Special Feature Article with Alan Rowley
A note from Geoff C…
You may have noticed that we are trying to cover many different types of scale modelling in the Aircraft area of SMN? Well the reason for this is simple, these projects featuring past model manufacturers like Rareplanes, Matchbox and now the Ideal Toy Corporation provide great insights and tips for when you need to do a bit of scratch-building or working with vac-form mouldings.
Many newer modellers will probably not have had the ‘dubious’ pleasure of tackling what are inevitably complex projects and for that reason you might be put off forever. That’s a shame, because with some care and practice you can build and finish very nice models of subjects you might never find in the mainstream injection moulded kit manufacturers’ ranges.
And so we will continue to sprinkle some of these great builds in amongst al the new and exciting builds that you will always find within the thousands of pages of content.
And now you can follow just how Alan has tackled another of his very different modelling subjects that are so interesting to see. So, here is a photo of Alan’s completed project and wow! Well done Alan on a job very well done.
Over to you my friend…
For 1:32 scale modellers, civil aircraft are a scarcity, and for mid wars enthusiasts such as myself they are like the proverbial rocking horse teeth, so we need to cast our nets far and wide for subjects. Back in the early days, when plastic injection moulded kits were just beginning to appear, an American manufacturer made a model of the celebrated Beechcraft “Staggerwing”, or to describe it correctly, the Beech Aircraft Corporation Model 17. Having read a few internet blogs about this kit I thought I would have a crack at it, so I set out to acquire one and research the history of this remarkable aircraft.
Around 60 years ago, one of the world’s largest toy manufacturers, Ideal Toy Corporation, added a 1:32 scale Beech Model 17 “Staggerwing” to their sprawling but excellently engineered range of injection moulded construction kits. To this day no further manufacturer has produced a 1:32 model of this distinctive airplane, and ITC were to quit this business line altogether by the mid sixties.
During the 1970s a further release of their 1:32 “Staggerwing” was made, either from surplus original stock or by sparking up the original tooling, sources differ.
Whatever the origin of the second wave of kits, under the “Staggerwings Unlimited” name a respectable number of these appear to have been stashed away unbuilt, and still turn up for sale on eBay.
There is an excellent blog on www.oldmodelkits.com recounting the history of ITC Modelcraft and their kits, many of which are today amongst the most valuable collectors’ items in that rarefied world where glue is banished.
The place of “Staggerwings Unlimited” is not so clear and I have been unable to clarify exactly how and why they became involved in what was for them a one-off model kit. I have seen it suggested that the run of kits which they marketed were for Beech/ Staggerwing owners or enthusiasts. The original ITC models would have gone out through the normal distribution channels and would have no doubt been built up by kids or (more likely… dads!)
As the “Staggerwings Unlimited” kit includes a copy of an original Beech marketing leaflet and was supplied without a motor perhaps they were indeed aimed at a different market and explains why a few more survive.
How do you get one? Other than being exceedingly lucky at a collectors fair, I suggest the way to acquire one is from a specialist dealer or to search eBay for a 1:32 Staggerwing, if none show up, place it in your saved searches and then “play the waiting game.” Meanwhile, you could always watch this….
If you strike it lucky and find one, I can only give my personal experience on price. One remains at date of writing for sale on oldmodelkits.com for $140 and it has sat there for some time. I paid £40 for mine on eBay and was prepared to pay more. Please read on and see if you consider the kit to be worth it or not, it depends on where you want to go with it and how much time you are prepared to spend on it.
Added to the cost of mine was a resin engine, a few bits of plastic card/strip/tubing, and a fortunate lucky dip into the parts bin. My thoughts are that it’s about the same cost as a vacuum formed kit, less hassle, and far better finished.
It’s also worth investing in some reference material for the model, unless you want to just build it straight out of the box. I can recommend “Staggerwing” by Robert T Smith, but there are several other publications and plenty of photo references and dedicated sites on the internet.