Nostalgia trip: Monogram’s Patton Tank

Sometimes I get the rare chance to get in a time machine, and go way, way back, to a simpler time in my life. A time with few worries. A time spent building models and playing with toy soldiers. I took one of those trips tonight.

I had won an auction on Ebay for an unopened Monogram Patton Tank. The very same kit I’d built when I was 11 or 12, back in ’78 or so. Opening the shipping box was like greeting an old friend. I hadn’t thought about this kit in years, and it was only a recent foray into armor modeling that even got me thinking about it. Yet here it was, just as I’d remembered it.

I always loved the Monogram kits of the mid-70s. The ones in the white boxes with the photos of the built kits all over them. They just looked so cool. I remember cutting out the covers and pasting them in a notebook. I have no idea what happened to it. Lost like so many other things as “more important” stuff, some of which was, and some wasn’t, came along.

For you collectors out there, brace yourself. The box was in very good condition, still in the original shrink wrap. It was obvious whoever had this kit kept it well. After a deep breath, I opened the shrink wrap up.

Lifting the lid, I actually had a lump in my throat. Memories came flooding back. The hours I spent in the storage area of our carport, my very own modeling area. How wonderful it was, at the mature age of 12, to have my very own space, a place to retreat to. I had a stool to sit on, a modeling desk, shelves…. I could spend hours and hours and hours in it. And I did. I sweated in it. I froze in it. When the rain poured I closed the door. I was bit by mosquitoes and hounded by flies. One day I was chased out by a hornet.

But I modeled and modeled and modeled.

As I lifted the parts out fo the box, I could see it all. And though I thank the Lord for everything I have, and all of His blessings, I thank Him for memories too. The kind, especially, that were brought out holding a chunk of plastic.

The box says it’s 1/35th scale, but everything I’ve ever read says it was closer to 1/32. And it’s size is just bigger than what 35th scale seems to be. Still- who cares, really? Whatever scale, it was the monster of my battlefields. While Captain Thunderbolt and my trusty Dauntless ruled the skies, this Patton tank, and his brother-in-arms Sherman tank (the Monogram Hedgehog kit, which I will acquire, somehow), ruled the battlefield. They took on all comers, and vanquished all foes.

The kit also came with soldiers. The flame thrower guy, the grenade guy, the prone guy, and the others. I painted them all… simply, of course. I think I used a grand total of two colors- OD green and flesh.

My favorite was the tank commander, standing proudly in that oh-so-cool mini-turret on the top of the main turret. See, my dad had been an M48 commander in the Georgia National Guard. He told me stories about it, and even had pictures to prove it. And when my Patton tank rode into battle, conquering all before it, that was my dad, right up there, in charge. You did NOT want to mess with my dad and his Patton tank. He was bigger than a hero. He was my dad.

I love you Dad.

The box had other goodies. Two color brochures- one showing the Monogram armor kits. Another offering the Monogram catalog for the grand sum of $1.00. I remember mailing those in, stuffing in my very own $1 bill. Just holding those felt wonderful.

Finally, I got to the part that as a child simply fascinated me. In so many of the Monogram kits, there was a gem. A hidden treasure. A piece of paper, sometimes a pamphlet, that I would literally read and read, fold and unfold. I would study it, ponder it, and always, always be amazed by it. If you grew up in that time, you know what I am referring to.

Sheperd Paine’s “Tips on Building Dioramas”.

Honestly, I thought there could be no higher form of employment than to do what that Sheperd Paine guy did. There was no internet to refer to, no budget to buy books, no car to go to any shows (if there were any… I never knew…). My whole modeling world was me and a few friends and our simply built models made of tube glue and Testors paints. And then this modeling genius named Sheperd Paine. What a wonderful time it was, reading those brochures. If you ever read this- thanks Mr. Paine.

No, it’s not the Tamiya or Hasegawa or Eduard kit of today. The detail is simple, assembly is basic, and often the detail that is there is not exactly accurate. Panel lines are raised and there are some ejector pin marks and seams in odd places.

Yet I can sit here and stare at this kit next to me, as well as others like it I have built and yet to build, and tell you with no doubt in my mind, for me, there is nothing finer than an old Monogram kit.

It represents what made me fall in love with this hobby. A kit, built for fun, for the pure joy of gluing plastic together while chatting with friends (the real kind, face-to-face, remember that?), and when the glue was not even yet dry, hurrying off to the backyard with boxes full of soldiers and tanks and airplanes, and letting our imaginations run wild as we fought battles of long ago all over again.

