Viewpoint – September 2017

Land Rover Defender by John Tapsell

In my last column I mentioned that I’d recently completed an M577 Command Vehicle. The kit is an old one that Tamiya first released in the mid 1970s. They have re-issued it periodically over the subsequent decades and it’s still the only 1/35 scale kit of this M113 variant available. The Tamiya M113 kits get a bad press these days and the general consensus is that the Academy kits are much better – and the brand new AFV Club M113 is said to be the bee’s knees, not that I’ve actually seen one so I’ll reserve judgement. Neither am I in a rush to buy it. I don’t ‘need’ it but since the M113 is a particular favourite of mine I’ll almost certainly pick one up in the next year or two.

Maybe I’m a contrary individual but I can’t see that much ‘wrong’ with the Tamiya kits. Sure, they are 40 years old and some of the parts show that, but the fundamentals are good and they provide a brilliant starting point for the type of project that I really enjoy. I also like the Academy M113s, but not to the extent that I’d refuse to buy a Tamiya one.

Almost on the back of the M577 project I’ve started tinkering around with an M1 Abrams detailing project. It’s going to be an original M1 rather than a current M1A2 SEP. The M1 is my era, the period when I really got into modelling in a serious way. The vehicles that were around in the 1980s and 1990s have an appeal that keeps drawing me back. Once again it’s an old Tamiya kit, first released in 1982. I’ve built it before, several times, but this one has a particular appeal. It’s going to be ‘old school’, with minimal aftermarket and maximum scratchbuilding. It’s going to have character and I’m going to push the boundaries of my skill-set to achieve the final goal of the project. I’m already identifying features that no model manufacturer seems to have captured and that’s feeding my passion for the project.

If you keep up to speed with new armour releases you’ll know that Panda have announced an early M1 Abrams and I’m sure some of you will question why I’ve started on a 35 year-old kit when I could have a brand new, state-of-the-art 2017 kit instead. There are several answers to that question.

Firstly, having been working in 1/48 scale for several years, I have been shocked by the massive price hikes I’ve seen in 1/35 scale kits in the time I’ve been working in quarter-scale. Kits I bought for £25 (or less) are now retailing for double that. It’s not that I can’t afford them, it’s because I simply cannot justify in my own head spending £60.00 or more on a single kit.

Neither do I want a kit containing several hundred parts, most of which are so small and fragile that I’ll lose several of them permanently during construction. That’s the joy of well-engineered kits from the likes of Tamiya and Italeri and their ilk. They supply components that are well detailed but not broken down into 20 pieces, where 5 would suffice. I’ve said before and I continue to stand by it, that some of Italeri’s 1970s releases are absolute gems and are as good as anything that’s available today. The second major reason was that I already had the Tamiya kit in my stash so I couldn’t see the need to buy yet another kit. That’s the trap too many of us fall into – It’s new therefore I gotta have it!

There is nothing so fundamentally wrong with the much older Tamiya kit that some modelling skills and patience won’t resolve. Besides, the thing I enjoy most about my hobby is taking a good kit and refining it using the skills I’ve picked up over the years, rather than assembling a kit that I can’t put any of my personality into. There is most definitely a place for photo-etch sets and resin upgrades in our hobby and I’m not averse to using them. However, I prefer to attempt the changes myself wherever possible. To hark back to last month’s column, I have that most precious commodity of all – time. I have no schedule, no self-imposed deadlines. A project will takes as long as it needs.

And once it’s finished? Very few people are going to be able to identify exactly which kit you’ve used unless you tell them. Seriously, does it really matter? We’re just too brand-conscious these days and the origin of a kit seems at times to be important than the finished model. Similarly, it pays to look beyond the age of a kit rather than just dismissing it because it’s old. Just as some modern kits are more style than substance, there are older kits out there that have stood the test of time and deserve to be treated with respect.

John Tapsell

Copyright IPMS(UK)

First published in Scale Military Modeller International magazine