By Steve Brauning
Update: May 2017
The scale modeling world finally discovered 1/48 scale for vehicles, figures and accessories. It was bound to happen: it’s such a natural for model makers, since this scale is very convenient for displaying model aircraft in their "natural habitat", either on a display base or on a diorama, with other various elements. What could better way to show off one's prize 1/48 scale model airplane, whether it be a Sopwith Camel or a B2 Stealth Bomber, than on a airfield with few figures and/or vehicles around?
See Dioramas: What and Why? for more about dioramas and display bases.
This sector of the industry has been very spotty in selection, availability and, apparently, in popularity, that is until scale-modeling giant Tamiya introduced a line of 1/48 scale vehicles, including tanks, trucks, figures and accessories. Other small and mid-sized manufacturers, such as Skybow and Eduards, have gotten into the act, including a wave of aftermarket sets. It looks like prospects are picking up for “the perfect scale”!
It was back in the mid 90's that I began to display as many of my airplane models as possible on display bases and dioramas, and made it “my quest” to search out vehicles, figures and accessories in 1/48 scale. I began to build fairly large and complex dioramas but was limited because I couldn't get many vehicles. So it has been exciting to watch the growth of this sector of the scale modeling industry. I have collected information to help the like-minded modeler find the hidden 1/48 scale treasures, and perhaps to raise the interest among 1/48 scale modelers in general.
MPM Vacuform Dornier Do217 nightfighter, on a simple display base with several figures,showing scale
WHY 1/48 SCALE?
What is the advantage of 1/48 scale, as opposed to 1/72 or 1/35? Each scale has its own advantages, but 1/48 is nice for various reasons. One advantage is size. It’s big enough to allow for significant details (for example, it is virtually impossible to do anything with the eyes of a 1/72 scale human figure, but in 1/48, the eyes can be detailed.) It’s small enough to get a couple of airplanes, vehicles, and buildings into desk-top sized display. 1/35 scale takes a lot more space. Also, the industry has differentiated between aircraft, making them in 1/32 scale, and military vehicles and figures in 1/35 scale. That creates a difference of almost 10% is size, which distorts the scale reference.
Another advantage of 1/48 scale is that there are so many aircraft kits available, as well as accessories, such as photo-etch and decals.
In spite of the advantages of 1/48th scale, the availability of figures and vehicles in this scale has been a limiting factor. For years, there was very little out there to compliment the airplanes on the ground. Sure, scratch‑building is an option, but it is an arduous task that not everyone is up to.
This sector of the hobby industry has been spotty. Stuff comes out in spurts.
The Internet definitely fed this surge. With world-wide connect-ability, even the smallest producers can market their products anywhere.
In 2005, a new surge began as Tamiya has gotten into the game with the Military Miniatures line. Along with them, at every turn there is another company making either injection molded kits, new resin lines, or new aftermarket products! One weak area though has been trucks. Tamiya has helped with the release of some standard types of trucks in injected plastic, instead of expensive resin.
Most of the cottage-industry’s and small companies’ items are produced in small quantities, a.k.a. short-run kits. Then they go out of production(OOP). You have to hit upon them when they are available, or search for them at hobby shows, from private venders, from shops that specialize in out-of production kits, or on internet auction sites, such as Yahoo or e-Bay. The biggest recent disappointment was the closing of Verlinden productions.
If you can’t get the kits and supplies, you can’t build. The rest of this article is a resource list of manufacturers and sources of 1/48 vehicles, figures and accessories that I have discovered. Many of the items here pertain to World War II, which is my personal area of interest, and by far the largest period represented, but many also have pre‑war, post‑war, or modern items as well. (Updated in 2007)
First, the Manufacturers:
Airfield Accessories from
Airmodel Products is a company from Germany that has some unique, very useful, and excellent quality stuff! They also have their own website; http://www.airmodel.de/ Products for WWII Luftwaffe airfield accessories include aircraft jacks in 2 sizes, 2 types of metal wheel chocks, 2 different ladders, 2 types of Jumo 004 engine intake covers, and an engine tripod. They also have a few aircraft modification kits. They are producing new items from time to time, as recently as mid 2013.
Andrea Figures from
Bandai from Japan was one of the pioneers in this field, issuing dozens of vehicle kits, as well as figure and "fieldwork" sets, back in the 1970s. However, they are exclusively in the “old and odd out‑of‑production stuff” category. The detail and accuracy of the kits range from poor to good, depending on the kit and subject. Many of the old Bandai kits were reissued by Frog/Fuman(see below). Vehicles: M3A1 Half Track; M30 Cargo Carrier; Panzer IV Flak Mobelwagen; Opel Blitz cargo truck; Opel Maultier Sd.Kfz. 4.
