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Polar Lights VW - Spider-Man Issue Kit Review


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#1 Tom Geiger

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 06:03 PM

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I recently bought the Polar Lights Spider-Man Beetle.  A lot of guys will be turned off by the Marvel Comics tie-in but remember that Tom Lowe has always been the master of licensing, and his first love is the pop culture memorabilia hobby, which is a market much, much larger than ours puny little band of model car guys!  So a lot of these will be sold to Spider-Man and comic fans, many will never have the shrink wrap molested. A sale is a sale, so it's all good and hopefully the profits will be used to further kit releases we will like. 

 

Looking past the Spider-Man theme, and the peel and stick stickers (give them to a kid!), this is the second release of the original Polar Lights Herbie kit.  Again, the Herbie was aimed at the TV and movie memorabilia market. Back then a certain character working for Playing Mantis told me that when Herbie was designed, there was a follow up kit coming of a California custom Beetle.  With the sale of the company and ensuing confusion, it never got to market. Until now.  That's right, look past the stickers and you have that California Custom Beetle!

 

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Here's the sticker sheet included with the kit. Nobody here will be decorating their model with these, but the Spider-Man ones may just decorate my model tool box! At worst, give this sheet to a kid!

 

I will say a few things about Polar Lights / Playing Mantis back in the day.  I was very excited when I got this kit because my then 12 year old nephew swiped the first one I bought from me.  Okay, he gave me that puppy dog eye look and I gave it to him. Within an hour he had it all finished and looking rather neat on the table. It was molded in white, black for the chassis components and had a gray interior. That, along with the chrome and Herbie stickers gave it enough color to satisfy a Love Bug movie memorabilia collector. And remember that a 12 year old boy assembled it without any tools in less than an hour.  Still, the car had opening hood and trunk, full engine detail and enough detail overall to satisfy us serious modelers, who then could go further with customizing and detailing it out. 

 

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Here's a photo of an original Love Bug release.

 

So in the equation of the perfect balance of a kit for today's market... I think they hit it squarely on the head.  And who was working on this project back then?  Well, our own Art Anderson and another familiar name,  Dave Messner!  Speaking with Dave recently, he glossed over his involvement with the Beetle, saying he was prouder of the '64 GTO / '65 Dodge kits using this same theory.

 

Another interesting thing is that Polar Lights did this one in 1/24 scale, while their US models are all 1/25. So there was an attempt at complying with the International scale expected by the rest of the world on this German car. It does make sense and allows for kit bashing with the Revell of Germany and Japanese VW kits.  Sizing it up, it does match the Revell of Germany Beetle and the old Revell 1/25 Beetle is noticeably smaller.

 

Digging into the box is very interesting. Some folks probably just assume this is the Herbie kit with some silly stickers. Not so! This one comes with a slew of options.  First, are the Cali Custom style nerf bars for bumpers. They snap fit into the same mounts as the original kit US style bumper with over riders. The cool part is that the original bumpers are still in the kit, so you have two options.  There are two sets of bucket seats, the original stock ones as well as a nice custom set. Same with the steering wheel.  There is also a custom exhaust option. And there are two sets of outside mirrors to choose from, both round and rectangular.  Very neat detail!

 

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Steering wheel options....

 

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Front seats....  stock or custom seats? 

 

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Mirrors!  Choose a set for this build and have a set for another model! 

 

The wheel options are also very cool and surprising. There is a completely new chrome tree of just wheels! There are TWO optional sets of custom wheels with exposed lugs. The only problem is that there are 5 lugs when VWs of this era had 4 lug wheels.  If indeed those wheels were 4 lug, they’d have a ton of other applications, like 6 cylinder Falcons and Mustangs. I certainly would’ve investigated that!  (Craig Irwin posted that VWs of this 1963 era had a wide 5 bolt pattern. Bugs 1968 and later had 4 lugs. Thanks for clarifying!)

