There was a time (that many reading this article may remember) that kits were meant to be fun. The boxes were dramatic and exciting, meant to engage the then-primary market for models; kids. The goal of the kit was to get kids excited about something, be it cars, flying or space travel. The kit itself didn’t have to be a perfect representation of the subject matter; it just had to be close enough. This was before the rise of the “rivet counters” and the rise of the uber-expensive, albeit extremely well-researched and well-appointed superkits that we know now. It was a simpler time, a more innocent time, and a time that we’ve likely almost forgotten about. That’s why, when I stumbled across the Strombecker TT-1 Pinto kit at a show, I was immediately transfixed. Even though the kit predates me by quite some time, I immediately felt nostalgic for the simple days of my modelling “career” when I didn’t care if the kit was perfect, so long as it looked cool. I’d never heard of Strombecker, and barely heard of the TT-1. It seemed that this was a relic just as much of modelling’s earlier times as it was of aviation’s now-gone adventurous past. Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so; at least I’d like to believe it isn’t.
The Temco TT-1 was an attempt to create a jet-powered primary trainer. Rather than educate future pilots by going from propeller driven primary trainers to jets, the US Navy decided to “cut out the middleman” and go directly from walking to “jetting”. In retrospect, it can be seen that this idea wasn’t as good as it must have sounded back in the 1950s; after all, only a handful were built (14 or 15 depending on the source) and they were only in trial service for a year or less. With the withdrawal of the TT-1, the Navy went back to the T-34 and T-28 for training, and the age of “all jet” piloting came to an abrupt and final close. There was an attempt to create a “Super Pinto” for higher performance tasks, and this aircraft had tip-mounted tanks and a more powerful engine, but even when the Philippines bought the rights and intended to produce it, only a few were made in the States. Thus, as you can see, the Pinto is not something you would expect a mainline maker of kits to even bother kitting now. However, back in the day, when the Pinto was new and the concept of “all jet” training was exciting, a model of the School Bus Yellow-coloured trainer seemed natural! Not only was it futuristic, it was expected to get boys even more interested in flight, and who knows, maybe interested in joining the Navy too?
The first thing I saw of the box was the end flap. The first thing I thought was “Strombecker, who the heck is that??” I wasn’t around when some of these old and revered companies were in full swing, and names like Aurora and Strombecker (heck, even FROG) are companies I’ve learned about as I’ve gotten more into modelling. Now, I did know Aurora, but Strombecker?? Strombecker, also known as Strombeck-Becker, were originally a maker of WOODEN models. However, as the “plastic revolution” ramped up, they became aware that they needed to get into that market; it was clear to them that the days of wooden models were pretty much through. So, get into it they did, and they produced a number of kits that are doubtlessly quite collectible today, including a number of Disney space ship and space station kits. Pulling the Pinto from the stack in which I found it, I was blown away by the sheer exuberance of the box lid. This kit looked EXCITING! There was an almost audible jet “whooshing” sound coming from the charging Pinto on the lid’s illustration, but what really struck me was that the lid wasn’t ALL illustration. In fact, there was a tonne of wording on there, all in that very tell-tale ‘50s font and style. One thing I loved right away was that it was a “pin up box top”. Builders were encouraged to cut the picture of the Pinto off the top of the box and hang it on their walls. To this end, the good folks at Strombecker even illustrated a faux-frame around the box art, and perforated it, for easy removal! What a great gimmick! As a kid who was all about plane posters, I could just see some kid’s room in the late ‘50s adorned with not-so-straightly hung model box art and planes hanging from the ceiling by string. It was magical!
The other thing that struck me as odd was that the removable art also functioned as a “sneak peek” in a way. The art is designed to be lifted by eager (and likely sticky) fingers to see the contents of the kit within! To this end, the entire underside of the box lid is a piece of (Now yellowed and brittle) cellophane. This is like the old Lego sets from the ‘80s; I always loved that, and I can see kids loving it on the Strombeckers too. I really wish that kit makers did this now, so you could see what you were getting. The sides of the box are just as exciting with a write up and a picture of the real thing on one side and other kits you could buy on the opposite side. This kind of “cross sell” is typical on today’s toys, but not at all on model kits. That alone serves to show just how the Pinto and its ilk were being marketed.
Gingerly lifting the lid off the box, I was surprised and pleased to see that no one had yet “taken a peek” and that the art was still securely affixed to the box. This is no mean feat, I’m sure, and I can’t help but wonder if that makes the kit or the box more valuable. Inside the box, someone had taken preservation seriously, as everything was inside a well-sealed Ziploc bag.
