The lineup of plastic scale model kits, representing the history of airships is unbelievably scarce. Throughout the whole period of plastic scale modelling existence there were only eight (!) airship kits, worth mentioning – “Hindenburg” LZ-129 by Revell/AMT, “Graf Zeppelin” LZ-127 by AMT/Mark I Models, “Graf Zeppelin II” LZ-130 by Revell, Zeppelin NT by AMT, “Akron”\”Macon” by AMT and R-100 by FROG.
The latter kit is being interesting not only by its uniqueness on a scale model market, but also, by the fact, that R-100 was intended to be the pioneer in the whole new British program of worldwide airship passenger and cargo carrying. So, let us get back to the roots of this story…
During the preparation of the article, the materials that were provided to us S.Vasyutkin, as well as from the online auction eBay.
Дирижабль R-100 у причальной башни в Монреале \ R-100 Airship moored at the Montreal Mast
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The FROG company decided to produce the model of this famous airship, and by the end of 1965 has presented the kit in 1:500 scale in Trail Blazers series. It has received F128 catalog index and box name “R-100 Airship”.
The kit was packed in F2 box type, along with simple decal, containing airship’s name, civil registration code and window imitation (smaller windows omitted, only the biggest ones). As a bonus, the sticker, depicting R-100 in flight, was included.
Unlike the airplane, sitting on a tarmac on its own undercarriage, the airship demands some stand to be presented properly. And here, FROG decided to depart from it’s standard V-shaped stand design, by making a model of Montreal airship mooring mast model, placed on a cardboard square lawn. The airship is linked to the mooring mast by means of L-shaped rod. The vertical part of the rod is concealed in the mooring mast while horizontal part is inserted into airship’s shell.
Another interesting fact about F128 kit is that the mooring mast’s parts count is higher than the R100 airship itself.
Despite some simplifications and inaccuracies, the airship’s assembled 1:500 scale desktop model looks were stunning. Unfortunately, the R-100 kit was in production for only six years and only in limited runs – there were only 25000 copies produced during 1965-1970 period (including UPC repacks with “Air Ship R-100 with mooring” box name). This kit was already a rarity in the times of its production!
The FROG airship model became iconic. Besides privately owned models, it sometimes appeared in a publicly exhibited dioramas, both scratch-built or from ready-made kits. Here are the recollections of britmodeller.com long-time participant Adey M, reprinted with his kind permission:
For my 12th birthday my father brought me through to Scarborough where he knew of several model shops. After choosing two models for presents we then went onto the seafront to a building called the Olympia which contained amusement machines and rides. Upstairs though was a huge model town. In the far distance I could see a FROG R-100 airship attached to its mooring mast but I could not get close to have a good look. Unfortunately the Olympia burnt down in 1975 taking the model town and R-100 with it."R-100 Airship" (F128) - коробка типа F2, FROG, Trail Blazers, 1965-1970 гг. \ "R-100 Airship" - F2 box by FROG, Trail Blazers, 1965-1970
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The kit’s moulds spent several years at the storage facility. Then, in 1976, the moulds were sold to USSR. After arrival to Moscow some test sprues were produced. The set was “optimized” by omitting the square cardboard base from it. Some more time passed, while decisions about distribution of the ex-FROG moulds between different Soviet toy factories were made. Finally, it was decided to put the R-100 into production along with F408 Gloster Javelin on Moscow “Progress” factory. While the combat jet’s kit went successfully into production in late 1970’s, the airship’s fate was somewhat different – the factory did not possess injection moulding machine of adequate capacity to produce the sprues of R-100. As a result, the airship’s moulds were stored at the factory for over 20 years. In the early 2000’s the Maquette company purchased the moulds and started a limited production run of a kit with the “R100 Airship moored at the Mountreal Mast” box name and the Catalog Number MQ5000 (yes, the name of the Canadian city was misspelled on the box).
During those 20+ years of “hiatus”, moulds for the kit’s clear parts were lost and thus had to be recreated from the scratch – engine nacelles and mechanic’s cabin were now produced from opaque polystyrene. The mooring mast’s top railing was lost too, and it was not recreated, along with the hollow tube (part number 21), which initially served for inserting the horizontal part of the L-shaped rod, connecting the airship with the mooring mast.
The moulds were barely repaired and maintained – the sprues contained lots of flash and even short shots in some places. Although the kit received newly designed decal with all windows included.
Several words on kit’s painting. Almost all external airship’s surfaces were painted silver, except natural wooden finish of airscrew blades. The authenticity of mooring mast’s paint scheme rises some questions, because all manufacturers (FROG, UPC, Maquette) represent them differently.
The “Maquette” produced R-100 airship even shorter than the FROG. Open sources state, that a limited run of several thousand copies was produced in 2002. After that, production has been ceased and never renewed – the model disappeared from the sale as unexpectedly, as it has been reintroduced. The location and state of the airship’s moulds is currently unknown."R-100 Airship moored at Mountreal Mast \ Дирижабль R-100 у причальной мачты" (MQ-5000) - лицевая часть коробки фирмы Maquette \ "R-100 Airship" - front part of the box by Maquette, 2001
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Because of the kit’s scarcity on the market, we haven’t had the opportunity yet to get acknowledged with the kit’s contents. However, Sauron user described the R100 airship build process on karopka.ru modelling site.
Richard Lines, Lief Hellstrom, Leif Hellstrom “Frog Model Aircraft 1932-1976”. New Cavendish. 1989. ISBN-13:978-0904568639