 

Aside from that are a set of Baby Moons, and a set of stock VW hub caps.  One will note that the original Herbie release didn’t include these since the movie car didn’t have VW emblems on it.  The original set of plain hubcaps are still on the original chrome tree.  Another short coming, but fitting with the snap assembly of the kit is that the stock wheels have no lug detail, only a mount point for one of the hub cap options.  Important to note that since the hood opens to show the spare tire, there are five tires and each wheel set has  five pieces. The shortcoming is that the spare tire would have alug nuts on it or a hub cap, not what we’d do in the real world at all.  I’m sure I can rustle up an exposed lug wheel to drill out and place there.

 

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This is the separate wheel tree. Note that there are five of every wheel. That includes the two custom wheel types, a set of Baby Moons, a set of stock VW logo hub caps and there is another set of plain caps on the other chrome tree!  That's FIVE friggin sets of wheel options in this kit.

 

Body wise, it’s the same as the Herbie kit, after all it is a Beetle. I think it’s fairly accurate but I’m sure someone will find fault with it. The bad news is that it’s molded in red. Not a nice bold and shiny red, but a dull near orange red. No problem for me since I plan on painting mine red, but red plastic can be a curse because it can bleed through paint, but also won’t result in a nice shiny model for those who just snap it together.  I’ll bet that the body surface was designed to accept those darn stickers!

 

Past that, a few comments on the body itself.  First, the soft top isn’t in this kit. I was happy to get it originally since it was the first time this popular and common VW option was kitted in either 1/25 or 1/24 scale and I have plans to use one on another build of a 1950s Beetle.  You can see where it was on the tree, there’s a cut off right next to the tail lights. A comment on the Herbie release is that while the top is included, the installation of it is disappointing. There are snap mounts on the side edges that are visible on a finished model.  I have already sanded them off the top piece, but the body includes the accepting holes, which still are visible since they protrude beyond the edge of the top piece.  So be prepared to fill this in to do a solid roof Beetle… or… the new kit body doesn’t have those holes, Round 2 has filled hose in. The bad news is that they didn’t do it all that well and I can still see the four mount holes as indents. So you will need to do a bit of surface repair with putty.

 

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Note that no matter how well this model was built, you can still see those pesky soft top mounts right above the doors!

 

  I can say that this appears to be the only bodywork you’ll need to do. The body is clean and I don’t even see mold lines. One observation is that the body is molded with a stiffener across the open hood area. Typical of models of every era, the usual “Remove This Piece” thingie.  Only on this kit, it’s attached rather well. For those of us into the hobby with a box full of knives and such it’s no problem. But for the casual builder or little kid who just wants to snap this thing together, it should just twist out. But it doesn’t.  It’s really in there and requires some serious cutting.

 

 

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The white body is the original Love Bug release with the roof holes for the soft top, The new release in red doesn't have the top included, or the holes in the body. Still, there are ghosts of those holes on that red body that will require putty work. 

 

The only other comment I’ll make about the body is that we mentioned that the Herbie release didn’t have VW emblems like the movie car, so the emblem on the hood was missing and they didn’t fix that on this release.  So you’ll need to add one. Good news is that the Revell of Germany kit has that as a separate chrome piece.  So you can steal that, or make a foil casting of it.  Note that I’ve seen a finished model of the Revell kit and that emblem seems to sit a bit high, so sand the back a bit to get it more in scale.

 

Another difference between the two releases, Herbie VS Spider-Man (or should we just say Cali Beetle?) is that the interior parts are molded in grey in Herbie and black in the new release.  So if you want a stock interior and own both kits, you can start with either depending on the color you want your interior.. either without paint, or as a cleaner base for priming and painting a lighter color interior.

 

So I know what you are all asking, “How does this affect Tom Geiger?”  Well, I originally bought the kit for $17 just to see what was in the box.  I was curious to see the new custom options and if the soft top was still in the box.  I’m pleased to get the same body without having to fill in the roof holes since I am planning on building a solid roof car.  So what do I plan?

