I note your readers have taken an interest in plastic model-car kits. I have assembled a great many of these, and believe I have sampled just about all of the offerings of U.S. manufacturers. The Revel outfit, with which you are already familiar, introduced a mixed line of sports, racing, antique and classic car models, but now they seem to be concentrating exclusively on models of immediately contemporary U.S. family cars. (Incidentally, “antique” and “classic” seem to roughly parallel your “veteran” and “vintage” classifications, except that antique covers the earliest beginnings up to the end of World War I, and a classic is any really outstanding or noteworthy auto of the 1920-1940 period. I think there is even a “thoroughbred” classification for this latter period, which seems to include any fairly adequate auto made then and now in a reasonable state of original preservation.) The early Revel kits were made of acetate plastic, and should not be assembled by the use of polystyrene-plastic cement; Revel provides a type “A” cement for the acetate models, and a type “S” for the ‘styrene models, both of which are superior to any other plastic cement I have used. The Revel models do not give the best appearance on completion for a rather curious reason. They are quite small and extremely detailed, and I’ve found that in attempting to accurately paint all of the minute details, the closeness of the work results in errors and slips, and a generally sloppy-looking end-result.
The Monogram outfit, besides the Indianapolis racing car and midget racer which you mentioned in the last issue, also made a model of a “California street rod,” No. P2. (A street rod is a hot rod designed primarily for normal traffic driving, having a fairly mild cam and comparatively low compression. They are no longer popular, at least on the Eastern seaboard, apparently because they were no match for the ordinary Detroit sedans once same were equipped with overhead-valve V8s.) Here, again, the earliest kits, P1 and P2, were made of acetate plastic, and should be assembled with Revel type “A,” or a special cement Monogram prepared. P12, the Indy racer, and a recent combined three-model kit brought out by Monogram, which includes the lady and reissues of the midget and hot rod, are all of styrene plastic and Revel “S” should be used. It is interesting to note that both Revel and Monogram originally used acetate and then switched over to styrene. I can guess that a contributing reason might be that acetate, or its basic materials, is more expensive than styrene. Also, cement for acetate usually incorporates a form of chloroform (which is made from acetone), certainly not the best thing to turn over to youngsters to work with.
The Monogram models are larger than the Revel models, and this permits a more accurate and exact coloration of detail. As a rule, the parts fit together better, and my impression is that on the whole they are of superior quality.
Yet another outfit here in my home state, Pyro Plastics Corporation, Pyro Park, Union, New Jersey, make a line of “All American Classics” which includes the Lincoln Continental (the original Continental, not the asinine “Mark What-Ever-Number-It-Is” currently being manufactured), Auburn Speedster, and Cord convertible. These are even larger than the Monogram models, and fantastically detailed. The Pyro firm located a well-maintained version of each car, and based their models on an exact scaled-down measurement of the real car. Unfortunately, their parts are not well formed, and the construction is extremely tricky, and again the results of the completed model leave much to be desired. This is particularly true of the Lincoln. Incidentally, this line was also to include a model of a Duesenberg J and a Pierce Arrow sedan, but communication with them indicates they have shelved these two kits indefinitely; I presume this is due to poor sales response to the others. All of the Pyro kits use styrene plastic.
The Saunders-Swadar Toy Company of Aurora, Illinois, make or made two models of interest, a 1914 G.P. Mercedes and a 1912 Model K Mercer. These are larger again than the Pyro kits, and lack almost any real detail. Apparently the models were based on photographs of the real cars. But they are easy to assemble, and the finished models project an impression of stark, brutal, almost uncontrollable power that is probably a more accurate portrayal of the original car than any amount of detail could supply. These models are of acetate plastic. Finally, the Best Plastics Corporation, 6014 11th Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, have a line of “Indianapolis 500 Champions” which includes the following winners of the 500-Mile Race: 1920 Monroe, 1922 Murphy, 1931 Miller, 1935 Gilmore, 1940 Maserati (hurrah!), 1953-54 Fuel Injection Special. The kits are of styrene, and in size fall roughly between the Revel and the Monogram.
The quality and shaping of the parts are definitely inferior, and the detail is limited, but—and perhaps because of the limited detail—painted according to the instructions and decorated with the decals supplied, give much the most pleasing effect of any of the models I have mentioned. My own model of the Gilmore never fails to elicit remarks from the most disinterested of friends, relatives, or plain visitors.
The Ideal Toy Company makes a varied line of auto models, but these are strictly for the children, having no detail whatsoever. Most unfortunately the maker of the very best plastic models, the Aurora Plastics Corporation, supply kits only for ships and airplanes. With reference to your own Merit kits, I have constructed only the D Jaguar. While the detail is limited, it makes a fine model. Unfortunately, the quality of the plastic moulding is not good; the kit I received included an upper body-half that had been spattered in the moulding process which detracted much from the final appearance. However, I look forward to “doing” the other kits. I sympathise with your remark regarding “certain expensive metal construction kits.” I bought, sight unseen, a kit for the 35B Bugatti, prepaying $9 after the retailer refused to ship on an approval basis. I took one look at it and consigned it to the back of the closet. Maybe, when my ship comes in, I can equip myself with the small machine shop needed for assembling correctly this model. If I were “in” model-building this deeply, I’d attempt the sort of thing Rex Hays and C. Posthumus go in for. But I’m afraid the people are rare who have the patience, knowledge, and ability to turn out the type of precision miniatures these gentlemen turn out. Still, that metal Bugatti, if I could manage it half-way decently . . .
In the meantime, the pre-moulded plastic models are simple and easy and, properly painted, give a fair account of themselves. I certainly hope you and your readers will find in them the many pleasurable hours of innocent pastime they have afforded me. They have helped to still a frustrated hunger for ownership of the real thing.
Readers wishing to obtain any of the American kits can try Polk’s Model Craft Hobbies, 314 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y., or write direct to the manufacturers. Polk’s, incidentally, is importing Minimodels Scalextric railracing kits which you so deservedly gave a boost to. I am saving against the day when I can buy a rig of my own. The demand over here, at least at Polk’s, is so strong that they are back-ordered four months ahead, I trust you have found the above of some interest. I can’t thank you too strongly for MOTOR SPORT and the pleasure it has given me. Before I close, for your statistics, I have had my VW de luxe sedan since September 1955, purchased new, and have put 26,000 miles on it. I have been considerably disappointed in its durability having had to replace any number of small items such as speedometer cable and light bulbs, plus the steering gearbox, and the paint finish and chrome has not worn at all well. But it is my factual conviction that, dollar for dollar, no better auto has ever been made from the stand-point of function, economy, and pleasure. I am “off” American cars for life, for very real and valid reasons, and I will stay with Volkswagen as long as circumstances prohibit Jaguar or Mercedes.
I am, Yours, etc.,
N.J. R. Wilsey.
[We have also received a letter from Mr. Francis Hutton-Stott of Newbury, praising the accuracy of the 2s. Airfix kit for building the 1908 20-h.p. Lanchester, obtainable from Woolworth’s and other shops. He should know, because, he says, the Airfix draughtsman spent several days in his motor house making drawings of his car of this make and type.—ED.
Two proposed registers
T. D. Overfield, 174, Watnall Road, Hucknell, Nottingham, asks owners of modified Renault 750s to send him details of their cars—and J Hall, 1, Bushey Mill Crescent, N. Watford, Herts, likewise hopes to hear from O.M. owners, in both cases the object being to form Registers for such cars. In Mr. Overfield’s case we assume he means really-hot Renaults, not just standard cars fitted with exhaust boosters! It will help if engine and chassis numbers are quoted and sketches or photographs submitted.