Category Archives: Vehicles, Aircraft & Watercraft

“Tankers” Lining Up To See “FURY” November 2014

Tank, starring James Garner (Photo: Imdb)

Tank (1984), starring James Garner was an enjoyable “tank fantasy.” (Photo: IMDb)

Among the vast pantheon of GIjOE collectors, there’s a die-hard subset of fans who also know a great deal about military history and the mighty armored tanks that command such a prominent role on the battlefield. We’re referring, of course, to those ardent armor aficionados appropriately (and affectionately) known as, “Tankers.” If you’ve never heard of, or used this particular appellation before, Tankers are those zealous individuals who can accurately recite the names, weaponry, and firepower stats of practically anything heavily armored or tracked. From the smallest Kettenkrad tractor to the largest modern Abrams M1A2 (and everything else in-between) their knowledge—is unassailable.

Many Tankers are also big military history buffs that can wax rhapsodic for hours about WWII’s Montgomery and Patton, recount battlefield strategies, the proper deployment of tanks during a “Blitzkrieg,” the rise and fall of Rommel’s vaunted Afrika Korps, clashes between SS Panzer Divisions and Russian Red Army T-34s at Stalingrad and Kursk, the pivotal Battle of the Bulge, the use of tanks in the Pacific theater against Japan, North Korea, North Vietnam, and most recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wherever they’re deployed, tanks often prove to be THE deciding factor between a battlefield victory—or ignominious defeat. Not surprisingly then, films about tanks are almost invariably larger than life, exciting—and FUN.

Battle of the Bulge, starring Henry Fonda (Photo: Imdb)

Battle of the Bulge (1965), starring film icon Henry Fonda was good—but not great. This movie BEGS to be remade. (Photo: IMDb)

Why are we bringing this up now? Because recently, Tankers, GijOE fans and amateur military historians have all begun to discuss the impending release of a new “tank-centric” motion picture called, “Fury,” which depicts the WWII exploits of a battle-hardened U.S. Army 2nd Armored Division tank crew (watch the film’s trailer at top). As you are undoubtedly already aware, movies about (or utilizing) tanks, are not unheard of in Hollywood, but pickings can be slim. As a result, fans of this particular genre typically have to wait about a decade or two between decent offerings.

But even if the script stinks (Tank Girl, anyone?), there’s just something about a tank movie that makes it hard to dislike. Let’s face it, they’re BIG. They’re brash. And well…they’re BEAUTIFUL! For alpha-male / leading man-type actors, to have a good tank movie “in your quiver” is a rare accomplishment, nowadays; worthy of more than just a little braggadocio. OOHrah!

Some of the better tank flicks that come to mind include Sahara, starring Humphrey Bogart, Saving Private Ryan starring Tom Hanks, The Battle of the Bulge, starring Henry Fonda, Tank, starring James Garner, Patton, starring George C. Scott and most recently, Fast ‘n Furious 6, with Vin Diesel. (Take a moment to enjoy the first 3 video clips of this article before proceeding.)

Fury stars well-known Hollywood heart-throb, Brad Pitt (last seen in the farcical Inglorious Basterds) and according to the brief description we found over on the Huffington Post:

Sahara was a highly underrated 1943 tank film starring Humphrey Bogart. (Photo: IMDb)

“Pitt stars as a sergeant named ‘Wardaddy’ who leads a tank crew of American soldiers into Germany. (Jon Bernthal, Michael Pena and Shia LaBeouf are Wardaddy’s longtime battle comrades; Logan Lerman plays the group’s newcomer.) The whole thing looks comfortably familiar — a beat from “Inglorious Basterds” here, some from “Saving Private Ryan” there — but it’s never not compelling. “Fury” is set for release on Nov. 14, meaning it could either become one of Sony’s year-end awards contenders or simply a solid money-maker for the studio. Or maybe both: The last time Pitt and Sony teamed up for a film, it was 2011’s “Moneyball,” which earned $74 million at the North American box office and six Oscar nominations.”

Patton, starring George C. Scott, featured numerous tank scenes. (Photo: IMDb)

Patton, starring George C. Scott, featured numerous tank battle scenes. (Photo: IMDb)

It’s been quite a while since Tankers have seen a really good tank movie. It’s about time our heroes of the armored divisions were featured on-screen again. Heck, we were even excited to see that Abrams tank in the first episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Although it saw no “battle action,” it served as a main prop and temporary place of safety for the show’s beleaguered hero. Tank fan hopes are high that Fury will be a solid, well-researched and realistic tribute film to all the men who fought, died and served in the U.S. Army or Marine Corps tank divisions. Curious about what our fellow GIjOE fans are hoping to see (or NOT see) in this upcoming film, so we posed the question to everyone’s favorite GIjOE fan and resident tank expert, Dave “Tanker” Matteson (of Alabama), who kindly offered the following observations:

Dave "Tanker" Matteson in his Joe Room. (Photo: Dave Matteson)

