For some time I only built Heller kits, but as with everything, time moved on, my tastes changed and they became a distant memory.
Over the years many kit companies have been defined by their country of origin. In the UK we have Airfix; the USA, Monogram; Revell in Germany; Tamiya in Japan. But perhaps one has slipped through the cracks recently, that company being France’s premier manufacturer: Heller.
As a child growing up and learning all about the hobby and the world’s kit companies, Heller were one of those that I considered exotic. Despite being from just across the channel, their kits, choices of subjects and in some cases price, made them seem to be an appealing, if not unobtainable package. Given that they were almost universally lauded within the modelling press for their quality and detail, I never let that be too much of a hurdle and so as soon as I had the chance – or rather the money! – I purchased one of their kits and then never looked back. I was hooked.
Part of the appeal of Heller was their odd choice of subjects. Much like Matchbox in the UK, they would release kits of subjects unavailable anywhere else, their collection of French aircraft remaining to this day pretty much unique within the hobby. I remember the excitement of seeing the Super Frelon (which to this day, I’ve never had the money to buy!) the release of a 1:72 Thunderjet and Ouragan and then two Constellations one of which was the awesome ‘Warning Star’ variant. For some time I only built Heller kits, but as with everything, time moved on, my tastes changed and they became a distant memory.
Over the last couple of decades Heller have rather fallen on hard times, their financial situation being such that new kits haven’t really been an option, that is until recently, when newly-tooled kits started to slowly appear once more. First, we had some 1:72 armour, then 1:35 vehicles, 1:24 cars and vans and then more recently, a couple of very nice tractors. Along with the new tools, the older gems from the range have also started to be seen on the shelves of model shops around the world so that fans of the range such as I, can once again enjoy the sight of these classic kits.
Part of the appeal of Heller was their odd choice of subjects. Much like Matchbox in the UK they would release kits of subjects unavailable anywhere else
The spark for this walk down memory lane was a visit to my local model club last night. We have a member who is a vendor that sells kits at shows around the UK and to the meeting, he brought along a couple of kits including Heller’s re-released 1:48 Mirage IVP. A long time ago I had this kit but gave it away and ever since, I’ve regretted the decision and wanted to replace it to have a go at finally building and painting one for my collection. So it appeared and I was instantly smitten, offering the money for it without thinking and now I have the kit once more to build and hopefully, enjoy. Yes, I know, it’s hardly state of the art, but I can’t help but think that with a little TLC it will look very nice once complete and let’s be honest, there are some very nice Shyart decals to decorate it and who can resist the idea of a French jet in anniversary markings?!
Heller – back from the dead? I think so…
See you next time!
I have to agree with you on this Spence . I well remember that period in the late 70s & early 80s when Heller kits were state of the art . When I bought my first Heller kit , which I seem to recall was their Tempest V , I was blown away – it had a seat that actually looked like an aircraft seat , a decent stick & a delicately moulded instrument panel with proper representations of the instruments , the whole thing covered by a 2-piece canopy you could leave open to view the (for the time) impressively detailed interior . Add to this boxed in wheel wells , well-detailed undercarriage & a general air of quality & you had something which was a huge improvement on the Airfix kits with which I was familiar .
As you say , a little work will produce a nice model . I also share your enthusiasm for Syhart decals which are , without doubt , some of the best I’ve ever used .
I have built the Mirage IIIC, I am building the Mirage IVP and will build the Mirage 2000N from the Heller 100 years of Dassault Aviation 1/48 box.
Very very very good value for money.
I love the kits, low tech, but easily detailable, you know what you are getting into from the start.
Please, please build the IVP for MAI! Would love to see that finished and photographed in the magazine.
Hello Spencer, it’s a small world! Like you I had not thought about Heller for a long time. I assumed they had gone down at the time Hornby bought Airfix. But then at the weekend I was at the Milton Keynes model show and saw some very nice decals on the Motorbitz stand for a Citroen Type H Guinness delivery van. I decided I had to have them and it would give me a good excuse to buy the Ebbro kit. But I was told that Heller did a kit of the Type H that was cheaper and better detailed than Ebbro. I ordered online and it arrived today. It looks good. I’m not sure if this a new tool or a re-issue but it’s very clean and crisp. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into this one.
Thanks very much for the Sea Fury mini guide. Now I don’t know which to start first- Sea Fury or Citroen, doh!
All the Best, Ian.
I remember opening the box of my first Heller kit, the 1/72 Arado Ar196, and being blown away by the delicate surface texture and molding detail.