Our report on the '98 IPMS Nationals.

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1998 IPMS National Convention Review
Santa Clara, CA July 1-4

By Jay Adan

The Vendor Room | The Contest

The IPMS Nationals took place from Wednesday, July 1 to Saturday, July 4 at the Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. For those not in the know, IPMS stands for International Plastic Modeler's Society. I feel a little strange even explaining that to modelers but given that the week prior to this show I had gone to Fantasimonium (a more Sci-fi & Fantasy oriented show) where I asked many of the attendees if they were going to this event and was given many blank stares. The exchange would go something like this:

"Hey, Modeler X, are you going to the Nationals next week?"

"The what?"

"The IPMS Nationals in Santa Clara, next week."

"PMS Nationals?"

"No, the IP... never mind."

So just to clarify IPMS is the world's largest modeling club, with chapters all over the globe. The primary focus of these chapters has usually been military or historical vehicles, but there has always been a loyal cadre of the "other kinds" of modeling going on as well. The National is the organization's yearly event where the best of the best (or at least those that can afford to get there) go and pit their models against others from across the country. It's generally a pretty huge modeling event.


Revell/Monogram Table

On Friday morning, when I arrived, there wasn't too much in the vendor's area, if your interest wasn't primarily historical stuff. Revel/Monogram was showing off their new line of Armageddon kits (does two kits make up a line?) - the Space Shuttle with Armadillo and the Russian Space Center. Both kits had box art displays as well as the part trees. I only ended up taking a close look at the Russian Space Center (apparently a modified MIR) and the pieces looked fairly nicely executed, if a little devoid of detail. The only thing that stood out as being bad was the excessive thickness of the solar panels.

Another interesting Monogram display was the Babylon 5 Station. They had the full built-up kit, complete with totally incorrect paint scheme. The only thing that kept going through my mind as I looked at the piece was "boy it's small" and "this would be a painting nightmare". The kit seemed to be about 15" long and pretty unimpressive. With all of the other cool designs that this TV program has to offer, I can only wonder why they decided to do the station.

(Editor's Note: Most of the "paint scheme" for the station was originally to have consisted of decals. R/M ditched the proposed detailed decals in favor of a smaller sheet of less detail that is cheaper to print. After all, sci-fi builders are all kids right? And kids won't notice the decals suck. Or the Armageddon X-71 kit is wrong. Or ... you get the picture. Off my soapbox now - 1Zero).

The guys working the booth were pretty animated. Their table was the exact opposite of the Tamiya booth, which was very professional and impressive looking, with lots of cool buildups on display. But the guys manning the Tamiya booth had looks of "just TRY to talk to me" plastered to their faces. They really looked like they wanted to be doing something else...like rearranging the sock drawer.

One real surprise was seeing Armorcast in the vendor room. They do sci-fi vehicles and terrain, but mostly for gaming purposes. They have a license with Games Workshop to produce vehicles and other accessories for the Warhammer 40K game line.

Let me rephrase that. They HAD a license.

As of October 1st 1998 Armorcast will no longer be able to produce these items. They will then have until January 31, 1999 to sell off their remaining stock. You should definitely take a look at their web page, as a lot of the stuff they are doing is very good and is reasonably priced, considering the size. After the end of the year, they are all gone.

With a growing line of non-fiction space kits (mostly astronaut figures) EVA Models was right across from Armorcast. EVA had their new LRV kit that really needs to be seen to be believed. How a small one-man operation can turn out kits of this quality is beyond me. The best part about EVA models presence was that I got to meet Chris Chulamanis, the owner/modeler. He is really one of the nicest guys on the planet. For me that makes a real difference in how much business I do with somebody.

The only other products specifically related to the SF modeler were The Modeler's Resource Magazine table and Tangents. Fred DeRuvo, publisher and head bottle washer of TMR, had brought by his standard magazine selection as well as his latest kit releases.

TMR started doing figure kits (mostly nudes or semi-clad babes) a little while back and seems to be doing well with them. In fact, since he wasn't expecting too much enthusiasm from the mostly historical-inclined crowd, he didn't bring more than a handfull of the three kits they currently produce. Well, it turns out that historical modelers have hormones too and he quickly sold out of all of the kits and started taking orders to ship the following Monday. My personal favorite of the line is Wolf-Spirit. Click the link and find out why. I didn't pick one up there but I plan to.

Tangents is my company. We had brought our full stock of Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models Magazine, the our remaining Science Fiction Modeller magazine, Fusion Models' Kodiak, and our own foray into the garage kit market, the Warrior Bug. We spent a lot of time goofing off with the neighboring folks at TMR. With 12 hour days in the vendors' room, we had some time to kill.

