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.