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PART 2: Interview with AFV Club

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This is part two of a two-part interview. Part one can be found here.

Within the AFV Club Taipei headquarters, it is abuzz with fervent modeling activity, builders and designers working hard to complete models for Taiwan’s upcoming annual toy exhibition. I feel as though I've stumbled into some sort of Santa's workshop. I notice also some very large and obviously scratch-built models of an M-60, an M-88, and others.

AFV Club: Today we are very busy restoring some 1/6th scale models presently in the collection of the ROC (Republic of China, Taiwan) Army. These are really a bit of history, all being scratch-built from wood and fiberglass. Some have even been supplied by the original vehicle manufacturer. Unfortunately, you cannot take photos, as they’re still used as training aids by the Army today.

What are your favorite paint and airbrush products?

AFV Club: We at AFV Club primarily use the GSI Gunze Sangyo range. They're excellent paints, and give good results. I feel the brand of air brush is not so important -it's more a case of the modeler's skill.

With a job like yours, what do you do on the weekends to relax?

AFV Club’s chief designer, Jeff Huang: Many people remark that I really have an enviable job. I try to relax with my family during the weekends, but still do some building at home. I'm not tired yet of modeling, even after doing it all week at work.

Can you tell me a bit about some of the challenges in coming up with an idea for a new kit?

AFV Club : At AFV Club, accuracy is always priority one. We would rather hold-off releasing a kit, or not release a kit altogether, if accuracy does not live up to our exacting standards. In the case of Trumpeter's recent LAV release for example, they released a kit that was incorrect -just for the sake of getting something to market quickly. I'm sure that they' re in for a lot of flak from the more discerning hobbyists after it hits the shelves. AFV Club had already developed a LAV kit based upon actual vehicles in service with the ROC Army, when we learned that Trumpeter had released its kit. We spend countless hours doing meticulous research before an idea even evolves into the development stage. We also put much effort into making sure our kits can be continually updated and enhanced: Some may have noticed, for example, the separate engine access hatches on our Churchill Mk. III kits. There are carefully thought-out reasons behind all the innovative details you see in our kits. We try to offer a diverse assortment of accessory items as well. Some after-market accessories I really wouldn't say compliment our products so well: I'm thinking in particular of the brass slat armor sets offered by other companies for our Stryker kits. In my opinion, these detract from the exquisite rivet detail we so painstakingly developed for the Strykers, and the kit is just not designed to accept this update. I feel the AFV Club kit is good enough to stand alone as built out of the box.

What are your long-term plans for the future?

AFV Club : I’ve had a life-long dream that will be realized when I finally retire. It’s always been my desire to educate others about the history of the armed forces and of military equipment by opening a museum in Taiwan. This museum will house at least a thousand scale models and over one hundred dioramas. There is currently nothing like this in Taiwan, save for the occasional open days at military bases.

How does your tactical gear company influence AFV Club and Hobby Fan products?

AFV Club: My other company develops tactical gear: webbing, holsters, etc. for police and para-military agencies around the world. I think that my interest and knowledge in this type of military equipment really is translated to 1/35th scale when designing products for AFV Club, and especially the Hobby Fan figure and equipment sets.

With almost everything now being made there, will your products be manufactured in China anytime soon?

AFV Club : We've actually tried to have some components manufactured in China, but it's still difficult to get the level of consistent quality we demand. I think we are fortunate to have access to very high-quality moulding technology right here in Taiwan. Because just about everything was manufactured in Taiwan up until most industry moved to China, some very capable manufacturers in the industry are still located here.

Many Allied armor fans are wondering which Churchill variants you will release next. Can you give us a teaser?

AFV Club : We plan to have released all of the Churchill specialised vehicles by the time of the seventieth anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings in Normandy. Again, everything must remain a secret, but suffice to say that fans of WW2 British armor should be pleasantly surprised with our future releases.

Which museums have you visited?

AFV Club : I try to get away every year. My most recent trips have taken me to Germany to research one of the surviving 38cm SturmTigers for our up-coming release in 1/48th scale (see photo, ABOVE). There are a few I’m eager to see, but there is never enough time –usually a few days here or there. For me, visiting the Jacques Littlefield collection in America is like a pilgrimage.

Will your strategy or products change in the context of the present economic climate?

AFV Club : We are optimistic and our strategy will be simply to continue to offer the best value-for-money. I think that consumers will become more discerning, and that will actually benefit companies who offer value for a reasonable price. In Taiwan, we're seeing a trend towards more people having leisure time to spend on hobbies. With the current unemployment trend, we've seen more young people take up fishing, for example.

I wondered about the scenic photos of Taiwan in the 2009 Catalog.

AFV Club: Those are the work of Mr. Chen, who is also a multi-talented diorama-builder and examples of his finished models can be seen throughout the catalog -he is a very talented photographer as well.

What can we expect in future releases?:

AFV Club: Again, everything must remain a secret, but suffice to say that fans of WW2 British armor should be pleasantly surprised with our near-future releases. We will of course continue our present production of a more diverse range of subjects, including naval, British armor, and more 1/48th scale kits, the first of which you’ve started to see this year. I wish I could say more, but it should be very exciting!

Why doesn’t every kit come with individual track links included?

AFV Club: We want to keep our prices affordable, and including individual track links in every kit would make the cost that much higher. I feel our vinyl tracks are very good, especially now that modelers can use normal cement with the more recently-produced vinyl.

Why hasn't AFV Club produced more vehicle kits with full interiors?

