Loft Insulation A Retrospective of Model Making, the Dream and the Reality.
Design Museum Tank
We all have a collection, be it intentional or not. Over the years people acquire large amounts of objects, photos, buttons, books etc without realising, this is a collection. But what happens when you start out without the intention of being a collection but become one by default? This is what Loft Insulation is about. Many of us grow up with a fascination with military machines, however this fascination is often left unfulfilled. Model making is a way of reconnecting with that boyhood fascination with military aircraft by building your own versions of these marvellous machines, but sometimes reality can get in the way and this dilatory hobby often gets forgotten, left in a half built, unrealised state. Loft insulation looks at one mans collection of model aircraft and how, over the years, it has evolved, grown and expanded. It looks at how life often becomes a barrier in the pursuit of a hobby and how, unwittingly, a collection can grow exponentially.
What is a Collection? Part One
A collection, by definition, is a number of things or objects collected or assembled together. It can be anything, from guitars to cars, books to bikes; with a collections only limitation is that of the imagination of the collector. A collection is often assembled over many years, and often subconsciously, not throwing out old toys, keeping baby cloths or old photos. It is a way for people to keep those items that gave them happiness at one point in their lives, a keepsake from a dear friend or a photo from a trip or holiday, it is a more tactile form memory. Over the years, as we live our lives, the collection grows and evolves, often spanning different media and getting edited and organized. But this is not always the case, not all collections are formed from friends or holidays, some are formed from a fascination with something unachievable, something out of reach. Loft Insulation is just that. Loft Insulation tracks the collection of one man, Peter Gareth Davies, a retired teacher from South Wales who has had a fascination with military aircraft every since he was young. Never being able to see these aircraft in person, he made do with photos in books and the many war films of the time. The only way in which he could get close to these machines that sparked such a fascination in him was to build models; this is the genesis of the collection.
Whats in the Collection? This section of the catalogue looks at the collection itself, all the kits boxes, books, models and so on, which make up this large, unique and interesting collection. This section has been split up into manufactures of the kits, and the number on The Tank relate back to this catalogue for easy reference.
Frog Collection Founded in 1931 by Charles Wilmot and Joe Mansour, International Model Aircraft Ltd originally used the Frog brand name, said to stand for ‘Flies Right Off the Ground’ on thier semi scale balsa, elastic band powered flying models. In 1936, a range of 1:72 scale aircraft models in kit was launched under the Frog Penguin name, alluding to the non flying nature of these models. These were the world’s first plastic model construction kits. A new range of Frog kits was introduced in 1955.
In 1971, IMA’s parent company, now Triang, entered receivership and was acquired by Dunbee Combex Marx; this was the end of Frog. During the mid-1970s, some of the Frog kit moulds were transferred to various factories in the Soviet Union and the kits began to re-appear under the Novo brand name.
Frog Model represents the single largest part of the collection with well over one hundred and twenty Frog models that make up the majority of the kits. This is likely due to the fact that they were one of the largest and most respected manufactures of the time but there is also some brand loyalty responsible for this.
Hasegawa Collection In early 1941 the Hasegawa factory opened as a manufacturer of simple wooden teaching materials, such as a woodwork models. It entered into the plastic model field in 1961, with its first plastic model â€˜gliderâ€™ airplane models. In the following June, 1962, the 1/450 battleship Yamato was released after high development costs and became a success with about 150,000 units sold in the same year, and continuing success in the following years. The profitable line of 1/90 F-104 Starfighter and 1/70 P-51 Mustang model kits became the turning point which prompted Hasegawa to turn away from woodwork models and to plastic models completely Hasegawa kits are also renowned for their precision and detail, which made them a favorite for model makes. They also boat some of the best box art, with some stunning piece of work by famous artists of the time along with some of the clearest instruction of any of the model manufactures.
Monogram Collection Monogram was founded in Chicago in 1945 making balsa wood model kits of ships and airplanes. Meanwhile a company called Revell started making plastic kits in 1953, and soon Monogram responded with a red plastic midget racer and the race was on. In the late 1950s, Monogram hired modeller Sheperd Paine to construct and paint models
and write the instruction booklets. During the 1960s Monogram was always right in the mix, if not the lead, focusing more on automobile models, which was the trend. Until in 1984 when Revell and Monogram joined forces to form what was then Revell Monogram. In 2007 Hobbico brought the company and the name monogramdisappeared completely.
Interview Peter Gareth Davies Name: Occupation: Birth Date: Birthplace: Marital Status:
Peter Gareth Davies Retired Teacher 1947 Merthyr Tydfil Married
An insight into model making and collecting from Peter, why he started and why continues to collect these kits even though they wont get built anymore.
Why do you collect? Why do you collect model airplanes?
I don’t know really, I think the reason is I started building them when I was a kid, I can remember the very first Airfix kit coming out. It was just sort of the done thing, it was normal to make your own things, and lots of different types of kits were available such as balsa wood kits etc. I guess military aircraft caught my eye as I used to read Biggles, so a fascination was born form there.
What do you find appealing about the model kits?
Well, I want to make them, but I keep running out of time and dont have the space for building them, still got kits that I brought in about 1969 that I still haven’t built! Even remember where I brought it.
