Airfix nostalgia with Vintage Classics
Welcome to this very special edition of Airfix Workbench – the 75th edition of our blog. As a team, we are obviously proud to bring you all the latest Airfix related news, updates and exclusive announcements every two weeks, however the entire Workbench experience is very much a team effort, which also includes our loyal readers, many of whom have been with us from the very first edition. We are delighted to report that we still continue to increase our readership with each new edition and we hope this will continue long into the future – our commitment is to continue searching for interesting articles, news features and model exclusives to bring you, making Workbench an enjoyable way for all modellers to spend a few minutes indulging in their passion for modelling.
As this latest edition represents something of a historic occasion for Workbench, what could be a better subject for our blog this week than to bring you all the details from the recent announcement of our ‘Vintage Classics’ range. With 65 years of plastic modelling heritage behind us, Airfix kits are familiar to millions of people and not only played an important role in the formative years of many young people, but also continue to fly the flag for the modelling hobby to this day. In this latest blog, we are going to take a look behind the scenes at the ‘Vintage Classics’ range, how and why the project came about and look at some of the kits and evocative artwork featured in the original twenty-five kit announcement. If you are an Airfix kit building regular or simply remember the experience of building an Airfix model in the past, we hope you will enjoy this nostalgic trip back into our tooling archives and the resurrection of some of the most popular kits in the history of our hobby. Let’s go back to the future with our newly announced ‘Vintage Classics’ range.
New, but just a little bit ‘Classic’
HMS Belfast has always been one of our most popular kits and will now be one of the initial releases in our Vintage Classics range
There hardly seems to be a month go by without the Airfix development team releasing information about either a new model or a progress update on a model already announced and speeding towards its release date. Although we are under absolutely no illusions here at Workbench that the most popular blogs we post are in connection with the exclusive announcement of a new model tooling, the current modelling renaissance the world is experiencing and the sheer number of updates, new scheme details and artwork reveals we have to share means that we never have a shortage of interesting material to bring you. Although the subject of this latest blog cannot claim to fall into the category of a new model tooling announcement, it nevertheless concerns a really exciting development in the long and glorious history of the Airfix brand and will undoubtedly be of great interest to many modellers across the world.
As we are fortunate enough to meet modellers of all ages and abilities at the modelling events we attend all over the country each year, we can often learn valuable lessons about both the current state of the hobby and what people think about our latest kit releases – views straight from the modelling table, so to speak. Many of these conversations revolved around the subject of some of the classic Airfix kits from over the past 50 years or so, kits which in many cases started people off on their modelling journeys and brought back happy memories of carefree modelling days past. Why did we not consider bringing some of these models back into the range? The question was certainly a valid one and one which the Airfix brand team thought long and hard about, but always seemed to end up back in the same place – in these days of highly technical CAD design and precision moulding technology, could these classic models still have a place in the Airfix range? We thought they could, especially when considering the views and requests of the many modellers we had spoken to and the idea of ‘Vintage Classics’ was born.
With the first Airfix kits appearing back in 1953 and their immediate popularity resulting in new models appearing at an impressive rate over the next few years, Airfix as a company have been responsible for producing more model tooling moulds than any other manufacturer, which is yet another significant source of pride for the Workbench team. Clearly, a huge tooling bank such as this now dictates that only a fraction of these tools can be ‘active’ at any one time, due to the limitations imposed by the size of any catalogue range and the logistics of model stores needing to carry and display a sizeable selection of that range. As many of the potential tooling moulds for this proposed heritage range would by their nature be of an older pre CAD design and may have not been used for some time, this did pose something of a dilemma for the Airfix team. Models which may be considered for re-issue in the new ‘Vintage Classics’ range would have to have their tooling blocks located and fully assessed for production suitability, which as you may imagine is not an inconsiderable task, especially when accepting that most of them are stored outside the UK.
Two fascinating images from this exciting new project, which highlight some of the historical Airfix provenance associated with Vintage Classics. This first image is a digital picture of a large format colour Kodak slide of the HMS Victory box artwork
This second version of the HMS Victory image is following the attentions of our graphic designers and is the version which will adorn the box of the Vintage Classics Victory release
By the very nature of the modelling business, only a fraction of our tooling inventory can be in use at any one time and sadly, some of the older and arguably most historic Airfix kits may never be produced again, usually from a commercial standpoint but also sometimes because the tooling block itself is no longer usable. The current trend with several of our much loved classic kits (mainly aircraft subject matter) is for our talented designers to produce stunning, contemporary updates of these earlier models, using all the latest technology at their disposal to bring incredibly accurate and highly detailed versions of these older kits to market, in effect bringing these modelling classics up to date. Recent models which fall squarely into this category are the 1/72nd scale North American B-25 Mitchell, Messerschmitt Me 262 and the soon to be released Vickers Wellington.
