What Makes an Airplane Kit a Classic?

What Defines a Classic Kit?

Revell Fw200C

Revell Fw200C

To me a classic kit is one that captures the imagination, an older mold that has stood the test of time and is as popular now as it was when first released.

Obviously some kits will never make it to classic status. Take the Pioneer Ta 154 as an example, as I’ve stated elsewhere, indifferent fit and few details, if any, renders this kit as an also ran.

The reason this question was lurking in the back of my mind is that I’m currently building the Old mold Revell Fw200 C4*. First released three years after I was born, 1965 to be precise, frankly it has stood the test of time much better than myself! (*Not to be confused with their current release which is state of the art!)

It has features current at the time, more toy like than accurate model, movable control surfaces, turrets and bomb-bay doors and flaps that work. Covered in raised detail that’s well done for the period. It has a basic cockpit, but again for the era, reasonably well done. (Remember most times all we got was a pilot on a seat!) A decal for the instruments, a rudimentary throttle quadrant and rear bulkhead, two pilot figures and one gunner.

However, with all that said, it still captures the imagination and was, for a while, the only kit available. I remember as a kid making many a successful bombing run with one!

A classic kit doesn’t have to be an old mold, some new kits become or will be instant classics. Take the Airfix 1/24th scale Mosquito. A hugely detailed kit that has been eagerly awaited since Airfix was first rumoured to be making one quite a number of years ago. The subject scale and engineering all play their parts.

The ‘X’ Factor

There is also that ‘X’ factor, that certain something that grabs the attention and imagination, firing both up enough to make you enthusiastic for the project. It’s keeps you focused and determined to buy the kit and put it either in your stash until you’ve gotten the relevant information and resources, or straight onto the work bench.

I know from personal experience that you sometimes find a kit that just about leaps off the shelf into your arms then you’re back in the car with it before you realise you’ve bought it! (Impulsive ?? Me?? Never!!) Then it’s straight home to start work on it, opening the box taking everything out carefully studying the instruction sheet, sprues, decals and sorting out in your mind just how this is going to go together.

Czech Model 1/48 Ryan Dark Shark XF2R-1

Older kits have become classics by their age and the nostalgia they can create in the modeling community, as well as that elusive ‘X’ factor.

Now the ‘X’ factor is, to my mind, like art appreciation; purely subjective and in the eye of the beholder. What to me has that ‘X’ factor will not appeal to other modelers and vice-versa. Also, like art, it helps to have a basic understanding of the techniques and effort required that goes into making the model to fully appreciate the result.

This doesn’t mean you have to know EXACTLY how the overall effect is achieved to fully appreciate it. You can look at it and know things like; there are no visible seams, no sink marks, it’s weathered just the right amount to seem realistic and that leaves you with an appreciation of the EFFORT put in by the model maker. I know I’ve personally viewed models made by a master craftsman and have been left in awe of his abilities. (Shep Paine springs to mind… check out his website.)

I find it gives you a better perspective of the work if you know how it was done. (Or at least you think you know!) Like art, there are many ways to achieve the desired result. I find that it can be inspirational looking at their work and I find myself wanting to improve my own techniques and produce better quality models. Most of us look at other peoples techniques and try them out for ourselves and see how and if it works for us.

So a classic kit I believe is one that triggers a positive emotional response, triggering an enthusiasm for the build, fires your imagination and motivates you to finish the project.

Recently I’ve discovered that it’s the subject matter and the model kit that truly motivate me. I’ve discovered a disturbing trend just recently… I pick the subject, find out who makes a model of it, and then go looking for resin detail sets for it. My A.M.S. is getting worse I fear! I guess that’s just part of growing as a modeler, more detail!

So what I’m trying to say is this, if you think it’s a classic kit then it is!

That’s all for now, happy modeling and good luck with your classic kits!



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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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