Last modified: Saturday, January 5, 2002 10:27 AM


11/23/01-- Since I'm working on a project inspired by and derivative of Kow Yokoyama's designs, I thought I should devote some space to the Nitto model kits which bring those designs to life. When I started the project, I'd never seen one before in person: The project was inspired by pics on the Internet.

It's kinda late to be discovering this series. Even though Nitto reissued some of the 1985 "SF3D Original" kits only a few years ago under the "Maschinen Krieger" (Ma.K. 3000) name, that's eons ago in toy-years; pickings are mighty slim at those few USA online retailers who still have stock. Nitto's production is apparently on a really slow release schedule and in limited quantities. The two cool 1:6 vinyl kits are extremely hard to find in stock anywhere at this time. Some of the 1:20 models are still floating around in USA retail channels but retailers based in Japan (like Hobbylink Japan and Rainbow Ten) seem to have the inside track on the sporadic supply, and get the new stuff first. If you don't like shopping internationally,eBay is one of your best bets for finding something specific-- if you're willing to pay the markup. [Read my whiney blood & guts saga below.]

In addition to the 20-odd SF3D kits produced by Nitto, a small company named Modelkasten is producing kits based on the Nitto model kits. These are repackaged Nitto kits in a one-piece box with different instructions and a handful of resin parts thrown in. Unfortunately, the cost of these kits is pretty outrageous: A Nitto kit might cost 2700 yen, and the Modelkasten custom version based on it might cost 6500 yen. That's a severe markup for a handful of resin parts. Still, the idea is neat and some of their releases look strikingly different from the original Nitto models.

As for the more attainable 1:20 scale Nitto models... are they worth it? Well, "worth" has a very relative meaning. If you've only got $20 and 4 hungry children to feed, you've got no business messing around with this kind of stuff anyway. On the other hand, $20 will buy you about 3 pounds of Choice grade Ribeyes, which provide a very transient kind of pleasure. Compared to the material features of other readily available models, no, the kits probably aren't worth $20. But you do get a lot of detailed parts on the 4 or 5 sprues, some springs & wire, and very elegant packaging design for your $20 though. And you do get a kit of Mr. Yokoyama's designs, portal to his SF3D world. That's what really matters.

It's this world which is the main attraction and the reason why SF3D has such a loyal following. I suspect that the popularity isn't due to the backstory of the world (although it is the basis for some games), or the feasibility of the designs, but it's due to the design aesthetics of the creations. Mr. Yokoyama's designs are retro-funky, with real worldish grunge and klunkiness. These aren't your typical Gundam model. SF3D takes the neat German armor of WWII and extends it into the world of sci-fi robots. Kewl, huh? Tanks & Robots-- Most guys learn to love these at an early age.

Here are some of my 1:6 SF3D-style projects:


Here are some external links to kick start your descent into Collector's Dementia: (although some are growing cobwebs)

...and many more, as close as Google.com...



In typical obsessive fashion, I knew I had to get some of these kewl kits. Although the Internet pics are very good, I had to see the stuff in person. To see how they were built. For inspiration. To frickin' own them. It's the beginning of a new obsession. This wasn't too difficult: A few were in stock with the Internet retailers, and Ebay took care of the rest. I was willing to endure the damage-- anywhere from $20 - $40 per kit for the Nitto models. I even splurged around $70 for one of the Modelkasten kits. Maybe someday, when I've got the time, I'll even build the suckers. [Hobbylink Japan later came through on a bunch of hard-to-find kits, priced at MSRP.]

The 1:20 kits are kewl of course, but what I really wanted was one of the 1:6 vinyl kits. That became my obsession, my grail, and I've probably spent as much energy on that as I have working on my hardsuit project. Like I said earlier, you can forget Internet retailers. The kits aren't out there. That leaves Ebay and the slim chance that someone might be selling one.

The Art of Toys Fiasco Well, gooooolly... one did show up on Ebay! After a week of watching the bids float skyward without meeting the reserve price, I decided to act. In a moment of obsessive insanity went so far as to bid $333.33 at 2 a.m. for the 1:6 "Fireball" model (prebuilt, painted, with a Dragon pilot figure). Fortunately (I guess), the winning bid ($338) didn't meet the reserve price (?!!!) either, and the auction was relisted. Although I still wanted it, I thought that I had grown a little more lucid: I'd be a fool to pay a premium for someone's build-up efforts, which I had intended to strip and redo anyway. Nevertheless, Collector's Dementia is an extremely powerful and dangerous force...

