Tons of Tanks
(December 2003)

It’s now got to the stage when Wayne tells me we have to be away by some ungodly hour of the morning to be in Melbourne for some modelling event I just sigh deeply and set the alarm clock.  At least, at this time of the year it isn’t pitched black when we leave. But that’s the best that can be said for it.

Last year Wayne hadn’t been able to get to Tankorama so I missed out as well.  This year we made the trek again, down the mighty Western Freeway, around the Western Ring Road, along Citylink through a nice tunnel and then out into the outer suburbs on the other side of Melbourne.  It doesn’t take as long as you’d think but it’s still longer than you’d like.  On the other hand, each time we make the trip down to Melbourne there seems to be more of it with new developments springing up like weeds along the way.  On this side of the city it isn’t going to be too long before Melton is swallowed up and on the other side the semi-rural landscape on the way to the Tank Museum is quickly filling up with houses.  Another good reason for living in Ballarat (or Maryborough), apart from the MOB that is!

You really can’t miss the entrance to the Tank Museum, they have a bloody great Lee (or is it Grant) tank mounted so it looks like it is about to land on the middle of the road in front of you.  They you turn onto the track up to the Museum and there is a nice but rather tired looking M113 there to say hello as you get out to open the gate.  Further up the track itself the large Museum building itself becomes visible, guarded by a Matilda and a Valentine as well as a very impressive and huge anti-aircraft mounting ( a piece of naval equipment I assume) protecting the museum from any aerial threat.  Inside the Museum building itself are all kinds of bits and pieces of military equipment ranging from the large and impressive Centurion, Bulldog and LTV to all kinds of oddities.  The one l find most fascinating is the turret that was used for target practice and is full of all kinds of interesting holes – a reminder that being tank crew is not a terribly safe occupation.

Neither Wayne nor I had taken the time to find out when this year’s Tankorama started and so we arrived early.  Which was interesting in a way, because we saw the event building up from nothing as more people arrived and more armour models went onto the tables that Gary and the proprietors of the Museum set up.  Like all events, you start off standing about waiting for everything to happen, the next thing you know you’re in the middle of it and everything is swinging along nicely and the next time you emerge from the bubble of involvement people are starting to pack up and drift off.  That’s what it was like for us with Gary and Wayne putting out only a part of their vast collections of armour and me adding my puny contribution.  Then, along came Steve with boxes of his models and began laying them out too.  While I’m not overly interested in tank modelling these days I did enough of it in my misspent youth to know what I’m looking at and the range of kits that is available today and the endless permutations that Gary, in particular, puts them through, is enough to keep a modeller interested for most of the day.

Like the MOB display, Tankorama is a display of model armour, not a competition.  This means that things that might not be of the highest modelling quality are put on display, a good thing because this adds so much variety when a difficult conversion is displayed.  It is perhaps not perfect but it is a change from the usual round of models out of the box.  And it seems that the modelling fraternity follow fashions when it comes to making models; a few years ago it was all German models, this time the pendulum has swung over to the other side of the Russian front with the emphasis being on all kinds of Russian armour.  The single most popular subject this time was T34s with fifteen on the tables, but there are so many variants of the basic T34 that there was an enormous amount of variation there.  There were also ten different M4 Shermans, again in a wide variety of types but the most common type was around twenty variations on the KV hull with KV-ls, JS-3s, IS’s of various kinds, and on and on. There was one lovely little PzKfw III, a smattering of Tigers and, or course, Steve’s lovely S-tank.

There are only two serious competitions (if serious is the word I’m groping for), the Worst Aircraft Competition and the Count the Rivets Competition.  I don’t know which is worse. The Worst Aircraft Competition has become something of an art these days with people going to a lot of trouble to make the best ‘worst’ aircraft.  The winner this year was a very amusing little entry based on a B-29 kit with certain augmentations – if you think along the lines of ‘Enola Gay, Queen of the Desert’ you will be heading in the right direction.  The appalling thing about the ‘Count the Rivets’ competition is’’t that many people actually try to count them but that the competition organizer, our own Steve, has counted them in the first place so he knows what the correct answer is.  He has my sympathy but he probably gets his psychiatric help somewhere else.

After a day of standing or sitting about generally doing very little the day winds up with the awarding of the prizes for the aforementioned competitions and then the raffle.  It turned out that the sponsors had been so generous that there were enough prizes to go around and almost everybody got something. I ended up with a kit of an obscure little Russian tank which might give me something to construct for the next Tankorama, if there is one.  This is apparently in doubt at the moment because the owners of the Tank Museum are trying to sell up. Let’s hope that, whatever happens, there are more opportunities to hold tank model displays under the guns of the real things.

