VINTAGE KITS ANNEX 5
The information below is excerpted from the StromBecKer History page. A history of the Strombeck-Becker Manufacturing Co. and their line of great pre-carved wood kits can be accessed by clicking the StromBecKer page here.
The Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics began a program for high schools in early 1942 to construct recognition or "ID" models in wood in 1:72 scale as an interim measure until the manufacture of plastic recognition models by Cruver of Chicago could begin introducing the high production training aids to military units. The original plans and templates in 1:72 scale were drawn by Comet Models and were distributed to schools throughout the country by March, 1942. Several model airplane companies such as Comet and Megow produced simple kits for the recognition models for the retail market - these kits were merely the Navy's plan and template sheet (title block altered) and several blocks of pine wood. The wood recognition models were devoid of any extra parts not assisting in visual training such as landing gear, propellers, antenna etc. The High School Model Building Program continued for several years although the output was for patriotic and "home front" encouragement reasons primarily; the Navy wanted to abandon the effort soon after it started but was swayed by the fact that students were enthusiastic about building the models - and they were learning recognition which would serve them as many were inducted into military service. The May 2004 issue of Fine Scale Modeler has an entertaining article on the program entitled, "Pre-Plastic Modeling".
StromBecKer began their "Spotter Series" during WWII; these models were pre-carved pine kits and did not have the usual metal propeller(s) and landing gear. The models were in 1:72 scale to correspond to the military training scale. These kits using machine carved parts were not made for the government but it is reported that they were distributed or made available to military units through recreational services or the Red Cross and USO.
Only six kits were produced in the Spotter Series, each in a red, white and blue box with a three-view silhouette (to be cut-out)and specifications on the box front. The kits (with StromBecKer kit number) were: S26 Curtiss P-40E, S50 Martin B-26C Marauder, S51 Douglas A-20A Boston/Havoc, S100 Boeing B-17E, S101 Consolidated B-24D and, inexplicably, the Curtiss SBC-4 Helldiver, kit number S25 of this obsolete biplane. The same kits were also produced as a Boy Scout series. The photos below represent some of the flavor of that era. The Flying Aces magazine cover featuring the P-40E is from June 1942. The sell-sheet for Strombeck-Becker's line of spotter kits is shown; the text includes, "Wartime conditions make it impossible to predict when StromBecKer Model Kits will again be unlimited in quantity. Military demands on our production facilities coupled with shortages of labor and materials, often force us to say 'Sorry!' to many we should like to serve as customers." Note that StromBecKer came out with at least one other new wartime kit, C31 of the P-39 Airacobra, which did not include a metal propeller (dated 2-17-42) and which preceeded the spotter series; also it was the only wood StromBecKer airplane in 1/4" equal 1-foot scale up to that time (Post-war light plane kits such as the Swift were in 1:48). If you would like to view the P-39 plan and print to original size then Click here for P-39 .pdf file. The file size is 1.07 mB.
Additional photos of this P-39 model and kit can be viewed by clicking here.
StromBecKer Spotter Kits for the B-17E and A-20A are both offered on this page. The company produced an extensive line of solid kits following the war; the post-war airplane kits featured more detail with some plastic parts. In the mid-1950s, StromBecKer eventually drifted off into plastic kits bringing the pine wood era to an end.
Many famous aviators, astronauts and aeronautical engineers have been associated with model airplanes.
SYDNEY CAMM, C.B.E., F.R.Ae.S, Director and Chief Designer of Hawker Aircraft, Ltd., and MODEL AIRPLANES
Hawker's chief designer, Sydney Camm, in 1933, decided to design an aircraft which would fulfill a British Air Ministry specification calling for a new monoplane fighter. His prototype, K5083, powered by a 990hp Rolls Royce Merlin 'C' engine, first flew on 6 November 1935, and quickly surpassed expectations and performance estimates. Official trials began three months later, and in June 1936, Hawker received an initial order for 600 aircraft from the Royal Air Force. The first aircraft had fabric wings. To power the new aircraft (now officially designated the "Hurricane,") the RAF ordered the new 1,030hp Merlin II engine.
The first production Hurricane flew on 12 October 1937, and was delivered to the 111 Squadron at RAF Northolt two months later. A year later, around 200 had been delivered, and demand for the airplane had increased enough that Hawker contracted with the Gloster Aircraft company to build them also. During the production run, the fabric-covered wing was replaced by an all-metal one, a bullet-proof windscreen was added, and the engine was upgraded to the Merlin III.
During the Battle of Britain, RAF Hurricanes accounted for more enemy aircraft kills than all other defenses combined, including all aircraft and ground defenses. Later in the war, the Hurricane served admirably in North Africa, Burma, Malta, and nearly every other theater in which the RAF participated.
Sydney Camm was an early model airplane enthusiast and he wrote the following Foreword for the wartime book, The Model Aeronautical Digest - 1944. It is presented here as an item of historical interest for the vintage model kit collector.
Vintage modelling comes to life on these pages through old kits and accessories - enjoy the offerings below. This Annex2 page is part of the Vintage Model Airplane Kits page; click here to return to the kits page when you are ready or navigate by the page links in the left hand margin. The Vintage Kits Annex No. 3 page can be accessed by clicking here. The link to the kits page is repeated at the bottom of this page.
Ordering information is presented at the bottom of this page.
Wartime material freezes on metal and balsa did materially affect Megow's model kit production; they changed the name to The Megow Corporation and entered into government contracts for machine work. Substitute materials were used for the reduced production of model kits. This statement is from an October 1943 ad: "Today, the Megow Corporation is to a large extent employed in war production requiring extreme precision and superior craftsmanship. However, many Megow lines such as identification model warplanes that are related to our war effort and made of non-critical materials, are available at dealers." During the war years, Fred's first employee, Paul Keefs worked with another employee, Edward Cavanaugh, to do the tooling and production for the war effort. Cavanaugh went on to form "Cavacraft" in Philadelphia after the war and Keefe joined him at Cavacraft Model Airplanes in mid-1949.
