Tamiya’s A-10A Thunderbolt – an enduring love-affair

Ugly as sin, Fairchild’s masterpiece has been an itch I’ve had to scratch more than once – and now I’m about to do build another…

“And thus it came to pass that I was able to finally afford the one kit I had craved since the moment I saw it: Tamiya’s 1:48 A-10A Thunderbolt II”

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I really can’t remember the first time I became aware of Tamiya’s range of kits, but I think it might have been a gloomy afternoon in 1978 whilst sat on a bus that smelled of far too many passengers and far too little deodorant, “Sarah 4 Steve” scrawled over the back of the seat in front of me serving as a permanent reminder of a long-over relationship that both would now rather forget, than immortalise. I don’t even know why I was on the bus, but I do remember it passing a sports shop in a local town that inexplicably sold plastic model kits amongst it’s more familiar collection of cut-price plastic training shoes, leather footballs and hold-alls that all the cool kids liked to carry with nonchalance over their right shoulders. Looking back, I imagine Steve carried one…

Anyway, trying not to be noticed by anyone else on the bus (especially the pretty girl sitting three rows in front who I would never in a million years have had the nerve to talk to), I was staring out of the window when I noticed some kits on the upper shelf of said shop and there amongst the Airfix and Matchbox Spitfires and Me109s, were some that I didn’t recognise, tanks mainly, contained in white boxes that were all emblazoned with a logo featuring two white stars on a red and blue background. I had no idea at the time that this range would play such a pivotal role in my life over the next forty years, all I did know at the time — other than wanting to get off that bus — was that I had to know what these things were…

Being a young kid at the time, I had friends who in the main had older brothers, brothers that listened to cool music from bands like The Jam, The Kinks and The Who, who spoke in rather fruity terms that I often didn’t understand, wore parkas and Harrington jackets, never said hello when a cursory nod was enough to acknowledge your presence and built models. Lots of models. Though rather unfashionable now, kids in the Seventies saw the construction of plastic kits as a pastime worthy of their attention and money. Kits could be bought from almost every shop in the country, from the local corner shop, though hardware stores and as has been seen here, sports retailers, so you didn’t really have to look too far for the latest releases (which was just as well, as we didn’t have a car and I had to rely on the two shops in the village that were within walking distance for my purchases, but I digress). So, these kids (and they were kids, though seeming like the oldest people in the world at the time…) bought and built things that I had never seen and could not afford. And that’s where I first saw a Tamiya catalogue and then kit, the 1978 catalogue and their 1:20 six-wheeled Tyrrell P34. I was in heaven.

Fast forward a few years and the now 15 year-old me had a Saturday job and the wherewithal to buy more expensive kits. Looking back, it seemed a rather poor trade-off to cycle around half of the town cleaning cars in the snow and then spending half of my Saturday and half of my Sunday stood behind a petrol station counter serving ungrateful customers, or on the forecourt cleaning down the pumps with a soapy sponge and bucket of freezing cold water, but at least I had money in my trouser pocket and that was enough to keep me going through in the indignity of it all.

And thus it came to pass that I was able to finally afford the one kit that I had craved since the moment I saw it: Tamiya’s 1:48 A-10A Thunderbolt II. The passage of time, age and my inability to retain information beyond what I had for breakfast today (a bacon sandwich, if you are interested), means that the precise location of this important purchase is something of a mystery, but I think it was a local shop called Kits & Bits, which for some time was the recipient of plenty of my hard-earned coins. What I do remember is that at the time it was an eye-watering amount of money: £7.99, which was a whole load of cars to clean and forecourts to sweep. Still, I bought it and then examined the Tamiya catalogue that featured Francois Verlinden’s build of the model and set about formulating a plan of how I was going to put it together, but more importantly, how I was going to paint the results. Failure was not an option! How the hell did he paint that?!

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Though the model is now long-gone, I can tell you that it was painted in one of the prototype schemes, the one that looks to have been basecoated in black and then mottled with pale grey, before being trimmed in red. I seem to recall that I airbrushed the basecoat with a single-action Humbrol spray gun powered with one of those frosty air cans and then used drybrushed layers of enamels to add the mottling and weathering – all very naive, but I loved the result and kept the model for some time, even gaining a first place at one of the IPMS UK Nationals at Stoneleigh not long after it was completed. How that happened, I’m far from sure, but the judges seemed to like it as much as I did, so I didn’t complain too much! Maybe they liked the hand painting and the traditionalists felt sorry for me?!

