a list of rockets that estes rockets should reprint

Doc Burford
32 min readJan 20, 2023
this is my BOMARC which I need a new body tube for

Hello, I’m Doc Burford. Most of you know me as a guy who makes video games and writes about them. It’s true! I do those things! But… a long time ago… I used to fly model rockets.

I think it’s a little twee to talk about one’s past in an article, but this is a bit of a different one, and also I’m sending it to Estes Rockets later so they probably want to know what a weirdo like me is doing writing a list like this on this blog, which is about games and stuff.

Unlike a recipe website, there’s no SEO going on here; I’m just sharing a hobby I love with you. If you want to get to the point, cool, type ctrl+f on your keyboard, and in the search box, type “Maxi-Brute Pershing 1-A (#1268, 1974–1981)” and you’ll find the beginning of the list. If you want to learn about me and rocketry, keep reading.

The reason I’m in games, believe it or not, is because of Microsoft Flight Simulator. My first memory, I wasn’t even two years old; it was August or September 1991, and I was standing there at Cessna Park in Wichita (the air capital of the world, they call it), watching the Thunderbirds blast overhead, their engines shaking my entire world. I can still feel that power, right down inside my ribcage. It was incredible.

I was in love.

Somewhere between 1990 and 1994, my Dad brought home two model rockets.

Dad grew up in Canon City, Colorado, which was pretty close to Penrose, where Estes was based. Any time we’d drive out that way, we’d drive right by the Estes model rocket factory; I always pressed my face against the windows of our ancient, black Mazda MPV, looking forward to it as we drove by. I don’t think I ever found out what rockets Dad and his siblings flew back then, but I remember exactly what rockets Dad brought home that day.

He bought a Black Brant (Estes no. 1958, released between 1986 and 1988), and a Hornet (Estes no. 2030, 1990 — 1994, hence the dates above). He had a little blue or grey launch controller with a light bulb in it, and he bought a tripod (a lot like this one). It was basically a metal rod with a plastic dongle at the bottom, and from that plastic dongle, you could stick in three little wooden dowels that served as the legs. As I recall, they had some plastic feet at the ends. After a few years, I tripped and fell over the tripod, breaking the legs. Memory’s still vivid; I remember how bad the scrape felt.

Learned a lot about safety that day.

What Is Model Rocketry?

Picture from Estes

Basically, a model rocket is a tube you launch into the sky and recover so you can launch it again.

Here’s the fast and loose description: a model rocket is a reusable bunch of lightweight parts (usually a tube, nose, and fins for stability) with a motor stuck in the bottom that you launch into the air using an electrical ignition. You recover it and then you launch it again.

You put the motor in the rocket, you put the igniter included with the motor inside the motor nozzle end, you jam a little plug into the nozzle to keep the igniter in, then you put it on the launch pad and connect the two wires from the igniter into the alligator clips on your launch pad.

Rocket motors, picture from Apogee: https://www.apogeerockets.com/Rocket_Motors/Estes_Motors/18mm_Motors/Estes_Motors_C6-3_3-pack

Making sure you’re clear, you do a countdown (encourage everyone around to participate! Kids really love it), press the button on the controller, and boom, the rocket streaks skyward. The motor stops burning at some point, but momentum carries the rocket further, then the ejection charge at the ‘top’ of the motor pops, causing the nose to pop off. The nose is attached by a ‘shock cord,’ and on that cord is a parachute.

Not always, of course. Some rockets are so small they can tumble down without a parachute, others have helicopter recoveries, you’ve got gliders… there’s plenty of ways for a rocket to be recovered, but parachutes are the most common.

You’ve got to be very mindful of safety — if a rocket’s recovery system doesn’t work, you’ve got a rocket coming in ballistic; growing up, I remember a bunch of kids talking in hushed tones about things like “what would happen if you throw a dime off the Empire State Building? You could kill a guy.” Well, rockets are like that — it’s one reason why you’re not allowed to use metal as a structural component, why everyone has to do their best to watch the entire launch, and so on.

It’s dangerous, like any other hobby. You like cooking? Knives are dangerous. You wanna fly model planes? Super dangerous! Climbing? Skiing? Skeet shooting? All my old hobbies were dangerous. Even breathing in CA glue or Resin when working on plastic models you build yourself is dangerous!

But, as with any hobby, it’s fun. Building the rocket alone is fun; getting to fly it is just the icing on the cake.

Back To The Origin Story

Growing up, we had a big old field next to my house; some real estate developers sneaked in and bought it from the church that owned it before the townsfolk could get it turned to a park, so it’s all gone now, but that was where I grew up launching rockets.

Until Dad found out about the Kloudbusters.

Down in Argonia, Kansas, near the Oklahoma border, a group of rocketeers would gather, getting clearances from the Federal Aviation Administration to launch rockets thousands of feet into the air.

