Monogram has been a premier maker of scale models of aircraft, spacecraft, ships, cars, and military vehicles since the early 1950s. The company was formed by two former employees of Comet Kits, Jack Besser and Bob Reder. After thirteen years as a fully owned subsidiary of Hallmark Cards' Binney and Smith unit, Hobbico announced it was acquiring Revell-Monogram in 2007 (Funding Universe webpage).
Monogram was founded in Chicago in 1945 making balsa wood model kits of ships and airplanes. Seaships such as the USS Missouri battleship, the USS Shangri-La carrier and the USS Hobby destroyer were among the very first products. Meanwhile a company called Revell started making plastic kits in 1953, and Monogram responded with "All Plastic" "Plastikits" the first of which were a red plastic midget racer and a "Hot Rod" Model A - and the modeling race was on (Funding Universe webpage). These two cars, and later an Indianapolis style racer and hydroplane racing boat, were also offered with C02 "Jet Power". Early kits advertised that the models were made from "acetate parts molded to shape". The wording showed the newness of the plastics industry and how and that it was not yet being taken for granted.
Early airplane models were mainly balsawood, but more plastic parts were added over the next couple of years. By 1954 the airplane lineup consisted of the 'Speedee Built' series which flew under rubber band power. A few of these planes were all plastic. Also seen were the Superkits with prefabricated balsa fuselage, but more plastic parts.
Auto kit makers AMT and Jo-Han started early but focused on manufacturers promotional models and did not enter the kit fray until the late 1950s. As the 1950s progressed, Monogram increasingly included more automobile models and custom wheeled creations in competition with the other makers. Through the 1970s, competition required increased production of a variety of fantastical vehicles.
The Monogram Approach
By the late 1950s, the company moved steadily into the car scene especially with its Hot Rods and race cars. In 1956 it released a Model A V-8 rod and a Sprint Car, a couple of its first car kits. In 1959 its 1932 Ford Deuce 5 window coupe was issued. One 1962 kit, however, showed the company's prowess and intent - the "Big T" (kit PC 78). This was a huge 1/8 scale 1924 Ford Model T bucket complete with hot-rodded Chevy engine. The 24 page 8 1/2 x 11 inch instruction booklet showed that the model came with an optional electric motor to power the wheels and featured customizing tips by Darryl Starbird, the famous Kansas customizer (Monogram 1962). The manual also shows how sophisticated the company's catering was toward Hot Rod culture - long before Hot Wheels or the Detroit muscle car craze.
Beating the Competition
As the 1960s progressed, Monogram and Revell squared off as rivals in the scale model market. While companies like AMT and MPC focused almost exclusively on cars, Monogram and Revell were always diversified into aircraft, naval craft and other military vehicles. Monogram aircraft kits were known for imaginative "operating features", such as a spring-loaded ejection seat on their F-105 Thunderchief model (operated by a tiny plastic tab on the side of the plane) and a tactical nuclear bomb which could be dropped from the RB-66A model - which also featured a moving tailgun turret.
In the 1970s, Monogram wanted to portray a different perspective on its kits and add some spark to sales. 'Make it large' was one marketing approach that the company returned to. For example, Monogram introduced a 1978 Corvette kit in 1:8 scale - when assembled it was over 23 inches long (Model Cars 1979, pp. 14–15). Also in the 1970s, the company hired modeler Sheperd Paine to construct and paint aircraft models and dioramas which were used for photographs on boxes and on instruction booklets (DeRogatis 2005).
Daniel Hot Rods and Customs
Whereas Revell carried many foreign cars and AMT and MPC handled the promo markets (and so moved forward with mostly American car brands), Monogram had kept, more conservatively, to aircraft and military vehicles. Into the 1970s, however, Monogram also started to focus more on Hot Rods and customs. While AMT had customizers George Barris, the Alexander Brothers, and Bill Cushenberry, and MPC had Dean Jeffries, Monogram hired stylist Tom Daniel to do a variety of fantastical creations not always based on real cars.
When the company was bought by Mattel in 1968, Tom Daniel designed and other custom vehicles were seen in both small and large sizes in Hot Wheels diecast - and then in Monogram kit form. Examples seen in both Hot Wheels and Monogram venues were the Ice-T, the Red Baron, the Paddy Wagon, the S'cool Bus, the Sand Crab, and the T'rantula (even made by Mattel subsidiary Mebetoys of Italy) (Tom Daniel website). Some of the most handsome vehicles were the simpler rods without the crazy trappings like the "Son of Ford" '32 Ford rod and the "Boss 'A' Bone", a rodded '29 Model A pickup. Models of later vehicles were also common in this series, like the sleek "Street Fighter", a Daniel designed '60 Chevy panel truck powered by a Z/28 Camaro engine (the "Quicksilver" was another variation of the same kit), and the 1955 Chevrolet "Bad Man" gasser (Tom Daniel website). By 1970 or so, many of these models were molded in bright reds and oranges and did not require painting.
Monogram offered a variety of more official race cars as well, again often leaving foreign vehicles to Revell which had established a Germany subsidiary. Monogram examples were the Tom McEwan driven Duster "Mongoose" funny car and its rival the Barracuda "Snake" driven by Don Prudhomme. Of course, both of these cars were offered by Mattel as smaller Hot Wheels.
Many Changes of Hands
In 1984 Mattel divested itself of many companies not associated with its traditional toy industries (Funding Universe website). In 1986, Monogram was bought by Odyssey Partners of New York. Later that same summer, Odyssey purchased Revell Models of Venice, California. Subsequently Odyssey Partners merged Revell with Monogram and moved all its usable assets to Monogram's Des Plaines, Illinois Plant Number 2. After Revell was merged with Monogram, company headquarters was moved a short distance to Northbrook, Illinois.
