Too late to give my son the Airfix fix

Too late to give my son the Airfix fix
<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/09/01/do0102.xml
http://tinyurl.com/h8gzw
By Tom Leonard
(Filed: 01/09/2006)
Although he is only four, it is already clear that my older son has inherited two character traits from me: a fascination with militaria - ships, planes, tanks and soldiers, especially soldiers - and an unfortunate impatience, specifically a tendency to hurl stuff across the room when things don't go right. Or glue right. For if there was one area where these two facets of my personality clashed most spectacularly, it was when I turned my hand to the fiddly task of putting together an Airfix kit.
I flew a lot of Airfix planes across my bedroom in my youth, but none of them was ever ready to fly.
Most fathers harbour ambitions for their sons that are rooted in their own childhood, and the news that the plastic model manufacturer's parent company has gone into administration will surely bring dismay to thousands of men hoping to pass on the Airfix fix to their offspring.
Now I may never know if Joe will be able to do what I could not - to finish off a Second World War plane, paint, decals and all. Any plane, even the Mosquito night fighter, which you only needed to paint black and had virtually no fiddly bits apart from the machine guns. Even that, if I remember correctly, proved beyond me and perhaps lies half-finished at the back of the toy cupboard waiting for a new generation of Leonards to take up the challenge. I had already introduced Joe to my old Airfix "OO scale" soldiers - those tiny little ones, usually yellow, that caused pain out of all proportion to their size when you invariably stepped on them in bare feet - and it looked promising that he might one day graduate to bigger things.
But those bigger things currently lie locked away in a French warehouse, after Airfix's principal manufacturer also went into administration. British administrator is talking to French administrator - perhaps, it being Airfix, in Morse code - but insiders fear that nobody will want to buy the company if they have to wait two years to get hold of the model moulds.
The Hull-based company has been making models since 1949, but has been struggling for some time - since the early 1980s in fact, when the hobby went into rapid decline and Airfix itself briefly went into bankruptcy. Some blamed computer games, others the declining birth rate, and some even the oil crisis of the late 1970s that pushed up the prices of plastics. Perhaps it was political correctness, although there were encouraging signs - namely the huge success of the red-blooded Dangerous Book For Boys - that more traditional "war toys" were coming back into vogue.
Personally, I'd point the finger of blame at our low attention span culture. Airfix kits demanded commitment and concentration, not to mention a rock-steady scalpel hand, if you weren't - like me - simply to give up on the instructions, glue the wings to the hull, stick on the decals any old how and leave the other bits to get stuck in the Hoover. Despite all the general trickiness and awkwardness, at least as far as boys were concerned, Airfix kits ruled the toy market for decades in a way that no single manufacturer could dream of doing now.
Did girls ever make them? Possibly, although I never met one and the vast majority of the models were war-related. In the 1960s and 1970s - the Airfix glory years - kits were stacked from floor to ceiling not only in every toy shop, but also in newsagents and ironmongers.
Of course, the contents, often dull grey and wrapped in a clear plastic bag, never matched the racily illustrated boxes, but most schoolboys soon got over that. And some were inspired in a far more fundamental way than simply wanting to progress to a more complicated model. Bruce Dickinson, the singer of the heavy metal group Iron Maiden and now a commercial airline pilot, said his interest in flying began when he started building Airfix kits. Up there in the skies or out on the high seas, he cannot be alone.
In all, Airfix produced 850 kits, including trains, motorcycles, figures and spaceships. While few enthusiasts must have progressed towards the dizzy heights of the 1/24th scale Spitfire or Harrier, there was usually a clear progression path, says Jeremy Brook, secretary of the Airfix Collectors Club.
You started with the little soldiers, snap-together Normandy gun emplacements and Foreign Legion forts, then perhaps tentatively took up a tube of glue for the first time and got to work on a tiny Sherman tank. Then on to the first rung of the plane ladder - occupied by Spitfires (always the most popular Airfix kit) and other Second World War fighters.
Next came the bombers (many more parts than the fighters), followed maybe by the much fiddlier and more complicated 1:600 scale ships, which, with their cotton rigging and microscopic signal flags, were ideally left out for the elves to finish. It may have been the smell of the glue, but simply looking at the instructions was enough to give me a headache.
Other nightmares? First World War planes, says Mr Brook. All those cross struts between the wings and apparently the upper wing never fitted properly.
But it would be unfair to suggest that Airfix kits were just for children. Many boys' memories of putting together a kit will have been of peering over their father's shoulder, watching him assembling it. If he was lucky, a boy might be allowed to put on the decals at the end, but woe betide him if he stuck the wing flashes on the hull.
Inevitably, child-assembled models are harder to find. Dad might hang his creation from the ceiling or put it in a glass case, but, for the boys, there was no finer send-off than blowing a model to pieces in the garden with an air rifle or stuffing a banger into the cockpit.
Hal Iggulden, co-author of The Dangerous Book For Boys, never got to touch the Airfix Stirling and Wellington bombers that his father - a former Stirling pilot - made until, aged 20, he accidentally sat on them. "He didn't say a word," says Mr Iggulden. "I fixed them and presented them back to him and he simply said: 'Thank you'."
Mr Iggulden says his book benefited from a resurgence in interest in activities that fathers and sons can do together. Airfix, he says with regret, would fit perfectly into that revival. That said, he believes plastic models will come round again. He may be right. As long as fathers want to show off to sons, men will surely still reach for the sky in little grey plastic planes.
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fgoodwin wrote:

