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What was your first kit?

Compiled by Mark Hembree

While we prepared the October 2014 issue of FineScale Modeler, we asked readers to tell us the first kit they could remember building on their own. We got a lot of responses — too many to print — so we promised we would run the rest of them here.

We also asked the same question of our staff and kit reviewers, and their head-scratching and irreverence makes them especially amusing.

So, here we are. As we mentioned in the magazine, we will not be correcting these memories (or what’s left of them, anyway). You may now argue among yourselves.

More from our readers …


I built my first alone. I was perhaps 6, and I wanted some green army men like the other kids had. My parents took me to a local department store, but all they had were a few Tamiya 1/35 scale figure kits. I chose the British infantry set that came with three soldiers. They weren’t pretty when assembled — just twisted off the sprues, no cleanup — but I thought they were great.

– Jack Geratic, South Porcupine, Ontario, Canada


… Monogram 1/48 scale (I think) Cessna 180! Dad set me up in my room and left me at it alone. What a sight it was! Hand-painted silver paint, glue everywhere, a horrific decal job. But that was all it took to get the fever and never stop loving it. I still did kits with my dad, too. Best of times!

– Bobby Gianino, St. Albans, Vt.


… I forget the actual name, but it was a Chevy snap-together 1/32 scale van that my first-grade teacher bought me in about 1972. A bunch of snap-together kits later, my parents finally got me a “real” kit — a 1/48 scale Revell Starfighter and a Monogram 1/32 scale 6 x 6 Army 2½-ton truck!

– Calvin Gifford, NAWS China Lake, Calif.


When I was around 6 or 7, a snap-together Mustang II funny car.

– Thomas Rycraft, Utica, N.Y.


… a Tiger I snap-together. My uncle bought it for me. I took it home, assembled it in about three hours, and destroyed it in about 10 minutes. My first glue-together kit, I believe, was a late-’60s Mustang from either AMT or Monogram. I still have the pieces for that one, although the scale is off by hundreds of coats of paint.

– Joe McCaslin, Colville, Wash.


… F-104 Starfighter by Monogram. I was about 10 at the time. I remember picking it out because of the name, I had a huge love of science fiction at the time, and I didn’t realize it was an actual plane. I would build a few more Cold War-era jets before I would stop building models — only to pick it up 30 years later.

– Greg Jansky, Little Silver, N.J.


I really don’t remember my first one without help, but my son Ethan just completed his first unassisted. (He’s 9.) It’s a Polar Lights “Stone, Woods and Cook” snap-together ’41 Willys drag car.

– Glenn Foutch, Olive Branch, Miss.


My first one was a Revell DC-7, in its beautiful original box and American Airlines livery. I think it was in 1957, when the kit was brand new and I was six years old. My mother paid a dollar for it at the sporting goods store two blocks from our house in Columbus, Ohio. I hate to think what it must have looked like when I got done with it.

– John A. Tilley, Greenville, N.C.


First solo kit for me was the (then) Monogram P-61 Black Widow. We had extracurricular courses in middle school, around 1987, and one was model building. Got 45 minutes after school to work on the kits in a classroom. I brush-painted the interior silver, left the outside bare plastic (black), and masked off the red wing walk lines with Scotch tape and brush-painted them. I’ve had a thing for the P-61 ever since.

– Chris Nugent, Fort Collins, Colo.


… the Aurora Prehistoric Scenes Saber Tooth Tiger. I got it as a birthday gift. I Googled the kit and it was released in 1972, so I would have been 8 years old. It is one of the prehistoric kits that wasn’t reissued by Monogram.

It was a snap-together kit that consisted of 24 pieces, including a two-piece base. It had eight different legs providing option poses. The base could be mated with other prehistoric scene kit bases to create a large diorama. I ended up building most of the kits from that line throughout my youth.

– Robin Gronovius, Elizabethtown, Ky.


My first "unassisted" kit was probably the Revell Monogram SR-71, circa ’97 or so. I was probably about 10. I didn’t paint it because I was a little gun-shy of the airbrush my dad bought me for my birthday that year; I went through a phase in which I didn’t paint anything unless I absolutely had to, and the Blackbird was already black. I still have it, but the outboard wings are a bit warped from sitting on a shelf for 15 years.

(To be honest, I do paint them now, but I still don't like to use the airbrush if I can help it.)

– Joshua Wilder, Beaverton, Ore.


… might have been the Monogram F-8 Crusader, but it’s been so long ago I can’t be positive. I do remember the only paint on it was the tires, and they were nice, shiny gloss black. I put the decals right over the unpainted plastic.

– Keith Lewis, Havelock, N.C.


