COPYCAT KITS: FACT OR FICTION?

Did MENG really copy Tamiya’s large scale P-51 Mustang to create their smaller and simpler kit..?

“I agree that MENG may have been inspired by Tamiya, but to say it’s a copy is no more true in this case, than if I were to say that my local park team were a copy of FC Barcelona, simply because they both played football…”

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Brett Green’s stunning Tamiya 1:32 P-51D Mustang as featured in ADH Publishing’s book “How To Build… Tamiya’s P-51 Mustang”

Yesterday you may recall that I posted images of my MENG P-51 and this wrapped up a most enjoyable build with a model that I really like. It’s been a while since I’ve embraced a kit so wholeheartedly and then been so taken with the finished result, so my pleasure in revealing it to the world was something that I couldn’t wait to do.

I’m fortunate that modellers seem to like what I do and enjoy seeing the results of my often fraught labours. Though my feelings can sometimes be rather more dismissive of the models that I build, it is certainly gratifying to think that others see beyond personal angst and insecurity to enjoy a completed project and thus the ‘Stang was revealed. And yes – thankfully! – the response was very nice. Then came a comment I wasn’t expecting – that the reason MENG’s Mustang was so nice, was that it was a copy of Tamiya’s 1:32 kit.

A what?

A copy of Tamiya’s kit…

Err… What now?

Writing this, I’m still trying to process the idea, so let’s use that as a jump off point for further discussion. The accusation that a kit is a direct copy of another product is nothing new; many have accused companies of either directly or indirectly copying other products, be it kits, books, decals or other modeller paraphernalia, so this comment, though raising an eyebrow, was not wholly surprising. In some cases the accusation has merit; for instance, for some time a certain Korean company were more than a little ‘inspired’ by kits from Japan until they worked out they could create their own designs, so it happens.

In  recent years the copying of kits has become less and less noticeable, to the point where it almost never happens within the injection-moulded realm (there is plenty of pirating within the resin world, but that’s another story). So when the accusation arises, I take notice – especially when that accusation is being levelled at a company that is making real headway in the world of model kits and the kit in question, has been almost universally well-received.

So before I begin with the comparison in question let me make a few points about these often spurious comparisons. In my opinion – and I stress, my opinion – these accusations are almost always levelled at Chinese companies. It’s almost became a rather unpleasant shorthand for continental rivalry where what is really being said, is that there is no way that a Chinese company (often referred to as ChiCom) could have created anything without copying someone else because they are lazy, incompetent, or just downright dishonest. It’s rubbish. But hey, when in 2017 did facts ever have to be actual fact?

So I compared the MENG kit with Tamiya’s 1:32 offering.

I agree that a couple of the parts are very similar (why wouldn’t they be – after all they are replicating the same aircraft?!) but the vast majority are not. There are superficially similar design ideas in both kits and details that are the same (especially over the airframe), but they are few and far between and in MENG’s case, are very small items across a much larger kit that show no similarities whatsoever to Tamiya’s, other than them being kits of the same aircraft. MENG’s cockpit is entirely different in breakdown and detail, the airframe is broken down into far more components in the Tamiya kit (there is no separate tail in MENG’s for instance and unlike Tamiya’s the entire underfuselage intake is a separate sub-assembly). There’s no engine or guns; no multipart control surfaces, undercarriage bay or undercarriage legs – almost all of these parts being moulded in one piece. None of the sub-assemblies are the same, either in detail or parts composition. If this was a copy, then MENG have done a very poor job of it!

I agree that MENG may have been inspired by Tamiya, but to say it’s a copy is no more true in this case, than if I were to say that my local park team were a copy of FC Barcelona, simply because they both played football…

Here’s what my good friend and co-conspirator, Brett Green, has to say about this issue when I asked him if MENG had copied Tamiya’s kit – bearing in mind that Brett has intimate knowledge of building both kits:screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-10-25-07

“No. The engineering of the two kits is wildly different in most areas – cockpit, engine (or lack thereof), undercarriage and so much more. Really, the only piece of engineering that is common to both the Tamiya 1/32 and the Meng 1/48 Mustangs is the saddle insert on the rear fuselage spine where the canopy slots in. I think it is drawing a very long bow to suggest this one piece of common design constitutes one kit copying the other!

In fact, it would have been good if MENG had completely copied that area as the canopy would have sat down flat on the rear fuselage as it should!!”

Brett Green

In this case there is the insinuation that the only information that MENG used to create their kit, was Tamiya’s offering. In MENG’s extensive blog (http://www.meng-model.com/new.php?id=668) they discuss the kit in detail and also reveal a LIDAR scan of the Mustang that they used during it’s creation, which again they mention in their blog. Are we to believe that such a progressive company popped down to their local model shop, handed over some coins for Tamiya’s kit and then simply sat down and copied what they found and then fabricated information about how their kit was created to put everyone off the trail? Really? That’s what we think? Come on – behave.

screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-10-38-31

Yeah, but Spence, so many of the design ideas look the same. Yeah, and? That’s not really surprising is it? When a company has created the very best Mustang kit ever seen, if you were to manufacture a similar product, wouldn’t some of those ideas filter through your thought processes? Wouldn’t you instinctively think, hmm, that’s a good way of recreating that assembly, let’s do something similar. I’ll bet money on the fact that the Airfix kit will use similar ideas to that seen in Tamiya’s kit, but just because something is inspiration doesn’t mean it’s a direct copy. Really, it doesn’t. It wouldn’t be the case if they were both in 1:32 and it certainly doesn’t, when one is in a smaller scale such as that seen here.