As World War II was winding down in 1945, the Megow Corporation was able to restart an active role in the model kit industry and designs started rolling off the drafting table. A new plant was established in New Jersey which had a large carving machine; a new line of "Redi-Carved" solid balsa models resulted, both airplanes and boat hulls plus U-control models.
Fred Megow, in an interview, stated to Walt Grigg that the gas-powered models were mostly a status symbol to stay in the running, not to make money and that they would have been better off to stay with the rubber models. Following the popular "Quaker Flash", Megow kitted gas jobs such as the 72" "Commander" in 1940 along with the 51 1/2" "Cadet" and the 52 3/4" "Piper Cub". The 44" "Ranger", Kit E-22 designed by Mathew Kania, free flight and the "Aero Champ" were also both nice pre-war kits. These kits were advertised along with the Leon Shulman-designed "Zomby" in 1944. During the wartime prohibition on the use of balsa, Megow put out a gas model kit, the "Jap-Slapper" in 1943, a truly awful model! This 42" wingspan pylon model utilized cardboard and basswood (and any other junk wood) to fill the advertising motto, "Victory Construction". Megow started hitting the market with new free flight designs in 1945, the first advertised was the William Winter design, the "WOG" (which was featured with plan in Air Trails earlier); this Kit E27 was priced at $4.95 (no liquids). Lt. Leon Shulman's design, the "Banshee", was actually developed in 1941, but became the subject of a new post-war Megow kit No. E26, priced at a whopping $6.95 with liquids - this design also was the subject of an Air Trails article in 1945 - the kit plan is dated January 9, 1945. The kit is outstanding.
Full-page Megow advertisements for these kits appeared in several magazines during the first six months of 1945. However, later 1945 Megow ads virtually ignored most of these kits - for example, the new 30-inch "Flying Wing", SX-1, was featured in September and October with only the "WOG" and the "Piper Cub" - the early 1946 ads featured only the "WOG" and the "Cub". Many other distributor catalogs of that year carried the "Ranger". The first, full-page ad for the "Banshee" came out in the April 1946 Air Trails in b&w and then was run in the June 1946 issue of Model Airplane News (reprinted here). Oddly, the same issue carried a Polk's ad extolling the new Lt. Shulman's "Zoomer", a $6.95 kit which was a larger version of the "Banshee" - same construction with a slightly modified shape for the fin.
Click on the advertisement below (and use the "+" enlargement)for a large version of this Ambroid ad from the March/April 1963 issue of American Modeler; Leon Shulman is featured and it is stated that he is a regular user of Ambroid cement. The "Banshee" is mentioned.
Free flight kit sales must have slowed drastically and Megow launched into numerous control line models, such as the "Tyro" in January 1947 which was also featured in a full-page ad in Air World in November 1947. The Megow "Stardust" control line model, shown below, was issued in a new design box very similar to the "Banshee" packaging.
A portion of the Megow exhibit at the National Model Aviation Museum. The "Stardust" U-control model was built for the exhibit by Ira Keeler. A CollectAir photo 6/04. For many more photos of the AMA's National Model Aviation Museum, click here.
The Megow Corporation issued a "Handbook" in 1946 which covered their complete model line along with various articles; priced at fifteen-cents.
This must of been the high water mark for Megow as their fortunes declined rapidly thereafter. A "Baby Quaker" Class A came out in November 1946 at a low price and a "Banshee" A version at only $2.00. By October 1947, Megow's full-page ad listed several control-line models and only the "Ranger", "Zomby" (both $2.50) and the small "Banshee". One year later, October 1948, the only free flight shown was the old "Ranger". By December 1948, the full-page Air Trails ad had no free flight!
The 1949 Air Trails Megow advertisements tell the final story of their demise. The February 1949 issue shows a limited selection with no free flight and some gimmick models such as jet race cars. The March ad featured the "Flying Circus", an easy-to-build U-control. The April issue has a small ad for the "Circus" and gimmicks. The May 1949 Advertiser's Index lists Megow but there is no ad. This was the end of the fine line of kits manufactured by Fred Megow. The post-war model market decline had caught up with The Megow Corporation as they liquidated their inventory. It is reported that Comet bought much of the Megow stock. In fact, Megow's is advertised in a small space in the November 1951 Air Trails as a "Division of Comet Model Hobbycraft, Inc., Chicago, Illinois" - 25-cent "Pre-Fab" kits of "New War Models." This isn't Fred Megow's company!
The "Banshee" kit represents the new look that Megow was creating for their newer designs following WWII. The kit box is significantly different and has bright and contrasting graphics; the contents are arranged with a seperator with spaces for various liquids and components. This new look is also apparent on the Megow F7F Tiger Cat kit, 1946, that is offered on this page. I'm guessing, but I believe that these kits were produced in smaller quantities even though they were very nice products - perhaps the economic realities of the post-war recession were having an impact in the late 1940's.
This large box measures 8 1/2" x 24 3/8" x 2 5/8" deep. The condition is about an "8" although the graphics are even better; some edge wear, a few minor lid wrinkles and corner breakouts which have been repaired and restored - overall a very nice display box. Contents are complete and in great condition with cement and dope cans (dry), a Megow battery box, a propeller and landing gear (with a Megow wheel), all located on the center divider shelf, flanked by balsa sticks, printwood, bare wood sheet, a plywood mount, and a stapled envelope (unopened) with metal parts inside. A large plan and an instruction sheet each have a band of discoloration from the construction balsa (instruction sheet mostly discolored). A large roll of white tissue covering completes the kit contents. The Model Editor of Air Trails introduced the "Banshee" as follows: While the Banshee is a comparatively old model in years (the design was developed in 1941), it still is far ahead of all the models to date. The climb, we can safely state, is the fastest we have ever seen. The altitude gained in this climb guaranteed an out-of-sight flight every time the model was flown. It should be noted that the model that Shulman flew in contests had a folding prop.
