Tales from a Naive Collector: TriStar Crisis
Updated: Aug 14, 2022
The picture above shows two 1:400 Pan Am L1011-500s. The one on the left is N504PA Clipper National Eagle, released by Blue Box in 2006. The one on the right is N514PA Clipper White Falcon, released by Dragon Wings around 2000. Both models joined my collection in February of 2022.
Why am I getting 20-year-old Pan Am L1011s in 2022? The short answer is that I wanted to replace my Gemini Jets version of the type. A more fitting question would be, why did I get a Gemini Jets Pan Am L1011-500 in the first place?
A Little Background on Paying Attention to Detail
As a young kid I used to be proud of being able to identify different types of aircraft and their variants. Of course, in the interior of Venezuela that boiled down to being able to tell 727s from DC-9s. I must say it took me a while to become comfortable telling the DC-9-30 from the -50, as my brain just categorized both types as the short DC-9s, the long DC-9 was the MD-80. The same happened with other types of aircraft, I was good at identifying the basic type, but without a lot of exposure to different variants I struggled to pick up on the details.
Well, I never had a lot of exposure to L1011s, I just remember seeing a handful of them at MIA during the nineties, and just being able to tell them apart from DC-10s and MD-11s by looking at their 727-like engine #2 s-duct. Hence, for the longest time, I had no clue about the details of the different variants of the TriStar. Later I would discover that I wasn’t alone as many 1:400 manufacturers seemed to be on the same boat.
The L1011 in My Collection
My first 1:400 TriStar was a Gemini Jets Fine Air L1011-1. Their DC-8s were common visitors in my hometown of Maracaibo so I was happy to have that livery in my collection, even if it wasn’t on a DC-8.
My second L1011 was also a -1 in the ANA Mohican livery. I did not add any more L1011s to my collection for almost a decade.
Eventually, I started purchasing TriStar models again, this time focusing on visitors of CCS. But even though I knew about the shorter -500, I didn’t pay attention to what TriStar version I was getting. I simply got an L1011 from whatever airline I was after and that was it. This careless approach to collecting was rooted in ignorance, however, it did not backfire until I got my first British Airways TriStar, which turned out to be a Blue Box -1 that was clearly longer than the -500 I had seen photographed at CCS, which had inspired me to get the model in the first place.
I said, well not a problem, I’ll just go ahead and get a -500 then. I was happy to find a Lockness (Aeroclassics) BA TriStar -500 still at retail price, but that happiness was about to vanish.
When the model arrived, it didn’t look how I expected. It did not have the name of the aircraft printed on the nose section, and it just looked poorly made.
A few months earlier I had also gotten Pan Am’s N511PA Clipper Black Hawk by Gemini Jets. I had been happy with Gemini Jets thus far, but when the Pan Am -500 arrived, I noticed that it was a new mould, but overall, it wasn’t a very nice model. At the time I was not aware of the -500 differences from the -1 (other than the shorter fuselage) and how GJ had messed them up, but the model just didn’t look right.
So, with these two TriStar disappointments in short succession, I went ahead and did what I should have done before even going shopping: I did some research and read L1011-500 1:400 mould reviews.
In no time I came across Richard Stretton’s review of Pan Am’s N510PA Clipper George T. Baker by NG Model, which also brought me up to speed with the current L1011-500 situation in 1:400 scale. I also read Yesterday Airlines’ L1011-500 mould review.
As I was going through the long lists of shortcomings of Aeroclassics’ and Gemini’s L1011-500 something stood out: The Geminin Jets mould had the erroneous wing box fairing shape. As Richard Stretton put it: “Basically it is a chimaera with the Tristar 1 wing and fuselage/wing fairing grafted onto a shortened Tristar 500 fuselage.”
I immediately went to take a closer look at all my TriStars and quickly became aware of how a -500 wing box fairing should look like, and how the Gemini Jets mould actually looked like. To make things worse, Gemini seemed to have tried to c