Monogram (company)

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Monogram
IndustryHobbies
Founded1945
HeadquartersElk Grove Village, Illinois
United States
ProductsModel kits
ParentHobbico
Websitewww.revell.com

Monogram is an American manufacturer of scale plastic 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.[1] Along with Revell, AMT, and MPC, Monogram is sometimes called one of the traditional "Big 4" in plastic modeling.[2]

Origins[edit]

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 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.[1] 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 plastics were not yet being taken for granted.

Early airplane models were mainly balsa wood, 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 a 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[edit]

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, two of its first car kits. In 1959, Monogram issued its 1932 Ford Deuce 5 window coupe. 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.[3] 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.

The Competition[edit]

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 more diversified, offering aircraft, naval craft and other military vehicles. Monogram aircraft kits were known for imaginative "operating features", such as a spring-loaded ejection seats 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.

A built Monogram 1999 Ford Mustang Cobra in 1:25 scale.

In the 1970s, Monogram wanted to portray a different perspective of 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.[4] Examples of vintage auto offerings were a 1930s Rolls-Royce Cabriolet with rumble seat, a 1930s Packard Phaeton, and a 1941 Lincoln Continental. The company's Early Iron series featured variants of Ford Model As.[5] During the 1970s, the company also hired modeler Sheperd Paine to construct and paint aircraft models and dioramas, which were used for photographs on boxes and instruction booklets.[6] Some metal kits, like a 1953 Corvette, also appeared.[7]

Daniel Hot Rods and Customs[edit]

While Revell carried many foreign cars and AMT and MPC handled the promo markets (and so moved forward with mostly American car brands), Monogram's emphasis was on aircraft and military vehicles. In the 1970s, however, Monogram started to focus more on hot rods and customs and, in 1961, was the first company to hire a well-known automobile stylist, when Darryl Starbird was brought on board.[8] Similarly, AMT hired customizers George Barris, the Alexander Brothers, and Bill Cushenbery, and MPC had Dean Jeffries. In 1968, Monogram then hired stylist Tom Daniel who designed more than 80 fantastical vehicles, not always based on real cars.[9]

When the company was bought by Mattel in 1968, custom vehicles designed by Daniel and others 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).[10] Some of the handsomest vehicles were the simpler rods, 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 Camaro Z/28 engine (Quicksilver was another variation of the same kit), and the 1955 Chevrolet Bad Man gasser.[10] By around 1970, 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 Tom McEwan's Duster funny car, and its rival the Plymouth Barracuda driven by Don Prudhomme. Of course, both were offered by Mattel as Hot Wheels.

Many Changes of Hands[edit]

In 1984 Mattel divested itself of many companies not associated with its traditional toy industries.[1] 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.[citation needed] 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 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 (the Revell-Monogram webpage has a graphic progression of the development of the two companies' logos going back to 1945).[11] Concerning plastic kits, Hobbico also owns Estes, and is the exclusive distributor of Hasegawa, as seen on their company websites.

Hobbico declared bankruptcy on June 30, 2018 and went into liquidation.[12]

Product range[edit]

Monogram was a prolific model producer. The following lists of kits are definitely not all-inclusive:

Aircraft[edit]

A built Monogram 1:48 scale British de Havilland Mosquito.

Cars[edit]

Armor[edit]

  • 1/32 scale
    • M8 Greyhound Armored Car
    • M20 Armored Car
    • M3 Lee Medium Tank
    • M3 Grant Medium Tank
    • M4 Sherman Hedgehog
    • Walker Bulldog
    • M4A1 Sherman Screaming Mimi
    • M48A2 Patton Tank
    • Sd.Kfz. 232 Panzerspähwagen 8-Rad Armored Car
    • Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank
    • Sturmgeschütz IV Assault Tank
    • Panzerjäger IV L/70 Tank Destroyer
    • Sturmpanzer IV Brumbär
    • Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind
    • Flakpanzer IV Ostwind
    • 2 1/2 ton truck
    • US Jeep
    • M3 personal carrier 1/2 track
    • M 16 Half Track

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Company history of Revell-Monogram". Funding Universe. n.d.
  2. ^ Gosson, Scotty (2015). Show Rod Model Kits. A Showcase of America's Wildest Model Kits. Forest Lake, Minnesota: CarTech Publishing. p. 6. ISBN 978-1613251560.
  3. ^ Monogram Models (1962). How to Assemble the Big 'T' (Instruction booklet). Morton Grove, Illinois: Monogram Models.
  4. ^ Editors of Consumer Guide (1979). Model Cars. New York: Beekman House. pp. 14–15. ISBN 0-517-294605.
  5. ^ Editors of Consumer Guide (1979), pp. 13, 23.
  6. ^ DeRogatis, Jim (2005). "Historical Perspective". DeRogatis Art Critic.
  7. ^ Editors of Consumer Guide (1979), pp. 40–41.
  8. ^ Gosson (2015), p. 67.
  9. ^ Gosson (2015), pp. 33, 67.
  10. ^ a b Daniel, Tom (n.d.). "TD Designs". The Official Tom Daniel Website.
  11. ^ "Revell-Monogram Brand History". Revell-Monogram. 1996–2011.
  12. ^ Zigterman, Ben (June 30, 2018). "Hobbico files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, beginning liquidation process". News-Gazette.
  • Wallace, David J. (September 26, 1994). "Toy Cars, Multimedia Make for a Poor Fit". Advertising Age.

External links[edit]