Cool Plastic Model Kit Art

Vinyl toys are hot and people collect them like my hands seem to collect scars. People have always loved likenesses of superheroes, robots, cars, spaceships and such but there was a time you had to build these art forms yourself. It wasn’t just the joy of hours of pleasure building these plastic models but the wonderful fumes from the plastic cement used to put them together. Those fumes may have destroyed certain brain cells that hold those memories, so here’s some photos of the kits you may remember.

Sure, we all wanted models of our favorite cars, which we dreamed we would one day own… in the real size and not the 1:72 scale, so we could fit a girl in it. We also wanted spaceships, monsters, robots and World War II airplanes. It took hours, even days to build and paint these kits… and seconds to blow them up with firecrackers and cherry bombs once we grew tired of the models or ran out of shelf space and wanted to add more. Being a creative child, I figured out how to build the firecrackers into the models at the start. My friends thought I was an evil genius.

It wasn’t enough to just want the models because of what they were — it was the cover art that really sold it. The paintings were done by well-know painters like James Bama and Jack Leynnwood. How could you not want a Stuka that could blow up half of Poland and leave a “Messerschmidt” all over the place? What child could resist a grimacing Green Beret throwing a grenade into a Vietnamese “hooch,” unaware if babies were in there? The cover paintings were filled with action and the promise of beauty in a thousand plastic parts. The promise, of course, ended once the static model was put together and you realized that you sucked at painting models.

I don’t know how the people on the first space station survive with the giant door open or why there’s a traffic jam. Must be rush hour on the moon. The Disney Space ship has an odd design. The “by -” next to the logo seems unnecessary next to the big logo. I suppose they thought kids would miss it and attribute the model to Revell or Aurora. I actually had the Pilgrim Observer model. I was disappointed to find out it was not nuclear powered as promised on the package, nor did it ever leave my room, much less become interplanetary. I am glad, however, to see the Moon Ship is an authentic kit as opposed to an… not authentic kit?

The hard part with figure models was getting the skin color just right and not shaking too much so the eyes didn’t come out insane-looking and stare at you all night from across the room. I had the Green Beret model and he didn’t look as dedicated to killing when he was done.

Who didn’t love plane and helicopter models? Hanging from the ceiling in your room, they looked real and with a lit fire cracker fuse and a hard throw, they blew up in mid air, just like on the package art!

The 1970’s computer type really made the space models seem even more technical but the one word covers just drew kids in with their mysterious simplicity.

The scariest thing about these models was knowing Frankenstein had no legs and drove without holding onto the steering wheel. What a monster!

These were the only packages that showed actual photographs of the finished models.

It’s funny to think that the view of the future had Pan Am as the airline that would travel into space when it actually was the first airline company to go out of business. The Flying Sub was cool but the decals came off when I played with it in the bathtub. The Rat Patrol was a disappointment. The jeeps and tanks were about an inch long, it came with little sand dunes, was impossible to paint and nothing blew up like on the package.


Speider Schneider

Speider Schneider is a former member of The Usual Gang of Idiots at MAD Magazine and has designed products for Disney/Pixar, Warner Bros., Harley-Davidson, ESPN, Mattel, DC and Marvel Comics, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon among other notable companies. Speider is a former member of the board for the Graphic Artists Guild, co-chair of the GAG Professional Practices Committee and a former board member of the Society of Illustrators. Follow him on Twitter @speider

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