While you might be thinking that this sounds pretty thin, as far as interesting things in the vendor room, that's not really the case. There were a lot of other vendors - most of them were more historically oriented. Even so, some of the booths had some pretty nice stuff. There were also a number of vendors selling things like tools, glues, and other genre-indifferent items. One booth had a great selection of dental tools, useful as sculpting tools. They also had a number of things that I had never seen before, like a step-down chuck so you could use Dremel-sized bits in a standard drill. I don't know about you but interesting tools are something that I love to look at.


The real draw of the IPMS Nationals is the contest. I mean, what could be more exciting than having your work competing side by side with some of the best modelers from across the country? I had expected to see a couple of tables of SF or fantasy stuff. Maybe a few Trek pieces and some Star Wars stuff. I was totally blown away by what I saw. Rows and rows of stuff! Not just kits either. There were MANY scratchbuilt and kitbashed pieces. Some good, some great and some...

Let's take a look at a few of the entries. Unfortunately, names of the individuals are not included on the entry forms so I have only a couple of names to go with the entries. If you know who modeled any of these pieces please e-mail Starship Modeler so that they can update the information.

Millenium Falcon Cutaway

An exquisitely painted ERTL Cutaway Millenium Falcon by James DiGiacomo of Mesa, AZ. Even with the kit's innacuracies, this finished model looks very nice.

Sometimes it's fun to figure out what went in to a particular kitbash. This one is fairly apparent if only from the name. The "SF-14 Bradley" Fighter looks like it began its life as a M2 Bradley IFV, and maybe a F-14 Tomcat model. The pod on top probably came from the Seaquest Deep Ocean Transport kit from Monogram. Even though it's a little clunky and the pieces are disguised all that well I really liked it.

Bradley Kitbash

Assortment of SF Models

If you look in the center of this table you can see another interesting original piece. This is probably mostly a kitbash but it does a better job of disguising the original pieces. The cargo containers stood out as being very interesting shapes but it was later that another modeler came up with the idea that they are probably ink-jet cartridges. If they are that's a great use of something that you would normally throw away.

John Douglass loves scratchbuilding spacecraft of all sorts. This is his latest batch and one of two entries that I saw (You can see his other one on his web page - it's the big blue one). One of the best reasons to go to these shows is to meet other modelers and discuss... well, modeling. Anyway, John is somebody that I had met through the internet prior to attending the show so it was nice to be able to place a face to the name.

Wedge Ships


The following pics are from entries by Sean Sides of Denver, CO. I guess what was the best thing about these pieces were that these are the kits themselves with very little extra added to them.

Let's take the Voyager for example. This was my favorite of the lot. It's definitely the deluxe version because of the number of markings and the modeler had apparently made the nacelles positionable though it is not visible to the static display. He also added some railroad lenses where the running lights are. What really makes this kit shine though is his paint job. He's taken some very subtle shading and made the ship just come alive with it. The lesson here would seem to be that subtlety wins out over special effects. Nothing would have been added to this kit had he decided to go with lighting or noisemakers (there were a few kits in the show that made noises) or other gimmicks. This is pure modeling skill bringing the kit to life.

His other entries (the Excelsior, the Bird of Prey, an X-Wing and a Battlestar Galactica Viper) all showed this ability to bring life to the kits with paint. For me these were the most inspiring pieces in the show.

Bird of Prey

David Weeks' latest masterpiece was this fully detailed Gemini capsule. With complete interior detail and an astronaut going EVA, this gem won first place in the Real Space category.

Gemini Spacewalk

There were many pieces that I didn't get pictures of and some I did but don't have pictures of since a roll of film disappeared. One of the things that I really regret losing was my pictures of Sean Sides' 1/6th scale Classic Trek Science Station from the bridge of the Enterprise. It was LARGE and everything looked completely accurate. The lights flashed and if you looked into the little viewer on the console there was a backlit graphic in it. Overall it was wonderful.

These pictures don't really convey a sense of the large number of SF and fantasy pieces at the show. Sure, there were far more planes and tanks, but there were almost as many SF pieces as cars - maybe more. They certainly took up more space since some of the entries were immense. I think that this shows that while SF modeling isn't always taken seriously, it IS popular. And the popularity seems to be growing!

Even if you don't have a local IPMS chapter you should look around and see what there is to offer. There are many large national shows for modelers and many of them specifically cater to the SF modeler. Wonderfest, Mad Monster Party, Fantasmonium and others are out there for us. It's not all about competition either. Meeting fellow modelers and sharing ideas are the best reasons to go.

Next year the IPMS Nationals will be held at the end of July in Orlando Florida. You do have to be a member to enter a piece in the competition but you don't have to be one to attend.

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