Don’t dismiss a kit just because it’s old…

Ancient kits can be fun as well, especially when they are of subjects with no modern replacement…

“We all like the modern kits that are released almost daily, but sometimes it is good to grab something from an older vintage and see where the journey takes us”

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Anyone that has been remotely paying attention will know that I love Harriers. I build them whenever I can and if that means that I have to use an old kit to do so, I will most certainly grab it with both hands and see where the project takes me. Last year that was brought into sharp focus as I spent the best part of six months converting the Airfix 1:24 Harrier GR.1 into a T.2 and this year it looks likely that I will not only be looking at another 1:24 conversion, but maybe, just maybe, the reworking of the ancient and now highly sought-after, Revell 1:32 kit will consume some of my spare time.

I can’t help myself, but it’s not just the Harrier that takes me back to older kits: it can almost be any kit of any subject from any manufacturer and I’m not alone. Last year, whilst attending my local modelling club, a chap brought in some ancient and I do mean ancient Revell ‘box scale’ kits. Amongst them I think there was an F-100 and perhaps a Voodoo, both odd scales and decorated with raised markers to show you where the rather spartan decals needed to be applied. To put it mildly these kits had had their day, but members of the club swarmed round them like bees round a honey jar, all giddy with excitement at the sight of kits that many had not seen since their youth, and some had only ever seen in books.

Conversation about these kits naturally turned to younger days when the hobby was a weekend pastime, a kitchen-table-based pursuit that wiled away a few hours inbetween homework, chasing girls and playing football on the muddy, park pitches. That enthusiasm to build a simple kit as a child was reignited by the sight of these older boxes of dusty plastic parts, the simplicity of their construction reminding us all of where we all began before kits became the über complex offerings of today. It was wonderful to be part of such shared nostalgia.

Fast forward a few months and I find myself in the position of planning to build a kit that is over 45 years old, a kit that is ragged in places, not particularly detailed and in need of some real TLC, if the resulting model is to look anywhere near at home amongst my collection of models built from far younger tools. My determination to build Revell’s Harrier is driven by a number of factors: a need to add this aircraft to my collection, a desire to see if indeed I can work it to an acceptable standard, a drive to actually build a kit that I attempted to finish as a boy and never did and an insatiable appetite to indulge in some shameless nostalgia of my own. But mainly, it’s because it’s another Harrier…

But, I can hear you cry, why do this when there are so many other kits being released that are far nicer than this one and will give you far less trouble? Well, simply because I can. These days, kits have become so well-made and so easy to build that the majority of people with even the most basic skill-set, could assemble a kit to a reasonable standard without too much trouble. Where the real skill lies is in the painting of the results and learning how to plan ahead, deal with the finishing of sub-assemblies, external paintwork and decals (all of which I think I have in my locker) but in terms of actual construction, there isn’t much out there that’s truly difficult. So in the main, there isn’t really too much that’s challenging on a day-to-day level, so in order to keep my skills up and moving on, I try when I can to attempt something that I know will push me. It may be scratchbuilding, conversions, dioramas or figures, all things that I know will involve a steep learning curve and take me out of my comfort zone and create something that is unique to me.

So, the Harrier is being planned, along with a few other things that fall into this category of nostalgic projects: the Matchbox Privateer and 1:32 Puma, Hasegawa’s 1:72 Orion and Shin Meiwa PS-1 and thanks to a club member last night, a 1:72 ESCI F-16A Fighting Falcon that I bought for a fiver. How many of these will be built is anyone’s guess, but at least they are in my mind for future consideration.

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We all like the modern kits that are released almost daily, but sometimes it is good to grab something from an older vintage and see where the journey takes us. They are a challenge and perhaps not for everyone, but when the kit in question is the only one available to build a certain subject, why wait? Life’s too short to hang around on the off chance of a future release, so why not have a go? You never know, you just might find that you like the ride and then the world will really open up to you in ways that you never thought possible and that model that you never thought you’d own, is suddenly and proudly, sitting in your display case instead of on a long-forgotten, model shop shelf.

