New Build Series: Strange New Worlds

As a young model builder, pretty much any kit I could afford was game. While I focused mostly on aircraft, anything that caught my eye was likely to end up on my shelf of built models. Certainly my birthday, Christmas, and visits to grandma’s house presented opportunities for a variety of kits.

Price often determined what I might build also. While I remember being able to purchase bagged kits at less than a dollar apiece, sometimes I’d need paints or glue, yet the need to squeeze in some plastic on the purchase meant I’d get whatever might fit into the money I had.

One birthday that I recall was especially bountiful. It would have been in ’77 or ’78. I received a Hasegawa 1/72 Mig-25, a Chevy Luv with a camper shell and cool UFO graphic for it, a kit of the Bismarck, and several other Monogram 1/72 scale kits. The friends in attendance marveled at the bounty of models I received, and one told me later that if he’d known I was getting all those models, he’d have given me a squirt gun instead. 🙂

Other model’s came from working to mow yards, or babysitting for neighbors. One fellow went out of town frequently,  and he paid me to feed his dogs. As I really liked his dog – a very friendly and playful German shepherd, I’d have done it for free. But the $10 he gave on the return from each trip meant much plastic goodness as a result.

I even used the old S&H Green Stamps to buy models. My mom shopped at a store that gave them out, and so I’d dutifully get the stamps from her each week, and stick them in the little booklets. When I had enough, we’d head up to the S & H Green Stamps store, and I’d turn my books in for a model.

Quite A Variety

The list of models I built in my pre-teen years would be quite long. A shrink-wrapped, three box set from Lindberg comes to mind. It had a very early Corvette, an OS2U Kingfisher, and the USS Arizona. The Green Stamps resulted in a 12 inch tall Darth Vader, and also his TIE Fighter. Money from both of my grandmothers was immediately taken to Woolworths, and spent on lots and lots of Monogram 72nd scale fighters.

Tanks, halftracks, hovercraft, biplanes, prop fighters, jets, artillery pieces, cars, ships, science fiction, figures, and even a bust or two all found their way on to my model desk. Along the way though, things changed. As I got older, friends stopped giving model kits, and I started receiving money, or cassette tapes, or cologne in NFL themed bottles. (That kid was kinda weird… 😉 )

And my buying choices narrowed down a bit. The focus was more on aircraft, and a few tanks. Anything with a Sheperd Paine diorama brochure was always welcome. As time progressed, it all became a steady stream of airplanes. For whatever reason, the variety died out.


Early teen model building gave way to mid and late teen sporting activities, playing guitar, driving my car, and of course… girls. The models I’d loved so much simply became things sitting on a shelf collecting dust. When I eventually moved out on my own, the shelves were emptied without a passing thought. Dozens of models were unceremoniously dumped in the garbage. (Oh to have a few of those back, just for nostalgia sake.) All that I actually have from those early modeling days are a tiny 25 pounder 8th Army artillery piece, and a main wheel from a Monogram B-29.

In 2006, I started building models again, and my focus was right back on aircraft. And build them I did – averaging about two dozen per year – or more – for a decade. Yet the enthusiasm began to burn out. I was getting bored building the same stuff over and over. In a last-ditch effort to stay in the hobby, I picked up a Gunpla kit.

Of course, this lead to more Gunpla, and Warhammer, scifi, Ma. K, and quite a few other things that were very different from what I’d built since 2006. The fun returned to the hobby. These were different, with new ideas and methods and styles to explore. Whole sections the digital landscape were opened up as I began to interact with communities that I’d never paid one bit of attention to.

And He’s Getting To A Point…. Now!

It was not lost on me that part of the problem I’d run into in aircraft building was doing the same thing over and over. And while the universes in scifi are very, very diverse, I started seeing that stompy robot things, flying fighter things, and rolling shooting things all have some degree of “sameness” to them. So I began to consider ways of introducing some additional variety now and again.