 

When I was a kid I was a US Army brat and lived in Pirmasens, Germany from 1969-72. The first thing my father did when we got there was to buy a red early 1960s VW Beetle for transportation.  He paid a few hundred for it, from a departing serviceman.  It was a good car that served us well as our second car for the three years we were there. I don’t remember it ever breaking down or needing repairs. The paint had seen better days, but the body was solid. It was a good car.  The funny thing about it was that this may have been the only US spec VW on the army post. Lore was that it was originally sold in the USA and a serviceman got orders for Germany and Uncle paid to ship it there.  Upon leaving, he sold it and may have taken a new Mercedes home, since that was common among servicemen at the time.

 

So we were probably the third or fourth owner.  Our car had the US bumpers with the over riders while German cars just had the single blade bumper. During our ownership, the car got tapped in the rear and we put a German bumper on the back. So that’s how I’ll build mine, along with the USA oval from the Revell kit and I already found photos of  a set of the US Forces Germany plates (standard US size plate, green with silver lettering) that all our cars had back then. 

 

Our parting with this VW is also an interesting story. My father paid something like $500 for the Beetle and it served us well for the three years we were in Germany. He thought that having a car until the last day we were there was more important than selling it. There was a place where servicemen just left cars behind when they left.  Leave it there with the keys and title and maybe some poor GI would take it.  But for the most part those cars got vandalized and became parts cars.  The last week we were there a newly arrived officer asked me if he could walk to the PX from the motel attached to the officers club where we were both staying. I asked him if he needed a car, and managed to sell it to him for $300 with the stipulation that he’d get it the day we left.  My father was so impressed with my sale, that he let me keep the money!  My first car sale at 14!  And once we settled stateside in the New Jersey suburbs, I used that money to buy a lawn tractor to start the lawn business that provided all my needs throughout high school.

 

Back to the model.. So what does Tom think? I do like this kit. I liked the original Love Bug release and am happy to have the long lost California Beetle version, even if it is disguised with stickers.  It is nicely done and will go together well. I like the cool new custom parts, especially the extra effort of a whole new tree of wheel options. This release does have a lot of interesting options, and I was a bit surprised that they also included the stock pieces. It is a 2 in 1 kit for sure! They should mention on the box that you can build a stock VW from the kit, but they do not. They will lose sales because of that!

I’m happy to have the kit.  Right now my build theme seems to be recreating old family vehicles. I have my sister in law’s old Chevette on my shelf, and I am about to begin building my wife’s old Mustang II.  So it will be a quick project to build this VW. It will be cool to have this old family member on my shelf!


Edited by Tom Geiger, 20 June 2014 - 02:58 AM.


#2 jeffs396

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 06:14 PM

Thanks for the great review Tom!

 

I have passed right over this kit recently, but now I'll pick one up! B)



#3 russosborne

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 06:32 PM

Darn it Tom,

I am not really a huge VW fan but I am drooling over this now.

Will have to wait until I get re-employed though.

Russ



#4 unclescott58

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 06:34 PM

Great review Tom. I was very curious if this could built as a stock Beetle or not. As you may or may not know, the Polar Lights Herbie the Love Bug kit was base kit for my Batmobile Beetle conversion, I built a couple of years ago. (I posted pictures of that kit in underglass about a month ago. For those who wish to see it.) I liked the kit a lot and have wanted to build a stock one since. I have mixed feeling about the missing sunroof. My dad had a used '63 Beetle he drove back and forth to work in the late 60's. Great car. Green with a sunroof and gas heater. We loved the car.

You know what? I still have the sunroof from the Herbie kit. It wasn't used in the Batmobile conversion. Cool I can pickup this kit a build my father's Volkswagen!

Scott

Edited by unclescott58, 15 June 2014 - 07:28 PM.


#5 charlie8575

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 06:46 PM

Sounds like a pretty decent little kit. Perhaps I'll grab one.

 

Charlie Larkin



#6 crazyjim

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 02:54 AM

Thanks for the review. You mentioned a detailed engine but I didn't see any pics or further details.



#7 Danno

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 04:00 AM

Tom's review is very comprehensive and well done.  There's one area he didn't touch upon, however, and I'd like to add my addendum . . . with Tom's permission.

