The Hubris of Hobby Boss

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When Hobby Boss let it slip that they would be releasing the Flanker family in 1/48 scale, the news was met with guarded excitement.

On the one hand, the Flanker – in its many guises – is a fascinating subject for modern aircraft modelers. It’s big. It’s got perhaps the best lines of any modern fighter. It’s seen wide service. It’s worn a variety of schemes and markings, and the more worn down examples present some interesting challenges to the weathering-inclined.

Note the pilot - this is not a derelict

Note the pilot – this is not a derelict

There also hasn’t been a truly good Flanker in 1/48 scale until this year. Academy’s wildly inaccurate effort was the only game in town until the arrival of Kinetic’s Su-33 Sea Flanker. But the Sea Flanker is just one variant in a, uh, sea of Flankers.

On the other hand, Hobby Boss – with its sister brand Trumpeter – is a favorite punching bag of the forum pitchfork brigades. Some of the hostility is well and truly earned thanks to sloppy execution and “how could they not see that?” accuracy slips.

But Hobby Boss seems to have an A Team and a B Team. And when the A Team is on a project, even if there are accuracy slips the result tends to be a nicely detailed and well-engineered kit. For example their F-14s. When all of the stars align, we’re blessed with some truly good kits in every regard – such as the recent A-6 Intruder and A-37 Dragonfly.

The Su-27 Kit

So when the first of the Flankers, the Su-27, finally made its way out toward the end of the summer, there was a huge sigh of relief. There were a few very minor accuracy slips that 99% of modelers will never notice (and there’s no satisfying the other 1% ever), but aside from those, the Su-27 is an absolutely gorgeous kit that finally gives us an alternative to the Academy plastic.

The only downside? The relatively steep $80+ MSRP.

But…the Flanker is a BIG jet, and that’s not an unheard of price for a well done 4th-generation fighter. Besides, street price is something more around $66 generally. Still pricey, but reasonable in the larger context of the market.

With the first hurdle cleared, a lot of eyes turned to the Su-34.

The Duckbill

The Su-34 “Fullback”, if you’ve never heard of it, is a dedicated strike variant of the Flanker platform. Instead of the usual tandem arrangement for two-seat aircraft, it puts the crew side-by-side, a la the A-6 Intruder or F-111 Aardvark. This gives the forward fuselage a weird, ungainly look utterly at odds with the sleek fighter body behind it. And modelers tend to love weird and ungainly.

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Unlike the Su-27, the Su-34 hasn’t been done before in 1/48. At all. Not even poorly. So while it’s honestly more of a novelty than the Su-27, it’s nevertheless generated a lot of interest among online modelers.

The problem is…problems.

Problem 1 – Dat Nose

The Su-34’s most distinguishing feature is its nose – as you could guess by its nicknames – the Duckbill and the “Flying Platypus”. So if you’re going to really fuss over any part of a kit, it’d be that, right?

Well…

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Hobby Boss has been on damage control, but let’s face it: the nose is fucked. Fortunately, being the nose, it should be relatively easy for the Quickboosts and Wolfpacks of the world to churn out a correct version in resin that we could swap in.

But, compared to the excellence of the Su-27, still a disappointment.

Problem 2 – The Price

Quick. Given the Su-27’s $80ish MSRP, what do you think the Su-34’s pricetag is being set at?

Assuming a slight premium for the redesigned upper fuselage, more cockpit to fuss with, and the addition of a shitload of bombs, I don’t think $100 would be out of the question.

But apparently Hobby Boss does. Per Paul Cotcher of Red Star Scale Models, the price has been set at $166. Yep. You read that right.

WHAT THE FUCK HOBBY BOSS?

That’s more than TWICE the price of the Su-27.

Apparently they feel they can charge this because of the demand for the subject.

Well, fuck them.

Anybody who’s followed this blog for any length of time, or followed my builds or many comments elsewhere knows that I’m generally not one to complain about the price of modern kits. In fact I’ll happily pay more for excellent detail, engineering and fit. I have zero problem rewarding good execution and evident passion.

But $166? Twice the price of what’s a very largely similar kit? For a kit that’s totally missed the ball on its subject’s defining feature?

Hobby Boss has done the impossible. They’ve got me doing something I swore I would not do again. Actively consider a Kitty Hawk kit.

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Thanks a lot, assholes.