It’s funny how quite often life intersects our thoughts. I’d been pondering a car build, as that was a genre that had not been on my workbench since the Carter administration. A coworker, knowing I built models, gave me a kit for Christmas – a 1957 Chevy, my mostest favoritest car of all time. Because it’s SO COOL. 🙂

I’d also had a friend from my Army days asking if I planned to build any WWII era capital ships. To top it off, I saw a build in a magazine of a bulldozer, and the weathering on it looked quite cool.

Thus the idea hatched for a new build series I’ll be undertaking through 2019. I’m titling it “Strange New Worlds”. While the nod to scifi is quite obvious, the builds will be anything but. Yet for me, these will be “Strange New Worlds”.

First Up – Porsche Made What?

The first build I’ll tackle is Revell’s Porsche Diesel Junior 108 in 1/24th scale. Yes, Porsche made tractors. Part of the reason I chose this kit was simply the irony to me of a tractor from that company. The name Porsche invokes visions of speed, sleek design, and excellent handling. Yet a tractor is none of that.

My plan for this kit is to use it as an exercise in weathering. Not excessive, rusted out, seen better days weathering. Rather, I want to try to reproduce how it might look if the equipment was used quite often, and though well cared for, showed the signs of its utilitarian nature, rather than it being something precious.

It will be a challenge I think because it is a hard target to hit. When a vehicle is well used, yet well maintained, it can still be quite dirty. The parts required to function may be cleaner and neater, yet other parts which are not quite so essential to the basic mission may receive less care. So it can be a mix of weathering, and I think will require careful attention.

The Coolest Car Ever

My dad loved ’57 Chevys, and he passed that on to me. The sleek curves, great quantities of chrome, and simply the general look of the cars in this era have always caught my eye. The 1957 Chevy Bel Air always seemed to me to be the height of it all. (Though the ’59 Caddy El Dorado convertible is a close second!)

When my coworker gifted this kit to me at Christmas, AMT’s 1/25th ’57 Chevy Bel Air, she had no idea it was my favorite car, or that I’d been contemplating building one. So her choice was serendipitously perfect. This model will be the second build in this series.

My vision for this, right now, is a bit poignant and special. I’ll not say the full idea, as I want to flesh it out and make sure it will work. But I plan for the model to be weathered, and a bit worn, but yet very serviceable. (Much like the tractor.) The whole plan of weathering will fit into the “story” I hope the model will tell. I plan to include a base for it to set on, and if I can find a suitable one, a figure.

Call It Heavy Metal

The final model for this series will be a big, giant, honkin’ battleship, the Trumpeter 1/700 USS North Carolina. This one is special to me on many levels.

First, it will be fun to show to an old Army buddy, who has been asking me about WWII US Navy ships for sometime. Even just a few months ago I’d never seriously considered building something like this. The scale is difficult to work in given my eyesight and shaky hands. And other than knowing they float and make loud booms, I know little about large ships. And weathering in this scale can quickly be overblown. Still, I’m quite happy that I’ll be able to show this to my friend as it progresses.

The second reason this is special is because I live in North Carolina, and have visited the actual ship, which is anchored in Wilmington, North Carolina. It is BIG, too. It takes several hours to walk through the portions of the ship open to the public. Seeing the gun turrets, ammo elevators, control facilities, mess areas, living quarters, and everything else is quite amazing. So this one will be unique in that it’s one of the few models I can build – and then if I want to take the model and hold it up next to the real thing!

Break Out Of The Shell

As I build each of these models, I hope it will be fun for readers to watch the progress, see the challenges I face, and how I overcome them. Or not. 🙂

Yet I also want to use this as a bit of a platform to encourage people to explore outside of their “usual worlds”, and to go into “strange new worlds”. While I enjoyed building aircraft for so many years, I also look back with a bit of regret, as there have been many kits released all along the way that I likely would have quite enjoyed. Certainly an argument could be made that I was not ready to explore. Still, you never know.

But I can take steps to correct that omission now.

So please stay tuned as I build models from these “Strange New Worlds”. And if you’re inclined, join in and step outside your own universe, and find something new to stretch you.


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