When I was a little kid, getting a package in the mail was always exciting. I’m sure there are those of you out there who can remember sending in for mail-away toy offers, or expecting a Christmas parcel from out-of-town loved ones. There’s a unique sense of anticipation, a completely different flavour of impatience, that precedes the arrival of a package full of goodies. Of course, as we get older and mail-in Hot Wheels and the like turn to credit card bills and property tax invoices, it’s not a surprise that the lustre of waiting for the mail wears rather thin, if not off completely.
That just proves that growing up sucks. However, thankfully, I have largely managed to eschew that pedestrian practice; I still find that, once in a while, something comes along to restore my faith in the postal service to deliver something beyond just the mundane. Now, if you’re thinking: “Well, people order stuff from online retailers all the time… what’s the big deal?” you’d be technically right, and sadly also so very wrong. Sure, it’s neat to look forward to something you ordered. I do it often.
BUT… sometimes you get something in the mail you weren’t expecting, or you knew almost nothing about. It’s in such cases that the excited little kid who hopefully checks the mailbox everyday fights his way back to the surface, gleefully facing daily disappointment for the sake of that future day when the promise is fulfilled. I was lucky enough to recently get to experience this singular form of excitement thanks to my good friend Alan.
Out of the blue one day, Alan emailed me that he needed my address, because he was going to send me some kits he knew I’d enjoy. I’ve known Alan by email quite some time, and I know he has a good bead on my love of the obscure, obtuse and aerodynamically abhorrent. He told me very little, except that he was sending me 5 kits and that there was pontoons and biplanes involved, although it was not stated that they were on the same kit! Oh, and FROG and LRDG. Those are good 4-letter words, or acronyms, I suppose, to be technically correct.
You want to talk about excitement? Try beating the wait for random kits to arrive! It’s tough. It made the days longer and my head work overtime trying to figure out what could be in the care package he was so graciously sending me. Of course, it was a pointless exercise, but it was fun regardless. However, it was not as fun as actually finding out, which I did not too long after. Despite being “snail mail” and crossing an international boundary, the package got to me in good shape and in short order.
Free Kits Inside!!
I’ve referenced Stanley Spudowski’s famous “Free toy inside!” line from UHF before. It runs through my head a lot. It was definitely appropriate here.
Alan had warned me it was a small box, but dense. He wasn’t kidding. He’s a master of packaging, I’ll give him that. When I got the box, the small size actually made it more exciting. If you’ve not noticed, older kits tended to be in much smaller boxes than newer kits. Thus, a small package meant that I was about to dive headlong into some real pieces of history. If you know me, and the Lagoon, then you know Classic Plastic is what I crave. I have newer, nicer kits too, but I really do prefer the old beaters.
Upon opening the package, I found I was faced with a sheet of bubble wrap. This gave a view very much like one through privacy glass. I could see stuff, but wasn’t sure what. It was clear there was something blue, and I could see an old Airfix box. I could also see something that I was pretty sure was a FROG box, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I knew what I hoped against hope it was, but I couldn’t be sure. Unable to contain my excitement, I pulled back the bubble wrap and found that yes, my hopes had NOT been dashed! The top kit was, in fact, one I’ve been looking for for ages, the FROG Blackburn Shark! I love obscure, I love the losers, and not much is more of an obscure loser than the Shark! (Well, maybe the Seafox… they make a good pair, no?) It’s even cooler that the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) used them, right up until 1944! It’s good to have something from the “home team” once in a while!
Below that was an ancient Airfix Fw-190. Now, the 190 is something I have some kits of. I have the excellent Revell Germany one with the Hagelkorn, and I have the ancient FROG, albeit without the cooling fan. This Airfix (and it pains me to say this) seems pretty good, and my brain is already running to a naval version for Argentina… Gotta love the classics for Whiffing! Still, I am impressed with the Wurger that Airfix put out. It even has a cooling fan! Hmmm… maybe I can re-engine mine for the Argentine Marina? See what you’ve done Alan?
The blue box slotted ever so perfectly into the top of the box eluded me. It said “Artiplast Venezia Made in Italy” and had some black and white (well, blue) images of some old planes on the side. That didn’t tell me much. More later.
Like an eager archaeologist, I dove to the next strata below the Shark to find… I didn’t know what. It was a Heller kit of a Neiuport-Delage Ni-D 622. I had never heard of this plane. That it was a French interwar design was evidenced by it’s almost abhorrent disregard for the aeronautical principle of streamlining (like the Amiot 143) and its bizarre and extreme adherence to the sesquiplane aesthetic. Whereas most sesquiplanes have a somewhat smaller lower wing, this thing has what are more like a helicopter’s stub wings on the lower level. I was intrigued and found that not only had I gotten an interesting kit, but I was going to get to learn something too! By the way, it is a biplane WITHOUT rigging. How’s that going to go over at a show? I can see the rivet counters scratching their heads now… Pure love!
Below that was exactly what I’d hoped: the original Matchbox LRDG in 1/76. You know I have a love affair with Matchbox Armour. I have a lot of originals, and have been filling in the blanks with the Revell Germany reissues. I’ve managed to get a number of the larger, “orange range” kits in Revell form, but I’ve never had an original. The LRDG has LONG been on my grail list… but I’ve never seen the kit… until now!! Despite being the same plastic, I have to say that the Revell reissues just don’t cut it. There’s nothing, NOTHING like an original Matchbox with that sweet, sweet art and that epic rear panel of artistic goodness.
That left “Mr. Artiplast”. I hoisted it out, and realized that Alan was a devious man. He’d sent me TWO kits that were of subjects I’d never heard of. In this case, the kit is a 1960’s vintage model of the Macchi M.C. 72. This is one of those high-speed seaplane designs that were so popular for the Schneider trophy in the ‘20s. As it turns out, the Macchi is something of a celebrity; in 1934 it set the world record for speed, over water, for a piston-engined seaplane. That record still stands, as of 2019. That’s impressive! I don’t know how they got it to go 440+ mph with all those struts and pontoons… well, I guess a 3,100 hp engine helps! It was great to learn about this plane, and I have Alan’s parcel to thank!
I am very thankful to Alan not only for thinking of me and sending me these kits, but for giving me the opportunity to learn about two new kinds of planes and to fill two big holes in my “wish list”. This was a spontaneous and unsolicited act of kindness, and he deserves many thanks.
You can be sure that some of these will show up on the Lagoon as Out of Box reviews in short order. I mean, how can they NOT?
Just like those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, now you can help decide which of these Mail Order Beauties gets the full-on Lagoon treatment first! Make sure to vote below!