KIT: Merlin 1/72 Kaman HOK-1
KIT #: 101
PRICE: $16.95 in 1989
DECALS: One option
NOTES: Company defunct. Alternate - Mach 2 #0030 H-43.


Preview # 4 Kits From Hell

Charles Kaman invented an intermeshing rotor system that eliminated the need for a tail rotor to counter torque. The rotors could mesh because their shafts were offset outward from the vertical axis.  His company, established in 1945, won the contract for a multi-service observation helicopter, but the Huskie, as the Air Force called the H-43, soon became a primary rescue and firefighting aircraft. The downwash from its twin rotors effectively suppressed flames. Early variants were powered by a radial engine in the aft pod section; but later versions mouted jet engines above, freeing the cabin for use as an ambulance. It was succeeded by the H-3 Jolly Green Giant.


This is truly a Kit From Hell! Other KFH’s previously written up were buildable; but this one is a Gawd Awful absolutely useless piece of – well, no sense getting personal. Please understand, I’m not trying to be vicious, or worse, mimic the Internet whiners whose whimperings about poor kit quality inspired this project. The intent is to offer a no-euphemisms-used look at the first generation of short run kits; and that entails calling a spade a spade.  A spade is precisely the tool this kit calls for – to pulverize it, bury it, or forcefully apply to the parietal region of any modeler tempted to waste time with it.

            The other cottage industry companies managed to improve quality during their short residence on this Earth (Pegasus is alive and doing well, though dedicated to obscure WW I planes). This one seems to have gone the other way. The Kaman  was one of his last offerings, perhaps the last; and everything about the kit screams that Mr. Merlin was by now sick of the affair, and could not wait to get  the product out the door so he could flop down like a normal person in his recliner, with the TV remote in one hand and a dram of Oh Be Joyful in the other.

            The box, though a bit sturdier than previous ones, has a pasted on B&W line drawing label cranked out on a Xerox. The instruction sheet is a one sided typewritten sheet bearing barely one begrudging paragraph each for history, construction , and markings. Two rudimentary pencil line scribblings are supposed to suffice along with the box “art” for marking and assembly guidance. A postage stamp decal sheet holds four “star and bar” insignia printed on a heavy, highly visible carrier film.

            The accompanying photos may not adequately show the quality of the castings; but they may best be described by noting that there is nothing in the plastic bag worth tossing into the spare parts bin. As with the Beech Staggerwing, the problem of transparencies is “solved” by forming the fuselage halves out of “clear” plastic.  Even if the thick, irregular, grainy stuff could be thinned and polished, that would not work. The plastic is barely translucent.  There are two big fat bubbles imbedded in the starboard canopy section, and three fibroid swirls in the port side. The clamshell themselves are just approximations of the required profile, and other pieces fare even less well.  What are presumed to be rotors are indistinguishable from the sprue stretchers that carry them.  Ditto for the tail booms. Vertical stabilizers are the wrong shape; and the oversize central fin that appears in all available photos isn’t even mentioned (admittedly, this might have been a field installed afterthought). Mr. M had rightfully given up on trying to cast struts and such out of white metal. Wheels and other thingies are hidden somewhere on the sprues, embedded as shapeless blobs in the flash. I think we’ve beaten on poor Merlin Models sufficiently to reach our…


 This is Gawd Awful, utterly useless, and absolutely unbuildable! Even 20 years ago, peddling a product in that condition was an insult; and charging 17 bucks was rubbing salt in the wound. Nevertheless, Merlin deserves a point or two for effort, a few more for perseverance, and a hearty Thank You for inspiring the next generation of short runners (MPM, Pavla et al) by demonstrating that serious modelers would be willing to pay a premium price and indulge in extensive plastic surgery to put an oddball subject on the display shelf.

            Mach 2 has a 1/72 Huskie still in production, but it’s not Tamigawa quality either. Remain on this frequency for its preview. Someone else is bound to kit the Kaman, and my guess is it will be Italeri who’s been having a thing for early whirlybirds. 

February 2006

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