Aurora Molds - Urban Legends… Author Bob Johnson, Contributors Ed Sexton and Peter Vetri
Ever since the mold inventory for plastic kits from Aurora Plastics Corporation was acquired by Monogram Models in the late 1970's, there have been no end of rumors and speculation from the "infamous Binghamton NY winter train wreck" (fact) to the disposition of various tool sets over the following years. Even reading the description of the trials and tribulations of Aurora on Wikipedia, there is no mention whatsoever of the purchase of some tool sets by Monogram during the winter of 1977. By mid 1978 the acquisition was completed and internal records of Monogram Models, Inc. indicate that approximately 740 molds +/- were shipped to Morton Grove, Illinois. The quantity damaged beyond repair was less than 30 molds (assessing a "mold" as the cavity and core halves even if separated in the train wreck) and by late 1979, as many as 500 molds had been scrapped. In addition, Roughly 51 molds sets composed primarily of character figures and 12 various cars; likely in 1/32nd scale, were not part of the sale to Monogram. Most of these molds were scrapped for various reasons or mold bases repurposed by Aurora themselves.
Without question, any modeler who built Aurora kits in the 1950's and 1960's has a "favorite" from Frankenstein to the turquoise P-38 "Lightning" to the Douglas MB-2 mailplane, "Mod Squad" Ford Woody Wagon, and the North American B-70. Those who built these kits as youngsters surely had different interests than senior management at Monogram whose primary goal was to acquire the Aurora molds and restrict further production primarily to ensure that existing retail shelf space was given to large numbers of reissued Aurora subjects from a potential new firm. You can see exactly what kits went right into the Monogram line by looking at the 1979 Catalog. The potential for reissues was weakening as vintage items were looked upon as less detailed and less accurate than new kit creations in the 1970's. It was a reality of what was already a shrinking market. The shelf space the industry once possessed is long gone.
After 1990 or "thereabouts", there were beliefs among the modeling community that Aurora molds stored initially at the Monogram facility in Morton Grove and relocated when Revell-Monogram changed ownership and moved to Northbrook, Illinois, and then moved a third time in 2007 under new Hobbico ownership when offices and molds were moved to Elk Grove Village, Illinois. Between that time and the Chapter 7 bankruptcy of Hobbico in 2018 and the sale of Revell assets to Quantum Capital Partners in Germany, only one 3 Aurora mold sets were sold; a duplicate 1/32nd scale Batmobile and the Monster Scenes Animal Pit and Dungeon molds. Other firms may have marketed kits based on Aurora molds, but that process utilized bagged assemblies produced in the Morton Grove facility. Many Aurora kits were reverse engineered like the Moebius Models Dr. Jekyll and the Atlantis American Bison to name a couple. The sale and purchase of bagged assemblies is a common practice in the hobby kit industry, and has been for decades and continues today.
Throughout the period from 1991 through the closure of Revell in 2018, ownership and management changed... but, one constant was the Product Manager. This person worked with several firms that purchased bagged assembly items from the overall Revell mold inventory. Following the purchase of Revell assets in the USA and Germany, "interests” for the German buyers specified molds held in China and the USA that they wished to retain for future production. There were a number that were not selected and those were set aside to be scrapped. Knowing that this would lead to a number of vintage mold sets from Monogram, Revell, Aurora, and Renwal disposed of for material value only. Revell product manager Ed Sexton saw the value in selling a quantity of the remaining molds to a viable buyer; Atlantis Toy and Hobby inc. Located on Long island New York. Fortunately, these principals saw potential in future production from most of the molds scheduled for destruction and a business "deal" was negotiated. Those that remained were transferred to Atlantis; a major undertaking all its own.
The past 3 years has seen the limited production of vintage kits that had not been produced in years. If you appreciate what Atlantis is creating, support them with purchases! We need to thank Ed Sexton along with the cooperation of Lou Aguilera, President of Carrera Revell of Americas, Inc. that a "quick sale" to a junk dealer did not happen. While Ed worked with principals at Atlantis Models, Lou negotiated with the new German owners to achieve an acceptable solution. Their foresight to find a small firm that was (and is) committed to work hard to survive in a very different hobby market is not only laudable, but provides future kits releases from vintage molds that otherwise would have been lost. Atlantis co owners Peter Vetri and Rick Delfavero are taking on a massive challenge that goes way beyond what you see when a new Atlantis kit makes its way to a retail shelf.
Hopefully, this provides facts that refute the "what ifs"..... and before anyone asks, there is a list of what was purchased and that remains the confidential property of the new owners. Support them all that you can.
Better to buy vintage kits!