|PRICE:||$Really long out of production|
When I was growing up in the 1970s my first models were the Aurora Prehistoric Scenes. As a child in the midst of his “dinosaur fever”, I fell in love with those kits and with the help of my father, I built them all. With their interlocking bases, gobs of extra parts, and flair for the dramatic, each one of those kits was and still is a little gem, completely telling a story like any good diorama should. Soon I moved on to Aurora’s famous line of movie monsters and other figure kits, and my love affair with anything Aurora was cemented. When they went out of business in 1976 I was heartbroken.
With the passing of time I’m still interested in all things Aurora, and have even bought books that tell the story of the famous model company. I was pleasantly surprised to learn all about their line of American wildlife kits that had I never really known much about. It turns out that those kits were similar to the Prehistoric Scenes models in that each one was a neat little diorama in its own right.
I soon turned to ebay to start finding these kits. It seems that of the five wildlife kits, the White-Tailed Deer, Black Bear and Cubs, and American Bison are fairly easy to find, probably because Aurora released those three in the 1970s as well as their original 1960s release. The Cougar and the Big Horned Sheep kits, having only been released in the 1960s, are harder to find, which is unfortunate because they are probably the largest and most interesting of the series. Those two kits feature some undeniable drama in the form of a predator vs. prey type of story. The Big Horned Sheep kit depicts a mother ram defending her baby from a prowling lynx, while the Cougar kit shows a large Cougar about to attack an unsuspecting young deer. When I found this Cougar kit on ebay complete with all of its original parts, I couldn’t resist.
Aurora’s Cougar kit depicts an adult cougar hunched on a large rock, ready to pounce on an unsuspecting young deer on the ground below! It consists of parts to make the cougar and deer, and two large base pieces that lock together. It also has parts to make rocks, a tree stump, and a broken branch to help fill out the base.
Having been molded in the 1960s, assembling this model was all about dealing with large, mismatched seams! I ended up assembling the Cougar’s four legs and body as subassemblies, sanding the seams flat, filling the gaps with Green Squadron putty, and then using a scribing tool to scribe “fur” – lots of random lines in different directions - over the sanded areas. This process had to be repeated several times until I was happy with the effect, and yes, it did get tedious. Once I was happy with the legs, they were glued to the body, and the sanding-filling-scribing process was repeated to the areas surrounding the legs. The young deer was built in a similar fashion, though thankfully it had a lot fewer seams! Finally, the rocky base and tree stump were assembled, sanded, and gap-filled, and the major players in this story were ready for paint.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
I used Tamiya’s Light Gray Spray Primer right out of the can to prime the cougar, deer, and base. All three were then pre-shaded with Testors Acrylic Leather paint, spraying it into the various recessed areas that would generally be dark or in shadow. I used the Aztek A470 airbrush with the beige tip for all of my spray work.
The cougar was then airbrushed with a lightened mixture of Testors Acrylic Panzer Interior Buff on his belly, neck, and chin, and Testors Acrylic Wood on his top sides. I then gave the entire cougar a fairly heavy wash of Raw Umber/Lamp Black oil paint, which darkened him a little more than I wanted. Next time I have to dilute the mixture a little more! To brighten him up a bit I dry brushed his upper coat with Testors Enamel Yellow and his lower areas with Testors Enamel White, which seemed to not only lighten his overall shade but also make the wash stand out a little more. I brush-painted his mouth pink and his teeth buff. Remembering how grungy my dog’s teeth were, I gave the entire mouth a fairly heavy wash of Raw Umber/Lamp Black. I had problems painting his eyes. Aurora originally molded his eyes very large, giving him a bit of a “cartoonish” look. I toyed with the idea of using putty to make them a bit smaller, but in the end decided to paint them a yellow-green color with black pupils. They still look a bit too large to me, but maybe when a cougar is about to eat something his eyes get really big!
The deer was likewise sprayed with Testors Wood on his undersides and a darkened shade of the same color on his topsides. I used Panzer Interior Buff to brush-paint spots on his topcoat, and gave him the same overall wash as the cougar. This darkened him quite a bit as well, but I like the contrast between the two. His hoofs were painted dark gray, and his eyes were painted Testors Leather with black pupils.
I envisioned the overall scene to look as though it were set in a dry, desert type of environment, so I airbrushed a couple of different shades of sand and beige on the rocks, and then slightly darker shades of the same on the earthen base. The grassy tufts molded into the base were brush-painted Testors Wood. The tree and branch were painted Testors Neutral Gray, and then the whole base, rocks, tree, and branch were given a wash of Raw Umber/Lamp Black. Once this was dry I dry-brushed light beige onto the rocks, and a slightly darker shade on the earth, and a still darker shade on the tree and branch. I dry-brushed some yellow on to the grassy areas to make them stand out a bit. Finally I used Orange, Red, and Maroon to brush-paint the Cougar nameplate. While the whole scene is very beige-looking, the rocks stand out from the earth enough to look a little sun-bleached, which was the effect I was after.
With the painting stage over, I used CA glue to attach the deer, branch, and cougar to the base. I brush-painted some Testors Gloss on the animals’ eyes and mouths, and the model was done.
While all of the poorly fitting seams made me yearn for a precision kit of today (I normally build armor and aircraft), it’s very unlikely we’ll ever see a unique kit like this released by a mainstream manufacturer. I really like the action and drama portrayed in this kit, and trying out new painting techniques was a lot of fun and very educational. I heartily recommend this kit to anyone with an interest in wildlife, someone who’s looking for a break from the subjects they usually model, or someone who’s just a nostalgic fan of Aurora like me! I’m looking forward to building more of Aurora’s old kits soon, be they monster, animal, or dinosaur. It seems my love affair with Aurora will never die…
Squadron/Signal Publications, Wildlife Series, “Cougar in Action”…(just kidding). For references I used one of my daughter’s nature books and some pictures I downloaded from the internet.
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