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About Mike999

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    MCM Ohana

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  • Scale I Build

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  • Location
    South Carolina
  • Full Name
    Michael S. Smith

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  1. What Pleased You Today!

    This sure pleased me. At a flea market a few weeks ago, I found a big, weird 1/72 scale aircraft kit: the Testors XR-75 "Penetrator." Paid $3.00 for it. Put it up on eBay with a starting bid of $9.99. It sold last night for $51.50 and got a lot of bids. Here's what it looks like, in case you see one at a yard sale or flea market:
  2. A hot late-summer afternoon in 1955. You're on a long vacation, blasting north on California's Highway One in your (nearly) new Chevy. The cross-country drive was long and tiring but worth every mile now. The scenery along the Pacific Coast Highway is gorgeous, including the scenery walking around the beaches. Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" is roaring out of the radio, but your Chevy's 265 Power-Pack engine sounds even better. Suddenly you see a black blob up on the road up ahead. A Buick. Some old geezer, poking along at the speed limit. On the 1955 General Motors ladder, Buick occupies the Number Two rung, right under Cadillac. Buicks are solid cars for solid citizens: doctors, lawyers, bankers and the like. Cars for conservative people who can afford Cadillacs, but think Caddys are too flashy. Movie stars and the nouveau-riche buy Cadillacs. People like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, both of whom certainly resemble at least part of an early Fifties Cadillac... You blast past the Buick, giving the geezer a cheery wave. A few seconds later a big shark-mouth grille and the chrome letters KCIUB suddenly fill your rear-view mirror, along with a blinking red light and the sound of a screaming siren. A cop in a BUICK? Really? You mumble a phrase your grandchildren will use one day on the internet: "WTF...?" ********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* The 1955 Buick, Model 68 In the 1950's, the California Highway Patrol was one of Detroit's best (and most demanding) customers. For 1955, no less than six car companies aggressively competed for the CHP contract. The winning low bidder was a vendor who had never built CHP vehicles before: Buick. Since nothing in the Buick catalog fit CHP requirements, the carmaker Frankensteined together something new, the Model 68. That model was never sold to the public. It was built for the CHP and nobody else. These were some of the first cars built exclusively for police service, unlike the usual stock sedans fitted with lights and a siren. Nearly a decade before Pontiac unleashed its GTO, the Model 68 was basically a muscle car, a factory-built hot rod. Its base was the lightest, cheapest Buick Special 2-door sedan. The Special came standard with a 264 cubic inch, 188-hp V8 engine. Buick dropped the bigger V8 engine from its Century model into the Special and also bolted on the whole Century front clip. That was a serious power upgrade, to 322 cubic inches and 236 horsepower. The Model 68 also got the biggest brakes available, from the heavy, top-of-the-line Roadmaster model. Those Century front fenders gave the Model 68 an instant identifying feature: 4 front fender portholes like more expensive Buicks, instead of the Special's 3 portholes. And while the Model 68 was a fleet car built to a contract price, it was equipped like any other Buick, with niceties like full interior carpeting and arm-rests. The CHP added its own equipment: an under-hood siren and under-dash police radio with a big whip antenna. A red spotlight was mounted on the driver's side and a clear spotlight on the opposite door. A single amber blinking light sat on the driver's side of the package tray. Because the CHP swapped equipment out of wrecked and retired cars, the amber light was mounted on a piece of plywood for quick removal. Buick only built 270 of these cars (some sources say 268). For CHP research purposes, half were equipped with the Dynaflow automatic transmission, and the other half with the manual three-speed. One story says the CHP very quickly had a problem with the manual-transmisson cars: drivers liked to run them up to about 70 mph in second gear, leading to some...maintenance issues. That wasn't the only problem. The Model 68 had plenty of go but not enough stop, even with its big Roadmaster brakes. On the dyno, the Model 68 clocked a top speed of 108 mph. Stopping that big Buick from high speed turned out to be downright scary; the brakes faded quickly to nothing under hard use and brake system components had a high failure rate. Steering and handling were Titanic-like. In general for 1955, Buick set high production