Dave “Tanker” Matteson in his GIjOE Room. (Photo: Dave Matteson)

“Shermans and Tigers and Shermans, Oh my! I was asked by Mark to watch the trailer and then give my opinion on the upcoming movie, “FURY.” Am I qualified to review this movie? I believe so! Most people know me as “Tanker.” I spent time as a tank crewman in M1A1 tanks, about 8 years to be exact, as well as being a ‘tread head’ since the age of 8. For those who have seen Fury’s trailer (at the top of this article), the Sherman M4A2E8’s and the M4A3 are all, in fact, REAL. And yes, the Tiger Tank is also VERY real. All of the tanks used in this film are on loan from the Bovington Tank Museum in England where David Ayer, the film’s director, did most of his research.

The research Ayer undertook takes us back to WWII and inside a Sherman tank where its crew LIVED. Before filming, the crew was treated to a mini ‘Armor School’ where they had to learn the job of being a tanker. Then, once on the set, Brad Pitt actually lived with his crewmen in the tank they crewed for the duration of the filming of the battle scenes, totaling some 30 days.

Everything you’ll see onscreen is as close to real as it gets. This film is going to be for Tankers what Saving Private Ryan was to Rangers and Paratroopers. Generally, movie trailers are what doesn’t make the film. The good thing is, I have been following this production VERY closely, and it is definitely on the money. Being a tanker was the best job I ever had!” —Dave “Tanker” Matteson

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Dave Matteson for his help with this article. We are FIRED UP about seeing Fury on the big screen this November. Until then, we leave you with this full-length tank episode of “Lock-n-Load,” starring everyone’s favorite Gunnery Sergeant, R. Lee Ermey. So, go grab a cup of Joe, put your feet up on the desk—and Enjoy!

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“First-Time” G.I. Joe Collector Creates Working 1:6 Scale USCG Helicopter———As His Ceiling Fan!

Holy Rotors, Batman! Imagine "flying" this stunning 1:6 scale USCG HITRON "Fast Attack" Littlebird helicopter INSIDE your home—with just the flip of a switch. For creator/customizer, Tom McMurray, that's now become a daily reality. Lower the rescue diver! Aye-aye! (Photo: Tom McMurray)

Semper Paratus! Imagine “flying” this stunning 1:6 scale USCG HITRON “Fast Attack” Littlebird helicopter INSIDE your home—with just the flip of a switch. For creator-customizer Tom McMurray, that dream is now a daily reality. Lower the Rescue Diver, Joe! Aye-aye, Sir! (Photo: Tom McMurray)

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When we first heard that retired US Coast Guardsman and GIjOE “newbie,” Tom McMurray, had converted a beat-up, 1:6 scale 21stC Littlebird into a working, (fully electrified) USCG helicopter CEILING FAN, we knew immediately that fans around the world would want to hear all about it. After contacting McMurray, he graciously agreed to the following exclusive interview and also (very generously) provided us with these exclusive photos and video clips. Enjoy!

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After completing the Littlebird’s custom paint-job and applying decals from Patches of Pride, McMurray begins work on the helo’s custom wiring and lighting. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Tom McMurray)

Tom McMurray (Photo: Suzanne McMurray)

Tom McMurray (Photo: Suzanne McMurray)

TJR: Congratulations on your superb 1:6 scale custom helicopter, Tom. Could you tell us first—what inspired you to take on such a challenging undertaking?

TM: “I was medically retired out of the U.S. Coast Guard (just shy of 40 years) as a Petty Officer 1st Class Port Security and Small Arms Instructor and wanted a project that would take time and represent my career. I wandered across a Littlebird over on e-bay. It was blue and not in very good condition. But over the following months, I picked up various parts one at a time and pieced it all together.”

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This early test revealed exterior running lights and spotlights working perfectly. Interior lighting would also be added, illuminating the ‘Bird’s instrument panel and cockpit. (Photo: Tom McMurray)

TJR: How long did this project take you to complete?

TM: “I started in December of 2013 and finished it in July of this year (2014). I have close to 400 hours altogether put into this project. The hardest part was getting the stripes on the Littlebird to be exactly 67 degrees (as required by the Coast Guard). The painting pattern is correct and was used on an experimental chopper by HITRON for fast attack on “Go-Fast “ (drug-smuggling) boats down in Florida.”

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The longer you look, the more custom details you see! (Photo: Tom McMurray)

TJR: After completing the helo’s tricky (and beautiful) paint-job, what did you work on next?

TM: “Well, as you can see, the exterior utilizes a waterslide USCG decal set (found HERE) that I picked up from Patches of Pride (PoP), and the cockpit uses one of their “Complete Cockpit Conversion Kits” (found HERE). I then further modified the instrument cluster and all of the gauges by drilling small holes behind the decals and then giving each gauge its own colored led light, sealed in behind it.”