AFV Club: Developing an interior conversion kit actually costs as much or more than a full vehicle kit. Of course, that doesn't mean you won't see some more great kits with fully-detailed interiors. I really think hobbyists will be very pleased when they see our new 1/35th scale T-34/76 model (item #AF35143). We went to great lengths in developing the clear turret and upper hull for this new kit, and had to overcome a lot of manufacturing and technical problems in doing so, especially in finding a suitable clear plastic. I feel the end result is certainly worth the time and expense, however.

Are you a "rivet-counter?" This question elicits a wry smile.

AFV Club: Of course I feel the purpose of this hobby is the fun of an enjoyable pastime, but I have to always bear in mind that every kit we produce will be critiqued for accuracy. So, yes, I guess I have to be a “rivet-counter” sometimes. As I’ve said, accuracy is the number-one priority when developing any of our kits. In considering releasing a subject such as the Buffalo bomb-disposal vehicle currently used by U.S. forces in Iraq, for example, we haven’t done what would be a very popular kit because of this desire for accuracy. Because this particular vehicle is produced by so many companies and has so many variants, it would be difficult to live up to our standards of absolute accuracy.

At this point, Mr. Tserng's young daughter -he has three children, all girls, arrives from school. Mr. Tserng is clearly a family man, his passion for scale modeling only surpassed by his love of family. What do you want to do when you grow up? Will you make model tanks like your dad does? I ask the precocious 7-year-old. The response is an enthusiastic "Yes!" After a very enjoyable visit, Jeff kindly drops me off at one of the biggest hobby shops in Taipei, a place Mr. Tserng, himself, frequents. There, I find a huge buzz over the newly-stocked AFV Club Churchill AVRE, the proprietor hurriedly jotting down telephone orders for the new kit. It seems the CEO of at least one company is still in touch with the common man these days.

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About the Author

About Ted Hayward (ted_hayward)

From B.C., Canada. Living in Taiwan for past several years. I've been building kits for as long as memory serves -armor, aircraft, cars. Big fan of 1/16th scale armor kits. Currently serving as poster boy for working with CA adhesives in a well-ventilated area. My first kit was the positively awful ...


I can say that AFV Club has a secret up their sleeves for the very near future: It will be very exciting for German AFV fans!
JUN 27, 2009 - 03:15 PM
I really hope its not more ww2 German armour !
JUN 28, 2009 - 05:29 AM
They should release the other Stryker variants a bit faster. And the T-34-85. Thomas
JUN 28, 2009 - 06:30 AM
Thanks again, Ted! And who wouldn't want a new M-42 Duster, the long-promised LVTH-6, an LVTE (engineer variant with plow), or even a Rome Plow in 35th scale styrene! Let's hope that they haven't forgotten about us Vietnam-era modelers as well! And lastly, any of the Israeli Centurion-based infantry carriers or engineer vehicles would be cool, too! Looking forward to the clear T-34 as well! Regards and Aloha, Johnny B.
JUL 08, 2009 - 05:08 PM
Anytime AFV club would like to soon release the M-42, the better ! :-) Also, Ted, when you have a sec, ask if they are planing to do that M-37 Skybow was gonna release . All things considred, i do love the AFV club kits, nothing short of dabulous.
JUL 09, 2009 - 08:33 AM
Great news about the stuff they are releasing /about to release. Finally someone makes something else than the X+1 Tiger kit. (And I thought I was through with T-34s... And never thought about Churchills... Darn.) The interview was a bit disappointing on the other hand. Minimal info on their background, maximal self-promotion, with cheap shots aimed at those nasty mainlanders. I know that they feel the need to constantly repeat how great they are (but we get it, and know it, anyway), and I know they feel a great deal of resentment towards the mainland, but there's practically nothing else in the interview. Yes, trumpeter does have the tendency to hand out some problematic stuff, but c'mon. They make great stuff, too. If you want to keep repeating how awesome you are, you can do it tastefully. Not to mention, this interview was made for people who actually know how good they are. They don't have to constantly say that. They could have said something interesting, instead -like show us how they design models: what stages it goes through. (Sorry for the rant.)
JUL 09, 2009 - 03:20 PM
Thanks for reading. Unfortunately, it seems that the long-awaited Duster kit is to be 'put a back-burner' due to mounting production costs. Sorry to be the messenger. I do hope to one day soon visit the mainland and give the other side of the story, with a visit to Trumpeter in China.
JUL 09, 2009 - 11:56 PM
hi i would love to see a new lot of scimitars by afv as they have got 80% of the kit dave
JUL 10, 2009 - 05:42 AM
[quote]Unfortunately, it seems that the long-awaited Duster kit is to be 'put a back-burner' due to mounting production costs. Sorry to be the messenger. [/quote| Thanks for clueing us in, Ted. Glad to not having it hanging in the air one way or the other... Given that many like myself have expressed an interest in a new Duster kit and the fact that with the M-41 kit AFV Club is SOOOO close, this comes as something of a bummer... That being said, I'll keep my fingers crossed that they will one day release the kit (AND the LVT5-E variant as well!). And who knows, maybe Dragon or Trumpeter will find an interest in Vietnam-era kits and start a series of their "kit-release wars" against each other like we see with German and some Allied subjects... Yeah, keep dreaming, I know... Thanks again, Ted! Regards and Aloha, Johnny B. PS Any way to get AFV Club to drop the rubber road wheel components (e.g. those supplied in the Centurion kit) in favor of styrene?
JUL 13, 2009 - 10:13 AM
Hey, Ted, Did the AFV Club folks give an indication as to whether we'd ever see a Puma or any of the other Centurion-based engineer or personnel carrier-type vehicles? Regards and Aloha, Johnny B.
JUL 29, 2009 - 02:53 PM