The Original Eagle 1B models by BP Taylor for Wonderfest 2011
“It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.” Robert H. Goddard
This is how BP Taylor styles his model making website, Fast Forward Models, and I think it speaks very profoundly; not only of the general human condition, but also (and perhaps a little more trivially) within our own world of model making, SF production, and so on.
After all, how often do we hear how one film or series (take a bow Star Trek) or literary work has inspired a young mind to drag technology or society in a direction dictated solely by the dreaming of an artist, writer, or director?
Such is the case with BP Taylor, owner of FFM, and one of the most active members of that quiet and – thankfully – still flourishing breed of beings: garage kit makers.
An industrial model maker by trade, Mr. Taylor has, like many before him, taken his own skills and flights of fancy into other realms. Just as many before, those indulgences have spun out into the commercial sector, giving fans who do not quite have the same level of eye a chance to experiment with kits which would not otherwise be commercially viable.
However… Let us get a couple of things straight, right off the bat…
Pirates, off the starboard Bow!
Garage kit makers are not necessarily pirates.
We all know about the plague of the innumerable re-casters who have recently emerged from a seemingly amoral Chinese web business community, but the problem is not a new one, nor is it limited to that oft unfairly lambasted nation.
It is a relatively simple task to take a built model, dissect it, make silicon masters, and create polyurethane resin copies of those kits.
I will mention no names here for the obvious reasons, but even a quick scouring of Google will bring up dozens of websites and shops offering knockoff kits from series as diverse as Warhammer 40,000, Ma.K, Gundam, and Godzilla – to name but a few.
Pirate Re-cast 1/6 Kuga Natsuki Rider Suit
What is a Garage Kit, though?
The name rather says it all: hobbyists and builders working away in their back rooms and garages, putting out short run models and/or copies of defunct, or otherwise unavailable model kits.
There have been garage kit makers around as long as there have been artists. After all, it could be argued that the folks who specialized producing plaster castings of classic statuary at the height of Athenian culture were little more than recasters… 😉
However, in this article I restrict my definition to those people making kits or more mundane models – figures, (space)ships, tanks and so on.
As my father tells it, when he was a boy he loved the old Universal monster models by Aurora. However, these companies, along with many small model makers in the 1950s and 60s, dropped out of the market, making it nearly impossible to get ahold of their wares. The response in the US, Europe, and especially Japan was to take example kits and recast them for trade/sale. In the case of a recaster I knew in youth, he took some old Aurora monsters, built them, made them solid by filling them out with resin, then cut them into a number of parts and went from there. This was so ubiquitous that by the time the US and UK caught the anime bug in the 1980s, some shops (such as the one at which I temped) were so unaware of the the matter that they could not initially tell if they were being sold legitimate kits or recasts – which put them in precarious legal positions (knowingly or unknowingly selling such material would be theft; as we all know, ignorance of the law is generally no defense from it). Indeed, I am ashamed to admit that my old stomping ground DID cotton onto the matter quite quickly, having a contact in Japan, but chose – for far too long – to sell recasts, as they were cheap and easier to get than the legitimate material, with clients (especially in the early 90s) not caring where the kits came from, as long as they came along.
There were more reputable casters to be sure: those who made master models themselves (from wood, clay, and so on) before casting, but it is the former recasters(1) which make the whole business so sordid.
(1) An excellent breakdown of recasting and its harm to the industry can be found here.
Still, let us focus on the legitimate casters – the real garage kit makers – who slowly went from strength to strength in the ’80s, trading and selling at increasingly large meets and fan conventions, until they themselves began to attract the sort of fanbase that is normally associated with commercial outfits. Indeed, around the world some of these small groups began to gain so much popularity – and income – that media license holders actually began to look to them to produce specialist kits which would not be viable for a larger company. This was especially so in Japan, where some of the big names we know today – Kaiyodo, Tsukuba, Wave, Volks, Fewture, and Nitto, to name but a few – began attracting attention through making more and more impressive deals with anime and manga producers – putting out kits which would never have been viable on a large scale, owing to cost, complexity, or subject interest, but which still stand tall as icons of the brilliance of the age.
Just as circles tend to do, things come back to the ending and begin all over again. The small, back room operations which became huge concerns are still devoting time and effort to the garage kit market and even bigger shops like Yellow Submarine and Volks have a vested interest in doing so – as it helps their own design teams spotlight potential hires for their commercial divisions.
Still, even with that, the traditional GK makers persist – legally – like BP Taylor and his kind, producing quality over quantity and serving that niche of a niche which will always be there in model making – kits that fall into the gap between commercial viability and popular interest.
The Eagle 1B
Such is the case with the kit under discussion today… BP Taylor’s Eagle 1B.
As he says himself… “This project owes a great deal to a model rocket nose cone I found at the Sirius Rocketry website that was obviously influenced by the Space:1999 Eagle command module — those window covers and general shape were unmistakable. This particular nose cone comprised upper and lower vac-formed shells that when glued together would form the ‘command cone’ (as it is called) for a rocket called the Celestis. My intention was to use these to create new patterns from polyester filler, modify them slightly, then apply details in the form of thin styrene panels and scribe lines. Once this was done, RTV molds were made to create thin-walled urethane castings. Two versions of the Eagle 1B were built from these castings to which were added wings similar to those seen on NASA lifting body concepts of the 1960s. The complete version will eventually take its place at the front of a deep-space probe ship and features a full interior and LED lights. The front winged section would serve as the re-entry vehicle for the returning crew and was created by carefully cutting a casting along an irregular scribe line that runs completely around the Eagle 1B. The exposed rear area was then built up with sheet stock and various kit parts and castings.”
This model won the Gold award at the 2011 Wonderfest.
The Grand Unboxing
I once complained about doing the unboxing for the Polar Lights Romulan Warbird, as there were no more than a dozen parts to the whole kit…..
I take it all back.
The unboxing of all unboxings!
Forgive the picture spam. It is only done to hide the fact there are only four (count them) parts to this model.
Even a Yorkshireman can count this high without resorting to using fingers.
Still, jestering aside, what makes this kit special is not the part count, but the detail.
Consider how crisp the castings are. Regard the simple beauty of the form.
This is going to be a classic build.
Dr. Robodaz, signing off.