This exceptional Megow free flight kit of the "Banshee" is priced at $250.00.
Quite coincidentally, The June 2004 issue of AOPA Pilot and the July 2004 Flying both have a full-page ad for Aeroshell lubrication products and the copy starts off with, "When did flying become an obsession for you? For us, it was 70 years ago." A young lad is pictured with his free flight, gas powered model. Yes, it appears to be a Banshee!
One of Megow's "War Planes" series of 30" flying models. The Megow kit line included a number of 30" flying models as "J" series kits prior to 1942. The 50-cent kits in the 1941 catalog ran through Kit No. J15 and were mostly light planes. By 1942, Megow expanded the "J" series with two releases (each of 6 airplanes) of 30" "War Planes", priced at 95-cents. Although the printwood carries the "J" numbering system, the kits were listed as the "X" series, perhaps because of the higher price. The Skua, Kit X3, is shown listed below on page 10 from the 1942 Megow catalog, catalog 12.
Magazine ads for the War Planes series mention a plain, all-red box, although this kit is packaged in a two-color, printed box. The kit is all balsa. The kit includes a bottle of dope which is still in liquid form after all these years. The kit box rates an "8". Complete with all original contents, the kit is priced at $SORRY SOLD.
A very nice flying model of the British Westland Lysander, kit No. X-9 in the Megow "World War No. 2 Flying Model Series". Would make an excellent flyer. The printwood carries the label, "Kit J26," while the box states "X-9." The box lid rates about a "6" suitable for display; the kit is complete and is priced at $100.00.
Megow had a pre-WW2 line of HO scale rail freight cars; the car kits without trucks were 25-cents and a pair of assembled trucks cost 40-cents. This kit QD-23 is the deluxe kit with trucks included. This vintage railroad kit is available for $47.50.
A "BURD" ALWAYS FLIES! was the company motto carried in many of their ads.
The Burd plans were well drawn and the dime-scale, 16-inch kits were the equal of any of the dime scales on the market. The larger scale flyers were not "super-scale" but were well designed as flying models; they did a couple of "super detail" kits in 1938, a 3-ft. Douglas Sleeper Transport and a similar size Hawks' Time Flies, each priced at $2.00. The company carried full-page ads in Model Airplane News, many on the expensive inside front cover.
Two Curtiss Hawk P6E kits are offered here - a 50-inch wingspan and a dime-scale. The first advertisement for the large kit was in January 1938 (shown below); that is the kit version of the 50-incher that is for sale. A revised version of the kit was advertised in 1940. Burd only had three kits in the 50-inch class; joining the P6E were the Aeronca Model K and the Ryan ST.
This 1938 kit was issued in a large, 5" x 26 1/2" flap box; the box rates about a "7 " and has had some restoration - quite a nice display box considering its age. To add to its provenance, this kit has a Christmas gift sticker on it along with two 1938 Christmas stamps near the center of the box. A portion of the left half of the box is presented below.
A portion of the plan and a sample of the printwood ribs are shown below.
The kit has printwood for ribs, covering, carved propeller, strip wood, wheels, and balsa but is missing the printwood sheet for the fuselage formers. These Burd kits are not common and make a nice addition to any historical kit collection. There is no Burd Kit number. This 1938 kit with a 50-inch wingspan is priced at $105.00.
The revised P6E kit was advertised in January 1940 - it was changed to a lid-type box and some design changes and still priced at $1.00; the ad is shown below.
This is a 16-inch version of the large kit offered above. Burd developed 36 different kits in their 10-cent line by 1941, running from Kit No. 10 through 45. The Curtiss Hawk P6E is Kit No. 10, the first of the line. This particular box shows 24 kits on the back of the box. The printwood sheet and part of the plan are shown below.
This kit box rates an "8 to 9" and contents are complete. The price of this great example of a dime-scale flying model from around 1940 is $SORRY SOLD.
This Allen-David solid balsa model kit was one of only three kits produced by the firm of Allen-David located at 217 Hempstead Turnpike, Hempstead, L.I. in 1946. Interestingly, the Allen-David company and the better known firm of Dyna-Models were closely entwined. Grumman engineers from Bethpage were involved in both companies; the "David" in Allen-David was David A. Anderton. Doug Emmons , in an article on Dyna-Models on his Doxaerie website, states that David Anderton did the drawing/instruction for the first Dyna-Model kit, the F8F Bearcat, in early 1946; the Bearcat was announced in an Air Trails ad in June 1946. David Anderton also did the Allen-David drawings (excellent work) for the DC-3 and F7F, although these drawing are not dated; it is believed though that all of the David-Allen kits were produced in 1946. Mr. Anderton was certainly busy! He later became a well known author and photographer.
The Piper Cub kit drawing was done by W. Young and dated 4-1-46. Mr. Young, later in 1946, did the drawing for the Dyna-Models second kit, the Republic P-47 (see a vintage, completed model on the Articles Page), so there were two designers who did models for both companies in 1946; very close knit I would say.
Both the Dyna-Models and David-Allen kits were amongst the better solid model kits of that era although the days of solid balsa kits were numbered as plastics loomed on the horizon. The David-Allen line was short lived so there are only the three kits to represent their effort. The DC-3 and the F7F are ¼" scale kits with cast metal parts for some details; templates are used to assure accuracy and instructions are detailed. The F7F has a nice exploded, perspective view for the assembly and the DC-3 instructions are complete with photographic expositions on part carving. The Piper Cub kit offered here is a much simpler design with only three cast metal parts (prop and engine cylinders/exhaust) but the drawing is complete and well done.