The MoB and the state of the economy
(September 2003)

Well, Wayne and Terry looked at my car and shook their heads sadly.  Being somebody who cares to know nothing much about cars, I consider them to be mere means of conveyance (apart from E-Type Jaguars, of course) and it is probably just as well that modem cars more or less look after themselves because otherwise mine would have stopped long ago.  All the faults they found with the car meant we couldn’t drive straight off to the !PMS Swap and Sell, we had to go around to the garage to attend to the problems before we headed down the freeway to Melbourne.  Of course, if it hadn’t been for the fact that Wayne’s car is far too small to be of any practical use and Terry’s is on the verge of total failure, they wouldn’t have decided that my car would be chosen to make the trip.  So I don’t know what made them think they could look down their noses at my car; standing there, shaking their heads and tut-tutting loudly about it.  So you have to imagine us around at the garage in Sturt Street at 7.30 in the morning with Terry filling up something under the bonnet while I put some petrol in the tank and then Wayne pumped up the tyres, all puffing out great clouds of white mist in the freezing morning air.  Hold that image in your mind, it was about the most interesting and exciting thing to happen all day.  Not quite as exciting. but perhaps more interesting in an obscure sort of way were the couple of accounting jokes Terry told on the way down.  He thought they were amusing …

The IPMS Swap and Sell for this year was held in the same venue as last year, a church hall with streamers and other decorations that had survived but aged somewhat since our visit the previous year.  It being a Sunday morning and the venue being a church hall with a church nearby, parking was difficult, even in these godless days, and with the other modellers who had arrived there before us.  Consequently there was no space left in the car park and we had to go down the street a distance before we found room to park.  Then we staggered back to the hall with our bags of goodies, ready to present them for the inspection and purchase by the hoards of eager modellers that were expected.  Wayne’s introduction of those big cheap plastic carrying bags has revolutionized the business of going to a Swap and Sell, dispensing with all the cumbersome boxes and saving space on the way home because of the kits that have been sold.  Between us we had four bags and they filled up the table allotted to us very nicely, perhaps a little more than was comfortable but offering a veritable cornucopia of kits.


Image2Last year our table had been located against one of the walls of the hall but this year we had drawn one of the short straws and ended up in the middle of the hall.  Either through the  fact that the hall is a mite too narrow or through malice, the central row is only one row of tables wide so the hoard of customers surge around in front of and behind the people at their tables, leading to the sometimes unnerving experience of having people in front of and behind you both looking at what you had to offer.  But, as it turned out, this did not cause unseemly fights over kits that two modellers had spotted at the same time. · In fact. selling kits didn’t seem to be high on anyone’s agenda.


Image4On the selling side I didn’t do well, only disposing of four of the kits I’d taken down.  Two of them were odd little things I had despaired of ever finding a good home for so it wasn’t a complete waste. The acquisitions also and the day worthwhile so, when it came time to pack at the end of the day, my bag was fuller than it had been at the beginning and my wallet somewhat thinner.  My best deal of the day was a lot of three airliners including one of the ‘impossible to find’ Revell Boeing 767s. I already had the other two in the lot but I needed the instruction sheet of one and buying the third reduced the cost of the lot.  I put the one I didn’t want on my pile and quickly sold it for a modest profit.  Inside the one that I had bought for the instruction sheet I found some additional decal sheets that I later sold for almost as much as I had paid for the kit and when I’ve finished with the instruction sheet I’ll put the kit up for sale at another swap and sell, reducing the cost of the almost priceless 767 to almost nothing.

Wayne seemed to do a little better than I did and managed to keep his purchases down so that he came away in the black, as did Terry who seemed to do a bit better again.  Even so, it seemed that most people were being more careful with their money than they might have been in previous years and snapped up the obvious bargains quickly, coming back later to think carefully about what else they might buy and then trying to knock the price down a bit.  The seJlers. for their part, seemed less inclined to give in to pleas to sell their kits cheaper; it seems that the state of the economy and personal circumstances has taken some of the more energetic buying of previous years out of the event.


This doesn’t mean that the event was not enjoyable.  It seemed to drag for the first hour when buyers bustled around but didn’t seem to take much, but after that the time passed much more enjoyably as people left their tables in the care of somebody else for a while and wandered about.  They looked over other people’s kits, chatted about them, renewed friendships and often just had a good time chatting about modelling and the modellers’ life.  When it turned one o’clock and it was time to go home the feeling I gained was that many sellers were disappointed at the lack of sales but had still enjoyed themselves.

