A Poor Man's Classic 747 Collection in 1:400 Scale
Updated: Oct 10, 2022
The Boeing 747 is one of the most iconic airliners to have ever taken to the skies, and quite possibly the civil aircraft that has been replicated the most in the form of toys and models. It was the symbol of air travel during the heyday of the jet age, and flag carriers from all corners of the world wanted to slap their livery onto one of these emblematic juggernauts to show their place in the global scene.
I remember looking at a 747 for the first time, the thing that struck me the most about it was the fact that it had another smaller row of passenger windows on top of the main passenger deck. It seemed as if two airplanes had been stacked up and blended together into a massive two-story flying building. It never ceases to amaze me how the sheer size of the jumbo jet makes it look so graceful as its lifts off and banks away to some distant destination, and even though the same is true for other giants of the sky, there is just something unique about the 747 that sets it apart.
I am far from being alone in having this particular affinity for the 747, as jumbos wearing the liveries of the flag carriers of the world have sent arrows through the hearts of aviation lovers worldwide. While it is great to know that at least I seem to have good taste when it comes to what airplanes I like, this also means that there are a lot of us after 1:400 scale models of 747s wearing iconic liveries.
Unfortunately for us, the odds are not entirely in our favor when it comes to owning 1:400 replicas of our favorite classic jumbos. Unlike a music concert where the best hits are saved for the end, in the world of 1:400 scale model collecting, manufacturers capitalized on highly popular 747s as soon as the molds were available. This would have been totally fine if it wasn’t for another factor that also seems to have started to take place with the advent of 1:400 scale: releases started to become increasingly limited, and rarity became the norm.
Looking at the story of 1:400 scale and where the classic 747 falls in, it seems as if their production sparked at the same time that brands stopped seeing licensing as an obstacle. In other words, production of highly sought-after 747s in 1:400 really took off with the appearance of the all-so-coveted BigBird 747 series of molds, which has been used to produce releases under the Your Craftsman 400 and Aeroclassics banners, as well as some others to a lesser degree. These classic jumbos are hard to come by in the second-hand market, and when they do pop up, they almost always sell for no less than three figures.
As an alternative to the out-of-reach BigBird 747s, I have resorted to obtaining jumbos released by brands other than Your Craftsman and Aeroclassics, and have dubbed them my Poor Man’s 747 Collection. Make no mistake, these are not exactly cheap either, some of them are also hard to find and have actually been released using the BigBird mold, or even a superior one – yes, such a thing existed once upon a time – under less prestigious brand names. However, at least in my case, these were still easier to find and at least affordable when compared to their BigBird counterparts. Below I will go over the five most prominent members of my Poor Man’s 747 club:
Number One – Pan Am 747-121 N747PA “Clipper Juan T. Trippe” Released in 2005 by Blue Box (180 units made according to DiMA):
I got this model during my first round of collecting 1:400 scale models around 2010. I believe I got it from eBay, as the only other place it could have come from would have been a Waffle collection sale, and I can’t find a record of such an order on their website. I also don’t remember how much I paid for it, so it must not have been a whole lot.
I think the BlueBox mold, also used by Magic Models, is actually decent, with a good level of detail for the time. However, the shape of the forward area of the hump, just above the cockpit windows, is noticeably off, similarly to the Phoenix’s current mold, but Blue Box’s oddly-shaped hump/nose does not look as unpleasant as Phoenix's. These models were also notorious for developing paint bubbles and suffering from zinc rot, but my example looks okay for the most part, with only some discrete paint irregularities on the wings, no worse than those found in some models produced by more reputable brands. On this model, however, the titles on the starboard side are misplaced too far aft (some Pan Am 747s wore them like that, but it appears to be wrong for this specific reg.), it is good enough otherwise.