The Motor Pool: Building a Better Shopping Experience

 

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As you may have noticed, our redesigned web site has gone live and now works in a more robust manner on both mobile devices as well as tablets, scaling in size to fit each system’s dimensions. Our blog has been cosmetically changed as well and offers full integration within our main site, and finally our newsletter mailings have been retrofitted to look like our web site. Essentially, everything you see will now have one unified look and take advantage of several enhancements now available to us. We hope you enjoy your shopping experience.

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Air Force 1 Pushes Up More than Flowers this May

 
Air Force 1’s brand new 1:72 scale look at the PLAAF Shenyang J-31 stealth fighter

It’s no secret that Chinese-based Air Force 1 has an affinity for modern aircraft fielded by the Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), so when we received their latest sales brochure we were wondering what took them so long to offer up their latest fare? This May, no less than nine new models are slated for the collector’s market, all based on platforms used by the PLAAF. Perhaps the most intriguing new replica is this 1:72 scale take on the Shenyang J-31 stealth fighter (AF10131), largely viewed by Western analysts as a pirated version of the US F-35 stealth fighter. Larger than the F-35, the J-31 may not be as capable or as stealthy as the F-35, so it remains to be seen how the PLAAF will operate their newest system.

The Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter, offered up in splendid 1:144 scale

In addition to the J-31, AF1 will make available an octet of 1:100-1:144 scale fixed- and rotary wing aircraft, which we are in the process of uploading to our site. While some critics point to a few inconsistencies and inaccuracies with the AF1 models, no one can take issue with their pricing. Most of the new items weigh in at around $20-$25, with the J-31 topping out at $49.99, certainly a bargain compared to other new modern aircraft being rolling out by other manufacturers.

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Eaglemoss Warps in with Their 2017 Star Trek Lineup

 
Hardbound Star Trek graphic novels will begin to appear in 2017.

Somewhat quiet for several months, our distributor shed light on what’s to come from Eaglemoss the first half of this year as it pertains to their Star Trek role call. Lots of new products were announced, covering everything from new special and larger scale starships to reference material, hard-to-find convention exclusives to graphic novels. The graphic novels represent a very nice tangential look at the Star Trek universe, essentially gorgeous, perfect bound, hard cover books that, in many instances, serve as superb compilations of previously related comics.

USS Yorktown NCC1717, a Star Trek show-exclusive, now becomes available later this year

Three Mirror Universe standard sized starships are also being offered up, each complete with their own full-color magazine. Best of all, many of these new introductions are expected to ship shortly, and carry us through the first six months of 2017.

Star Trek Constitution Class Cruiser – USS Franklin NCC-1743, the eighth special edition Eaglemoss Star Trek starship
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Forget Stocks and Bonds, Stamps and Coins. Invest in Collectibles

 

While most collectors don’t pay attention to the value of their collection, it’s nice to know that should you run into a bit of financial trouble, selling off your collection might prove to be a valuable lifeline. According to the Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/a44ba202-f9bb-11e6-bd4e-68d53499ed71, some legacy Star Wars memorabilia, many of which sold for a pittance in relation to today’s market, are commanding prices, at auction, into the tens of thousands of dollars. While not every item in every conceivable segment of the hobby has gone up in value by such stratospheric numbers, its nevertheless nice to know that some collectibles could serve as a retirement nest egg should things start to go south.

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Product Spotlight: DKM Bismarck

 

“Sink the Bismarck!”

– Prime Minister Winston Churchill, after learning of the demise of the battlecruiser HMS Hood, May 1941

Earlier this month, we began examining some of the reworked warships due out shortly from Forces of Valor. Many have been reworked, repainted and repackaged, all in an effort to bring the series up to speed and attract new collectors into the fold. Our second warship spotlight focuses on the German Kriegsmarines infamous battleship, DKM Bismarck, pride of the German fleet and one of its earliest victims in the Battle of the Atlantic (FOV861006A).