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Great closeup showing Tom’s disassembled cockpit firewall and the addition of new decals, a fire extinguisher, custom helmet paint, seat cushions, etc. Great improvements! (Photo: Tom McMurray)

TJR: That clearly elevated your Littlebird to a higher level. What else did you add?

TM: “If you look closely at the photo below, you’ll see that the pilot has a small laptop mounted on the console, and both of the interior spaces are lit by a red LED for night-vision. I also added all of the required exterior lights, a working high power spotlight and a working FLIR lamp underneath. The ‘float’ is required on any USCG chopper that works off the coasts, so I hand-fabricated that. Also, the .50 cal Barrett on the port side is mounted on a stanchion built into the deck. Finally, I cut all of the windows down halfway except the main hatch, which I mounted in the opened, rescue position.”

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Peek into the finished cockpit and you’ll go GA-GA over all of its details, back-lit gauges, and additional 1:6 scale props such as flight charts and maps. Stunning work, Tom! (Photo: Tom McMurray)

TJR: You’ve impressed us enough already, but here’s where your story gets REALLY interesting. Tell us about converting your 1:6 scale USCG Littlebird helicopter—into a ceiling fan.

TM: “To mount it to the ceiling fan, I filled the upper engine compartment with a 2-part epoxy and let it dry around the threaded accessory lamp-post. Then, I took the lamp section off of the bottom of the fan, filled the extra cover with epoxy, attached it to the main fan motor with screws and let the finished project sit supported on top of a 10-ft ladder overnight to cure. My wife, the electrician, the contractor (that had just finished the room) and myself, all had our fingers crossed when I lit-‘er-up. Voila! SHE FLIES!!!! And not a shudder or vibration.”

Holy Rotors, Batman! Imagine "flying" this stunning 1:6 scale USCG HITRON "Fast Attack" Littlebird helicopter INSIDE your home—with just the flip of a switch. For creator/customizer, Tom McMurray, that's now become a daily reality. Lower the rescue diver! Aye-aye! (Photo: Tom McMurray)

The accuracy and realism of Tom’s working ceiling fan helicopter are striking. (Photo: Tom McMurray)

 TJR: Tell us about your interest in GIjOEs and 1:6 scale vehicles. What else have you created?

TM: “Believe it or not, these are the first GIjOEs I have ever owned. Honestly! As you can see, I made a lot of changes, but after 37 years in the Coast Guard, I didn’t need much help. And now, I’m looking for my NEXT project. Thanks for all the parts, decals and help Mark.” —Tom McMurray

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At night, Tom’s “heroic helo” creates a colorfully realistic light show. COOL! (Photo: Tom McMurray)

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Tom’s custom-mounted .50 cal Barrett sniper rifle can stop a high-speed boat with one well-placed shot through the engine block. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Tom McMurray)

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Another view of Tom’s USCG Littlebird in action. (Photo: Tom McMurray)

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Lowering a Rescue Diver down with Tom’s custom harness and pulley system. (Photo: Tom McMurray)

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The realistic lighting on Tom’s custom helo makes for exciting “night-ops” action. (Photo: Tom McMurray)

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At rest, you can see that the blades of Tom’s fan were also custom painted to perfectly simulate the rotors of a real USCG HITRON helicopter. Amazing work, Tom. Congratulations! (Photo: Tom McMurray)

Bottom Line: McMurray’s 1:6 scale custom Littlebird helicopter is one of the most impressive we’ve ever seen. His attention to detail and accuracy reflect his many years of experience and service in the Coast Guard, and his inspired conversion of a typically static-display model into a working ceiling fan is truly remarkable. Our sincerest thanks to Tom for his service to our country and for his generous contributions to this article. Enjoy a video of Tom’s helicopter in action below:

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Customizer Creates 1:6 Scale Replica of 1942 Harley-Davidson Army Prototype “Model XS”

Robert Jason's custom 1:6 scale 1942 Harley-Davidson prototype NAME XS motorcyle and rider, fully finished and detailed with custom sidecar, tires and much more. AMAZING! (Photo:

They don’t get any rarer than this. You’re looking at a one-of-a-kind, 1:6 scale, museum-quality replica of a prototype 1942 Harley-Davidson motorcycle (that never made it into mass-production). Created by professional modeller and customizer Robert Jason, the Model XS “hog” comes complete with a vintage GIjOE outfitted as a US Army courier rider and a fully detailed custom sidecar. (Photo: Julie Kostick)

Customizer Bob Jason (Photo: Bob Jason)

Customizer Robert Jason (Photo: Julie Kostick)

Motorcycle History in Perfect 1:6 Scale

Artist and master modeller, Robert Jason of Florida, widely renowned for his creation of ultra-detailed and historically accurate custom 1:6 scale trucks and Jeeps, is now trying his hand at creating custom, one-of-a-kind, 1:6 scale motorcycles. The results are, needless to say, VERY impressive. Regular readers of The Joe Report will recall that we profiled Mr. Jason previously, in an article published back in September, 2013 (see HERE). At that time, we discussed in detail (and highly praised) Robert’s artistic skills and incredible work on what are now known as his “commemorative customs.”

