Tags » Kits

I do like it when I get to see something a bit different. Academy certainly provided it this year. Of course, they had plenty of models of planes, ships etc on display, all up to their usual standards:

HMS Warsprite

Here's the second part of my Revell postings, featuring the model plane kits!

As usual, Revell Europe had a dazzling display of models and hobby products. This is always one stand where you need to take multiple pics and as in previous years, I'll be posting about their stuff in separate blog posts as there's so much of it. Let's start with the vehicle kits...

I always make sure to stop by the Schreiber-Bogen stand at Nuremberg to check out the amazing paper kits they have on display. These are far from your standard cut-out-and-glue-together one-dimensional models! Here's what they had this year:

Ixo's models are well known in partwork circles, but they've now entered the rapidly-growing build-it-yourself-with-a-part-a-week arena with this giant 1/8 scale Citroen 2CV Charleston, already out in Europe:

The Revell model company is an American icon, the largest and most successful of them all.  It is also the last survivor from the Golden Age of plastic model companies that got their start in the 40s and 50s.  A longtime force in the worldwide model industry, Revell started life as a toy company.  They did not produce a model kit until 1951 when they introduced the wildly successful Highway Pioneers series of antique automobiles.  This famous kit line was almost an accident rather than a carefully researched market strategy.  They all stemmed from a single automobile subject, the 1913 Maxwell which started life not as a model kit but as a children’s toy.  Not only the Highway Pioneers series, but all of Revell’s massive plastic kit legacy can be traced back to this humble forebear.

The Maxwell was one of several Revell toys featuring a pull cable.  Revell got a lot of mileage out of this feature.  Operating the plunger on the cable caused the Maxwell to “jump.”  A similar feature was incorporated on Buckaroo Bill, a horse and rider that jumped, Chu Chu, a train engine that also jumped, Quacky Wacky, a duck that laid a marble egg, Champ, a dog that begged and barked, and the Backfiring Hot Rod, a car that used caps to produce a backfire “pop.”  The backfiring feature was also incorporated into a Ford Model T as a companion to the Maxwell, both of which were to 1/16 scale – twice the size of the later 1/32 standard for the Highway Pioneer kits.  Incredibly, the Backfiring Hot Rod, which was also to 1/16 scale, was later repackaged as the 1932 Ford Hot Rod.  It is so laughably bad that collectors no doubt kill for it – if I could find one I would be tempted.

One of the oddities of these toys is that none of them were designed by Revell.  They are the product of the fertile imagination of John Gowland, a British expatriate toy designer, and his son Kelvin.  They licensed the right to manufacture their products to Revell.  It was a convenient marriage for both – the Gowlands found a path to the marketplace through Revell and Revell got new products without having to incur the costs of design and tooling.  Following the success of the Maxwell, the Gowlands came up with the idea of reducing the pull-toy car to 1/32 scale, half the size of the Maxwell.  Interestingly, they chose the Model T, not the Maxwell, as the prototype for this downsizing effort.  In addition to the Model T, the Gowlands produced a Cadillac, Packard, Stanley Steamer, and Model A in a series marketed as “Action Miniatures.”  These five cars would eventually emerge as the Series 1 group of the Highway Pioneers.  A significant feature of the smaller toys was the ability to remove the cable and display the cars as models in their own right.  With the success of the Maxwell as a kit, the smaller cars followed right behind.  The role of the Gowlands accounts for the “Gowland and Gowland” copyright that appears on many Highway Pioneers kits.  The familiar Highway Pioneers end panel is almost universally known.