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Blast from the past

January 12, 2015 in Aviation

Recently my 9 year old daughter, Micaela, expressed an interest in building a model aircraft. I managed to get hold of the exact same model kit that I built back in 1982 as my first model when I was 10, a Matchbox 1/72 Bristol Beaufighter. I bought this kit from a friend who in turn bought it back in 1974! It took my daughter about 4 hours to slap the parts together whilst old dad explained the finer aspects of model building in the hope of inspiring her to follow in dad’s footsteps. I had to glue the rockets onto the model as these were too difficult for her to handle. Since the kit was about 40 years old I expected the decals to disintegrate once it came into contact with warm water. To my dismay the decals came off the backing paper without any trouble, it did not disintegrate and went onto the model without using any decal setting solution!!! The model is typical Matchbox, thick multi- coloured plastic with trenches for panel lines. Superb fitment of parts without needing any filler!!! Seeing my daughter’s delight in finishing this kit, took me back to the early 1980’s when every Saturday afternoon was spent building an Airfix or Matchbox kit. Those were the days!!

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58 responses to Blast from the past

  1. I think you might have a natural there mate! Send her my compliments, it’s way better than my first attempt when I was a kid! I had glue everywhere!
    I still remember it, it was an Airfix 1/72 F117. It took pride of place on my bedroom windowsill till the cat knocked it off!

    • Thanks Richard. Well in those days we used model glue in tubes as well as CA glue. My fingerprints ended up glued allover my old kits. My brother as a 6 year old took a broom and destroyed some of my prized models that were suspended from the ceiling!! At least Micaela had Tamiya liquid polly cement which is much more user friendly!!! 😉

  2. Nice-lookin’ first build, Micaela….maybe Dad will let you have a go at painting next time. And “those were the days” is right – (at least most kits came with a display stand).

  3. Congratulations Micaela! Really nice build. I hoped you enjoyed it and will want to keep trying some more kits.

    • Thanks Alan. I hope that she would continue to pursue the hobby. It was awesome sharing my passion for our hobby with her. Building models helped me tremendously as a child to focus, concentrate and also fueled my passion for History as a subject at school.

  4. Great modeling Micaela!! You have done a wonderful job putting together this model. Really cool! You’re Dad is cool also. Thanks for posting.
    California Steve

  5. Kudos to your daughter! As you say those panel lines at 1:1 could be used to plant potatoes!

    • Thanks Rob. Strange how the multi-coloured plastic is making a comeback with the recent Academy F4 Phantom kits. Our hobby has definitely come a long way since the days of Matchbox.

  6. Congratulations, Micaela 🙂 Your first build came out beautiful. If this was fun,
    there is room for a second build 🙂
    Here is the living proof, that a Matchbox kit need nothing but TLC and some glue !
    Great model, i like it very much !

  7. I would say that the Meyers did a grand job on this one 🙂 !

    You and I seem to be the same age and started at about the same time, my first was an Airfix Auster though but I did the Matchbox Beaufighter soon after 🙂 !



    • Thanks for the nice comment Magnus. These old kits are filled with nostalgia for me!! My first Hasegawa kit was a 1/72 Luftwaffe Phantom. That kit looked years ahead of its time!! Today it still looks pretty awesome. Brings back a lot of good memories!!!

  8. Well done! A real blast from the past 🙂 Still looks great after all these years.

  9. Nice built !!!
    This bring back my memory to the seventies when I did one in any color plastic two years later another one and painted it … yeah memories ..

    • In those days I didn’t care to put paint on plastic. Some of my friends would blow their models up with fireworks in mock battles in the backyard. To me that was like a cardinal sin. Can remember how awesome each model looked even though it was covered in glue!! 😉

  10. Nice to see Morne, she done a grand job there.
    I remember my first Matchbox kit, and a few more of them too.
    They may of been moulded in loud plastic and they may of had trench like panel lines, but as you said they fitted together quite well.
    Thanks for posting.
    Lets hope that she gets the bug mate.

    • Thanks Simon. I believe those old Matchbox kits and old Airfix kits in a plastic bag were good kits that helped to develop our modelling skills. Micaela enjoyed the experience so that’s mission accomplished!!

  11. The Matchbox box art was great in those days, love it !

    • I fully agree!!! They also had a bit of history about the aircraft in the box art. In this case it depicts RAF Coastal Command Beaufighters attacking German ships on 3 May 1945 in the Kiel area. These bits of info sparked my interest in reading more about the aircraft and the history behind those events. In retrospect it probably contributed to me becoming a history teacher! 🙂

  12. 🙂 from an interested boy, building plastic kits to a gifted history teacher.
    It seems modelling has a big (and positive) impact of our live.
    There is a box upstairs with all my saved box arts and instructions, when i am the next time on the attic, i will dig them out.
    There was always a small inscription, about whats happen on the box art, if i remeber that right.

