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Its 70 years to the month when the Americans got their butt kicked at Pearl Harbor and they haven't looked back since. But can you name the only battleship not to be sunk at Pearl? Well, believe it or not but the USS Phoenix did indeed rise from the flames and was later purchased by the Argentinean navy and served for twenty years in the South Atlantic - yep, the General Belgrano no less!
Mrs. Thatch sunk the 400 ton warship and earned 323 crosses on her bedstead, the Belgrano anchor no doubt nailed up over her gold plated toilet! All Cameron could muster was a shell case from munitions recently fired at Libya from a British frigate, the projectile bit merely clipping an olive seller's market stall, the plan to use it as a doorstop at Number Ten his war trophy. What a man! But Airfix could have stopped all that nonsense, Galtiere and Mrs. T meticulously making their models of the Belgrano and the sub that sunk her in their downtime and then going head-to-head in a bath tub somewhere between Buenos Aries and London to reclaim the islands, winner takes all. Think Michael Bentine to complete the picture. Who knows, they might have got on!
Whereas as in my day working-class lads fought their wars in their bedrooms and back gardens with Airfix Supermarine Spitfires shooting up ME109s, today's lower class youth are doing the real thing and rucking over oil and gas in distant lands, most infantryman killed in modern wars under 22. The flyboys are much safer these days, of course, and rarely lose people, why it was great to be a kid back in the 1970s when a childhood was so innocent. Making kits of all manner of military equipment was a fabulous time, Airfix the preferred supplier although Mattel pretty good too, and we didn't lose our limbs if we stepped on an IED in our bedrooms as we played out our wars.
As kid my bedroom was littered with kits and I still have some survivors today tucked away in boxes, my war trophies. In my youth the bedroom ceiling was a frantic air war between George Lucas and David Lean, the Millennium Flacon swooping in on a Japanese Zero, skillfully suspended with cotton, but a legendary game of footy in the room with my brother wiping out half the Luftwaffe. I was always cruel to my ME109. Maybe because I didn't want to admit that it was as beautiful as the Spitfire. Now kids fight their wars on the XBOX and I have to say it's just not the same thing. Running down the garden with a Lancaster bomber you have just built to bomb the blue/mauve German paratroopers (also from Airfix) and their half-track advancing across the lawn is as good as the real thing as far as I was concerned.
Not only where there Airfix kits for just about anything from the war theatre over the years but you could buy the paints and varnish from the same company to paint them. I recall Humbrol paints were better though and the world's smallest paint cans and extremely overpriced. But Humbrol, who owned Airfix, collapsed like Jordan's knickers and another beautiful British company (as Al Murray would proudly bellow!) would save them, Hornby now the owners of both.
Building your kits was the whole point of the experience, of course, no doubt the spark of interest for many young engineers today. My first kit was the Apollo 1l, which, after me and dad spent ages on it, melted on top of the gas fire to earn a leaning tower of Pizza look. If you don't get your glue and heat mix right its reactor meltdown time.
The kits had the coolest boxes ever and very welcome in your Christmas stockings, a project for later on in the Christmas holidays. I remember one year that I got some aluminous dinosaurs in kit form and was absolutely over the moon with them. Funny how memories pop into your heads when you attack nostalgia on the keyboard. Airfix are a box of nostalgia for me.
The pieces to make the Spitfire kit and the like are typically attached to a plastic scaffold that has numbered tabs to break them off from so you can follow the instructions to put all the pieces in the right place to make your plane. Of course there was always something left over and other bits that were just too fiddly ad irrelevant that you didn't bother with the excruciating task of sticking them where they needed to go. Cockpits were a nightmare because you would get glue all over the plastic glass and it would start to melt as you 'tweezered' in the joystick between the pilots legs. The real hardcore Airfix kids (and dads) would have painted everything separately and that joystick already in place, the required level of pedanticness your choice. I was more of a stick the big bits together first kid and then put what's left in the gaps, which inevitably meant the undercarriage wouldn't come down and the flaps glued in the same position.
The next job was to paint the thing with your Humbrol paints, which I found the most satisfying as fresh paint caressed the roughened plastic wings and fuselage. The Spitfire looks especially beautiful when fully liveried and one of our greatest inventions. Once that was dry you would then take out your decal sheet and dip the in warm water and then slide them of on to the planes wings and body, finally bringing it too life and ready for take off. All you had to do know was buy the Airfix ground crew and the build the control tower. I even had the fueler's truck. I think I made my own windsock and ground radar.
Because you only ever bought one of everything your assembled air force would look awkward and your dogfights always predicable, the 'Spit' going up against the cumbersome but cool JU88 'Stuker' dive-bomber, or the Mitsubishi Zero having a tear up with the awesome Mustang P51. I also had the B17 and B29 Flying Fortress, magnificent bombers.
If air battles weren't your thing then Airfix did cars, boats and all manner of models. Warships were always fun as you hoped they would float in your bath and if you were clever enough you could seal weights in the hull to achieve just that, then a straight battle of Midway between your kits and Lego boats.
So in conclusion if I had kids I would definitely buy kits for them, educational toys like Airfix at the right age surely growing the kid's brain. The sense of achievement of putting together one of these from start to finish was special. Sadly, today the 12-year-olds growing out of basic toys would rather sniff the glue and have their wars on the X-Box than actually stretch their brains. The Spitfire and the like costs around £4.99 on Amazon and £7.99 on the high street. For a toy that will keep your kids occupied for a while with an end product to be proud of that's not a bad deal - unless dad takes over, of course...
Now this is the classic model! Everyone's first model has to be a Spitfire... it's the law! Well, and the fact that it's a skill level 1 model. The Spitfire is a nice, simple model. It's perfect for complete beginners.
There aren't really any fiddly bits. The fiddliest bit is the cockpit, but even that isn't too testing. As it's a 1:72 scale model, the actual finished product will be about 12cm long and 15 cm wide. To be honest, there aren't that many parts to it. It's not the biggest model going, so none of the parts are that big, but given the fact that there aren't many parts it's perfect for begginers. As far as construction time goes, it won't take that long. Obviously you have to leave paint and glue to dry, but you'll have it finished in about 3 days (working on and off). The kit itself is generally around £5, but you need seven paints. These are about £1.50 each. Plus glue is about £3. But trust me, you don't need all those paints (some you only need a dab). But you'll be painting this in standard world war 2 camoflage, so there's a lot of room for error. Just splach on the paint and you're done!
The only trouble I find with these smaller models is the quality. Usually, you'll find that parts don't fit together perfectly. Or you get overlaps. For example, when I did this model, the left side of the tail was slightly larger than the right side. But then again, that only means a little trimming is required. These smaller scale models never make a show-peice, you need a larger scale for the, but they are a starting point.
Overall, this is a begginers model; cheap, minimum effort required, nice and simple with not many parts. It's great as a first attempt model, but don't expect the have a show-peoce at the end. It won't be perfect, but it'll be a start.