I really dug into my pile of old kits this month and pulled out the oldest model I have. This should be a real nostalgia trip for those of you that are at least as old as I am! Itís so old that itís not even a plastic kit.
Hobby-Time was a division of Western Coil and Electrical that began marketing balsa model airplane kits in the late 40s. Their XB-51 was a wood kit known during that era as a ďsolidĒ as opposed to flying model. Itís done in typical fashion for the times with a partially pre-shaped fuselage, flying surfaces to punch out of a sheet of balsa, and dowel and blocks for the remainder of the wooden parts.
There is also a crude decal sheet, a (vacuum-formed) plastic canopy and display stand, and four rubber (!) tires. The instructions featured three-view drawings, and cross section templates for the fuselage and airfoils, along with color and markings guidance.
This kit happens to be 1/96 scale so it would fit right in with a collection of 1/100 scale models if one wanted to do the huge amount of work required to make it presentable. Personally, Iíd replace all the balsa with a better quality of wood if I ever felt like taking on such a daunting project!
Hobby-Time also made five other wood kits as shown on the back of the XB-51 box: an XB-47, Meteor 8, F-86, F-89, and Venom. I donít know if the entire series was to a constant 1/96 scale, but the current market value of the fighters is around $25 each. The XB-51 is probably worth $50-$75, the XB-47 somewhat less since Strombecker made a larger scale (1/72?) kit in hard wood rather than balsa - it often sells for more than $100 on eBay.
All the Hobby-Time balsa kits were jets. Forced by competition from the likes of Comet and Monogram, which had already switched to all-plastic models, Hobby-Time produced their own line of plastics in the early sixties. They released three vacuform flying model kits in approximately 1/48 scale (Demon, Skyray, Super Sabre). They also did three sets of normal static plastic model kits: a WWII fighter series (P-47, P-51, Bf-109, and Spitfire), a WWII bomber series (B-29, B-24, B-25, and A-26), and a jet fighter series (F-100A, F4D, F-84F, and F-89D). These were issued both as individually boxed or bagged kits, and also in boxed gift sets. They werenít done to a constant scale but the fighters were all close to 1/72. The F-100A was actually pretty decent and Iíd love to get my hands on one of them. The bombers ranged from 1/133 to 1/242.
The most collectible Hobby-Time plastic kit didn't fit into any of these series. It was a Bell XV-3 Convertiplane in 1/43 scale, issued in boxed, bagged, and blister-packed versions Ėitís often confused with the ITC 1/32 scale McDonnell XV-1 Convertiplane, now re-released by Glencoe Models. Late in balsa, late in plastic, itís no surprise that Hobby-Time didnít survive, stopping kit production in the late 60s. The molds for the static plastic kits wound up in Costa Rica and were released in the late 80s under the Plasticos Star label but they too soon folded.
Back to the plastics next month. Till then, ďBuild what YOU like, the way YOU want to, and the critics will flame you every time."
Note: Much of the historical background for this article was drawn from a rec.models.scale posting by Matt Mattingley.