Wait, no, tens of thousands. Last I knew, the clearances they were getting were around 30,000 feet. Every year — heck, maybe it was multiple times a year, we’d take our rockets down and launch alongside the big boys. I remember people being friendly to us kids — Dad let us head off with one of the rocketeers to go find his rocket using GPS. Another showed us his fiberglass (we oohed and aahed, because that’s what 8–15 year old Boy Scouts do when you show them explosive devices that can make things go very fast, and we were used to cardboard and balsa rockets) rocket that was built to go Mach 3.

I still remember asking someone what the biggest motor was, thinking it must be G or H, and he goes “oh, it’s P.” Then he pointed to a metal canister that was bigger than any rocket I’d ever built. “That’s a casing for one.”

(apparently they get up to S now?)

I had good times down there in Argonia, launching my three favorite rockets, the aforementioned Hornet, the Bullpup (#7000, 1987 — present, still in production) and the Skywinder (#2077, 1993 — 2002).

In my teenage years, I spent time at the Kansas Cosmosphere, building and launching rockets for space camp, figuring out how to drop an egg without damaging it, running Capcom (that’s a NASA term for capsule communicator) in a shuttle simulation, and later getting to be the Commander of my own shuttle. I’ve been behind the scenes at Houston — literally, Year 3 of space camp, we got to go down there, I’ve been on the g-force simulators… man, being an astronaut or a pilot was everything to me. Dad and I got a used telescope from the same science place that sold us a lot of our rockets, and I’d use it to take pictures of the stars.

Why’d I step away from rocketry? Well… I got sick. Real sick. My love affair with flying ended while I was still getting my pilot’s license; the doctors told me that being around avgas was killing me. I noticed I was getting sick around glues and other stuff, and nobody knew why. It took a long time to find answers (a gene called cytochrome p450 doesn’t work right and I don’t metabolize things well), but my ability to get out of the house… well, it diminished.

I can get out of the house a bit more, but medical costs are crazy high. I went to college, got a job, sought more medical care, started a company to make games, and, well, hey, here I am, making games and writing about them. Sometimes, people tip me.

Since this is a blog post on my blog, hey, I gotta copypaste the boilerplate now.

If you think my work has value and you want to help me out financially, that would be great because being disabled in America is expensive. I’m putting all this out there for free because hey, I used to be in poverty and couldn’t get by without government assistance; I know what it’s like not to have resources available to you that other people have in spades. I don’t believe people should be denied access to educational materials like these just because they’re poor. My hope is that those of you who are able to support are willing to help not just me, but the people who can’t afford a lot of access to other game design materials. If you’re able to help and you think this goal of providing access to people who need it is good, here’s how you can help me keep writing:

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Right, so, basically… I lost my wings, and I was so sick and tired and there were so many tests, culminating in overwork that meant I needed heart surgery, that I lapsed out of rockets pretty hard.

But I never stopped missing it.

And, well, the past few months, I haven’t just been missing it, I started actually organizing my rockets, putting them into tubs, picking up a couple kits that sounded neat here or there.

Now I’m what the hobbyists call a BAR, a Born-Again Rocketeer. I don’t have room or space to finish any of my models, but I’ve got a bunch of old kits stored away, and I occasionally prowl eBay to see what kits I’ve missed both before I got into rocketry (due to not having been born at the time, haha), or during my down time.

Anyways, this morning, I watched a Scud (#1340, produced between 1980 and 1981) go for around $215. A few days ago, the only other Scud I’ve ever seen in my life sold for $220. That’s… a lot. Crazy amount of demand for a kit you might fly once and lose if the wind takes it.

Funny thing about that Black Brant II dad bought: we lost it on the first flight. I think Dad stuck a D-engine into it, the wind took it, and we never did find it. I think a neighbor kid said he’d seen it in a tree somewhere, but we never did get it back.

The Hornet, though? I think it was kid me that excitedly asked Dad to paint it camo; Dad got the green alright, but the orange didn’t quite get it as brown as we hoped. Dad spraypainted the nose cone bright orange so we’d never lose it. I loved that ten-finned rocket and flew it until the fins were coming off and the tube was falling apart. I wish I knew what happened to it; I bet it got thrown out.

I remember plenty of other rockets too — no idea what happened to them either. There was the Hyper X (#1804, 1998–2001), with its unique helicopter nose cone and parachute body recovery, my little brother’s Mk 109 Stingray (#2131, 1997–2002)

And man, oh man, were there tons of rockets I wanted but couldn’t afford on my $1/week allowance (my parents, God bless ’em, had too many kids to give an allowance that would actually buy anything, so they didn’t really teach us the financial responsibility they said our allowances were supposed to teach us), like the AIM-54 Phoenix (#1380, 1982–1998), the Fat Boy (#2139, 1997–2005), the AIM-120 AMRAAM (#2153, 1998–2001)… man, I could go on and on and on about what rockets I wanted (by the way, Estes, if you’re listening, I’d love every one of these kits to come back). I had a few catalogs, but the one I pored over the most was definitely the 1998 issue (one thing I love about Estes: they have some of their old plans, though sadly not all of them, and a bunch of their magazines available to browse on their website).

