First introduced into service in 1959, the colossal Mi-6 “Hook” was by far the largest helicopter in the world. Capable of hauling more troops than some small airlifters (65 is the generally accepted number), the Hook was designed for both military airlift and to assist in the “resource exploitation” endeavors in the central and eastern part of Russia. To this end, they were intended to serve in a quasi-civilian role as well. For good reason, the Soviets were very proud of the Hook, and it was used to set many records.
When you consider the achievements of this type, and the fact that it has had a long and fairly widespread service life, it is surprising that it isn’t better known outside the former Warsaw Pact countries than it is. While it’s true that it isn’t as glamourous as the MiG fighters that stared down the West in the Cold War, the Hook would have been just as valuable should things have “hotted up”; few other assets could have delivered as much material as flexibly as Mil’s big lifter.
Because the Hook isn’t all that famous, only Russian maker A-Model has made any serious attempt to kit this bird in its various forms. However, these have been the more famous versions, and the numerous one- and two-offs in the lineage remain almost totally unknown. Once such version is the Mi-6P, an attempt to create a passenger version for Aeroflot. This variant had distinctive square windows, spatted landing gear and no rear clamshell doors. Apparently, only one or two of these were made before the idea was abandoned.
So who, then, will answer the cries of the modelling world ringing out in demand for a kit of this variant? What do you mean you don’t hear the masses demanding such a thing? Well, clearly you aren’t listening closely enough. Thankfully, though, there was a kit maker who DID have the vision to kit such a thing. That maker is (was) KVZ. What do you mean you’ve never heard of them?
KVZ was an East German manufacturer of models from the late 1960’s to the mid 1970’s. Their favourite subject matter seemed to be WarPac airliners, although a few other kits, including a Mercure and a Vostok, were also offered. Since the Mi-6P was design for airliner duty, then, it was a natural choice for the folks at KVZ to focus on. So, what does a mid-1970’s kit from behind the Iron Curtain look like? Well, you’re about to find out.
The first thing that struck me about the Mi-6 was the box. Many times, boxes on kits from Eastern Europe are fairly flimsy looking affairs; little more than thrice-folded paper in some cases. However, the box on the Hook is solid, or at least far more solid. In fact, more than a model box, the Hook’s box looks most like an old board game. I honestly expected to find either a 1950’s vintage scrabble game, or an old Parcheesi board inside this thing!
That alone tells you something right there. The box is very thin and flat, and the colour and art style are all very old looking. I thought for sure this kit was from the late 1950’s early 1960’s, when in fact it’s from the early 1970’s! The box is all some weird yellowed colour, and the art looks like it was drawn with a heavy hand and coloured with pencil crayons. A lot of old box art looks like paintings (because it was), but the KVZ guys really look to have gone the pencils route. It adds a lot of character, although it is the visual equivalent of listening to a slow rendition of the Volga Boat Song.
This should, however, not be taken to mean it is inferior; it’s just very, very different. It is eye catching, and it shows the Mi-6P transiting over some kind of oil field. The whole scene evokes a sense of desolation and isolation, exactly the environment into which the Hook was supposed to deliver people and supplies. There’s very little written on the box, and there are no pictures of a finished kit on the box. The ability to put photos onto the box seems to have been outside of the abilities of KVZ’s graphical designers.
Interestingly enough, this kit went through several boxings; other box art includes the Hook overflying a dam and the least interesting shows a greyish monochrome drawing of the Hook just hovering there. THAT one looks really old!
Opening the box, one finds something akin to the pieces needed to make an Mi-6P, or at least a vague approximation of therein.
The fuselage, spats and wings are all moulded in a surprisingly white plastic. There is a lot of flash; like, more flash than a Rhinestone Cowboy pulling up at noon in a chromed ’59 Cadillac. Nearly every opening has flash on at least one side of it; some openings almost seem to be covered in a membrane of flash. Interestingly, this kit is also moulded in colour! Well, okay, two colours. The wheels, braces rotors and rotor hub are all cast in blackish-brown. This means that even if you didn’t paint it, you’d have a black and white lump that is vaguely the shape of an Mi-6. Kinda. There were no bags on the parts of the kit I got, although it was second hand. There were also loose pieces in the box, but again, I can’t be sure if that’s how it came. I would guess so, though.