records, at the usual cost of quality control. Neither GM nor the CHP seemed very happy with the Model 68 experience. Some sources estimate that, with all the re-engineering, Buick lost money on the contract. And after 1955, the CHP never bought cars from Buick again. As far as I can find, no original Model 68 cars have survived. Several "tribute" cars have been built, most copying Broderick Crawford's famous ride in the first season of the "Highway Patrol" TV show. One of the most famous tribute cars is a 2-door hardtop, not the correct sedan body. Here's a link about the real car Maisto copied for its '55 Buick CHP die-cast, with info provided by its builder/owner. He built his tribute on a Century 2-door sedan, not a Special, and Maisto copied the (wrong) Century nameplates on the rear quarters: http://topclassiccarsforsale.com/buick/13183-1955-buick-century-model-68-chp-california-highway-patrol-police.html ********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* UPGRADING THE MAISTO DIE-CAST For a cheap model (around US $10), the 1/26 scale Maisto CHP Buick is very nice. It includes most of the correct CHP equipment, right down to 1955 California government "E-code" (Exempt) license plates. As usual with die-casts, the plastic parts of this kit are not regular styrene. They're a soft plastic that's a real pain to sand and thin. The plastic parts get "fuzzy" when sanded and require a lot of clean-up with a sharp knife. The worst part of this model is its flat silver, non-chrome side and window trim. That just looks wrong. I used Bare Metal Foil on the side spears and window bottoms, and Molotow Liquid Chrome for the windshield and rear window trim. Added open vent windows made from clear plastic sheet, and used the Molotow pen to add the chrome trim around them. Maisto got the CHP lights right, but missed one obvious piece of gear: that big whip antenna. It was held down with a small clip on the rain gutter. I found the antenna base in the parts stash and made the hold-down clip from a tiny piece of photo-etch metal scrap. I drilled thru the antenna base and added an antenna made of stretched sprue. That let me add the "ball" on the end, by simply heating the sprue. The antenna is also painted with Molotow Liquid Chrome. INTERIOR: I put lots of work into the interior...which was pretty stupid, since most of it is invisible now. The "before and after" pix below show the changes. The basic interior got rear armrests/ash trays added, along with quarter-panel upholstery made from very thin corrugated metal. It matched the front door upholstery almost perfectly. The front door armrests were scratch-built from Evergreen half-round strips. The carpet is black embossing powder. The seats come molded with a good 3-D upholstery pattern. They got a dark wash and some dry-brushing with light gray oil paint, to pop out that upholstery detail. I also added the plywood board under the amber package-tray light, along with 4 tiny photo-etched Phillips-head screws from Lion Roar. These boards were probably painted black, but then it would have disappeared. Maybe the CHP Shop Supervisor took a day off... STEERING WHEEL: this annoyed me. Its back was perfectly flat with no finger notches. (See photos). And it's generally just blah. I found an exact sized wheel in the parts stash and sanded it down until it fit the Maisto wheel from the back. Added the Chest-Buster chrome bullet in the middle of the wheel from the parts box, and painted in something like the Buick crest. I also cut off the clunky shift lever/turn signal stalk, drilled thru the steering column, and replaced both with stretched sprue. DASHBOARD: see the photos. From left to right I added the headlight switch, wiper switch and heater control switches/knobs, all made from stretched sprue. I also built the small control box hanging under the left side of the dash, with toggle switches and indicators for the lights and siren. The instruction sticker above the control box is a random HO-scale decal. The keys and key ring are from Model Car Garage. I moved the loudspeaker to its correct place beside, not under, the police radio. I carefully shaved the microphone off the Maisto dash and made it fatter with plastic scrap. Then made a coiled cable from spark-plug wire and hung the mike on the dash, where it belongs. A couple of photo-etched instrument bezels fit the 2 Buick dashboard pods perfectly. Glued those down and filled them with Future to get the clear-glass look over the bezels. Maisto provides the radio-delete plate on the dashboard but it's the wrong shape and size. In the end I just added Bare Metal Foil and some grooves. I also added a decal to the round clock-delete plate on the right side. Look closely and you'll see a pair of sunglasses on top of the dash. Comments and criticisms welcome. Sorry for some awful photos, hope to upgrade the camera soon.
  3. Sealed or open?

