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Why are model companies not interested in history?

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  • Member since
    May 2003
Why are model companies not interested in history?
Posted by Terry Bishop on Sunday, May 4, 2003 5:40 PM
A provocative title . . . of course model companies are interested in history--but I have found that most companies don't make available in their kits the results of the historical research they conducted to produce their kits. As a maker of model airplanes, I have been a bit mystified by the process by which model manufacturers select particular planes to depict. Of course, some kits depict famous planes (the "Memphis Belle" B-17 or the "Enola Gay" B-29) but most companies' choices for decals are rather obscure. Typically, the text describing the plane at the beginning of the kit instructions is filled with technical data, but nothing about the histories of the particular planes depicted in the decal schemes at the back end of the instruction sheet.

When I was a kid making models, it didn't even enter my mind why model companies chose specific planes to depict, but now that I'm a bit older, I wonder. Thanks to the Internet and the many references books out there, I can figure out that some of the planes were those flown by famous aces, but others are just plain mysteries. For example, I built Revell/Monogram's B-36 a while back and still have no idea why, out of the 300-plus B-36s Convair producted, Monogram selected decals for just two rather undistinguished planes. What's with that?

Here's my question: Do any of you out there have a clue why model companies are more than happy to inform the modeler about the type of engine or the plane's exact wingspan, but most tend to be uninterested in noting the significance of the particular planes depicted by the decals, or even note from which squadron/unit the plane came from?

Thanks, Terry
  • Member since
    November 2005
Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, May 4, 2003 6:47 PM
cause there easiest to print decals for? cause decals cost more to print for mor eleabrite planes (like the last b 36)? or cause they THINK there are too many of that type
  • Member since
    November 2005
Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, May 4, 2003 7:28 PM
if model companies invest so much time doing historical research, why are there so many innacuracies in decal sets, such as tail codes not matching variant the kit is supposed to depict? I mean, if it was cost, two letters should cost the same as two other letters to print....right?
  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Panama City, Florida, Hurricane Alley
Posted by berny13 on Sunday, May 4, 2003 9:42 PM
A lot depends on photographs that are available. If there are numerious photographs of a specific acft and most are of the same serial number, the model company will pick that for their subject. Also any acft that they can study and look at is a source of model kit production. An example is Hasagawa and their 1/32 F-4C. It is the acft flown by Col. Olds. That acft is on display in a museum. The model kit was molded with all of the scab patches that the original had.


 Phormer Phantom Phixer

On the bench

TF-102A Delta Dagger, 32nd FIS, 54-1370, 1/48 scale. Monogram Pro Modeler with C&H conversion.  

Revell F-4E Phantom II 33rd TFW, 58th TFS, 69-260, 1/32 scale. 

Tamiya F-4D Phantom II, 13th TFS, 66-8711, 1/32 scale.  F-4 Phantom Group Build. 


  • Member since
    December 2002
  • From: Third rock from the sun.
Posted by Woody on Sunday, May 4, 2003 11:03 PM
Interesting topic. I don't think most American companies worry about the history. After they get the measurements and other data from the plane they prototype, the decals are an after thought. If an ace or historic planes markings will sell kits, then that is considered. I must say that this has always been my assumption about why kit decals are hit or miss.

" I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way." --John Paul Jones
  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Poway, Ca.
Posted by mostlyjets on Monday, May 5, 2003 12:34 AM
Along those lines, are there any kits or decals you would like to see? I like aircraft of history, not by the fact it was the last made (though I do know about the last TBF-1C), but what history it holds, good or bad. For example, the F-117 shot down in Yugoslavia, the F-15 in which Gen. Chuck yeager recreated his 50th Anniversary of supersonic flight, the Phoenix missile laden F-14 dredged from the bottom of the ocean so the missles wouldnt fall into Russian hands, etc.
All out of Snakes and Nape, switching to guns...
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: Sunny Florida
Posted by renarts on Monday, May 5, 2003 12:56 AM
I can only speculate, but it may the result of cost effectiveness. I agree with you that if you are going to market the memphis belle, give us the complete kit to do so, including the artwork. Factors that may be considered also are strictly related to mfg. and marketing. If I make a B-17, and the tooling is good, I can remarket the kit as a icon or different variant.

With the cottage industry of after market accessories in the form of p/e, decals and resin, the decals may be an after thought for the modeling companies. They still have to offer something so the consumer feels like they are getting a whole kit. It may also be a case of subcontracting limitations of the companies producing the art.

It is just as easy now to get all the correct art for a kit from a myriad of suppliers as it is to have the original company include the proper one in the kit. Frustrating? yes. Does it affect your purchasing of the kit? possibly. But much of what I have read in this and other forums, many use separate art, rather than that included. So does it matter?

Why does Hollywood sell us a very fictional history? Often times the real story is just as colorful and dynamic as the entertainment we are sold on the screen. It will no doubt remain a mystery buried with the Emilia Earhardt and Templar Gold.

I wish you luck in your quest for the answer.

Mike "Imagination is the dye that colors our lives" Marcus Aurellius A good friend will come and bail you out of jail...but, a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, "Damn...that was fun!"
  • Member since
    December 2002
  • From: United Kingdom / Belgium
Posted by djmodels1999 on Tuesday, May 6, 2003 7:23 AM
Open up a William Bros kit and you'll be bombarded with info an the particular models you can build/depict with the content of the box. Sometimes so much it can become confusing!
  • Member since
    December 2002
  • From: Pominville, NY
Posted by BlackWolf3945 on Thursday, May 8, 2003 1:22 AM
I think one reason (though certainly not the only one) for the lack of specific historical content pertaining to the subject on the boxtop is that the model companies may very well recognize the fact that many modelers will research it themselves.

