Aurora Mace TM-76 Guided Missile Kit Review

By Fred Boucher


During a golden age of aviation tarnished by the Cold War, many new aircraft were produced, including what became known as cruise missiles.  One was the Martin TM-76 Mace.  Aurora was always quick to cut tooling for models of contemporary subjects, and in 1958 issued their kit MACE – TM -76 GUIDED MISSILE.  Once again, Aurora had the weapon on the shelf before it was actually deployed.  TM-76 was first flown in in 1956 but was not active until 1959.  The kit number is 130-.79.  The “.79” was Aurora’s MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price), a part of the box despised by retailers.  Aurora also scaled it to 1/48.


Aurora’s one-and-only issue of this missile 

I do not recall Aurora rocket and missile kits vying for shelf space at my town model outlets: City Cycle Hobby Shop, Bell or Davis Drug Stores, Value Village; nor at Kresge, Woolworths, Sears, or JC Pennys.  Perhaps my modeling interests made space and missile subjects invisible to me at that time, or perhaps Aurora had already discontinued the kits!


Box side (click to enlarge)

The Mace Kit

Mace was packaged in an Aurora standard “long box” carton, a sturdy cardboard conventional lid-tray design.  Box art shows a Mace launching near a TM-76 base.  Although restrained by light weight tissue packing paper, the sprues were loose in the box; the buyer could expect that several pieces could be rolling around loose.  Instructions and decals were included and occasionally a promotional insert, which this kit contained.

Ten gloss-white pieces build up this subject, so it is a rather simple model.  Aurora’s two piece, clear ‘Triangle Base’ display stand was included.  It has a smooth area for the kit subject decal, raised textured latitude and longitude lines and a image of North America.  “Aurora Plastics Corp” adorns the bottom edge.

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Kit contents and parts layout (click to enlarge) 

Molding Quality

Molding is good in that most parts are well defined, with no flash, some slight mold seams and few low sink holes.  I did not find any obvious ejector marks.  I test-fitted the Mace together and found most of the seams joined tight.  Liquid cement should fill them nicely.  The glossy white styrene seems a bit brittle, however.

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Part detail and test fit (click any to enlarge) 


Aurora’s TM-76 scales out to the advertised 1/48 scale.


Aurora tooled raised textured areas on the models where markings and insignia would be.  That was typical of many model makers of the era.  If you want to put the time and effort into sanding them away, they should be easy enough to remove.

Martin strengthened the rudder of the “B” missile with several narrow rectangular corrugations.  This model does not have those, thus it is a TM-76A.

There are few hair-thin raised panel lines; otherwise surface detail is sparse.  Mace had some raised rivets, several recessed wells along the nose and an “L”-shaped pitot tube.  Those details were not cut into the mold.  Many raised rivets studded the rear of the booster rocket.  Those details are also not molded.  Finally, the belly intake for the Allison J33 engine is molded closed.

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Part detail (click any to enlarge) 

Instructions, Decals & Painting

Aurora printed up a large multi-fold paper sheet with text, line art and half-tone illustrations.  One side is the assembly instructions and the other side advertises all of their models, with emphasis on their series of “Whirlybirds” and tanks.  Aurora also marketed their brand of paint and glue in the instructions.

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Instructions front and back and contest entry sheet (click any to enlarge) 

Assembly is guided via the “exploded” style of illustration. Assembly is shown in two illustrations and about a dozen written steps.  A concise history of the missile is included in a sidebar.

Martin’s Mace can be found in a riot of colors and markings, but minimal painting guidance is provided.  That is no surprise since the kit came out a year before the missile became operational.

You can see that the decals offer markings for a single TM-76 missile.  All of the markings were intended to be applied over the textured areas.  The decals have thicker carrier film that extends farther from the printed graphics than is acceptable today.  Yet they are sharply printed and registered.  I would like to tape the sheet to a south facing window to determine how much yellowing will bleach out, and then try soaking a decal; would it disintegrate?

