The latest issue of Constant Scale, the quarterly journal of the Airfix Collectors’ Club has just been published. This A4 size, 32 page magazine features Eagle and Swift artist Roy Cross’ artwork for Airfix’s Bentley kit on its cover.
Inside are copiously illustrated articles on Shopping for Airfix in the 1950s by David Welsh, the Green Line bus that advertised Airfix in the 1970s by James Bridges, who also reminisces about the Angel Interceptor as well as Danish wrapping paper(!), book reviews and reviews of the latest Airfix kits by Jeremy Brook, and the original instruction sheets for both Airfix’s original 1/72 scale B-TK Spitfire kit and the Aurora 1/48 scale B-TK Spitfire kit in almost a spot-the-difference fashion (which rather does seal the idea that Airfix copied that Aurora kit back in the 1950s).
However the most interesting article for comics’ fans will be downthetubes contributor Jeremy Briggs’ article on the Airfix Modellers’ Club page that appeared in Lion, Valiant, Buster and Battle comics between 1973 and Airfix Industries falling into receivership in 1981.
The article was originally written to tie-in with the relaunch of the modern Airfix Club which has now, unfortunately, been postponed due to the lockdown.
“The editor was generous in giving over seven pages of the 32-page magazine for the article and the accompanying illustrations of comic covers and club pages,” Jeremy reveals.
The Airfix Modellers’ Club page featured greetings from club president, then popular TV comedian, Dick Emery each week and gave members the chance to claim a free kit if their membership number was printed. The club proved so popular that membership numbers in the 148,000 range were being printed towards the end of the club’s run.
“The club page in the comics featured greetings from comedian Dick Emery each week,” notes Jeremy. “However, the Airfix Archivist tells me that Airfix employees of the time say he was just a figurehead and had little to do with the club.
The club page was not a typical theme for covers of the comics but two issues of Battle featured illustrations promoting club page competitions. Ian Kennedy illustrated a Stuka attack on an Allied truck convoy to promote the 1/24 scale Stuka Superkit competition in Battle Picture Weekly and Valiant in November 1976 when that kit was still brand new, while previously in October of that same year the second issue of the combined title featured a competition for the rather more toy-like 1/32 scale Combat Pack.
The Combat Pack featured a British Cromwell tank and a German Hanomag half-track, plus a selection of soldiers from both sides, and disc firing pill-boxes to shoot the soldiers over with.
The interesting part of the illustration on that issue’s cover is that the Cromwell tank is firing backwards at the Hanomag. It can be assumed that the unidentified IPC artist was given the Airfix publicity shot for the Combat Pack in which the photographer who set up the shot obviously couldn’t tell one end of the Cromwell from the other!
As well as these Battle covers, the article features the very first and last club pages and the ongoing explanations to readers of the closure of the club in 1981 and what would replace it. What did replace it in both Battle and Buster, for a short time at least, was the Humbrol Modellers Club and Jeremy tells us that a follow up article on that club is due in a future issue of Constant Scale.
The Airfix Collectors’ Club was originally formed in 1994 by a small group of like-minded enthusiasts to document the history of and encourage the collecting of the models and toys made by Airfix Products Ltd.
It was re-formed in late 1999, and is a non-profit making organisation, dedicated to linking fellow collectors and enthusiasts world-wide for the exchange of information, advice and archive material about Airfix since its formation in 1939. It is officially supported by Hornby Hobbies Ltd, the current owners of Airfix.
Constant Scale, the Club journal, is published four times a year and includes articles about the history of Airfix, its products and information supplied by former Airfix employees who are members of the Club.
With thanks to effects designer Mike Tucker for supplying photographs of his Airfix Modellers Club kit