One area where we are often asked to re-introduce more models from our earlier ranges is that of tanks, military vehicles and ships. There really is no disputing that aircraft are the most popular subject matter in both the current range and those which have appeared in the recent past, but we are fully aware that not every modeller is exclusively aviation and even the most aviation-centric of modellers likes a bit of a change sometimes – there is nothing like the odd tank or warship to test your modelling skills. One of the most memorable aspects of the modelmaking of our youth, especially those of us who were born in the 60s and 70s, was the sheer diversity of kit subject matter available to Airfix modellers at any one time. The beautifully crafted Airfix catalogues of old served as inspiration for many a modeller and at that time, definitely a significant component in the thrill of the modelling hobby. One of the true joys of the hobby was studying the Airfix catalogue and choosing which kit would be the next project to start after the one currently residing on the dining room table was finally finished. With subject matter covering aviation, space, military vehicles, cars, figures, motorcycles, animals, ships and more, there was never any shortage of modelling inspiration to fuel the Airfix fanatic.
‘Vintage Classics - The First 25’
An exclusive Workbench image showing a selection of the impressive colour slides taken of the original box artwork, scattered on a lightbox. These slides are now rather historic and are an important component of this new vintage range
Coming as something of a pleasant surprise for many modellers, the new ‘Vintage Classics’ range has rather unusually been announced mid-year and not in line with the traditional range launch at the beginning of each new year – the range will now occupy its own dedicated section on the Airfix website and in future catalogues. The initial release collection comprises 25 kits and figure assortments covering such subject matter as Great War military figures, military vehicles, fighting and sailing ships, which encompass a range of scales. Each model utilises the original classic and well-loved Airfix tooling with each release incorporating some of the magnificent artwork which inspired so many generations of modellers, created by a number of the extremely talented illustrative artists used by Airfix over the years. As several of these kits have been released many times, some of the artwork which adorned the boxes has gone through several different incarnations, some which will be more familiar to certain modellers, depending on their age and previous modelling activity. It was decided that we would use the artwork which was arguably the most famous or dramatic when associated with a particular release, whilst also showcasing the talents of a number of different artists used by Airfix over the years.
To help identify where the individual kit appears in the production timeline in the heritage of Airfix, the box presentation used on each of the ‘Vintage Classics’ releases will include the year in which the model, or figure assortment were first introduced into the Airfix range. Although the classic artwork and new heritage logo clearly identify these kits as something a little different in the range, we felt that modellers would be interested to find out when the model appeared in an Airfix catalogue for the first time.
Another kit release feature which has been thrust into the Workbench spotlight recently is that of instruction sheet/booklet production and this new range will also include an adaptation of the original construction artwork to guide modellers through the build process. Speaking to our instruction booklet guru Richard Petts, he told us that with this project, he wanted to be as sympathetic as possible to the original construction drawings, but at the same time needed to make sure any faded details, which may include part numbers referred to during construction, were as clear as possible. The new items incorporated onto the instruction sheet are the newly created ‘Vintage Classics’ logo, Hornby Hobbies logo and company information. Pre-build and international instruction guidance also differs from the original, along with the current assembly icon references, but once you move on to the kit construction diagrams themselves, these are all classic Airfix. Richard has dropped these into the framing outline Airfix modellers are now familiar with, but retained as much of the original detail as he possibly could, only making alterations to clarify part numbers which had faded, or to help make the construction process clearer.
An Airfix Panther indulgence. The instruction sheet which Richard Petts produced in support of the Vintage Classics Panther release
The new Panther box design, which includes the painting guides, decal placement and Humbrol references on the back of the box
Taking the Panther Tank kit as an example, Richard quickly produced a new four page booklet in support of this impending release, using the InDesign software he uses for all his booklet work. The first page was basically all new and included such items as the Panther’s history (in five languages), the current company address and the new ‘Vintage Classics’ logo. The second page is in keeping with the latest style of instruction booklets and includes assembly instructions in twelve languages and a glossary of assembly icons used on the actual kit build instructions. The third page features the all-important construction step graphics. Richard was forced to delete all the old low res annotations using Photoshop before re-entering them for all the parts with new clear annotations and paint reference numbers in Illustrator. With a busy existing work schedule, there would not be enough time to spend cleaning up the original drawings too much and in any case, the team wanted to retain some of the charm of the original model releases. He did manage to run a few new outlines over some of the larger parts, before finally committing the booklet to pdf format in preparation for print.
