There is a silent epidemic going on and hardly anyone realizes it is happening. Model trucks are slowly disappearing from popularity and the only people to realize it are the modelers who build them. With the rise of oil prices has come a rise in production costs for polystyrene models. It is not normally realized that petroleum is tied into plastics manufacturing. Gas prices shooting out the roof has moved the worry of topics such as this off of most people's radar. The models seem to be slowly disappearing from the shelves and are not being replaced. It seems that it may be a quiet death that will only mourned by certain individuals.
What was it that started this downfall? When they first came into production in the twenties models were very bulky metal things and also did usually did not include many moving parts. These were produced mainly for the banks as a means of drawing new business but they soon became highly sought after. During the second world war metal was in short supply so there were many model makers that had to turn to using wood for making customer models. These were still highly collectible but they rarely lasted any amount of time. They were not near as tough as the die cast models that they were replacing. There was however one major advantage that they offered. They could be easily assembled at home. This is also the time period in which polystyrene models first hit the scene.
After being discovered in 1839 polystyrene did not truly enjoy a rise from obscurity until the 1930's when it first began to be used in commercial applications. Made from an artificial liquid hydrocarbon, styrene, polystyrene is totally based around the use of petroleum. Polystyrene is especially important because of its ability to stay solid at room temperature. It can flow very easily once it hits its melting point but it also quickly cools and hardens. This is what made polystyrene such a perfect match for the model building industry. Makers could produce many cheap kits fairly quickly and with fuel demand low the costs involved were almost negligible.
This sort of model became very popular with the public for many different reasons. One of these was due to the low manufacturing costs being passed on to the public in the form of cost savings. These model trucks also tended to be assembled very easily and model builders could modify them to a great degree as well. Clubs began to spring up all over the world and many of the different countries saw people begin to reach out to others and form international clubs as well. These clubs allowed the model builders to share their love of the hobby. Petroleum, however, soon began to rise.
Fuel prices have been rising over time, it is true. However the cost of the petroleum has still been slow to out pass the cheap production costs. Since gas prices have now hit an all time high all around the world it seems that the end of affordable models is soon to be seen. As some of the more rare kits have hit all time highs there are some model makers that have started producing resin models in order to keep the kit costs much more affordable. It is true that resin is much more affordable than polystyrene and it is very durable as well, there can be issues in the manufacturing as well.
When resin is cooling off after coming out of its mold it can occasionally set up air bubbles. These air bubbles will then need to be filled when they pop up. While it is true that resin can last well it does still tend to be more fragile than polystyrene. You can also find flash built up on pieces that may have to be removed before the model can be assembled. It is also harder to ensure that the parts turn out of even thickness. As long as the cost is high then there will be a demand for these cheaper built models. Now though with the end in sight for affordable plastics where will model truck building fall in? Will it make a come back with another material being used or will it just pass on slowly?