The Three Musketeers go to Expo
The Three Musketeers planned their adventure in detail on a cold, dark night in a remote area of Ballarat under a street light. Wayne said he was thinking about going to Expo and I said I wouldn’t mind going to see what it was like. When Mark arrived we asked him if he was thinking about going. ‘Yes’, he was. So it was agreed, the following Queen’s Birthday Monday we would go in the Statesperson to Sandown to see what all the fuss was about.
The last time I’d been to an Expo was several years back when they were still held at the Showgrounds in a rather appalling building. I’d heard reports about the new venue, not all of them flattering, but the relocation of the event to the other side of Melbourne made it all seem far too tedious to contemplate such a long trip. Still, with Mark driving and Wayne navigating all I had to do was sit in the back of the Statesperson and be chauffeured down. True, is not quite the adrenaline thumping experience as travelling in Zim’s Enterprise, but it is very comfortable and the sound of the radio wafting lightly and the muffled conversation of Wayne and Marcus sitting in the front seats some yards away gave me the good opportunity to catch up on some sleep. At some stage we cruised through the big tunnel and onto the freeway out to Sandown but I hardly noticed because I was counting up all the gold coins I’d accumulated since our own display only a few months back. It’s amazing how quickly they accumulate, and how much they weigh.
Eventually we found our way to the racecourse and followed all the other cars around to the big grand stand into the parking area. The car in front of us had the numberplate ‘STUGIV’ which tells you something about the mentality of the people you are likely to encounter at modelling events, but let’s not dwell on such unfortunate thoughts.
The queue for the Swap and Sell was depressingly long when we got there, and it was much longer by the time the doors opened. The crowd poured in quickly, I’ve never been to one of those Boxing Day sales where great crowds rush into shops to snap up the bargains and now I don’t need because I experienced one right then. But I had a plan. When I studied museology one of the things they talked about was how people tend naturally to go to the left when the enter a gallery so I experimented and went to the right. It’s true. I ambled over to the first table to the right, there were only a few people there while the crowd surged away behind me to the left. The first kit on the first pile was a nice little kit of a Dassault Flamant (one of the French aeroplanes on my wish list) and for only $10. It was in my hands before you could say ‘Voila’ and after that everything else at Expo was a bonus.
After a few quite minutes of window shopping I ran into the mighty crowd of modellers and kit collectors who had gone to the left and it was as I imagine a rugby scum might be. Bodies all around, grasping hands reaching out, bodies being hurled aside to reach a prized kit, huge sweaty bodies, ugly faces disfigures by the frenzy of kit hunting, it hardly bears thinking about. My impression was that there were a lot more kits than I’d seen at previous Expos and the prices were generally pretty good. I filled a few gaps in my collection and collected a few bruises. It was all good fun, if you like that kind of thing.
Some time later we Three Musketeers assembled and decided that we’d probably seen enough of the swap & sell, so we headed back to the Statesperson to store our booty. Then we headed off to Expo itself. The entry fee was $8 but Wayne and I flashed out pension cards (no, I’m not that old yet, but getting bashed in the street has its compensations) and got in for half price while poor Mark had to pay the full exorbitant price. I thought it was a bit steep until we got into the hall itself, which was actually quite impressive. It was huge and you had a good view of the winning post beyond the large window, but we weren’t there to look at that. It was all light, airy, packed with interesting things and well worth the price of admission.
The first thing you see when you walk in is the wall of trophies ready to be handed out to prix winners. There seemed to be so many that everybody who put in an entry must have won something. Then we went to look at the competition models. I don’t know whether there aren’t many entries or whether people snatch their models away in bitter disappointment if they don’t win a prize, but there seemed to be plenty of space in some of the judging categories. The great improvement over previous Expos I’ve visited was that there were no barriers so it was possible to get a good look at some of the craftsmanship in some of the models which was, frankly, bloody amazing in many of them. Being short sighted I had not enjoyed the models very much at previous Expos but this time I had a much more enjoyable time.
In reality, I didn’t find the competition models very interesting overall. There are only so many Bf109s you can look at before interest flags. What I did enjoy was the displays put on by various clubs and special interest groups that really comprised the greater part of the Expo display. The two I really enjoyed were one on supersonic aircraft (with a model of the world’s first supersonic car thrown in) and another large display of transport aircraft. There were also impressive car collections, some nice boats of various kinds, and a fairly interesting Axis Eagles display where Mark got into a dispute with the character behind the table about the true nature of the Messershcmitt Bf109G-12. It was too esoteric for me so I wandered off.
Specially for this article I set myself the task of counting how many models were on the tables. This was made somewhat haphazard by the crowds in various places and by the fact that I could not bring myself to count each individual Warhammer model on one display but, even so, the total I came up with was an impressive 1001 models. As I remarked to Mark at one stage, the impact of the display was not to make me want to make better models but to make more models.
I was helped in this by the array of dealers lined up around the edge of the display area. I counted two stands selling mould making equipment and provisions and another one selling air brushes but generally speaking there were the usual array of your well known hobby shops with tables groaning under the weight of kits. There were crowds in front of the Hobby HQ, Vic Hobby Centre and Snowy Mountains stands almost as ferocious as I’d battled in the swap & sell so I did not spent much time there. What I did find hidden away in a corner was a husband and wife team selling esoteric Eastern European stuff, including 1/144 kits for the Russian Sputnik, Vostok and Soyuz spacecraft. I’d been wondering where I was going to find kits to match my collection of US spacecraft and here it was, all in the one place. With three more kits to make and a lighter pocket I found another stand with a small pile of Anigrand resin kits. I’ve been tempted by some of their offerings and they had a kit of one aeroplane I’m particularly keen on, but my credit card limit was not vast enough. Still, I brought one of their smaller kits to see what they are like… perhaps I will win Lotto.
A little later the Three Musketeers reassembled and looked at our watches. Where had the time gone? It was time to be gone so we headed off. I will leave out the conundrum of what to have for lunch or the confusion of the intersection with Springvale Road. Clutching my lovely little Dassault Flamant kit in the back seat of the Statesperson and lulled by the sound of distant conversation I drifted off to sleep. And when I woke again Melbourne was far behind us, where it belongs.
Did we have a good time? We certainly did! Will we be going back again? You bet!