The MoB goes to Box Hill
(June 2003)

It must have taken us longer to travel the streets of that giant metropolis of Melbourne to Box Hill than it took us to get from Ballarat to the outskirts of the metropolis.  To make it even harder, the edge of Melbourne keeps on extending itself along the Western Freeway so that it won’t be too many years before the city extends all the way to Melton. Not an inviting thought .

Terry said he knew where he was going, he had glanced through the street directory the previous evening and everything would be right.  Sitting beside him, Wayne thumbed through the directory to ensure Terry knew what he was doing.  I was sittng in the back seat, making a close association with a big bag of kits and deciding that kits make good traveling companions, especially early in the morning at 8 am, because they don’t insist on making conversation.  They just sat in their boxes, hopeful of finding new homes at the swap-meet we were going to.

Terry must have known what he was doing because we pulled up outside a hall in the wilds of suburban Melbourne a little after 9am, the sight of people who looked like modellers lugging boxes of kits into a hall meaning we had arrived at the right place.  Terry had two bags of boxes he wanted to dispose of, Wayne had another two bag and l had one bag of kits that I hoped to find new homes for.  We didn’t have to walk far and it was not difficult to find our table or to pile up the kits upon it. After that there was a little time for us to wander around having a look at what else was on offer and how much it cost.  In comparison to the venue for the IPMS swap-meet in August or the one at Expo, this one was somewhat smaller with less people selling, but the hall was just the right size for the numbers there so the event had a smaller but also a more friendly feel to it than the larger events.a


At around ten the doors were thrown open and the public let in to look at our piles of kits. There wasn’t the great flood of people that pour into the larger events but, even so, there was the usual quick rush around as everyone checked to see if there were any kits on offer that were on their ‘must-have’ list.  After that most people tend to wander around again, comparing prices of kits that they are interested in, chatting to each other, opening up boxes to inspect kits and generally enjoying the feeling of being a kid in a lolly shop.


While none of us seemed to do brisk business there was a constant flow of people picking over the kits we had and Wayne’s pile of decal sheets.  If anything, the decals seemed to interest more people who shuffled through them looking for something that interested them.  I didn’t think I was doing as well as l would have liked – having accumulated a few airliner kits I didn’t already have and wanting to make enough to pay for them – but later in the day a couple of people came along and gave new homes to kits that I had been wondering if I would every be able to get rid of, so I broke even.


The organizers are clever people.  Just on the other side of the door from where we were they set up a barbeque and began cooking sausages and onions, the smell of which became irresistible after a while.  Not only did they smell good, they tasted good too.  For the rest of the morning we stood watching people passing and chatted to many of them about what they were looking at or about modelling in general. A very pleasant way to spend a few hours.e

The crowd began to thin out after a couple of hours and the only people left were really only those who had tables there.  This was no great problem because people wandered around taking more time to look at what other people had to sell and finding a few little gems.  And then, within a few minutes, it seemed that everyone decided it was time to go and everyone began packing up at the same time.

We were on the road back to Ballarat again by about one in the afternoon.  Terry might have been able to find his way there well enough but something happened on the way back and we found ourselves sitting in heavy traffic m South Melbourne, surrounded possibly by people on their way to the football.  Finally we found our way onto the freeway and headed back towards Ballarat.  Wayne had declared himself hungry and that led us to trying to find a decent eating place on the way home. But that’s another story ..


The MoB Stays In Again
(May 2003)

Not content with having stages a successful display last year, we decided to do it again this year, only bigger and better. And on the whole, we succeeded. The only disappointment was that members of the Ballarat Scale Model Builders were not able to attend this year.

Wayne did all the leg work to get the event promoted and he seems to have succeeded because more people came than last year and again most of them declared themselves more than satisfied with what they saw. And, as with last year, we picked up a few new members in the process, which is one of the reasons for holding the event.


With all the preparations having been made MoBsters began turning up at the Community center around nine the morning in vehicles loaded to groaning point with models for the display. Some had troubles with cars that didn’t want to do so much hard work but they managed to make it anyhow and to put many fine models into the display that would not have made it otherwise.  The result was that we had almost every kind of model on the table that can be bought over the counter in a model shop, cars, heavy transports, ships, motor bikes, armour and aeroplanes from all periods and places.  The other thing that was impressive was that all of it was of a very good standard, showing that MoBsters not only have a wide range of interests but that they are prolific and good at what they do.