Operation Rheinubung (“Rhine Exercise”) was the sortie into the Atlantic by the new German battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen from May 18th-27th, 1941, during World War II. This operation culminated in the sinking of the Bismarck.

During both World Wars, the island of Britain was dependent upon huge numbers of merchant ships to bring in food and essential raw materials, and protecting this lifeline was one of the highest priorities for British forces. Likewise, Germany recognized that, if this lifeline could be severed, Britain would be defeated, regardless of any other factor.

Operation Rheinubung was the latest in a series of raids on Allied shipping carried out by surface units of the Kriegsmarine. It was preceded by Operation Berlin, a highly successful sortie by Scharnhorst and Gneisenau which ended in March 1941.

By May 1941, the Kriegsmarine warships, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Admiral Hipper were at Brest, on the western coast of France, posing a serious threat to the Atlantic convoys. Two new warships now became available to the Germans: the battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, both initially stationed in the Baltic Sea.

The aim of the operation was for Bismarck and Prinz Eugen to break into the Atlantic and attack Allied shipping. Raeder’s orders to Lutjens were that “the objective of the Bismarck is not to defeat enemies of equal strength, but to tie them down in a delaying action, while preserving her combat capacity as much as possible, so as to allow Prinz Eugen to get at the merchant ships in the convoy” and “The primary target in this operation is the enemy’s merchant shipping; enemy warships will be engaged only when that objective makes it necessary and it can be done without excessive risk.”

To support and provide facilities for the capital ships to refuel and rearm, German Naval Command (OKM) established a network of tankers and supply ships in the Rheinubung operational area. 7 tankers and 2 supply ships were sent as far afield as Labrador in the west to Cape Verde islands in the south.

Lutjens had requested that Grand Admiral Erich Raeder delay Rheinubung long enough either for Scharnhorst to rendezvous at sea with Bismarck and Prinz Eugen or for Bismarck’s sister-ship Tirpitz to accompany them. Raeder had refused. The crew of the newly-completed Tirpitz was not yet fully trained, and Raeder cited the coming German invasion of Crete as a reason for disrupting Allied supply lines and diverting strength from the Mediterranean.

To meet the threat from German surface ships, the British had stationed at Scapa Flow the new battleships HMS King George V (sometimes referred to as KGV) and HMS Prince of Wales (PoW) as well as the elderly battlecruiser HMS Hood. Elsewhere, at Gibraltar, at Halifax, Nova Scotia and at sea in the Atlantic were the battleships Revenge, Rodney and Ramillies, the battlecruisers Repulse and Renown, and aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and Victorious. Cruisers and air patrols provided the fleet’s ‘eyes’. At sea, or due to sail shortly, were 11 convoys, including a troop convoy.

OKM did not take into account the Royal Navy’s determination to destroy the German surface fleet. To make sure Bismarck was sunk, the Royal Navy would ruthlessly strip other theatres of action. This would include denuding valuable convoys of their escorts. The British would ultimately deploy six battleships, three battlecruisers, two aircraft carriers, 16 cruisers, 33 destroyers and eight submarines, along with patrol aircraft. It would become the largest naval force assigned to a single operation up to that point in the war.

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Films in Focus: SS-GB

 

With Amazon’s alternative reality series, The Man in the High Castle, now in its third season, BBC One is getting set to air its own look at a “what-if” scenario arising from WWII. According to Wikipedia, SS-GB is a 2017 British drama series produced for the BBC and based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Len Deighton. It is set in a 1941 alternative timeline in which the United Kingdom is occupied by Nazi Germany, having won the Battle of Britain.

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Iran Debuts Its Own Tank

 
This picture released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on Sunday, March 12, 2017, shows domestically manufactured tank called “Karrar” in an undisclosed location in Iran. Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency is reporting that the country has unveiled a domestically manufactured tank and has launched a mass-production line. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP). The Karrar bears a striking resemblance to Russia’s T-14 Armata, so it would not come as a surprise if the Russians helped them to design the vehicle

In a move aimed at preventing reliance on foreign made weapons systems, the Iranian military unveiled its first domestically produced tank. Associated Press reports that it has been dubbed the Karrar (“Striker”), which is strange, in and if itself, since Wikipedia claims that the Karrar is a UCAV, not a tank. No matter, Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan says that “the tank has the capability to fire missiles and precisely guide them.”