One area of these classic models which has certainly received a welcome and most necessary upgrade is concerning the inclusion of the latest Humbrol paint references, allowing modellers to finish their kit using the most accurate colour information available. On the smaller kits, such as the military vehicles, these paint references are placed on the back of the box outer, however on some of the larger kits, such as the warships and sailing ships, this information may be incorporated into a larger instruction booklet, although this is not yet certain.
Airfix Panther indulgence part two. More exclusive imagery for Workbench readers, this time showing the colour slide of the Panther artwork, which interestingly still includes the artists paint markings around the edge of the canvas
The same image as it will appear on the box of the Panther release, prepared by our graphic designers and including the new Vintage Classics logo
Simply put, the new ‘Vintage Classics’ range introduces a collection of historic Airfix models from the pre-Hornby era to our current collection of kits. Although they may not have been developed using the current CAD development processes Workbench readers are now so familiar with and may prove to be a little more of a challenge for some modellers, you certainly now have the pleasure of knowing that you are building a little part of Britain’s modelling heritage. Also, in many cases, these particular models can be so easy to attempt that you could simply thrust one under the nose of a novice modeller and invite them to have a go at building one, just as many Workbench readers would have been encouraged to do all those years ago in our youth.
Our new ‘Vintage Classics’ range allows a new army of modelling enthusiasts, or indeed first-time modellers, to experience the enjoyment of building some of the classic Airfix kits from the past. They also allow some more seasoned modellers to access a range of kits which may have proved significant in their modelling past and with the greater skill and experience they now possess, are able to produce more accurate and pleasing results this time around, when compared with their initial efforts during their formative years. We are certainly looking forward to seeing some of these historic models appearing on the display tables at this year’s Telford show as our ‘Vintage Classics’ find favour with modellers new and old, as we re-introduce some modelling favourites back into the Airfix range. Let’s take a quick look at the first 25 models announced:
A group shot of the Great War military figures announced in this first round of Vintage Classics releases
1/76th Scale Military Figures. The original decision taken by Airfix to release their new range of figures in OO/HO scale has been the cause of some debate over the years, but is actually quite a logical one. It was decided that as this was a popular existing model railway scale and many of these figures may find their way onto model layouts and dioramas, as well as on stand-alone modelling dioramas (not to mention being played with by millions of kids), it was sensible to access this existing market for this associated product release. In any case, the difference in scale between 1/72nd and 1/76th is so small to be of little consequence to modellers and of absolutely no concern to children looking to enjoy these sets.
This image will bring back plenty of happy memories of household battles on dining room tables and hall carpets for many Workbench readers
Many Workbench readers will surely recall with some fondness the vast carpet battles of our youth, when you made sure that your younger brother only had the older, bent and damaged soldiers with which to do battle and were surely no match for your brand new British Infantry set. The first five sets in this series are all taken from the Great War and feature British, German, French and US infantry, as well as the hugely impressive Royal Horse Artillery set.
1/76th Scale Military Vehicles. Again conforming to the scale decision described above, the Airfix range of Military Vehicles will be familiar to millions of people and over the years has been responsible for much conflict between siblings, as they argue over who gets the Tiger Tank and who has to make do with the battered old Matilda. Moving this on a level, anyone who has been fortunate enough to attend a Wargaming exhibition will have undoubtedly marvelled at the beautifully produced and copiously vehicle equipped dioramas enthusiasts produced, many featuring large numbers of Airfix tanks ready to engage in battle. Making these kits available once more will enable wargamers to replenish their dwindling supplies and allow them to replace models which have been through numerous renovations having suffered transit damage moving to and from organised skirmishes.
One of the exciting models to appear in the Airfix Military Vehicles range, this field gun included the circular firing base, which allowed the gun to change its firing position as quickly as possible
Around the office, some of the vehicles which are viewed with particular fondness are the 25 pdr. Field Gun and Quad, which always built up into an impressive model and was made all the more interesting by the inclusion of the firing base, which must have resulted in many young modellers heading to the library to find out what it was used for. In a similar vein and perhaps even more captivating for the impressionable young modeller was the 40mm Bofors Gun and Tractor, which was two models in one and such an interesting kit to have on the shelf – much too good to take part in any carpet battle. From the German perspective, the beautiful Panzer IV is everything a tank should be and whilst it may not command the presence of the mighty Tiger, cried out to be built in multiples and sweep across the model battlefield, clearing everything in its path – surely most Workbench readers will have enjoyed building this particular classic.
