True to their word, Waltersons, the current owner of the Forces of Valor brand, will be offering a slew of M4 Sherman variants in the coming year. Three new 1:32 scale Shermans were announced today, one featuring an HVSS suspension and the other two sporting the older VVSS suspension. It appears as if Creighton Abrams’ “Thunderbolt” will be modeled although its not clear which one of his mounts will actually see the light of day. A bunch more variants were revealed on Wednesday morning, covering just about every conceivable Sherman tank to see battle during the Second World War.
Thus far, only black-and-white photos have been posted to their web site, so it could be some time before we get to see the finished products in the flesh with firm release dates set in stone. For further information, hop on over to the Forces of Valor web site.
As an aside, its refreshing to see a manufacturer take on a subject with such zeal and fortitude to warrant producing so many variants of the Sherman within a relatively short time span. Its not clear, however, if the manufacturer plans to create two different versions of each model, thereby portraying each vehicle type under differing lighting conditions and weathering effects. If they do, it represents a huge inventory build for distributors and retailers alike, who will certainly be hard-pressed to keep all of the SKUs in stock at all times. While we certainly applaud their effort to depict every known Sherman tank that saw action during the War, it might make more sense to spread out their release over the course of several years instead of potentially flooding the market with so many variations in a narrow period of time.
In the wake of several recent Facebook posts, Forces of Valor has made significant strides updating their web site with relevant information that is designed to keep everyone informed about their progress to date. While some upcoming releases are still showing historical photos instead of product imagery, and not every section of the web site has been worked on in a consistent manner, its comforting to see that the Company is finally spending the requisite time to provide meaningful and pertinent information to both its customers and retail network alike. For more information on the Forces of Valor web site, click on the following link.
True-to-form, Waltersons posted another update to their Facebook account discussing their upcoming 2019 release schedule and how they plan to address the market place. If you’re good at reading between the lines then that means you’re likely in for a rude awakening come the next twelve months, as more and more iterations of several fan favorites hit the street. In fact, you’ll likely need a score card to tell the “players” apart as more and more new introductions get added to the production schedule and the list of variations grows longer every day.
As it stands now, virtually every new item scheduled to come out will come in at least two flavors: a heavily weathered version and one sporting a more subdued look. Case in point, the upcoming PLAN Liaoning aircraft carrier. We were under the impression that one version was due out later this year, portraying the ship when it visited Hong Kong in 2017. Apparently, a second example is in the works as well, this time around sporting subtle weathering effects that include take off and landing scarring as it undertook sea trials in the South China Sea a year prior. A third version could also be in the offing, this time around featuring a reconfigured rear flight deck that is intended to make more room for the stowage of aircraft.
FOV also plans on reworking the turret for their 1:32 scale Tiger I tank so that it better reflects some of the changes the German Army incorporated into some of the latter models. Moreover, some vehicles will be slathered with Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste while others will not, pretty much covering every conceivable variant that took to the battlefield from its onset in late 1942 to the closing stages of the war. In a related matter, the Company intends to add diecast tracks to its vehicles beginning with the Tiger I tank. They claim that the tracks will be produced in-house but its not clear if the inclusion of metal tracks will have an appreciable impact on the cost of each vehicle. Moreover, its not certain if the tracks will appear shiny like those that are included on the Minichamps tanks series or come muddied and weathered as if they had seen extensive service. If we had to guess, the weathered vehicles will feature muddied tracks while the less distressed vehicles will sport shinier tracks. On the downside, metal tracks have a habit of locking up while being rolled, something vinyl tracks neatly overcome even if they don’t look quite as realistic. So, it will be interesting to see how FOV addresses this issue if they hope to promote the series as having smoothly rolling metal tracks.
FOV hinted that a number of photos are forthcoming and that we could see some of the new toolings as early as later this year. If that’s the case, plan on making lots of room under the Christmas tree this holiday seasons, as the Company continues to prime the pump on the land, air and sea.
A couple of weeks ago, we alluded to the fact that beginning with their upcoming 1:32 scale T-34/85 medium tank, the Company was experimenting with offering two iterations of each vehicle: one painted in a slightly lighter shade to reflect its participation in a day battle, and a second portraying a vehicle that might have been withdrawn from battle under dusk or night time lighting conditions.
Earlier today, the manufacturer demonstrated this technique by showing off dual versions of a T-34/85 Model 1944 medium tank, both of which fought at Berlin during the closing month of the war. Originally, we were under the impression that each vehicle would sport the same unit insignia and turret number, but apparently they have elected to release an entirely different vehicle meaning twice as many choices for the would-be collector.