 

22 thoughts on “The Hubris of Hobby Boss

  1. Loved the outcome of this great article 😀

    Also, Trumpeter announced a 1/72 version of the Su-34, hope the nose will be correct…

  2. Having purchased their excellent J-11B (Chinese variant of the Su-27 kit) for a mere £29.00 upon its release in the UK it is supposed to cost £90 when it reaches these shores. For a kit that has major shape issues in the nose? I will either pass, wait until the importer shift stock it can’t sell or hold on for the Kittyhawk release. OK there may be some engineering issues but sure the price would be more attractive. Now perhaps AMK should give this one a go, after the Mig 31 and the much anticipated F-14, maybe then we would get a benchmark kit of this strange looking beast

  3. It’s slightly ridiculous in this day an age of information (even from so-called armchair experts) that more care and attention to the design of these things can’t be taken. HB/Trumpy are known for it sadly. I do agree that the price is utterly shocking, even Tamiyas new tomcat is cheaper!

  4. I wouldn’t mind if they got the quality of AMK……..
    Especially if they got the quality of fit/detail that AMK did with their MIG 31.
    However,that would equate ,Su 34 wise to £126.00 in the UK!
    Fuck that… as we have AMK MiG 31 retailing at £55.00 .. pure perfection…

  5. Considering the AMK MiG-31 is a substantially-sized kit in 1/48 and can be had for under $80, I find this entire pricing scheme to be ludicrous. I can’t imagine they think they’ll sell many at this price point, even to rabid Flanker modelers.

  6. 166USD is because there’s no competition at this time I guess. Trumpyboss has forgotten the basic supply & demand rule. That’s fine, my money will be spent elsewhere.

  7. So my choices are an expensive inaccurate kit that probably goes together pretty well or a potentially more accurate kit that probably has complex over-engineered design elements that make it a much harder build. I’m still probably going to buy one of each. Damn it!

  8. The Chinese can go fuck themselves……. I am sticking to Europe,Japan and GWH is the company I still buy from…. Why ? Kittyhawk, Trumpeter and H.B are assholes…. They care not for accuracy, customer feedback is 100% neglected.

    I have sworn never to buy a Kitthawk kit after their overprized undbuildable piece of shit such as the Jaguar and Gripen…… HobbyBoss is now ruled in there as well.

    Viva Airfix, Tamiya and GWH…. Revell can in to 🙂

    • Um…Great Wall Hobby *is* Chinese.

      Hobby Boss and Trumpeter can do some really amazing kits. The Su-27 that this was developed at least in part from is a fantastic kit, and they’ve had plenty of other solid ones of late (A-6 Intruder, A-37 Dragonfly…). Trumpeter’s also been doing some simply awesome work on the armor side lately. Definitely on the fiddly side, but the quality is easily up there if not surpassing Dragon.

      • As I understand it, HB/ Trumpy have 2 development teams..
        Team A seems to give good results , whilst team B turns out bum steers..

      • I’m not sure I believe that – at their output levels they have to have more teams than that running. I think it’s likely that certain subjects get the better resources and probably higher budgets, though

      • ed, I really don’t think there are A & B Teams. It’s just that some subjects have been better documented than others so that misinterpretation by the CAD designer is less likely. To me the fact that the accuracy varies tends to indicate that there’s no process in place to improve accuracy.

      • Geographically Great Wall is of course Chinese… I should have expressed myself better. GWH is not Chinese in the traditional sense, fuck-the-public all we can manner. I of course have to include the AvantGarde guys who also love their customers by listening to the market… I have no problems paying a lot if there is serious efforts and long hours put in behind to make the modeller happy. HobbFuck and Kittycrap obviously have another mission.

        For the ridiculous price of $166 you should not be disrespected, humiliated and break out yet again the wallet, then the saw cutting off the nose, then ask for the 1st aide kit from Quickboost etc.. The damn thing so apparent for the disgusting price as the nose, has to be spot on.. That is non-negotiable for the what they are asking us to pay.. Well guess what, my sworn boycotte of Kittyhawk just got a ew fellow in the boat. My listed companies above are upping and setting new standards with every release.. HobbyBust will never get my money for such an important, big eyecatching subject as the Su-34 that god knows how, got approved to go into production…. You are right there are some good brains in the company and when they are let to work undisturbed and launch stuff like the F-14, Fw-190 D or even their Me-262’s things are somewhat on paar with the competition. Needless to say the head of engineering is a mindless moron, probably a son elected by a father being a boardmember. That utter piece of shit like their Hellcat, squashed A7 Corsair, Tornado and their recent disgrace, the J-29 Tunnan gets okeyed to hit the shelves is beyond understanding……

        Again.. Fuck You right to hell HobbyBoss and Kittyhawk… Go bankrupt, please

        Sorry Doog but I am pissed off..

