Starting a new topic with the question- how has modeling changed over the
My first encounter with plastic scale models came as a teenager when I
acquired a Revell F-94 and Monogram B-24 c.1965. Both of these models were
great training aids for a lifetime of modeling to come.
Recently, I obtained a Hawk 1/48 F-104 Starfighter to compare it with a
latest version by any of the top-line model manufacturers. Before I give you
my assessment, I would like to hear some of the group's impressions of the
significant developments that have marked the last 30- 40 years.
Well, as a later modeler, starting as a kid in the early 80's, I have seen
a number of changes in the availability. I guess there were other brands
around, but I didn't know about them. I was stuck in the Revell or Monogram
world, with the occasional ATM/ERTL choice. Pin n' Save introduced me to
Lindberg, and for awhile that was my choice, because the things did stuff.
Whatever was available at the department store. The aftermarket selection
has been wonderful, and a universe of tools. Obviously the internet has
given a breath of fresh-air to the hobby for information, tips, and
Personally speaking, I eventually learned the differences in scale (choosing
a favorite and not just choosing something becasue it was a subject I wanted
to try), patience, and skill. God riddance to the tube.
I think in general, we've seen a drastic decrease in visibilty,
accompanied by some improvement in quality.
When I just started, about 1975 and the decade after that, scale models
were just about everywhere. Every toy shop had them, many newsagents did,
any old place that had anything resembling toys also did models. Of
course, there were also specialist model shops, but they were a minority.
Then there was a time of decline, until by about 1995 only the specialists
and a very small number of toy shops remained. Modeling is now all but
invisible, a fringe hobby.
On the other hand, the quality of kits has improved, but there has also
been a huge price increase. I remember when an Italery 1/72 F-16 would
cost about 6 guilders, now that same kit costs 10 euros, almost 4 times as
much. Quality is nice, but I'm afraid the price hike will ultimately
destroy the hobby. If kids can't buy cheap kits out of their pocket money,
there will be no new modelers, and we'll quitely die out, even without
competition from video games.
Bill, most of the models that I build are older examples that I saw as
a kid but never bought. I just finished the Revell XSL-01, and saw that
I had to make some "improvements" to make the kit "work" a bit better
for me. This came in the form of better rocket exhaust venturies,
cutting back the framework in the cabin so that it could actually be
Many of the old kits were crude, I did an Aurora Lockheed F-90 a year
ago or so and that kit had no cockpit interior nor much detail to speak
Other kits "did things", I completed a Monogram F3F this past Spring
which has working landing gear (twist the prop and the landing gear
retracts). It also has some of the smallest parts that I've ever seen
in my life! A couple of friction rings to hold pieces together that
were about 2mm across (outside diameter). I stopped building for a week
after that one just to let my hands stop shaking.
But the common thread with all those old kits was that they were fun
(by and large) to put together.
I think that the biggest change was in that the models became scale
models and ceased to be toys that had to be assembled.
I dont know, take a look at the Tamiya 1/32
F 15, or Zero in particular.
Beautiful working control surfaces, and
a working landing gear (havnt got that far yet)
Also look at the Trumpeter attempt at moving
I started modelling in 1972 when my Dad bought me a bagged Airfix Sopwith
Camel for 50 cents (Australian). For me, the changes over the years in
aircraft modelling have been:
1. More variety in the larger scales (i.e. 1/48th and up)
2. Increased levels of details "in the box"
3. Emergence of resin and photoetched accessories
4. Far more after market products and variety, from decals through to paints
5. Price increases out of proportion with inflation - i.e. I bought the
Hasegawa 1/72nd FA18F the other day (half price sale) RRP A$35.99 - about 3%
of fortnightly take home pay. In early 1980 when I started earning a living,
an upper - mid quality 1/72 aircraft would cost me about A$5.00 - about 1.5%
of my then fortnightly take home pay.
6. As someone else has said, visibility. As a kid I used to ride my bike to
the local chemist and blow my pocketmoney on the latest Airfix or Matchbox
kit - when shopping with mum she'd aid and abet my habit in the local
Woollies Variety Store (read "Wal Mart" here all you US types), and on real
special occasions I would drool outside the display at the local hobby
store. Now, well there's only one hobby store in my city plus one toy store
that sells kits (this is a city of 140,000 people), the other toy store has
been taken over by Toys R Us (an offshoot of Grammar Aint Youse) that is
getting rid of it's entire hobby stock - plastic kits, RC gear, wooden
boats, railway stuff, etc etc.
