A STUDY OF THE IMAI PORSCHE ELEPHANT MODEL (Ca. 1973)
Much discussion has been made of the Imai Elefant model over the years. Some love it others dislike it as in accurate, over blown or just over hyped. The truth about the model is that it is not perfect as a museum quality piece goes nor is it an ideal running model as the track, being very scale-like is somewhat fragile. What is also true is that this model will remain unique, a very impressive accomplishment for the time it was released on to the market, either very late 1960s or very early 1970s. The level of detail and fidelity to scale components is unmatched to this day ( 4/2011 ); for nearly 40 years it has remained in a class by itself. As I write this I await a new Elefant to be released by Hooben of China. It promises to be quite a model but no Imai. Also a German - Asian firm Asiatam has announced this same year both a Elefant and Ferdinand kit is to be released - entirely from metal. Will this prove to be the next landmark model? I hope to review and compare all of these on this page. Jerry 04/30/2011
The Imai Elefant from the top, my original kit built 34 years ago.
The Imai Elefant from the front,.
This view of front side. Isn't the detail marvelous? Note the fender front cover and spring.
This side view of the running gear. Wonderful detail; when I did this model I hadn't yet discovered metric hex bolts to replace the 'funky' slotted screws on the wheels.
What follows is a wonderful series of photos of an unbuilt Elefant kit reproduced here by permission of the owner. I am setting them out and will annotate them going forward. I am grateful for these as I did not have the presence of mind to take such photos when I bought my kit in the 1970s. I don't suppose many of us back then fully realized the landmark nature of this kit and that it was destined to become unique in RC armor history.
The bare hull, notice the ample thickness.
The Elefant 'cube' box. Rather nondescript isn't it? I had saved mine until very recently in my parent's garage...I got gave it away.. it is after all just a box!
The kit was comprised of several Styrofoam trays to neatly hold all parts. The following 3 photos shows three of these.
The instruction booklet and warranty card. Now I have to say I don't recall a warranty card in my kit but back then that's probably something I would have tossed not having the sense of history as I do today.
A photo showing scale thickness of the front plate of the fighting compartment
A photo of a sprocket
A series of photos from the instruction booklet. I did manage to save my instruction booklet which I have to this day although these photos are not of my copy..
I will be very interested in seeing the new Elefants come onto the market. Will the value of original Elefants fall? I get asked this alot. I don't think so except for extremely marginal or damaged examples. As I said the Imai will always have one thing no one else will ever have no matter how much better late comers may be: Imai was the first, first to create a 1/16 Elefant kit, and just plain first to build such quality into a kit. All my attempts to find out how many kits Imai made over what period of time resulted in nothing. I have one letter in reply to my inquiries from Mr Imai himself ( dated 1988) in which all he told me that they had stopped production some 15 years prior ( pointing to 1973 ) and that they had no plan to re-introduce the kit. Imai the company is now gone, some 7-8 years hence( ~ 2003 ?); reasons unknown. My impression was the Elefant was the personal interest of possibly Mr Imai himself who made it a reality. I heard the company lost money on its production but this is hearsay and speculation. I had been told that Aoshima bought Imai but never anything concrete beyond that. Jerry 04/30/2011
02/25/2012 Since writing the previous paragraph I've acquired both the Hooben Elefant kit and the Asiatam all metal Elefant kit. I'm now in the curious position of being able to evaluate and compare them to the Imai. I will back up what I'm about to say with concrete examples and photos later.
First the Hooben kit. The kit is good; a substantial kit with most parts well executed and clean. The hull is executed in a configuration that what I've come to acknowledge as the contemporary Chinese RC tank with a integral ' battery box ' similar to what is found on a Heng Long or Matorro. This type allows the battery to be serviced from the outside of the tank however to my thinking it definitely is a lower toy type attribute. If I were Hooben I'd assume a higher level of sophistication among their consumer base and dispense with the battery box. Aside from this the kit is worth the price; well packaged and neat. The packaging was robust and served the journey to my door well.I should also mention that the fellows behind the curtain at ETO also ensured the kit was perfect effectively insulating we the customers from any manufacturer nonsense. The included tracks are plastic and the durability remains to be seen and Hooben is now offering metal tracks as a separate item. When I build of the kits I have I will document it here.
Next is the Asiatam all metal Elefant 'kit'. When the model arrived at my door I could see the packaging was extremely substandard which is never a good sign. The flimsy cardboard box that was the package was a used cardboard box from some apparently Vietnamese company unrelated to RC models. Some of the individual components such as the tracks and road wheels were packaged separately in smaller boxes internally. I wrote 'kit' in quotes as it is partly assembled as received. The entire kit appeared to have been bead blasted and residue from the process was everywhere. The beading process gave everything a dull finish which should prove helpful during the painting stage. The component parts were not altogether well fitted and that coupled with beading residue and terrible quality screws will required disassembly and reassembly after attempts are made to better fit the parts.A few parts were missing and Asiatam sent these. I managed to lose one small part but I'll make another. There were no instructions included with the model; I only received these from a kindly RC Universe member. There are several discrepancies between the instructions and the model. The final drive housings do not appears to line up with the gear box output shafts. In fact the instructions show a actual final drive gear pair within the housing but there are no corresponding parts in the kit nor could it support them mechanically. Contrary to the instructions there are no parts whatsoever to build the ball mounted machine gun. This was confirmed by the same fellow who sent me the instructions as his kit is lacking these parts as well. In summary it is a good thing that I'm just crazy and happy to get yet another model for my collection as this kit really doesn't not live up to its price nor promise. I hope to make this a viable and good model but it will take more work than the price should engender.
Conclusions? If I had to make a recommendation I'd recommend the Hooben kit. Why? less expensive; easier to overcome shortcomings; for example the clunky travel lock and wonky thickly molded fenders. To summarize: They aren't Imai models!! My convictions regarding the superiority of the old Imai Elefant are more resolute than ever- no one will be an original. Period. Jerry 02/25/2012
I'm almost ready to take a short break from my 1/10 scale projects. I've been casting and/or machining parts nearly constantly for the last 3-4 years. I'm going to continue this thread on the page I'd started for smaller scale, namely 1/16. I've quite the backlog of projects over there and I really do believe it would be a nice break. Even as kits go I can't really make anything as intended or 'out of the box' strictly speaking. I will close this with an image of a letter I received quite a few years ago from Mr Masanori Imai when I enquired as to the state of the Efefant kit and if it would ever be reissued. You can see from this letter that Imai stopped production of their Elefant kit some 15 years before I received this letter which would have put end of production around 1973 or 1974 at the very latest. That makes all Imai Elefants at least 45 years old! I don't know how long production was, I know I first learned of the model by way of a mail order catalog from a long forgotten company in 1971 or early 1972. So if you have one of these marvelous models please take care of it. We'll not see the likes of them very likely ever. Jerry 09/04/2019
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