The packaging that a kit is supplied in fulfils a number of functions. Primarily it gathers and protects the contents of the kit from damage prior to sale, but of course it also has a role in both identifying the subject of the kit, and persuading you to buy it! In these latter regards, the most significant feature of the packaging is the colour illustration on the box top. Airfix blazed the way and are famous for the quality of their box art, especially the iconic images painted by Roy Cross. With this example in front of them, Matchbox had a lot to live up to, and live up to it they did!
When manufacturers release kits of contemporary subjects, they usually represent the version currently in service. Sometimes, in the haste to release a kit of a new subject then in development, they have to base their research on prototypes. This can pose a problem of accuracy if the subsequent production version differs to any great degree. But even an accurate kit can find itself left behind if the subject it models is upgraded and visually altered during its service lifetime, as often happens with successful aircraft. What does a manufacturer do in this situation?
Throughout most of the production lifetime of the Solido military range, the main French tank was the AMX-30. Naturally, as soon as it appeared Solido made a model. Over the decades the AMX-30 served with the French army, it spawned many variants, and underwent several evolutions. Toy makers like their offerings – especially flagship models for the home audience – to remain current. So how well did Solido fare?
Airfix first began to produce figures in HO/OO scale, a size compatible with their burgeoning ranges of railway and military vehicles. It wasn’t until 1969, a decade later, that they introduced their first set of larger figures in 1:32 scale. 31 different sets were created up to 1983, mainly of military figures from the Napoleonic Wars, Wild West, WW2 and Cold War eras. In other words, classic toy soldier subjects. A selection of vehicles and buildings was also produced.
Choices are good. The more choices there are in a plastic construction kit, the more attractive it can seem, because the purchaser has agency over how the finished model turns out and the kit has more potential. Further, it may be worth buying multiple copies of the kit in order to create the different options. So, what sort of choices might a manufacturer offer? To look at this, let’s turn for a change to a largely civilian aircraft, the de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter.
Matchbox were keen that their models were attractive to young people, so attached a lot of importance to their visual attractiveness, and their ease of completion. But did this focus compromise the quality of their kits? Were they less accurate as a result? To check this out, I’m going to take a closer look at the Matchbox kit of the Hawker Hunter.
People are always excited by innovations, especially where these push back boundaries and seem to offer a glimpse into a future world. Naturally, toy manufacturers were keen to capitalise on this and so often produced models of the most up to date contemporary subjects. Modelling the latest thing is a sure-fire way of attracting customers! A case in point is the destroyer HMS Devonshire, launched in 1960, the lead ship of the new County-class destroyers and the first Royal Navy warship designed to operate guided missiles.