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 !