I stared at this issue for YEARS, wishing I could buy every rocket and model plane in it.

But hey, now I’m back into rocketry. A lot of rockets have come and gone in the years since.

And some of them… oh boy, if I could track them down, I would.

The 1997 catalogue, which I also had, included the Estes Pro series, which includes some of the coolest scale rockets I’ve ever seen. What I’d give to track each one of these down.

So, when I saw that SCUD go for $200 twice in the span of a week, and I’ve never even seen that rocket before, and I thought about how the Estes Maxi-Brute Pershing (#1268, 1974–1981)— a rocket I’m madly in love with that went out of print before I was even born — went for $350 one week and $500 a few weeks later. People really want that rocket too. The Jayhawks (like that #2085, 1993–1996 model above) I’ve seen? Around $150–175. That Terrier/Sandhawk (#2083, 1993–1996)? Never even seen one for sale, but LaunchLab Rocketry, which specializes in out of print rockets, sold their last one for $175, and Eurospace Technology sold their last kit for €243).

Now, the nice thing about the Terrier/Sandhawk and the Jayhawk is that you can get some similar kits from other manufacturers; I reached out to Mad Cow Rocketry recently to find out if their 2.6" Jayhawk kit is out of production — turns out it’s just limited right now cause their boattail (see where the tube on that Jayhawk starts to taper near the tail of the rocket? that part) is made of balsa, and due to the balsa shortage, they’re waiting on stock.

I’ve actually tracked down both of the Estes Jayhawk kits — not just the 2085, but the Sandhawk (#1271, 1971–1979) variant as well. I’ve got a fiberglass Jayhawk from Wildman Rocketry, micro-Jayhawk kits from both Semroc and Aerospace Specialty Products, and the smaller (1.6" diameter) Madcow Jayhawk. I really like the Jayhawk, and if Estes were to reissue/rework the Jayhawk as a Pro Series II kit (their current line of advanced kits), I would be absolutely thrilled. I live in Lawrence, KS, home of the Jayhawkers; the University of Kansas Jayhawks are based here too. I grew up in Wichita, KS, home of Beechcraft, which built the Jayhawk. It’s the most Kansas-esque possible rocket I can think of.

I had a dream as a kid that I would one day end up designing and flying my own rockets. I thought it would be so cool to get a job at Estes designing rockets. Well, life had a different path for a while — I’m no engineer; my skills are storytelling and business stuff, not rockets — but now I’m working on cloning another Jayhawk — the Centuri model, which I believe Estes technically owns the blueprints for.

Anyways, today, on a whim, I tweeted at the Estes company.

I love the look of the SCUD, and I’d love to see a reprint. Estes replied, saying they were actually looking into rockets to bring back, and I asked if they wouldn’t mind me sending a list of some rockets I’d love to see brought back. They said sure. So this is that list. But, hey, I want it to be entertaining, and I love this hobby, and I’m getting back into it with the hope of setting up a channel where I build rockets and talk about my hobby. I want more people to get into this hobby — I’d love to fly rockets with some of you! Maybe one day, I can actually go to NARAM!

Anyways, while I’d love to see full blown reprints for years at a time, I think Estes could probably do some short limited runs of rockets that they’ve printed before, likely with minimal tooling (though the SCUD’s unique nose cone would require some work). Think of a “hey, ya’ll, for the next six months, we’ll be selling like 3 limited-run kits on our site until they’re gone,” and then when that batch is gone, they announce a new set of kits.

Like, why are the Titan II (#1918, 1984–1996) and Titan Gemini (#1978, 1987–1988) nearly $200 each? Do they have to be? Those are super cool kits! Too bad most people can’t afford ‘em!

Anyways, Estes’ twitter account was like “yeah, sure, send us a list,” and I’m sure they were expecting a bullet pointed list, and my current Video Game essay is very big (I’ve reviewed about 20 out of 69 games on that essay). I have no idea whether they’ll actually take me seriously here, but, like with my video game writing, I’ll do my best to be as helpful as I can, explaining my reasoning for why.

This X-Wing Maxi-Brute is unlikely to return. I’m lucky to have this one.

Setting Expectations And The Criteria

Okay, so, we could just put together a list of all the rockets we want, but we have to think about costs.

Like, hey, I missed out on a Mega Der Red Max (#9705, 2013–2016), but that’s a 4" rocket. I’d love for that kit to come back, but I imagine the cost of building those nose cones means it’s unlikely to return. That said, hey, Estes, I’ll buy a Mega Der Red Max nose cone off you if you got one! I can scratch build the rest. Obviously, if you want to bring that kit back, that’d make me very happy, though if you were to bring back any Pro Series II kit, the one I want the most is the Nike Smoke (Estes has a Nike Smoke — #7247, 2016–2020 — that’s 1/10 scale, but I want the 1/5.5 scale — #9704, 2012–2016).

So while I’m saying “hey, I’d love those kits,” I don’t know what the economics are for Estes here. I’ll do my best to guess. But, look, in a capitalist system, there are competing needs:

I, as a consumer, want to buy rockets that interest me.