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency indicates that the “Karrar” is equipped with an electro-optical fire control system and laser range-finder and is capable of firing at both stable and mobile targets day or night. Dehghan also says the tank can compete with the most advanced tanks in the world in the three main areas of “power, precision and mobility,” although its unclear if these claims can be corroborated by Western analysts. Still, the fact that Iran can produced its own main battle tank, much as it does for other equipment including missiles, fighter jets and submarines, comes as a stark reminder that they wish to control their own destiny should they become embroiled in another conflict.

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Atlas Toasts the French

 

Every so often, we’re forced to sit on the fence about a new line that may or may not do well with our collecting audience. Yesterday, we learned about a new range of large 1:24 scale unpainted figures and vehicles from Atlas Editions. What makes this line questionable for us is the fact that they come unpainted, are all based upon World War I subjects, and all focus on the french army. On the plus side, they are relatively inexpensive, given their size and heft. The vehicle seen here sells for only $29.99, while most of the two-figure sets can be sold for as little as $14.99. Each even comes with a certificate of authenticity as can be seen in the accompanying photograph, and attractive packaging to boot. If you’ll notice, the tank tracks and wheels are molded to the body, which means these vehicles are really designed to sit in a curio cabinet than on a wargaming battlefield. For now, we’ll take a wait and see attitude since they aren’t due to arrive for a few months but we’d love to hear your opinion concerning the range, which covers some 24 SKUs and even a wooden display base with a felt top.

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Solido Continues to Mystify

 

Its now mid-March, a full month after the conclusion to the Nuremberg Toy Fair, and we are still in a quandary concerning french manufacturer, Solido. Last year, they made it public knowledge that they are working with War Master to produce a new range of 1:72 scale diecast military vehicles and, last month, showed off several larger 1:43 scale military vehicles within one of their Toy Fair booths, several of which we have never seen before.

Now, on their web site, they’ve added a new collage of War Master products to their home page, which includes a British Cromwell tank and a Martlet fighter, the British equivalent of the Eastern Aircraft FM-1 Wildcat. That said, no further details concerning either new  issue are contained within their military category page, so for now we assume they are nothing more than teasers with release dates much further out. Likewise, we still aren’t sure if the range will be made available in North America since no distributor has stepped forward yet to indicate they will supply the range. We aren’t sure what this means to collectors but will keep everyone abreast should anything change.

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Entering the Third Dimension

 

Shortly, Microsoft plans on releasing Windows 10 Creators Update, which looks to take the operating system to the next level. One feature heavily touted is Paint 3-D, which enables users to merge 3-D content with stylized 2-D images. After we gain some familiarity with this app, we plan to gradually migrate all of our new product images to this new standard, which will hopefully give customers a better understanding and appreciation of each item. Stay tuned for further details.

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Panzerkampf Orders its Assault Troops Forward

 

 

Even though we’re still awaiting the first 1:72 scale tanks from newcomer, Panzerkampf, it appears as if they have lots more armor in the pipeline just itching to find a new home. According to their web site, four more tanks are pretty far along in the development process – so far, in fact, that they even have pictures of the replicas rather than 2-D line art. The four newest showings include what appears to be a WWII-era German Panther Ausf. D medium tank with side armor skirts, Russian T-90MS main battle tank, and a pair of German Leopard armored fighting vehicles: a 2A5 as well as a 2A7. No dates of availability were listed, so they could be a ways of before they hit the street.

Other vehicles seem to be in the works too, most notably a US-built M60A3 Patton tank clad in explosive reactive armor as well as a vehicle we cannot identify. Further details will no doubt surface in the coming weeks.

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