Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, July 6, 2001


Patrick Stanley, 13, admires a 1/426th-scale model
of the USS Arizona by Kerwin Lum.

New Arizona model
kit makes its debut

By Burl Burlingame

Let's get small! Scale modeling is still the world's third-favorite hobby after stamp- and coin-collecting. Playing video games isn't really a hobby, it's more of an affliction.

Let's kick this off with breaking news -- there's a new kit of the USS Arizona on the horizon. Sized in the popular 1/350 scale, it's produced by a start-up Chinese company called Banner. It's their first offering. The last time a plastic kit of the Arizona was offered was in the late '50s.

That kit was produced by Revell, and was in the oddly sized 1/426th scale, called "box scale" by older modelers because, frankly, that was the size that fit in the box. The instruction sheet contained a request for donations to build the USS Arizona Memorial, and continued to do so long after the memorial was built. The kit is one of the best-selling model kits of all time.

The latest edition has it double-boxed as half of a "Pearl Harbor Attack Set," along with a bagged kit of a Hasegawa-manufactured B5N2 "Kate" bomber, plus a nice booklet. Resin and etched-metal parts are included.

The double kit goes for a little over $30, and is wildly over-boxed; there's enough room in there for a dozen more models. Even so, USS Arizona kits have been in short supply since the "Pearl Harbor" movie.

The '50s Revell kit, despite the odd scale, wasn't a bad piece of work back then, but the technology of producing model kits has improved mightily in the last half-century, and accelerated in the last five years thanks to computer-controlled moldmaking. The Revell kit is clunky by today's standards, but it's the only game in town.

Revell also produced a 1/720 Arizona, and Tom's Modelworks produced a fantastically detailed "garage kit" in 1/350 that had more than 500 parts.

Because of the number of parts, ship kits are generally ignored by major manufacturers in favor of airplanes and cars. But the new kit of the Arizona has an interesting background; it was commissioned by model-kit distributor Marco Polo as a result of marketing surveys, and Marco Polo then created a model company to meet the perceived demand.

Rumors of the kit had been floating for months, and the likely source for this all-American kit was almost certainly going to be overseas.

The adventuresome companies in the business are now in China and the former Soviet republics, while American manufacturers like Revell and Monogram have skated along on stale re-releases and wondering why their sales have slipped -- so badly that the American model-kit industry is virtually dead in the water.

Word of the "test shots" of the new Arizona kit indicate, surprisingly, that the engineering is heavily influenced by the ancient Revell kit. Many improvements have been made in the small details.

Release date for the Banner kit is still undecided, but will be before the 60th anniversary of the attack this December. Price will be in the $40 range.

Will the kit sell? The price is right, and if it's as accurate as promised, should have a long shelf-life.

TIP OF THE WEEK: The primary adhesive used in modeling these days is cyanoacrylate or "Krazy" glue, but since the stuff is watery and colorless, it's hard to see. New brands of cyanoacrylates are colored and easy to see as they're applied. Particularly when you glue your fingers together.

This is the first edition of a column devoted to collectors. If you have a collection worth sharing, write: Collections, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Feature section, 7 Waterfront Plaza Suite 210, Honolulu, HI 96813.

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