 

 

What struck me about the kit is this > > >

 

The kit is clearly targeted at the Spiderman fan, which includes a ton of youngsters . . . many of whom may not have built a model car kit before, or at the very least - have little experience.  While I thought the kit was an excellent rendition of the VW, with a plethora of quite nice and precise details, it was a challenge to assemble for a kid.  My grandson (7) loves to build models . . . snap kits.  He LOVES Spiderman.  This kit was a natural, right?

 

No.  Some of the parts were so tiny (scale fidelity was NOT a problem, it is a beauty!) and delicate that they did not survive the 7-year-old consumer's enthusiasm or need for instant gratification.  Some of the parts had locator pins that were larger than the corresponding holes.  Instructions for the engine assembly were a little vague, leaving parts positioning or location up for some spirited grandson/grandfather debates. 

 

No tools?  Hardly.  Both hood and decklid had fiddly hinge retainer attachments with tiny metal screws that required a small screwdriver (not supplied) and more than a little dexterity.  Not a good situation for a youngster.  Bad enough for a grown up trying to keep the youngster's attention focused on a kit that was already taking longer than any other youth-oriented snap kit ever had before. 

 

   

So, while it was an awesome kit for an adult builder taking appropriate time and care to assemble a Skill-3 level project, reminiscent of the old delicate, fiddly kits of the 60's Monogram/Revell era, it certainly was not a quick snapper build suitable for the most obvious target market.  I fear this one may turn off a lot of non-enthusiast parents who hope to provide their kidsters with fun, easy, snap projects for a rainy afternoon or after-school craft.  I fear this one may intimidate and frustrate some neophyte builders to the point them run back to the Cartoon Network or their Minecraft games and forsake modeling for a very long time.  I suspect many of these Spiderman kits will be relegated to the back of the toybox . . . but the stickers will be everywhere, for sure!

 

At our house, once the much anticipated grandson/grandfather build session commenced, the youngster's thrill upon receiving such an exciting kit quickly vaporized when the fiddliness set in.  Grandfather repeatedly went back to the box top . . . but still saw no warning that this was an adult skill level wolf hiding in kids' level sheep's clothing.  Nothing prepared the multi-generational build team for the shocking reality that this was not a quick, easy, satisfying birthday build.  Grampa ended up finishing the basic build and hauling a bunch of parts home to the workbench for touch-up work.  Birthday boy was back at the TV in short order, long before the VW took serious shape.

 

 

But, that's just my two-cents worth and does not diminish Tom's observations and assessments (made from an adult builder's perspective, for sure).


Edited by Danno, 16 June 2014 - 04:02 AM.


#8 DaveM

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 04:07 AM

Great review.  I snagged a couple of these when they were released, as I was down to my last two "Herbies"  I was hoping for a reissue, as the Love Bug was a pretty nice kit for what it was.  I haven't opened the Spiderman kits yet, so I didn't know about all of the extra parts. The extra wheels look nice, and the seats will find a place in something.  Again, I am glad to see this one back, although I cringed at the words "Molded in Red" .  Hopefully I will be able to build a yellow version without it turning orange.  I will probably save my two "Herbie" kits for the light colored builds.

 

The engine needs a bit of work, but the kit is fantastic with the hood closed, and you can't see most of the problems with the motor when it is installed. It sounds like the guys over on the aftermarket forum are trying to solve this situation.  I plan to do a couple of fun builds with these, including a drag beetle, and a front engined Chevy powered racer like I used to see in the '70s.  (Solves any problem with the engine!)  

 

Glad to see it back, and even more thrilled to hear that I have cool extra parts.

 

Dave



#9 DaveM

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 04:51 AM

Danno,  I noticed that with the Love Bug release.  I built that one with the Triplets when they were just turning 9 years old.  I would call it a skill level 1.5, not as easy as the 1/32 snap tights, but less difficult than a glue kit.  Luckily the Triplets had all built a few models before, and their older Sister helped us quite a bit.  (Also two of the three were fairly patient types for their age.)  All three of them turned out well.  After that kit, they were ready for glue kits, and it took off from there.  Now, they are in College (Where did the time go?) and they still build models of some type or another.  Amy is really into slot car dragsters, Beth does 1/72 WWI planes with all of their fiddly bits and rigging, and Dawn builds and flies Peanut scale model airplanes.  (Rubber powered scale models with 13" wingspans)  Mostly old air racers from the '30s.

