This article presents a different slant on a "Blast from the Past" review. Normally such a review would show the unassembled parts of a classic out of production model. However, normally you can't find a pristine, unassembled 50 year old model with a mint box, decals and instructions. You may be find one at an exorbitant price from specialist dealers or maybe find one at a high price on E-Bay. Sometimes you can get lucky on E-Bay and get one at a reasonable price but very rarely will you find an older out of production kit at a cheap price. This of course depends upon the model company. Let's face it Renwal kits are more expensive than Pyro kits. One type of kit will normally sell at a significantly lower price than one of those mint unassembled kits. That is the assembled or partially assembled kit. However, do not discard that option, as even a partially assembled 1950s kit, painted in high gloss enamels, as per the instructions, can be a wonderful source for a rebuild and a fairly inexpensive one to boot.
That is the situation with this Renwal USS Farragut Destroyer Leader kit. I checked into E-Bay and saw it listed. It must have been just listed, otherwise it would have been gone. It had a Buy-It-Now price of US $5.00. If you have ever cruised in search of older Renwal, Aurora, Revell models, you'll recognize that is normally less than the price of an empty box of one of the out of production models, let alone one with the model. Obviously, I snapped it up. That was a no brainer. When the kit arrived, I was overjoyed. It was like opening a time capsule. Here was a box that I had not seen in real life for over forty years. For those that did not grow up in this era, the Renwal kits were considered the most complicated, high-tech models of their period. Renwal had individual 20mm guns when Revell and Aurora had amorphous blobs as part of the deck that represented Oerlikons as simple crosses. Finally, I had one of those Renwal high-tech kits in my hands. What wonders awaited behind that glorious box art.
However, before we get down to the plastic components, we should revel in the garish and glorious box art of the Farragut. There she is. The Farragut is firing her missiles, as what few crewmen that are present have a pretty nonchalant attitude. Nobody is wearing helmets or life vests. There are only three people on the bridge and they seem to be looking forward. The other crewmen are awfully relaxed with one servicing an anchor windlass, another about to throw something over the side and what's the main boggle of the crewman on the quarterdeck? He seems to be just standing in the way of harm by hanging around the aft end of the missile mount as the ASW missiles are being lit off. However, you have to love this box art, as it has never lost it's visceral punch, then or now. You have Renwal's assurance that this kit is designed from authentic US Navy plans and represents the latest advances in naval design. With Terrier missiles, I believe that it was the only model available at the time of a guided missile destroyer. Of course Revell had its own missile ship line up with a converted Canberra CAG, Norton Sound missile test ship and Nautilus submarine with plastic buzz bomb, but only Renwal had a destroyer kit with missiles. If you think about it, Renwal was very partial to missiles and a modern look on their kits. Just check out the other kits shown on the side of the box. The Pasadena CLG is firing away with her missiles while her quarterdeck is practically awash and the carrier USS Ticonderoga is steaming into a red-sky horizon, launching jets off her angled deck, while readying Regulus I missiles for some devastating strike on Sniveling Johnny's fleet of Revell Missouri's. If your model didn't have missiles, it was as old-fashioned as Grandpa's Hupmobile. And what's up with that Washington. All nine 16-inch guns are fired in all sorts of different directions as a helicopter comes into land, while something on the horizon is blowing skyward. What was she firing at and what was blowing up? None of the guns are aimed at the explosion and it certainly was not from World War Two, although most kids probably didn't know that the Washington was not equipped with Sikorski helicopters during World War Two. In fact I don't think the North Carolina or Washington ever carried helicopters, as only ships of the Iowa class had post WW2 careers.
As mentioned, this kit had been assembled. It seems that all the parts are there and still can be easily modified to bring her into the 21st century, if that is what is required. However, this particular model is a near perfect example of how the finished model would have appeared when assembled in 1961 by a kid with better than average skills. Why do I say better than average skills? It is easy. Where are the fingerprint glue smudges? There are none. Obviously this kid had more patience than me. My builds of the time usually had more glue fingerprints than an FBI rap sheet. Catch that paint job! It conforms exactly with the colors in the instructions and is far more exacting and careful than the shake and bake paint jobs that I normally applied to my models. Remember, there were no matte paints available, only gloss, and no other source of painting instructions available to kiddom. This baby was obviously the show-piece of a collection!
Now, let's check out the detail. First of all there is damage along the deck lines. My guess is that the deck sections broke loose after the model was originally completed and the damage probably occurred during reassembly/damage control. Obviously, every model's nemesis, Mom, had a part in the foul play that brought this catastrophe to pass. "Who cares about a little dust, Mom, please don't touch my models!" Before you get excited about acquiring a vintage Renwal Farragut, be forewarned that the model his little in common with the actual ship. In spite of the statement that the kit was designed from "Official U.S. Navy Blueprints", there are so many differences between the model and ship, that I have to believe that if the USN allowed Renwal to see the blueprints, it was part of a disinformation scheme to fool the Russians. The model actually appears to be much more a Mitscher DL2 class destroyer leader/frigate with a terrier mount substituting for an aft gun mount. Except for the Terrier mount, the weapons loadout matches the Mitscher. From the five inch turret forward (another one should be aft where the terrier mount is located), to the two twin 3-inch AA mounts, to the two Weapon Alfa mounts (rocket depth charges, and even to the old fashioned 20mm Oerlikons, the weapons content and placement matches the Mitscher, not the Farragut. Who knows, maybe some jokester with the navy handed Renwal a set of Mitscher plans with the terrier mount superimposed with a crayon.
Detail & Smaller Parts
You ay not see it now, but this kit exhibits those same features that made Renwal the high-tech manufacturer of half a century ago. Individual Oerlikons with gun shields were very advanced compared to the light AA gun offerings of other companies, who normally provided blobs or nothing. Granted that the door patterns look like a treasure map X but they are open doors with a pattern. Who else offered this? No one that I can think of. Although there is common solid railing, you'll notice that there is open railing as well. The weapons turn and the terrier elevates as well. That is not that unusual as most model companies could not decide whether their kits were kid's toys or miniatures. Sure she has a flat bottom, beanie propellers and propeller shafts like sausages but she still is a handsome critter and priced at only $1.00. I never realized that Renwal tried to undercut Revell in price but look at the prices of the other models. A cruiser for $1.29, USS Washington for $1.69 and USS Ticonderoga for a mere $1.98. That is less then the equivalent kits from Revell. You sure can't find them for that price any more.
If you can't find a mint unassembled vintage model kit for your Blast from the Past, don't hesitate to acquire an assembled version. It certainly will be cheaper and almost as much fun. Actually they may be more fun as any modeler will be more likely to tinker with an assembled version rather than a mint version. The Renwal 1:500 scale USS Farragut was ahead of its time in 1960 with individual Oerlikons and open doors. She may not seem as futuristic now but when JFK was our President, she was the Cat's Meow.