Why do continue collecting them?
I’m still interested in certain aircraft and like to have my own version of the plane in all its different incarnations and variants, different markings etc.
What makes you run out of time?
Again, I don’t really know. I never seem to have the time the sit down and build one in a day or to, only get time to do part of the kits at a time which is why so many of them are half built.
Why would you start another kit instead of finishing the other?
Well your always waiting for glue to set, filler to go off etc. some things need lots of prep, which takes time, so as one kit is drying I move on to another, but then never seem to go back to finish the kit other as I often forget about it. Also sometimes I alter models, adding on different wings which I make out of thin sheets of plastic, this I very time consuming and often takes a long time and several attempts.
What would your favourite kit be?
It would have to be the Thunder series, the F-105 Thunderchief because the aircraft had the fuselage length of a Lancaster Bomber but the wingspan of the Spitfire. I think it’s a really interesting aircraft, I like the shape and I think its also interesting that such a large aircraft only had one pilot. It’s just a fascinating machine.
Are there any kits that you are looking for?
I’m looking for a model of a Vickers Valliant, which means that a model would have been made of all the British V Bombers. The V bombers were the Victor, Vulcan & Valliant, it goes back to when I was a kid, I thought of them as being the ultimate in aircraft design. They all had lots of engines but all looked so different, the Valliant had a modest swept wing, the victor had a crescent shaped wing and the Vulcan had a delta wing. They all looked amazing when they first came into service, as they were all painted white.
What’s your fondest memory of model making?
Well the best times were when I was a kid, with my friends we would go down to Woolworths with our pocket money and buy a model. We would come home and build them together, the result was always awful, glue and paint everywhere, but we were proud of our efforts.
Any tips for model makers?
Just enjoy really, it’s a hobby after all and there is nothing more important than that, otherwise I wouldn’t do it.
Miscellaneous Kits These kits are a bit of a mystery, they are most certainly Russian but apart from that not much is know about them. Peter has no idea where he got them from or much information about the manufactories who built them. This is one reason they are so interesting, not least because of the box art which is distinctively more primitive than most of the Western manufactures box art of the time. They all have a really very interesting aesthetic, which makes them special whilst also being very unique amongst this collection.
Novo Collection Novo are a Russian born model manufacturer who, when Frog went bust, brought many of the kits moulds and began to re-package them under the Novo name. All of the Novo kits in the collection are old Frog models; this is because lots of model collectors follow models, tracking down old model from long since gone companies to build and collect.
A Hungarian businessman Nicholas Kove, initially manufacturing rubber inflatable toys, founded Airfix in 1939. The brand name Airfix was selected to be the first alphabetically in any toy catalogue. A few years later in 1954, Woolworth buyer Jim Russon suggested to Airfix that they produce a model kit of Sir Francis Drakeâ€™s Golden Hind. The kit would be made in the more stable polystyrene
plastic. In order to meet Woolworthâ€™s price of 2 shillings, Airfix changed the packaging from a cardboard box to a plastic bag with a paper header, which also included the instructions. It was a huge success and led the company to produce new kit designs. The first aircraft kit was released in 1955, a model of the World War Two MK.1 Supermarine Spitfire.
The Reality The dream of the collection is to build all of the kits, which spark fascination within Peter, but the reality is something altogether different. Most of the kits get left in their original boxes, still with the plastic wrap around them, unopened and untouched for years. The kits that do get made only ever get half finished, with the fuselage and wings done then left, as another model is started whilst the previous one gets left unfinished.
The collection is more than simply half built kits and their boxes; it consists of a large amount of paints, glues and tools. These have all been brought to paint the kits, but as the kits rarely get made, they are left to gather dust along with all the boxes. Lots of the paints are also very old and have since dried up and kept.
What is a Collection? Part Two
The collection was started in the late 1960â€™s as a hobby. Every kit was brought with the intention of being built and was never meant to be a collection at all. Over the years the amount of kits being brought and built increased, early on they all got built but as time went on and his career and family became more predominant, time was less plentiful but the fascination remained. But this didnâ€™t stop Peter from buying kits to build if he had the time. This meant that the kits started to pile up and get in the way, some were half built and left to be finished another day, so they were put into storage in the attic and left to gather dust continually being added to. Forty years later and the fascination had turned into over four hundred kits, still left in their original packaging, untouched. Many of the kits were out of production along with the manufactures, which had since gone bust and vanished. The collection is more than just half finished kits and unopened boxes, its paints, glues, toolboxes, books, magazines, spare parts and so on. This paints a very interesting picture of model making, its shows how the hobby is more than that, it is an obsession, something that takes up large amounts of time, space and money.
What is a Collection? Part Two (cont)
To this day Peter continues to add to the collection, half finishing the kits before he moves on to the next one and leaving some in their boxes as well. This obsession shows no signs of waning. Some kits are so old that they have become collectors items and worth substantial amounts of money. They are worth so much that he doesnâ€™t want to build them but still doesnâ€™t have the heart to sell them either, they have become much apart of him as the colour of his eyes.
Catalogue for project for Design Museum