… Aurora “Famous Fighters” F-107A, when I was 5 years old (way back in 1969). My dad had a large box of Aurora kits, and he would give one each to my brothers and I on rainy days. I can remember building the F-107, F-104, F9F-8, and several civil aircraft. The dogfights we had after they were done were epic! Most turned out as “glue bombs,” but we made lots of good memories.

My daughter has been building planes with me since she was about 5. She’s 10 now, and just starting to transition from snaps to glue. Time together is time well spent — and our dogfights are pretty epic as well!

– Jim Bettencourt, Fairhaven, Mass.


My first unassisted model was a Boeing 707, probably some 30 years ago. Funny thing is, I still remember that it had 19 parts: three for each engine, left and right fuselage, upper and lower wing parts, and the tail. Yellow glue was oozing from all joints, but I was so proud. I did it all by myself!

– Csaba Magyar, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


Mine was either a 1/48 F-105 or a 1/48 P-47. I was 7 or 8. I built them at about the same time. I can remember Dad telling me how to mask and spray a three-paint camo scheme. Then he turned me loose with glue, a few tools, a brush, a few jars of paint, and three rattle cans of spray paint. Those kits got me hooked.

– Jeff Rasmussen, Morrilton, Ark.


Mine was a Mustang (cannot remember any more details). I was about 10 at the time. As I remember, I bought it in Sydney (Australia) when visiting my father in hospital. Cannot remember how it turned out, but probably not good as I did not keep it. Kept building until about 17, restarted for a short time when I was about 35, and restarted now at 53. I only have the four models I have just done plus the one I am on now (not a car).

– Les Bannister, Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia


… one of those little Hawk 1/72 scale aircraft; I remember building many of those. We would get them at local store down the street. I still recall the first kits that I built with Dad, though.

– Carlos Cisneros, Huntington Beach, Fla.

And from our authors, contributors, and staff …


I remember my mother getting me a DC-3 in 1965. I was about 10 and made a big mess with the glue and clear parts. Pretty certain it was a Monogram kit; the decals were bright red, so they had to be TWA markings.

– Ernest Urtiaga, author, Oviedo, Fla,


… an Aeronca, Guillow’s balsa-stick model. It was a few years before the plastic kits came out. I will still scratchbuild a wood “solid model” (or even build one of the rare available kits). It is surprising that I remember that first one so well — almost 70 years ago!

– Don Stauffer, author, Coon Rapids, Minn.


… Aurora’s King Tiger when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I wanted it to play with my Marx toy soldiers since I only had American tanks and needed a German tank to stop the onslaught. I did OK with it since my dad and I had built several together before. I still have part of that kit in my parts box.

– Mike Scharf, reviewer, Wauwatosa, Wis.


When I was 5 my big brother got a Revell 1/32 scale F4U Corsair. Since “Baa Baa Black Sheep” was my favorite show, I had to have one, too. I wanted to build it myself and turned it into a giant glob of tube glue and thumb prints. I was so upset that Dad went to Hobby Horse and bought a Ford F-150 for me to build. Spray bombed it blue. I’ve been driving blue trucks ever since.

– Andy Keyes, reviewer, West Bend, Wis.


My grandfather was a model builder and introduced me to the hobby. He would let my older brother and I “help” him build a few planes and even a ship once. The first kit I built entirely by myself was a Monogram P-38. I remember standing in front of the model kits at our local Jewel store, trying to decide which plane was cool enough to spend my hard-earned birthday money on. Yeah, it sucked when I finally finished it, but I was pretty proud of myself. My brother even let me hang it from the ceiling of our room next to his planes, and it actually survived there for a few weeks before it succumbed to the inevitable firecracker explosion.

– Mike Soliday, Managing Art Director, Kalmbach Publishing Co., Wauwatosa, Wis.


… Lindberg P-51 Mustang. I remember finding it at the Goldmann’s Department Store on Mitchell St. (longtime Milwaukeeans will know what this was). I recall sitting at the bus stop very pleased as I looked it over. I must have been 7.

– Jim Zeske, reviewer, Franklin, Wis.


For my seventh birthday, I received an Aurora 1/48 scale P-61 Black Widow. After a quick run to the drugstore one block away for glue and paint, I built the model that day, including a thick coat of gloss black paint (Testors). It actually didn’t turn out too badly except for the fingerprints, glue smears, and poorly placed decals. I doubt that the model survived the week, as my gluing skills were lacking. I’m sure that many of the fingerprints were caused by glue-covered fingers during assembly. I can remember it as if it was yesterday, working at the kitchen table and my Mom freaking out because I might damage her table.

– John Plzak, reviewer, Milwaukee, Wis.