Estes, as a corporation, needs to keep the lights on.

So, Estes needs kits that make money, and I need kits that I find interesting. I’ve heard that scale kits — which I find most interesting, thanks to the details and often unusual configurations — are more compelling, but I’ve heard that they don’t always sell well over long periods of time, so they might not be a great investment for Estes unless they’re doing limited rocket drops.

What do I find interesting?

Usually, I want a rocket with an identity. Plenty of rockets are three or four fins, a tube, and a pointy nose. You send ’em up, the come back down. You’re done. The Estes Alpha III (#1256, 1971–present) has that covered, as does the Wizard (#1292, 1978-present) and the Viking (#1949, 1986-present; it also has 5 fins which you can attach in different ways, which is a fun gimmick). I always loved the design of the Yankee (#1381, 1982–2022, just discontinued, sadly) but only recently got one when I got back into rockets.

Basically, Estes has Basic Rocket Designs covered. If I’m gonna recommend a rocket to them, I’m not gonna recommend one that’s basic, because they’ve got plenty as it is. It’d be cool to see an Astron Scout (#1201, 1961–1985) kit though.

So, going the opposite direction, we could ask for rockets with extremely custom parts, that require Estes to get the tooling spun up to make them, and we could ask them to bring back their version of the North Coast Rocketry X-Wing (or even the old Maxi-Brute X-Wing, #1302, 1978–1980), but that’d require them spending time with their legal department talking to the fine folks at Lucasfilm about getting the rights to manufacture more X-Wings. A lot of cost for uncertain demand (they know the economics at play here, I don’t).

This is the nose cone for my Pershing.

We’ve also got new technology, so they might want to retool kits. If they were to bring back the North Coast Rocketry BOMARC (by the way, I have one, but I need a new body tube; Estes folks, do you know what size body tube I need to buy as a replacement? I can’t even find the BOMARC in the lists of rockets I have, so I’m not sure what its Estes part number or production dates are), they’d have to rework the rocket a bit, since the original North Coast Rocketry kits by Estes used exclusive, out of production 28mm motors instead of the current industry standard 29mm motors. So I imagine that there would be some work to redesign the rockets and make sure they still function.

North Coast Rocketry is independent again (and they have a $500 3D-printed rocket I want very much), so I’m not even sure how the legalities of reprinting old Estes/NCR kits works. Were the NCR Estes kits built under license from NCR? Are they Estes kits? No idea.

Estes has almost always had a Patriot missile in rotation, but the NCR Patriot is currently $230 on ebay, while the Estes Pro Series Patriot (#2066, 1992–1995) is something I’ve never seen anywhere except for about €327 from European Space Technology. I love that Patriot cause it’s got a 4-motor cluster, but just about everybody produces Patriot kits. I can go to LOC Precision, Madcow, Wildman, whoever else, and get a Patriot. As a result, bringing back a kit that has some alternatives available might be less economically compelling for some people, except for the fact that the Estes brand is pretty strong.

So hey, it’s worth keeping in mind that you can put together an absolutely wild list, but a practical one might be a bit more useful. One rocket I’m going to request is a rocket that’s near and dear to me, but I’ll bet it’s something of a longshot.

Basically, I’m going in with no expectations, and minimal on-the-ground information as to Estes’ inner workings and part sourcing, but I’m going to do my best to recommend kits that seem to have a high level of demand (people are willing to pay like $150+ for some of these! I had a seller offer me $50 off an Estes Vostok (#1272, 1975–1976)… which meant it was still $250. Way out of my price range) and are also rockets that seem interesting.

So… let’s recommend some rockets.

The Estes Maxi-Brutes were big, beefy rockets. All of them sell for $100–600 on eBay these days. The V-2s are the cheapest and most common. The Pershings are the most rare. I was lucky to get mine fairly cheap, but I’d love new ones using Pro Series II techniques.

Maxi-Brute Pershing 1-A (#1268, 1974–1981)

Back in the day, Maxi-Brutes used hybrid vacuform fins. I’m not really in love with those — the building technique is challenging. Nowadays, we also got basswood and plywood fins, there’s really good plastic fins, you can get 3d printed parts, and we’ve got a lot more alternatives in the mid-power motor range.

If I recall correctly, the Pershing used a BT-101 tube (I believe that’s the biggest size Estes ever produced, still used on the Saturn V Skylab (#1973, 2020-present) kits) and a huge nose cone. Mine’s so old — literally older than I am — that it’s been discolored through wear and tear.

You can get a similarly-sized Pershing from Boyce, but hey, we’re talking about Estes kits here, and I’d love to see a Pro Series II version of the Maxi-Brute, using basswood fins and the like.

On eBay, I’ve seen two of these kits since I started looking again: $350 and $500, respectively.

I’d also love the Maxi-Brute Honest John (#1269, 1974–1981, 1993, or #2166, 2000), because those sell for $200 or so, which is pretty ridiculous as well. I’m sure there’s a reasonable demand for these kits, especially under the Pro Series II label. But, hey, these both would likely require some R&D work to bring up to modern standards as well, so as much as I’d love them, and as crazy in demand as they are on sites like eBay, I don’t know if Estes would be willing to bring them back.

