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It's from 2006, almost 50 years after the model was originally made by Pyro.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!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome story and wonderful pics!! I had a few of these guys (either end of 70's or early 80's) and like yourself I too thought of the film the last dinosaur with the triceratops (and even more so later on with the one made by Aurora). Cheers!