|1999 - Good Year, or Bad?
|by Doug Chaltry
|25 June 2000
I think that there are few of us who would not consider small scale armor modeling to be one of the most "neglected" genres of the modeling hobby. Compared to the other more obvious sub-groups, such as 1/35th armor, ships and aircraft in all scales, we small-scalers are pretty much ignored.
I see a direct parallel with the environmental movement to preserve endangered species around the world. As most conservationists are aware, the majority of the attention and funding go to what are known as the "charismatic megavertebrates" such as the eagle, bear, wolf, elephant, tiger etc. Lesser known are all the smaller mammals, reptiles, fish, insects and plants that are also in danger, and yet the public tends to be uncaring, because they are not "big and beautiful". The same sort of thing can be seen with modeling. Perhaps I should refer to the larger scales as "charismatic megamodels".
Europe tends to give more attention to small scale armor than does America. There are one or two regular columns in a couple of British model magazines, and the French armor modeling magazines also tend to have fairly regular articles on our favorite topics. But none of the American magazines have anything at all related to small scale, at least not on a regular basis.
The problem is even more apparent in our model contests. I refer to the 1999 IPMS/USA National Convention held in July of this year. There were approximately 70 entries in the small scale armor categories. Yet, we were not honored with any special awards as are so typical with the other categories. All we had were the normal first through third place awards for each category. Worse yet, in some of the IPMS Regional contests, all soft-skin models are grouped together in one category, regardless of scale. I saw a spectacular 1/72nd scale cargo truck get overlooked for an award, because it simply could not compete against 1/35th scale. At least not in the judges' eyes. Not only is this sort of judging completely unfair, but it makes no sense either.
At the National Convention, there were photographers from Fine Scale Modeler wandering the competition room, taking photos for their magazine of the outstanding entries in many different categories. Yet I don't think they took a single photo of a small scale tank (somebody correct me if I'm wrong here). Another indication was the vendor rooms. There were three huge rooms filled wall to wall with vendors from all over the country, and some from over the border too. But there were only two of them who brought along a small sampling of the small scale armor that they carry.
How can we reverse this apparent lack of equality for small-scale armor? The best ideas that I can come up with simply involve us getting more involved with model functions and publicity, such as shows, the Internet and model magazines. I see that there are a few people who write occasional review articles for web sites such as Hyperscale, Missing Lynx and Track-Link. This needs to continue and expand. Model magazines need contributions from us for kit reviews, diorama ideas, etc. Plus, anybody interested in competition, contact the organizers of your model shows, and encourage them to expand the small-scale categories, and include at least one special award for small-scale. For example, an IPMS Regional show in Florida several years ago had three or four small-scale categories, plus a Best Small Scale Armor award. Something simple like this additional award will go a long way to making us small-scalers feel more welcome. I understand that the small scale turnout at smaller contests usually does not justify this sort of attention, but there is no reason to not include more awards at the large shows.
Now for the good news. Apparently at least some manufacturers are not completely oblivious to the small-scale armor market. This past year has seen the release of many new kits in 1/72nd scale, far more than I would have guessed if I hadn't sat down to count them out.
Revell is producing some of the finest small scale tanks today. Since the beginning of the year, we have seen two new Tiger's (H and E), a Jagdpanther, an M1A1 (HA) Abrams, a Challenger, a Marder 1 and a Leopard 1. Not only is this a prolific production rate, but the kits are fantastic. There is also supposed to be a Fuchs released before the end of the year. Total new kits: eight.
One of the largest model manufacturers in the world has also given us a few new items. Last year they tried to pass off their old kits as new releases (late war Tigers and Panthers), but they were quite disappointing. When the three new Panzer IV's were released early this year (Panzer IV F1, F2 and G), I was a little apprehensive about them re-using their munitionspanzer. However, with the exception of the poor vinyl tracks included in the kits, the Panzer IV's are excellent models. With their recent release of the two halftracks (Sd.Kfz. 251/1 and 251/22, Ausf. D), they have re-established themselves in the small scale armor scene. The halftracks are superb models, and I hope they release some more of them next year. Total new kits: five.
The newest and biggest surprise on the small scale scene is PST. When I first saw their IS-2 kits listed at GP Hobbies, I was ecstatic. Finally, someone is releasing kits of the important Soviet vehicles of WW II. PST's line-up includes an unusual mix of the ubiquitous to the esoteric. While the IS-2's, ISU-122's, ISU-152's and the KV-1's are very important vehicles which have finally seen the light of day in kit form, the IS-1, KV-85 and KV-122 are very unusual beasts, few of which ever saw combat as far as I know. But they certainly make interesting subjects if one wants to model the progression of Soviet tank development over the years. Total new kits: 13.
Attack has been producing resin kits for the past several years, and just this past year, they have left the resin marketplace to enter the injection-molded plastic arena. Their first two releases, Panzer 38 (t) Ausf. C and Ausf. G were well received as vehicles long needing to be released in plastic. Although the models are limited-run technology, and require a fair amount of hard work to build, the final products are excellent, and Attack is supposedly going to continue to release many vehicles based on this chassis. Towards the end of the year, they also released a Tatra Kubelwagen staff car, which I have not yet seen. Total new kits: three.
Another Eastern European company, their first model was the GAZ-67 Soviet Staff Car. This is a little beauty of a model, with excellent detail, and of an excellent subject. They have also released two Soviet trucks, the GAZ-AA and GAZ-AAA. I have not seen these yet, but Earl at NKR Models says that they have the same high level of detail as the GAZ-67. Total new kits: three.
This company from China released several kits of modern main battle tanks. Although most of the models are not very good, and are now out of production, at least they were trying. Total new kits: ten.
This company distributes models from other manufacturers, such as AER, but they also released two unique kits this year, the Su-85 and Su-122. These two assault guns are made in the city of Samara, Russia, and are absolutely outstanding kits, not to be confused with the AER releases of the Su-100 and T-34/85 several years ago. The Samara kits are some of the best kits made, and I hope they continue to produce new subjects. Eastern Express has also released an M-113 APC, with which I am not familiar, and I don't know who originally made it. Total new kits: three.
AER released four limited-edition kits this year, the Zis-5V with AA gun, two Zis-42 halftracks, and a BA-11 armored car. These are combination plastic and resin kits, and I haven't seen them, but I heard that their quality was acceptable. Total new kits: four.
Omega (now ICM) released three new Katiusha launchers this past year, the BM-13, BM-14 and BM-24. Again, I haven't seen them, but I hear that they are good kits. Total new kits: three.
I can't begin to count the new resin/metal releases this past year. Mainly because I simply am not familiar with the resin companies' line-ups, and which are new releases, and which are not. I know for a fact that many of the big companies have released new kits this past year, such as Al.By, ADV, ARMO, Modelkrak, Planet Models, ExtraTech, VVV, etc. I would hazard a guess that we have seen at least three dozen new multimedia kits this past year, probably much more.
We also cannot forget to mention the new photoetched brass detail sets. The old veteren Eduard has released several new sets of extremely high quality, and the relative newcomers, PART and ExtraTech have also released a large number of sets for small scale armor. These are all excellent sets, and I hope all three companies continue to release new sets.
I know that I am probably missing a few other new releases, probably because many have not found their way over the ocean yet. Also, some of the kits listed above perhaps may have been released in 1998, but I just now became aware of them. Regardless, we have a total of around 52 new plastic models, and at least three dozen new multi-media kits in one year. In comparison, I wonder how many new 1/35th scale armor models were released this year?
Seems to me that we're entering the "Golden Years" of 1/72nd scale armor modeling. I sure hope the trend continues.