"What If..." Modelling
Creating an alternate reality, courtesy Rec.Models.Scale


I recently posted a short blurb suggesting putting vintage airline liveries on contemporary aircraft, and got a reply from one correspondent who set me to thinking about a concept which I'll call "What if..." modeling. I'm finding it both fascinating and exciting, and I'd like to share some thoughts...

Most of us build our models with a specific prototype in mind; basically, the challenge is to create a miniature of that prototype that strives for accuracy and believeability, and the success of our efforts is measured by the degree to which we achieve these. One of the factors that make the "Alien" theme so popular is that the hardware and the monsters, while fictional, are very believeable.

Can this believeability be achieved, given a prototype that never existed, but might well have, given an almost insignificant turn of history? I can think of some examples of this, and suggest that it might add new dimension to our hobby.

The first of these was suggested by the correspondent mentioned above; "What if", he asks, in 1946 the CAB had allowed the Santa Fe (and presumably, all other railroads) to basically operate a passenger carrying airline? Would we then see airliners in familiar railroad colors and logos? Would airliner evolution have changed (the railroads would surely have "packaged" the passenger service product differently if they were'nt competing directly with airlines, i.e. they would have tried to have the two modes compliment, rather than compete with, eachother). What might contemporary airliners look like? Is a hint of this found north of the border (CPRail and CPAir seem to have remained two seperate entities, but did share common logo and colors). This strikes me as a very dooable project; Model railroad guys are supported by lots of aftermarket sources (paints in railroad-specific colors, decals, Etc.).

WHAT IF the Hindenburg disaster never happened, i.e. airship technology continued to evolve? Eventually, the speed of heavier-than-air aircraft would probably have cornered the long-distance market, but what about short distances where the ability to arrive and depart in the center of a city would negate a speed advantage? What would these airships look like? What purpose would they find (a cruise over the north pole, anyone)? How would the development of the helicopter been impacted?

WHAT IF the Edsel hit the market at some time other than the height of the '57 Eisenhower recession (or Ford management decided to hang in there a little longer with the car, which was basically a slightly upscale but otherwise completely conventional '58 Ford)? Would we see Edsel variants of such cars as the skyliner retractable (one such car was actually built), the Falcon Sprint, the LTD, the big mid '70s T-Bird, and perhaps most significantly, the Mustang? Could the Edsel styling cues - the vertical grill and gull-wing taillights, which I thought were fairly attractive on a basic '58 Ford - be adapted to the Mustang and still produce an attractive car?

WHAT IF Hitler continued the Battle of Britain until he actually occupied the island, forcing the US to wage a strategic air war from stateside bases (the B-36 was actually designed with this mission in mind)? What technology would have evolved? (The YB-60 was a swept-wing, all-jet variant of the B-36; a teasing hint of what might have been? Where would this aircraft have evolved?) What would the hardware look like? If the War was extended to, say, 1950, what would Luftwaffe aircraft look like? Would we recognize some aircraft that did come to pass in another form (was the F-86 based on an old Messerschmitt design)? Indeed, what might we be modeling if Hitler had decided to build his own 4-engine strategic bomber force?

WHAT IF the 1973 Arab oil embargo had occured 15 years earlier (when cars were large and very thirsty). What would have been the impact on our finned and chrome bedecked cars? Would the VW beetle, the Renault Dauphine, and the various English Fords have evolved sooner, or perhaps more rapidly? Would their designers, sensing a huge American market, have been influenced by Detroit? What would their output look like? Would Nissan, Toyota, and Honda gotten into the act that soon? Would there be an American influence to their early products (i.e. an early-on 240Z)? What would these look like?

WHAT IF the Peenemunde scientists had worked out the techniques required to submarine-launch a V2, seriously threatening American soil? What would the launch subs have been like, after some evolution? What defensive measures would have sprung up?

WHAT IF one of the kit manufacturers had chosen to offer a model of my beloved 1993 Probe? (AMT actually did the '89 and '90 Probes). I would then undertake a model of a "Probe sportwagon", a car probably not unlike a cross between an early Nomad and an 1800ES Volvo. What would such a car be named?. Unfortunately, the '93-'97 Probe is now history, so it probably ain't gonna happen.

As modelers, we're pretty much limited to kits; few of us have the skills - or the time - needed to do serious scratch building, which is probably what most of this fantasizing would require. Still, with some creative kit-bashing and a strong cadre of aftermarket suppliers, some very believable models of prototypes that never existed might be created, and this strikes me as an outrageous modeling "theme"...

Comments, Opinions, Flames, Anyone???

Don Cardoza


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