[Addendum, 11/28/01 in the wee hours of the morning:] Okay, I am deranged! Who in their right mind would wake up at 2 a.m. to snipe Art of Toys' relisting of their Fireball model? I assumed that they must have lowered their reserve price to somewhere in the vicinity of the highest bids from the first time around. You'd think??? Nope. This time the highest bid ended up at $152.50, although I had put up $353.51 as my maximum. The reply to my post-auction offer of $350 stated that this was below the item cost in Japan... Good frickin' grief! That Rolling Stones' song was right! Anyway, I just had to get that off my chest... and it does sort of give you a worst-case idea of the markup for this stuff (Fireball kit retail, ~$150, + Dragon figure, ~$50, + assembly & painting, $?)... Next time around it'll prolly cost MORE, since they have to recoup their relisting fees! Gooooood luck, Art of Toys.

[Postscript, 12/01/01 or thereabouts] I was wrong, sort of... You can buy a 1:6 SF3D model at an Internet retailer. It's not in kit form though, and you have to be willing to pay $980 (plus shipping, I presume). Go for it, NOW. This one's gonna fly off the shelf.

12/20/01- ATTENTION DISCOUNT SHOPPERS!!! This is your big chance! On eBay, Art of Toys has just relisted their (paraphrased from their website listing) ultra rare, one of only 500 produced, 20th Anniversary reissue 1:6 Fireball SAFS! This time you can "Buy It Now" for a mere $638.00! Or bid it up until you hit that reserve price-- I'm sure it's reasonable. Kewl, huh? If you're morally opposed to deep discounts, it's still listed at their Yahoo store for $980. I'll probably pass on the pleasure of bidding at 2 a.m. CST this time-- acting on a tip from John (formerly from NY), I ordered the kit for 19,000 yen, which includes shipping (that's about $150 total). But it's probably not the ultra rare 20th Anniversary reissue though. Snicker... Okazaki Commercial Corp  


The SAFS from Germany, 12/06/01 This auction appeared with a description in German, a single modest picture, and wanting payment in Deutsch Marks (that be German money). Initially, I'd written this one off due to the uncertainties of dealing internationally. How the heck do you pay someone in Deutsch Marks, especially if they don't take a credit card? A little web browsing paid off with a trip to www.westernunion.com. They have a useful service called "Money Transfer" which promises instantaneous delivery to a WU office in the receiver's city, where the funds are paid in the local currency. Kewl. It ain't cheap, but when you're on a quest like this, that's beside the point. This attitude paid off, as did the sniping training... I'm hopeful that one is on the way... I guess we'll see? (Confidence level: 50%) (revised--now at 95% as of 12/14/01)

[12/27/01- The kit arrived... I was somewhat prepared for weird because the word "recast" appeared in the German description and I wanted to believe that it meant "reissue". I wasn't reassured when another one went for auction shortly after I bought mine. Okay... well, it's here now and I certainly didn't expect... PINK vinyl??? And that's the least of the problems. Yessiree, this is everything that's wrong about recasting, all rolled up into one. To be fair, it's a repro of the original SAFS, which IS different from the reissue... so I can't say for sure how much of the third world cachet is due to Nitto's post WWII production capabilities.

The SAFS from MA, 12/09/01 With that level of confidence, it took me about a half a second to make up my mind about having two irons in the fire. At last! I have utmost confidence in this one: On Ebay, a US seller (hobby shop) with a "Buy It Now!" banner who takes credit cards. Woo hoo! Cost: $200 + $4 for shipping. If the German transaction comes through, I'll eventually have two of these guys -- I'm sure I can find something interesting to do with the second one. If it falls through, I'll be needlessly a little poorer but won't be grievously wounded. I'll have my damn kit from the US seller and I can start looking for new things to whine about.

[Another Postscript... after contacting the seller] Hey! He knew me and I knew him from Gremlins In The Garage! He's unquestionably reputable, and I should have my SAFS by the end of the week. In addition to... a 1/20th scale NUTROCKER resin kit! Nitto makes this in 1/76th scale so that should tell you that this baby's BIG. I'll worry about where to put this Hannomagish thing later (Somewhere in Texas, not Florida or Louisiana).

Christmas... if you wanna do it right, you have to do it yourself!


12/14/01- They arrive... wheeeee!!!
Is the quest over? Hell no.

Big thanks to Jay Adan of Griffon Games (who also carries impressive professional credentials in the sci-fi kit scene).