Frog “Penguin” — Plastic Scale Model Kits, 1936-1950, by Peter van Lune

Frog “Penguin” — Plastic Scale Model Kits, 1936-1950 by Peter van Lune

Concerning the long history of scale plastic model kits, this book is about how it all began!

Dutch author, modeller & collector Peter van Lune researched and worked for over 10 years to complete this unrepeatable, extraordinary & fascinating reference work, the first book to focus entirely on the Frog Penguin range.

The story is accompanied by over 400 photos, many of which have never been published before. The hours spent on dedicated research are obvious throughout the contents of this historical reference book.

FROG Penguin was the world’s first range of all plastic model kits — a globally spread hobby in the 1950s through the 1970s and made famous by manufacturers like Airfix and Revell. Until now, the only available book about FROG was “FROG Model aircraft”, by Richard Lines and Leif Hellström, published in 1989, dealing with Frog kits until 1976. Peter’s book, however, is focused on the Penguin range.

FROG was a well-known British brand of flying model aircraft and scale model construction kits from the 1930s to the 1970s. The company's first model, an Interceptor Mk. 4, was launched in 1932, followed in 1936 by a range of 1:72 scale model aircraft kits made from cellulose acetate, which were the world's first. Polystyrene models were introduced in 1955, which offered kits of aircraft, ships and cars in various scales. The last Frog-branded kits were produced in 1976, whereupon many of the Frog moulds were sold to the Soviet Union and marketed under the Novo name.

The Penguin range played an important role in a tradition of plastic modelling, now almost 85 years old. FROG was the first to produce all plastic model kits and introduced 1/72 constant scale in plastic modelling which was later copied by other companies and became a world standard. By combining a very modern material and the latest technology available FROG achieved a huge improvement in detailing compared with wooden models, then the only alternative.

The book has 256 pages, 251 colour and 164 b/w images, weighs 900 grams, has a soft cover and printed in full colour on an A4 format. Each copy is numbered and signed by the author. We have the privilege of getting the book numbered 242.

It is far from a dull list of facts and figures, but very pleasing to read. In fact it is the history of prewar Europe regarding toys and hobbies and how the technology of aviation boosted the modelling hobby into a world hit. It ties together various aspects in the history of plastic kit modelling, including links to other kit manufacturers such as Skybirds, Airfix, Revell, Aurora, etc. The story is told in a chronological order, starting in 1929, also explaining the effect of the historical context of World War II, in which the Penguin kits appeared. A seperate chapter 1941- 45 is added to explain the wartime activities and products of FROG / International Model Aircraft and its founders Joe Mansour, Charles and John Wilmot. It also explains the origins of 1/72 scale, injection moulding, the history and influence of box art and advertising.

The story was written and material was collected with the help of family members of the founders of FROG. It has many unpublished photos and includes practical information about recognizing and restoring these delicate models. The date of original publication (2016) is no coincidence: It marks the 80th birthday of plastic kit modeling. The book includes many personal accounts of modelers now in their 80s and 90s, the wartime activities of FROG, a detailed price guide, and background information.

The book is unique for showing us details and photos of the first moulding machines, contents of the very first model kits from plastic material, pictures of the production line, design department, packaging, even letters between the founders and directors concerning sales and future plans, advertising pages in various magazines, diversification from contemporary toys, launching risks, sales strategies, marketing policies, price lists, instructions, reviews and great photos of built & unbuilt models from serious collectors all over the world.

The final chapters are dedicated to the technical details, about the first “plastic”, in fact cellulose acetate, moulding techniques, variations of production methods, novelties, plus a guide for identification, collecting and current prices. Temptation though is always present for a modeller & collector, so the inner feelings and thoughts of the author act like sowing the seeds of a new aspect of collecting – albeit quite expensive, as Frog Penguins are very rare on eBay and elsewere!

Peter’s great writing skill transfers the reader to the atmosphere of the prewar England and the passion of founders, investors and directors to offer an entirely new world, by transforming the meaning of toys (mostly for boys – including some trials to engage girls also…) into a more serious and absorbing hobby.

In conclusion…

A comprehensive collection and narrative of the birth of the hobby: Impressive kit buildups, numerous examples of instructions sheets and accompanying products, chronologically contemporary advertisements, photos of manufacturing facilities, company archival photos, and everything you would want to know about the company’s founders and the development of plastic scale model kits. The price guide will appeal to collectors and builders alike.

This splendid book, a landmark volume in the written history of plastic model-making should find a place on every modeller's bookshelf.  

Very highly recommended!

You can order it online, directly from the author here.  In Greece you can order it also here.


Specifications: Softcover, 256 pages, 230 color and 167 black-and-white photos

ISBN: 978-9-0903-0018-08

Price: €30 (about $37) - For trade terms, special price for hobby shops/group buys, please contact the author.

Publisher: Published by the author


About the author (in his own words…)

My name is Peter van Lune, from The Netherlands. I was born in 1963 and at age six I built my first model kit, the Airfix Hawker P.1127 and from then on building model kits was my favorite pastime. In the 1990s this hobby slowly changed into collecting old model kits from all sorts of manufacturers, until I discovered the range of kits that started it all: FROG Penguin. In 2003 I started this website and, while gathering information for a future update, this slowly turned into a book. I wanted to combine all the information available about the Penguin range for everyone to enjoy, hoping it will fill in a gap: no other book focussing entirely on the Penguin range had been published before.

Frog “Penguin” — Plastic Scale Model Kits, 1936-1950, by Peter van LuneFrog “Penguin” — Plastic Scale Model Kits, 1936-1950, by Peter van LuneFrog “Penguin” — Plastic Scale Model Kits, 1936-1950, by Peter van LuneFrog “Penguin” — Plastic Scale Model Kits, 1936-1950, by Peter van LuneFrog “Penguin” — Plastic Scale Model Kits, 1936-1950, by Peter van Lune