It’s hard to look back at that period in Monogram’s history and not see them for what they were at the time: the best manufacturer of 1/48 aircraft kits on the planet. That still rings true today and if there is a single reason why it’s this kit, the 1/48 Delta Dart. It was groundbreaking in 1983; it’s still astonishing in 2022.
It’s strange what sticks in your mind. When Joe Saki (real name Roger Chesneau) wrote his seminal review of the then, brand-new, Monogram F-106 in the December 1984 edition of Scale Models International magazine, describing it as “unreservedly magnificent” I knew I would have to buy the kit as soon as I saw a box on sale.
I never forgot that review and even today, I can pretty much remember it, word for word. Joe was a master wordsmith, so when he wrote an assessment, you were almost guaranteed to be caught up in the swell of enthusiasm that that cursory glance into a box of plastic parts could create. Actually, Joe could also be utterly scathing as well, pithy insights into the most mundane of trivialities capturing the imagination and in at least one case the ire of readers young and old (and when he did catch the flack, he was not shy in fighting back, as the letters pages of SMI would often show!). And so it was with the Monogram ‘106 Delta Dart…
His review that month ran alongside the Bobcat 1/72 F-4F Phantom and two other Monogram 1/48 kits: the F/A-18A and the F-105F, both reworked kits that offered variety as well as detail, for modellers to enjoy. The Phantom though was rather less well-received. Part of a small, but at the time growing range of kits aimed at kids (which I’m always in two minds about, to be honest) the kit fell between two stools, being neither interesting enough to capture the imagination of Junior, nor worthy enough to make a more seasoned enthusiast dip into their pocket to purchase one from an eager model shop owner. As you can imagine, this range didn’t last long, despite the inclusion of a very worthy two-seat Harrier that still holds up well some 40 years later, but remains worthy enough to repay the occasional, passing mention.
Anyway, I digress.
Having read the review – over and over, again – I finally managed to get hold of a kit later that year. Propelled by a mixture of youthful confidence and naivety (oh what a heady combination!) I decided that if it were really that good (shamefully questioning the world’s best reviewer along the way so it now seems, whose word I should never have doubted…) I would build and paint it and in so doing, create the centrepiece for my growing collection of 1/48 aircraft which if memory serves correctly stood at two, one of which wasn’t even 1/48, being a 1/50 Heller Alpha jet. But hey, it’s a collection, right? As work progressed and the complexity of the kit, its challenges and foibles became apparent, I soon lost my way and the model, along with most of my memories of it, were consigned to the bin of history. Today, I can’t even tell you how far I got with the project, but questions remain:
- Was it built?
- Did I complete the interior?
- How did I deal with that missile bay?
- How was it painted?
- Why do I hold on to this nonsense?
I have no concrete answers to any of these frankly inconsequential questions, but it’s fun to at least consider the possibilities, if only as part of this Friday opus into the life of a model-maker. So here goes:
- Was it built? Actually, I think so, at least to the point of being able to paint it.
- Did I complete the interior? I must have, as least as far as the cockpit. I can guarantee you though that I will not have done so in the planned way I did with my new build.
- How did I deal with that missile bay? I don’t think I did. I had no memory of completing that part of the model as I was building the new one this month, so can only assume that the project was trashed before I got to that point…
- How was it painted? I guess I would have considered airbrushing it, but only insofar as I could with the single action brush powered by a car tyre, that I used – briefly – at the time. Paints? Humbrol. Decals? I never got that far…
- Why do I hold on to this nonsense? Because I’m a sentimental old fool that derives comfort from the past. And I like old kits, obvs.
Maybe the kit was almost competed and the model fell at the final hurdle as I galloped head-long towards the finishing line, but I doubt it. Many builds back then were trashed as my desire for perfection and my skills to reach that goal, remained steadfastly miles apart, so remains a reasonable conclusion that this was just another misstep on the way to modelling Nirvana. Honestly though, supposition aside, I really can’t remember…
Fast forward to 2022 and a chance conversation with Brett Green opened up the chance to finally take another look at a kit that had held on to my imagination for almost 40 years. This was a kit that I had failed to complete with youthful skills that simply left me wanting, but perhaps now with more ideas and techniques to draw upon, I could finally complete and show it off. I could, as I mentioned Online shortly after the model was complete, finally “tame Monogram’s Masterpiece”.
The kit that you see here was bought – I think – during a trip to a show in the States some years ago. Like all purchases based on great ideas and grandiose plans, it was brought back only to join other such kits in my loft, only being grabbed from the pile earlier this year for an upcoming project on Century Series jets when a future idea overwhelmed day to day responsibilities (look, I’m no different from anyone else when focus drops and the idea of shiny and in this case old, takes hold of my imagination!). Brett and I had discussed ideas for MAI and as a change from new kits that I have been building for review, a suggestion was made that an older kit might be fun – and this case, much older! The kit was to hand, Caracal decals had already been sourced (those in the kit had long-since seen better days) and the enthusiasm was certainly there to get started. So with only ten days before a deadline I had to hit, I set to work and the model that you see here, is the result of my labours.
Even today, almost 40 years after this kit was first released (1983) the impression that you get from opening the box is simply mind-blowing. Though not one know for hyperbolic statements *cough* I did rather publicly suggest recently that until the advent of the current generation of 1/48 über kits from the likes of Tamiya and their F-14, this may well have been the most detailed jet kit ever marketed in this scale – having now built it, I can see no reason to reassess that opinion. Even taking into account the raised panel detail, I can think of precious few kits that come close to offering the levels of detail and complexity that Monogram did with their Dart. Just look into the cockpit and that frankly astonishing missile bay, and you begin to appreciate just what the designers had achieved at the start of the ‘80s. When it was released it must have sent shockwaves through the industry, with model-makers blown away by the possibilities on offer. Today, 40 years on, it’s still up there as one of the best kits of its type available within any range –– and you can quote me on that!
When Joe/Roger wrote his review for the January 1984 edition of Scale Models International, little did he know that 40 years on, that kit would still be held up as the best available, even in the face of a number of newer kits from the likes of Trumpeter. It’s hard to look back at that period in Monogram’s history and not see them for what they were at the time: the best manufacturer of 1/48 aircraft kits on the planet. That still rings true today and if there is a single reason why it’s this kit, the 1/48 Delta Dart. It was groundbreaking in 1983; it’s still astonishing in 2022.
This essay is dedicated to Roger Chesneau who passed away a few years back and who to this day, remains the greatest kit reviewer ever to put pen to paper. RIP Roger – thanks for the memories and continued inspiration.