Do yourself a favor, friends. Go buy an old kit, and build it. For fun. Don’t worry about the accuracy. Forget what the pundits on the websites say about scale inches and raised panel lines and fit and all of that stuff that gets tacked on as we get old and simply forget why we did it in the first place. We forget and we get on forums and we annoy everyone around us. So give it a break for a half day and build a kit for fun. We’ll hold your place in line to point out what’s wrong with the latest kits. :-D

I suppose I could go on some more about it. But I’ve got an old friend to hang out with right now.

And I bet, somewhere, you do to.

18 Responses to “Nostalgia trip: Monogram’s Patton Tank”

  • Brad James says:

    I’m with you-this was the first piece of armor I ever built, and it was the coolest kit I had ever seen. And Shep’s diorama tips were a step through that door, into the world where I could do something with a model other than put it on top of my dresser.

    As the years went on, I got into the other Monogram armor (had never even heard of Tamiya, at that time), and built ‘em all.

    As for the scale, it did bother me a little, as I got the other kits, that this one was around 1/35, while the newer models were around 1/32. That commander looked awful small, next to his German counterpart.

    Please post some pictures, when you build it!

    Yours in Christ!
    Brad

  • DiamondLRanch says:

    This is such a great piece. I am pretty sure I built this kit too at that age. I can’t recall for sure, but its all so familiar. I’ve had sort of a nostalgia kick lately that I’m focusing on as well. Right now there are more vintage kits sitting around me than recent releases. I hope its not a midlife crisis thing, but more of a “remember when…” look back at where I started all this model building madness. Keep us posted on tank construction. And remember to lift with the legs….

    Rick L.

  • Wow, what a coincidence. Some months back, I searched Ebay for my “fondest modeling memory” kit (and found one!). It was the Monogram “Jeep & 37mm Gun”, of the same series as the Patton. Me and my buddies must have built at least one of each “Armor Series” kits, with the exception of the Jeep, which I built maybe three times. And following Shep’s tips, we made tissue bed rolls, card stock anti-decapitation bars, stretched sprue radio antennae, etc. Monogram kits’ plastic always had that unique aroma, can’t describe it, but they shoulda made a cologne of it. I can’t wait to see how your Patton will turn out! Thanx man-

    Peace out-
    Mark

  • Flippersdad says:

    Some people look at me strangely when I get excited about building the old kits – Aurora, Monogram and some of the Revell kits as well, but you have hit the nail on the head about why I buy and build them. Well written.
    YbiC
    Eric

  • Chris Tanner says:

    I built this kit with the original box art around 1967. It just occurred to me today to see what information was out there on the internet about the kit. Thanks for posting this page. I will have to try and get a copy of the kit to build again.

  • Steve says:

    What a great article. I just bought an old Monogram Panzer IV kit on Ebay, and it isn’t Dragon LOL, but for it’s time, it really was a well produced kit.This kit, originally released in 1969, has weld seams! I am like any other modeler, obsessed with detail, and always looking for a better way to achieve it, but sometimes, you just have to suspend hyper-criticism, and build something right out of the box.Shepherd Paine’s tips affected me deeply as well.They transformed my models from static toys to depictions of history.

  • Richard says:

    This was so awesome! I had the exact same kit, also when I was 12 around 1979. What great memories. God bless you. Thanks for sharing.

  • GREG (Australia) says:

    Fantastic article.Expressed my sentiments exactly.I have started buying models kits again after over 30 years away from the hobby.
    I love science fiction and my collection is now over 200 kits.But Matchbox Armour was my favorite when I was a kid.You know the kits 1/76 scale,2 different colored plastic sprues and that fabulous plastic diorama base.I have now almost collected the entire 27 kit range.They cost about $1.25 each back in the seventies.I recently paid $33.00 for the SdKfz. 251/1 Hanomag alone!
    But like you the emotions when I receive those kits are priceless.
    I plan very soon to start building again and the first to get built will be the matchbox kits :).

  • William Watkins says:

    This is one of the few (about two dozen) models that survived from my youth (out of hundreds). Well, “survived” may be a bit strong: I have most of the pieces. I plan to strip it down, break it apart, and rebuild it, scratchbuilding what’s missing. I also have the Jeep & field gun, in better shape, which will also be reworked. I heartily agree, the trip down memory lane is priceless.

  • Arthur Jordan says:

    You captured the emotions PERFECTLY. I love the comment about the Monogram Plastic aroma — in fact while I read your piece that memory or sensation came back to me. I’m the same age as you — and boy you took me back in time……..Very Kind Regards, Arthur

  • Thank you.
    It has been a beautiful “trip” with very good pics and a nice model.
    I like model tanks with vinyl tracks and this one is one of my
    favorites. Regrettably, I did never found it in my country.
    I have a lot of memorys.

    Thanks, again… And good luck!

    Xavier Estrella, 46 y.O., Guayaquil, Ecuador, Soth America.

