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Building Short Run Kits

Building short-run kits can present problems, I view them as a different set of challenges from production / Long-run kits. As I’ve decided to take on a project involving three short run kits, I thought I would provide this discussion.

Most of the subjects I choose to model are available in only the short-run variety, as they are prototypes or not the most popular aircraft in a series. Some manufactures have produced “standard run” versions of rare aircraft, but most tend to be short-runs, many are available only for a year or two, and sometimes only for a few months, or even weeks.

The following is intended as a discussion of injection molded “short-run” kits and what those who have not ventured into this arena should expect. I do not wish to put myself forward as an expect in this area, only to provide information, and opinions based on my personal experience with these kits.

In today’s age of super detailed, finely molded kits, “short-runs” may seem to be a real throwback to days gone by. By their nature “short-runs” are made from molds not intended to last for long production runs / decades. Though to some the “quality” may seem to be lacking, many noteworthy manufacturers have produced and do produce them on a somewhat irregular basis (Anigrand, Kopro, Mach 2, Meikraft, MPM, Sanger, Valom, and others). I find these manufacturers efforts most desirable, in comparison to Vac-U-Form kits, which were to only choice years ago. Short-runs are sometimes “the only game in town” for certain subjects.

So, a short-run kit of a rare aircraft has caught your eye? You may wish to do some research before you purchase it, to see if it is what it purports to be. You definitely want to do Research after you buy it and get ready to build. Some manufacturers provide very accurate representations of subjects; others provide a basic configuration, on which you can build. Find out what you have and determine what you want as a finished result.

Research is always important in building a model (in my opinion), in the case of short-run rare aircraft you may have to dig a little deeper than usual. This serves to explain some of the variances you see in built up models of prototype aircraft. Prototypes are just that and not static in their configuration necessarily, even their paint schemes change, sometime quite rapidly. As evidenced by the two D-558 configurations in this project.

Kit Contents
Here we have a situation where the quality and quantity of the contents of a kit very, almost as much as the number of kits available. Short Run kits cannot and should not be compared to “production” kits from other leading manufacturers.

Short Run kits can contain parts that vary from “crudely” molded, to finely detailed molding; some today even contain PE parts to assist in detailing. Most Short Run kits contain the “basic” parts to construct a subject, but not necessarily all the parts, you may need to add / scratch build some components to complete the subject desired. Short Run kits must be approached with the understanding that you will need to use your modeling skills, and perhaps learn a few new ones, to windup with a presentable model.

Decals included in Short Runs are typically for one or two specific aircraft, being as they are typically rare / limited production subjects in the first place.

None of the kits used for this article are resin kits they are all injected plastic. The three kits used exhibit the characteristics of short run kits that are either resin or plastic. Both types of kits usually have quite a bit of “flash” and require “reshaping”, they may even require the use of something I’ve never put together as a phrase before; delicate Dremaling. Without a Dermal or other rotary tool some of the reshaping would take forever, and in most cases the flash removal is extensive. Once you’ve tackled a Short Run kit, you’ll have most if not all the tools you need to build any Production kit.

The key to assembly is to work slowly and test fit every component repeatedly. Even with test fitting a good amount of putty filler or shims may be required. Attachment of the components can be a challenge in many cases, as typically there are no locator pins / flanges, and in some cases only an indication of the attachment points on the instructions diagram. The choice to add locator holes and pins is left totally to you.

Decals for Short Runs can be a little difficult too. Decals provided in the kits are usually for one or two specific aircraft, and it’s not too likely you’ll find aftermarket replacements. National insignia are probably the easiest to replace, but other marking may only be available in the Short Run kit itself.

By in large the decals are of good quality (on an excellent, good, bad scale), but they can vary. Some may be very thick or actually too thin, or may crack and break easily during application. If you pick up a Short Run be prepared to possibly deal with yellowed decals. If the kit decals are unacceptable for one of many possible reasons, you may have to make your own.

A Little about the Models Used
In Red – The Douglas D-558-1 SkyStreak. All the Skystreaks were initially painted scarlet, which led to the nickname "crimson test tube." NACA later had the color of the Skystreaks changed to white to improve optical tracking and photography. The first of three D-558-1 Skystreaks (#37970) made its maiden flight on April 14, 1947, at Muroc Army Air Field (later named Edwards AFB). Less than 4 months later, on August 20, this aircraft with Commander Turner Caldwell, USN, set a new world speed record of 641 miles per hour (1,032 km/h) flying D-558-1 #1. The record lasted 5 days and was broken by Marine pilot Marion Carl going 10 miles per hour (16 km/h) faster in D-558-1 #2 (#37971). The model depicts the first of the D-558-1’s delivered.

The kit used is a, long OOP, Meikraft Models 1/72nd kit.

In White – The Douglas D-558-2 SkyRocket. When it became obvious that the D558-1 fuselage could not be modified to accommodate both rocket and jet power, the D558-2 was conceived as an entirely different aircraft. On November 20, 1953, shortly before the 50th anniversary of powered flight, Scott Crossfield piloted the Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket to Mach 2, or more than 1,290 mph (2076 km/h), the first time an aircraft had exceeded twice the speed of sound. The model depicts the US Navy evaluation aircraft, prior to it’s transfer to the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics).

The kit used is the Mach2 1/72nd version.

In Blue – The Chance-Vought F6U-1 Pirate. The first US Navy aircraft with an afterburner. The F6U-1 Pirate never saw carrier or squadron service, though VX-3 (Air Development Squadron Three) did receive 20 aircraft. The model depicts one of the aircraft evaluated at the Naval Air Test Center (NATC) Patuxent River, Maryland.

The kit used is a, long OOP, Meikraft Models 1/72nd kit.

  • D-558-1_Boxart
  • D-558-1_Sprues
  • D-558-1_Fusealge
  • D-558-1_Wing
  • D-558-1_Mated
  • D-558-1_Painted
  • 558-1_ready_for_decals
  • D-558-1_Decaled
  • D-558-2_Boxart
  • D-558-2_Sprues
  • D-558-2_Fuselage
  • D-558-2_Mated
  • D-558-2_Painted
  • 558-2_ready_for_decals
  • D-558-2_Decaled
  • Pirate_Boxart
  • Pirate_Sprues
  • Pirate_Wing_Sprues
  • Pirate_mated
  • Pirate_ready_for_decals
  • Pirate_Decaled
  • Group1
  • Group2
  • Group3
  • Group4
  • Group5

About the Author

About Chuck Shanley (CRS)

I've been building kits since about the mid 1950's. I've built all kinds of subjects, but for the past 20 years or so I've seemed to focus mainly on 1/72 Aircraft and Armor. Why 1/72, mainly for space conservation I build alot. I build primarily for my own enjoyment, and Armorama has helped to en...


Nice one Chuck! This is an excellent intro to building short-run kits, which offer so much scope for exciting subjects unavailable as mainstream kits. "Managing expectations" is a perfectly chosen term - and, so long as people approach short-run kits with some idea of what to expect, there's a huge amount of satisfaction to be gained from building them. All the best Rowan
MAR 09, 2008 - 10:36 PM
Chuck, Very nice article....and oh so true. I'm currently working on an Anigrad kit (I have a couple of other "short-runners" on the shelf) and the philosophy of managing expectations is right on. They are unique vehicles, which in my opinion is the one reason I'm willing to "expend extra energy" (E-cubed). I'm looking forward to finishing this one up (for obvious reasons) and working on the B&V armored glider (plastic and resin). Mike
MAR 10, 2008 - 09:13 AM