Oddly, the Piper Cub label on the box lid and end is pasted on - either the box had no printing or was changed. I've seen several of these boxes and they are all the same. Possibly this box was to be used for other future kits - maybe the P-80 pictured? This kit box condition rates about a 6 to 7, very adequate for display. You can own this interesting example of Long Island's long romance with aviation for only $45.00.
The Maircraft Kit No. V-1 of the Northrop P-61 Black Widow was advertised in 1945. This large, 1:48 scale, all-balsa kit had many preformed and pre-shaped profile parts and was touted as "the finest solid model ever produced"; quite a claim! This kit preceded the DC-3, Kit X-2 (there was no X-1), shown elsewhere on this website. Fairly expensive for 1945, the P-61 kit sold for $3.95. The kit is similar in concept to the Dyna-Models kits; both manufacturers featured similar pre-shaping and cast metal detail parts such as engines, props, landing gear etc. The kit is nicely packaged and comes with two, superbly detailed plans which show the complete construction in stages, each elegantly drawn. A "Tool Sheet" with die-cut cardstock templates and jigs is also included.
The kit was featured in some large ads in late 1945 with boasting copy, as follows:
WHAT AN ALL-BALSA "BLACK BEAUTY"... It's just out - this terrific new 1/4" scale solid model kit packed with building fun. Designed by Maircraft in close cooperation with Northrop Aircraft's own engineers. . . it's by far the finest solid model kit ever produced! . . . a beautiful miniature of Northrop Aircraft's Black Widow P-61 night fighter. Check all these time-saving features developed by Maircraft to save you many hours of building... note the deluxe construction - complete master plans - step-by-step instructions accurate to the last minute detail. Stop in and see the terrific new Black Widow kit- today! . . . featured at $3.95.
The kit wood and metal contents are shown below; the wings are located under the metal parts platform. There is a cardboard platform which covers the metal parts to separate them from the templates and plans when boxed.
The kit box measures a large 7" x 17 1/2" and is in display shape with a condition "8.5". This is a very nice kit which was only on the market briefly before Maircraft's demise. The kit is available for $195.00.
The photos below were taken of a Maircraft Model Trade Show booth in the 1946 era, probably either in Chicago or New York. Note that the line of solids doesn't include the DC-3, thereby dating this display. The P-61, P-80 and light-plane 1:48 kits are on show. Note the emphasis by Maircraft on engineering - very correctly so because they had the finest plans of any of the kit manufacturers.
Several different box graphics were used for the P-61 kit. An alternate box drawing is presented below.
This is taking a break from airplane kits. The Red Y Cut U.S. Army Jeep in 1/2" = 1' scale is typical of the Army vehicle models that were popular during WWII. This Kit. No. 315 was manufactured by David T. Ligon, REDYCUT MODELS,140 So. Brand Blvd., Glendale 4, California. The box states, "Complete with all parts cut, easily assembled, rigid construction." This box measaures 8 1/4" x 3 1/4" x 1 1/2" deep and rates about a "7 to 8" with some aging. Of particular interest, this kit was made for the Red Cross as the box lid is marked "COMPLIMENTS OF THE AMERICAN RED CROSS - NOT TO BE SOLD". The contents are excellent and complete. The price of this WWII Red Cross kit is $45.00. A Red Y Cut motorcycle kit is exhibited at the National Model Aviation Museum.
The P-80, Kit No. H-12, was a late addition to the "H" Series and is packaged in a lid-type box with superior graphics. The plan states that "Illustration Design & Development by Quinn R. Prichard Graphic Engineer"; he was involved in the DC-3 kit shown in the Vintage Kit Annex. It is obvious that this was an attempt to upgrade the Maircraft line of 50-cent kits and make them look more attractive; however, the other "H" kits did not receive new boxes. Other solid kits in the Maircraft line in early 1946 included a $1.25 "D" series of twin-engine kits and the deluxe Black Widow kit priced at $3.95.
The "H" Series was advertised in the June 1946 Model Airplane News with the headline, "Peaceful Skies Again..." The ad also proclaims, "Watch for new Maircraft solids now on the drawing boards, larger and more detailed than the famous Black Widow kit." Of course, they were referring to the DC-3, Kit. No. X-2.
The box, shown above, measures 12 3/4" x 3 3/4" x 1 3/4" and rates an "8+" condition. The P-80 kit is complete and in excellent condition. The kit is priced at $85.00.
The very first of the "H" Series, the Russian IL-2 Stormovik "Tank Buster", Kit No. H-1, is also offered. It is in the flap-type box and the kit is complete. Price of this Kit H-1 is $35.00.
The post-WW2 Swift was a 1945 redesign by Globe using an all-metal structure with the same basic layout as the GC-1. The picture below is from the cover of Air Trails, February, 1947.
The sleek lines of the handsome Swift persuaded many model kit manufacturers to include this popular airplane in their catalog of aircraft models; Maircraft was among them.