The Strombecker Pinto is a large plane model. At approximately 1/42, it looks to be about the same size as a 1/72 A-10, in both span and length. Of course, it’s a weird box scale; what in the ‘50s wasn’t, right? Still, you got a lot of plastic for your pennies, and it was surprising to me just how large all the components were. The kit comes moulded in school bus yellow, with clear canopy and windscreen pieces. There are pilot figures, but like most of the day, they’re moulded in halves, so you’re better off without them. The transparencies are amazingly clear and free of distortion, and the moulding seems very good. There are, of course, rivets everywhere, but these aren’t as bad as other kits, since the scale of the kit is so large. What really amazed me, though, were the panel lines: they were RECESSED! Mind you, they’re a bit large, like what one might find on a Matchbox kit from the ‘80s, but they were miles ahead of other kits of the day. So, let’s get this straight. This kit, likely made in the 1959-1961 time period figured out recessed panel lines. How come others couldn’t get it even 20 years later (FROG, Revell/Monogram, Matchbox, Hasegawa and Heller: I’m talking to YOU!)???
Who knows? I’m just glad Strombecker did. The moulding is very good and crisp, and there’s a bit of flash, but not much. I’ve seen far worse on far newer (cough… MPC… cough) kits. It should come as no surprise that interior detail is lacking, but there are decals for the side instrument consoles; there isn’t anything for either station’s main panels, though. The cockpit seems basic; a simple seat and control stick for each occupant, but then again, what do you expect from a 50+ year-old kit? One weird thing: the front windscreen DOES NOT include the frame! The frame for the windscreen is built right into the kit! This makes for a somewhat delicate assembly, for sure, but it also means no masking is needed. Clearly, the designers of the kit were trying to make something that someone without paint could make look pretty convincing. There is framing marked in on the rear canopy, but that’s because it can be positioned open or closed on its hinge.
A quick dry fit of the major parts shows that assembly should not be too difficult; the parts fit together about as well any Matchbox or FROG I’ve built, and actually likely better than most of those. My only worry is how the plastic will react to modern solvents. I’ll have to see if I can try the glues out on some scrap sprue.
The Instructions and Decals:
The Pinto’s instructions are as interesting and engaging as the box itself. The instructions are all hand drawn, the one side being a detailed assembly guide the other being a general exploded view of the kit. The exploded view is a nice piece of commercial graphic artistry; beautifully shaded to really give a sense of depth, it is very warm and personal feeling. You can tell it was done by a person; you can almost feel the artist at work. It’s a nice change from the very sterile and clinical CAD models used in so many instructions today. The instructions give you a sense that they were drawn FOR your use and education, not just that you are yet another random interface for some soulless graphics program in a dull grey factory somewhere. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of how my beloved grandfather used to draw things for me when I was a kid (and he did it the same style as these instructions)? It could be. However, there’s more to the instructions that just the art. Everything is labelled, and there are descriptions of every step. There’s no guessing as to what to do, and no badly-translated-by-Google notations that make things less, not more, clear. The instructions themselves are educational; a modeller working on it would learn what the parts of the plane were, and gain an appreciation of how they all work together. Again, this is a facet of the “soul” of this kit, something missing today in a lot of models.
The instructions are on one piece of now very delicate and yellowed paper. They were folded in quarters to fit into the long, thin box, but they’ve survived well thanks to the Ziplocing they received. The decals were also well-preserved by the Ziploc. There is a nice sheet of insignia and stencils in the kit. The decal sheet is more extensive than some newer kits get! There is even a decal for the anti-glare patch! Now, as to whether the decals will work or not, I don’t even want to guess. I’ll likely scan them in before I use them, and I might even hit them with a bit of the Testors Decal Bonder spray to toughen them up. Still, given their age, they look to be in good shape and imminently useable!
I love this kit. It oozes charm and nostalgia, and I’m homesick for a time I never even lived in! It excites me with its earnestness and simplicity, but astounds me with how detailed it is for its age and with its rather impressive decal sheet. The fit looks surprisingly good, and I’m really pumped about building this old bird. I bought it for the box, but when I see the kit out of the box, I feel it would be a waste NOT to build it. Is this a bad idea for a kit this old? Is it collectible? I have no idea. If you have an opinion, don’t hesitate to post it on this page for all to see! However, while it’s not at the top of my stack, it’s in the top 15% of kits I want to build next, and that’s pretty amazing for a kit this old. I wouldn’t say this is a good kit for a beginner, though. Yes, I realize the irony here, but the reason I say that is that it’s actually more able to be appreciated by someone with more experience. I would recommend this as a “nostalgia” build; something to help break a streak of AMS. It would be a shame to have it gluebombed at this stage. Overall, this looks like a pretty good kit of a very obscure aircraft. That alone is reason to get one, if you can find one. Just think, too; when you’re done, you can hang that nifty framed picture up on your modelling room wall!