So What the Heck is Hi-Tech?

In his latest article, Ron Puttee ponders over the use and over-use of the term “hi-tech” to describe model kits over the years and concludes that when it comes to real “hi-tech” models, maybe less is more.

Read on, gentle reader!

It may seem to some of us more “mature” armour modellers that it’s dreamtime on the workbench these days!

What with the latest kits of high quality and incredible value for money being poured onto the market like manna from Heaven.

Lavished with what is referred to as “aftermarket” extras, these latest kits are definitely an intoxicating cocktail to all but hardcore scratchbuilders. And yes, I’ve seen even scratchbuilders tantalising their modelling tastebuds of late! Some would say if you don’t model German, “what’s the point, where’s the interest?”. Well, even that sticking point seems to be heading for the bin, with the recent announcement of releases for 2006!

But why are they referred to as “High Tech”? Yes sure, they employ new technology, “slide mould” is bandied about these days like speeding fines on a “double demerits” weekend. Would everyone still be in raptures if they cost us $150 each instead of the prices we’re seeing?

Let’s reflect a bit. I remember being amazed at a range of Gunze Sangyo kits many years ago. The quality of moulding, the inclusion of copious amounts of white metal, and several beautiful sheets of what seemed to be gold-inlaid photo etch that looked to be straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.

At the time these kits were madly collected by those who could afford them, and scorned as inaccurate and overpriced by those who couldn’t.

I had a small bunch I collected over a number of years, and every so often I would open them to peer at the marvelous liquorice allsorts of parts contained therein. The Modelkasten tracks and wheels, the beautifully moulded metal parts glinting photo etch etc etc. Yes, this delightful fare was referred to back then as “high tech” – well it was on the box! It must have been, and well, it went with price didn’t it?

Because if I tried building all that good looking white metal, and bending some of that 2 mm thick etch, it wouldn’t have mattered what kinda technology it was back then! The range of expletives coming outa my modelling room, coloured the air a pretty rainbow I can tell you. Yup, flinch I still do, when I remember trying to fix that bloody white metal turret basket, which must’ve weighed a kilo or two to the back of the Gunze Panzer 4 turret. Ugh! Well I wanted it out of the box didn’t I?!

“High tech model” the box top read.. after all that, “high tech” was the last thing on my mind I can tell you.

Recently I had a similar experience with another “high tech” kit ‘cept 12 or 13 years later. The Tristar Panzer IV D. Luscious I thought, a very well detailed and simple build I can whack together on my annual hols. Out of the box. Well you would have thought a “high tech” kit would illustrate the correct road wheel covers in the instructions wouldn’t you, well?

Nope, I got an early release of the kit that had both types of roadwheel caps, both armoured and not. Guess who’s now severing armoured caps off those superb working bogie assemblies, after merrily following the instruction / illustrations and forgetting that the “D” had unarmoured roadwheel covers?

Can’t high tech kits be simple and straightforward?! You bet!! take the Trumpeter KV series. Simple build, extremely well detailed, the fit – wonderful, soft yet well detailed plastic, (so easy to cut and shape), and the price simply unbelievable!

Now that’s what I call “high tech”!

Text and Images © Ron Puttee 2006

Images of Ron’s “High Tech” Gunze Pz. Kfw IV G, from many moons ago!