1/600th scale Warships. There were just some times that the hall carpet needed to represent the vast expanses of the Atlantic Ocean, as opposed to the fields and hedgerows of Northern France. The Airfix range of warships were extremely impressive and usually required the younger modeller to engage with his latest project for a little longer than with an aircraft of tank. Although produced with a full hull and not in waterline appearance, these impressive kits allowed an appreciation of the size and majesty of these mighty vessels and proved rather infectious once you had broken your warship modelling duck. Most household sea battles would also involve the unwanted attention of something like a 1/72nd scale Stuka swooping in to attack, with the scale difference proving no barrier for the fertile imagination of a young modeller.
More Airfix box artwork goodness. This magnificent image is another of the original artwork slides photographed from above, using a light box at Airfix HQ
This is how the same image will appear on the box lid of the impending HMS Ark Royal release
The initial releases in this series consist of four true Airfix classics – HMS Belfast, HMS Hood, HMS Ark Royal and the awesome Bismarck. I wonder how many Workbench readers could boast a finished example of all four of these warship wonders on their display shelves in years past?
Large Sailing Ships. Produced in various scales to suit the particular vessel being modelled, these impressive kits have to be considered amongst the most flamboyant ever produced by Airfix and made for some of the most spectacular display models you could ever be lucky enough to clap your eyes on. Serving as a proud indication of your modelling talents, these handsome models were not for everyone, but were certainly admired by everyone, especially if you had attempted to represent the rigging on the model. My own father was fascinated by ships and at various times had dabbled with Billing Boats, but as he was responsible for buying and building many of my early Airfix models, I saved up all year to buy him an Airfix sailing ship for Christmas. He made a fantastic job of it and the model took pride of place in our house for many a year, until an over-enthusiastic game of indoor football claimed a significant plastic victim.
One of the most impressive slides we had to work with was this striking image of the Golden Hind artwork. Is it any wonder the Airfix kit range became so successful when viewing spectacular supporting artwork like this?
Perhaps qualifying for the title ‘Classic Airfix’ more than any of the other models in the range, the initial sailing ship releases include HMS Victory, Cutty Sark and the Golden Hind – an impressive plastic flotilla, if ever there was one.
The first 25 releases in the ‘Vintage Classics’ range are available to pre-order now and are scheduled to be released throughout the remainder of 2018.
‘Vintage Classics’ – Modelling delights still to come
We are hoping that this new range of models which celebrate the heritage of Airfix modelling will be of interest to a great many people and whilst there is an interesting selection in this initial collection, we are pleased to confirm that there will be more classics to come. Everyone will have an Airfix model which has special significance for them, especially as the huge tooling back catalogue includes some releases which were unique to Airfix and as the tooling bank assessment continues, more of these earlier models will be introduced to the ‘Vintage Classics’ range. With many fantastic and unusual aircraft subjects yet to appear, it is planned that some of the introductions will be limited and special editions and whilst some will be available for quite a while, allowing model stores to re-stock the most popular lines, others will be much shorter runs and will only be available for a limited time. It is even planned that a few modelling surprizes will grace the range, giving all modellers an exciting taste of Classic Airfix modelling heritage. As well as keeping an eye out for all the latest new model tooling announcements, the ‘Vintage Classics’ range will also have us keeping one eye on the modelling past as these historic old kits now occupy the same range space as the very latest computer designed future classics. We very much look forward to bringing you more details from the ‘Vintage Classics’ range in forthcoming editions of Workbench, including confirmation of latest kits scheduled to join this growing collection and news of the limited and special release models that will have us all clamouring to reserve our examples. Knowing we will all have our particular favourites, which one will end up being your first ‘Vintage Classic’?
Although there are no aircraft in the initial 25 models announced, we can prepare for their arrival by building this Bofors gun and tractor and making sure it is ready for action. This is another classic kit which many Workbench readers will remember building in the past
That’s all we have for you in this classic edition of Workbench, but we will be back as usual in two weeks’ time with all the exclusive announcements, news and features from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for subjects you would like to see covered in a future edition of the blog, or ways in which we could enhance your enjoyment of Workbench, please do not hesitate in contacting us. We can be reached via our usual e-mail address at email@example.com or by contributing to our Workbench thread over on the Airfix Forum. If social media is more your style, you could access either the Airfix Facebook page or our Twitter channel, using #airfixworkbench where you will find plenty of modelling news, views and discussion. Whichever medium you decide to use, please do get in touch, as it is always interesting to hear from fellow modelling enthusiasts and the projects you have on the go at the moment.
As always, the Airfix website is the place to go for all the latest model release information, with our New Arrivals, Coming Soon and Last Chance to Buy sections all accessed by clicking on the above links. As updating the website is a constant process, a quick search through each section of the Airfix web pages will reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections and this is always an enjoyable and rewarding way to spend a few minutes.
The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 22nd June, when we look forward to bringing you all the latest news, updates and exclusives from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.
Thank you for your continued support.
The Airfix Workbench Team
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