<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/09/01/do0102.xml
I read this article in the paper. I get the idea that Mr Leonard thinks that *all* plastic model kits are produced by Airfix.
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Enzo

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wrote:

So did virtually everyone of my generation and my parents. And it feels like it right now.
Wulf
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No, even when I was a kid, Heller (Buzco) was the bee's knees. Airfix was already fairly passe. This was early 1970's, for the most part. AIrfix is a historic institution, but not nearly as significant manufacturer of model kits as it once had been.
I'm hoping the molds actually ARE acquired by a company that may do something with them. I see fixing the rivets, and including interiors.. voile! A not too shabby kit!
--- Stephen
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<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/09/01/do010 2.xml>
If you look only at what UK chainstores are stocking these days you would also get that impression.
Your opinions on this subject are greatly needed over at uk.rec.models.rail Enzo.
(kim)
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As the story is describing the relationship between children and model kits (as toys) I think it is predominently Airfix (certainly in the UK anyway).
Together with a little Revell, Airfix is the only make that children will see in the toy shops.
And ceratinly if my son wanted to build his first Spitfire it would be a cheap Airfix model - let him make it himself, make a mess but have fun and learn by his mistakes.
If instead, I were to insist on a Hasegawa, Tamiya, Roden etc. he wouldn't have half the fun or learn as much - because I simply wouldn't be prepared to let him make a mess and would take over too much.
Airfix (and Revell) are the best way to introduce children into model kits - still the case today - but the sad fact is that children just aren't interested in building models anymore - they are growing up too fast. Toys 'R' Us recently published a report which showed how the cut-off age of their customers is reducing rapidly - they now admit that the max age of their 'end customers' has now fallen to 12.
Cheers,
Nigel
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Non-Americans need to realize that other than the Aurora 1/48 scale kits nobody in the US had such a committment to scale as Airfix did when they began to export kits to the US in the late 1950s - early 1960s. The concept of getting an entire range of models the same scale (and seemingly more accurate than the "Feature Happy" US kits from Revell and Monogram of the times) was something new to us.
I think I build most of the kits offered by Airfix between 1960 and 1974 when I shifted to 1/35 scale. Sometimes rough, but always in the same scale and seemingly more detailed.
Even when wrong they still looked right!
Cookie Sewell
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

and many airfix kits are still very buildable with some bashing. replace the gear doors, add cockpit detail, correct the panel lines and you have a very nice bv141, also, who else has one? the heavies are pretty much airfix....sterling, sunderland, others. you can make a really nice sunderland.
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BV 141 coming from Trumpeter........eventually. :-)
Tom
e wrote:

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1/48?
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e wrote:

http://www.hannants.co.uk/search/?FULL=HIPM4804
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wrote:

It looks like a model of a regular plane put together by a complete imbecile :o)
(kim)
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read about it and be amazed.
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(e) wrote:

http://www.hannants.co.uk/search/?FULL=HIPM4804 that's the hpm kit. i already have one of those. don't say nothing 'bout no trumpeter.
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kim smirked:

So you've seen my Spitfire collection? ;-)
--
Enzo

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kim wrote:

They were thinking out of the box. (No, not that OOB.)
Bill Banaszak, MFE Sr.
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it flew and handled well. it was cheaper than the fw189 and performed cheaper as well.
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Add in the Revell 1/72nd kits available around the same time and one could really go through those allowances and lawn-mowing money!
Bill Banaszak, MFE Sr.
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wrote:

In the UK at that time Revell were about three times the price of Airfix so unless you really needed that particular model you didn't bother. Also Revell's scale tended to fluctuate according to the size of the prototype unlike Airfix and the shiny surface didn't take paint as well.
(kim)
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I built virtuall every Airfix 1/72 aircraft kit and 1/76 vehicle kit. When Frog kits hit the US via Lines Brothers (Air Lines label) I built every one of those, too. They were considered pretty exotic, even if they were available at Woolworth's.
Really exotic were those great twins (Nell, Peggy, etc.) from L.S. with the nifty recessed rivets.
Every last one of those kits ended up in parts bins that I gave to Dave Boksanski and drew from for years. My first attempt at "detailing" was the wonderful Monogram P-51B. Opened the gun bays and detailed the interior, Swedish markings, opened the canopy with detailed interior and detaled undercarriage bays. Still have it to this day.
Tom
Mad-Modeller wrote:

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