Until recently, Jason limited himself to the “heavy vehicle” category that reminded him so much of the machines his Father and Uncle had fought in during the war. Now, with the addition of 1:6 custom motorcycles, Jason is expanding his scope and revealing a willingness to work on other sizes and types of WWII vehicles. It’s hard to believe, but most (if not all) of Robert’s masterpieces end up being sold to the highest bidder on ebay (see current auction listing HERE). As he told us before:

Another closeup showing the miniature Harley-Davidson manual. Out-STANDING! (Photo:

Details such as this outstanding custom 1:6 scale Harley-Davidson maintenance manual (included) help to “tell the story” of Jason’s vehicles. (Photo: Julie Kostick)

“Whenever I build one of these custom vehicles, I use actual WWII combat museum photos to be as accurate as possible. When I first started selling them, I discovered there was a need (and market) for reasonably priced 1:6 scale custom vehicles for serious collectors.Yes, there are much higher priced all-metal kits that are extremely well detailed, but one must have model-building experience and the time required to assemble them, and as you know, TIME is often very hard to come by!”

Opposite view showing dual rifle scabbards, two seats, radio, saddlebag and unique "tractor" tires. (Photo:

This opposite view shows the motorcycle’s two rifle scabbards, its independent twin seats, field radio, saddlebag, deep-tread “tractor” tires, and decals from Patches of Pride. (Photo: Julie Kostick)

Curious about the origins and details of Jason’s miniature motorcycle masterpiece, we consulted his unofficial “Director of Marketing,” Julie Kostick, who kindly replied:

Robert Jason's "Director of Marketing," Julie Kostick. (Photo: Julie Kostick)

Julie Kostick. (Photo: Julie Kostick)

“This is a one-of-a-kind, original 1/6th scale model of a rare prototype motorcycle that never went into full production (the piece is signed by the artist). It was created using a Hasbro GIjOE US Army WLA 45 Harley-Davidson Motorcycle as a stock base, and has dual rifle scabbards, an M1 carbine and a Thompson .45 cal. sub-machinegun, plus a field radio, canteen, shovel, map, flashlight and saddle bag. It even has a Harley-Davidson Military Motorcycle Operation and Maintenance Manual!

It also comes with an original 1964 GIjOE action figure,  dressed in a period-correct WWII US Army uniform with goggles, helmet, holstered .45 cal. 1911 pistol, motorcycle riding boots and gloves. Wherever your interest lies, be it vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycles, WWII history, memorabilia, or GIjOE, this one-of-a-kind piece of art is a MUST for your collection!”

This closeup reveals the M1 carbine and Thompson machine-gun in their

This closeup reveals the M1 carbine and Thompson machinegun snug in their (not identical) scabbards. Words simply fail. WOW! (Photo: Julie Kostick)

This closeup shows the addition of the correct hosing, wiring, decals and custom paint and weathering. Superb! (Photo:

Closeup revealing Jason’s addition of hosing, wiring, decals and paint weathering. (Photo: Julie Kostick)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest congratulations go out to Robert Jason for his latest amazing 1:6 scale achievement, and our thanks go out to his “Director of Marketing,” Julie Kostick, for her generous assistance with this article. To watch a video showing the only known surviving example of this motorcycle (on display at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, WI), click on the link below:

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Kentuckiana G.I. Joe Club Continues Tradition of Outdoor Water-Rocket Parachute Launches, This Time With 1:6 Scale Competitor———Captain Action!

This photo (taken during a previous club meeting) reveals jugs of water and other related launch detritus used to repeatedly provide thrust for the 1:6 scale parachute GIjOE missions. Out-STANDING! (Photo: KYGIJCC)

This photo (taken during a previous club meeting) reveals jugs of water and other related launch “technology” used to repeatedly provide thrust for the 1:6 scale parachute GIjOE (and CA) missions. Out-STANDING! (Photo: KYGCC)

God Speed, Captain Action!

In an egalitarian display of homemade model rocketry and outdoor “playsmanship,” members of the Kentuckiana GIjOE Club (KYGCC) gathered recently at a local park (covered in beautiful bluegrass, natch!) to launch one of GIjOE’s buddies (longtime sales competitor, Captain Action) high into the sky. As one club member stomped furiously on a pressurizing pedal, others stepped back warily. While children, unsure of what would happen next, took protective cover behind their parents. Finally ready, the launcher uttered his fateful countdown: “3-2-1, Liftoff!”

WHOOOSH!!!!!! Sitting atop a highly pressurized water-bottle rocket, Cap was sent soaring into the wild blue yonder, reminding all who witnessed the exciting event that day that: Toys were meant to be PLAYED WITH! After exhausting his craft’s harmless H2O fuel, Cap’s ‘chute popped open and he floated gently back to Earth.