Figures include German Infantry(I, II, & III), German Sappers (I & II), German Artillery men; American infantry; U.S. Artillery crew. The 12 Fieldworks sets included weapons, bricks, sandbags, and trees.
Czech Masters from the
Diverse Image makes quite a few figures in 1/48 scale. Available at Great Models.
D.M.L./Dragon has a Luftwaffe figures set with several pilots, ground crew members and accessories. It is especially good for dioramas since there are various poses, chairs, and even playing cards in the kits. It can be had for about $15 from Squadron, Roll Models, or anywhere D.M.L. is sold.
Eduard 1/48 scale Luftwaffe WWII Personnel #8501 & 8502 USAAF WW2 Personel injection molded figures kit. Available at major web stores.
Elan Miniatures was a line of very fine detail resin figures, and at reasonable prices, too! Under $10 for sets of 3 or 4 figures and single figures under for $5. They had W.W. II and modern figures for RAF, RN, German, USAAF, etc. : about 20 different sets. Too bad the line was discontinued, but at least it was partially picked up by Eduard. They are available from Stormbird Hobbies, as well as from other sources.
FlightPath Models have excellent quality photo‑etch and molded metal airfield sets, with huts, planking, bomb trolleys, vehicles, and equipment. Most are for RAF WWII settings, with some modern, and are priced in the $15 to $25 range. They are available from Stormbird Hobbies and others. (also a 1/72 scale line available)
F.M. Models from
Examples:-Sd. Kfz. 7 11 ton Half Track (with 5 seated figures). This is very useful for dioramas, airfield or otherwise, since it was the common prime mover, often used for towing the 88mm gun with crew(which Frog also has), carrying troops, etc. Plus it can be modified to carry a quad 20mm or a 37mm flak gun.
Frog/Fuman Sd. Kfz. 7 & 88mm flak gun (Deutch Afrika Korps), with a ESCI Henschell Hs 129B in desert camouflage in the background
The Fuman Willy’s Jeep is perfect for any Allied airfield diorama.
Their other line is made up of original issues, mostly of accesories for their vehicles, including a Luftwaffe office, pilot, and driver for the Kubelwagon; S.A.S. Desert Willy’s Jeep conversion - weapons, jerry cans, etc.; German, British, & Russian decals for tanks; Photo-etched sets for tanks and vehicles(Valentine, Sherman, & Willy’s). They seem to be OOP, also.
They are available from Squadron, Great Models, Hannats, etc. These items seem to come and go from production but most are available at hobby shops and internet venders.
Me262 A-1a with ground accessories: DML kit on small display base
Hasegawa has made various sets or ground equipment and figures, which are available in the hobby mainstream.
Hauler has come out with 19 photo-etched sets to go with the new Tamiya 1/48 scale vehicle line (and no doubt that more sets will be forthcoming): they are excellent in scope and quality, and quite cheap. Order from the
Hecker and Goros is a line sold by Quarter Kit on line, with a quite ample line of white metal figures for aircraft and for vehicles. Highly recommended.
H‑R Products Inc., ( http://www.hrprod.com/ ) P.O. BOX 67, McHenry, IL 60051, sell cast white metal ship fittings, weapons, figures and other equipment in various scales, including 1/48.
ICM 1/48th German Luftwaffe Pilots and Ground Personnel (1939-1945) #48082- good quality and nicely designed set of 7, including some pilots and ground personnel in various poses. Injection molded styrene. They promise USAAF and RAF sets as well. Available at major web stores.
Jager Industries of
Jaguar makes excellent quality resin sets, mostly figures so far. They have:German Tiger Crew, reloading; Japanese Pilots; Berlin Sewer diorama kit. Jaguar is available from Great Models and Roll Models, VLS, as well as other sources.
Just Plane Stuff makes very finely cast resin flight decks for displaying aircraft, available from Stormbird Hobbies, Great Models, and others. They run in the $20 to $25 range. 001 U.S. Navy Flight Deck (14"x13"); 003 Japanese Flight Deck(also has the same items in 1/72 scale).
Kendall, (KMC) from
Knight's Cross made limited run multi-media kits, with injected plastic, white metal, and photoetched parts. They had: #4801 Kettenkrad w/ Me262 tow bar and #4803 20mm Flak 38 A‑A Gun with trailer. They were available from Squadron Mail Order and Stormbird Hobbies, but seem to be OOP.
Mitsuwa Models once had a line of motorized tanks in 1/48. I found several in a closeout sale. Poor in detail or accuracy.