7. The internet makes it easier to order from across the world than from
across the city
8. Used to be a heck of alot of scratchbuilding (either details, totally
from the ground up, or somewhere in between) going on, not anymore (see
points 2, 3 and 4) and this skill is being diluted
9. Kids seem to want something that gives quicker pleasure - taking 5 to 10
hours to knock together a plastic kit is too slow for them - so there is an
ageing in the general plastic modelling community
10. The airbrush
11. The modelling community, although shrinking, is getting broader. Just
look at this NG. Modellers from across the world getting together about
cutting plastic, whereas twenty years ago it was your local club or IPMS and
the occasional trip to the National Competition
Ok, that's enough from me, I think it's more than my two cents worth. Oh,
but one more thing . . .
12. I appreciate and enjoy the hobby a heck of alot more now than I did
I started modeling in about 1945. First big thing in scale, non-flying
models was the advent of plastic. Then, the slow but steady growth of
aftermarket accessories. Third, growth of small run kits. When I
started, there were Revell, Monogram, Hawk, and Aurora. Wonder how many
kit mfgs out there now, if you count resin and vacuform houses.
I also saw a great widening of price range and amount of detail/parts.
Adjusting for inflation, bottom end kits today cost about same as when I
started modeling, but high end has REALLY gotten high. But the same
thing can be said about detail and extra features.
Many of the first plastic model airplanes I built didn't even have
landing gears- kit included a stand that you put plane on in gear up
configuration. No cockpit detal on any of the planes. No armament.
Now, even in medium priced kits we have full cockpits, resin and PE
parts, and a fantastic range of aftermarket accessories and conversions!
We are in a golden age of modeling.
Another change. When I started, the balsa tissue covered flying models
were much more popular than shelf scale (what we called "solid models"
before plastic, 'cause they were carved from solid blocks of pine,
basswood, or balsa). Now, the situation is very much reversed. Small
percentage of modelers build flying models.
Two words - the aftermarket. I discovered Japenese kits pretty early on
after my grandfather got me into building models at the age of four -
starting with cars, and eventually gravitating to airplanes. Once I got
a look at the Tamiya line of armor kits during my pre-teens I was hooked
on the imports.
But the biggest single impact or change in the hobby for me has
certainly been the growth of aftermarket accessories acroass the
spectrum - resin and photo etch, and etched parts in particular. Where
there were once onl decals to choose from, now we have an entire
industry build upon a modeler's "need" for more detail, variety,
accuracy, etc. Very cool. Bring on more of it.
To my my mind, the biggest change is that the visible part of the hobby has
shrunk. Gone are the days when Woolworths had a large display of Airfix
kits. You're lucky if they have the odd 'Gift set' nowadays. The number of
shops selling kits has gone down as well. Many local shops used to sell
models, now they don't. On the up side, the hobby shop where I bought kits
from 30 years ago on a Saturday morning (just before saturday morning
pictures at the local fleapit) is still there and I still buy from there.
By far the biggest change (for the better in my opinion) is the internet.
Model makers are getting fewer and farther between. So are the shops with
the kits oddly enough. The 'net' certainly keeps me going.
Moving surfaces are one thing, many of those older models ~looked~ like
toys when they were finished. My very first model was a Strombecker USS
Chicago. It had a flat bottom with wheels and a total of five parts
(hull, deck and three movable main guns)
But hey, it cost $0.29. That Aurora F-90 looked like a toy, the Hawk
Banshee was a bit better. Models didn't seem to ~look~ like models
until around 1958 or 1960, IMHO.
My first thoughts on reading this thread were internal rather than
external. I think my attitudes about modeling have changed the most
over the years.
As a kid in the mid to late 60's, I wanted to build it as fast as
possible so I would have it to play with and then destroy (glue bombs,
firecrackers, rough handling...:-)
I cant imagine anyone putting a firecracker up the tailpipe of a $100
model today... The observation made in this thread that kits today are
"MODELS", rather than toys, is right on the money in my opinion. Today I
want to build a "realistic" representation of a real automobile, and
have it for display. I build models of cars that I would like to own,
but will probably never be able to,,,(Ferrari 250 California Spyder etc)
That said, the quality of kits today is far superior to that of my
childhood. The range of subjects is larger, the parts count in
individual kits is larger and so is the learning curve to build a
"realistic" model of any given subject. I believe that this condition
alone is partly responsible for the decline in the popularity of modeling.
Aftermarket parts, resin conversion kits, decals for alternate versions,
making you own decals, casting you own parts, and much more have changed
Hopefully what has remained constant is the enjoyment of building the
model, and the improvement of the builders skills with each project.