By about ten in the morning most of the models were on the tables that had been scrounged from every comer of the Community Center, then it was a matter of arranging them and putting out the little labels that many members had made explaining to people what they were looking at.  David Boyle arrived with a very interesting collection of large scale farm machinery that he set up as well.  By the time members of the public began rolling up there was barely a square inch of table space that hadn’t been filled by something. Gary counted up later and announced that we had managed to amass over 800 models on the day, an amazing achievement. Frank Morgan (of ModelArt Australia fame) turned up with a couple of boxes of back issues that we gave to people coming through the door, a nice gesture that gave the people, something to take away with them that might perhaps encourage them to take part in our hobby. A reporter and photographer from the Ballarat Courier also arrived and talked to people and photographed a few people with their models.


Our new table arrangement not only made it possible for people to move around the room more easily, it also made the room seem much less crowded so that even though it never looked as though our display was crowded, we certainly drew a lot more people than last year. However our accounting methods tell us how much we made on the day, not how many people we made it from so that the number of people who came will have to remain a mystery. The experiment by other partners during the day this year of not putting up barriers to stop little hands from playing with models, relying instead on a liberal sprinkling of warning signs, worked well and there were no problems with people mishandling any models and the space that gained made the experiment worthwhile.


I don’t know about other MoBsters but I don’t quite know where the day went.  I’d taken along my tool box and a couple of models to work on but by the time I went and had a look at the models and then talked to this person and that person and the other person it was time to pack up and go home.  l guess that other members had similar experiences, I met some interesting people, not the least David Boyle who had made the farm machinery, a father and son who enjoyed talking about airliners (one told of what it had been like to fly in a Sud Aviation Caravelle and an Ilyushin Il-62 while his son had just traveled to Perth and back in the new Qantas A.330s that he highly recommends). Then there was time to chat to Frank Morgan about life, the universe and everything and explain to more than a couple of people the miracles that can be wrought with Brasso.

Amazingly, it was soon moving on towards four in the afternoon.  The crowd had thinned out noticeably but MoBsters were still standing around talking about the models on display or still trying to take it all in.  I know that the only way I got to look at everything on display was by taking photos and looking at them later.  The day was completed with the drawing of the raftle (the same couple of names kept cropping up, I don’t know why I bother buying tickets in these things).  Then there was the presentation to Wayne in appreciate for all the work he put in to make the day the success it was.  Congratulations to everyone for the contributions that they made on the day and the models they put on display.  l suppose we’ll have to do it again next year.



The MoB returns to Expo
(March 2003)

It’s not the getting up before the cock crows and being ready at 7am that’s difficult, it’s controlling the inclination to bite people’s heads off at such an early hour.  Fortunately Wayne is not the kind of person you d ever be tempted to decapitate so I even managed a smile or two as he pulled up in his little red car to pick up my collection of goodies to be put on sale at Expo.  He must be one of those people who naturally gets out of the bed on the right side in the morning, but that’s his problem …

This is the second time that a group of MoBsters have gone down to the Model Expo swap and sell day so we’ve got it fairly well organized and everything went like a well oiled machine.  We drove up to Victoria Street and waited until Terry’s heavily laden car pulled up in front of us and we then followed him down to the Melbourne Show Grounds where the event was held.  The organizers involved certainly know how to make money, starting with the parking charge at the gate – to add insult to injury the people wanting to sell kits and stuff were the first to arrive and they were directed to the farthest end of the car park.  As a result it was a long trek around to the exhibition hall loaded down with bags of goodies and it was not a very amusing experience.  By the time we arrived there were a lot of other people with boxes and bags of kits waiting to get in and set up, there was also the beginnings of a long queue of people waiting to get in and relieve us of our goodies.

It seems to me that it is almost worth being a seller rather than a buyer, mainly because the organizers let you in a lot earlier and you have an hour or so in which to get everything set up on your table properly without the hassles of having to stand in the queue.  Of course it costs money to buy table space but I’ve never been a very good queuer (the last time I spent any time in one was when the Rolling Stones came to Australia in the 1970s and that was enough for me). After most of the sellers have put everything out on their tables most people take a wander around to see what others are selling and how much they are selling it for.  It is interesting to see the variation in prices, a kit on one table may be marked at $25 and the exact same kit may be marked at $15 on another table.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some sellers go back to their own tables and adjust some of their prices accordingly.


Darren, Cindy and their family took a couple of tables and had a large selection of kits on offer, Terry had a lot he wanted to sell and took a full table and Wayne and I shared the table next to him. Different people have their own reasons for selling their kits at swap-meets.  Some have bought more than they could ever make and need to thin out their collections, others have had changes in their modelling interest so they have kits they no longer feel like making and are looking for kits in their new area of interest.  Others again seem to enjoy the fun of buying and selling kits and other modelling paraphernalia.