Skywinder (#2077, 1993–2002)

The Estes Skywinder doesn’t use a parachute. Instead, it’s a helicopter. While Estes currently manufactures a different helicopter, I always loved the visuals of the Skywinder. It’s big, it’s beefy, it’s like… it’s like the Camaro of helicopter recovery rockets.

The ejection charge fires, the nose pushes up part way — but not all the way off like a parachute ejection — and lets the fins loose. Rubber bands pull the rotor blades out, and they begin rotating, slowing the helicopter down as it lands.

There’s one slight issue with the Skywinder — because it’s nose heavy, after enough flights, the shock travels through the main body tube and weakens it. I’m not sure if there’s a way to mitigate the wear and tear, but my Skywinder eventually broke. I’m sure someone threw it out at some point; I didn’t have the technical acumen at the time to get a new main body tube and try a repair.

I’ve got a Skywinder kit I found on ebay for a good price — the above picture is mine — but man, they’re like $60+ minimum these days. I’d gladly buy a brand new kit in, say, the $20–40 range.

I don’t love gimmick rockets all that much; while a gimmick is an identity in and of itself, some rockets feel like they try too hard. The Skywinder is an exception because it’s such a beautiful rocket, dedicated entirely to a cool purpose. It looks great on the pad and in the air.

I’d wonder what a more complex build would look like — the original kit was an “E2X” kit, which meant it was almost ready to fly and required minimal assembly. Since so much of the fun of a rocket is in the building process, an E2X isn’t the most fun rocket to build. Still, it was the first rocket I built entirely myself with zero supervision, and I flew that thing for years.

Titan IIIE (#2019, 1989–1993)

Aesthetically speaking, I love the tri-airframe configuration. Just look at those lines!

Now, the Titan family of launch vehicles has a lot of extremely cool rockets in it. The Titan II (#1918, 1984–1996) and Titan Gemini (#1978, 1987–1988) were both Estes kits that I’d love to see back as well, but the Titan IIIE is gorgeous. Look at the Centaur fairing at the top, the boosters on the side. It’s such a cool, distinct vibe.

(the wikipedia image below has it marked as the Titan III-B, but it’s a Titan III-E, the III-B Agena is the proper III-B)

source, wiki

These kits are upwards of THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS right now. I got one way cheaper, but only one, and I can’t afford to replace it if anything happens. That’s ridiculous! I would love a couple, because building these side-booster configurations is a fun process in and of itself and I wanna build a few, if I can), but I don’t think I can accept the discounted offer I got on one that brings it down to a mere ~two hundred dollars~!

Also? Nobody else is building them right now. I have yet to find anyone building a low or mid-power kit in this style; Estes used to, and it’d be great to bring this kit back.

However, I’ve been reading reviews of the kit and it seems like most people agree: if Estes brings it back, the rocket needs clear stabilization fins, not the white opaque fins that came with the original kit.

I want to make a Pro Series II-inspired Atlas IV Centaur one day, myself. Something closer to a three or four inch wide Centaur body tube.

(the pro series ii rockets basically use advanced construction techniques and tougher materials, usually flying on bigger motors)

Titan IV Centaur, source: Wikipedia

Alright, onto the next rocket!

Jayhawk (Pro Series) #2085, 1993–1996 or Centuri Magnum Jayhawk #5342

I’d love a Jayhawk. It’s a popular kit that lots of people have a version of, so on one hand, there’s competition, but on the other, there’s not much like this on hobby store shelves anywhere I’ve seen. I think it’d be a really, really good kit for Estes to have, and I think it’s another one that could go from Pro Series to Pro Series II.

Look, Estes, you supply me with the parts, and I’ll figure out how to make it a Pro Series II kit. I’ll do all that work myself if that’s what it takes to get it back on store shelves. I love this rocket; I love it so much. In fact, I’m actually hoping to start purchasing the parts to clone the Centuri kit (which can be built with off-the-shelf parts) myself right now. I’d love to see what one with tougher fins.

A lot of these are scale kits, I know; like I said, I like rockets with identity, and boy, oh boy do these rockets have an identity. That bright orange! The wings that give it that majestic profile! I love the Jayhawk, and the details of the Pro series version were so cool.

image from Chris Michielssen’s blog here: https://modelrocketbuilding.blogspot.com/search/label/E%20EAC%20Firecat

Firecat (either #821, 1974–1975 or #1378, 1982–1984)

So here’s a fun rocket. It’s not scale, but it uses an Honest John nose cone. Estes still manufactures Honest John kits — though sadly, only the mini version (#2446, 2011-present). You could design a kit around that nose, or you could scale it up a bit and use the recently-retired larger scale Honest John (#7240, 2016–2021) nose cones if you’ve still got ’em, I suppose? (personally, I wish that kit hadn’t gone out of stock, but I love scale, especially the Honest John).

image from this listing on ebay: https://www.ebay.com/itm/234802302106

Crusader (#1961, 1986–1988)

So, Estes has a few swing-wing glider models. As the gimmick recoveries go, this one’s pretty cool. When the ejection charge fires, the wings swing to the side. I’m not sure what the part complexity of this one would contain, so I don’t know if it would be a particular expensive kit, but I imagine the nose cone would pose a bit of a challenge to get a mold for.