  • Wes says:

    Excellent write-up. Figured I wasn’t the only one with memories like this. I’m a modern adult now who fully uses technology, but being a kid in the 70s was pretty cool: only 3 TV chan, no computers, playing outdoor games, playing with plastic Soldiers (who pretending to be Vic Morrow in “Combat”), building models (and, unfortunately now, blowing them up or burning them) — in short, using our imaginations. I still build a model or paint miniature Soldiers every now and again, but the adult eye for perfection takes away some of the magic of simplicity. v/r Wes

  • Jon Bius says:

    Thanks so much, Wes.

    When I first got back into modeling in 2006, I was just like you described- an adult eye for perfection. After just a few months, I realized I was not having near as much fun as I did as a kid, so I just sort of threw out those notions, and now my motto is “Build it like a kid!” I do just about everything OOB, and rarely worry about accuracy. :)

    I now average about 20 kits a year. None would win a contest, but all look reasonably good, I think. And most of all- I’m having a ball with them! :D

  • Corey rodgers says:

    omg thank you for writing this! one of the best things the internet has ever brought me is real actual pictures and stories of (nearly) my own childhood, by people who lived the same things, it’s wonderful. I found this by trying to solve a riddle that’s plagued me for decades – noone i could find in person knew what a “Patton” tank was and said “no that’s an Abrams”, i *knew* somewhere somehow the thing was called a “Patton” when i was a kid; tonight after years of this dilema i found my evidence :). And i found this treasure i didn’t know had a name – your page here and this name Sheperd Paine, i too read and reread those articles with diorama pictures a zillion times over as a kid. i loved how easily the “canvas rolls” came out using tissues, thread, then paint – those looked so awesome! :) I don’t own any model kits atm, guess what i do own? an army-green Jeep Wrangler, and a Springfield Armory M1A in olive drab. ;D Not technically WWII but makes me happy; and i AM infact putting “Willys” white stars onto my Jeep soon :D.

  • john thomas says:

    I have read your article several times and it always brings back the memories of my own years of true innocence and enjoyment of something so simple. I’ve come to realize how much was wrapped up in those model kits, especially the Armor Series, and it was not just a plastic model. It was a doorway to adventure, and an entirely new world to most of us of the ability to use artistic expression in a medium that we could easily build. If it reminds me of nothing else, I realize that those memories should always make me understand that it will always be the simplest things that we should endeavor to enjoy and make/find time to appreciate.
    Thanks again, my friend, and never lose that ability to enjoy the simple things.

  • dave Wallace says:

    Just located this gem of an article. Like the other guys, it really took me back to a better, simpler, time as a kid. Growing up in the country, I didn’t have too many friends that lived close by. I was always drawn to war movies and by extension, those great Monogram armor kits. I can’t remember how many Jeep and anti-tank guns I built. I also built several of the half tracks, the Sherman ‘Sreamin’ Meami’ and the Hedgehog, to battle my Ostwind and Wirbelwind flak panzers. I recently found an old Ostwind flakpanzer, and contemplate building it again soon. I consider the Shep Paine diorama pull outs to be nothing short of gold; they were always an inspiration to me, to push the limits of my talents, and to ‘build ‘em like Shep.’ I miss those bygone days….God bless you,
    Shep Paine, wherever you are, and thanks for the wonderful childhood memories!!!

  • Brett says:

    Wow.
    I could have written this story verbatum. Well, except that my dad was a cop, not a tank commander.
    I recently got back into armor modeling and was telling my oldest son about the afternoons building models and in doing so, told him about the first armor model I built: the Monogram Screamin’ Mimi. I loved that tank.
    A week or so later, (just before Father’s Day as a matter of fact) a box shows up. He handed it to me and said “Happy Father’s day.” I opened it up and voila! The Screamin’ Mimi. He bought it off Ebay.
    Great memories flooded me when I opened the box. And what is really cool, is I still have the original Tips on Building Dioramas from the kit I bought so long ago… ’76 I believe.
    I can’t wait to get started building it.
    Love your blog.

  • Chris Patton says:

    Well said!!!

    I just knew I wasn’t the only one who remembers the Monogram Armored Series Tanks and vehicles from the early ’70s! I’m about to hit the BIG 50 next month and your comment brought back great memories of building at least 10 of them on my dads home made ping pong table in our basement that I eventually made my “official” modeling spot. Was around the same age is you, 12-14yrs. and Loved going to Woolworth here in Pa., after a received my weekly allowance to buy another Monogram Tank to build. Only the Sherman M-4 survived but somehow I have almost all of Shep Paines diorama brochures from all the kits. I used to get soo frustrated trying to build a diorama just like Shep..lol.

    Thanks for the memories! Every now and then I find one and scoop it right up from ebay and some hobby shops but rare.

    God Bless and good luck!!

    Chris Patton

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