I’m prepared to acknowledge that plagiarism goes on the modelling world every bit as much as it does anywhere else (and I will ALWAYS call out companies that do it no matter who they are and what their reputation happens to be, good or bad) but the idea that that has happened in this case (or others in recent memory, such as Tamiya’s Do335 being a copy of Monogram’s ancient kit) is simply not true…

Sorry, but it isn’t.

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8 thoughts on “COPYCAT KITS: FACT OR FICTION?

  1. Jon Bius February 13, 2017 / 11:36 am

    The question I always ask in instances like these is “do you own both kits, and have you extensively compared their parts?”

    Inevitably the answer is “no”.

    So the follow on is “so have you found photos of both sets of sprues and compared them?”

    Again, the answer is “no”.

    Ultimately, the questioning turns up something vague like “rumor has it”, or “I read it on such-and-such forum”- both of which are usually attributed to “someone in the know”.

    Of course, my all time favorite is “a guy in in the nacho line at the IPMS Nationals told me.”.

    Face it Spencer. You are talking common sense. There is a segment of the citizenry of our hobby that simply won’t deal in that currency.

    Good post.

    Now I really want to build that kit.

    • Rene Lelong February 13, 2017 / 6:07 pm

      It makes very good sense to me. A healthy competitive spirit that makes companies look at a good kit like the Tamiya P51 and motivate them to produce something as good or better is good for us the modellers is it not. So bravo to Meng and I hope bravo to Airfix when they release theirs. S[pencer when are you going to chat to us about things like that on your You Tube channel. I have been missing your no nonsense informative sessions. I’m sure many modellers ar in want of more also. Cheers. René

  2. Dr Malcolm McKay February 13, 2017 / 9:36 pm

    Succinct and accurate reply to the claims of copying Spencer. These rumours get tossed around until they acquire their own alternate reality.

  3. cornay February 13, 2017 / 9:57 pm

    Just read the whole thing on HS.
    Storm in a teacup?
    Tempest in a shoebox?
    Hurricane in a matchbox?

    Beautiful model Spencer.

    The person in question certainly rolled a frag into the forum.

  4. Calum Gibson February 13, 2017 / 9:58 pm

    I’ve the comment about the Meng kit being a “copy” of the Tamiya kit several times recently, however this barrow only seems to be pushed by by 1 person. Copy means “a thing made to be similar or identical to another.” I’ve yet to see any evidence that there are any major similarities between the 2 kits. Even the similarities pointed out are minor.

    Saying something is true, no matter matter how many times you say it doesn’t actually make it true… Unfortunately that seems to be lost today to many.

  5. tonyo262 February 14, 2017 / 4:32 am

    Seriously? Is this hackneyed subject still doing the rounds in virtual model world? It’s another reason why many of us don’t engage with forums and the wider social media that serves the hobby anymore.

    Unfortunately for this and many other niche past-times, scale modelling has and always will be a refuge for people who have over inflated ideas of self worth/importance. Safe inside their own private universe, they feel that because they have some level of ‘expertise’ (i.e. they’ve made more than ten model kits in a year) this then automatically entitles them to comment on matters outside of their stagnant little goldfish bowl.

    Pointing out the absurdity of the sitation (putting together a pre-formed product that is constructed in a set procedure does not make you a product designer, much less an aeronautics engineer) always attracts vitriol from the incensed fuckwit who, when faced with a logical argument, willl usually say they have a ‘good friend’ who’s grandad once saw a Mustang…(WTF is a good friend? BTW LOLz oh and are you sure it wasn’t a Blackburn Skua, they do sorta look alike).

    The joke is that this excellent little kit is yet another example (yawn) of a popular subject that is bound to sell regardless because the aeroplane has a cool back story and is a bit of an aesthetic god.

    How much more exciting would it have been for Meng to have gone all in on something unique or that isn’t available in 52 varieties elsewhere? (Please don’t respond with assumptions about financial risk/viability and sales projections; modellers will buy three of anything weird and the more obscure the better).

    Of course it would be an easy thing to dispatch the gobshite (google this if you’re not from ‘up north’) to a lifetimes modelling wilderness by passing their details to Meng lawyers.

    Its easy to forget that in this social media age, what you say and do online can land you in a world of trouble before you can hit refresh.

    Defamation lawsuit anyone? No? Thought not.

    Nice looking model Spencer, hope you and yours are well. Cheers Tony.

  6. Bruce Grayson February 16, 2017 / 11:59 pm

    Having both the Monogram and Tamiya Do 335 in my possession, I can categorically say that they are fundamentally dissimilar.

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