Of course, there are other swing-wing kits, like the Tomcat (#2086, 1993–1998), which I’ve seen in the range of about $75–150, and the Scissor Wing Transport (#1265, 1974–1985, 2004–2008), which I haven’t seen before, but has gotten a clone from Semroc.

Still, the only one I see on eBay is $200. I saw one for $100 earlier, but it got snapped up almost immediately. The seller just offered it to me for $125, which is still a bit pricey for my blood.

The biggest weakness I’ve seen in these designs is the swing wing itself, apparently in the Scissor Wing Transports, those wings come off in flight sometimes. I don’t know if there’s a good way to address that, or if the complexity of the kit would even be worth it.

BOMARC (#654, 1972–1977)

I believe the last Estes Bomarc kit was the North Coast Rocketry branded one. Like I said earlier, I still need to find a body tube for that, but it wasn’t the first BOMARC that Estes made, not by a long shot. I’ve got two different BOMARC kits, the mini-BOMARC (#805, 1972–1979) and the Citation BOMARC (#654, 1972–1977), which I’ve seen selling for around $250 both times I’ve seen one. There’s a third BOMARC , I think it’s around 23" long like the Citation model — and it got away from me by skyrocketing to an eye-watering $200+, as I recall, so I stood absolutely zero chance — that has a parachute recovery (#657, 1978–1980).

Look at those lines! That shape! If you want a rocket with identity, this is it. Much like the Jayhawk, I’m madly in love with this thing’s lines. Estes doesn’t have anything quite like it in their current lineup, and hasn’t since that NCR Bomarc almost 30 years ago.

The way the mid-sized BOMARC that I have is supposed to work is that it ejects the engine pod out the back when the charge goes off, causing the rocket to rebalance and then glide, but most reviews I’ve seen say it doesn’t glide that well. I love the look of the thing, though, so this is the one I’ve got. When I get around to building it, I’ll probably go for a normal parachute ejection, since I believe both of the 23" kits use similar, if not identical parts.

I wouldn’t mind the parachute recovery version just because Estes would likely have to do a lot less work to make it flyable; a rear ejection glider’s gonna need some work, I think.

Photo taken from this ebay listing: https://www.ebay.com/itm/115672240743; I actually wanted this set but the lot sold for way more than I could afford

Nike Ajax (#1279, 1976–1980)

This is a very cool configuration of the rocket; look, I’m a sucker for fins. The more fins, the cooler the rocket’s profile, in my estimation. That’s one reason why I tend to love scale kits more than anything else. The aesthetics just really appeal to me. Estes kinda has this configuration in their Nike Apache (#7254, 2016–2020) rocket, but that’s out of print now, as I understand it. You can probably see why I like the more muscular missile configuration, as well as the color scheme, of the Nike Ajax even more, though the Nike Hercules missile looked even better. Either way, as scale kits go, the Nike Ajax is gorgeous.

The only other Nike Ajax kit I’m aware of right now is the 3D printed kit from Boyce, which starts at $60 and requires you to purchase your own tubes to complete.

It’s an oldie, but a goodie, as they say.

Phoenix (#1380, 1982–1998, 2001–2004)

I like two things on a rocket: lots of fins and a powerful ‘physique.’ I’m talking rockets that have a fairly wide body relative to their length, with a nose cone that’s not too sharp — like the Nike Smoke (even though, again, Estes, I will literally drive all the way to Penrose and drop to my knees and beg you for one if that’s what it takes to get a Pro Series II Nike Smoke).

As muscular rockets go, this one’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. Just look at those eight fins! That body tube! That nose cone! To me, the Phoenix has always been one of the coolest looking rockets on the pad.

The original AIM-54 Phoenix missile always had that powerful vibe. It just feels alive and vibrant in a way that smaller rockets can’t pull off. I just got an offer for one — it was around $150 after the discount. That’s way too much. I saw another one go for around $300 (though it was in a lot of two other rockets as well).

While it’s possible to get Phoenix kits from LOC Precision and others, it’s not as widespread in size and availability as the Patriot is, and it was one of Estes’ longest running kits. I saw it in their magazine

photo taken from this listing https://www.ebay.com/itm/404011995549

National Aerospace Plane (#2037, 1990–1994)

I have no nostalgic connection to the National Aerospace Plane, but I’ve always liked kits with wings on. I don’t have a lot to say. It’s a sharp looking kit that’s more than just a standard rocket. I love the way it looks.

For the same reason, I also like…

I also really like the look of the Hawkeye (#0873). Thankfully, the Mean Machine is still in production, and they’ve improved it by making it disassemble-able!