And here we are in 2017 and I am about to have another go at Tamiya’s classic A-10A, now available as ‘Lizard’ finished aircraft, rather than the prototypes offered back in 1977. Many will no doubt question the logic of tackling a kit that’s this old and this basic, but that’s not the point; to me, this kit is part of my DNA, a project that set me off on the path that I follow today – hell, it may even be the very first 1:48 kit I ever built, so that makes it even more important! Looking through the contents of the box, the mouldings are fine, the detail an odd mix of recessed and raised panel lines and features such as cockpit detail, virtually non-existent. But I don’t care. It’s one of my very favourite kits of all time and I want to replace that model that I loved so much all of those years ago. All I have to do now, is work out how to paint that mottled scheme, because I don’t think I have the energy or determination to dry brush it all over again.

Hmm… I wonder what happened to Sarah and Steve?

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6 thoughts on “Tamiya’s A-10A Thunderbolt – an enduring love-affair

  1. Chris Aleong February 24, 2017 / 4:15 pm

    Spencer

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. As soon as I saw the cover picture and title I was intrigued. Your article brought back many memories of my build of my Tamiya A-10. Like you I love it but one difference is that I still have it in my showcase. To be honest I cannot even remember when I finished it but it was in the late 80’s. Still holds a pride of place on my shelf.

    I built the boxing with prototype scheme on it and was thinking of getting the updated version but was not sure what was changed other than the decals.

    I am sure you will be keeping us updated with your progress and I will be following along eagerly.

    Cheers
    Chris from Edmonton

  2. Pat Donahue February 24, 2017 / 8:53 pm

    I also was a fan of this kit, could not wait for it to arrive in the mail. I believe it is the only version that was even put out in 1.48 of an early A-10 that one could do all those crazy paint schemes on…Still have it on the shelf 40 years after completion
    [IMG]http://i524.photobucket.com/albums/cc329/pat9d/IMG_4473_zps4d47f43c.jpg[/IMG]
    [IMG]http://i524.photobucket.com/albums/cc329/pat9d/IMG_4472_zpse82413e2.jpg[/IMG]

  3. patrickmodelnut February 24, 2017 / 10:30 pm

    Nice article Spencer…. I look forward to seeing your “new” A-10… I had a similar experience and introduction to Tamiya. I still remember being in a model shop in the mid ’90s with my Dad and seeing the 1:35 Jagdpanther on the shelf..

    Immediately the box art struck me as beautiful and exotic- what a mysterious looking model kit with Japanese text! I also remember the price being 60 or 65 dollars… Way out of my price range at the time… Which made me think “there must be something really special in there!!”
    That memory/ introduction to Tamiya began a life long love affair with “the big T”. When I did finally build my first Tamiya kit, It was a game changer.
    It’s a testament to the quality of Tamiya products that kits from the 70s still fit beautifully today..
    The bren carrier Sdkfz are basic but great kits.
    Keep up the great blog!

  4. Chris McKee February 25, 2017 / 7:27 am

    Many years ago l started a heritage collection, many that l always wanted when l was young but couldn’t afford. There’s a Frog Lightship, Wessex, Sea Vixen and a Tamiya A10. All are adored but not started, maybe following this built will get me to cut some plastic on this treasured kit.

  5. Jon February 26, 2017 / 9:55 am

    The judges at Stoneleigh must have had a soft spot for juniors attempts at the Tamiya A-10 as I also won with an entry that I recall completing on the day of Charles and Diana’s wedding. This year was the first time that I have attended the IPMS nationals since, and I must admit that judging by your T-2 I saw, you’ve had a considerably more successful career in the field than I.
    I did once get a trip in a T-4 from Gutersloh though.

  6. David Bristow February 26, 2017 / 11:25 pm

    Great piece Spencer, I too can remember as a child, (similar to the age you are alluding to) going out and buying my first A10 “warthog”.

    I’ll always remember that name, mainly because I think it was that name that gave the plane its ugly reputation. I’ll never forget during the long hot school summer break getting on the number 75 bus from Penge to Lewisham’s Beatties model store. I went there with limited funds also, saw the kit in 1/72 scale (matchbox variant I believe) and just had to have it there and then.

    Problem was as I said previously “limited funds”. I ended up walking all the way back home, as I had to spend the bus fare home to secure that kit.

    Anyway brown paper bag in hand coveting the purchase, eagerly wanting to get home, whereby I then spent the remaining afternoon at the kitchen table putting this thing together. As with you, that kit has long gone, as sadly did the Beatties model store, which sadly burned to the ground some months later, but it’s great to walk down memory lane again, in the main inspired by your piece so I thank you wholeheartedly as a result.

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