While clearly pleased with the flight’s results, KYGCC club rep, Stephen Sherman, revealed that the group’s primary goal that day was actually to test the viability, strength and functionality (or lack thereof) of Cap’s vintage 1967 parachute. He described the successful mission this way:

“This past weekend, the Kentuckiana GIjOE club got together for one of our periodic Joe paratrooper water-rocket launches. This year, we decided to let Captain Action take his turn in the rocket. The jump was performed by Cap’s Playing Mantis stunt double, but his parachute was a 100% 1967-vintage ‘free’ 4-foot parachute. It still works!

KYGCC members gather underneath the park's pavilion to discuss and prepare for the day's events. (Photo: KYGCC)

KYGCC members gather beneath the park’s pavilion to discuss the day’s events. (Photo: KYGCC)

The Kentuckiana GIjOE Club has a long history of successful water-rocket-propelled parachute missions. If you haven’t seen it, you won’t want to miss the inspiring video (shown below) of their amazing 2009 launch of a GIjOE Mercury Astronaut strapped into a Space Capsule. Take a look:

Prior to his launch atop one of the club's famous "water-rockets," the astronaut GIjOE steps from his owner's superb custom Astronaut Support Vehicle. Amazing work, guys! (Photo: KYGCC)

Prior to his launch atop one of the club’s famous “water-rockets,” this GIjOE Astronaut steps out of his superb custom ASV. (Astronaut Support Vehicle). Absolutely amazing work, guys! (Photo: KYGCC)

Bottom Line: As the club’s newest mission video reveals, Captain Action’s launch was an unqualified success (just look at the altitude he achieved). It warms our hearts to see Cap’s vintage parachute still returning him safely to Earth nearly 50 years after its production. For more information about the creative, “play-oriented” Kentucky division of the GIjOE Collector’s Club, we recommend you visit the KYGCC Facebook page HERE. Go, Kentucky Joeheads! Go, JOE!

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1:6 Scale Custom R/C Stuart Tank by Ryan Nagata

In this screenshot from a video released by the Replica Prop Forum (RPF), professional Prop Master, Ryan Nagata, poses with some of his 1:1 scale custom ray guns at a 2012 "prop party" convention held in California. (Photo: RPF)

In this screenshot from a video released by the Replica Prop Forum (RPF), professional Prop Master, Ryan Nagata, poses with some of his 1:1 scale custom ray guns at a 2012 “prop party” convention held in California. (Photo: RPF)

21st Century Toys—Taken to the Nth Degree

It’s Thursday, so that means it must be—Tank Day! And what better way to celebrate Tank Day than by remembering the superb 1:6 scale Stuart tank produced by 21st Century Toys? You know the one. Right out of the box, that heavy, plastic beast of a machine was a ton-o-fun for GIjOE and RC fans alike. Its wheels, treads, and opening hatches were all were nicely done, but ardent “tankers” couldn’t help but want—more.

Fortunatley, along came highly talented, professional “prop master,” Ryan Nagata. Ryan’s experience in creating impeccable recreations of famous movie props made him a superbly qualified candidate to take the Stuart to the next, higher level. And so, after properly researching the extensive WWII history of 21st’s spunky “iron coffin,” Ryan soon had his own Stuart transformed to an astonishingly accurate replica with heretofore unimagined levels of detail and realism.

Ultimately, “tanks” to the internet (Ha!), Mr. Nagata’s intricately customized Stuart quickly became world-famous. It’s now an unbelievable example of a rolling, smoke-belching, gun-firing work of miniature military ART. Beautiful to behold and thrilling to operate, it’s the sort of tank all GIjOE fans dream of adding to their collections. According to Nagata:

“This is a 1:6 scale model of a WWII Stuart tank I built for an upcoming project. This one has all the bells and whistles including proportional steering, a working turret, recoiling gun barrel, a mini smoke generator to simulate exhaust, working head and tail lights, and an animatronic commander and driver.”

Bottom Line: Absolutely amazing work, Ryan. Thank you for inspiring so many fans and showing us what a 21st Century Stuart CAN become if we take our time to do—it—right. Imagine all the “backyard battle action” that “tankers” could enjoy with this beauty! If you’d like to see a video of Ryan discussing his professional prop creations, go HERE. If you’d like to see Nagata’s tank as profiled on the Patches of Pride site, go HERE. If you’d like to learn more about the man himself, visit Ryan’s personal website HERE.