In the early 1990s, Revell-Monogram embarked on an unfortunate experiment that tried to match historic modeling logos with a CD-Rom racing car game. After investing nearly $4 million, customers had trouble distinguishing model from game and the project was scrapped after only 50,000 were sold (Wallace 1994). Also in the early 1990s, Monogram sold their 1/87 Mini Exacts HO series to Herpa, where some of the models continue to be sold even today. One difference from the normal Herpa models was a metal chassis.
In 1994 Revell-Monogram was purchased by Hallmark Cards as part of its Binney and Smith division (the owners of famous Crayola crayons). This relationship lasted for thirteen years.
In May 2007, Hobbico Inc., the radio control airplane maker, announced the acquisition of Revell-Monogram LLC. From 1987 to 2005 the Monogram logo had appeared underneath that of Revell, but since the Hobbico acquisition, the Monogram name has disappeared. Now the Revell logo stands alone as Hobbico renamed the subsidiary the Revell Group, which consists of both revered names (See the Revell-Monogram webpage for an interesting graphic progression of the development of the two companies' logos going back to 1945 - see Revell-Monogram 1996-2011). Concerning plastic kits, Hobbico also owns Estes, and is the exclusive distributor of Hasegawa, as seen on their company websites.
Monogram was a prolific model producer. The following lists of kits are definitely not all-inclusive:
- Japan 1/48 scale
- Germany 1/48 scale
- United States 1/48 scale
- Bell P-39 Airacobra, Bell UH-1 Huey with several issues: A, B, C and F variants, Bell AH-1S Cobra, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Boeing B-29 Superfortress, Boeing AH-64 Apache, Cessna A-37 Dragonfly, Cessna 180 also issued as a floatplane, Convair F-102A Delta Dagger, Convair F-106 Delta Dart, Convair B-58 Hustler, Consolidated B-24 Liberator, Consolidated PBY Catalina, Curtiss P-40C Hawk, Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, Douglas DC-3, Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Douglas TBD Devastator, Douglas SBD Dauntless, Douglas A-26 Invader, Douglas A-1 Skyraider, Douglas A-4F Skyhawk, also issued as OA-4M, General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, General Dynamics F-111 also released as EF-111A Raven, Grumman TBF-1 Avenger, Grumman F4F Wildcat, Grumman F6F Hellcat, Grumman F-14 Tomcat, Lockheed P-38J/L Lightning, Lockheed P-80C Shooting Star, Lockheed F-104C Starfighter, LTV A-7 Corsair II, Martin B-26 Marauder, McDonnell F-101B Voodoo, McDonnell F-4C/D Phantom II, McDonnell F-4E Phantom II, McDonnell F-4J Phantom II, McDonnell AV-8B Harrier II, McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet, North American AT-6 Texan, North American T-28 Trojan, North American B-25 Mitchell, North American P-51 Mustang B and D variants, North American F-86E/F Sabre, North American F-100D Super Sabre, Northrop P-61 Black Widow, Northrop F-5E Tiger II, Northrop F-20 Tigershark, Northrop F-89J Scorpion, Piper Tri-Pacer, Republic P-47D Thunderbolt Razorback and Bubble-top, Republic F-84F Thunderstreak, Republic F-105D Thunderchief, Republic F-105F Thunderchief, Republic F-105G Thunderchief, Vought OS2U Kingfisher, Vought F4U Corsair, Vought F-8 Crusader
- United Kingdom 1/48 scale
- 1/24 scale classics
- 1934 Duesenberg SJ, 1939 Mercedes 540K, 1941 Lincoln Continental, Cord 812
- 1/24 scale contemporary
- 1/87 scale Mini-Exacts
- Ferrari F40
- 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302
- 1957 Chevrolet
- Ferrari Testarossa
- Lamborghini Countach
- Jaguar XK-E.
- 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix
- BMW 325 coupe
- Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
- 1963 Corvette Split Window
- 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra
- 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
- 1987 Z-28 Camaro
- 1990 Corvette ZR-1
- 1989 Ford Thunderbird SC
- Porsche 911 slant nose
- Mazda RX-7
- 1987 Buick Grand National, and
- Limited edition Indy Car and NASCAR Chevy Lumina.
- 1/32 scale
- M8 Greyhound Armored Car
- M20 Armored Car
- M3 Lee Medium Tank
- M3 Grant Medium Tank
- M4 Sherman Hedgehog
- M4A1 Sherman Screaming Mimi
- M48A2 Patton Tank
- Sdkfz 232 Panzerspahwagen 8-Rad Armored Car
- Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank
- Sturmgeschuetz IV Assault Tank
- Panzerjager IV L/70 Tank Destroyer
- Sturmpanzer IV Brumbar
- Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind
- Flakpanzer IV Ostwind
- DeRogatis, Jim. 2005. Military Miniatures Society of Illinois Annual Figures Show webpage. Historical Perspectives on Sheperd Paine. DeRogatis Art Critic website. 
- Funding Universe. No date. Company history of Revell-Monogram. 
- Model Cars. 1979. By the Editors of Consumer Guide. New York: Beekman House, A Division of Crown Publishers, 72 pages. ISBN 0-517-294605.
- Monogram Models, Inc. 1962. Instruction booklet, How to Assemble the Big "T". Morton Grove, Illinois.
- Revell-Monogram Brand History. 1996-2011. Wepage of Revell-Monogram. 
- Tom Daniel. No date. TD Designs. The Official Tom Daniel website. 
- Wallace, David J. 1994. Toy Cars, Multimedia Make for a Poor Fit, Advertising Age, September 26.
- Hobbico, Inc.