Of course, not all figures created by toy makers were military. Britains are famous for their soldiers, but they also made farm workers, dancers, equestrians and hospital staff. Airfix had already produced several sets of figures for model railways in HO/OO scale. However, only a single set of non-military figures were made in 1:32 and these were footballers.
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Checking Out the Competition
A Crowded Marketplace
As we have seen in Fighting Toy Stories, the Airfix Military Series of 1:32 plastic figures were both cheap and good quality. They sold well, and not un-naturally, other manufacturers were attracted to the market. How well did the Airfix figures stack up against the opposition?
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Supporting the Infantry
Most of the sets produced by Airfix were of troops fighting on the front line. As such they are usually armed with the most common weapons such as rifles, sub and light machine guns, and grenades. During World War 2, all armies supported these troops with a smaller number of men equipped with heavier weapons; heavier in the literal sense, and usually operated by a small crew, but capable of putting out a higher firepower.
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The Importance of Accuracy
Airfix was proud to claim accuracy for their kits, emphasising their quality and attention to detail, and naturally wished this reputation to also apply to the figures they produced. After all, many of their buyers were knowledgeable enough to complain if they made mistakes, and in the 1970s there were plenty of competitors who could step into the gap if the figures proved to be inaccurate. So, how well did they fare with the Military Series? To make a judgement, let’s go back in history to the fateful day of Waterloo, 18 June 1815.
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Build and Rebuild
As we’ve already seen elsewhere in this website, a popular category of toys is those that involve using a set of parts to build, breakdown and rebuild models. Solido termed their creations of this type transformables. Amongst the toys they created in their early years, were a classic example of this: the 1936 “Canons a Transformation”, a range of parts from which a bewildering variety of artillery pieces could be assembled.
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Sets of toy soldiers tend to be composed of a handful of fairly predictable poses. After all, buyers love, and expect to find, certain standard poses. But when faced with competition, manufacturers have to find ways of standing out from the crowd. So, what can you do to the poses to excite the market?
There are two obvious and complementary ways of increasing the attractiveness of the sets – by expanding the number of poses in a set, and by innovating with new, and hopefully more exciting, ones. Airfix experimented with both of these, and a good example to illustrate this is their set of Second World War German mountain troops.
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As we have already seen with Britains Deetail, complementary accessories were important in increasing the attraction of the range. Airfix certainly understood this, and created a selection of buildings and vehicles to extend the play possibilities of their figures. One of the vehicles they created may be familiar, as we have already encountered it in this blog – the Bedford RL truck.
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