Whatever the personal reason, the end result was a huge space filled with thousands of kits for sale at good prices and lots of modellers knowledgeable about what they were offering – which is more than you can say for some hobby shops.

A little before 10am the organizers yelled out that they were about to let the customers in and those who were wandering about looking at other piles of kits went and manned their tables. When the doors were opened people began flooding in, and kept on corning in a never ending torrent for ten or fifteen minutes.  The hall. that had been relatively quiet and empty suddenly filled up with a tightly packed crowd of people quickly scanning what was on offer on each table. If they saw something they really wanted or a good deal they bought it so that most of the best bargains were quickly snapped up.

After the initial rush, which lasted an hour or so, things slowed down so it was possible for each of us to leave somebody looking after their kits to go out to see what had been snapped and do a bit of buying ourselves.  Terry and Wayne amused themselves buying a few armour kits of variants of tanks known only to the cognoscenti (this is a big word which roughly translates to mean ‘people who have nothing better to do with their time than poke around in the most obscure areas of human knowledge’).  For my part I managed to pick up a lovely pile of Revell airliners (of which more in coming months) but the highlight of the day was a resin kit of the lovely little Caudron 450 that nobody else had noticed and I managed to get for a very good price.


It was interesting to see what people in the crowd bought.  It seems that people are initially attracted by big kits in big boxes but after they have done their shopping the serious modellers remain, going from table to table and going over all the items in detail.  Sometimes you can almost see them thinking whether or not they are really interested in a kit, usually taking a look inside to examine the quality of the kit and calculating whether it is something they want to make or whether.  Sometimes they make a quick decision, others stand about for some time deliberating and sometimes hoping that they will be able to get the kit for less than the asking price. (This is fine by me because I’ve usually asked $5 or $10 more for the kit than I’m willing to part with it for – but don’t tell anybody I said that.) Sometimes you strike up quite interesting conversations or meet old friends, last year I bumped into a modeller who used to own a very good hobby shop in Fremantle and this year Wayne met an old Townsville associate.

By about two in the afternoon most modellers have gone home so people gradually pack up what remains of their wares and head off.  All MoBsters were happy with how things had gone, which means they sold enough kits to make the day worthwhile.  For my part I had hoped to come away with more money in my pocket than when I arrived and to have reduced the size of my collection but as it turned out I ended up with a surplus of money but also more kits than when I arrived (by volume, those Revell airliner kits come in big boxes).

After we had packed everything away we went to have a look at ModelExpo itself.  There seemed to be more kits entered this year than last year but, as usual, the judges were off their brains and should have been taken out the back and shot – and I hadn’t even entered anything! Take the magnificent little Loire 130 that didn’t even get a place!!!  Having made one myself I know how difficult it is to get right, let alone make up to the standard of whoever made the model I saw had achieved.  I bet the category was won by one of those Japanese kits that makes themselves. (An international panel of the most erudite modellers should be set up to draw up a table of difficulty value for all kits so that ignorant judges would have to calculate that into their sums when they evaluate kits.)  And I have no idea how the judges chose the winner of the airliner category, probably by examining the entrails of a sacrificial ox.  Even so, there seemed to be enough trophies so I suppose most people who entered a couple of models must have gone away with something.Image5


As well as the models entered in the competition there were displays put on by various modelling groups that were probably more interesting than the entries because many displays centered around at theme.  One was a display that represented a century of flight, another comprised a set of aeroplanes in imagined RAAF service including a huge white Northrop YB-49 and a very nice Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow (which didn’t look much different to the real Canadian ones) and the delightful Fairey Rotodyne that had taken my fancy so much last year.

There were also a lot of commercial dealers.  At the High Planes stand I was tempted by their CAC Winjeel but resisted temptation to keep myself in the black for the day.  However the next stand was run by the man who imports the highly desirable Mach 2 kits from France and my profit for the day flew out the window as I relieved him of the Amiot 351/354 kit.  (He gave me a list of the other Mach 2 kits that are available so I will now have to drop into the bank for a quick chat with the manager to see what he can do for me.)  Later l bumped into the Model Alliance stand and chatted to the people who produce the wonderful decals of airliners in Australian service.  They tell me that they are producing their own kits of the Boeing 747 in -200, -300 and -400 series versions (and I had bought the Revell 747/400 just a couple of hours earlier!!) as well as several smaller aeroplanes that are on my wanted list.

While all this was going on Wayne was poking around in the decals that various dealers had on offer and picked out some attractive sheets that we will all enjoy seeing on his future projects.  Finally we got in his car and drove home, it had been a very enjoyable day out.