It's interesting to conjecture about the business strategies of kit manufacturers following the big war - many different strategems surfaced in the turbulent period between peace in 1945 and a deteriorating economy by 1950. The evolution of U-control, the advent of plastic models, the glow plug revolution, the new small 1/2 A engines, and the realization that model airplanes were taking a backseat to college educations, jobs and growing families for the returning vets in peacetime - all changed the landscape for the model inductry. Many companies tried to change - some with spectacular products - but there were numerous casualties including Maircraft. Some companies came out with aluminum flying models - some shown on this website - but most failed within a year or so to catch a market. Solid wood models, so popular during wartime rationing, became more elaborate with plastic and metal parts; many were superior models but they all succumbed to plastic eventually. Better graphics, tighter and more detailed plans, better wood, pre-shaping, new designs, plastic and metal parts - many things were tried but not all attracted customers in sufficient numbers. Marketing was a key for some manufacturers as Guillow's, Comet, Berkeley, Cleveland, Consolidated, American Junior, Scientific, along with others like Monogram, managed to enter the fifties with full product lines. As noted on these pages, Maircraft launched an all-out effort in 1945 to upgrade their line of solid model kits. The P-80 Kit H-12 in 1/4" scale had the same style kit parts as all the old kits in the "H" series, but had a seriously drawn plan which was detailed, elegant, instructive and showcased the drawing talent of James R. Wyse. Also, the box graphics were new, updated and very handsome. Based on the release of new kits in 1945-46, Maircraft decision makers, probably Richard Mair, had apparently decided that customers wanted drawings that were more technically correct than had been prevalent at the time. In addition, several kits were released which were not only super detailed but which had numerous metal detail parts - the P-61 - and nicely made plastic parts - the DC-3 - and were priced much higher than most solid kits on the market. I believe that Maircraft was catering to the perceived intelligence of the older veterans - doubt that many youthful dimestore customers appreciated the elegance of the new kits. As evidence of this business plan, here is a printed insert that came with some of the 1945-47 Maircraft kits:
A Note from the Engineering Staff
WE'RE BETTING THAT OUR FELLOW MODEL BUILDERS FEEL AS WE DO ABOUT SOLID MODEL KITS AND PLANS. . .
That's quite a statement and corporate goal at a time when history shows that the solid model wood kit business was beginning to decline and would nearly disappear as the 1950s marched on. Maircraft entered the flying model business with the postwar version of the Buzzard Bombshell free flight - a 1940 design - but didn't make any impact or effort in the emerging U-control market.
A line of five, 35¢ quarter-scale light airplane kits appeared in early 1946 - newly drawn, detailed plans but the old style box graphics; The Bellanca Cruisair, Ercoupe, Globe Swift, Taylorcraft and Piper Cub. As other kit manufacturers had done, Maircraft shrunk the 1:48 scale plane down to one-sixth scale, or 1:72, by merely making the drawing smaller, and called this new small series, Little Gems, priced at only 15¢ and added the new model, Silvaire to the series. The resulting plan went from 11" x 17" to 7 1/4" x 11 1/4", requiring pretty sharp eyes to read the print. The "Little Gems" full-page ad from the August 1946 Model Airplane News is presented below.
The "Little Gems" came in a nice, one-color box which was a new design - all of the kits in the series are pictured on the reverse side.
How can the manufacturer do this for only 15 pennies in 1947 you ask? Well, the plan is exquisite, but with tiny lettering, and the box is more than adequate, but the model itself is no more than many solid models had been for the previous 20 years - three pieces of printed balsa wood and a nifty stamped aluminum piece outlining propeller and wheels. All of the kit parts are shown below and a bit of the plan.
This is a lot of blather for this little Globe Swift kit No. G-3, truly a "Little Gem". Own this valiant attempt to capture the low end of the postwar solid model kit business - an example in very excellent condition - for only $22.50. Imagine how many of these kits would have to be sold at a wholesale price of around 7¢ to a jobber/distributor in order to make enough profit - try to imagine how you could manufacture this kit (in America) for 7¢ and make a return on your investment.
Also for sale, one of Maircraft's 1946 35-cent solid models, Kit No. S-17 of the Taylorcraft, with its highly detailed, 11" x 17" plan drawn by E.F. Hendrickson - wonderful drafting by the Maircraft engineering department (the new lightplane kits took the place of earlier kits with the same numbers - for example, S-17 was originally a Brewster Buffalo). This kit is one of five new 35-centers featured in a March, 1946, full-page Air Trails ad. The kit is boxed in the standard red-white-blue box used for the "Sky Kings of World War II" series of 1:48 fighters. This all-balsa, profile-cut kit (see portion of plan below) of the Taylorcraft in 1:48 scale is available for $22.50 SOLD BUT OTHERS AVAILABLE. Some other kits in this "S" series are also available, including the Piper Cub, S-2, Erco Ercoupe S-14, and the Bellanca Cruisair, S-5. Earlier kits in the 1:48 "S" series that are available are the Fokker D8, S22, and the Fokker D7, S20. Maircraft began cutting these 15-centers as "profile-shaped" - called Maircraft Juniors - by 1951; they were then located in Roselle, Illinois. Not sure how long they lasted into the 1950s.
The ad below is from the July 1951 issue of Air Trails. The 1:72 scale Little Gems somehow became profile cut (never sen one) and the price remained at 15 cents. The use of "1/6" scale is a rather strange way of saying 1:72 - based on 1:48 scale being known popularly as "1/4" scale.
This is a balsa and plywood sailing schooner which measures a huge 51 1/2" in length and 41" in height with a beam of 8 1/2". This beautiful kit No. B-22M was designed for single channel rudder control on up to a full-house rudder and sail operation. Lots of die-cut balsa sheet. The Ship Fittings, No. B-22M, are included as pictured below. This model is in 3/8"=1' scale. The kit includes a listing of other Sterling kits and this list is dated April 1, 1971. The Sterling marine kits were amongst the very best. A huge, 2-sided, full size and detailed plan which measures 52" x 40", which gives complete instructions for building. This kit may be purchased for only SORRY SOLD.
The pioneer model airplane designer and kit manufacturer, Joseph S. Ott (Joe Ott), is frequently mentioned on these kit pages, so I've decided that a little of his history should be presented. Ott was born in 1900 and died at the age of 86; his birthdate is sort of important as you'll learn in the next paragraph.
