Good evening, Dear Friends
We have completed our retail department move. As of yesterday, we have vacated the facility in Most that since June, 2019, has served as our main retail headquarters as well as the facility that served as final kit packaging. It’s also the facility in which we lost a lot of the plastic for our kits when a fire broke out in December 2020. I admit to having hoped for an earlier move to a new facility after that fire. Immediately in the spring and summer of 2020, we prepared for a new-build facility, but that was ultimately quelled by the turbulent supply issues in the construction industry. In the fall of 2021, we began to negotiate the purchase of an existing facility in Sedlec, a village neighboring our main office in Obrnice, some 5km away. We were able to keep the negotiations pretty short with the owners, and the same goes for the financing talks with the bank. The talks hit a typically Czech roadblock though, when it was revealed that the access road to our new facility was bisected by a 10mwide swath of land belonging to the neighbor. Said neighbor is American, and as such, the negotiations making the access road all ours took about another 9 months. This finally happened last September. In February, all the plastic was moved to the newly renovated facility, officially known as Hall 2 and this was followed by the retail department last month. The next step is to move final kit manufacturing into the building and that is slated for June.
This was the easiest part of the whole thing. As I wrote in the March editorial, the next phase is the reconstruction of the premises for Department 012, which is kit production. That requires setting up space intended for a tool shop, a press shop, warehouses for molds and materials, as well as for the offices of designers and technologists. This will be more demanding. The installation of the required equipment will be significantly more complicated than the modification of the premises for product storage and shipping. If everything goes well, we could move production from Obrnice to Sedlec at the end of this year. It’s all a little like kit development. Yeah, we can get it done in x amount of time, but then the reality of the situation inevitably kicks in. So it’s probably more realistic to expect the relocation of the manufacture of kits in the first half of next year, but the entire project is expected to be complete by the end of next year. So, we actually have a relatively good supply of time, and we can still realistically believe that this move will turn out like our Zero or Nieuport 17projects. We managed these projects in a significantly shorter time than anticipated. If everything works out, it will benefit us a lot, and you too, as our ability to release new kits at a faster pace after the move will gradually increase. In the end, however, you decide how much it will grow, because we will be guided by demand for expanded production capabilities.
One More Thing about
We wrote about this year's Nuremberg Toy Fair in the last issue of this newsletter, and to be honest, I didn't need to return to the exhibition until last week. I changed my opinion after reading the evaluation of the exhibition by Jindra Štěrbáček in Modelář magazine. I will not sugarcoat this mess … I found the article extremely biased and even insulting. Its evaluation is unfair to both the organizers and the participants. I do not intend to argue with the announcement that this year's fair was a significantly smaller event for our industry than what we were used to in the pre-Covid years, but that was expected and at least we went there with a clear idea of what we were getting into. Accordingly, we made arrangements and changed our usual procedures based on our years of attending the fair. Specifically, for us and our colleagues and friends at Special Hobby, it meant joining together and sharing one booth. But it was no mini-stand, as was written in Modelář. Compared to previous years, we reduced the area of the stand by one third. In the same way, our previous stands were no opulent exhibitions; I think their size corresponded to the size and importance of our companies. We, that is, Eduard, will most likely stay with this size of stand next year, Special Hobby will probably separate from us and set up its own tables. It will be a bit of a shame, for me, living with them was pleasant and conflict-free, even if I did eat their peanuts.
The absence of a number of companies was expected, and not surprising for those who follow at least a little what is happening in the world. Asia is still struggling with the repercussions of the pandemic, air travel is currently more of a hassle than normal, discouraging many from traveling to Europe. Ukraine is defending itself against Russian aggression, so the absence of Ukrainian companies is completely understandable, and it is also clear for the Russians, they are under sanctions and their participation is unwelcome for obvious reasons. In addition, Russian companies never exhibited much in Nuremberg, I honestly only remember Zvezda. Americans aren’t exactly into travel either, and frankly, in terms of the participation of different nations, two things are a mystery to me: why didn't the Poles actually come, and why did so many Australians come this year? No one has to travel further than them, they also knew what they were getting into and how limited the possibilities of contact with manufacturers would be in Nuremberg this year, and they came anyway! Hats off to them! When I add the year-over-year increase in turnover with the Australians between 2021 and 2022, it was a 71 % increase for us, so I personally consider it a definite positive point and I am slowly starting to research the process of obtaining an Australian visa. It’s time to fly to Australia, even though they have poisonous spiders, snakes and all kinds of other fun stuff!
