Limited Run – Really?

So you think that kit’s not from a mainstream manufacturer? Think again…

Just because a kit is not made by the most well-known names, does not mean that it’s not a fully-fledged kit or that company part of the mainstream

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When I first started building models almost forty years ago, the world  — small as it was back then — was filled with mainstream kit manufacturers who would offer their wares to a voracious public, keen to build their latest models. Airfix, Matchbox, Tamiya, Revell, Monogram and Italaeri(sic), all dominated the model shop shelves, their shiny boxes tantalising modellers from around the world to pick them up, hand money over to the shop owner and head home to the workbench.

These were not “mainstream” manufacturers, they were simply “manufacturers”. But as time passed by and the late seventies rolled over into the 80s and 90s, we started seeing new companies spring up, one-man-bands that created limited-run kits, limited because their number could often be measured in dozens rather than thousands and limited, because once that run was over and the moulds broken, they would never return.

My first knowledge of these kits came in the form of Veeday (the only company as far as I know to be subject — at the time — to a law suit!), Pegasus (Chris Gannon’s groundbreaking company) and then Aeroclub, who from creating innovative white metal details, developed their own range of initially, vac-formed and then injection-moulded, kits. All of the kits produced by these companies, could — and were — described as “Limited Run”, because that’s exactly what they were. They had limited production runs, parts moulded using low-pressure injection moulding machines that exhibited soft detail, huge sprue gates and at times, plenty of flash! Their true worth though was they were often of subjects that other companies would never touch in a million years: odd prototypes, conversions and rare one-offs. These helped fill in holes within a model collection and with a little work and the odd detail here and there, you could have something truly unique. And once they were gone, they were gone.

Today, we have a whole raft of companies from whom we buy kits. The mainstream manufacturers are still there of course, but have now been joined by an endless stream of new companies that seem to spring up almost every day. These companies now have the technology to produce incredible models almost straight from their initial release, kits that even a few years ago would not have seemed possible and yet here they are, full-blown products with beautiful boxes, complex instructions and decals and plastic parts the envy of the world. You don’t believe me – just ask MENG.

Injection-moulding is now so involved and expensive that all by the most wealthy investor is unlikely to take the risk of releasing one without considering the idea of it being a full-time occupation

So when I see kits from these manufacturers being described as “Limited Run”, I have to scratch my head a little. Just because a kit is not made by the most well-known names, does not mean that it’s not a fully-fledged kit, or that company part of the mainstream. Special Hobby, AMK, Kinetic, Kittyhawk, Fly et al, do not produce short-run kits. These are large companies that create stock kits, moulded using high-pressure injection moulding machines and then manufacture, package and distribute them in exactly the same way as any of the more well-known brands. They are not the one-man-bands of old. So when they are reviewed, they must treated in the same way as a kit from one of the majors, Airfix, Tamiya, Hasegawa, etc. To say about a Fly kit, “for a Limited Run kit, this is a…” is doing a disservice to not only readers who are expecting you to know the difference between the mainstream and garage, but also the company who want you to assess their product on a level playing field. If I was to offer untrue caveats before I began, I would be doing nothing to instil either knowledge or understanding into my assessment and that’s unfair. They may have simplified features, less detail and may offer such treats as resin, etch and vac-form parts, but that doesn’t make them – necessarily – “Limited Run”. it might, as in the case of Fly, simply mean that they are learning the ropes, testing production ideas and then using that as a stepping stone to greater things…

In 2015, the idea of a “limited Run” kit is something of a misnomer; they really don’t exist any more in anything other than resin (unless you include Mach 2, as someone suggested to me and even then, I’d argue that they are still a mainstream company!). Injection-moulding is now so involved and expensive that all by the most wealthy investor is unlikely to take the risk of releasing one without considering the idea of it being a full-time occupation. But more than that, the public’s appetite for quality would simply destroy anything that was not up to scratch. As great as those early injection-moulded kits were, they would be incredibly crude by today’s standards and so their release, accuracy and detail would be greeted with howls of derision by the world’s modelling intelligencia, should they suddenly appear today. It would be a bloodbath. So in 2015, anything that’s offered as an injection moulded kit, is by its very nature, not a short-run product. It is, unless supplied on one sprue, in a plain white box, with no decals and photocopied instructions, a stock plastic kit!

So when you next see a kit described in these terms, take a step back and ask yourself whether or not the kit really is “Limited Run”, or as is more often the case than not, it is a full-blown mainstream kit, produced by a company that just happened not to be so well-know. If you do, you just might see their latest product in a different light and that assessment, good or bad, will be more balanced and more objective as a result.

Now, I wonder where I put that Veeday Dragon Rapide..?

See you next time.

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3 thoughts on “Limited Run – Really?

  1. s.e. charles June 25, 2016 / 11:24 am

    “Injection-moulding is now so involved and expensive that all by the most wealthy investor is likely to take the risk of releasing one without considering the idea of it being a full-time occupation”

    BUT – UNLIKELY would make more sense; no?

  2. Jamie Haggo June 25, 2016 / 12:17 pm

    I’m wondering if people use the term “limited run” almost as an excuse for the fit and possibly finesse not being on par with the traditional big hitters like Airfix, TrumpyBoss, Tamiya etc. that, and the background of the company, i.e. t
    heir humble beginnings.

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