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Airfix crashes and burns

RIP the plastic Spitfire

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There's been a certain amount of teary-eyed nostalgia this morning down at Vulture Central at the news that the firm behind plastic model legend Airfix has gone into administration.

According to The Evening Standard, the company was formed in 1939 by Hungarian-born Nicholas Kove. At the height of its powers during the sixties, Airfix shifted 350,000 Spitfires, 80,000 Hurricanes and 60,000 Lancasters a year, but by last year sales were down to a third of that level.

Airfix's decline has been a protracted affair. It went into receivership in 1981 as enthusiasm for modelling waned. It was bought by MPC and the kit moulds and tools transferred to French company Heller. In 1986 it was acquired by Humbrol, which struggled to compete against the rise of TV, computer games, and the internet as kids' leisuretime activities of choice. A management team appointed in December 2005 failed to stop the rot. Administrators moved in to Hull-based Humbrol Ltd yesterday.

Bill Bond, of the Battle of Britain Historical Society, lamented: "It is a great shame. I remember building these models as a teenager. Spitfires were my favourite, like all children. For tens of thousands of boys this will have been integral to their childhood. I suppose it is a sign of the times. Spitfires are no longer fresh in the memory are they? Children now have PlayStations and computer games."

Sadly, the Airfix Spitfire is no more. Thirty-one of the company's 41 employees were last night made redundant after "severe cash flow pressures" and disruption of supplies from Heller - itself now insolvent - finally shot down the company.

Former Airfix sales representative Chris Rumball said: "The French wouldn't release any of the tools to us and now it has just brought us down with them."

The Airfix name may, however, live on. Keith Hinds of Grant Thornton, which is handling the administration, said: "The brand names and intellectual property of the business are potentially very valuable and we are looking to sell those to investors." ®

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