Airfix Military Series – Comparison

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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ESCI Figures – Plastics

Hard or Soft?

Plastics

Over the years, military figures have been made in various types of plastic. The two forms most used are polystyrene and polythene. The former can be categorised as ‘hard’ because it is rigid and the latter ‘soft’, because it is flexible. ESCI has used both types, so let’s explore why by taking a look at a typical set that has been modelled in both materials – the Afrika Korps.

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Airfix Military Series – Heavy Weapons

Additional Firepower

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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ESCI Figures – Introduction

1980s Benchmark

ESCI

ESCI was established in Italy in 1930, to trade goods between the mainland and the Italian colonies – hence its name “Ente Scambi Coloniali Internazionali” or, roughly translated, the “International Colonial Trade Exchange”. In the 1960s ESCI began importing Japanese plastic construction kits, and in 1972 began producing its own kits. It was the first firm to produce 1:72 military vehicles (Airfix at that time were working in 1:76) and as part of this range produced small sets of hard plastic infantry.

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Solido Military – Conversions

Extending the Range

Third Party Models

Most toy makers have embraced the concept of extending their range by the creation of variations to their basic mouldings. The most common way this is done is simply by finishing the models in different colour schemes. Sometimes, the physical models are varied by the addition or changing of ancillary (and often plastic) parts (see this story for an example of how Solido did this). Both of these approaches keep the costs low and make maximum use of the existing moulds.

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Airfix Military Series – Poses

Predictable Positions?

Poses

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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