  13. Hasegawas artist has dome some impressive art on the boxes. My childs room was also full of cut out box arts, with aircraft kits hanging from the ceiling. While we live in my parents house, the holes are still there.
    Maybe this will come back.
    Loved the Esci Hs 123 box, what a powerful looking biplane (yes Anderthalbdecker)
    There is some new and nice boxart as well, if the weather will continue on this “bright-level” i will make a “boxart” special here

    • Yes box art is great, I was always dissapointed my models looked nothing like the pictures on the box. Especially the 1/72 Airfix 109G which was a great bit of boxart so much so that I built quite a few of those 🙂

      • I remember Airfix having a completed model on their box replacing box art. I liked that approach since it allowed me to “compete” with the completed Airfix kit on the box. To a certain extent that improved my skill levels.

        • They still do Morne but on the side of the box.
          They may not be painted or anything but it does give you a damn good idea on how it should look.

          • I know. The challenge for me as a young lad was to get my model to look like the finished one on the Airfix box in terms of the paint scheme and general appearance of the model. In essence I tried to compete with the finished model on the box.

      • I was glad that my first Matchbox and Airfix kits looked like an airplane after building;-)

        • I am sure we can all relate to that Bernd. 😉

          • There was no really plastic glue in Salzgitter ( or my parents didn t want that) available, that made some impact on my modelling as well.
            Some years ago i was on a swap meet and got me a lot of old kits, only the Esci Hs 123 and the Fujimi Bf 110 made it on my shelf, if there is somebody who likes old stuff from Frog,Lindberg and Matchbox, just call me

  14. Oh man! That looks really good for a matchbox kit Morne!! I like the markings.

  15. nice! the fact that you can share your hobby with your daughter makes it even more special!

  16. Morne, great stuff!
    Mine were not all that interested.
    I’ll look forward to seeing the paint episode. There was a door in my Mothers that still had the green paint on it from the time I shook the Humbrol tinlet without checking to see the lid was firmly down.
    Shame you’re not closer, I’ve probably got some kits she could practice on.

    • Thanks Bernard. I have a large stash but that is mainly 1/48 scale stuff. One of my clubmates have over 500 1/72 scale kits. I will have to knock on his door. 😉 I remember building a model in my bedroom and spilled a whole tin of Humbrol Olive Drab on a grey carpet. I then tried to clean it up with thinners. The stain ended up growing ever larger. In the end I got a good hiding and the carpet had to be replaced! 😉

  17. Gentlemen:
    The box art always sold the kit.
    Aurora had Jo Kotola, and Revell John Steele.Hellers “Musee” series had what I’d call impressionist renderings by Rolande De Narbonne(?) Their Leo 451 starting up in the desert.
    I hear tell that some folks got companies to change to pictures of builtups to avoid all them explosions and stuff. That’s why my mind is warped, I suspect. Hahahaha! Too late.
    Anyhow, I’m all for a good boxart, shame I didn’t same some of my faves.

  18. Excellent build by your daughter, well done! Have been doing the same with mine over the past couple of years, but it inevitably ends up being a Daughter/Dad “co-build” where the planes are concerned. Interestingly she’s far keener with Gundam kits which at their most basic dispense with all that messy glue stuff and just clip together.

    • Thanks Marek for the nice comment!! It is wonderful to hear that your daughter is also into building models. Mine is very eager to paint the model. She loves art so I think the painting/airbrushing would appeal even more to her. Happy modelling!!

  19. That’s a great model that Micaela has made there Morne.
    All this talk of early plastic kits is so irresistible to me that I have to add my own, slightly earlier, memories. The very first Airfix kits came out in 1955/56 and were only available in Woolworth’s stores in the UK, at 2 shillings each in polythene bags, in modern money that’s 0.10 GBP, so a 10-year old kid, as I was then, could afford them out of his pocket money. The first two aircraft were a Spitfire, quickly followed by a Gladiator, both in light blue plastic, and the glue to be used as per instructions was balsa cement! There was no polystyrene glue available at all at first, though it became available after a brief while. The Spitfire and Gladiator were quite crudely made, especially the Spit which had completely flat wings (no aerofoil section at all), but they fitted together surprisingly well. Much easier than making models from hardwood, using my Dad’s carpentry tools as I did previously, in the garden shed. The Spit came with transfers (decals) for an aircraft coded BT-K in white (totally spurious), and no painting instructions at all.
    The next three kits were of sailing ships, Cutty Sark, Bounty, and Victory, all in white plastic of a much higher quality, and those I painted except for the sails which were the reason for the white plastic. They were small models, about 7 inches long, at the same price as the aircraft. The rigging was printed onto celluloid/acetate and had to be cut out with scissors and then glued on to the model last.
    Such memories could keep me writing forever but, fortunately, it is now gone past midnight so I’ll stop.
    There’s a clue in there somewhere about what age milestone I’ll be passing in two weeks time Haha!!!

