Saturday, September 02, 2006

The times, they're a changin . . .

Ziggi hit me with the news earlier this week: Airfix is damn near dead.

My Commonwealth friends will especially commiserate with me, but a lot of Americans in my general age group (30-60) are probably shaking their heads and wondering why as well.

As a youngster, I got hooked on modeling thanks to Airfix, Heller, Monogram, Revell, Aurora, Hasegawa, Tamiya, MPC, JoHan, LifeLike and a host of other companies that have merged, faded, or gone under.

Monogram once was a Mattel division, then it went independent, then it merged with Revell, and so on.

Airfix was a part of my life from the time my dad built me an Airfix Westland Whirlwind of the same type that was often seen rescuing stupid climbers from the Cornwall sea cliffs in the 1960's. From then, I was hooked.

I went through my store of model kits today and found a brief history of the company, from an old Catalina flying boat to a Folland Gnat and a Lockheed Hudson and a Sopwith Pup and a Spitfire Mk. V. I also remember my first BIG scale aircraft model - an MPC/Airfix P-51 in 1/24 scale.

As I developed my skills, Airfix forced me to learn some hard lessons as I made the jump from slapping kits together to turning them into something more like the photos of the real things. But they were still fun, and learning the black art of making them a little more accurate merely added to their value (except for that hateful little Mk IX Spirfire they kept trying to re-release and make appear as a new molding, but that's another story . . .)

And they had been putting out new models in recent years that brought back some warm, fuzzy memories, like the EE Lightning, the Buccaneer, and the TSR. 2 - all fire-breathing, hairy-chested jets that oozed brute force and Britain's unique outlook on aerodynamics.

I guess it's like anything else as you get older, but you still shake your head and ask 'why?' . . .

I'm going to go sit in a corner for a bit and cry.

A brief history of Airfix here

News on Airfix's receivership here and here


Blogger ziggi said...

*hug* *hug* *hug*
I blame the (Heller) French you know - the damn rotters!

12:48 PM  
Blogger Frontier Editor said...

Yeah, but if Airfix had gotten hold of Heller's molds instead of vice versa, then we'd be in better shape.

Damn shame, I was going to get a TSR. 2 kit too . . . Guess the Vulcan kit's going to demand collector prices now too.

Similar thing happened here in the mid 1970's - Monogram bought Aurora's molds, including some pretty neat 1/48 WW I stuff and a 1/32 scale B-25, and many of the molds were lost in a train wreck.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Miss Cellania said...

I'm sorry, but although I am in the targetted age group, these names mean nada to me. I guess from the context that they are toy companies. Right?

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Richard said...

I thought you'd find this interesting.

But MC - Toys? Like a Playstation is a toy? Nooooooo! These things taught us patience and dedication. They introduced us to new areas of research and bred engineers. They kept us off the streets. We discovered thrift. We're all well rounded individuals.

Pass the duck egg green please.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Richard Seamon said...

Oh and wasn't the Buccaneer the bestest looking plane ever?

2:52 PM  
Blogger Frontier Editor said...

And the Ocean Gray and Dark Green and hellblau and dunkelgrun . .

Yep, Miss C, you just got the condensed history of model building in the last 40 years. A training ground for budding engineers and historians, relaxation for many a surgeon (I know one or two), and practice time for not a few artists as well.

Thanks to an old Renwal cutaway nuclear sub model and the more than passing notice of my dad, I learned the basic principles of closed-loop steam propulsion systems.

Building my first model - a U-boat - helped steer me into a history degree and grad school and an understanding of just how warped the world gets.

When's the last time that an X-Box taught motor skills beyond variations of jerk and react?

Guess I'm older and bitterer than I thought . . . .

2:59 PM  
Blogger Frontier Editor said...


One of my favorite Buccaneer stories is when U.S. F-15 pilots tried chasing RAF Buc's during exercises at deck level and found themselves falling further and further behind. She was a beaut, and built like one too.

3:01 PM  
Blogger awaiting said...

Thought I left a comment yesterday, but I guess blogger was holding out.

So, just stopping by to send you a big ol' Mississippi Howdy!

1:48 AM  
Anonymous raincoaster said...

And no mention of this fine article I sent you September 1. Oh, fine.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Frontier Editor said...

I apologize - it must have been the grief.

7:33 AM  

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