Also, I think that they are aware of the massive aftermarket decal industry, the companies of which will almost surely provide some historical background to the subjects they offer. The model manufacturers are there simply to produce the kit and are under no obligation to do anything more. Some do, some don't. Many seem to no longer do so.

Also, as regards to why they choose what they choose; at a recent IPMS NATS the Revellogram reps were questioned about their choice of markings for the then "new" re-release of the 48th F-101. (This was a couple years back) They responded that it was an issue of markings that were colorful, flashy and / or perhaps a bit different.
ie: It just depends on what they think will sell. That is, what the target consumers may find to be visually appealing.

Also, a sub-factor within the realm of visual appeal is the fact that many collectors collect kits based on the box art. If you keep re-releasing a kit with the same markings and, hence, the same box art, then the collectors will buy something else. I know a guy who has every boxing of the aforementioned Monogram 48th F-101. Except for the recce variant, they are all the same exact kit save the box art and decal sheet. (And color of plastic)

The major model manufacturers seem to have done their homework in the area of marketing; and their products appeal to a variety of consumer types.

Fade to Black...
  • Member since
    November 2005
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, May 9, 2003 5:51 PM
QUOTE: Originally posted by mooneyk
I mean, if it was cost, two letters should cost the same as two other letters to print....right?

well if it is a 1 and an 8...
  • Member since
    November 2005
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, May 9, 2003 8:31 PM
I figure that it leaves more for us to have fun researching Wink [;)]
  • Member since
    November 2005
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, May 10, 2003 3:27 AM
Basically it's been laziness on their part, lack of operating grey matter and a couple of
rules that pertain to marketing an appealing prouduct rather than an historic accurate prouduct. Since they invest money into the molds for each model they work hard to reinvent that model by box art, decals, extra parts or switchedparts from other molds
(Bombs, tanks,guns ect...) and other add ons. To state it simply : they milk that model
mold until it goes dry or somthing more appealing comes along. Monograms F-16 kit
is an example. They tooled the YF-16 for their mold and got it out on the market before
everybody else had any version of a F-16. The only problem was production F-16s
were different in look due to some beefing up that was designed into the aircraft for
it's multirole jobs, radar nosecone,wings vertical stabliser,ECM bumps,ect........ .

So what did they do? Start over with a new mold.....No they just redid the box art
new decals and paint scheme for an A, and later a C model. It was still the same YF-16 but unless you were detailed oriented you might never figure it out. I still see that
kit on the shelf even today cause as long as it will sell they will keep making it. The
marketing thinkers will make mistakes like that and it will go on for years.

Alot of the Import kits from Japan and Korea put a little more thought in their tooling
and have made more specific and acurrate kits but you pay more for that extra thought
and care. Still they get lazy and mindless and forget something we who model would
say was nuts to forget. An example is Tamiaya's 1/350th Enterprise. A reveiwer that
writes for FSM when this kit came out was dismayed by the fact that a $200.00 kit of
this type and size didn't have a hanger deck in the parts for building the kit right out
of the box. I agree with him too! If I put that much of an investment in a kit I would want
it to be well detailed in relation to it's size and on that scale a hanger deck is viable.He
spent $50.00 to kitbash the kit to his satisfaction. Thats alot for plastic!

In the last 5-10yrs more specific kits have come out on all the kit levels and Accurate
Minatures did well by modelers by bring specific models or rare versions to plastic
form. Some of the "after market" Items are in Kits too add "apeel" like the Pro-modeler
series from revell-monogram. Still the resin casting, metal parts,decals and other types of details are out there "after market" and avalible, or as you read articles you learn how to even do theses techniques yourself. We who model have asked for better
kits and the market has responded to that but it isn't opening the floodgates. They're still mainly here to make money and I really can't blame them for that.

History gets fairly well written on box art and instructions, but again those marketing aspects kick in and "honoginized" versions are presented.That's why there's books! For Airplanes and air units Osprey and Squadron signal do a pretty
good job of providing detailed info on what you want to Know. This also takes people
to write it and reasearch it. An example of a good source on B-17s I found involved
the writers going into arcive records and listing movement/assignments and fates
of each B-17 by it's serial #.(all aircraft produced) I used it to help a friend find the
aircraft his uncle flew in WWII and used other books to show him what his uncle's
aircraft was and gen looked like. If you want to get tight on the details Books......
Books are the answer

Then build your kit the way you want using the best of what ar e realm has avalible
to you!

  • Member since
    January 2003
  • From: NE Georgia
Posted by Keyworth on Saturday, May 10, 2003 6:12 AM
Model manufacturers market for sales, period. If it's eye-catching, colorful, flashy, it will well. If you look at store shelves, many kits are re-releases with new window-dressing---box art, decals, instructions----same kit, new disguise. Sales history is their focus, not history for history's sake. There are exceptions; Yeager's X-1, boxing of any number of German WWII aces a/c, but these are only exceptions. If the modeler wants historical accuracy, then books and aftermarket items such as resin and brass detail sets, and decals are the answer..
"There's no problem that can't be solved with a suitable application of high explosives"
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: Sunny Florida
Posted by renarts on Saturday, May 10, 2003 11:05 AM
It's still a good trade-off. Think of how much that kit would cost and the time invested if he had to do the research and scratchbuilt the entire thing. (sorry guys, I know thats another posting)
I'm glad we have to do the research. Never accept one version of history. The back up research alone is priceless. Think of how wrong we would be if history were recorded per our kits. Or by one view presented by a publisher. Like all of you said, its definately marketing that drives presentation and manufacture, but the bright side is that we now have a good solid customizing platform from which to start. We don't have to begin from scratch and the materials and tools are there to finish the job correctly.

Mike "Imagination is the dye that colors our lives" Marcus Aurellius A good friend will come and bail you out of jail...but, a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, "Damn...that was fun!"


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