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Pennsylvanian Creates 1:6 Scale Version of “Space Chariot” ATV from “Lost in Space”

Here it comes! Customizer Gary Stair's "Space Chariot" plows relentlessly through the arctic snow in search of another adventure. VRROOM!!! (Photo: Gary Stair)

Here it comes! Customizer Gary Stair’s “Space Chariot” plows relentlessly through the arctic snow in search of another sub-zero adventure. This is ALL hand-built, folks. WOW! (Photo: Gary Stair)

Among the world-wide cadre of 1:6 scale customizers and kitbashers, renowned Captain Action enthusiast, Gary Stair, continues to grow in fame, leading the way with his ever-expanding, highly inspiring “fleet” of hand-crafted and scratch-built 1:6 buildings, aircraft, and vehicles. Stair’s latest creation will be instantly recognizable to fans of the classic ’60s sci-fi TV program, “Lost in Space” (LIS), as the show’s unforgettable “Space Chariot” ATV (see photo of original version below).

Don West and Judy Robinson discuss where they can go to be alone ("I think I saw a good spot behind that rock, Judy), while the far more famous, "Space Chariot" waits patiently in the background of this scene from "Lost in Space." (Photo: CBS)

In a scene from Lust in Space, Don West and Judy Robinson discuss where they can go to be alone to perform another one of Don’s 20-minute “undergarment inspections.” Don: “I think I saw a good spot behind that rock.” Judy: “But Don, is this really necessary? It’ll be our third ‘inspection’ today. Are there REALLY such things as ‘invisible space ticks?” Don: “Of course! And the only way to find them is by FEEL. Trust me, I’m a major. I know all about ente—, entemol—, BUGS and such.” (Photo: CBS)

The LIS Space Chariot was just one of FOUR iconic machines created for the show. The other three were, of course, the “Jupiter 2″ (a flying saucer), the iconic “Robot B9″ (Warning, Will Robinson!) and the “Space Pod” (very similar to ones seen in the film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The LIS Space Chariot made its first appearance during the best year of the show, Season 1, and led the lost Robinson family through a dangerous battle with a giant cyclops and across an ocean with a raging cyclonic whirlpool (it was QUITE the exciting time for the Space Chariot).

Stair's Space Chariot enables his explorers to conduct dangerous missions in frozen wastelands, searching for lost UFOs and other mysterious objects. (Photo: Gary Stair)

Stair’s Space Chariot enables his explorers to conduct dangerous missions in frozen wastelands, searching for lost UFOs and other mysterious objects. (Photo: Gary Stair)

Stair’s Space Chariot is not a “bolt-for-bolt” recreation of the one on the show. Rather, it is a wholly unique and exciting custom in its own right. Here’s how Stair describes his one-of-a-kind ATV:

Toy collector and customizer, Gary Stair, PA. (Photo: Gary Stair)

Renowned 1:6 toy customizer, Gary Stair, PA. (Photo: Gary Stair)

“Hello, fellow customizers! This is my new, scratch-built, 1:6 scale “Chariot,” ala the one shown on TV’s “Lost in Space.” It’s chocked FULL of extra features, including: a domed canopy top, a top-side luggage rack, 2 side ladders, a front radar dish, front canopy lights, rear space for the ER1 (environmental robot), a sliding side door, 2 rear lab stations, an elevated center platform (to give better access to the domed top), lighted(!) interior control panels, arm rest tables for computer laptops, an overhead solar shade with tie-down straps for windy conditions, side and rear platforms for easy access (and extra carrying capacity), a rear top-side spotlight, extension power cable, de-icer hose, soil drill and front power-loader bars (to carry heavy equipment, ‘natch!).”

Gary Stair's custom 1:6 scale "Space Chariot" ATV provides a sweet ride through the arctic snow for Captain Action and his second-in-command, Major Stair. (Photo: Gary Stair)

3/4 view of Gary Stair’s 1:6 scale “Space Chariot.” (Photo: Gary Stair)

Side view of Gary Stair's 1:6 scale "Space Chariot." (Photo: Gary Stair)

Side view of Gary Stair’s 1:6 scale “Space Chariot.” (Photo: Gary Stair)

Back view of Gary Stair's 1:6 scale "Space Chariot." (Photo: Gary Stair)

Back view of Gary Stair’s 1:6 scale “Space Chariot.” (Photo: Gary Stair)

“My custom Chariot even has a couple of nifty ‘homage’ additions, including a Lost in Space (2nd Season) laser rifle, and a Star Wars Droid (he seems to have a little R2D2 in him). I hope you enjoy my latest creation and these recent ‘arctic mission’ photos. In other photos (not shown here) I’ve added even more homages to Lost in Space by including a damaged weather station and giant Cyclops footprints. Yikes! Time to call for reinforcements!”

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Gary Stair for being such a regular contributor to The Joe Report and sharing these amazing new photos of his latest 1:6 scale creation. Absolutely top-notch!

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Canadian “Master Miniaturist,” Mike Conrad, Creating Meticulously Detailed 1:6 Scale Custom Weapons, Equipment and Vehicles———Out of Wood!

