Fighter Jets for the Home
Model Builder Guillermo Rojas Bazan Makes Fighter Jets so Realistic You Can Almost Smell the Exhaust
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95
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He converted the scale used in the drawings to 1/15th to get the exact dimensions for the model, which the Ukrainian craftsmen then build in sections and in the same sequence as the original. What worked on the factory floor works in Rojas Bazan's bedroom. One-fifteenth scale was chosen, he explains, because at that scale, airplanes of different sizes look proportionally correct when viewed together. Plans call for the creation of a series of limited-production models, and, logically, collectors would buy more than one model and would display them together.
Since the Corsair will be copied for limited production, Rojas Bazan makes two of everything. The duplicates are sent to the Ukraine where they will be copied for the production run. The tail section has already been sent, with the cockpit and the fixed sections of the folding wings to follow shortly. It may take two and a half to three years to complete the production run of 139 copies. (Why 139? That was the number on the first train model Kohs' firm did.) According to Kohs, the limited-production models will cost around $6,500 each. That's more than $900,000 worth of model airplanes. Rojas Bazan says the original should sell for $50,000 to $75,000.
The Corsair is taking as long as it is because of the detail. Rojas Bazan would typically spend about two months on a model of lesser detail, which would sell for $10,000 to $15,000. Over the years, private commissions have come from ex-pilots, owners of restored war birds, war buffs and collectors.
Kohs arrives, and I ask him if it will be possible for his workers in the Ukraine to duplicate the level of detail--and quality--that Rojas Bazan is building into the Corsair. Kohs says yes; Rojas Bazan looks unconvinced. Later, at Kohs' office, I see some of the battleships the Latvian operation has turned out, and they look very good to my untrained eye. But they contain nowhere near the detail of the Corsair. Kohs expects the first dozen limited-production models to be here by Christmas. Then we'll know.
By that time, Rojas Bazan will complete the Corsair and then start on the second model in the series, a Ford Tri-Motor, which will be as intricate and time-consuming as the Corsair. If Kohs' plan works, which is to say, there are customers for the limited-production models, Rojas Bazan will turn out roughly a model a year for 10 years to complete the series. He and Clarisa are assured of a steady and comfortable income without relying on the vagaries of working for individual customers. After the upheaval of leaving Israel and the financial uncertainties of the past few months, there is a certain appeal to Kohs' plan. And then?
"You can't do this work all your life," Rojas Bazan says. "The eyes. In 10 years I want to write books on how to do this, and to teach it." While we are talking, Rojas Bazan has been absentmindedly playing with a small piece of aluminum sheet. As I get up to go, he places it on the coffee table. It has taken on a delicate curve.
There is magic in those big hands.
Mike Knepper is a writer who lives in Connecticut.
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