I consider the opening of the toy fair to the public, and above all to children and youth, to be a positive and revolutionary step. If I am not mistaken, this is the first time in the history of the fair that children were allowed to visit the exhibition. I’m sure that something like this would never have happened if it weren't for covid lockdowns and the changes in circumstances caused by it. If it weren't for the above-described reduction in exhibitors and the corresponding reduction in the number of visitors, the organizers would not have opened the exhibition up like that. In fact, I would bet on it. However, I wouldn’t put money down on them keeping it that way when things settle down again. But I will be happy if the weekend open to the public remains a part of the fair. Among other things, it brought us a change in the perception of Exhibition Sunday. It used to be traditionally boring, nothing happened by then, we just always kind of agonizingly waited for it to finally end and we could go home. Not that we didn't want to go home this year, we wanted to, and how! But we didn't get bored. More people came on Saturday and Sunday than on the previous three days combined, maybe even more than at any other time during the entire exhibition’s history. So we ended up packing our stuff in the evening, tired as hell, but with a good feeling that at least we got away with it and did a good job. And Fredy and I have to find time to go for coffee, because what we left to discuss on the traditionally boring Sunday, we didn't have time to discuss this time due to the unusually high number of visitors interested in our products.
So to sum it up, next year will be even better, if Putin doesn't completely screw up and unleash a nuclear apocalypse. I don't know how much better it will be, I rather expect the exhibitors to return gradually to normal, but it may be different. In any case, I hope Jindra actually makes it to Nuremberg next year in person and doesn’t have to write a report based on what he heard from someone else. That would be awesome and much more accurate.
Kits in April
Before I start with the news, let me make one more announcement. At the end of March, we had 224 active items in the kit range. Before the fire in December 2020, there were 180 items, so now we have a significantly wider range than back then. With that, I dare to consider the renewal of the range of model kits finished. Of course, it’s not the same range as in 2020, but it wouldn’t be even if there was no fire. The range of kits has always been dynamically changing, and given that we've regularly released an average of six new kits every month for the past two years, some of which were brand new and some of which were rehashed older items, the current range is significantly changed. The current situation also does not mean that we will stop presenting older kits as news, kits which are currently still missing from the catalog. In April, the 48th Bf 110C returns in the form of a redesigned ProfiPACK, kit, as does the 72nd scale UTIMiG-15, as a reissue of the original kit. We are also nearing the end of the packaging changeover. We have very few kits left in the old boxes in our warehouse, the vast majority of the range is in new boxes, whether they’re Weekend or ProfiPACK kits. Those that we currently have in stock in their original packaging will be sold out in the next installment of the Sweep campaign in April.
So this finally brings me to the April news. In the ProfiPACK range, we are expanding the family of Trener kits (you’ll recall that this is the Czech word for “Trainer”, and was the name bestowed on this line of aircraft) with the first Tener with a retractable undercarriage, the Z-326 in M and MF versions. The kit also includes military machines, known locally as the “Three-Hundreds”, consistent with their military designation C-305. In the Weekend series we have two new 48th scale items for April, the Tempest Mk.V Series 2 and the Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-4. The Fw 190A-4 thus returns as one of the last Focke-Wulfs that was missing. This is, among other things, because it is a rather complicated version with different combinations of armament and engine cooling exhausts. In this case, the kit is of a version with two cannons in the wing roots, and cooling flaps. One of the machines offered is a pure fighter, the remaining three are fighter-bombers, covering a choice of aircraft from the Western Front, the Eastern Front and the North African battlefield.
I saved the crown jewel of April‘s new releases to the end of this section, and that is the A6M2-N Rufe. I’ll admit that I’m a little worried that you'll think of the Rufe as another, and even less interesting, Zero incarnation. I hope that we will convince you of the opposite, both with the kit itself and with a two-part historical-technical article by Honza Bobek with some very readable, often unknown, information about this unique float equipped fighter. The Rufe is being first released in the Limited Edition line as Dual Combo boxing, and shares only two sprues with the older Zero Model 21. One is of the canopy, the other contains small detail parts. The other four frames are new, and are Rufe-specific. We incorporated a number of features consistent with the Rufe’s differences from your basic Zero, based on newly discovered findings made during the completion of the project after consulting recognized experts on the type. This is a good argument to consider for those who are on the fence over whether it is worth replacing their old Rufe kits with ours. For example, the external reinforcement of the fuselage in the cockpit area, which look really nice on the model, are included and I strongly I suspect that no kit thus far represented this feature. For those who don’t feel the need for the expense of a dual combo boxing, and its associated price, please note that the classic ProfiPACK kit will be out in July.
