Royal Air Force Museum Airfix retrospective

Grey Havoc

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Oct 9, 2009
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How your Airfix model could be a museum piece

For any overgrown Airfix enthusiasts who have clung on to their prized collections, it is an opportunity to dig them out of the loft, dust them down and finally give them the attention they deserve.

By Jasper Copping
7:30AM GMT 10 Feb 2013


A Spitfire, first produced in 1953, is one of the models being sought Photo: REX

A museum organising a major exhibition dedicated to the classic toy has reported a shortage of several models it would like to feature and is appealing for members of the public to fill the gaps with their own constructions. The retrospective at the Royal Air Force Museum will chart the history of Airfix since the company began in 1939 and is due to feature kits, as well as artwork from the boxes.

However, the curators are struggling to locate several models, especially from the firm’s heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. They are seeking any toys, either still in their boxes, or fully built, from that period, either from the company’s military range, or some of its more diverse collections.

Among particular requests it has made are for: the first kit of a Massey Ferguson tractor; its first Spitfire; models from its historical figures range, which included Joan of Arc, Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell and Charles I; ships, including HMS Endeavour — Captain Cook’s vessel — and a Hawker P1127, a prototype of the Harrier jump jet.

Although most of the toys which the museum, in Hendon, north London, wants to display should be immaculately assembled and well decorated, it also wants to feature several less successful efforts, which may have been preserved.

Andrew Cormack, the keeper of visual arts, medals and uniforms at the museum and curator of the exhibition, said: “It would be interesting to get a few examples of models made by eight-year-olds who were shockingly proud of them, but which were actually dreadful.

“We would like to make a feature of some of these, to show the huge enjoyment people got from making their own toy. Anything and everything is of interest.” The museum has already made appeals through model clubs but many gaps in its desired collection remain. The company, which has produced more than 700 kits over the years, is assisting with the exhibition, which is due to open in June.

However, because the firm has changed hands a number of times over the years, parts of its historical collection have been lost. Mr Cormack said: “Each time it changed hands, the staff felt so aggrieved that they would walk off with the art. In terms of the artwork, we haven’t got the really classic things.” Some of these oil based and watercolour works — which were then reproduced on the packaging — are now worth up to £15,000. Most of the artwork the company retains is from the 1990s onwards.

Airfix was founded in 1939 by Nicholas Kove, a refugee from Hungary who originally manufactured rubber inflated toys. The name was chosen because part of the process involved fixing air into products and so the company would appear at the front of business directories.

After the Second World War he switched to producing plastic combs, before the company started to produce toy kits, with the first Spitfire appearing in 1953. By the mid-1970s, the firm was selling about 20 million kits a year. but fell into decline in the 1980s as computer games became more popular. However, the company — owned by the trainset maker Hornby since 2006 — still sells about 3.5 million kits a year and features up to date kits from the current conflict in Afghanistan.

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