Model Scene scale scenery supplies: their grass mats are the most detailed and authentic I've ever seen! www.model-scene.com/
MR Models newest releases for Tamiya's 1/48 scale Kübelwagen (Set MR-4801) and Schwimmwagen (Set MR-4802). Both sets include tarps and small detail parts. The Kübelwagen set also includes a set of balloon tyres. They are from MR Modelblau, although their website does not list these items for some reason. www.mrmodellbau.de/mr/e/index.html
Plus Models from the
Pro‑Modeler (part of Monogram/Revell) issued a nice set called, “Airfield Accessories”, including 6 or 7 different items including a German fuel trailer and bomb trailer, a British fuel trailer, and a
ReHeat Models makes detailed resin figures, with many different W.W.II British, US, German, Japanese and Italian sets. They have some modern topics, and are priced around $10 for sets of 3. Available from Stormbird Hobbies and Roll Models.
Scale Model Accessories from England has a good variety of figures, including ground crews and mechanics, and accessories, like vehicles, trolleys, crates, and guns, for US, German, and RAF themes. For example: SMAAR039 - 20mm Flak Ammo boxes: a must to go along with any 20mm flak gun listed elsewhere; SMAAR041- 20mm Flak crew: 3 figures made for Verlinden’s Flak 38. Available from Squadron Mail order and Great Models. But many are OOP.
Schatton has tons of turned brass gun barrels, munitions, rockets, and so on that are reasonably priced and VERY high quality. Their web page is http://modellbau-schatton.privat.t-online.de/ (also see WSW, below).
Skybow was apparently a short-lived 1/48th venture. After releasing an excellent German Tiger I in both early and late versions, they disappeared off the map. They may still be available on eBay, etc. Highly recommended.
SOL, from Korea, has a number of vehicles and accessories listed in Squadron Mail Order flyers and on the Great Models web store. They have an Opel Blitz fuel truck and a cargo truck, several BMW motorcycles, an RAF dispersal tractor, and other items. Price is normal for resin, and is good quality.
Tamiya's releases in 1/48 scale include many armored and other vehicles, figures, accessories, etc. Highly recommended. Keep watch: more are in the making!
Tarmac, from France, makes figures, vehicles and accessories, including conversion kits for the old Bandai kits. They have British, US, French and German vehicles, French figures, German and American 55 gallon drums, and others. Most are resin with photo‑etched brass and injected plastic. Available from Quarter Kit, Great Models and The Right Stuff.
Verlinden, from Belgium, was one of the originators of the genre and the industry standard. They have now closed but many resin and photo‑etched items, including figures and accessories(bombs, etc.), are still available. Items worth noting include their 20mm Flak 38 single anti‑aircraft gun, Luftwaffe Airfield Carts and Luftwaffe Maintenance corner; figure sets that are particularly good quality and ideal for dioramas include Luftwaffe fighter pilots climbing in and out of aircraft, German ground crew in summer clothing, etc.
Wespe Models, from Romania, is one of the most complete lines of WWII trucks and other misc. vehicles. They have dozens of resin kits, a little pricey, but you have to see them. Check out www.wespemodels.ro/ .
WSW (Wings-Ships-Wheels), from Germany offers two Nebelwerfers (German WWII rocket launchers), a little pricey at EUR 30 each but very high quality resin and metal parts(turned brass - done by Rob Schatton – see above). www.wsw-modellbau.de/ Also check out Quarter Kit.
HobbyLink Japan has been listing a limited number of old Bandai kits for quite a while and at a good price(depending on the exchange rate). www.hlj.com/
Matador Models in England sells Airfield Accessories 1/48 scale range www.matadormodels.co.uk/
MR Modelblau, http://www.mrmodellbau.de/mr/e/index.html
Parabellum in England has many good lines and unique items. www.parabellum.co.uk/
Propaganda: French vender with many good lines. http://propaganda.kompany.free.fr/
Quarter Kit, in France, on the web at www.quarter-kit.com . Perhaps the world’s biggest and best source for 1/48 scale vehicles, figures and accessories. It is located in France with several nice lines I have not found elsewhere. Notably, they seem to be the main distributors for Gaso.Line and Tarmac.
Replica, from Hungary, with FM and other kits, on line at: www.replica.hu/fm/
Roll Models has Verlinden, Jaguar, Czech Master, Reheat, etc., at low prices and large selection. See FineScale Modeler ads. www.rollmodels.com/
Scale Hobbyist is a great site! And very fast delivery. http://www.scalehobbyist.com/
Scale Link, in England, has Airfield Accessories kits and Preisner figure sets. www.scalelink.co.uk/
Sprue Brothers is a huge on-line distributor https://store.spruebrothers.com/#
Squadron Mail Order: check them out on the Internet at www.Squadron.com , or in ads in FineScale Modeler. Being larger than most others, has a wide selection of all the big companies and the following lines: Kendall, Knight's Cross, Scale Model Accessories, True Details, Verlinden.
