The MoB gets Tanked
(December 2001)

Tankorama2001 was the second such event the real AMA has hosted at the Melbourne Tank Museum.  It is really nothing more than an excuse for armour modelling enthusiasts to get together and apparently grew out of an earlier barbeque or two held out at the museum.

This year’s event was, so the organizers said, bigger, bolder and better than last year’s with around 50 attendees and around 300 armour models on the tables to look at.  Even for somebody who hasn’t made an armour model in fifteen years it was a good day out. For MoBsters the event began, as always, early in the morning with President Wayne picking up a couple of other members and then setting off down the Western Freeway to Melbourne.  A quick scoot along the Western Ring Road, along one of the CityLink freeways and out through the furthest reaches of semi-rural Melbourne and we found ourselves at the Tank Museum a couple of hours later.

The program for Tankorarna was decidedly minimalist.  Setting up occurred around 11 in the morning, there was a barbeque at about 1 in the afternoon, a walk around the back lot of the museum at 2, the awards at 3 and it was time to go home by 5.  This left an immense amount of time for people to stand about looking at other people’s models, talking, comparing notes, swapping ideas and techniques and looking at the full size equipment in the museum.

Thanks to Wayne the MOB has a small display of his and James work that was at least the equal of anything else on display as well as some little flyers and a couple of posters.  They attracted some interest including that of a representative of Military Modelling magazine who took photos which may appear in the British magazine and who congratulated Wayne on the standard of this work. As an affront to decent aeroplane modellers everywhere Tankorama held a competition for the ‘Worst taste aircraft model’ which Wayne duly won with his tittle Taliban effort (as shown in the previous issue of our Newsletter).  There were no competitions for armour models, the most excitement came from the raffle in which almost everyone there went away with something. Two things that were particularly interesting were part of Gary Zimmer’s display and the walk around the back lot of the museum. One problem with model displays is that they assume that everyone there knows what they are looking at and this is not always the case, particularly with unusual models.  One part of Gary’s collection represented a set of vehicles that had been used by a German unit on the Eastern front and he went to the trouble of writing a little placard briefly describing what the models represented.  This is a good idea, if you ask me. The vehicles in the museum building are generally in good condition but, hidden away from the public behind the building, is a paddock full of all kinds of interesting rusting remains of many armoured vehicles including Grants, Sturts and LTVs.  It would be hard to imagine so much rust in one place but because so much of it is thick armour plating it will survive many more years out in the elements. What with looking at the models, chatting to people and wandering around the museum (which has some interesting exhibits including a nice little Japanese tank and a Valentine outside the entrance that took my fancy (fancy having to fight from inside one) the day passed quickly.  No doubt there will be another Tankorama next year and, if this one was anything to go by, it will also be worth attending.The MoB goes to the Great Wall of Kits
(September 2001)

We set out early in the morning.  President Wayne got up before dawn to drive to Ballarat to pick up tbe rest of us and be in Melbourne before doors opened for the annual Swap Meet. Last year MOBsters had gone just to gawp and spend their money, this year they had a more serious objective, to sell.  Both Wayne and Terry, having accumulated more kits than they will ever make, filled the car with boxes of kits and Leigh, also having accumulated two lifetimes of kits but also being anal retentive, took nothing but squeezed into the tiny space left in the back seat.

Thus armed, we set off for Melbourne. Last year the Swap Meet had been held in a nice big meeting room, this time IPMS (our hosts) moved to a new location to (as they put it at a short briefing before everyone started) make more money from the event.  Their choice was, however, not a welcome one because the venue turned out to be a warren of little rooms through which the hoard of kit buyers scuttled like rabbits.  Not that you couldn’t get to see everything and buy as much as you wanted, it was just that there wasn’t the same atmosphere of excitement that having everyone in the same room generates.