    I've never had a problem with a blatant rip-off on eBay either, using it since 1998, I think. Only a few times where sellers just didn't know much about kits and goofed. One woman sold me a kit with no instructions. She posted several pics of the open kit, but I didn't notice that none showed the instructions. So mostly my fault. I did message her (politely!) and said she might want to mention, in the Description, if kits were missing instructions. She messaged right back and apologized, saying she didn't know much about scale models and asking if I wanted a refund. I didn't, it was a Jo-Han Eldorado at a great price. I already had one, and my neighbor's cat could build that kit without instructions anyway. My current eBay sale includes a pretty rare resin kit. One eBayer messaged and asked if I could provide more photos. That seemed reasonable, he wants to see exactly what he's getting. I just took some more photos and added them to the Listing. Years ago, editing your eBay Listings was a lot harder than it is now.
  4. Sealed or open?

    Or their eyesight and reading skills, apparently. I have an eBay sale up right now. One item has the scale mentioned in the Listing header; several times in the Listing itself; and the scale is on the box photo that goes along with the listing. Somebody emailed me to ask: "What scale is this kit?" That happens every time I have an eBay sale. I get several questions that are already answered in the Listing, if the eBay shoppers would only read it. As for sealed Japanese kits: I have a Gunze-Sangyo 1/24 Karmann-Ghia kit that I bought in Tokyo back in the 1990's. It's shrink-wrapped and has a shop sticker on one end from Tenshodo, the big hobby/train shop in the Ginza shopping district. But I have another Gunze kit I bought in Taiwan that was never shrink-wrapped. Go figure.
  5. Talked to a Psychic today.....

    Good one! The Los Angeles Police Department...and I'm tempted to say "naturally"...conducted 2 scientific studies into the use of psychics. I lived in L.A. a long time, and there were always psychics claiming they had consulted with the LAPD. Which I guess is true, if by "consulted" they meant they called the LAPD and tried to insert themselves into a high-profile case. Link to full article about the studies below. But the next time you hear some publicity-hog TV psychic claiming they worked with the LAPD, here's the bottom line straight from the horse's mouth, their Public Relations office: "The LAPD has not, does not, and will not use psychics in the investigation of crimes. Period. If a psychic offers free information to us over the phone, we will listen to them politely, but we do not take them seriously. It is a waste of time." http://daktologistindustries.com/totse_archive/en/technology/science_technology/lapd.html
  6. Seriously??

    I have zero interest in that kit myself, but I just checked all the online American vendors I use, in case I could help: FreeTime, Hobbylinc, MegaHobby, Model Roundup, Scale Hobbyist, and Tower. Sorry gang, none of them has the Foose pickup kit in stock. (Soapbox) Even if I wanted one, I'd never pay that kind of price for it. I checked that eBay seller's other items. He has some other kits marked up to nosebleed prices as well, including a couple he probably bought at Ollie's for $7.99. "If it's at Ollie's, it must be discontinued and RARE!!! Ka-Ching!" (/Soapbox)
  7. Hobbylink Japan does have most of these in stock. With the warning that the kit was "molded in the 1970s." But Aoshima did add a set of new wheels. I'm having to stop myself from getting this snazzy, bright-yellow Sambar with the roof rack and accessories, at the link below. If Hobbylink should be out of them, go to eBay and try Tokyo-Hobby, also in Japan. They have decent prices and shipping. https://hlj.com/product/AOS05422
  8. Ollie's strike again

