We got out of bed at around 4 a.m., before the sun rose, and boarded a 6:40 a.m. flight bound for O’Hare International Airport in Chicago!
We had a layover in Chicago, at O’Hare International Airport. We transferred to a flight headed for St. Louis.
As the sun rose, so did the SWS development team’s anticipation for our visit to Verlinden Productions.
“It’s a great opportunity, so when you come to IPMS, won’t you also please come visit my workshop?” and so we were directly invited to come visit by Mr. Verlinden himself.
Such opportunities are rare. We immediately sent a reply that we would be happy to take advantage of his offer. In any case, it has been 3 years since we began the SWS. If possible, we have always thought that we would like to recreate not just the airplanes, but the pilots, servicemen, etc., such that we can more widely unfurl the worldviews that surround the aircrafts.
That’s right. And Mr. Verlinden himself is not only a model artist so famous that I don’t think there is anyone in this hobby who has not heard of him, but the proprietor of Verlinden Productions and one of the trailblazers of the hobby.
There was no way that we wouldn’t get excited about being invited to Mr. Verlinden’s workshop.
I, along with 3 members of the SWS design department, woke up at 4 a.m. that morning, before the sun rose. Around 2 hours of flight time from the Omaha airport later, we touched down at the airport in St. Louis. From there, we immediately transferred to a rental car, and drove around 40 minutes on the freeway. At any rate, being our first time in St. Louis, we didn’t know where or what anything was, and we got so lost that we didn’t arrive at Verlinden until well into the afternoon.
When you get lost in Japan, it’s usually within the boundaries of a single city, whereas in America, you only come to realize that you’re lost once you’ve already driven a vast open stretch of highway, passing huge factory complexes one after the other. Even if you want to ask a local pedestrian, there’re often no pedestrians to be seen. In fact, there are no people at all as far as the eye can see. All you can see are the endless lines of cars driving back and forth.
In this situation, there was finally nothing left to be done except consult the rental car’s GPS! After being jerked around quite a bit by a rather dubious GPS, we finally arrived at a building that appeared to be what we wanted.
The workshop stood in what seemed to be an ideal location, with tranquil fields spreading out around it.
Perhaps it’s because the principal staff members were manning the Verlinden booth at IPMS Omaha, but the workshop was surprisingly quiet.
In the midst of our wandering about, a smiling female staffer found us.
And then, Mr. Verlinden himself made his appearance! “Welcome!” he greeted us, with a beautiful smile.
“At the very least, allow me to show you around,” he said, and personally took the lead on our workshop tour.
We finally arrived! Verlinden Productions, admired by scale model fans the world over!
We took a tour of the workshop and warehouse … we were all but overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stock, and the extremely thorough management system!
Mr. Verlinden explained many things to us, including the fact that he personally performs the work on each prototype at least once, from sculpting to casting to painting.
A plan to develop the best “Verlinden Corner” in the world is already brewing inside the Commander-in-Chief’s head! Please look forward to it.
As can be expected of Verlinden Productions! Although it was simply referred to as a workshop, the scope of it was vast. Our tour went all over, including a studio where prototypes were sculpted, a studio where the molds were made, a casting studio, a reference room, a prototype storage room, and the warehouse for packaging and shipping of the finished goods. While the tour was done in haste, the depth of its content was more than enough to impress us.
Out of everything, a particular highlight was the studio/living room/dining room where Mr. Verlinden does his sculpting work, a room which was not only quiet, but had an efficient layout in which work tables, paints, and partially constructed parts were all lined up. In one corner was a large, comfortable sofa, on which two large pet dogs were sleeping pleasantly.
All of us, including Mr. Verlinden’s wife, had a great time talking about hobbies.
The company’s initial success in Belgium. Even further success in America. Dreams for the future, and so on and so forth, it went on and on.
I have no intention of losing to anyone when it comes to the size and scope of my dreams, but I am truly glad that we were able to meet during this trip. We live in the same hobby world, and I hope we both continue to produce more and more great products. With that mutual promise, the SWS team began the trip back to Omaha.
To Mr. Verlinden, and to Mrs. Verlinden as well, thank you so very much.
When we get back to Japan, we will prepare the world’s largest “Verlinden Corner” within our “Volks” hobby shop, and bring many of your wonderful products to the Japanese fans.
It will open soon, imbued with all the excitement and impact that only those who have seen your workshop in person can know!
Please look forward to it!!
In the studio integrated with the residence area, two pet dogs made their appearance! They were docile, friendly, and very smart.
A meeting with Mr. Verlinden. We wish to bring some truly magnificent future products even one day sooner to all of our Volks fans.
Mrs. Verlinden also participated in the meeting! All the Volks wives can perhaps sympathize with her smiling complaint of “Every day is work”? *laugh*
A commemorative photograph with Mr. and Mrs. Verlinden. We will definitely bring Verlinden products to the Japanese hobby fans!
