Heller Kits – Aren’t They All Airfix Moulds?

Heller 1:72 Fiesler Storch Fi 156

Heller 1:72 Fiesler Storch Fi 156

The statement that all Heller kits are Airfix clones was one I firmly believed in for quite some period of time. I had bought the Heller P38 lightning many years ago and found it to be a re-boxing of Airfix’s P38! I was however doing the French manufacturer a great disservice!

I had this misconception dispelled for me when I purchased from an Online Auction site here in New Zealand, (TradeMe; an eBay clone) a Heller Fiesler Storch in 1/72nd scale. This kit could be made into a Morane Saulnier MS 500 Criquet (Cricket) as well. It had totally different moulds from the aging Airfix moulds and with much better detail!

Yes, at some time over the decades Heller was bought out by Humbrol Products and used Airfix moulds but, and this is a big but, Heller have their own unique moulds for kits relevant to the French aviation scene.

Consequently, I started to look into Heller as a company and take an interest in their kits. What I found was truly encouraging… subjects of aircraft none of the other manufacturers had dared to kit, all with a unique French flavour.

I found and became quite entranced by Heller’s SBC4 Helldiver and the resin after market set I found for it. (yes, yes, my A.M.S. strikes again!) I’ve bought two so far; one I’ve built, and I’ve got one in my stash with the aftermarket set waiting for me to build.

Yes, the kit has raised panel lines but the wing trailing edges are scale thin and razor sharp! It has sensible construction and is well cast, a kit treated with typical French elan’. With two options; one for a French SBC4 and, one for a British Cleveland.

The British evaluated a couple of Fiesler Storch air-frames but considered them obsolete and relegated them to ground air-frame instructional use. The rest of the French order sat in the tropical weather and slowly degenerated into worthless scrap.

The Americans had long moved on from the Biplane dive bomber to the Dauntless and Devastator. Heller was also among the first to produce helicopter kits in 1/35th scale to go with the armour kits that they were producing.

Having my misconception dispelled for me, I’ve been looking at the model kit manufacturers quite differently, Smer are using some of Heller’s moulds and Heller as a company is still in operation. Their product line has shrunk but they do from time to time re-release kits from their older moulds and have made some newer ones.

I, for one, am pleased that Heller is still around today as I believe that diversity is a good thing. Heller’s older kits are still readily available on the likes of eBay and TradeMe here in New Zealand and are worth looking into especially if you’re a French aviation enthusiast.

Heller 1:72 Curtiss SBC.4 Helldiver/Cleveland

Heller 1:72 Curtiss SBC.4 Helldiver/Cleveland

I’ll be building the Helldiver kit soon with the resin update set and I’ll be posting the build log on here so you too can see what Heller kits are like and what the iconic French Manufacturer has to offer.

The message I’d like to convey is that it’s best to approach our hobby with an open mind, read the reviews and articles available take on-board the criticism of the kits, but if you can find someone with the kit or find it in a shop, go look at the kit yourself. You may just be missing out on a truly great modelling experience. I, for one, enjoy making a kit work and producing an end result that looks like the aircraft concerned.

There have been times when I’ve listened to the reviews and opinions and steered clear of “nightmare kits” and have then got one of them in a mixed auction lot. I have actually looked at the kit and thought it doesn’t seem that bad! I have built it to see for myself and found that it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be.

So make your own opinions and take on something that challenges you as a modeller and stretches your skill base to encourage you to learn new skills and to find solutions to the problems you discover. Most of all have “fun” with our hobby! For me it is more of a relaxation as much an art form and it’s truly an art to make these kits look like you could throw a switch and they would sputter into life. I’m not there yet but I’m on my way!

Cheers for now and happy modelling!

NZFlyBoy

by

Avid WW2 aviation enthusiast and modeller. Been making model kits since age nine and I now model mostly ww2 model airplanes. (my wife is an understanding one!)

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