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Strange New Worlds Issue #08
Issue #08
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24 pages
two-color cover, black-and-white interior

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Buyers Guide
Strange New Worlds Issue 8 - Apr/May 1993

A Thunderbirds Buyers Guide :
Plastic Model Kits of Thunderbirds Vehicles

by Mark Kulenich

Plastic Kits - Thunderbird 1

(Thunderbird 1 was the fastest flying machine on Earth. It could fly up to 7,000 miles per hour.)

IMAI produces a nice seven-inch Thunderbird 1 (TB1) kit. Unfortunately, they have added large, ridiculous wheels. Anyone with even limited model-making experience can putty over the wheel holes and fabricate the simple landing gear which should be on this vehicle. With just a couple hours effort, you could have a very beautiful model of the Thunderbird 1.

Bandai’s TB1 leaves a bit to be desired.

Available from England is an 18" long TB1 in a vacuform resin kit. This excellent, but complicated, model is not for the novice. Prices for the 18" model range from $100-$125, My company, Toyz 4 Boyz, produces an 18" solid resin TB1, available either in kit form or already assembled.

Plastic Kits - Thunderbird 2

(The chunky cargo vehicle, Thunderbird 2 transports emergency equipment to the site of a rescue. All sorts of wonderful machines and vehicles could emerge from TB2's interchangeable transport pods.)

8-imai-rescue-set.jpg (32228 bytes)

There are at least eleven variations of plastic kits of Thunderbird 2. A 6" model includes one small cargo vehicle. There are several variations in the 7" size that include different accessory cargo pods and vehicles.

IMAI just re-released a TB2 Special Edition. Usually TB2 kits are very stubby or the nose is too pointy. In 1/350th scale, the 9" IMAI special has the correct profile and is amazingly beautiful. There are four variations to this kit:

1) TB2 with the Domo (a tractor-like vehicle). Unfortunately, this TB2 kit lacks a windshield. There is simply an open hole through which you see the three pilot chairs and control console. Usually on a TB2 model the legs are too long and the ship stands too high above the pod; in this kit everything is correct.

2) The same as version 1 except the engine pods, legs, and some trim is in brass. The price of the brass kit is 50% higher than the all plastic one.

3) TB2 with all six pods and all the little vehicles that fit inside. Half the vehicles included with this set never appeared on the show. These were vehicles created in TV-21 comics and TV-21 Annuals.

4) The ultimate 9" TB2 is available in the TB2 Container Dock kit. This phenomenal TB2 is displayed in its launch bay with observation platform. It comes with three pods. The detail in the construction of this kit is incredible.

A 13" TB2 comes with a Mole, a Thunderbird 4, Thunderbird 1, and a very poorly detailed Thunderbird 5. This extremely large kit does not have the correct profile.

A 1/144th scale TB2 is available in foam and resin. Nearly two feet long with a 22" wingspan, this model is tremendously heavy. At roughly $400, I suggest only expert model builders attempt this kit.

For the absolute nut (and I mean that with a lot of love), Toyz 4 Boyz produces a finished 36" TB2.

Plastic Kits - Thunderbird 3

(Thunderbird 3 is a rocket capable of flying into space. It is used for space rescues.)

There are several small versions of Thunderbird 3. The most popular includes the space station (Thunderbird 5). A 16" resin TB3 kit is available from England; this is a very expensive kit for advanced modelers only.

Plastic Kits - Thunderbird 4

(Thunderbird 4 is the underwater scout craft. It is carried to and from trouble zones by TB2.)

Thunderbird 4 is fairly ignored in the plastic model kit department. Not to say that there aren’t a lot of them, they’re just not very good. Most of the old TB2 kits included a little TB4; but this usually looked like a little lump of yellow plastic with three wheels. IMAI and Bandai produce similar TB4 kits. Unfortunately, Japanese kits usually include some screwy addition. They either put wheels on this underwater ship or include spring-loaded missiles.

An 18" 1/24 scale model is available from England as a vacu-form kit. It requires a lot of work.

My company has a solid 18" TB4 in three variations: 1) unassembled kit, 2) fully finished, and 3) solid crystal clear resin (I wanted a paperweight).

Plastic Kits - Thunderbird 5

(Thunderbird 5 orbits Earth to monitor global communications around the globe.)

Bandai produced a poorly rendered 9" model. The profile is inaccurate and it lacks the beautiful lines that a TB5 should have. However, the box art is quite nice. For only $10, I feel this kit is collectible just for the box. If you buy the kit for the model, you will be disappointed.

IMAI’s TB5 makes a beautiful display piece. It includes a TB3 (the space transport rocket) that docks with the TB5. The entire space station is mounted on a wire connected to a small portion of the Earth, making it appear as if TB5 is in orbit. This kit begs to be super detailed and have lighting added. Displayed in a dark room, this can be a stunning addition to any "Thunderbirds" collection.

Plastic Kits - FAB1

(FAB 1 was Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce, equipped with grappling hooks and machine guns.)

