Old model kits, happy memories – but you wouldn’t want to make them now

A couple of things that have happened in the past day or so led me to reflect on how much the kits from which we make models has changed since I made my first Airfix kit in 1959. This led me to peek into a box where I put the occasional old kit that I buy for the sake of memory rather than to make, and I thought it might be interesting to share some of them with you, especially folks who have long modelling memories too.

Here’s the first kit I ever received, at Christmas in 1959. I was 10 at the time. (I remembered it as 1958 but since Scalemates tells me this kit was released in 1959 my memory – never good at the best of times – must be wrong.) I thought it was amazing! It probably took me half an hour to put together and it was a year or two later that I discovered that you could paint them too.

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Here are two that I bought in the following couple of years, at 8/- each as I recall. This version of the Beaufighter kit was released in 1958 but I would have bought it a few years later. I can’t find this Messerchmitt Bf110 in Scalemates but I guess it was released around the same time. Neither has any cockpit detail, which is very obvious in the Messerchmitt.

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This is the oldest kit that I have, released by Frog in 1955. I probably made this around 1960 and even then I knew that having only a pilot head for the cockpit was old fashioned. It was also a challenged for a 11 year old to paint realistically. There are three things in this kit you don’t see in kits often these days: a little tube of glue, a lead weight for the nose so the kit isn’t a tail sitter and a display stand almost as big as the model.

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This kit of the Boeing 727-100 is, I think, unique to Australia and I can’t find it in Scalemates. My memory tells me that it was available from Caltex petrol stations for a couple of shillings but if your father didn’t stop at one or there wasn’t one in your town, you couldn’t get one. I think this is the original Revell Boeing 727-100 kit which was first published in 1964 and that is probably about the time this Australian kit was released because 727s first flew in Australia that year. I wasn’t able to get one of these at that time but picked this one up at a recent swap and sell for only a few dollars.

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Like most youngsters, I found other interesting things to do for a few years and then rediscovered modelling. It was the new release Airfix M551 Sheridan tank that sparked my interest but it is this Matchbox Armstrong Whitworth Siskin IIIA that really sealed my fate. This kit was released in 1974 and I reckon I probably made it that year or in early 1974. The end result was so gorgeous that it tempted me into more of those prewar RAF kits that Matchbox did, the Hawker Fury and Gloster Gladiator I, and it’s been downhill ever since. Mainly through being forgotten and tucked away I still have the model too.

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In the early 1960s Airfix introduced it’s ‘Skyking’ series of airliners in the then novel scale of 1/144. As I recall it, the first two in the range were the Comet and the Caravelle. Both lovely little kits. This kit is the only one of this set that I bought new, probably in the late 1970s. The only reason it didn’t get made then was because it would be many years yet before I would be confident enough in my skills with gloss white and metalic paints that I would attempt something like this. By the time I had mastered them, there were more recent releases so I kept this one because it looked so nice in its original little box.  I must have bought more than one of these kits around that time because I made a model from one in 1984, in United livery, and it doesn’t look too bad even thirty and more years laterr.  (This was around the time that I found you could buy after-market decal sheets so you didn’t have to always use the decals found in the box.)

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I’ve never made this Marusan Shinden-Kai and was given it only recently. Scalemates dates this at being released in 1961, which sounds about right because it must have been in the early 1960s that the earliest Japanese kits started appearing here, many of them in the odd scale of 1/100, 1/75 and 1/50. Perhaps the Japanese kit makers were trying to tell us something. It is quite a competent little kit for its day, but not something you’d make today.

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This new mold Airfix Lightning F.6 is not very heritage but it found its way into my Heritage Box because of what I found inside. I must have bought thousands of kits over the years but this was the first one that I found with this molding imperfection.

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