For the Rufe, we are offering a whole range of accessories in parallel with the release of the kit, based on the collection of kits for the A6M2 Model 21. Of course, we leave out the wheels, but among the accessories, there are, for example, the folding wingtips. Some publications state that the Rufe did not have these. As you will learn from the aforementioned article by Honza Bobek, the fact is that at least several dozen aircraft from the start of the production run were equipped with folding wingtips. For the Zero’s main adversary early on, the F4F-3 Wildcat, we have an engine kit for the late version dash-3 in the collection of April releases , differing from the older kit for the F4F-3 Early in the engine cowl and with two versions of the face ring and some detail installations underneath, such as a reduction gear. The 48th scale sets also include a machine gun set for Anson from Airfix, two sets, a radar and exhaust, for all F-16s from Kinetic, and a Mi-24V cockpit in that Soviet turquoise finish, in addition to a few other smaller sets. This set, as was the black cockpit version for the same kit from Zvezda, is released as a combination of a 3D printed base complete with a Space 3D decal.
In 1/72 scale, this month we focused on the Bf 110E (Eduard) with three sets. These are an upgraded version of the older sets for this model. The set of wheels is cast traditionally, as is usually the case with wheels. Conversely, the nose machine gun setup is 3Dprinted. Of interest is the cockpit set, the base of which has remained cast, but the floor with the installation of the deck guns and the rear machine gun are printed. So it is a kind of hybrid, rare in the Brassin line, but for this set this combination seemed appropriate to us. In the Brassin line, you will also find several small sets for the Hurricane IIb (Revell 1/32), two kits for 35th scale armor and three new sets of the Look line.
Masks, Photoetched and Space Sets
In traditional photoetched sets, we are, among other things, releasing items for the competing Zero A6M2b from Academy, the bomb bay for the B-24D from Revell (ex-Monogram), the F4U-1D from Hobby Boss and the Mi-8MT from Zvezda, all in 1:48 scale. April also sees the long-awaited renewal of photoetched sets for our Hellcats, both the F6F-3 and F6F-5. Both of these are based on older sets, but are upgraded to current standards.
Of interest will be the two Spitfire Mk.IXc 1/24 sets from Airfix, and three sets, including two for the new SdKfz 251/1 Ausf C from Academy, are for combat vehicles in 1:35. Set 36499 for this model also includes a small instrument sheet made with 3D printing technology, used for the production of our Space sets, and indicates that the trend of combining different technologies can also make its way to the photoetched range. Also being offered is one 1:350 USS Missouri set from the Hobby Boss kit, three 1:72 scale aircraft kits, and you'll also find three new BigEd and six Space sets
Historical and Other Articles
I have already made mention of Honza Bobek’s article about the Rufe fighter floatplane. It is in two parts, the second part will be published in the May newsletter. In addition to a number of lesser-known or hitherto unknown technical and historical facts, it also brings a very interesting visual component. Several unique, in some cases unpublished, photographs have been obtained from Japan courtesy of Messrs Izawa and Yoshino, thanks to the assistance of the editors of Scale Aviation magazine. I should also add that in completing the kit we used the advice and materials of Mr. Ryan Toews, who also helped Honza considerably in the preparation of his article.
Part two of Tom Cleaver’s article Arrival of the Cavalry comes out this month, about the activities of VMF-223, flying Wildcats during the battles for Guadalcanal. Thus, in this issue of our magazine, you have the opportunity to see the war in the Pacific from the point of view of the two opposing sides. Article of Tomáš “Hindman” Dvořák is offering interesting insight into service of high-altitude Hind E helicopters in service of Czech and Czechoslovak Air Force. In addition to these historical notebooks, as with virtually the entire previous year, we are continuing with our look at the air war over Ukraine with the series of articles by Miro Barič. The war is entering its next phase, and I’m afraid Miro will have plenty to write about in the months to come. I have no doubt that the just delivered Slovak and Polish MiG-29s will soon be mentioned as well. Most of you will know that the majority of these machines will have hailed from the inventory of the Czechoslovak and Czech Republic Air Forces.
We also have new Boxart Stories. Richard Plos prepared a Boxart Story for the Z-326/C-305 Trener Master, Tempest Mk.V Series 2 and the UTI MiG-15 kits. The first two images were created by Adam Tooby, the boxtop image of the Czechoslovak UTI MiG-15 comes from an earlier work by Kateřina Borecká. We are transformed back to the Battle of Britain era in a story describing the Bf 110C painting, as Honza Bobek takes us back to the Second World War with the author of the painting Piotr Forkasiewicz, who, as is his custom, faithfully captured the atmosphere of air combat from this period. The encounter between the Sturmoviks and the Focke-Wulf Fw 190s of JG 54 “Grünherz” is described in detail by Andrey Dikov, who also helped us with the preparation of the background for this image, created by Mark Ryś. It depicts our subject, flown by Otto Kittel, one of the most successful fighter pilots of the Luftwaffe, for whom one of his many encounters with the Sturmoviks would become fateful.
To vary the themes of this month’s articles a little, we have the second part of Jozef Blažek’s summary on instant, epoxy and dispersion adhesives in the still new section on modelling chemistry.
And with that, I wish you a good read with this month’s newsletter, and I look forward to hopefully seeing you in Prostějov and Mošon!