Gradually the sellers trooped into the courtyard between the two buildings while the tables were being set up.  Many were old friends so it was a good opportunity to stand about chatting and, before long, start peering into other people’s boxes to see what was on offer.  A few little transactions occurred even before kits made it onto the sellers tables.  The doors were to be opened to the public at 10 am so as soon as the tables were ready the sellers dragged their boxes to their allocated spaces and began piling up their booty.  Terry and Wayne found their spot and emptied their boxes of orphan kits onto their table, by the time they had finished it was hard to see them behind their wall of kits.  All around their room, and the other rooms at the venue, other sellers were making similar great walls of kits, decals, books and other stuff.  It was hard to see where all the people needed to lighten the groaning tables would come from, but they were lining up outside. The doors burst open and the hoard rushed in, washing around the tables piled high with great walls of kits like waves battering against storm walls.  The sellers became tranquil islands surrounded by the mass of modellers seeking bargains and rarities, at first the pace was hectic as buyers rushed about to see what was on offer and snap up the things they really wanted.  Gradually the pace slowed as buyers settled down to more  careful consideration of what was on offer. After the first hour or so the haggling began as buyers tried to make their money go further and sellers wondered whether the paltry prices offered to them were better than the prospect of having to take kits home again. Wayne and Terry turned out to be as difficult to buy things from cheaply as they had been to get a reasonable price from last year.

While Wayne and Terry stoutly defended their wall of kits I wandered the halls and rooms of the event, just like all the other buyers, seeking out rarities and bargains.  I envied my fellow MoBsters their will power, getting rid of kits but not buying them.  As usual, I came across a couple of kits that I had never known existed and a few other orphan kits that cried plaintively for me to buy them and give them a good home.  I also did a bit of buying and selling myself.  At one stage I sat in the courtyard and amused myself with what I’d bought. ‘Oh, so you bought the Twin Otter!’, someone said, looking so disappointed that I could not help but sell it on to them. Thus I discovered the thrill of buying and selling kits at no expense and little effort.

Later I returned to where Wayne and Terry were still fighting off excited buyers and Terry convinced me that I should sell him one of the kits I had bought because he would give it a better home.  (I gave in to his exhortations because I had spent just about all my money and then seen something even  more attractive.) Later, Terry did even better. He bought a submarine kit because he wanted the tiny helicopters in it and later sold it on to somebody else for the same price, minus the helicopters.

By about noon the rush was over and only the diehard modellers remained, having as much fun talking about the kits that remained as just selling and buying them.  A lot of sellers had gone but Wayne and Terry kept doing business even as they were trying to put the remains of their part of the great wall of kits back in its boxes.

There was a lot more space in the car on the way back to Ballarat than there was on the way down, which was just as well because of the little collection I had put together during the morning’s entertainment.  I wonder how many of the kits sold there will be made and how many will go back into the great wall of kits in years to come, endlessly circulating like a kind of money, only more fun.

A Pleasant Sunday’s Entertainment
(June 2001)

On Sunday 27 May the Ballarat Scale Model Builders held their annual event, a combined display and competition with a few vendors arranged around the sides of the venue.  It was a fairly minimalist event, the club provided the venue, organized the competition and provided the trophies and prizes.  The people who came along provided the models and more or less entertained themselves. Some people came and stayed all day, others came, went and came back again.  I stayed the entire time and had a very pleasant, laid-back day. I heard that there were people from all over the place – Ballarat, Bendigo, Maryborough, Geelong, Hamilton and even far off Melbourne.

There were also different kinds of modellers, those who make cars, trucks and motor cycles and those who make military and aviation models, there was even a little bit of science fiction. Everybody mixed very nicely. I suppose you could say the event was a competition but, with the exception of a handful of models entered in a few judged categories, everything else was ‘modellers choice’ which means that everyone got to vote on what they thought was the best model in each category and the model that got the most votes won.

There are a couple of advantages of this approach.  Unlike the judged competitions which usually seem to end in tears when people get upset because they don’t think the judges have been fair, you can’t really complain if you don’t win because it’s a democratic choice and what won was not necessarily the best but the one that attracted the eye of the most other people.

The other good advantage at this approach was that it forced modellers who have little experience or knowledge of some kinds of modelling to have a good look at what others are up to, and to perhaps learn something.  It was lovely to see little groups of friends going around together debating the merits of this or that model and the puzzled looks that some modellers had when confronted with kinds of models they knew almost nothing about.  Going around filling in your slip conscientiously actually took a lot cf time.

I ended up talking to a couple of people who make cars and trucks and learned a lot about what they do – I may not agree with the conventions that have grown up in vehicle modelling but it is interesting to find out how things developed. (For example, there were a few cars that had the windows painted black from the inside so you couldn’t see the interior and I learned that this was an accepted category of vehicle modelling which allowed modellers of that persuasion to concentrate on the exterior of their models and completely forget the interior.  I wonder if that ever occurred to people making aeroplane models, it would take away the need to detail cockpits.)