 

They all still have their Love Bug models.

 

Dave



#10 Deathgoblin

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 07:22 AM

Okay, gonna have to pick one of these up.  :)



#11 cobraman

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 08:43 AM

Nice review Tom, thanks.



#12 Tom Geiger

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 09:18 AM

 

 

Tom's review is very comprehensive and well done.  There's one area he didn't touch upon, however, and I'd like to add my addendum . . . with Tom's permission.

 

Thanks Dan!  No permission needed,  anything I post is open to lively debate.  I like hearing your perspective. I haven't built the kit myself, so I'll watch out for some of the pitfalls you mention. I was just impressed when my nephew built it. Thanks!  

 

 

 

Thanks for the review. You mentioned a detailed engine but I didn't see any pics or further details.

 

JIm, I don't have a photo of the engine,  which surprised me!  The blue Beetle was built by Mike Havranek, a modeler who died a few years ago. He was someone you said hello to at shows, not a close friend, but when Dave Burket had his collection for sale I bought two pieces, this nicely done Beetle and his Green Hornet. Dave had actually put aside the Green Hornet for me since he knows I have a small collection of different style builds on that old Monogram classic.

 

warehouse-vi.jpg

 

My model collection... no wonder I can't find anything

 

I just went looking for the Beetle because I thought it was in one of my showcases. I was surprised when it wasn't there, so it must have  not been unpacked from my move (yea it was 4 years ago!).  I did dig into a few boxes and found some stuff I didn't know I had as well as four other built models I hadn't seen in awhile, so the time wasn't wasted.  But you know how it goes, I can hunt for hours and never find that VW, but one of these days it will jump out at me!  Maybe someone can post photos of their Beetle engine.


Edited by Tom Geiger, 16 June 2014 - 09:27 AM.


#13 Craig Irwin

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 02:55 PM

All good except the wheels. The Love bug was a 63 VW, so this kit should be too. VW did not go to 4 lug wheels until 1968, so this kit should use 5 lug wheels, although they were the big "wide five" pattern like some mid 30's Fords.

 

The custom wheels pictured above look to be a set of EMPI 5 spokes and a set of BRM's, both are great choices for a Cal Look bug.


Edited by Craig Irwin, 16 June 2014 - 02:59 PM.


#14 62rebel

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 03:13 PM

i built the Herbie for my Disney-fangirl wife and it did fall together well... i'll certainly grab a couple of these..... 



#15 Duntov

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 04:04 PM

The Herbie kit is good --- I have two --- 

 

It is basic but has all the components for a good build ---

 

This Spiderman version looks good too --- worth getting one or two ---

 

Thanks for the review --

 

Regards

Bill (Duntov)



#16 Jaguar man 21

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 02:02 PM

Nice looking kit

#17 Tom Geiger

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 02:41 PM

All good except the wheels. The Love bug was a 63 VW, so this kit should be too. VW did not go to 4 lug wheels until 1968, so this kit should use 5 lug wheels, although they were the big "wide five" pattern like some mid 30's Fords.

 

Thanks for that comment.  I found photos of VWs with 4 lugs and assumed they all had them!  Good to hear the 5 lug wheels included in the kit are correct!   :)



#18 pack rat

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 02:46 PM

Here's the Spiderman engine....not the clearest engine pic but it's all I have.  

Attached Files



#19 johnbuzzed

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 03:07 AM

When I first noticed the topic all I saw was "Spiderman" and wondered: "What the heck is a Spiderman kit review doing here?" Ahh, now I see.  Details, details, details...Thanks for the cool review, Tom.  This kit seems to be a good slump-buster or weekend build.



#20 Brett Barrow

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 04:31 AM

I honestly think this one would sell better if it was in white plastic and just had regular box art showing the features of the kits.  I don't know how these tie-in kits are doing in a broader retail setting, but for our hobby-focused website they aren't doing that well.  This one seems like it would just get passed over and no one would ever know about all the extra parts lurking inside.  Thanks for the review.