All you young pups — sheesh! Racking my brain, I think my first solo kit was a Strombecker F-80. (That’s solid pine, for you guys who don’t remember). I vaguely remember painting it dark glossy gray with lots of fingerprints, and the canopy was opaque because the Duco cement I used to glue it to the fuselage clouded it over. I don't remember if the kit had landing gear, but my model didn't. I was probably in too much of a rush to mess with fiddly bits like that.

– Walt Fink, reviewer, Woodstock, Ill.


… a Revell box-scale F-94C. Since the model was molded in silver plastic, black was the only paint I needed (from my Dad’s household enamel paints) for the tires, anti-glare panel, and radome. I wanted to make the model look like the plane on the box cover — which I am still trying to do 60 years later!

– Phil Pignataro, reviewer, Algonquin, Ill.


Airfix 1/72 scale Captain Scarlet rocket/jet fighter. I used to make a weekly Saturday morning pilgrimage to my local hobby store and buy a kit for less than $2, usually a Matchbox multicolored plastic job. I would have it built by the end of the day Saturday and play with it all day Sunday.

– Matthew Walker, reviewer, Jackson, Wis. (via Dubbo and Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)


My first kit was a Monogram F-14 Tomcat. After seeing “Top Gun” I had to build one!

– Chris Oglesby, reviewer, West Allis, Wis.


By the time plastic kits were available, I had been building stick-and-tissue model airplanes for a couple of years, starting at age 10. I had a paper route for earning my own money. There was a hobby shop downtown for kits and supplies. I got around on my bicycle, purchased new with money earned from picking cherries up in Sturgeon Bay (Wis.) that year. My first kit was a 24" wingspan Comet P-47D Thunderbolt. Later, it went out the upstairs window with cotton soaked in lighter fluid. For the plastic end, the first kits I did were Monogram Speedee Bilts — part plastic, part balsa wood. I’m pretty sure my first one was a B-26 Invader. All plastic? There was a Gilmore Special — don’t remember the manufacturer — and an Indianapolis racer from the ’20s. (It wasn’t Aurora, I have one of those.) At the time, what amazed me was that the kit had real rubber tires. Shortly after that one, I did both of the Monogram Indy racers (won a hobby shop trophy with the car brush-painted gloss Navy blue) and its Midget Racer. I would have been 11-13 maybe. It was 1950 or later.

– Alan Jones, reviewer, West Allis, Wis.


Hawk 1/72 scale SNJ trainer, sometime in 1959: That’s also when I learned to draw the knife away from my body, as I poked myself in the belly! Shut up! My dad laughed, too!

– Larry Schramm, reviewer, Milwaukee, Wis.


My first was a gift at my sixth birthday party, the battleship “Mighty Mo” (Revell USS Missouri, No. H300-198). I built it alone since no one else in the family built models and no painting was required then. (Ha!) It succumbed to a BB gun barrage in the river. Ah, the freedom of the early ’60s!

– Mark Karolus, reviewer, Spring Grove, Ill.


Airfix Stuka in 1/72. I painted it in the rarely seen bright green and yellow camo.

– Chuck Davis, reviewer, Lake Villa, Ill.


Kinda hazy on when I was left to my own devices. I remember my father “helping” with early kits: Aurora’s sky-blue-plastic P-38, a black-plastic Fw 190, and a silver-plastic F-90. Maybe the first I did on my own was Revell’s box-scale F-102 Delta Dagger — not the big one with the operating features and ground equipment, but the little, simpler kit. I remember accidentally dripping tube glue onto the left side of the nose, just behind the radome, and the glue eating the plastic there and leaving a permanent scar. After that one, I had all the Revell “modern” jets: F-84F Thunderstreak, F-89D Scorpion, F-94C Starfire, F-100A Super Sabre, F-101A Voodoo, F-104A Starfighter, F-105B Thunderchief, F-106A Delta Dart — fighters of the 1950s, still my favorite era. I had the bombers and all the Navy fighters, too.

– Paul Boyer, reviewer, FSM senior editor emeritus, Cedarburg, Wis.


A Hawk box scale Cutlass fighter jet, when I was, like, 6. We did a few with firecrackers after their career of being played with.

– Tom Foti, reviewer, West Allis, Wis.


… the 1/48 scale Monogram Spitfire. In a few thousand years, when the aliens dig up my Spit from the landfill, I’m sure the plastic will still be soft in the spots where I used way too much Testors tube cement.

– Jon Hergenrother, reviewer, Sun Prairie, Wis.


Mine was, I think, a FROG Mitsubishi Zero in a plastic bag. I bought it off the rack at a newsagent.

– Aaron Skinner, FSM Associate Editor, West Allis, Wis. (via Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)


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