Plastic Model Making

a Hobby for anyone


The first plastic models were manufactured at the end of 1936 by Frog in the UK, with a range of 1/72nd scale model kits called 'Penguin'. In the late 1940s several American companies such as Hawk, Varney, Empire, Renwal and Lindberg began to produce plastic models. Many manufacturers began production in the 1950s and gained ascendancy in the 1960s such as Aurora, Revell, AMT, and Monogram in America, Airfix in UK and Heller SA in France. Other manufacturers included; Matchbox (UK), Italeri, ESCI, (both Italian) Novo {ex-Frog moulds} (former Soviet Union), and Fujimi, Nichimo and Bandai (Japan).

American model companies who had been producing assembled promotional scale models of new automobiles each year for
automobile dealers found a lucrative side business selling the unassembled parts of these "promos" to hobbyists to assemble, thus finding a new revenue stream for the injection molds which were so expensive to update each year. These early models were typically lower in detail than currently standard, with non-opening hoods and no engines, and simplified or no detail on the chassis, which attached to the body with very visible screws. Within a short time, the kit business began to overshadow the production of promos, and the level of accuracy and detail was raised to satisfy the demands of the marketplace.

In the 1960s,
Tamiya manufactured aircraft kits in the peculiar (at the time) scale of 1/100. Although the range included famous aircraft such as the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, North American F-86 Sabre, Dassault Mirage III, Grumman A-6 Intruder and the LTV A-7 Corsair II, it never enjoyed the same success as 1/72 scale kits did. Soon, Tamiya stopped manufacturing 1/100 scale aircraft but re-issued a small selection of them in 2004.

Since the 1970s,
Japanese firms such as Hasegawa and Tamiya, and since the 1990s also Chinese firms such as DML, AFV Club and Trumpeter have dominated the field and represent the highest level of technology.[citation needed] Brands from Russia, Central Europe,and Korea have also become prominent recently. Many smaller companies have also produced plastic models, both in the past and currently.

Almost all plastic models are designed in a well-established scale. Each type of subject has one or more common scales, though they differ from one to the other. The general aim is to allow the finished model to be of a reasonable size, while maintaining consistency across models for collections.

In reality, models do not always conform to their nominal scale; there are 1/25 scale automobile models which are larger than some 1/24 scale models, for instance. For example, the engine in the recent reissue of the AMT Ala Kart show truck is significantly smaller than the engine in the original issue. AMT employees from the 1960s note that, at that time, all AMT kits were packaged into boxes of a standardized size, to simplify shipping; and the overriding requirement of designing any kit was that it had to fit into that precise size of box, no matter how large or small the original vehicle. This practice was common for other genres and manufacturers of models as well. In modern times this practice has become known as fit-the-box scale. In practice, this means that kits of the same subject in nominally identical scales may produce finished models which actually differ in size, and that hypothetically identical parts in such kits may not be easily swapped between them, even when the kits are both by the same manufacturer.
The shape of the model may not entirely conform to the subject, as well; reviews of kits in modeling magazines often comment on how well the model depicts the original.