    • Thanks Rick for the nice comment!!! I also love this trip down memory lane. Growing up in the early 1980’s meant that in South Africa brands like Airfix and Matchbox were relatively cheap. Weekends were time for modelling. On a Saturday morning when my mom and dad went shopping I would beg them for R 10 to buy a model at CNA or the local Hardware store. Then in 1983 a toy store opened in Port Elizabeth that only sold plastic models. This was paradise to me. I still vividly remember my largest kits being a 1/72 Halifax from Matchbox and a 1/32 Harrier. Those kits were very expensive at R18 – 30. Those were the days!!

      • Morne,
        A little historical note for you about the early Matchbox kits. The first one they did was the Spitfire in 1974/75 time when I was librarian of the RAF Museum at Hendon. The guy who was in charge of their new venture into plastic kits was Maurice Landy, and he came to the RAFM looking for an accurate camouflage & markings scheme for the Spit. What a surprise it was to us to learn about this whole new range of still secret kits, yet to be released. Anyway, I got to be the person who chose the colour scheme for it. The model had already been produced to the stage of trial shots and Matchbox didn’t know at that stage that it was a Mark IXE with the later pointed rudder, something not yet produced by any other kit manufacturer in either respect, so they had chosen well. Back then, there were precious few photos published in books of actual squadron Spits of that type – precisely one that I knew of!!! Hence the model when released depicted PV303, “ON-B” of 124 Sqn as in the photo on page 258 of John Rawlings “Fighter Squadrons of the RAF”. I and my colleagues in the Museum went on to find the colour schemes for more models for them as they were produced, and I also got to suggest new kits for them to do. Two that they took up and produced were the Meteor Night Fighter and the Javelin FAW.9. It was certainly great to know about new kits long before they were released and to be able to influence the choice of aircraft I wanted!

        • Wow!! Rick that is very interesting information!!! I can distinctly remember building the Meteor Nightfighter since that was the first model I painted!!! How fortunate you are to have been involved with those early kits!!! I wish I could influence Airfix to give us a 1/48 scale Scimitar!!!

  20. Rick: If they ask, tell them “handsomely indeterminate”! Or 39. I like Seamus’ 25th anniversary of his 25th birthday, I think that’s what he said.
    Airfix was a rara avis here in the former colonies, ’til 1959. I saw a Hurricane IV, and then the ME110C, both bagged. And affordable! Real different than the Revell box scale planes, and the Aurora and Lindberg generally available.
    Great stuff, started me down the spiral polystyrene road to perdition!

    • Bernard,
      Thanks for the “handsome” – definitely indeterminate anyway!
      I wonder if you remember another very early American manufacturer of kits was Lincoln. They produced a very nice 1/48 model of the F-94C Starfire which I built. It was display stand mounted with no undercarriage, and, for those days at least, very accurate and rivet free. They also did a small range of airliners in 1/144 as I remember, including a Swissair Convair 880, PanAm 707 and a DC-8. All their kits were good clean models that fitted together well, but, unfortunately, the brand didn’t last long.

  21. I must be about the same age as Rick as I remember buying those bagged Airfix kits from Woolworths too. I’m sure we had polystyrene cement in tubes, which got all over the models, especially the canopies! Some kits included a small capsule of cement. Anyway, a great start in the hobby by your daughter, Morne, let’s hope she continues her interest.

    • Thanks George. I can still remember Academy and Hasegawa also had tubes of cement in their kits. I used a toothpick and needles to apply the glue. Fingerprints glued to plastic was usually an accepted part of the build. 😉

    • George,
      It was only those first two Airfix kits that had to be glued with balsa cement. Soon after that the second British manufacturer of plastic kits brought out their range with the little tubes of polystyrene cement included as you say. That was Frog, who produced a marvellous series of mainly British aircraft of the 1950’s, starting with the Hunter F.1 and a Canadair Sabre F.2. They also did an Attacker, Sea Hawk, Venom FB.4, Meteor F.8, F-84G Thunderjet, Canberra PR.7, Gannet, D.H.110, Javelin, Scimitar, Fairey FD.2, P.1A Lightning prototype, and others They also included lead weights to put inside the aircraft noses so they would stand on the undercarriages nose down, impossible with the Canberra of course. They were good models of higher quality than early Airfix but considerably more expensive. They were spoiled by rivets of shipyard proportions but it was easy enough to smooth those off with fine emery paper and polishing.
      I discovered years later that the reason why Airfix kits and their plastic household products were exclusive to Woolworths stores was a contractual obligation. Woolworths put up the money to get Airfix going and, in return, got the sole retail rights for a few years.

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