The recent series of discussions on the 1:1250 message board about contrasts between the super-detailed 1:1250 scale models of Neptun, Navis and other German firms and the 1:1200 scale models of Superior spurred me to thrown in my two cents. I love both the big, beefy Superior models and the incredibly detailed Neptun models of the same ship. Both have their place. Excuse me as I get into my "Way-Back" machine and go back to 1965.
In that year I was 15 and had just gotten a paper route to pay for my Honda 50 "Sissy version", but hey, it was a Honda and I didn’t care. The standard Honda 50 sport riders definitely had more macho rides but I at least was still above the groundlings with mopeds. I had always loved model warships and had fallen victim innumerable times to the infamous Revell trick of packaging old kits with new box art. What I really wanted was a cage mast West Virginia model and there was none to be had. Then one day I saw an ad that promised the unheard of allure of hundreds of different model ships. The company that presented this irresistible temptation was called Alnavco, run by a magician named Pete Paschall. Well, I had to send for a catalog and when it arrived, I was thunderstruck by what was offered. There! There it was among the cornucopia of treasure! The Holy Grail, the USS Colorado 1941, sistership to the long sought West Virginia! How could I resist and off went a money order to Alnavco for this treasure. When it arrived in all of its cage mast glory, I was hooked.
Sometime later I discovered an ad from Preston Hobby Models that promised other treats. An HMS Invincible from a company called Navis, which I promptly gobbled up. The Invincible was smaller, more delicate but more detailed than my Superiors and at the time Superior did not have a line of WWI or earlier warships. Throughout college, not only did I buy Navis, Neptun, Mercator, Delphin and Hansa models but I also acquired the new Superior WWI ships and upgraded older models. I also used the models for wargames and still remember the trauma I experienced when I accidentally stepped on my Navis Invincible. It was if it had been hit again by the Derfflinger and I could never again get the forward tripod right.
Now, all these years later, I truly appreciate both approaches. The larger models from Superior are inexpensive but have been significantly upgraded from my Superiors of the 1960s. The incredibly detailed models from Neptun and the Navis Neu line, have a significantly higher price tag but also have unrivaled detail. Unlike Paul Jacobs, I am loath to cut up a Neptun. When I get a new one, I photograph it and put it in a glass case, like a hothouse orchid, with the rest of the Neptun fleet. In this regard I am a collector of this art and craft, just as the super-rich may collect Renoirs or Monets. I collect them to admire their beauty, detail and delicacy. On the other hand with a model from Superior I can become the artist. They come unpainted, so a hands-on approach is required to finish them out. Right away, the hobby knife comes out for some flash removal and maybe some alterations. They seem big, friendly and approachable in contrast to the cold aloof perfection of the Neptuns. I know that it seems odd but maybe you would feel comfortable tearing into a Neptun to make modifications. I don’t. I admire them the way they are. For me with Superior comes the enjoyment of painting, which I like. I fully realize that you can repaint a Neptun just as Paul does all of the time but I hesitate. With a Superior model you get to pick the paint scheme or camouflage that you want and try your hand and skill at bringing the model to life. This has great allure and is one of the strong points for me of the Superior line up. Because you put effort into the model, there is a more emotional connection to it.
As an example, this is the Superior/Alnavco model of the USS Minneapolis after she received her second major refit in 1945 , Superior A311. One of the most noticeable deletions was that of the port catapult. However, I wanted to paint the Minneapolis as she appeared after her first major refit in 1943. Minneapolis lost her bow all the way to A turret to a Long Lance torpedo at the Battle of Tassafaronga on November 30, 1942. She also took another torpedo hit in a fireroom. On December 5, 1942 she was given a coconut log emergency bow to allow her to get out of the hot area around Tulagi and Guadacanal and limped to Espirto Santo, where a temporary blunt steel bow was attached in January for the trip back to the US. She made Pearl Harbor on March 2, 1943 and a new 60’ bow was attached for the trip to the West Coast for a major refit, which started in April at Mare Island. When she emerged from the refit, she had a new bow, a new bridge and a totally reworked AA defense. Gone were the problematic 1.1-inch guns and in their place were quad Bofor 40mm positions and more of them. The starboard crane was landed to reduce top weight, which was needed because of the additional weight of the greatly augmented AA fit. She still however, had both catapults. Her bridge was completely reworked and the searchlight tower between the stacks was lowered. However, it was her camouflage paint job that made her truly unique.
The "Minnie" made her reappearance with a unique one-off camouflage scheme. It was a variation of Ms. 8, which had been modified to give the cruiser the appearance of a Benson Class destroyer. Dull Black (BK) was used to give the ship a false deck break and sheer line as well as to add a line of large square false windows on the bridge. Countershading on the backs of the funnels as well as rear of the forward superstructure was used to create a false perspective and reduce the apparent width of the structures. Huge false carley rafts were painted on the sides of the hull forward and sides of the aft superstructure/hangar aft. Colors used were an overall Light Gray (5-L), with Ocean Gray (5-O) used for countershading and dappling. Dull Black (BK) was used for the false sheer line, false windows and to reduce the apparent size of the aft turret and catapult pillars. Decks were painted in Deck Blue (20-B). I wanted to see how this camouflage scheme would look on a model, so I selected the Superior Minneapolis A311 as my canvas.
I really enjoyed painting up the Minnie. I used Tamiya masking tape to get straight lines for the dull black sheer line but when I pulled off the tape, the paint came with it. Therefore, I resorted to hand painting all aspects of the model, including the sheer line. Since it was hand painted I didn’t get the really straight edge of the line but I had a good time. In the future, the answer will be to use a good primer first, so masking tape won’t take off the paint. The model is also not quite right for a 43 Minnie. I’ll need to get another catapult since the ship still had both after the 1943 refit. A 20mm Oerlikon tub should be added to the crown of Y turret. This was not present after the 1945 refit but a twin 40mm Bofors tub made an appearance on the crown of B turret. Neither the 20mm tub or 40mm tub was present on any of the turrets, so this should be a modification any way you go. To really get it 100% accurate, a forward superstructure rebuild would be necessary as well as tweaking the searchlight platform between the stacks. However, my purpose was to see the ship in the wild Ms. 8 modified camouflage and the Superior Minneapolis provided the perfect canvas for my artistic efforts. (The best reference available for the USS Minneapolis is Warship Pictorial 2, USS Minneapolis CA-36, 1997, by Steve Wiper of Classic Warships Publishing. This volume has numerous photographs of the Minneapolis in this camouflage scheme, as well as a superb two page plan and profile of her in this scheme.)
If you want to unleash the Rembrandt within you, you may also consider getting a Superior model as your canvas. Their larger size and lower cost makes them perfect for experimentation in modifications and painting. It is said that no one can forget your first love. I believe this is true with model warships as it is with personal relationships. For me my first love in warship model collecting came in 1965 with the bounty of models that I discovered in an Alnavco catalog. It is a feeling I have not forgotten 40 years later. However, unlike a personal relationship, it is a feeling I can relive in the present by simply painting a Superior model in an unusual camouflage.