TOPPING MODELS, INC.
...The Most Effective Single Means of Selling Your Product and your Company
Edward W. (Bill) Topping was born in 1908 in Akron, OH. His parents were tragically killed by an avalanche in 1910 when an avalanche struck their train while traveling in the state of Washington and he was raised by his grandparents, living in Ashland, OH. His father was employed as a plant supervisor for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in Akron, and was a close friend of the President, Mr. Paul Litchfield. Mr. Litchfield took a deep interest in helping Bill whenever possible.
Bill attended Case School of Applied Science and always had an interest in aviation and model building. He dropped out of college and from 1936-1941 employed as a tire salesman for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company traveling throughout IL., NE., IA. selling the new tubeless tires.
When WWII broke out in 1941, Bill requested to be assigned to the Grumman Aircraft Company as Goodyear's representative and set out for New York. Grumman had a collection of miniature examples of their aircraft which were not very detailed. Bill asked the price of one of the models and then made the comment to a Grumman exec that he could make a better detailed model for half the cost. The Grumman exec remembered the comment and later gave Topping his first order for 1,500 models. That model is thought to have been the Grumman Albatross.
During 1942, Topping established a part time plastic mold manufacturing business, establishing a long term working relationship with Elyria die maker, Joe Goldsmith. Bill was still employed with Goodyear at this time but the new company, Topping Models officially became full time in 1945 and incorporated on May 15, 1950.
Topping Assemblies, Inc. was formed on October 3, 1955. Topping also developed an injection mold which would enable mass production of plastic models that were accurate, detailed and at an economical cost. This made it possible to justify the cost of the steel injection molds.
Topping had two locations, Elyria and Akron, OH. The main office for Topping Models, Inc. was located at 1st National Tower in Akron where Bill Topping managed the company's financial records with two bookkeeper / secretaries. Business partner, Paul Schneider managed the model manufacturing at Topping Assemblies located at 147 Kenwood St. in Elyria, OH. In November 1960 Topping Assemblies had grown to 53 employees, including a second shift molder by the name of Richard (Dick) Roberts, future part-owner of RoLen. The business office operated in Akron until all operations were moved to 147 Kenwood in May 1962. Topping had a 10 year lease on the building with the owner, Joe Goldsmith.
Assembling New Idea Spreaders at Topping Assemblies, Inc. New Idea Paint Masks - Brass
Topping Assemblies Employees - 1960
Marye Jo Deimling
Mary Lou Gainer
Eric Alice Giyen
Ruth L. Harbert
*Molder 2nd Shift
While no complete production records exist, there are a few remaining detailed Topping Models “cost sheets” for specific orders. For example, a cost sheet dated August 1964 for 200 Lockheed Hercules C-130E models lists material, stamping, labor costs, etc. totaling $6.40 per model, including a 10% profit margin.
Another record sheet dated September 1964 shows 5,000 F-111’s (2,500 USAF F-111A and 2,500 Navy F-111B) at a cost of $6.45 each. Details include a decal cost of 25 cents/model. A copy Topping Assemblies May, June and July 1958 summary sheet is shown below.
Topping attended various trade shows with a large pegboard model display, a rotating table and Topping Models backlit sign. The pegboard display remained at the Precise warehouse until the building was sold.
Topping Models Inc. display booth with rotating tabletop
The Topping display sign had been stored at Precise Models since the Topping sale and has been refinished with the original backlighting. The sign stands 6' x 3'.
- Topping Models Original Tooling Costs & Model Pricing -
Models are listed as shown in the 1961 Topping Catalog
Pricing & Qty are not representative of total production
Convair Atlas Centaur
Martin Titan "J"
Hughes Gar-11 Falcon
North American X-15
Grumman A2F Intruder
Towmotor Lift Truck
and wire form
North American GAM 77
Boeing IM-99 Bomarc
Lockheed UCX-329 Jetstar
Chance Vought F8U-3 Crusader III
Goodyear ZPG-2W Airship
NASA McDonnell Mercury Space Capsule
Martin Titan (in frame)
Chance Vought Regulas II
Grumman WF-2 Tracer
North American A3J-1 Vigilante
North American T-39
Beechcraft L23 Twin Bonanza
Fairchild F-27 Friendship
Convair Atlas D
McDonnell F-101A Voodoo
Ryan Q-2A Firebee
Republic F-105 (Metal)
North American T2J-1
Convair 600 / 900
Raytheon Sparrow III
McDonnell GAM-72 Quail
Lockheed Polaris Base
Convair Advanced Terrier
Beechcraft M33 Debonair
Beechcraft M33 Revision
Beechcraft M35 Bonanza
Hughes GAR-3A Falcon
Lockheed C-130 Hercules
Convair Atlas B
Grumman Gulfstream base
North American NA 273 Redhead Roadrunner
Grumman F9F-6 Cougar
Grumman F9F-8T - Modify
Chance Vought F8U-2N Crusader
McDonnell F4H Phantom II
Incl. wire forms, dishware
New Idea Spreader
New Idea Single Row
White 3000 Truck
Ferguson 30 tractor
Ferguson Disc Plow
Lycoming T53 engine
Westinghouse Moduline Kit
Allison CD-850 Cross Drive Transmission
Allision V1710-C engine
Allison T-40 Turbo-Prop engine
Allision "501" Prop-Jet engine
North American Rocketdyne S3 Liquid Fuel Missile Engine
Canadair Forty Four
B-58 Hustler - Fiberglass
B-58 Hustler - small
incl. in price
Bendix Talos 9"
Bendix Talos 19"
Initially, Topping had spent a lot of personal time traveling to the manufacturers for prospective business, but as the business grew, he employed two sales reps with one on each coast.
