute lines needed replaced, and the decals had yellowed a bit.

The opportunity to start building it emerged rather unexpectedly this past weekend, and I managed to get most of the work done Friday evening and Saturday.  Decals and clear-coating will have to wait until later in the week.  Look for more photos soon!


It took me a couple of weeks, with the addition of some time masking, painting - and then trimming up - one of the fins yellow.  She's a big bird!  Not sure when I'll get to fly it, but this rocket has a reputation for durability and solid flights.

Even has a great parachute with the MPC logo on it:

If you're interested in seeing more of my rocketry stuff, please check my profile page at !

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Burian's art and Pyro's dinos

One of the most influential artists in the realm of dinosaur art is the late Czech artist by the name of Zdeněk Burian.  Burian's realistic dinosaur art was a huge influence on scientists, merchants and  artists involved with dinosaurs.  His work often influenced other artists, or was outright copied into other people's products.  The classic Pyro dinosaur kit line directly benefited from Burian's artistry.

This is a Burian illustration of Corythosaurus from 1955:

This is Pyro's Corythosaurus kit from approximately 1968 [specifically the Life Like edition, which differs from the Pyro edition in the packaging's brand-name only]:

The kit itself is nearly identical to the artwork, including the detailed patterns in the texture on the dinosaur's hide.
Lindberg's press photo for their most recent edition of the kit.
 Burian isn't credited on the box art, and I doubt he ever saw any compensation from the continued production of the model before his death in 1981.

A Burian illustration of Protoceratops also certainly provided the model for both the packaging art and the kit design for Pyro's Protoceratops.

Burian's Protoceratops from about 1955:

The package illustration from the 1968 kit's box (again, the comparable Life Like edition):

If you happen to be a fan of Burian's work, it might be worth your while to add either of these kits to your collection, as they are both reasonably true to his original illustration and are probably the finest of the Pyro dinosaur series.  Lindberg Hobbies' most recent edition of the Corythosaurus kit is very common, as is their Jurassic Park release as "Hadrosaurus".  Protoceratops is a bit less common, but can still be found on line with little difficulty.

Personally, I could still use a more recent edition of Protoceratops, to build as a more modern companion to the one I still have from my childhood.  If you've got one that needs a good home, please contact me!

My childhood Life Like edition, still in my collection.