    Ollie's stores must be getting in fresh batches of kits. Went to my closest one today. It had several kits that were not available on my last visit, 2 weeks ago: the Revell Danica Patrick NASCAR kit; Lindberg Dodge L-700 with chrome tanker trailer; Lindberg '25 Tall T hot rod; Revell pre-painted 2014 Mustang in several different colors. Also the Lindberg classic Bugatti Victoria and '29 Mercedes kits. And probably some others I forgot.
  9. Another fun and interesting review of a...well, not-so-interesting car to me. Here's one of my favorite Aoshima kei car kits, also from the "Best Car Vintage" line: the Subaru Sambar van. It comes with all those great extras shown on the box: rubber raft with paddles, SCUBA gear, small surfboard etc. The red-and-white Japanese Post Office version also has all that stuff, but it's not shown on the box top.
  10. Harley WLA Bobber

    Also lots of vintage German motorcycles, going back to the ancient Tamiya and Italeri kits from the 70's. Modern kits of BMWs and Zundapps are available from Master Box, Lion Roar, Zvezda etc. Zvezda also makes a 1/35 Russian motorcycle that was a copy of the BMW R12. IBG makes a kit of a pre-war, civilian R12 with sidecar. It has optional parts for a straight civilian bike or one confiscated by the Wehrmacht and militarized. Also options like single or dual carburetors. Here's a review of it from Perth Military Modelling: https://www.perthmilitarymodelling.com/reviews/vehicles/ibg/igb35001.html
  11. Harley WLA Bobber

    Here's another neat and unusual 1/35 scale motorcycle. It comes in the MENG #HS-005 FT-17 Light Tank Crew & Orderly kit. Along with figures and accessories for the Renault FT-17 tank, that kit includes a 1917 Peugeot 750-cc 2-cylinder motorcycle and dispatch rider. If you really like aggravation, ET Models makes a photo-etched detail set for the bike, available on eBay.
  12. Hobby Lobby/ Michaels ?

    Same here. I've found those expensive Tamiya Weathering Powders marked way down in the Clearance section. Also Vallejo acrylic model paints, fine markers and other useful stuff. So I always look for more than kit boxes. I now have 4 HL's in driving distance, one right next door. In two of those stores, the regular Clearance section is at the far left side of the store as you walk in, way in the back corner. In the other 2, it's on the opposite side, still way in the back. But as others have said, kits may or may not be in that Clearance section. Sometimes they are marked down and left in the kit aisle. Other times they're on a stand-alone island, usually near the kits but not always.
  13. eBay's newest crummy trick

    Repeating one of my favorite eBay stories, which should be true even if it isn't: when Meg Whitman left eBay and the new CEO took over, he gave an interview saying he wanted to promote eBay Stores and retail sellers more, not the casual sometime sellers. He also remarked, "Right now eBay looks too much like a flea market." The story says he immediately got several thousand irate emails, all saying: "It IS a flea market, you idiot."
  14. ollies

    The Ollie's in Anderson, SC didn't have a single one of those NASCAR Fords. Which is weird, because every other store in the country seems to have them. (No loss to me, I don't really want one,) That store had the Lindberg 1/12 Fiat, 1/25 Dodge L-700 car transporter/junker 40 Ford, and the 32 Ford hot rod. Along with plenty of old Lindberg aircraft, armor and ship kits. I'm running over there in a few days, it's about 25 miles away. Will have to check and see if they have anything new.
  15. Hobby Lobby/ Michaels ?

    No connection between Michael's and Hobby Lobby that I could find. They're fierce competitors. No comparison in my area when it comes to model kits. Hobby Lobby probably has 5 times the number of kits that Michael's carries. The same town near me that has both stores also used to have a HobbyTown. It closed down long ago, which I hated. That was a great store, with a big selection of cars, armor, aircraft and other plastic kits. It also sponsored model contests, just like hobby shops did in the good old days.