SHIP: Review -- Revell GmbH USS Kearsarge

Kit Review: Revell GmbH 1/96 Scale Model Kit No. 05603; Civil War Steam
Ship U.S.S. Kearsarge; 741 parts (681 in reddish brown styrene, 40 in
white styrene, 10 pre-formed ratlines, 3 paper flags, 2 in black
styrene, 2 cards of tan thread, 1 bobbin of black thread, 1 lenght of
steel chain, 1 length of copper chain); retail price $121.95
Advantages: relatively clean redo of the original kit from 1961, now
provides double figure set and two kinds of chain
Disadvantages: some modelers will balk at paying 1200% markup over 1961
prices (BUT beats the eBay alternative!); new instructions are awful in
regards to painting
Rating: Recommended
Recommendation: to Civil War ship fans and nostalgic "baby boomers"
who grew up with Revell
I can recall the circumstances surrounding getting several very big
and very unique Revell kits when I was a kid. I got the CSS Alabama as
a reward for spending an entire Sunday cleaning up after a fire in a
department store, and got the "coffee can" Space Station for moving
from elementary school to junior high in 1960. The USS Kearsarge was
one I did not get so lightly, and after finding one at the local
department store (where as family we got a 33% discount on toys and
models) I decided to earn the money for it.
My grandmother was more or less a "soft touch" and would give us
small jobs to do around her house for a few bucks, but my grandfather
was Alsatian German and would not put up with anything short of a full
day's work. It took me a good six weeks to earn enough to buy the
last remaining Kearsarge for a then princely sum of $6.65 so I was
thrilled the day I got it. I put it together over the rest of the
summer, but alas, the next year I dropped it and could never get it to
look quite the same. After stripping off all of the "good bits" it
went down in a local pond under a hailstorm of fire from a Daisy Model
111. I still have a few of them even after 42 years.
Needless to say I remember this kit fondly, and was delighted when
Revell re-released the Alabama. But shortly thereafter, the word went
out on numerous websites that the Kearsarge would not be joining it.
Even the unofficial Revell biography ("Remembering Revell Model
Kits" by Thomas Graham, Schiffer Publishing 2002) notes that in 1962
the same molds were used. But others indicated that the Kearsarge molds
were modified to create the Alabama kit (and the reworking tooling can
still be seen if you look closely inside the hull) and thus the
Kearsarge was no more. As a result, prices for an unbuilt Kearsarge
skyrocketed over the years, with some kits demanding well over $300 on
the Internet. Even one half-build and rather gluey mess I saw about a
year ago in a hobby shop went on consignment for $95.
Happily, Revell of Germany has now solved the problem and re-released
the Kearsarge. I have heard several stories as to how they did this
(one being they duplicated and then re-re-cut the Alabama molds, so
there is now a set of each one in existence) but the result is the
same, and other than some flash on this kit it looks very much the same
as the original.
Now there are some differences to this kit, such as the fact that the
number of parts and colors of plastic have changed and the hull no
longer comes pre-coppered. Whereas the original kit came in four colors
- black for the hull and metal work items (e.g. guns, anchors and
stacks), white figures and mast details, reddish brown wooden parts,
and a yellowish tan color for the decks and boat details, now it comes
with only the hull halves in black, the figures in white, and the rest
in the reddish brown color styrene. Also, the directions have been
redone (were the originals lost?) in the rather insipid "point and
stick" style of all other Revellogram kits, one thing I have never
found very impressive. (One thing Revell seems to have forgotten is
that many of us learned the basics of machines from their directions as
all parts were called out by number AND name -makes it easy to
remember which is the main, mizzen and foremast, and which yards are
which. Very helpful when you're 13 and a lot more when you're 56!)
The parts come oddly bagged, with the hull haves doubled bagged in a
separate insert that fits into a diagonal shelf inside the box. (Which
is about 15 x 36 x 5, not a small object!) The rest of the parts are
below the insert and all but the former yellow tan parts are in one big
bag; those parts (e.g. the decks, boat floors, and some upper masts and
yards) are in a separate bag inside the big bag. The thread and
ratlines, as well as the two types of chain, are inside another
separate bag.
I had forgotten how much different from the Alabama this kit was.
Alabama's parts breakdown looked like this: 653 parts (2 in black
styrene, 20 in creme styrene, 41 in white styrene, 570 in dark grey
styrene, 10 vacuformed off-white sails, 6 pre-formed ratlines/shrouds,
1 section coarse brass chain, 1 section fine brass chain, 1 spool black
cotton thread, 1 spool tan cotton thread, paper flag sheet. Revelll of
Germany have faithfully fixed all of the changes, and the extra boats,
foredeck, ladders, four-bladed screw, upper masts and yards, and
foredeck gun are all back. Some have some more flash that perhaps they
did back in 1961, but the kit is all there and looks good.
But overall the instructions are the kit's weak spot, as they are
very hard to read and find the color flags for the various parts of the
ship, and that lets it down. The boxtop art appears correct for the
Civil War paint job on the ship (and matches the 1961 version of the
kit) but the ones in this kit appear to be from a later date.
Admittedly, at least one website notes the Kearsarge kit was done from
later plans and may be as she was about 1885 and not 1864. The rigging
part is about as clear now as it was then, so I am assuming that is
Overall, flaws and all, this kit is an old friend and one I am glad to
see re-released at what is a much more affordable price than the
original versions go for today. (Note that I picked up my kit from D&J
Hobby & Crafts out of California for $93 plus $6.95 for domestic US UPS
shipping, so it can be found at less than retail. But not for $6.65!)
Cookie Sewell
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