Thoughts on Larger Scales

I have been keeping a watch for the last couple of years on just how many larger scale models are on the market now — 1/14th, 1/12th, 1/10th, 1/8th, right up to 1/4th — they are all out there waiting for you in kitset, in ready-built or diecast form. I can't believe it. These larger scales are appearing all over the place. Some of these are HUGE models. You have to wonder who is actually buying these and how on earth do the owners display them? With business companies the cost and displaying factors wouldn't be a problem, but with private individuals I'm guessing they are bought only on a one-off basis as I can't imagine people COLLECTING these big models — or would they? Also my never-ending question pops up again — at what point does bigger and bigger stop becoming better and better?

Noticing what I feel is this recent trend towards larger stuff, I am conscious of the danger of "Set Thinking", i.e. have they always been out there and now I've discovered this I'm seeing then everywhere? I've tried to trace back in magazine adverts, for as far back as a decade, and while it is quite true that they do seem to have always been around, they were not once available in anywhere near the quantity and variation of scales on tap today, or at the very least not so widely advertised so many years back.

As pictured in some of the better advertisements, these larger models appear as stunning, simply and absolutely stunning. In some instances, clearly a lot of money has gone into their promotion aspect. In every case the body shape seems to have been captured perfectly, something that can be so difficult to get right when scaled right away down to 1/43rd scale. I wonder if the larger the scale, the easier it is to get the maths associated with reduction right — the less scaling down to do the smaller your likelihood of error. The fact that these cars not only look so good to me but appeal to others as well is borne out by the occasional review I have chanced upon; in every case the reviews (from people in the modeling community) have been lavish in their praise.

In looking behind some of these models to try and learn of their origin, some have been commissioned by organisations or public companies outside the modeling world (usually on a Limited Edition basis) by people similarly not normally involved in the business of modeling. One maker's company produces precision underwater diving gauges, another specialises in producing tiny scale buildings for architects.

Most, however, are made by recognised modeling firms who have stepped up into larger scale. Oddly enough many of these bigger models are not as expensive as you might have thought, although not for us here in New Zealand, with the exchange rate as ever killing off everything immediately. But if you pause for a moment and stop the habit of automatically converting everything into NZ Dollars and see things from the point of view of someone living and working in the UK, for example, many of these large models are quite affordable for what they are. With the exchange rate left out of the equation, the rule of thumb is that the British Pound Sterling buying power within the UK is still roughly what it always seems to have been, i.e. about 1:1 with the $NZ within New Zealand (a generalisation obviously, the rule changing between commodities and between locations, London being the obvious example). Some of the models come in at the £800 to £900 range, others seem to be right off this planet to £3000, probably aimed at the business companies with their tax accountants. But the more reasonable models, although they do involve a lot of cost, are sometimes surprisingly good value for the quality of the creation you are buying.

A few years ago I felt the enormous market 1/18th scale products enjoyed might turn away from them towards smaller scale. In fact I now feel 1/18th scale has kept on growing and that this in turn has spilled over into the production of the even larger scales listed above. I'm also guessing that the low volume / higher value / larger scale model is where the profit margin is the fattest, particularly in the short term.

John MacGregor
September, 2006


John MacGregor