By Steve Gay
Surprising the sci-fi modeling community, ERTL's Phantom Menace kits crept onto retail shelves (against ERTL wishes of a simultaneous release date of 5/3) over a month before release of the actual film. The first four releases include two "Snapfast" kits and one "Die Cast Model", with more releases due to follow in October 1999. Any new Star Wars-related kit is poised to jump to instant classic fame. Do the new releases make the grade? Read on and see what you think.
I'm positive the Pod race in The Phantom Menace will be just as exciting as Death Star trench run (ANH) or the Speeder Bike chase (RotJ) - if not more. I'm pleased therefore that Ertl has given us Anakin's Podracer in 1:32 scale. Unlike the other kit releases so far, this one is not snapfast and will require some modeling skill. The kit contains over 150 parts molded in a light gray plastic. Many of the parts are small and very delicate and will require care when removing them from the sprue tree. Lets take a look at the kit in more detail.
The Pod is made up of about 54 pieces including the windshield, which is molded in clear plastic. The cockpit is modestly detailed with two large levers and a few buttons. Not having seen the cockpit in the movie I can't say whether detail is lacking here. Anakin is molded in his desert garb with seatbelt, goggles and helmet. I haven't fitted the parts but I do believe puttying and sanding will be required to remove any sign of seams. According to the instructions the Pod is basically painted silver with the cockpit being painted black. The majority of the decals, basically blue stripes and a few symbols, will be applied to the Pod. I feel that masking and spraying on the blue strips may be easier than fighting Ertls decals.
Next we have the two jet engines. Each is made up of 46 pieces, starting with 4 sections which create the basic cylinder. Next, most of the detail (mainly cables and rods) is attached the cylinder. These parts are very easy to break when removing from the sprue tree. I would recommend using a special sprue cutter tool you can pick up at your hobby supplier. Each engine has three air brakes which can be glued in three positions. The engines will probably be the most interesting to paint. The instructions show the colors black, silver, yellow, copper, red, steel, and blue. The only problem I see is that the parts marked as yellow look more on the orange side to me. Either way the engines will probably do well with some nice weathering. Lastly a decal is applied to each air brake.
What Holds it All Together
The Podracer is brought together by two long cables which connect the Pod to the engines. The engines are then held together by a purple arc of electricity. The cables are each made up of two plastic segments. The arc of electricity is molded in translucent purple.
The Finished Product
I think the key to this kit is how you decide to mount it on its base. The instructions show the finished model being supported by three metal rods on a rather ugly base. Replacing the base with a sand or rock covered one is a good start. Also finding a way to mount the model using one rod may make it look better. Finally, if you watch the sequences of the Pod race in the two trailers you'll notice that the engines move around, almost like two bucking broncos hauling a stage coach. This could best be replicated by replacing the two plastic cables running from the Pod with some kind of metal or sturdy plastic tubing, then adjusting them so that the engines are not exactly level but a little uneven. Giving the illusion of movement or speed will greatly add to the look of the finished model.
I would say that out of the three plastic kits released the Podracer is probably the best. I think 1:32 is a good scale and it should satisfy most modelers. Plus, it's just one of the weirdest vehicles to come out of the Star Wars universe to date!
^ Above - the pod parts. Below, the engines.
^Base, arc, and supports.
This page copyright © 1997-9 Starship Modeler. Last updated on 18 April 1999