No, where did I put that Harrier..?

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8 thoughts on “Don’t dismiss a kit just because it’s old…

  1. eric February 16, 2017 / 10:47 am

    Just completed Airfix’s old tool (1958) A-4 Skyhawk.

  2. JamesP February 16, 2017 / 1:55 pm

    As a member of the Classic British Kits SIG we spend our time promoting the simple pleasures of older kits. Not kits that fit terribly or a woefully inaccurate, but stuff that can still be built to good standard. Older simpler kits can provide a good basis for those wishing to do a range of markings say rather then producing a single superdetailed model. There is also the fun of bring old kits up to scratch as a well of developing your skills and providing you with a challenge. A lot of modelling nowadays seems to focus on the finish of models (let’s throw lots of “product” at the plastic) which is how the model will be seen by others, but as a past-time I find building the most pleasurable part.

    Many new kits have so much detail (as demanded by older modellers) that young and newbies struggle with them. A kid’s first Spitfire doesn’t need to have a 20+ piece cockpit when a seat, panel and figure will keep them happy. Many a Matchbox kit is a better place to start the young than the new tools.

  3. David Robbins Sr February 16, 2017 / 2:43 pm

    love older kits. l got plans for some older Revell kits as well

  4. dknights February 16, 2017 / 3:00 pm

    Reblogged this on David Knights' Weblog and commented:
    I have a near opposite opinion from Mr. Pollard in his blog post below. I came to the conclusion a few years ago that with so many things I want to build and my limited time, the effort it takes to build an older kit and turn it into something that is acceptable to me is just too great. Therefore I have generally been purging older kits from my inventory and building modern releases of what is available that I want to build. YMMV.

  5. Kenneth David Hanson February 16, 2017 / 5:39 pm

    I whole-heartedly agree that old kits can be an enjoyable build, as well as adding to your skill set, if one is so inclined to make improvements along the way. I was inspired by your build of the Matchbox Lysander to dust off a Matchbox kit I’ve had in the stash since the late ’80s. It’s the 1/72 scale T-2C/E Buckeye. Even though Wolfpack has come out with a new tooling (which I recently bought), the Matchbox build has been very enjoyable, and although it’s an out-of-box build, I did do some small scratch-building to add joysticks (the cockpit just looked too bare without them). The point is, not everything I build is destined for the contest table, so why not enjoy a simple build of a lesser detailed kit, and reflect back on a less complicated time? Back when the hobby was more about fun and making airplane noises and less about sweating over the details.

  6. pickledwings February 16, 2017 / 6:17 pm

    Great article and viewpoint. Some of the older kits still can offer you a lot with just a bit of extra effort.

    I cut my modeling teeth on Matchbox kits primarily and still have a soft spot for them. I spent a good amount of time hunting down a kit of their Provost T.1 trainer a couple of years ago on the second hand market with the intent to dress it up a bit.

    I built the Airfix 1/76 F-86D Sabre a few times over the years and would do it again in a heartbeat despite much better kits of the subject being out there.

    Nostalgia has a value all it’s own.

  7. Kevin Futter February 16, 2017 / 9:42 pm

    You’re a man after my own heart, Spence. A few years back, I built Revell’s ancient 1/32 Zero kit alongside Tamiya’s wunderkit of the same type. The Revell kit took a lot more time and effort, but was a much more rewarding and satisfying build. I have that old Revell Harrier in the stash too, and much preferring the look of the earlier versions, would love to build it some day. Perhaps a tandem build?

  8. Konrad Schreier February 17, 2017 / 6:37 am

    No doubt the latest kits are marvels, and keep us buying new editions of things we already have, but even with the latest editions, if you don’t modify it, correct it, convert it or add to it, you are kinda just assembling it. That can be fun, but adding more of your own content is more satisfying to me. We each get to chose what we want to make of out builds, and that’s what makes it interesting.

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