Aurora Sopwith Triplane ‘Black Maria’ Kit Review and History

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By Fred Boucher and with Kit History by Alan Bussie   Google+ profile

Kit History

Aurora’s Sopwith Triplane was the eighteenth model in Aurora’s twenty “Famous Fighters” of World War One aircraft series, with all kits in 1/48 scale.  It was released in 1963 with the Fokker E-III, which is kit #134.  Curiously, the Sopwith Triplane was released as kit number 100.  The first kit in the series was 101-69, the French Nieuport II.

 The first issue was numbered 100-79 and had brilliant box art by the great Joe Kotula.  The plastic is gloss black.


A factory sealed example of 100-79 


 The second release had a part number of 100-100 but the box art was identical.  By the mid 1960s,  pressure from retailers to remove the price suffix was peaking. Some dealers could or had to get higher prices for the kits, while large retailers often sold them for less.  But old habits die hard, and Aurora (and others) simply increased the suffix prices.  Since the box art was retained, the copyright date was still 1963.  The actual release date was probably closer to  ’65.

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Ray Gaedke –Lindberg Line Box Top Illustrator, Artist, Twirler and Entrepreneur

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By Alan Bussie    Google+ profile

I wish to thank artist Mike Boss for locating Gayle Yarnall, who is one of Ray Gaedke’s daughters.  Gayle, I thank you and Bernice for the main biography body.  Without you this article would not exist.  Rae, thank you for locating and scanning all the photographs.  To all three daughters – Rae, Peggy and Gayle – thank you for your timeless memories of your father.

Please visit Gayle’s blog at 


Plastic model kits were off to a shaky start in the post-war United States.  The first US kits came out in 1946, and the hobby shops did not know what to do with these colorful little gems.  As a result, they put them on the ‘high shelf’ or another secondary location.  Current model builders, the skilled craftsman who were used to the wooden ‘solid’ or stick and tissue kits, had no interest at all and were critical of such prefabrication.  The handful of manufactures feared this was a product with no audience.

 The target audience was present but had simply not been identified.  Once plastic kits were marketed in a few mainstream stores, plastic models began to sell very quickly to younger children and adults who were tired or scared off by time-and-talent consuming wooden kits.  But success created a new problem.   Kits in mainstream stores had to compete with highly established toys, games and other products.  To attract the buyer’s attention, they needed ‘visual shelf appeal,’ which translated to eye-popping box artwork.  Raymond Gaedke was one of the pioneers of this ‘modern’ model box artwork.


Ray’s incredible Winnie Mae (late 1950s)

 It is difficult to say who did the first popular series of full color box art in the USA.  The current candidates are Ray Gaedke or Jim Cox from Aurora.  

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