There is one joy in particular I get from modeling today that overrides
any results of the build. When I am at my work table, and my 3 year old
daughter pulls a chair up near me to "help you paint the carritos
daddy". She will soon be getting her first kit, a snap tite in a bright
color. We will build it together so she can feel a sense of
accomplishment from seeing a project all the way through, and benefit
from the fine motor skills development. She will also be sharing time
Just like I did with my dad from time to time. Maybe things haven't
changed so much.
Bill Zuk wrote:
I started building with my father around 1954 or so. Old time cars and
the occasional spacecraft, locomotive, etc. All that I have left from
those days is a complete ancient locomotive with freight car and two
passenger cars that look like stagecoaches. Wood.
In high school I did custom cars. That's when I discovered canned spray
paint. I started to do more airplanes and settled on 1/72 scale about
1965 or so. That's also when I discovered Air Progress, Scale Modeler
and Profile Publications.
Around 1967 or so my first wife introduced me to IPMS and through that
contact I discovered flat paint, after market decals, a wider range of
research material and the bigger worldwide market of kits. I started a
little modeling newsletter and met Dave Boksanski and George Lee, both
of whom passed on tons of interesting techniques and ideas.
It wasn't until about 1980 that I could afford an airbrush and
compressor. That's also when AMS set in, going from at least a dozen
completed models to a few per year. Somewhere about that time the first
cast resin kits arrived from the Czechs, to be followed by a flood of
new kits when the Wall fell. That was the main reason that I got into
kit collecting in earnest.
Now, with about 2000 kits and 7000+ aviation and modelling books and
magazines, I guess I'm stuck on modeling. I have yet to complete a kit
using after market parts, but I have picked up the detailing sets for
about two dozen kits started since the early 1970s. I have also found
that both research and occasionally model building can be lucrative.
Not exactly a money making business, but fun. I began producing and
importing cast resin kits around 1982 and published my first book on
scale models around the same time.
Oh, the tools. I don't know what I would do without the Dremmel, the
dental picks, the wet sandpaper, the four sided emory sticks, etc.,
Is it better today than back then. I think so, but it's isn't so much
the better or worse as it is the wider variety of choices and the
access to materials.
What I'd seen in the various eras:
As a kid... who knows; I built what was available and cheap. I added
details when I could, made up markings cobbled from spares. The words
"after" and "market" hadn't been combined yet.
I was very proud, as was my dad, of the checkerboard cowl I put on a P47
(1/72nd of course) by painting the cowl white, then applying the black
checks square by square, using scrap decals I had cut up. Although one
side was kind of psycheledic, the other was spot on.
Next era was when I picked things up as an adult; I started to buy
faster than I could build, but still used no aftermarket. At that time
the cool thing I did was trap modeling clay in the wings, nose, etc,
that I could "pose" the a/c as I hung them from the ceiling. I had a
bunch. When this period of time passed, marked by my move to Boston
where I had no room to model, I had amassed 14 (fourteen!!!) unbuilt
kits. I wondered what I'd do with them all!
I left building, then came back in the 90's. There were a lot of new
companies out there (I loved Hobbycraft's choice of subjects!) as well
as aftermarket decals, photoetch, and resin. This was the period of time
in which I became active in clubs for the first time, judged,
head-judged, all that good stuff.
Would it be redundant to say that I miss the old days .. no photo-etch,
no judging, no rules? Ah well... the clock only spins in one direction.
oh and I've now got a pile that's exceeded 400 unbuilt kits, probably
almost 500. It's a little out of hand, but there's so much cool stuff
now! As for aftermarket decals, resin sets, PE sets, and ideas for
different stuff, I've got piles of that stuff too.
The era of profligate spending!
I have to disagree on the paints and adhesives. They may have become a bit
safer and more environment friendly, but they don't hold a candle to the
dirty, nasty stuff I used 20 years ago. From an effectiveness point of
view, I want old formula Humbrol an MoBoFix back, right now.
I also might add, that with all the proliferation of accesories, it seems
that modeling has truly become just a quick build with ALOT more emphasis on
painting. There is some enginering left with gluing stuff, but most of my
time is taken up with making it look right and using the painting tricks and
techniques I have learned. It is in the scratch building and bashing that I
have really come to appreciate other folks work.
They drive the market. Need that resin cockpit, correct paint to the
nth degree, new markings (the kits blue aint quite right) vinyl masks
to get those cockpits just so. I know the kit cost $40 and everyone's
been waiting for centuries for one to come out in this scale but ya
gotta replace those ******* they're .oo5mm too short. The most
significant change is contest mentality, and the perceived needs filled
by an ever growing aftermarket industry.