IMAI is the only manufacturer of a FAB 1 kit. This 9" long kit is battery-operated. Unfortunately, the newer kits have replaced the clear canopy with a blue-tinted one. Otherwise, the car is nice with good lines. Toyz 4 Boyz offers a crystal-clear canopy as an addition.

Plastic Kits -Thunderbird 6

I want to clear up a common misconception about Thunderbird 6. The IMAI Thunderbird 6 model kit is actually a model of Skyship 1 from the movie Thunderbird 6. The IMAI box art features the fabulously huge Skyship 1 with TB1, TB2, and a little bi-plane in the background. The bi-plane is actually Thunderbird 6.

Plastic Kits - Thunderbird 7

Thunderbird 7 never appeared in any of the shows or the comics. Thunderbird 7 is a Japanese creation, licensed by ITC. They used an existing model, modified it slightly, and slapped a Thunderbird 7 sticker on the side. TB7 is only made by IMAI. They recently re-issued the kit with different box art. This wired remote-control vehicle features functional rear doors and a missile-launcher. Though not true Anderson merchandise, it is still a interesting item. I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys science fiction kits.

Plastic Kits - Tracy Island

(Tracy island is the secret base of International Rescue.)

Tracy Island kits are available in three versions:

1) The original 1960s IMAI Tracy Island Kit was the best. Secret Base #1, as it is referred to now, displays the whole island. The Tracy home includes a TB1 mounted on the swimming pool. A spring-loaded button launches TB1, usually to land on the floor and shatter into a million pieces. TB2 is on its Cliff House launch ramp. TB2’s launch button engages a motor that folds back the palm trees, elevates the launch ramp, and launches the ship into the air — also to shatter when it hits the floor. TB3 is mounted on its Round House. When you press its activator button it flies off and, of course, shatters upon impact. TB4 comes attached to a magnetic arm that releases it from its secret underwater location. Though the vehicles are not all built to the same scale, Secret Base #1 is a truly spectacular kit. IAMI has recently re-issued the Secret Base Kit with only subtle changes. Properly assembled, the kit makes a striking display.

2) IMAI’s Secret Base #2 is considerably smaller with none of the island’s main structures. This kit provides a close-up look at the four vehicles. A terrible TB1 with completely inaccurate profile and monstrously large wheels is displayed on a large plateau with stone steps leading up to it. TB2 sits across from this on its own landing plateau. This disappointing ship is less than 4 inches long. TB4, however, is very nice. It’s the best part of this kit. The TB5 is the same one that comes standard with many of the IMAI kits; it’s pretty bad, very stubby, with no lower antennae rigging. Two ridiculously large wheels have been added to the bottom of this space satellite. I don’t care for the kit. Unless you are strictly a box art collector, I really don’t recommend it.

3) IMAI’s Secret Base #3: (labeled International Rescue’s Secret Base on the box) For this kit’s cover art, IMAI slightly modified the art from the big Tracy Island kit. This leads many to assume that this is a smaller version of the bigger island. Not so. This useless kit is just a big lump of plastic not at all resembling Tracy Island. The Cliff House overlooks an enormous hole in the side of the plastic from which a sad TB2 can be catapulted. The TB1 is a little better, but not much. TB3 isn’t too bad, but it’s so small. I must stress these vehicles are incredibly tiny. At 3" long, TB3 is the largest. It comes with a fair Round House; a good model maker could do this up nice, but it requires serious work. The TB4 is approximately 1.5" long. Though small, the detail on it is rather good. TB5 is also 1.5" long, but this vehicle is pathetic. Also included is a very nice 3" Mole, an unspectacular rescue helicopter, and a heavily modified Tracy home. This fairly expensive kit is a major disappointment.

Of the three Tracy Island kits, I recommend the original. Usually priced around $100, this beautiful kit will not disappoint you.

Plastic Kits - Rescue Panorama

IMAI'S Rescue Panorama set provides a three-dimensional full-colored cardboard representation of the island. This kit is basically a repackaging of IMAI’s four most popular rescue vehicle kits (the Mole, the Excavator, the Firefly, and the Recovery Vehicle) into one big box with a little TB2 and TB4 thrown in. The Excavator never appeared on "Thunderbirds," but was an invention of the comic strips. (A motorized Excavator kit that tends to break fairly easily is also available.) The 5" long Firefly looks impressive when super detailed. The Mole comes with its tractor transport. (There is a also a motorized version of the Mole that is considerably larger and has a lot of action features.) The Recovery Vehicle is extremely nice. A good modeler would replace the rubber hoses with nylon fishing wire wrapped around the spools to better approximate the vehicle from the show. The TB2 that comes with this set is about 4" long. It has a separating pod with a non-opening door. The legs can be fixed in the upright position or built with no legs at all. The TB4 is 5" long and comes with a clear canopy that allows you to view the interior. Gordon is seated at a semi-detailed control panel. If you install a small lightbulb inside, it would be a very displayable, though somewhat small version, of Thunderbird 4.

Buyers Guide:
Thunderbirds Plastic Model Kits
Thunderbirds Diecast Vehicles
Thunderbirds Action Figures
Shop Thunderbirds collectibles
Thunderbirds Books




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