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.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My Pyro/Lindberg Stegosaurus buildup won the May/June modelling contest at the Tholian Web model building forum!

This is the Stegosaurus in the blog mast-head, which is the classic Pyro kit, but with some hide textures that Lindberg worked into the tooling for the kit's releases from Jurassic Park (1992) onward.

Here it is, after priming and puttying.  The Mr. Surfacer is a huge help with the awful seams on these kits.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

MACROSS Factory: a grail returns!

A lot of model builders around the globe - including myself - were stunned to learn that at the recent Shizuoka Hobby Show in Japan Bandai announced they would re-issue the classic Imai MACROSS ARMORED FACTORY kit, from their recently-discovered cache of 1980s Imai tooling.  Bandai acquired extensive model kit product assets of Imai after the smaller company foundered in the tail end of the 1980's anime boom, including a large catalog of Macross kits.  They'd apparently lost track of a large number of them in the decades since, until veteran Imai staffers now on Bandai's payroll helped locate them in the hobby behemoth's long-term storage.  Anyway...  anime and model kit fans will likely recall this massive, 2 & a half foot long 1/100 mecha diorama kit:

This kit was released back in the 1980s in the US by Revell as part of their ROBOTECH line, dubbed the "Robotech Factory".  Apart from and new box and some futzing with the painting and decal placement guidelines for the kit, Revell's kit was essentially identical. (Photo thanks to Google.)

I built one back in high school, but later sold it away after college.  In recent years I expended some effort cobbling together a replacement one on a small budget that I could rebuild.  Vintage ones unassembled easily fetched around $200 or more, and complete built ones were next to impossible to find. This is a dryfit of the results I managed:

This treasure, however, is going to go up for sale, as will a partially-complete and somewhat glue-bombed one since I've decided to just bite the bullet and get the Bandai re-issue.  Of course, I'm not letting go of this until I've got the shiny new one in-hand in what I expect will be very late July or early August, at a cost of nearly $100 after a significant preorder discount and a half-off shipping special to cover the killer postage moving this giant plastic beast from the warehouse of my main source for new Japanese hobby items - Hobby Search.

The Armored Factory is an incredible kit.  Full of vehicles, two great Macross mechs, equipment, and about 30 1-inch tall crewpeople.  I wonder if the model-building skills I've acquired in my 43 years are up to the challenge my 16-year old eyesight grappled with so long ago?  Max & Hikaru - the only remainders of my original 1986 Robotech Factory kit buildup - are probably the only ones would could say right now...

Wanna chat about the 80s Robotech kits?  Wanna buy my dryfit after I get the new one?  Just leave a comment or drop me an e-mail!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Triceratops Reborn

When I was little, in the middle part of the 1970s, I received a number of dinosaur kits from the Life Like hobby company.  The first couple came from the gift shop of the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, PA.  Others came from K-Mart's then-overflowing hobby department.  Some were very realistic. Others more cartoon-like.  They all came to me just before Aurora's incredible Prehistoric Scenes kits.

Triceratops was one of the very first.  He was molded in black, and looked like he was on a wild rampage.  Lots of fun!  I built him myself, and poorly added some paint like the instructions suggested.  My childhood Triceratops is still with me, but missing a leg.
I didn't know it at the time, but the kit was actually from 1963 or so, and was one of the first plastic dinosaur kits ever made, created by a company called Pyro Plastics.  They made eight dinosaurs in total up until a year or so before I was born, and after Pyro's extensive inventory of model kit molds went to a company called Life Like they were re-released in the 1970s.  That's when I got the kits and built them, in flat white boxes calling the dinosaurs "Prehistoric Monsters".  My dad cut the faces off of the boxes and framed them for me to hang in my childhood bedroom.  Those have since disappeared, but I bought an unassembled specimen a couple of years ago.  I haven't built him.
This one was molded in purple.  Many of these kits were in purple, gunmetal silver, brownish red. I haven't seen one in the black my childhood one was made in.  Interestingly, the name "Pyro" was never removed from the kits, even though it is typical that the old company name is struck from and replaced on molds that move from one company to another.
The molds of all of these dinosaurs made in the 1960s still exist.  In the 1980s, they moved from Life Like to Lindberg Hobbies.  Lindberg has re-released pieces from the dinosaur collection occasionally in the decades since.  Recently, I picked up one of Lindberg's latest re-issues at a discount store.  Here it is with the version I built as a child.

It's from 2006, almost 50 years after the model was originally made by Pyro.  He's molded in grey this time, rather than black or purple.  All the dinosaurs in this Lindberg release are grey.  Other than that, though, everything is the same as my childhood one, even the sprues holding the parts.  I think a couple of part numbers might be a little different, and the Pyro name is no longer present.
I think it's worth mentioning that - according to what's on the package - that these are still "Made In the USA"... that the molds for these classic hobby kits haven't migrated away from the north American plastic industry like so many classic toy & hobby assets.  I have nothing against plastic kits from overseas.  I just think that it is interesting and positive that these bits of  "Classic Americana" still reside states-side.

Anyhow, I built him!  There were a lot of bad seams that needed to be filled and some of the parts are difficult to align well with the existing guidepins - exactly like its older sibling from my childhood collection.  Other than that, it's a pretty simple kit with only 14 parts.

The head has a challenging chasm seam between the horns that needed extra attention to fill.  This is the head filled, primed and ready for a base coat. (It gets put on the body after the mouth interiors and teeth are painted.)
I decided that I wanted him to be black, like the one from my childhood, especially since I'm building these in part as companion pieces to my childhood survivors.  It only took a couple of hours after a base coat of 98-cent WalMart rattlecan black.  I'm pretty happy with it!  This build - and my memories of my childhood original - are influenced by my memories of the Triceratops seen in the classic Japanese monster film The Last Dinosaur.

Do you have any similar memories or experiences with these "American Classic" models?  Have any old junked ones or parts you'd like to pass along to an appreciative home?  Please leave a comment or e-mail me!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The first Stegosaurus

Currently, I've been focusing on organizing a collection of the 8 Pyro dinosaur kits that were released during the 1960s, and were later carried by Life-Like through the 70s, and finally Lindberg from the 80s to today.  Many of them are currently available, and I picked up a couple of recent Lindberg editions at a local discounter over the last few months.

My dad was kind enough to get me this buildup (restored a bit by myself) from eBay: the first edition of the Stegosaurus, probably from 1963 or earlier, with it's original orange plastic on display.

The cave man is an artifact of the times, when then-popular film and media happily populated the prehistoric world with saurians, Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons all at the same time.  He stuck with the kit until Lindberg plugged-off his part of the molds when the kit's tooling was modified a bit to include more realistic hide textures for a 1992 Jurassic Park release. (An example of the post-Jurassic Park retooling is currently the masthead image for this blog.)

I like the wild colors of old plastic kits like these and Aurora's dinosaurs.  The original kit builder did a pretty nice job following the suggestions on the instructions, but the old flat acrylics were coming off, there was some messy paint & flash, and the cave man was painted in glossy colors.  So I trimmed it up, removed & re-positioned the cave man, matched & retouched the paint, and flat-coated it all.

Friday, June 15, 2012

My new blog for other interests!

I'm opening another blog, in addition to my Micronauts-related blog.  My other hobbies include toy and model robots from anime & sci-fi shows, model rocketry, and also model and toy dinosaurs and monsters.  I share a lot of my activities, research and acquisitions in these hobbies at my Facebook page and various newsgroups and message boards.  However, this will give me a space to present and organize some of it to share more openly.