        // Matt

  9. Wow Matt (not Doogs, but the guy who replied just above) – it’s a plastic model airplane. It’s overpriced and inaccurate. Try and calm down and put it in perspective. Just. Don’t. Buy it.

  10. I am indifferent towards the “Fullback” so i don’t really have a dog in this fight.
    HobbyBoss does score the occasional Home Run, like the F3H Demon and A-6 Intruder series. However, their F6F Hellcat was an abomination. No excuses for that one but their Avenger looks okay.

    I had a Taiwanese student who was able to bring back HB kits at their local prices. I think Squadron probably marks up the kit a lot, which makes the pain for the model builder much more acute when it turns to poo upon closer inspection.

    They need to get better. Their Home Runs are more the exception than the rule.

  11. Chaps.

    I think the true frustration felt by modellers of all genres stems from the fact that prior to the arrival of new kit manufacturers to challenge HGW/TAM/AFX/RVL we had relatively few new kit releases to look forward to each year, I can recall (because I am old) Tamiya’s 1/48 catalogue consisting of very few aircraft kits, headlined by the Sea Harrier and A10 Thunderbolt!

    Revell weren’t exactly renowned for releasing new issues, rather re-runs of existing (and old) kits each year, some years nothing new at all.

    Hasegawa use their moulds until the wear out and most “new” issues were re-releases with new decals and a few bits added if you were good (but still no weapons).

    Airfix were asleep in the most part due to business issues.

    Then along came the Chinese/Korean manufacturers, exciting everybody by proposing new kits of some very exotic designs in all manner of scales…this made the more regular manufacturers wake up to the fact that competition was going to be fierce and their existing ranges were thin and there to be had- modellers were ready to look elsewhere for something new.

    I can recall reviews of the Hobby Boss Mirage IIIC which came as a surprise to many when released, alright it looks and feels like a copy of the Eduard Mirage IIIC but it was half the price at the time and made up into a great representation of the aircraft, easily challenging the Eduard kit….if not bettering it from a construction point of view.

    So times have moved on, the good influence of Chinese manufacturers is that it has lit a fire within the kit industry and we are now blessed with hundreds of new kit releases of some pretty exotic types each year from all manufacturers, old and new and some of them are bound to gain classic status such as the Kinetic SU33, AMK Mig 31, Airfix Typhoon etc etc….others not maybe.

    I was lucky enough to visit IPMS Scale Model World last weekend and got my hands on the sprues for Revell’s forthcoming 1/32 Messerschmitt Me262…the detail is fantastic and the plastic almost transparent and sharply moulded, Revell have moved their game on!…I wonder why?

    Airfix too have upped their game with a host of new stuff in all scales, their 1/48 Mustang and JU87 kits are state of the art.

    The bad thing about new manufacturers coming on the scene is that it is so frustrating for modellers to think of the lengths some manufacturers go to in order to release a new kit for us only to discover obvious and unthinkable issues with shape, dimensions and scale- Hobby Boss A7 corsairs for example with the “squashed” intake…we’ve been waiting years for decent pre-A7E examples only to find the HB A/C is rubbish….the list goes on and the problem continues.

    In most cases there are live examples of the aircraft available for measurement, reference and photography, I can’t understand that if the Chinese can measure and reverse engineer a real Sukhoi SU33 from the Sukhoi prototype (and even replicate some of the issues with the prototype!) they can’t do the same with similar aircraft for modelling plans!

    Given the immediate review of any emerging kit and the wealth of knowledge on tap in the way of the internet it soon becomes obvious when a model is not up to scratch, so I question why the manufacturers don’t consult modellers more regularly in advance prior to committing to moulds?…GWH seem to be the best listeners and as a result have produced better kits, their F15 having re-issued parts as a result of feedback- BRILLIANT!

    However, there is one thing for certain, we are very fortunate to have the present situation of increasing manufacturers and more frequent model releases and at the end of the day this presents more options for us all.

    Even if the balance model-wise is 75 good versus 25 bad we are in better shape…just choose to build the good ones!…there’s enough to go at!

    DD

  12. I’ll probably wait for some time until their price go down a little bit.Just because the type saw action in the recent conflict doesnt mean it should be ridiculously priced.For a 100++ dollar kit any shape or dimensional issue is unacceptable.In the case of HB A-7 Corsair it seems that modelers will have to stick to the earlier Hase A-7 kit a little longer.

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