“Woodworking Wonder” Mike Conrad, poses humorously for an exclusive photo taken for The Joe Report. While wielding a hammer, dremel tool, hot glue gun and a tube of…something, Conrad pretends to be working on his latest creation, an amazingly detailed 1:6 scale water-cooled machine-gun, constructed predominantly out of wood and tiny pieces of metal and rubber. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Mike Conrad's superbly handmade, 1:6 scale WWII "walkie-talkie" is absolutely perfect in every way. Once it's been painted and decaled, it will be...AMAZING. (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Mike Conrad’s superbly handmade, 1:6 scale WWII “walkie-talkie” is almost completed. Once it’s been painted and decaled, it will look… AMAZING. (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Self-Taught 1:6 “Woodworking Wonder”

At a time when most customizers of 1:6 scale action figures, vehicles, weapons and related equipment are working with high-tech aids and materials such as 3D printers (see our previous article HERE), complex resin compounds (see HERE), electro-static flocking machines (see HERE), styrene plastics (see HERE), and even metals (see HERE), longtime modeler and customizer, Mike Conrad, of Ontario, Canada, has decided to eschew modern methods and materials and return to “the craftsman’s roots” by working predominantly—with wood. For even the most talented 1:6 customizers however, working with wood is believed to be severely limiting. Outside of a pile of campfire logs or some tent poles, there would seem to be little else that 1:6 scalers could convincingly create out of the material. Conrad dispels such notions.

This closeup reveals Mike's small work area where he is completing the assembly of one of his 1:6 scale (wooden) machine guns. Simply amazing! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

This closeup reveals Mike’s small work area where he is currently completing the final fit and assembly of one of his 1:6 scale (wooden) machine guns. Simply amazing work! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

A breathtaking closeup of the front sprocket and tread assembly of a 1:6 scale M3 Stuart Tank, currently being constructed by Mike Conrad completely OUT OF WOOD. Are you amazed yet? If not, wait until you see the NEXT photo! (Photo: Mike Conrad) Exclusive to The Joe Report.

A breathtaking closeup of the front sprocket and tread assembly of a 1:6 scale M2A4 Stuart Tank, currently being constructed by Mike Conrad OUT OF WOOD. Are you blown away yet? If not, wait until you see the NEXT photo! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

How is Such Fine Work Possible?

Typically, when you think of wooden toys, you think of standard flea-market finds such as wagons, horses, choo-choos and other such simplistic children’s fare. But Conrad’s work isn’t made for children. Rather, each piece is a miniature work of military fine art, replete with perfectly defined parts and realistic details. The fact that nearly everything is made out of wood is literally mind-boggling. It’s the kind of 1:6 custom work you have to see up close and in-person to believe. We asked Mike to tell us about himself and his background, expecting the requisite story of intensive training and years spent apprenticing with master woodsmiths and artisans. Surprisingly, he replied:

“I was born and raised an Air Force “Military Brat.” Our family packed up and moved away from friends and familiarity every 4 years. In 1982, we moved to Lahr, West Germany. I was 12 at the time. Shortly after we arrived, I happened upon something that a lot of us built as a kid (when the costs were cheaper)—an almighty, 1/35th scale TANK. I fell in love! My passion for model-building snowballed from that point on to include planes, ships, submarines, corvettes and most recently, 1/6th scale WWII.”

This stunning rear-view of the M3 Stuart's sprocket gears and tread assembly is an absolute MIND-blower! Can you (in your wildest dreams) imagine making all of this BY HAND and out of WOOD? Fantastic work, Mike! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

(Here’s the photo we warned you about.) This stunning rear-view of the M2A4 Stuart’s sprocket gears and tread assembly is an absolute MIND-blower! Can you imagine (in your wildest dreams) the talent required to make all of this BY HAND—and out of WOOD? Simply exquisite work, Mike! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Another view of the tread assembly reveals a flexible, underlying rubber belt, sandwiched with perfectly spaces wooden blocks. Can you imagine all the careful planning and painstaking detail work required to create this masterpiece? (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Another view of the tread assembly reveals a flexible, underlying rubber belt, sandwiched with perfectly spaced wooden blocks. Can you imagine all the careful planning and painstaking detail work required to create this masterpiece? (Photo: Mike Conrad)

“Of course, while growing up, we never had much money, so when it came to model building (or as I like to call it now, ‘model creating’), I had to make do with whatever was available at hand. Whenever images or ideas were in my head, the next step was scrounging and hunting for the various parts and pieces in my Dad’s parts bins in the basement and garage. (Thanks, Dad!). I’ve always been good at picturing the finished product from all sides and how to go about building or creating it. I have never had any formal training in model building or painting, but I’ve won numerous awards for my ‘Creature Creations and Prop Building,’ having also worked for a professional theater In Halifax.

