Every few days, someone will post a question over on the FSM forums. Which P-51 kit is the best? What’s the best kit for someone getting back into the hobby after twenty years away? That sort of thing.
Within ten posts, these threads usually devolve into Revell/Monogram versus “those expensive Japanese brands”.
It’s tiresome. There are merits to both sides. And besides, “best” is a highly subjective term. One person’s “best” may not necessarily be another’s. There are too many factors at work. Building preferences, cost, proclivity or even ability to scratchbuild. And so on.
I’d like to offer a new way of describing kits. Not as good or bad or expensive or cheap. Not as the “best”.
Rather, as “journey” kits and “destination” kits.
Think of it like travel. Rome is an awesome destination, but getting there from Texas is a suckfest. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C. is an okay destination, but the roadtrip is an absolute blast. So in that case, it’s as much about the journey as the final destination.
Destination kits are kits you build for the subject, and if the kit were somehow, magically, of a different plane (or tank or whatever), you’d probably think twice. Maybe because there’d be a better option, or a cheaper option, or a Revellogram option, or whatever blows your skirt up.
I’d call Academy’s P-38F Lightning a destination kit. It’s one of the few games in town if you want to build a Lightning, and one of the only early Lightnings currently on the market. So you’re kind of stuck with it. I’d say the same of Eduard’s Yak-3. It’s a decent enough kit, but if it wasn’t the only Yak-3 in 1/48 scale, I’d look elsewhere.
Journey kits are kits you build for the kit rather than the subject. Because it’s a great kit. Because it’s gotten fantastic reviews or maybe just because you have fun building it.
Zvezda’s La-5 falls into this category for me. My interest in the kit was at least as strong as the subject going in. The same is true of their new Bf-109F-2. There are other F-2s, but Zvezda is doing interesting thing with how they engineer their kits, and I tend to place a premium on inventive engineering.
Other kits I’d consider journey kits include:
Wing-Scale’s 1/32 B-25 Mitchell family – These debut kits from the new manufacturer just look like a blast. Thoughtful engineering, obvious passion behind the project, and just the audacity of boxing a large-scale B-25.
Tamiya’s 1/32 Spitfire family – While I like the Spitfire, there are plenty of fighters I’d put ahead of it. But Tamiya’s Spits show so much imagination and innovation that I’m eager to build one just for the experience alone. The detail, the fit, using magnets to locate removable cowl pieces, metal-reinforced landing gear…WANT!
Tamiya’s 1/48 Fieseler Fi 156C Storch – Another subject that I’m kind of meh about – I mean – a German observation plane! The excitement! But Tamiya’s gone crazy with this one. Clear parts molded directly onto solid parts in the manufacturing process. A photo-etch metal wing spar to overcome the crazy greenhouse/wing design. Fully detailed engine. Like Tamiya’s Spits, the Storch just seems like one hell of a build experience, one I’d buy for the kit alone.
Of course, kits can fall somewhere in between. Tamiya’s P-47 kits are right in that sweet spot for me. The Jug is my favorite plane, but Tamiya’s kit is a joy to work with, too.
What about you? What would you consider a destination kit? A journey kit?