From easiest to hardest: RTF, ARF, 3FNC
Estes - Patriarch
This is a RTF model that resembles a Patriot missile with clear fins. It flies on 18mm motors and includes a twist-lock motor retainer.
None, it's RTF. My son found this rocket so I didn't even have to attach the chute. I'll rate it a '5' even though Estes did the work.
None needed, but it looks great.
I had no instructions but there is nothing to think about. Add wadding, pack chute, insert motor, twist on the retainer. It flew nicely on a C6-5.
I noticed that, when I got it (it was used), one of the clear fins had a cloudy line in it. After this flight, it was more pronounced. I assume it is due to stress at landing. There is nothing on the surface so it wasn't exhaust residue.
I never would have bought this RTF, but it looks nice and flies well.
Quest - Area 51 SPEV Saucer
Although this resembles Quest's original Area-51 saucer, it varies slightly from the original. This is a SPEV (spare parts elimination vehicle) kit based on a crate of saucer tops that Quest found lying around. The bottom section is redesigned since the original parts were missing. Thus, although really simple to build, it is not RTF. It also doesn't have the wire 'legs' and is not pre-decorated.
The following parts are provided:
* molded plastic body
* plastic launch lug
* cardboard motor tube
* cardboard motor block
* three fiberboard fins
* one 8-½" x 11" sheet of white label stock
The instructions are provided a single sheet and the build requires a hobby knife, plastic cement (tube type), and white (or wood) glue. You start by attaching the plastic lug to the body with plastic cement. The motor block is attached using wood glue. The motor tube is inserted and glued into a tube that is integral to the plastic body. This version doesn't have positive retention so a bit of masking tape will be required. The fins are glued to the motor tube with wood glue and have a tab that fits into holed in the body. How these fit should be evident in the attached photo. Th...th-that's all folks!
Quest provides four recommended color schemes and provides graphics for these on their web site. You can print your choice, or one of your own design, on the provided full page label. The saucer's native color is dark gray and I merely picked the decals that I though looked the best with this raw color.
The recommended motors include the B6-0 and C6-0. I didn't have either so I went with one of Quest's new 'long burn' C6-3s. I friction fit the motor and lit it with the provided Q2G2 igniter. The throat of the motor seems deeper than the Estes C6 and the Q2G2 fit nicely and was held in place using the provided protective sleeve. The flight was fine but was fairly low in altitude.
The C6-3 ejected on the ground--this is not optimal. Plus, this makes me think that a B6 wouldn't be the best choice for this rocket, although I'm sure it would go up and come back down.
Functionally, this is your basic saucer design. I like saucers! Although it's a 'SPEV', I can't believe the original was any better. I personally liked the decoration options and it would be easy to come up with your own. I should mention that it also came with a Micro-Maxx saucer as a bonus. (A bonus that will probably make you want to but some of those motors if ya don't already have a stash.)
HotRod Rockets - Discovery
The Discovery is a 'modular concept rocket', that features three interchangeable fin units. It is part of HotRod's Educators Series and is intended either builders who have previously built a rocket or newbies under the guidance of an experienced builder. It flies on 18mm motors and recovers via a 'chute. You can always make additional fin units too.
This is a simple 3FNC rocket, but it includes a lot of parts:
* balsa nose cone
* 24mm main body
* three 24mm fin can tubes
* two sets of laser cut balsa fins
* one sheet of balsa stock for the 3rd fin pattern
* long 18mm motor tube
* 5 rings and a motor block
* Kevlar® twine and elastic cord
* screw eye and snap swivel
* 1/8" lug
* 10" plastic 'chute
You also get a fin marking template and a fin pattern for the 3rd set of fins. It's a neat idea to provide the removable fin units.
New builders can start with pre-cut fins and then move to DIY patterns. I will only present one fin can.
The 18mm motor tube is built first. Two thin fiber rings are used to mount it in the main body and three wider rings are used to support the removable fin units. The kit only includes a motor block but it would be easy to add a motor clip if you were so interested.
The Kevlar® leader is tied to the mount behind the forward ring, which has to be notched to pass the line. You tie elastic to that and to the hefty screw eye. Good stuff.
There are two sets of 3 laser cut fins and a sheet of balsa for you to make a third. Each set is attached to their own tube. A fin guide is provided to help with alignment. To attach a fin set, you slide it over the motor tube and use a piece of tape to help hold the two tubes together.
Finishing of this kit would be typical for a kit with balsa parts...but I flew mine nekkid.
I first secured the fin unit to the main body with a couple of wraps of masking tape. The kit's motor mount protrudes about 1/2" below the lower body tube. Instead of wrapping the motor with tape and cramming it into the motor tube, the instructions say to install the motor and then tape it to the motor tube. This should make removing the spent engine easier, so I gave it a try. My motor of choice was a C6-5.
I used a couple of sheets of Quest wadding and some dog barf to protect the 'chute and it was ready.
It ripped off the pad, never to be seen again. :(
This is a simple kit with nice quality parts and clear instructions. The main distinguishing feature is the swappable fin units. I think this is a great idea for beginners to let them experience different fin styles and move from pre-cut to cut-your-own. In fact, it's an interesting idea for larger modular rockets.