Deep Space Transport (#2034, 1990–1995)

It’s another really good looking it that just has great vibes. I don’t have a lot to say about it any more than any other of these sort of fictional future scale-esque kits, but I like ’em and would gladly pick ’em up.

and, since it’s from the same image (the 1996 catalog, I believe)…

Tornado (#2004, 1989–1998)

Now, this one’s cool — instead of a parachute recovery, the rocket breaks, and both sections fall to the ground. I don’t have a lot to say about it; it has a great look and a cool gimmick. Look at that Solar Warrior (#895, 1991–1995) and Hercules (#1387, 1982–1995) on the same page. Are they as cool? Absolutely not. They’re mid.

A.R.V. Condor (#2075, 1993–2004)

Selling for eleven years, the ARV Condor is a really cool kit; the gimmick here is that when it ejects, the gliders fly off and glide back down. There’s a few other kits with similar recoveries, but aesthetically, I’ve always loved this particular kit the most. They don’t cost a whole lot on eBay — usually about $50 — but they pop up frequently enough that it seems like there’s at least some demand.

Grey Hawk (#2068, 1992–1994)

I like the way it looks. That’s all there is to it.

image from this ebay listing here: https://www.ebay.com/itm/255814044696

Trident (#1233, 1967–1974) and Trident II (#2033, 1990–1991)

Right now, Estes has a lot of very cool kits with interesting profiles that look pretty cool. In my box over yonder, I’ve got an Orbital Transport (#1242, 1969–1985, #1259, 2002–2002) and an upscaled Super Orbital Transport (#7314, 2022-present), as well as a Low-Boom SST (#7289, 2020–2022), Conquest (#7230, 2014–2019), and Interceptor (#1250, 1971–1980, 2007–2011, 2019–present), among others.

All of these rockets are concepts for future flight vehicles. Some are likely more serious than others, but they all have really cool profiles that make them a gorgeous addition to any collection. I still love the fantasy that these rockets present. If I had to rank them, this would probably be the kit I have the least interest in of all the suggestions I’ve made here, even less than some that didn’t get their own entries, but I felt for balance’s sake, a rocket with a clear identity that fits in with Estes’ current crop of space vehicles, the Trident and Trident II are good ideas.

Image of a TEN INCH upscale of the Fatboy using an L-powered motor from Stickershock23 on the Rocketry Forum https://www.rocketryforum.com/threads/estes-fat-boy-2139-gallery.15510/page-2#post-231135

Fat Boy (#2139, 1997–2005)

I’ve always loved the look of the Fat Boy; it was one of those rockets that I always wanted but could never get. It’s short, fat, and just, I dunno, cute? I love the colors, I love the simplicity of the stickers. The form factor is cute instead of muscular (Executioner (#1951, 2002–2011, 2016–2019), and The Shadow (#2094, 1994–1996) which was originally called Optima (#2035, 1990–1994), are rockets I’d describe as muscular; speaking of which, I’d love to see those kits return).

Right now, Estes occupies that slot with the Big Daddy, which is 3" compared to the 2.6" of the Fat Boy. Maybe that’s enough. But… they sell the mini fat boy! It’d be nice if they sold a Fat Boy and then maybe a Fat Man 4" Pro Series II Upscale. That’d be really cool.

image from: https://www.rocketreviews.com/estes-der-v3-frank-casey.html

Der V-3 (#1970, 1987–1989)

Growing up, I heard a lot of German. My mom would bark “sitzen sie” at us when she wanted us to settle down, for instance. My maternal Grandma had some plaques she’d gotten when she was in Germany that had a weird, kitschy take on the German language. I forget the actual term for it, but basically, people will use like “der lugsferlaunchen” which looks German at a glance, but it’s really English with an accent: the lugs for launching.

Der V-3, much like Der Red Max, has a lot of this pseudo-German, which gives it a nice little personality. Plus, I mean, hey, I absolutely love the rocket’s more muscular shape. It’s not some long, thin, graceful thing, not by a long shot. Der V-3 looks like it’s ready to scream off the launch pad, raging into the sky.

While my white whale of the pseudo-German pidgin kits is still Mega Der Red Max, man, Der V-3 could be something special.

image from launch lab: https://www.launchlabrocketry.com/shop/p/estesstrikefighter2015

Strikefighter (#2015, 1989–1993)

Now, here’s a good one. I like the way it looks; like the Trident, it fits in well with Estes’ funkier passenger-carrying kits. Not a lot to say, to be honest, other than it looks pretty and I want one.

image from rocketreviews. i actually recently got all the parts to clone this kit except the nose cone. It’s weird, this kit is obviously NOT the miniature 874 exocet, made from 1986–1989, but this is where the picture was. https://www.rocketreviews.com/exocet---estes-874-1986-1989.html

Exocet (#1925, 1984–1985)

One thing I’ve heard about Exocet kits is that they seem to fly really well. Maybe there’s something about the way the rocket is designed, maybe it’s luck, I don’t know. What I do know is that, as scale kits go, the Exocet is one of the absolute best looking rockets I have ever seen. This particular paint scheme is just perfect.