Withe the main tread assembly and lower hull in place, Mike begins adding the upper armor and turret, cannon and top .50 caliber machine gun. Yes, it's ALL made of wood. Imagine how great this will display when it is completed! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

With the main tread and lower hull assemblies in place, Mike begins to add the upper armor sections, turret, main gun, etc.. Yes, it’s ALL made out of wood. And YES…it will be R/C! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Piece by piece, bit by bit, Mike cuts, shapes, sands and carefully assembles and fits each and every part of his amazing, wooden creations. Here, he attaches a perfectly carved call-button to the side of his new 1:6 scale walkie-talkie. WOW! (Photo: Mike

Piece by piece, Mike cuts, shapes, sands and carefully assembles each and every tiny part of his amazing, 1:6 scale wooden creations. Here, he attaches a perfectly carved call-button to the side of his new 1:6 scale walkie-talkie. WOW! (Photo: Mike

Simply Fascinating!

Despite a lack of any formal art education, Mike has clearly become a VERY talented and gifted artist. And his decision to work in wood makes his creations all that more special. We confessed to Conrad that we were surprised he had chosen to create his 1:6 scale customs out of wood, when there were so many other more “toy-like” materials available. He replied:

“I’ve used anything and EVERYTHING I could find; from the wood panels off the sides of a small tangerine box (see my current .30 cal machine-gun project), to the hardwood dowels I found at local Dollar Stores (those stores are a good hunting ground for bits and pieces, by the way). No matter what materials (or media) you decide to use, I say to kids out there… Put down that video game controller or cell phone. Scrounge around the house. Raid your Dad’s parts bins. Use your imagination. And for Pete’s sake… START CREATING!”

Holy Hot Lead! Words cannot do justice to Mike’s 1:6 scale miniature M1917A1 water-cooled Browning machine gun. Here it is in its pre-paint status, revealing all of its superbly handcrafted and intricate parts. Next up, the weapon’s water tank, ammo box and ammo belt. Hooah! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Conrad's wooden creation of the lighter, more manueverable Browning 1919A2 air-cooled machine gun and tripod would look right at home in any miliatry museum (or the hands of a 1:6 scale action figure). Just wait until it's painted! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Conrad’s 1:6 wooden creation of the lighter, more maneuverable Browning 1919A2 air-cooled machine gun and tripod would look right at home in any military museum (or in the hands of a 1:6 scale action figure). And just wait until it’s painted. Yessiree! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Going Against the Grain

Of all the materials to work with in 1:6 scale, it seems that wood would be the most artistically challenging and work-intensive. But such thoughts don’t appear to concern or deter Conrad, who describes his preference for wood thusly:

“Well, the idea of working with wood came to me just because of the simple fact that (in my head) I’m always looking for other uses for house-hold materials, and there was always scrap wood sitting around in the garage, basement, etc. And of course, it was FREE.

Personally, I find that wood is very easy to carve. If I make any mistakes—there’s always good ol’ wood filler that I can make myself out of sawdust and glue. It’s also non-toxic (and FREE). I hate waste, so I try to find uses for EVERYTHING. Gimme a dremel tool and some wood and I can make practically anything. I’ve actually just finished carving out the button for my new U.S. walkie-talkie.”

Another view of David's unfinished tank shows it beginning to come together nicely. Can you imagine the satisfaction of building something this cool from SCRAPS of wood you find around the house? WOW. (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Another view of Mike’s unfinished tank shows it’s beginning to come together nicely. Imagine the satisfaction of building something this cool from scraps of wood you find lying around the house? WOW. (Photo: Mike Conrad)

“I’m also building a 1/6 M2A4 scale tank, all out of wood, using wooden packing crate boxes for oranges that I picked up from the grocery store and some other scrap wood I found lying around. If the tooth of a gear ever breaks, I can just cut out a new sprocket, because—it’s FREE! I just rough cut the circles out on my band-saw, then spin them using my drill press and a long nut and bolt, using it like a wood lathe. Whatever I make is just for my own personal collection. I’ve never really thought of any other options, such as selling them. But if such an offer ever came up, I’m sure I would consider it!”

The first call comes in on Mike's new handcrafted 1:6 walkie-talkie: "Hello? What's that you say? You want to buy Mr. Conrad's 1:6 scale wooden tank? HA. Get in line, fella!" (Photo: Mike Conrad)

(The first call comes in on Mike’s new handcrafted 1:6 walkie-talkie): “Hello? What’s that you say? You want to BUY Mr. Conrad’s 1:6 scale wooden tank? HA. Get in line, fella!” (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Mike Conrad for his contributions to this article. His extensive use of wood as a customizing material gives his 1:6 creations a unique tactile and artistic esthetic that few others can claim. And Mike’s suggestion of using inexpensive (i.e. FREE) supplies is great advice for hobbyists of all ages. There’s no better way to begin an artistic pursuit than boldly jumping in and spending practically nothing. He’s also living proof that you don’t have to have a formal or expensive art education in order to begin creating your own 1:6 scale masterpieces. Remember, anything created by you becomes an instant keepsake and family heirloom, possessing far greater memories of satisfaction and accomplishment than ANY mass-produced hunk of plastic. So, as Mike likes to say… “For Pete’s sake, start creating!”

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