Ott was a designer and builder of model airplanes - early designs depended upon spruce and bamboo for construction - a lot of twin-boom pushers and sticks. The explosion of model kits didn't happen until balsa wood began to be used in the late 1920s. Ott's major contributions to modeling began in the 1930s. He authored the book, MODEL AIRPLANES - Building and Flying, published in 1931 in Chicago. The Preface to this book states that, "The author, who has been engaged in aviation work and model design and construction for the past twenty years, has designed, built and flown hundreds of models of every known type. From this vast experience he has selected certain models, which have been outstanding successes as flyers, and only these have been included in this book." Now that suggests that Ott was active at the age of eleven! He designed the "American Rocket Model" in 1930 which used a standard fireworks-style rocket motor. One model from this book, the Sky Pursuit, was featured in a building article in Model Aviation in November 1984 - members of the AMA can access this article from the AMA's website archives.
The photo above appears in the March-April 1931 issue of Aviation Mechanics in an article on a design of a compressed air motor. Ott sold this motor through The Model Aviator Products Co., 9 W Illinois St., Chicago, Ill. which I assume was his company.
Ott began designing scale, rubber powered flying models - many in his book. His scale designs were meant for flying, not static scale, so were somewhat "standoff scale" when compared to the detailed models of Ed Packard's Cleveland, Wanner and Peerless kits, for example. Joe Ott designed models for Popular Aviation as model editor in the early 1930s, bookended by Bertram Pond and Paul Lindberg. One of Fred Megow's earliest kits, the nice "Gee-Bee Super-Sportster" R-1 of 1933, was based on a 1932 Joe Ott design although not given credit on the plan.
Joe Ott produced "SKYFLYER" kits in the mid-1930s with a company name of Model Aircraft Products in Chicago (derived from Model Aviator Products?)- a short lived partnership with Donald F. Duncan. An example of this series is offered for sale: the "Wedell Williams" solid model kit with a wingspan of 6-inches. This solid kit features printed balsa blocks with a nice plan of the Wedell Williams #92, NR536V, although it is not identified as such on the plan. The plan states, "ALL SKY FLYER PLANS COPYWRIGHT (sic) BY J.S. OTT MODEL DESIGNER AND AUTHOR". The bottom area of the black & white plan features some perspective views showing how to carve the model. This historic kit is available for $45.00.
Ott started the Ace Whitman kit firm in 1935 in Racine, Wisconsin in the unused woodworking factory of Western Coil & Electric and used the services of Western Printing to do the kit marketing under the name of Whitman Publishing, a book publisher. The Ace Whitman kits were sold in huge numbers through dime stores and were not advertised - Ott's design efforts helped created magnificent blueprint style plans with a reverse side featuring a blackline, framework perspective drawing and instructions. Ott left the company in 1938 and started manufacturing his own line of Joe Ott kits which were marketed by J.L. Wright Inc. (Lincoln Logs) of Chicago. Known as a "Joe Ott Kit" with "Blue print picture plan", these kits were very nice flying scale models with three-foot plus wingspans; all balsa with plans similar to the Ace Whitman kits. These are the very best of all Joe Ott kits and were copyrighted in 1939 and 1940 - for example, the Curtiss XP-40 (with aft radiator), the "Curtiss Fighter", had a 36-inch wingspan (Kit No. 3606) and a conventional model construction. His "Lysander" had a 42-inch span and would make a very respectable model by today's standards. But as WWII loomed on the horizon, Ott must have had a premonition about balsa shortages.
In September, 1941, Model Airplane News ran an ad for the Joe Ott Manufacturing Co. based in Chicago; the ad stated that "Joe Ott America's Ace Model Airplane Designer announces a new and revolutionary Ott-O-Former Building Method" and that a full color page would run the following month as seen below from the October issue.
The new Ott-O-Former kit line started by featuring 22-inch, 32-inch and 36-inch kits. Note that he also still offered some of the standard, all-balsa kits. The Ott-O-Former kits became the best sellers with their die-cut bristolboard (also variously referred to as cardboard and tagboard by Ott)formers and balsa strips. The balsa would soon be substituted with hardwood as the wartime restrictions on balsa kicked in. The large, gas powered Turner Racer was still being offered in mid-1942 although.
By August 1944, Joe Ott announced a new line of OTT-O-TUBE kits - these kits were were all wood except the paper torque tube which was the construction center of the fuselage (and of course tissue) - the "wood" wasn't balsa though, but something akin to basswood. The Ott-O-Former and Ott-O-Tube kits were both in the Joe Ott line and they came in seven sizes: 22, 25, 27, 32, 38, 40 and 45 inch wingspans. The company was located at 415 West Superior Street in Chicago.
Joe Ott was still advertising in 1945, but with this message: "I want you to know why we use OTT-O-FORMERS in our Kits. These Formers were first designed by me during the early days of the War, when Balsa was unobtainable for assembling with thin wood stringers. Now that Balsa is available, we have found that the OTT-O-FORMERS are still the best construction with Balsa stringers. The Balsa Former, being a round, thin piece with definite grain, is not as strong as the same weight of Bristol (no grain). Adequate Balsa Formers require 2 or 4 pieces. That's why we are continuing to develop 1945 OTT-O-FORMERS for better and easier-to-build kits each year."
The Joe Ott kits disappeared following WWII as economic doldrums felled many kit manufacturers in the late 1940s. Joe Ott was an instructor of Aeronautics at Texas A&M University.
The XP-38 "Bomber Catcher" appeared in all of Joe Ott's line of kits. A 36-inch all-balsa version came out in 1940 and reappeared in many sizes of the OTT-O-FORMER kits. A Joe Ott "Flying Battle Plane Kit" No. 3216 "Lockheed" with 32" wingspan is shown below. Not dated but probably from around 1941. The XP-38 shape was used and the box illustration is unmistakably a XP-38, much of it in the same fanciful colors as the Jo Kotula Model Airplane Newscover featured on the Original Art page under the XP-38. Makes you want to buy that kit! It appears as if the box art was traced from Kotula's cover and rotated a bit. Why is the RH nacelle nose not painted red as the LH? The same illustration was used for the 1940 balsa kit.
