The latest issue of Airfix Collectors’ Club‘s Constant Scale journal (No. 79, Vol. 20 No. 3), featuring Roy Cross’ smashing Fairey Rotodyne box art on its cover, is out now, and includes downthetubes contributor Jeremy Briggs’ history of Humbrol.
Founded in 1919 as the Humber Oil Company providing lubricants and then paint for cyclists, Humbrol Limited became the leading British manufacturer of paints and other accessories for the model kit and craft markets. In 2006, the company entered administration, but later the same year was acquired by Hornby plc, who has since re-launched the brand and it is now part of the group that includes Hornby trains, Airfix kits and Scalextric racing sets.
Jeremy’s seven-page feature traces the company’s history from its beginnings in a back street in Hull in 1919, focussing on the near six decades when it was owned and run by the Barton family, to it being sold as a major British exporter in the hobby and DIY markets almost six decades later to Borden’s Hobby Products Group.
“When I submitted the article to Constant Scale editor and Airfix’s resident historian Jeremy Brook, he described it as ‘a mammoth piece of research,” says Jeremy, and given his appreciated contributions to many different journals and sites, I can well believe it.
“Despite Humbrol’s 100th anniversary being marked in 2019, I was surprised how little information there was on the history of the company,” Jeremy says, “with even the date of its renaming from the Humber Oil Company to Humbrol (the name of HOC’s paint brand) seemingly being a mystery. During my research I discovered the exact date of the rebranding, while Andy Kirby and his Airfix / Humbrol Memorabilia Facebook group proved a big help in filling in other gaps in the story.”
Also in the 32-page latest issue, in “Fairey Rotodyne Made Plastic”, James Bridges details the real rotocraft featured on this issue’s cover, and its surprising number of kits. For example, the Airfix Fairey Rotodyne as a kit dates from 1959 and was repackaged in 1965 with Roy Cross’ illustration, and was last released by Airfix in 1996.
Ian M Fleming returns to the subject of minelayers in “Fast Minelayers (Again)”, by turning Airfix’s HMS Manxman into HMS Welshman, and in “Achtung Spitfeur”, James Bridges tracks the replica planes used in the Battle of Britain film after the cameras stopped rolling.
In “Birth of Airfix’s Superkits”, Jeremy Brook looks at the creation and initial release of the 1/24th superkits, while in “Eaglewall Neverwazzas”, David Welsh locates one of Eaglewall’s very last published kit adverts in a 1962 Hotspur comic.
Complementing Jeremy Briggs’ history of Humbrol, in “A Hunter’s Tale”, James Bridges outlines the convoluted history of Airfix/Humbrol’s real Hunter jet gate guardian, now returning to the fold; and in “Seeing Red Again,” he remembers the real red Spitfire XIV G-FIRE and the rest of the “Elstree Air Force”.
Plus, in “Return Of The Tin Triangle”, Keith Melville, in builds Airfix’s new Vulcan kit, while Jeremy Brook reviews it, and he also provides an ongoing selection of new kit and new book reviews.
If you’re a model maker, then this title is clearly a great resource, while those of us with more thumbs than fingers when it comes to glue and plastic can enjoy a trip back into model making history, and enjoy others obvious ingenuity and passion for their interest. Find out more on the official web site
• Constant Scale Issue 79 is available to members of the Airfix Collectors’ Club. Details on how to join are available on the club’s website | All back issues are also available to members as either print or e-copies
• Vintage Airfix: Airfix to Humbrol Paint List
• BBC News, 30th August 2014: Humbrol development complete eight years after factory closed
• Buy the new Avro Vulcan Airfix kit from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)
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