What to look for when buying your first Pocher kit!

A new client just asked me to help him get the straight goods about building a Pocher model so I decided to put together a new story about these models.
Part 1: Deciding on a level of difficulty.

Yes, this may seem counterintuitive but I feel it’s more important to know what you are getting into before looking at the subjects. There are several things to consider. Let’s start with the condition of the models and the parts. The oldest kits, in the white boxes, are now closing on forty years old. Expect that all the plastic is brittle and needs to be treated with kid gloves. Expect any rubber tubes to be completely dried out and unusable. Expect missing parts, especially steel rods that may have broken through the brittle plastic bags that the parts originally came in. It is possible that some small parts are floating around inside the boxes, but it very likely that you will have to make up your own parts.

The newer kits, in the black boxes, are already closing on twenty years old but you may find some very good kits out there. I strongly recommend that you keep away from sealed kits as I have had the surprise of finding two identical sets of baggies on the flaps or no baggies at all in the sealed kits. It might be nice to say you opened up a sealed kit but, because the kits are getting scarce, I would prefer to see what I get.

As far as the quality of the parts goes, remember that all the Classics are made with plastic bodies. Only the Testarossa and the F40 have steel bodies. Even the Porsche, another modern vehicle, is built with a plastic body.

Did I mention that nothing fits? It doesn’t matter which kit you work with, you will find that nothing, absolutely nothing, fits properly. Yes, it’s possible to assemble a Pocher straight out of the box, using just the parts in the kit, and using no glue and no paint, but one can spend much more effort than that on the models. I’ve had some wonderful clients who’ve built the kits straight out of the box on account of their advanced age or difficulty with their eyes or hands, and I have all the respect in the world for those people. After all, having fun is the most important consideration when dealing with a hobby.

However, for those who have the wherewithal, every part can be improved in some way. Flash can be carefully removed, parts can be pre-assembled and filed to fit, and fake nuts and bolts can be replaced with real ones. And that’s just a start. The vinyl interiors can be replaced with real leather. Fake wood can be replaced with real wood and wiring and piping can be added all over the place. In my opinion, the kit parts are a guide. Most can be used but one should never be afraid of tossing something out in favour of a scratch-built part.

OK, let’s talk about specifics. The K70 is the first iteration of the Fiat. This kit came out in 1967 and I suspect there are very few of those around now. The newer version, the K88, is a wonderful build and my favorite Pocher to date. The subject is most interesting and it’s the only model that rates a spot in my dining room, alongside Group of Seven painters. The interesting thing about that model is the construction of the chain, which is done link-by-link, using an interesting tool. There’s a nice description of the construction of this model elsewhere on this site. I would certainly recommend this as one of the first Pocher models to build.

Next in line, in terms of construction interest and difficulty, are the Alfa Romeo models. The K71 is the first of the line, and has some interesting detail in the fenders and lights. These parts give the model some interesting details that are missing in the K78 Muletto, a tuned-down version that was produced later. This is the first time one encounters working brakes and the assembly is most interesting. There are some fairly complicated linkages that are like nothing you’ve done before. Again, one would have to be careful with the plastic as it will be brittle. However, the good news is there are no doors or working windows to deal with and there are a number of after-market parts available to help you out. I really recommend getting the axles from www.modelmotorcars.com .

The K73 has six wheels to build. Since this is what I consider one of the most interesting challenges with the Pocher models, and has considerable meditative quality, I highly recommend this model for that reason. The doors need some help, of course, but there are no working windows to deal with. It’s the same chassis as the K71 so it makes a nice step up from that model. Be prepared to scratch your head trying to get the doors to work. The K81 version has a couple of extra parts for the lights but has one less wheel. I do not recommend this kit as the price is very high.

Next in line are the Bugatti kits. In my opnion, these are a major step up for Pocher in terms of engineering, ease of construction, and quality of assembly. It’s as if they outsourced the whole development to someone else. One could actually start with a Bugatti model but it’s a long haul. The model has working brakes, windows, lights, engine parts, and many other odds and ends. On balance, these are fine models. The early ones, the K76 in the white boxes, are the most interesting, as they include a metal working differential. The problem with those is they are getting to that forty-year age where the plastic is brittle. Some of the engine parts can crack just with the pressure of the self-tapping screws. On the other hand, the black plastic parts are now hard enough that the screw heads break off before they are tightened. There are simple solutions but one needs to have a ‘heads-up’ approach with those kits. The kits in the black boxes, both K86 and K76, are still excellent.
Finally, we can mention a few words about the Rolls-Royce and Mercedes models. These are the most difficult models in the line. The K72 was the first Rolls-Royce model and the white boxes date from the early seventies. The instruction booklet has no pictures and it must have been a real challenge to build this model from the weak drawings alone. The K74 was made soon after and the early kits also must have been quite a challenge. The wheel assembly method was changed slightly when the K74 was designed but I can’t say that it was any improvement over the previous method. In later editions, Pocher changed the system to a plastic wheel with the spokes already assembled. I’m not sure which are more interesting as the plastic spokes are pretty nice when painted. I find the metal spokes a little thin but I can’t say I’ve gone out and sized the real thing either.

Part 2: Choosing a subject

You would think that this should be the first item on the agenda but I think it’s important to know the extent of the project before embarking on a Pocher kit. There’s quite a difference in the time it takes to build an Alfa and the time it takes to build a Rolls-Royce. I’m quite convinced that anyone can build a Pocher kit. The only difference between success and failure is the knowledge that this is a large project and that you will have to equip yourself properly as you go along. For instance, you can certainly get away with few tools to build an Alfa Romeo Muletto or a K71.

OK, so what are the differences in the subjects? Obviously choosing a subject is a personal decision but I have found some interesting things about the models over the years that may help you choose.

First are the K70, K78, and K88 Fiat models. This is my favorite subject in the Pocher line simply because it’s so close to the beginning of the automobile itself. I am just fascinated by the people who built the fist cars and airplanes and this subject simply oozes the excitement of the era. This car, somewhat modified, was used in the first Peking to Paris race in 1907, and won. I’m not sure where the prototype (the car used as a pattern for the model) is now and I haven’t tracked down the F-2 numbers on the car. I would love to hear from anyone who’s looked into this subject in depth. If you are on your second or third iteration of this model, it might be fun to scratch-build some parts to make it look more like the actual Peking-to-Paris car.

Next, in terms of excitement, I would have to consider the saffron Rolls-Royce. I have yet to complete a Rolls-Royce model but, when I do, this will be the first one I build. I also think it would be fun to build the model exactly as Pocher intended (with a few improvements, of course) as the prototype is really the epitome of the marque. The car was built for an Indian Maharaja in the 1930s, who was an avid car collector and leader of the province of Rajkot. I have had the pleasure of becoming friendly with the nephew of the Maharaja himself, Prince Durga Pratap Sinh (“Chuck”) Sisodia, the Maharaja of Pratapgarh in what is now India’s sprawling northwestern state of Rajastha, and sold him one of these kits several years ago. Can you imagine building the model of your own car?

Part 3: Getting Started; Building a Pocher model, the greatest car kits ever produced
Please move to the post for the month of September, 2013.

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