This is probably a very early OTT-O-FORMER kit in that the box has only a vague, circular, poorly printed "New OTT-O-FORMERS" logo that looks like an afterthought - later kits boldly printed "OTT-O-FORMER" on the box. Also, the kit has balsa wing ribs, balsa props and balsa stringers (as used in the first kits) although the stringers appear to have been sawn with a dull chainsaw - the worst balsa strips that I've ever seen in any kit! Formers for Kit No. 3216 are shown below along with a small section of the single-sided plan.
The box condition for the XP-38 is about a "5.5" which is unfortunately pretty typical for most vintage Joe Ott kits. Flap boxes with fairly thin cardboard, the boxes have not stood up well to storage abuse. Crushed sides and torn flaps mark many Joe Ott kits. This is a good example of the OTT-O-FORMER style, particularly because it is balsa and represents kits of the 1941-42 era. I bought this kit just to get a good picture of the XP-38 and I'm pricing it at my purchase price, SOLD.
This Cavacraft solid model kit No. J-1 of the F-86 features a carved pine fuselage and die-cut wings and tail assembly and a vacuum-formed plastic canopy. It is 1/4" scale. This kit is the second version dated 1952. The box is about a "7.5" and is complete and structurally undamaged. The earlier version has nearly the same components (the 1952 kit has a much better set of decals) but has a very sketchy plan and a less-attractive box. It is obvious that Cavacraft was trying to match the success of StromBecKer's F-86 kit because the much improved 1952 plan, supplied with the kit being offered here, is patterned almost exactly after the StromBecKer plan! A nice example of solid kits from around 1950, this Kit J-1, complete, is priced at only $27.50 . The photos below are of a sister kit; the kit being offered has acid staining on the plan on the surface facing the wood, as is so common with old wood kits. Also, a MiG-15 solid, Kit No. J-2 is also available for $40.00.
Cavacraft Model Airplanes, 137-39 N. 6th St., Philadelphia, was formed by Edward Cavanaugh following World War II; he was an employee of Fred Megow prior to the formation of the Cavacraft company. He was joined by James Cavanaugh.
The Vahl Engineering Company, Brooklyn, New York, produced the most unique model airplane kit of the immediate post-war era. The SKYVAHL, with a 59-inch wingspan, was an all-aluminum structure, gas-powered, free-flight model - the only exclusively free-flight kit produced in all-metal of its size. The model was advertised by the manufacturer only a few times (that I've been able to find) in early 1946 - the January and February Model Airplane News, a distributor carried a small ad in the March 1946 edition of Air Trails and there was a full-page ad in the April 1946 Popular Mechanics.. Not heard from again.
The first full-page ad states that the model was designed by Harold R. Johnson and "tested and manufactured by Vahl Engineering Company." The model was designed to accept either class B or C engines and, "This, the newly created work of men with far-seeing vision, will soon be in the home of every leading model plane enthusiast in the country. Keep pace with the future!"
Vahl's construction booklet states that, "This is the first of the Metaline Fleet. After you have put the Sky-Vahl together you will be anxiously awaiting the next model to come off the Metaline production line." Also, Vahl states, "No sir! It;s not just a toy, it's not only a contest model, - it's an education in aircraft sheet metal and plane building."
Priced at a whopping $23.75 in 1946, I think the manufacturer over-estimated the financial capabilities of the average modeler of that era; add an engine, ignition components etc. and the price would be around $50.00 - a lot more than this high school student could afford in 1947! Several other all-metal or nearly all-metal U-control projects met a similar fate (such as the Silver Streak previously sold on this page). The glow-plug revolution hadn't hit yet in early 1946 so ignition engines were the choice (diesels weren't common in the U.S.); a spark system in an aluminum fuselage had to have been a dicey project.
The model being offered here is not a kit but has been assembled, but never outfitted for flight. Assembly of the kit was accomplished primarily by small metal screws, not rivets. The workmanship on the metal kit parts is exceptional. For example, the tail sections are preformed with flanged inboard sections that mate with the conical fuselage and then screwed.
The wing platform is adjustable, fore and aft, to obtain the best cg postion. The model is not as heavy as you would expect. The airplane, exactly as pictured here, weighs 38 oz. - add another pound for engine, prop, wing covering and ignition components and the gross weight is around 13.5 oz. per square foot which is certaily not competitive, but is flyable at least.
There exists a Vahl Engineering Company that sells aircraft parts currently and they are located in Brooklyn within two miles of the 1946 address! I have written them but I would guess that there is no one around that recalls this short-term model airplane episode in 1946 - perhaps they want to forget it 60 years later.
This airplane fits the model collector that seeks the unique. The flanged engine bearers haven't been touched so that any engine could be installed for display purposes. I have no idea how many of these models were produced, but the short term of advertising indicates that they ran out of steam very quickly. This is truly a collectible model aviation item that you're not going to see very many places - the National Model Aviation Museum has one (built-up, similar to this one) of these in their collection. I know that there are some kits in private collections and at least one is currently being flown!. The model is in great condition (no corrosion)with only a few signs of a bump or two on the tail feathers; the orignal decals are shabby as would be expected. You can add this interesting airplane to your office ceiling (or fly it if you're brave) for $750.00.
A copy of the "Hand Book" for the Sky-Vahl, along with a copy of the two-sided plan, is provided with the model.