On January 1, 1958, Topping entered into an agreement with the Walter J. Hyatt Company in Beverly Hills, CA. to be a exclusive sales representative to increase Topping’s sales presence and potential customers in California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona. The agreement was commission based with an annual renewal option. Hyatt went on to produce and market models such as the Apollo spacecraft. The name of the East coast sales rep is unknown.
Bill Topping was a true salesman. He dined his customers and prospects well as was the custom and expected for the time. The manufacturing contracts included the cost of models so in effect, the U.S. taxpayers were paying for models in the production of the aircraft.
Gary Schneider was employed during his youth at Topping Models at the time his father, Paul Schneider was Topping's partner. Topping had produced a small number of catalogs, the most popular version is the one produced in 1961. A pdf file of the 1961 Topping Catalog can be viewed by clicking on this link 1961 Topping Catalog and is courtesy of www.collectair.com. Clicking on these links will direct you away from this website. Use your browser's back arrow to return to this site.
The final demise of Topping Models was the contract to produce and sell a model of the Unisphere Globe at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Bill Topping had understood he had the exclusive right to sell the Unisphere model, unfortunately the contract was valid only within the American Pavilion and foreign companies sold their lower priced Unisphere model. This was a large loss for Topping and the final straw for the company. Limited quantities of the original Topping Unisphere Globe model are available on the Models for Sale tab. Pictured below are two sizes of the Topping Unisphere globe models produced. The small metal globe has a "made in Japan" sticker underneath and sit on Paul Schneider's desk for many years.
1964 Topping Unisphere Globe Unisphere - Made in Japan
On April 30, 1965 Topping Models filed for voluntary bankruptcy in U.S. District Court, Cleveland, OH. Court document (no. 8652197) shows assets totaling $904,712 and liabilities of $243,256. This seems rather odd as the records
indicate financial equity. Mr. Topping subsequently suffered a stroke and was inactive for a period of time. When his health recovered in 1968 he attempted to restart Topping Models in a 2 story rented brick building located at 365 Water Street in downtown Akron, OH., producing the Piper Cherokee Arrow, Cherokee C, D, 140 and 235B. The cost for each model was $9.00 with a choice of domestic or foreign decals. A reproduction of the original Topping Models Flyer is available. Also a Piper Cherokee kit is available on the Model Kits for Sale tab.
The exact date Topping closed business for the final time is unknown. A Dunn & Bradstreet report dated Nov. 23, 1971 on Topping Models shows recorded mortgages and financing statements. The report states12 employees including himself. There is also a notation that "cash not always adequate and suppliers reported slowness"; and “Mr. Topping declined to provide all requested financial information.”
Most of the Topping tooling, injection molds and model inventory was purchased by Precise Models at the bankruptcy auction. The Topping Models Inc. name and logo were buffed out of the Topping manufactured models and marketed as Precise Models Inc. Later Precise production runs were made using the Topping injection molds and sold as Precise Models Inc. Initially, Precise also placed a small decal on the models (usually under the wing) until the manfacturers considered it to be advertising and made them stop.
The former Topping Assemblies facility at 147 Kenwood St. (located across the street from Precise Models) was owned by Mr. Joe Goldsmith, owner of Buckeye Mold & Die. He employed approximately 30 die makers and had previously manufactured molds for both Topping and Precise Models. The building was later sold to Mr. Davis and eventually purchased by the current owner and business, National Molded Products, Inc. They also molded models for Precise Models Incl and currently mold high quality plastic products and will mold "almost anything" according to the owner. Behind the Topping Assemblies building was located another injection molding company, Lake Erie Plastics, which also performed injection molding for Topping before moving to Cleveland.
Former Topping Assemblies, Inc. at 147 Kenwood St., Elryia, OH.
Topping Models - Business Spin-offs
From Topping Models, Inc., four employees started their own model businesses. These include Precise Models, Inc., with Paul Schneider and Rita Malanowski; and RoLen by Dick Roberts and Stan Lenovitch. Mr. Roberts had operated RoLen Plastics, Inc., Grafton, OH. until November 2013.
Additional information on these and other contractor scale model manufacturing companies can be found at http://aviation.watergeek.eu/index.html and www.collectair.com
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