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Decals and Aurora Mace History (click any to enlarge) 


This model is acceptably molded.  Foibles are a lack of some surface detail and molded insignia areas – glad those are not used anymore!  They appear to be relatively easy to sand away.

Certainly, the quality of molding is not up to today’s standards compared to some major manufacturers, but then again some of their latest-greatest aren’t up to their hype either!  If you have one of these kits, treat yourself and build it.  I think it would be a very interesting addition for your Cold War Pilotless Bomber Squadron collection.

We thank for kindly providing this kit for review!


The major difference between the Matador and Mace missiles was the fact that both Mace “A” and “B” missiles were “Fire and Forget” weapons. All versions of the Matador were Command Guidance missiles, all Mace were Preset Guidance Units. There was no additional involvement once the Mace missiles were launched. The USAF MSQ guidance vans required for the USAF Matador guidance were removed from the German countryside after September 1962 when the last Matador operational units were deactivated.

Both Mace models had a rounded nose cone, with both versions having a longer fuel cell forward of the wing extending the fuselage considerably over the Matador. The high shoulder mounted anhedral, or cathedral (anti-dihedral) wing with the “T” tail were easily recognizable features of both missiles, the Mace having a shorter wing span of only 22 feet and a longer length of 44 feet, 6 inches.


Mace exiting the zero-length launcher 

The “A” bird was primarily a “hug the ground” low level attack missile, using ATRAN (Goodyear’s Automatic Terrain Recognition And Navigation map-matching radar system) while the “B” bird was designed to fly at very high altitudes for most of it’s mission using unjammable inertial guidance, the AChiever system from AC Spark Plugs. The “A” Bird’s mission survivability was considered quite high as intercepting the missile at speeds just below Mach 1 at altitudes considered dangerous for manned flight, especially in Europe’s famous inclement weather, was beyond the air defense capabilities of the eastern block countries. The altered mission characteristics of the Mace “B” enabled almost doubling of the range of the “B” over the “A” without additional fuel capability from 650 to over 1200 nautical miles.

The wings folded back alongside the fuselage of the Mace for transport, rather than having to be removed completely as with the Matador.

Both Mace versions were fitted for the Mark 28 Thermonuclear Device

The TM-76A, Later renamed MGM-13A

Deployed: Hahn Air Base, Germany – Sembach Air Base, Germany


Span: 22 ft. 11 in.

Length: 44 ft. 6 in.

Height: 9 ft. 7 in.

Weight: 18,000 lbs. at launch

Armament: Mark 28

Sustain Engine: Allison J33-A41 of 5,200 lbs. thrust;

Thiokol solid-propellant booster rocket of 100,000 lbs. thrust used for launch

Cost: $452,000

PERFORMANCE: Maximum speed: 650 mph./565 knots in level flight; supersonic in final dive Range: 800 statute miles Operating altitude: N/A

The “A” Birds were fired from mobile transporters called translaunchers. The huge terracruzer tire assemblies could be swivelled out of the way allowing the launcher to sit on jack pads. The original design was to fire individual missiles directly from the launcher.

That style of deployment was replaced in the early 1960’s by Rapid Fire Multiple Lauch, RFML, which concentrated launch pads in multiples of 4 missiles. RFML allowed fewer crew members and far less set up time and effort. The “roving”, single launcher concept was abandoned.

The “A” Birds had Goodyear’s Automatic Terrain Recognition And Navigation radar guidance system. The double, back to back nose mounted radar scanners required the “A” birds have fiberglass nose cones, usually painted Olive Drab while the rest of the bird was unpainted aluminum. Fiberglass nose cones that were not airworthy were painted red to indicate they were not to be mounted on operational missiles.

Mace missiles found in civic and public parks have had their nose cones painted red, black or white.

The last two years of Martin Marietta Mace production, 1959 and 1960, were all “B” versions.*



* “The Martin Matador and Mace Missiles.” The Martin Matador and Mace Missiles History Spotters Guide. MACE US TACTICAL MISSILES, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2014. .

The Martin Matador and Mace Missiles Chapter One – The First Cruise Missiles. MACE US TACTICAL MISSILES, n.d. Web.