The windows on this model are something else altogether. They are the very thickest, foggiest, least glass-like transparencies I’ve ever seen. The windows for the main flight deck have no real frames on them, and the nose piece isn’t any better. The best part, though, is that the side windows ALL have ejector pin marks on them. Now, they are fairly uniform, and they are round; maybe they could be used to etch the round windows of the military version?
The fit of the fuselage halves is terrible; I have taken to wrapping elastic bands around them in an effort to get them to actually mate up should I ever be crazy enough to attempt building this thing! Making matters worse, the tailfin on one of the halves is actually incomplete! They short-shot the plastic in this particular kit and the fin must be the farthest from the injector nozzle.
Overall, the shape and size (weird sale not withstanding) of the kit is reminiscent of the Mi-6. However, that’s about all I can give it. If you look at detailed drawings of the Mi-6, you’ll soon see that this kit isn’t all that accurate; the window shapes are all wrong in the nose, the flight deck windscreen isn’t quite right and the doors are wrong too. Even the rotor blades seem odd; they taper from the hub out to the tip, which doesn’t even really make sense. One thing that KVZ did get right was the lack of rear clamshells, though. That, and the square windows, implies they were at least trying to get things right!
The parts all feel very brittle, and I shudder to think what will happen if I try to etch detail into this plastic. And I will have to etch… there isn’t much in the way of detail on this kit (besides large, Airfix-like raised rivets), and whatever there is is raised anyway. If you want fuselage panels, the best thing to do would be to use the existing rivets as a guide for some Dymo tape, and then just etch new lines from there. The windows will have to be sanded and polished to remove the ejector pin marks, but even then, I don’t know if they’ll be transparent. Not that it matters, mind you; there’s no sign of an interior in this thing! Even if you get the windows fixed, all you have to look at is the floor of the helicopter!
Instructions and Decals:
The instructions for the Hook reflect the reality of the kit very well. They are both simple in the extreme! The instructions are on a single piece of flimsy newsprint, and are a single assembled view. Thankfully, the kit’s not very involved or complicated, and this is actually bordering on sufficient. The instruction sheet will have to be handled carefully, though; any false moves and they feel like they’ll disintegrate!
The decals with this model are surprisingly complex, though! There are large Aeroflot titles and striping to make the model look every inch the hoped-for heliliner that the Mi-6P promised to be. Of course, the decals have suffered terribly with age; they weren’t in a bag or even backed with tissue paper. Not helping things was the fact that the box gives the impression of absorbing (if not outright attracting) water, which is of course the exact opposite of what unprotected decals tend to like. Still, if you were to scan them and re-print them, you could likely build this as intended and have it look pretty nice.
The KVZ 1/75 Hook, besides being a weird scale replica of a very rare bird, is something of a dud. It’s not accurate enough for those of us who really want to build a real Mi-6 model, but it’s too simple and clunky for a beginner to really get much out of. The fit of the fuselage is terrible, and I don’t think that the rest of the parts are going to make up for it. Also, no matter how hard you work, I think it’s going to require superhuman effort to even make this thing look passable.
I’m not very old, and I try not to be morbid. However, I realize I likely have more than enough kits to last my lifetime. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from buying more of them. However, being a realist, that means that there will be some kits that my kids (should I ever have any) or my nieces/nephews will have to deal with after I’m gone. I’m going to apologize to them in advance; this kit could very well be one of them.
Of course, as a What If, the Hook has some interesting possibilities. Also, it is a good hull for a spaceship; remember that in the sci-fi series “Firefly” (which ROCKS and which you should watch) they used a re-modeled Hind-D with no rotors for an ambulance. Could this Hook be the School Bus or Fire Truck equivalent? Darn… maybe this kit won’t make it to the next generation after all! 🙂
Unless you aren’t into accuracy, love the very bizarre, are a masochist or have ABSOLUTELY no other kits at hand, I can’t really recommend this kit. It is neat to have, and doesn’t take up much space, but that’s about all that it has going for it. Basically, it’s like a coffee table book; neat to look at, but not something you want to curl up with at the end of the day!
Note: Some sources say this is the VEB Plasticart 1/87 Hook, others the KVZ 1/75. There’s nothing on the box to tell me either way. If you know, let me know!