As part of the same announcement, the Company claims that they are working diligently on their corporate web site, which, among other things, finally shows a picture of their upcoming 1:700 scale Liaoning aircraft carrier. As the summer months wear on, we expect a slew of additional photos for all of the products expected in the latter half of this year, thus making good on their promise that they are working as swiftly as possible to fulfill their earlier promises.
On this auspicious day, upon which Allied forces stormed the beaches at Normandy, France, way back in 1944, Forces of Valor announced their intent to create a 1:32 scale version of the LCM-3 landing craft. Although images of the actual vehicle were not provided, the Company did show off several CAD drawings of the proposed project, and discussed their reasoning for building a scale model of the landing craft used to ferry troops and vehicles ashore to support an invasion. For further details regarding the announcement, stop by FOV’s Facebook page or click on the following link.
Since this project is still a long way’s off and no firther information was provided regarding its weight, dimensions or cost, please do not contact us asking if you can pre-order this item. We will open it up for pre-order further down road after certain specifics are addressed. Considering its size, this item will not be covered under our $9.95 flat rate shipping plan, so prospective customers on the West Coast may be in for a bit of a shock once we have all of the costs worked out.
So, its finally in stock. The Forces of Valor 88mm FLaK gun that is. We’ve been talking it up for months on end, lamenting the fact that we’ve had to wait an eternity for it to arrive. But here it is. On the downside, we’re headed out of town this Friday and won’t return for action until Tuesday, June 4th. So, if you have this item on pre-order with us, please check in to see if we have all of your billing details on file, which will enable us to get this item in the mail and into your hands ahead of our road trip.
It’s a beautiful item, and fitting way to kick off the re-launch of the Forces of Valor 1:32 scale military vehicle series. Its also the first vehicle in their Afrika Korps series, a line that Unimax, the previous owners of the Forces of Valor, seemed to overlook when they had the series. Panzers vorwarts!
Before everyone heads off to enjoy their Memorial Day Weekend, I just wanted to touch base one more time regarding the revamped Forces of Valor range, discussing their differing philosophies both then and now and how it once again needs to be explained in detail to keep everyone informed. Back in 2002, when Unimax first burst onto the scene with their initial line up of Forces of Valor vehicles, we were instrumental in helping put them on the hobby map, advertising the line heavily in certain magazines and talking up the range as best we could so that they could gain traction as quickly as possible. In fact, I fondly remember meeting with the principals at Panache Place — then the distributor for the Forces of Valor range — when the line first debuted at Toy Fair here in New York City. I remember walking into their private offices with my partner, throwing down my winter coat on an unoccupied chair and telling them that they had an out-an-out winner on their hands even if they themselves didn’t know it as yet.
Over the course of the next decade or so, Unimax, the maker of the Forces of Valor products, contracted with a number of factories in China to produce the range, which initially came in two flavors; one designed for the mass market audience and was readily available at several Big Box stores including Toys ‘R US and Target, and a second, nearly identical range designed for the purist at heart. When the “action” range, as it was called, was passed over by the mass merchandisers, Unimax was faced with a dilemma; end the line or continue to produce it in far fewer numbers so that it was still financially feasible to make. They chose the latter course of action, looking to appease the collector even in the face of rising labor costs and oftentimes being shunted from one factory to the next who were looking to make widgets in the tens of thousands rather than a few hundred Tiger tanks at a time. As costs rose, the manufacturer slowly diluted the product to keep it affordable, stripping away much of each vehicle’s metal content, removing various accessories and even thinning out the cardboard carton each vehicle came in to make it as light as possible. Despite all these cost-cutting moves, however, the line began to languish and the owner, who was now closing in on 70 years of age, decided it was time to call it a day and pursue other interests he had long been delaying.
Fast forward several years to the present day, with Waltersons, the new caretakers of the line, now in control. Waltersons was keenly aware of the problems faced by Unimax at the end of their tenure and was determined not to repeat these mistakes. For starters, all manufacturing was brought in-house so they could better control the quality of each item as well as lower their production costs. Second, they reviewed all of the existing molds, looking to improve each inside and out and bring them up to today’s standards. This process has taken a bit longer than was originally forecast, but as you can now see, their toils have been well worth the effort.
The problem, as I see it though, is that many collectors, familiar with the original line, are still expecting to hold the current manufacturer up to the same rigorous production schedule and lowered standards that satisfied their earlier appetite, something Waltersons is not prepared to do. Waltersons’ aim is to produce the very best replica possible, even if means keeping the collector at arm’s length for extended periods of time and dealing with grumbling collectors who sometimes don’t know when to leave things be. I just want to remind everyone that at the end of the day, these are still toys; they aren’t loaves of bread feeding the impoverished masses or medication designed to keep the ill alive. So, when you place your orders for items that may not be available for some time, please bear this in mind and try to remain as patient as possible. Complaining that such-and-such item still isn’t available does no one any good. If its that important to you, build a model or have someone make it for you. You may find that by doing so, you’ll recognize how tough it is to make a realistic model at an affordable price while facing the vagaries of international trade and social media abuse. Its tough to make it in today’s world and sometimes we need to be nudged and reminded of this fact even if we don’t like to hear it.
