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Heller was founded in Paris in 1957 by Léo Heller Jahiel and its first model kit was a 1/100 scale Sud Aviation Caravelle, produced the following year. In 1963, a production facility was established in Trun, Orne.
In 1972, Heller joined with Solido (a die cast toy car maker), Jouef (an HO scale train maker) and Delacoste (maker of balloons and toys) to form "Le Jouet Français." In 1980 the company went into liquidation and was in Court directed administration in May 1981. The company was broken up: Majorette bought Solido, Vullierme bought Delacoste, and Jouef was bought back by a subsidiary company of the "CEJI" group (Compagnie Générale du Jouet).
Heller was acquired in 1981 by the Hobby Products Group of Borden, owners of British model company Humbrol. In 1986 Airfix also joined the group. Production of Airfix kits, already in Calais, would subsequently move to the Heller factory in Trun. Heller, with the rest of the Group was acquired by an Irish investment company, Allen, McGuire & Partners, in 1994, and received 31 million francs of investment.
In 1999 Heller re-branded as Heller SA and acquired, together with the Thirion group, French toy manufacturer Joustra.
In 2005, Heller SA was acquired by French buyers but in 2006 once again the company went into administration.
In July 2006 the company was put into receivership and in November Hornby PLC bought sister brands Airfix and Humbrol but not Heller or its factory. By January 2007 Heller SA was transferred to "la société MANOP" (Manufacture d'Objet Précieux) under the direction Benjamin Leneman and over the next 7 years slowly returned to profitability selling model kits.
Heller SA yet again found itself in trouble in 2016. It was "in a situation of non-financial return due to cash flow problems and a decline consumption related to the November attacks." The Commercial Court of Argentan, on 11 March, approved the acquisition of Heller-Joustra (Heller SA) by Maped, following six weeks of administration. Maped, in partnership with entrepreneur Alain Bernard of the New York Finance Innovation (of Paris, France) had invested 3.5 million euros in Heller-Joustra.
|1957-1972||Leo Heller Jahiel via Heller SA, France||First kit made in 1958|
|1972-1981||Merges with Jouef, Solido and Delacoste to form The French Toys Group||The French Toys Group falls into administration in 1981. Borden Inc acquires Heller.|
|1981-1994||Borden Inc, USA via Humbrol Ltd, UK||Humbrol had manufactured paints for Heller since 1977. Heller also moulded Airfix kits for Humbrol from 1986-2006.|
|1994-2005||Allen & Maguire, Ireland via Humbrol Ltd, UK||Allen & Maguire were venture capitalists. The purchase of Humbrol included a lot of debt and Allen & Maguire lost control to the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2005.|
|2005-2006||Heller SA, France||Management buy-out of Heller SA from Humbrol Ltd. Company fell into administration in July 2006 and Hornby plc acquires Airfix and Humbrol.|
|2007-2015||MANOP, a French jewellery manufacturer buys the business for €200k. Now trades as Heller Joustra SA.||Heller Joustra SA falls into administration in 2015.|
|2016-||Maped SA, an international French stationery and craft company buys Heller Joustra for €1.5m.||Maped is well known in the UK for its Helix mathematical instruments brand.|
Founder : Leo Jahiel
Leo Jahiel, born in Lyon, founded Heller in 1957. He had previously worked at SOMAP, a plastics company, and set up company headquarters on Rue de Paradis in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, with a production facility in Trun, Orne. On June 9, 1977 he was made a member of the Légion d'honneur by President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing for his years of professional activity.
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The early Heller aircraft line — in a mix of scales 1/100, 1/72, 1/50 and 1/40 — were rather crude with large rivets, thick canopies, and low level of detailing. During the 1970s they concentrated on 1/72 and 1/50 and the quality improved rapidly, kits from the end of that decade were often very well detailed and sophisticated. The Heller line included many types of aircraft that couldn't be found elsewhere, like the Bloch and Potez twins, Dassault Ouragan and Dassault Mystère, Saabs Tunnan, J21 and Safir, and the big French transports, the Noratlas and the Transall. Notable[who?] later kits were the PZL-23, the Morane-Saulnier 230, and the SBC Helldiver (biplane).
Heller made a set Apollo kits which included the Command/Service Module and the Lunar Module. It was well-detailed for its time, however, the kit represented the Block I configuration of the Apollo hardware, which was not flown during the manned missions and was only used for early low Earth orbit test flights.
And there were ships, again unique as to subject. A large, sophisticated kit of HMS Victory is arguably the centerpiece of the ship line.
Heller made kits of the Citroën 11CV, the WWII-era front wheel drive sedan, in 1/43, 1/24 and 1/8 scales. There was a series of 1/24 old cars and small trucks including golden age European types—Delahaye, Delage, certain Bugattis, the 4.5-liter "Blower" Bentley, and others that were not, and have not yet been, kitted by other manufacturers in that scale. These were sophisticated kits for their time.
Heller contributed to the vast universe of 1/35 armor: lend-lease jeeps and deuce-and-a-halves, a Panhard armored car, and a squad of Chasseurs Alpins. Heller also produced a grand 1/35 Super Frelon, one of the first aircraft kits scaled to support the armor culture.
Composed by the "Cadet" series of kits.
- Modelisme: Heller
- Jouef compagny history
- Historique de la firme Jouef
- Brook, Jermey 60 Years of Airfix Models, The Crowood Press UK (February 2, 2016)
- Short History of Heller (A Requiem?)
- Heller-Joustra retrouve son lustre d’antan, le Journal de l'Orne, 19/09/2014
- Maped rachète Heller-Joustra Maped rachète Heller-Joustra, le Figaro, 21/03/2016
- Les jouets Heller Joustra tombent dans l’escarcelle de Maped, Le Monde, 21.03.2016
- New York Finance Innovation - Heller-Joustra
- Leo Jahiel : the founder