Batman and Robin. Jordan and Pippen. T-Rex and Allosaurus. Despite being the top predator of its day, Allosaurus has always played second fiddle to its larger, more terrifying cousin. It was just never as big, as scary, as awesome.
It was a horror movie on two legs to be sure. Living in the Late Jurassic period some 150 million years ago, it measured roughly 30 feet from its stiletto-infested snout to the tip of its tail. Dominating the prehistoric river floodplains and forests of what is today the western United States, Allosaurus had to contend with the likes of Apatosaurus (popularly known as Brontosaurus) and the truly massive Brachiosaurus. Whether Allosaurus hunted alone or in packs is not known, but just as today’s lions seldom bring down an adult elephant, Allosaurus probably hunted the young, the weak, and those that strayed from the herds. Nonetheless the species lived for millions of years (yes, millions. Dinosaurs ruled the earth for so long the numbers boggle the mind), and the sheer number of fossils left behind indicate it was quite numerous indeed.
But alas, you won’t see Allosaurus as the star of a popular Hollywood movie franchise. It just didn’t have that elusive “it” factor - and it has paid the price, in toy sales, model sales, and movie roles. Hey, if you’re not first, you’re last.
Even Aurora recognized this in their early ‘70s line of Prehistoric Scenes kits. Allosaurus was one of its earliest releases, and measured about 11” tall. When they issued their T-Rex model a couple of years later it stood a good 18” tall and was roughly three times as big – supposedly, somewhat impossibly, in the same scale as Allosaurus.
If you’re reading this you probably have some memories of the Aurora model company, and there’s a good chance you built one or two of their prehistoric models, maybe for some destructive testing with fireworks or to sharpen your BB rifle skills. Their Prehistoric Scenes line was if nothing else fun as hell, in a way we’ll never see again. A series of 17 kits that featured dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, and cave people, each model came with a diorama base complete with trees, plants, snakes, bugs, bones and anything else that seemed appropriate. The bases all fit together to create a huge sprawling primeval scene. Neither historical nor political correctness mattered to Aurora – if you set the kits up as intended the Styracosaurus was next to the Woolly Mammoth which was next to the Neanderthal Man and so on. No explanation was ever offered for box art showing the Allosaurus terrorizing our primitive ancestors in their cave home – it was all in good fun.
I had, and still have, the whole set, though they are now in poor shape having been chucked into a box and moved around more times than I care to remember. But every now and then a wave of nostalgia washes over me, and once I determine it’s actual nostalgia and not just gas, I pick one out and set about fixing it up.
“But that thing sure doesn’t look like a dinosaur” you might say, and you’d be right. One must forgive Aurora, for in 1971, dinosaurs were not yet dinosaurs, at least not the dinosaurs of today. Back then the world assumed that dinosaurs stood up straight and clumsily dragged their tails around behind them as they lurched about in their volcano-riddled world. It wasn’t until about the mid-80s that scientists realized they had it all wrong and that dinosaurs like Allosaurus lived “horizontally”, using their long tails as counterweights for their bodies. With their posture now vastly improved, dinosaurs were reimagined to be fast, active, and in all likelihood, vicious as hell. So while scientists went about fixing their suddenly out-of-date museum exhibits, Aurora’s Allosaurus became…a little more charming…
When Aurora went out of business in 1977…I cried. (Call me a baby all you want but can you imagine if you wake up tomorrow and find out that Tamiya has injected its last mold?) Monogram acquired their kit lineup soon after, and Allosaurus has been reissued several times by both Monogram and Revell, but with one very important difference – no base. Since Aurora’s very first release, the two-piece base has never been included in any subsequent releases, which is a shame because it was a cool little number with mini volcanos and flowing lava. An Aurora kit without a base just ain’t right.
All of Aurora’s prehistoric kits were snap-together affairs, so I wrestled the whole thing apart and then washed about 45 years of dust off of all of the parts. Next I cleaned up any flash and sprue attachment points, and then snipped off all of the large snap-together pins. I then glued all the parts back together.
Probably the hardest part of this reno job was dealing with the seams, which no matter how much beer I drank, just wouldn’t fix themselves. It took quite a few nights of trimming, sanding and filling to get them to a reasonable state. I then applied small dabs of putty over the seams in an attempt to blend them into the dinosaur’s scaly skin.
Aurora did add a feature to the model that makes one wonder what was in the water in West Hempstead, NY in 1971. The creature’s tongue comes molded with a thick web of…something…at the tip of it. Is it supposed to be dino slobber? Scraps of meat? Vomit? Perhaps only the kit designer knows for sure. I debated cutting it off, but decided to honor the original kit. That and after two weeks of sanding seams I was ready to just start painting it.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
Everything was given a good coat of Tamiya’s Fine Surface Primer sprayed out of the can. I then airbrushed Big Al’s undercarriage a 50/50 mix of Tamiya XF-55 Deck Tan/XF-57 Buff. Some very light post shading was sprayed into the crevices, wrinkles and folds using Tamiya XF-52 Flat Earth.
The upper parts were then sprayed lightly and randomly using Tamiya XF-65 Field Gray. I sprayed it on more heavily near the creature’s spine to create a darker effect. Some random spots and stripes were added here and there to enhance his coloring. I used dark washes to bring out the scaly texture of his skin, and then dry brushed his highlights with Tamiya XF-49 Khaki.
I next moved onto his mouth, which I painted Vallejo Beige Red. His tongue was painted Vallejo Brown Rose and then mottled with some Tamiya XF-9 Hull Red to make it look reptilian. His teeth were painted Vallejo Iraqi Sand and given a dark brown wash. I mixed up some light pink for the slobber, and washed it with red. I painted his eyes green and his claws dark gray. Finally I applied some Vallejo gloss to his mouth and eyes.
The next task was to paint the base, which was primed with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer. I then sprayed the whole thing with Tamiya AS-15 Tan for the basecoat. The sides of the volcanos were painted Vallejo Chocolate Brown, and then dry brushed Vallejo Dark Sand. Dark brown washes were used to darken the earthy areas.
Painting the lava was both fun and challenging. I decided to have two large streams of lava flowing from the volcanos, so I recreated that using Vallejo Red as the basecoat, followed by Vallejo Bright Orange and Red Orange as highlights. After looking at pictures of real lava, I decided to try to create the effect of chunks of rock floating in the lava. I mixed Vallejo Grey Green with some Liquitex Gloss Super Heavy Gel Medium and then stippled the mixture onto the lava, and also the dried lava areas surrounding it. I dry brushed some grays and browns onto the dried lava areas. Finally to make the lava really pop I added some Vallejo Flat Yellow into the center of the volcanos and lava streams. I painted the nameplate with the same colors and declared the model done.
He might not be the king of Hollywood, but Big Al is back in business after a 45 year hiatus. I really enjoy building one of these old kits every now and then. Not only does it feel good to rehab an old kit I’ve been hanging onto forever, but the chance to use techniques and colors not normally used on military subjects is a lot of fun. By today’s standards these old kits are, pardon the pun, dinosaurs, but they have nostalgia and charm in droves. Hey, when are we ever going to see another kit of something with a huge glob of slobber hanging out of its mouth?
- Squadron/Signal Publications, Dinosaurs Series #4, “Allosaurus in Action”
- Wikipedia, the Online Encyclopedia
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