A Ride Back in Time: The History of Airfix

From humble beginnings rooted in the era of wooden replicas to pioneering injection moulding technology in Britain, Airfix has shaped the landscape of model making. Airfix has been synonymous with the world of plastic scale models for generations, igniting the imaginations of children and adults alike.

Airfix is a renowned brand in the world of plastic model kits, known for its high-quality products and attention to detail. Airfix model kits have been favourite among hobbyists, collectors, and enthusiasts of all ages for decades. Join us as we delve into Airfix’s fascinating milestones, innovations, and enduring legacy that continue to inspire and amaze enthusiasts worldwide.

Airfix model kits

The making of Airfix goes back to the world war era. Before transitioning to collectable toys, people had started making warships, planes, and tanks from wood. The wooden replicas were popularised back then. Even today, there are aircraft made from wood that are sold highly. The genre of wood-shaped imitations was called solids. The name indicated that they were made of solid wood. The wood needed shaping and sanding before the process of painting began.

Airfix was the first company to introduce injection moulding technology in Britain. It was founded in 1939 by Nicholas Hove, a Hungarian immigrant. Ironically, Airfix’s name never came from anything concerning aircraft or models. Instead, it came from a personal preference of Kove’s. According to Airfix historian Arthur Ward, Kove liked words that ended in “fix” and wanted his company’s name to start with an “A” so it would be at the top of trade directories. Kove’s search for a low-cost sales opportunity spawned the first Airfix products, a diverse assortment of household items.

Shifts during the Times Of War

Due to the beginning of the war, there was a rubber shortage. Airfix started to think about using alternate materials and production processes for business purposes.

In post-war 1947, Airfix was the biggest producer of pocket combs in the United Kingdom.

In 1949, a pre-assembled promotional model of the TE20 tractor was ordered from Airfix. It was finally offered in kit form since assembling was discovered to be time-consuming and expensive.

The Introduction of Plastic Model Kits

1949 Airfix released its first plastic model kit, a 1/72 scale model of a Ferguson TE20 tractor. This kit was a significant departure from the traditional wooden and metal model kits available at the time. Plastic allowed for greater detail, affordability, and ease of assembly, making model building accessible to a broader audience.

The Rise to Prominence:

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Airfix expanded its range of plastic model kits, covering various subjects such as aircraft, tanks, ships, and cars. The kits gained popularity among hobbyists with their accurate scale representations and attention to detail. Airfix’s success was further fueled by the release of its famous “Dogfight Doubles” series, which featured two aircraft models in one box, allowing modellers to recreate iconic aerial battles.

Innovations and Technological Advancements:

In the 1970s, Airfix introduced several innovations that further solidified its position as a leader in the modelling industry. One of these innovations was using polythene bags to hold the model parts, replacing the traditional cardboard boxes. This reduced production costs and allowed customers to see the kit’s contents before purchasing.

Another significant advancement was the introduction of the “Series 5” kits, which featured improved moulding techniques, finer details, and a more comprehensive range of subjects. These kits quickly became popular among modellers, further cementing Airfix’s reputation for quality and innovation.

Acquisition and Revival:

Airfix faced financial difficulties in the late 1970s and early 1980s despite its initial success. In 1981, Humbrol, a manufacturer of paints and modelling supplies, acquired the company. Under Humbrol’s ownership, Airfix underwent a revival, with a renewed focus on quality and expanding its product range.

The 1990s and Beyond:

In the 1990s, Airfix faced increased competition from other manufacturers, particularly overseas companies producing cheaper kits. However, the brand remained resilient and continued to release new and improved kits to cater to the changing demands of modellers.

In 2006, Airfix was acquired by Hornby, a well-known model railway manufacturer. This acquisition provided Airfix with the resources and support needed to enhance its product range further and maintain its position as a leading brand in the modelling industry.

The Legacy of Airfix:

The impact of Airfix on the modelling industry cannot be overstated. The brand has inspired generations of modellers, fostering creativity, attention to detail, and historical interest. Airfix kits are valued for their historical accuracy and craftsmanship.

Over the years, Airfix models have become cherished collectibles for many enthusiasts. The brand continues to release new kits alongside reissues of classic models, tapping into the nostalgia of older generations while captivating younger ones. Building an Airfix model kit today is not just a hobby; it’s a celebration of historical craftsmanship.

Present Day:

Today, Airfix continues to produce a wide range of plastic model kits, including aircraft, military vehicles, ships, and figures. The company has embraced new technologies such as CAD (Computer-Aided Design) to enhance the accuracy and detail of its kits. Airfix also collaborates with various institutions and organisations to create licensed kits.

In conclusion, the history of Airfix is a testament to the enduring appeal of plastic model kits. Airfix has left an indelible mark on the modelling industry, from humble beginnings to becoming a global brand. As the company continues to innovate and adapt to changing times, it remains a beloved and iconic name among hobbyists and collectors worldwide.

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