Special Navy vs Mach 2: comparing limited run kits

Just out of interest, we are today comparing a Mach 2 kit and a Special Navy kit. It just happens that I have these two kits on my bench right now and the differences are amazing. Firstly, I admit the comparison is a bit unfair as I am comparing the Sputnik 3 in 72nd scale by Mach 2 versus the Special Navy U-Boat Type VIID Minelayer Conversion kit for the Revell 72nd scale Type VIIC U-Boat kit. One is a limited run injection moulding of a complete topic whilst the other is a conversion kit aftermarket offering. But still, the comparison is illuminating.

The contrast is utterly gobsmacking. They illustrate two polar opposites of what is now achievable in the market. Most of you can imagine how I feel about the Mach 2 kit. Yes it is the only 72nd scale kit of the Semiorka R7 launcher whilst several manufacturers have now released the mine-layer conversion for Revells U-Boat – so the popularity of the topic may have something to do with it. But, still, the two couldn’t be more different. Mach 2 hail from France and release injection moulded kits of unusual topics. However, it is fair to say that the standards of their mouldings are quite simply appalling. I say that because of their price.

They retail in the UK at between £40 and £44 before discount. That is a lot of money for what you get. For a kit that retails at £40+ I would expect some resin and some photoetch. For example the Sputnik 3 has four delicate aerials which are ideal for photoetch. Secondly I expect the kit to be reasonably accurate. I expect the Sputnik 3 satellite to actually resemble the pictures of the real thing. This can’t be hard as you can simply Google the images. Indeed I was able to see an actual copy of the satellite at an exhibit in the London Science Museum in the Autumn of 2015 (last year). So what excuse do Mach 2 have for such a horribly inaccurate satellite? The real Sputnik 3 has FOUR folding solar panels. Mach 2 give you just two such panels – no doubt due to the limitations of their injection moulding process. Other manufacturers would have created a master of the satellite in a CAD package and 3D printed a master before moulding it in resin.

Now compare the Special Navy approach. These guys have pedigree. They are (as far as I can see) part of the MPM modelling products empire hailing out of Prague in the Czech Republic. I have visited their fair city and its beauty is obviously inspiring. The MPM stable also gives us Special Hobby and CMK. Remember this is an aftermarket offering – an add-on to a kit that a mainstream manufacturer has put on the market. I can tell you now that what you get is of comparable quality (if not better than) the Revel kit itself. It comes in its own box with printed artwork of the Type VIID U-Boat.

Compare that to the Mach 2 offering where they have slapped a sticker on a generic box that was too big for the kit. Their artwork is OK-ish but yields few useful details on the topic. Now just open the instruction leaflet: Special Navy have printed theirs and the illustrations are clear and concise. It is as good as any you get in the market. Now look at the Mach 2 offering: one sheet of A4 paper, badly drawn, photocopied, indistinct and confusing. It has the launcher instructions on one side and the satellite construction on the other – still it manages to ignore several components on the sprue. You have to look at photos to know where they go… and then they are wrong anyway.

Special Navy get a ten-out-of-ten across the board with distinction. Everything they offer exudes quality. Yes they have photoetch. Yes they have beautiful resin castings of the mine-laying structures on the U-Boat hull. Yes they include the hull extensions as injection moulded items. The injection moulding is of the same quality as the Revell kit the parts are to go onto. No doubt they created the masters for this by cutting up one of the Revell kits but still, I don’t care. The plastic is smooth, the gates small, it is like Revell made it. No difference. Awesome.

I have not even got to the best parts of this: you get a painting guide and decals for three different U-Boats. …OK, and get this. It cost me about £20 to buy this direct from MPM in the Czech Republic although it is also available from Hannants in the UK for about the same cost.

In fact this entire exercise has left me pretty frustrated with Mach 2 and what they are doing. I know there is some limited-run injection moulding in the market and I know that they require a bit of work. I am not even going to comment about the hard work required to assemble and fit the Semiorka launcher.. But at the same time the Special Navy offering is also highly specialised and for a very small market. It is hard to imagine that the two companies are selling these in anything but comparable volumes. Special Navy sets the bar pretty high.

Does Mach 2 even want to play with the big boys and justify the absurd price of their kits?

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