In the 1960's and 1970's many small boys in England at least dabbled in the hobby of building plastic kits. It was perhaps a reflection of the fact that the hobby was so male-dominated (with a few notable exceptions) that the great early manufacturers like Airfix released such a high proportion of military subjects. Tanks in 1/76th were ideal, and many attics still have their collection of boxes of sad, glue-spattered relics, some garishly painted and most missing road-wheels, hatches or barrels which have lost the struggle with time.
These two pictures are of kits built "back then". First is the Panther Gate Guardian which then stood outside the Invalides in Paris. This was built by a 14-year-old, in 1972, when only the Airfix Panther was on sale, and modified from sketches made beside the original. See comments on the Airfix Panther.
Second is "Hitler's" Mercedes, built a year later, and inspired by those famous pictures of him viewing the Eiffel Tower. The backdrops are pictures taken on the same school Paris trip in 1972. So, beginners, do not just look at the things that now win competitions and despair - enjoy!
Today the hobby is very different. The plastic kits are still out there. There are many more books now, and some of the old kits have been shown to be very inaccurate. While they are still bought, the little kits in plastic have now been joined by offerings in resin and white metal. The market is no longer made up of small boys wanting to spend their pocket money on the latest polythene bag full of sprues. Today the buyers are older. Many really know their subjects, and are prepared to spend more. Yet there is still a range of buyers. Small scales appeal to those who want to combine a large collection with marital harmony. Some are experts, and prefer the manufacturers who reckon you cannot call yourself a model builder if you cannot cope with individual track links or two-piece wing-mirror assemblies. At the other end, developments in materials and casting techniques are enabling the production of kits with only a few pieces and yet awesome detail. Some modellers still love to work in polystyrene. Its flexibility and the way the glues weld it together have ensured its continuing popularity.
The standard of resin kits has risen rapidly too. Above is a reminder of the standards we were happy with in the 1980's. This Northern Ireland Landrover was produced by Model Transport, and briefly by Matador. The scale is 1/87th, which for good or ill is all-but extinct in Britain now, so again this is a nostalgic sight, casting bubbles and all.