Even on the 2nd day, the event grounds were packed. We received good news from Ken, who had been left behind to man the Zoukei-mura booth alone.
Once again, from the beginning of the morning, guys who love airplanes descended upon the Zoukei-mura booth in force!
Again and again, regarding the Shinden, regarding the Ta 152, regarding even the SKYRAIDER – can I buy it now, can I buy it here? The inquiries came fast and furious.
Poor Ken was all alone. With no time to eat or even go to the bathroom, he fought the good fight, coping as best he could.
“Sorry, Ken!” Murmuring apologies in our hearts, the four of us boarded a plane to return to Omaha.
Even though they’re both cities in America, making a round-trip journey between Omaha to St. Louis in one day is quite tough. We left very early in the morning, yet the night was fully dark by the time we got back to the hotel.
(Although some of that time can be attributed to having to wait for our planes at the airports)
While the SWS development team was visiting Verlinden Productions, what was happening at the IPMS event site…?
The Zoukei-mura booth was as busy as ever, with a constant stream of visitors! Ken Yamanaka, in charge of Planning and Operations, fought the good fight!
Having mastered the self-shot, he even took commemorative photographs with the customers! Way to go, Ken!
The SWS team on the way back to Omaha, having finished a productive visit to St. Louis. It was quite late at night by this time.
From the panorama of the contest room to the final moment of the closing ceremony, my next entry will cover the last day, and this old man’s hard but enjoyable struggles, in full detail.
I will also be showing you new photographs of the SWS 1/32 P-51D from different angles.
Please look forward to it!!
The striking skeleton model! With the SWS, you will be able to build the Mustang while studying how comprehensive a reciprocated engine fighter plane it is.
Discover the actual aircraft through the model! Only in the SWS can you line up the body and the main wings for display in the same manner as the original manufacturing environment!
Recreation of the “actual aircraft,” possible only because it’s the SWS. Are you up to it, understanding the plane’s true impact for the first time as you build it?!
Have you seen them already? As usual, in the manner of the SWS that we of Zoukei-mura create, we are challenging ourselves with this beautiful aircraft using an all-new kit concept previously unseen in any prior plastic models.
The Hamilton Standard propeller which was filled with so much charisma, the Merlin engine (and its engine mount) that was the heart of the most powerful fighter plane, everything has been reproduced down to the assembly layout and the mounting mechanisms that connected everything to the main fuselage.
Needless to say, the laminar flow airfoils that are utilized for the main wings are one of the main highlights of the kit, and the main wing structures were recreated and cast all in one piece! Everything was planned so that you will be able to experience the beautiful appeal of this part of the P-51D just by cutting it free from the sprue.
Once you have studied the body by putting it together, you will be able to connect it to the completed main wings. At that point, you will come to realize that in building this kit, you are progressing on the same path to completion as a worker building the actual aircraft at the North American factory.
Of course, the oil cooling system that cooled the engine cannot be overlooked. Even the long lengths of coolant piping that spooled out from the oil pan to the oil cooler at the bottom of the fuselage, then led back to the oil pan, have been completely recreated, with no parts omitted. For the reproduction of the cockpit, you will be amazed at how closely the parts have been finished in accordance with the actual aircraft. I'm sure that you will also make sure that the appropriate wiring and peripherals are in place behind the instrument panel, so that when you lift the cowling, you will be entranced by the scene that peeks out at you.
In this round of photographs, you will have seen the body and the main wings lined up together in parallel, just like the real airplane.
However, in the end, this is still only Test Shot #1. It's just a prototype. Over the next six months or so, we will continue to improve each and every part over and over to the best of our ability, until everything has been refined (probably around Test Shot #9 or so).
At the renowned "Planes of Fame Air Museum" in Chino in the US state of California, we performed a thorough inspection of an actual aircraft and took complete measurements of every nook and cranny, all of it being early preparation for this journey to refinement.
In order to not leave marks or scratches on the valuable aircraft, we made our inspection wearing brand new work clothes – standard white jumpsuits!
We thoroughly investigated the "flavor" and atmosphere that only the real thing can carry! In order to catch the shape of the dorsal fin that is slightly offset from the main shaft of the fuselage, we tackled it from above.
Even while caught between the scorching sun and the burning asphalt, we carefully inspected every nook and cranny. Our new white jumpsuits soon turned pitch black!
What's this?! We were honored to receive commentary on the aircraft from the young champion of the Reno Air Races, Steven Hinton himself!
In my next entry, I am planning to show you a Mustang that has been refined to a higher degree of completion.
We want to create a "P-51D" the likes of which has never been seen before!
Everyone here at Zoukei-mura is getting fired up with enthusiasm.
We want to make the Zoukei-mura kit your definitive P-51D!!
Please look forward to it!!
The Old Man of Zoukei-mura
If you have any opinions, questions, or requests regarding the SWS, please don't hesitate to let us know.