The Ballarat Scale Model Builders has a long tradition of vehicle building and so that was the main strength of the competition.  There were almost more vehicle models than I could count (the tables of car models were groaning under the weight of so many entries and since they were sprinkled over the table randomly it was a bit difficult to be sure J had counted properly.  Even so, there were about 70 entries in the ‘Cars, pre 1960 category, 46 entries in the ‘Cars, 1960 and later’, 29 ‘Competition Cars’, 15 ‘Bob Tail Trucks’ and 26 ‘Other Trucks’.  In comparison there were 21 ‘Aircraft 1/72 and larger’, one ‘Aircraft over 1/72 , six ‘Military over 1/35 and 19 ‘Military 1/35 and larger’.

The club are hopeful that gradually the aircraft and military categories will fill out as modellers get used to the idea of entering those categories. There were not many Junior entries, only seven, only four motor bikes in that category and only eight entries in the theme category.  Similarly there were very few entries in the judged categories; only eight cars, four aircraft and three military.  Nobody remembered to enter the ‘Judged Truck’ category.

Off on the side some vehicle modellers from Maryborough filled a table with model cars that were there to be looked at but not in the competition.  By my count there were over 300 models on display.  No wonder the day was full by time I looked at them all. Some comments on modelling tastes It is very rarely that I get so much time to look at vehicle models and so the day was a very interesting one for me.

It seems to me that there are quite different ideas of aesthetics at work in the minds of people who make vehicles and those who make military or aviation models (there may be some cross-over with airliners but you don’t see very many of them so it is difficult to tell). The point of car models seems to be to produce something that is nice and shiny so that the most important part of a car model is the paint finish.  There were a few sort-of matt finishes on some models but generally they are highly polished and amazingly clean – very few car models had any attempt at weathering.  To my eyes many of the car models looked as though they had really taken little effort to put together and that there was little attempt to give the models much of a sense of reality.  For example, many car kits must come with nice little chrome plated engines under the bonnet and many modellers left the bonnets off so we could see them.  However I can’t quite remember seeing a car engine that was all bright and shiny with almost no plumbing and almost no auxiliary equipment.

The other thing that struck me was the almost universal use of chrome plated wheels when you almost never see such gleaming chrome on the streets.  My impression was that many of these models were made straight out of the box following the instructions.  Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, modelling is a matter of each modeller doing what pleases them and there IS nothing that can be criticised in that – I was just curious about the conventions that are accepted in vehicle modelling.

I’m sure that vehicle modellers looking at military or aircraft models would be similarly struck at the funny way we do particular things. Having made those general comments I was struck by the high quality of some vehicle models.  There was a beautiful little 1949 Lago Talbot racing car that really took my eye, partly because it looked so nice but also because the modellers made the engine a centrepiece of the model with just the right metal tones to make it look like a real lump of metal with exactly the right touches of heat staining.  It got my vote in that category.  I was tempted by a very nicely finished Lotus Formula I car but on peering into the cockpit I was surprised to see that there were no seat belts.  A car modeller pointed out that this might have been because there were none in the kit and so putting them in would have taken the model out of the ‘out-of-the box’ category in judged competitions.  Perhaps so, but if I was making a model to that large scale even I would feel duty bound to include the seat belts. In general there seemed to be more ‘realism’ (if that’s the word I’m groping for) among the truck models.  Perhaps most car models are put together fairly quickly (though at cost of $35-$45 being asked for models by the vendors for car kits I couldn’t afford to be making too many) but those who embark on truck models have to invest more time in them simply because they are so much bigger and therefore feel inclined to put a bit more effort into giving their models a few additional touches.

My favourite model in the entire show was a B-double (I know that much about trucks) in the colours of a trucking firm that operates out of the Wimmera because it had that sense of reality.  In addition, like large scale aircraft, most truck models are so large that their size helps to make them impressive. I was impressed. I didn’t keep track of all the prize winners, I’m sure that Ballarat Scale Model Builders can fill you in.  By my count MoB members entered models in six categories and came away with three First and two Second prizes. This was achieved mainly because there was no competition in those categories (but also because President Wayne makes good models that deserve to win).  He was clever, he put at least two entries in the judged military and judged aircraft categories and so got first and second prizes, I only entered one model in the ‘smaller than 1/72 aircraft’ category and so only got the first prize.  Wayne got two models and two trophies, I only got a trophy.  Such is life. I’m looking forward to next year.