Track 48, in Canada, has its own line of accessories and parts for Bandai and other kits, and sells some Gaso.Line kits. www.track48.com/
VLS (a.k.a. Model Mecca) sells numerous lines, including some unusual ones. On-line at www.modelmecca.com/
Wanamaker Hobbies http://www.wanamakerguns.com/models.html represents a number of manufacturers.
And of course, the on-line auction sites like E-bay and others, can be mined for gold like old Bandai kits. Search the plastic model categories.
Other areas of interest include the “War Gaming” and collector industries. Manufacturers and custom builders offer finished kits, often detailed and painted. Some are die-cat metal, such as Solido. Others are plastic and resin kits from Gaso.Line and others.
Honorable Lead Boiler Company, England: die-cast tanks and vehicles: www.hlbs.co.uk/
North Star, England: figures for War gaming plus Gaso.Line and other company kits. www.northstarfigures.com
Quarter Kit (see above)
Solido makes die-cast tanks, trucks and other vehicles. They can be found at on Quarter Kit.
An industry sector somewhat untapped by 1/48 scale modelers, is the "O" gauge model railroad industry, which supplies a bewildering array of accessories that fit dioramas. Even though they are not normally associated with scale aircraft or armor modeling, they are an excellent source of appropriate scaled items that no one else has. One can find all kinds of terrain, trees, figures, equipment, and even buildings that compliment airbase or other scenes.
Above is an example of model railroading accessories used on a 1/48 scale diorama with aircraft and vehicles: the house and various fixtures pictured here (from “Best of Both Worlds” Diorama )
Some of the manufactures and sources are:
Berkshire Valley, Inc sells many lines and producers their own as well. www.berkshirevalleyinc.com/bvinc1.html
Canyon Creek Scenics have trees and foliage products: http://canyoncreekscenics.com
Heki, from Finland, has good quality and value trees of different sizes and variety, as well as embossed wall/street material. Also, they have one item in particular that is very useful: large grass mats that really look like grass! They are available from Portman Hobby Distributors, 851 Washington St., Peekskill NY 10566 FAX: 914‑737‑6984 and from www.sceneryexpress.com - this web company is also worth noting for a wide array of scenery and other accessories.
Hobby Linc has many accessories, including “0” & 27 gauge figures and buildings. www.hobbylinc.com/
Hunter Scenery Home Page www.huntersceneryco.com/
Model Train Stuff, on line at http://www.modeltrainstuff.com/ has a good selection of landscaping and scenery materials, including Heki products, plus building and structural parts.
The Oakridge Corporation, P.O. BOX 247, Lemont, IL 60439 FAX: 708‑257‑0198, has "O" gauge everything: besides rail stuff, there's landscaping and terrain accessories, house and street accessories galore, figures, vehicles, animals, structural components, and buildings. They also have paints and tools. On-line at www.oakridgehobbies.com/
P & D Hobby Shop, 31902 Groesbeck, Fraiser, MI 48026 FAX: 810‑296‑5642, also specializes in "O" Guage railroad stuff, plus have several good lines of cast metal accessories: Berkshire Valley and Keil Line are highly recommended. They also have a nice set of building components: the DPM modular system, which can be made to represent early 20th century European buildings.
Schomberg Scale Models, in Canada, supply railroad accessories www.schombergscalemodels.com/
Silflor has the BEST turf/grass mats, of incredibly realistic looking grass, of various lengths and colors. It is pricey. Check it out at: www.sceneryexpress.com .
Walthers Model railroad mall www.walthers.com
Woodland Scenics is perhaps the biggest with an incredible variety of terrain and trees, from raw materials to finished products. They are available in many hobby shops, from MicroMark tools, from Oakridge Corp, at their own web site, www.woodlandscenics.com, and from www.discountgames.com at discount prices.
Craft shops are a good source of natural foliage materials, in the form of dried flowers and plants. Certain ones resemble scale trees, and can be painted, cut, bunched and in general used to create entire forests at a reasonable price. Of course, the resourceful person can be on the lookout for natural plants, such as grasses and bushes that can be dried and used for dioramas. Some plant naturally look like small scale. Roots of small plants especially can be used for trees, bushes, branches, and so forth.
So now the 1/48 scale modeler can really get into it big time! Just use your imagination and do some research. A lot of nice dioramas will be on the way!
See the dioramas in 1/48 scale, built by Steve Brauning, on this site.