One of these days, my plan is to build one to run on mid-power motors, but for the time being, I’ve been working on cloning an exocet.

It’s so beautiful. Rocketarium just came out with their own Exocet kits, but it’s that original Estes version and paint scheme that really has my attention.

Of all the kits, this is the one I’m still chasing after all these years. I saw one on Launch Lab rocketry a while back, but someone grabbed it while I was putting it into the cart. I shouldn’t have hesitated!

The big thing about the Exocet is that its nose cone is pretty unique — the PNC-55EX was used on just two other kits, the Neptune (#1935, 1985–1986) and Ranger (#1955, 1986–1989). You can get a balsa version of the nose cone from a site like erockets, thankfully, but I prefer the Estes plastic cones when I can.

THIS rocket, right here, if I had to pick, would probably tie with the Pershing as the rocket I want the most.

Some Assorted Ideas

Right Now, Estes sells a Saturn 1B (#7251, 2020-Present). I wonder if it would be possible to sell a scale nose cone like the AS-203 or AS-204 had. As far as I know, those are the only differences on the Saturn 1B, and I think it would be extremely cool to buy a Saturn 1B kit from Estes and build it with a different nose. I don’t know if Estes could, say, get a couple hundred of each built and offer them as an upgrade kit to modelers. That might not be worth it for them, but man, I’d love it so much.

In the Estes Catalog, I can’t help but notice a few rockets that are no longer in production that I’d really love to see. We’ve discussed the Phoenix already, and it’s looking great there. I think the Little Joe I (#7255, 2018–2022) that’s being painted just went out of production, you can see a gorgeous Jayhawk in the background on the upper left.

I notice, curiously, a Falcon Heavy, which I don’t think Estes has ever released.

That Jupiter-C (#1976, 1987–1989, in between the Bullpup and the Saturn V Skylab on the right) goes for like $120–180 on Ebay these days. Other than the Jayhawk and Phoenix, this is the one I’m most compelled by.

But for me? I’ve been seeing $180–300 Little Joe II’s (#7227, 2016–2019). I know they went out of production not too long ago, so there was probably a conscious desire to retire those, but given the current price on the market, it does seem like there’s still a demand from collectors. Might be worth considering.

The SR-71 (#1942, 1985–1995, 2004–2010, #7003, 1996–1998) is pretty cool as well, though I’m not madly in love with it compared to a lot of the true rockets.

A lot of people I saw reacting to the 2023 catalog were disappointed that a rumored relaunch of the Pro Series Mercury Atlas (#2111, 1995–1998) from a few years back was nowhere to be found; I hope Estes is working on one of those, because it’s an utterly gorgeous rocket, and they go for like $150–300+ on eBay these days.

I’ve seen AIM-9 Sidewinders (#2125, 1996–2000) and AIM-120 (#2158, 1998–2001) AMRAAMs command $50–200, so those might be worth looking into.


There are a lot of scale kits I’d love to see that nobody’s ever done before, or at least that I’ve never seen done before, like a BQM-34F Firebee II, a Pershing II, a Tomahawk cruise missile (on a BT-80 tube, imagine! I located a rare Quest Tomahawk, but I don’t like Quest kits as much as Estes, they feel like they’re lower quality tubes and often come to me out of round — including this Tomahawk), an AAM-4 (love those colors! the fin configuration!), the X-51 Waverider or X-47A Pegasus, an Ariane V, an H-IIB, and so on, but I’m not sure anyone would be desperate for those the way I am. Scale, to me, thanks to the detailing, fin configurations, and often odd configurations, tend to look the absolute coolest.

There are plenty of kits! I left out tons of Estes originals that I’d love to see but just am not sure about the economics of building them, and I didn’t want to recommend things that seem to lack a really strong identity.

From Estes, I’d love to see more kits with plywood fins, nylon shoots, baffling compartments, and mid-power motors. I’d also love to see Estes get into the mid-power composite motors range, but they’re all in on gunpowder.

That’s about it; I don’t really have a good wrap-up for this one, cause there’s no real conclusion. Estes, if you’re considering reprinting some old rockets, consider the ones I’ve suggested here! I bet the Skywinder will be a particularly big hit. Honestly, I’d love to see more BT-70 and BT-80 kits overall.

The quality of your kits (especially your plans! they’re the best!) have ensured a lifelong fan in me, but not a lifelong fan who can exactly afford to accept the prices of out of print kits on eBay!

Can’t wait for that Pro Series Black Brant XII, by the by.

And, again, if you happen to have any of those out of print Pro Series or Pro Series II kits hiding in one of your warehouses, I’ll take ’em off your hands. ;)

H-II configurations; I’m in love with the H-IIB
image from wikipedia BQM-34F Firebee II



Doc Burford

I do some freelance work, game design consulting, and I’ve worked on games Hardspace: Shipbreakers and created games like Adios and Paratopic.