Correspondent Frank Schwartz (AMA 123) wrote that, "I have one of these sstashed somewhere in my workshop. It was partially assembled, 1.e. fuselage and tail feathers. Always meant to make the wing and hang it up."
See the Sky-Vahl kit offered below.
The amazing Metaline Sky-Vahl, manufactured by Vahl Engineering of Brooklyn, had a brief commercial life; the last advertisement that I can locate for the kit is the above full-page blurb from the April 1946 Popular Mechanics. The model is fully described in the section above for a "built" version but a complete and original kit for the Sky-Vahl is also offered here. Advertising suggests that there was going to be a complete line of Metaline kits - I suspect that the 1946 price tag of $23.75 was a little too steep for postwar economic conditions.
The large kit box was used as the shipping box; the box has a label with graphics (shown below) and also has the original shipping address label. The shipper was Playtown Products Co., 1140 Broadway, New York 1, N.Y. (perhaps the distributor for the kit?) and it was sent to a hobby shop on Fifth Avenue in New York. The kit shipping box is complete but in ratty condition.
The Sky-Vahl plan is a large 27" x 37 1/2" and is printed on both sides. The front-side title block and a section of the plan showing the engine installation are presented below. Note that the plan was not drawn by Vahl Engineering. The plan is in excellent condition.
A handbook of instructions also accompamies the kit - the handbook cover is shown in the "built" Sky-Vahl section. The kit is made up of numerous pre-fabricated aluminum parts - assembly is performed with small self-tapping screws which are provided and with tiny rivets for the cabane, stabilizer and rudder. Wing covering is silk span. A large decal sheet is included which shows signs of aging. I want to show the many parts in detail so have placed the parts photos on the Supplemental Photo page which you can access by clicking Here. I am quite certain that this is the only all-metal structure kit ever made for a gas powered free flight model. When you see all those nicely formed metal parts, I bet you have an urge to build it! And you have to wonder why nobody ever started this kit - what was it's history?
If you would like to add this box of metal to your kit collection,it will cost you $950.00.
This model, either built or in kit form, is a museum piece. The AMA's National Model Aviation Museum ran the article shown below in its Cloud 9 newsletter for the Summer of 2008.
Strombecker was a well known maker of pre-carved pine kits of airplanes, field guns, a tank, trains and ships prior to WWII. All of the pre-war kits are highly collectible and bring high prices today. When WWII came along, Strombeck-Becker issued six kits which were designed to be recognition models, adhering to the government official scale of 1:72, made of pine and not carrying detail of propellers, landing gear, guns etc. The kits were of the B-24, B-17E, B-26, A-20A, P-40 and SBC-4, none of which were kitted in 1:72 scale by the company prior to this set. The kits had no metal parts in keeping with wartime restrictions on materials. The same kits were also issued in a special Boy Scouts box. A history of the Strombeck-Becker Manufacturing Co. and their line of great pre-carved wood kits can be accessed by clicking the StromBecKer page here.
The Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress, Kit No. S100, pictured above, is not dated but the national insignia is the early style used into 1943. The box lid states, "Especially designed to fit into the Official National Spotter or Recognition Program for civilians and the armed forces for training and identification purposes." The lid also suggests that the silhouette be cut out and used for a identification chart. The machined wood parts fit very nicely and make into a handsome model. More about the National Model Building Program is presented on the Friend or Foe? museum page. This nice wartime kit has a box with condition of about 6.5 with some restoration of scuffed edges and some stains - the box lid is shown above; the kit is complete; price is Sorry Sold. Another S100 kit with a box lid with a condition of 8 to 9 (not pictured here) is available for $375.00.
Frequent photo and article contributor, Jim Larsen, authored a delightful one-page story, "Forgotten Spotter Models of World War Two," in the Volume 45 Number 6 issue of Air Classics, which spotlights the spotter model kits made by StromBecKer during the Second World War. You can enjoy reading this tribute to StromBecKer's wartime kits by by clicking here.
The Douglas A-20A Attack Bomber, Strombecker Kit No. S51, is also a spotter model kit in the same series as the B-17E. This is a very nice all-pine kit; attention is called to the excellent precarving that Strombecker performed on all their wood kits.
The kit box (shown above) rates a 7 to 8 with some staining. The kit is complete and is priced at $115.00. BONUS. A copy of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics official wartime National Model Building plan "A-11" and template sheet for the Douglas A-20A is included; the original is dated 2-16-42.
This aluminum propeller was found amongst some 1938 model airplane kit items; it measures 7-inches in diameter and obviously was to be used with rubber power. It is quite elegantly formed with two halves swedged together and all edges nicely wrapped over. Do you have any idea where this prop originated?
This wooden gun measures 11 5/8" in length. Obviously constructed from a kit, and very similar to the StromBecKer style of wood kits, the gun has defied identification. I've searched all of the 1940s kit ads and cannot come up with a kit manufacturer for this nice item - it is not a StromBecKer. Do you know?
Mystery Solved. StromBecKer collector Jim Hensley has provided a StromBecKer ad from a 1942 catalog that shows this gun to be StromBecKer Kit No. A73, a 155mm gun and carriage.
The ad copy below shows why there can be confusion in identifying old model kits. This ad is from the 1941 Megow catalog; Megow featured two pages of StromBecKer solid model kits. The photo, captioned as the A73 155MM Gun is clearly the A72 Gun and Carriage 75MM.
On a quiet weekday in June at the AMA National Museum of Model Aviation, I sat on the floor and made this quick color sketch of the Comet Zipper.
Items may be ordered by contacting CollectAir at 1324 De La Vina St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Call cell (408) 828-2810 . Email address is email@example.com.
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Items may be ordered by contacting CollectAir at 1324 De La Vina St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Call cell (408) 828-2810 . Email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Money orders, personal checks or Paypal accepted from U.S. customers.
Please return often.