Earlier this week, we discussed how, beginning with their upcoming T-34/85 medium tank, Waltersons, the new owners of the Forces of Valor brand, has developed a method by which they can slightly alter the exterior color of a vehicle to reflect differing lighting conditions. As a result, we have begun making this option available to our customers when they order the vehicle in question. While we await manufacturer-supplied photos that demonstrate the differences between a vehicle operating under both day- and night time lighting conditions, we have enabled this option on the product’s ordering page. Please take a moment to review this change since it will affect other vehicles in the range that are produced going forward. We aren’t certain if these lighting effects will be applied to any upcoming artillery and anti-aircraft guns, so we have decided not to enable this option for them.
In other news, our distributor reports that they have finally received the 88mm FLaK gun. We should be receiving our shipment by the middle of next week.
Lastly, we do not have firm release dates for those items still showing as in the production queue by Waltersons. These dates are still notional at best and based upon conversations with our distributor and manufacturer. Item staging and run completion are two separate and unrelated milestones. Moreover, just because the manufacturer is indicating that an item has completed production does not mean it will be available in the North American market within weeks. Typically, distributors look to reduce their overseas shipping costs by waiting until they can fill a container, thereby making it more economical particularly if the proposed tariffs go into effect. So, they may wait until several items are available en masse, before signing off on a shipment bound for the US. That said, the next large shipment will likely occur some time this summer, after the Sherman Firefly, Jagdpanther and T-34/85 tanks are all completed and available for shipment at one time.
We’ve been having some interesting private discussions with the powers that be at Waltersons, the new owners of the Forces of Valor brand. From a production standpoint, they have a number of projects in the works that we have already touched upon in previous Forces of Valor updates so there is no sense in rehashing old conversations.
What we have learned is that beginning with their upcoming 1:32 scale T-34/85 medium tank, the Company plans to offer at least one pair of slightly differing paint schemes that portrays the vehicle in question under different lighting conditions. So, one tank might appear slightly lighter with gun metal grey tracks while another, still representing a vehicle from the same unit and battle, could appear a bit darker and with more muddied tracks, suggesting it may have seen action that day and has now been withdrawn during the early evening hours for rest and refit. We’re not sure if they plan to assign separate SKUs to each scheme, which would help to keep things straight from an ordering and inventory perspective, or include them in each master carton without any further fanfare. Once we have photos of the vehicles, thereby showing them side-by-side, we will have a better idea as to how they wish to proceed and offer them to the buying public at-large with more precise information. Earlier, we had suggested they think about including one “chase” vehicle in each master carton, which would differ slightly from the other vehicles and thereby command a somewhat higher price in the secondary market
On other fronts, the four original 1:24 scale radio controlled tanks should be in stock by the end of next week, barring any unforeseen issues. Some time towards the end of the summer, this assortment will be bolstered by a M26 Pershing tank as well as an M1A2 Abrams tank clad in a tri-color camouflage scheme. Years ago, a desert sand M1A1 Abrams was sold by Unimax, so this new version is not only painted differently but reflects a more updated main battle tank. Also in the offing is a MLRS, which will probably make it to market later in the year.
No new information was provided regarding their rotary- and fixed wing aircraft, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that work has come to a stand still. The Company does recognize, however, that their most popular lines continue to be their 1:32 and 1:16 scale military vehicles, so its entirely possible that their current efforts are being directed towards getting these into the market ahead of some of their other ancillary lines.
According to recent reports, it would appear as if Waltersons is resuming its radio controlled business in a big way for 2019. First off, it looks as though they will be bringing back several of their sold out 1:24 scale models (Tiger I, Sherman and Panzer IV) and hopefully have them ready for the all-important fourth quarter. To bolster their lineup, they also plan to re-introduce their long sold out M26 Pershing heavy tank and ressurect their Abrams mold, this time around making it an updated M1A2 variant and painting it in a tri-color camouflage scheme. At some point, it would be nice if they offered a T-72 or T-80 main battle tank, thereby giving it something to fight against in a head-to-head competition.
And speaking of T-72s, Waltersons is finally showing off its long-discussed 1:16 scale main battle tank, which will reportedly come in three versions, each aimed at three different market segments. Pricing and actual dates of release should be revealed shortly, so keep an eye out for further announcements as they, well, roll in. Sorry…