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           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.  He was raised by his grandparents when his parents were among the 97 victims of the Wellington, Washington train avalanche on March 1, 1910.  Bill’s father, E.W. Topping had worked at Goodyear and was a close friend of the President and Board Chairman, Mr. Paul Litchfield.  Bill attended the Case School of Applied Science and always had an interest in aviation and building models.  He continued to live with his grandparents until their passing away in 1936 and soon met and married his wife in 1938.

Mr. Litchfield offered Bill his first job as a salesman in 1936, traveling thru the Midwest selling tubeless tires.   He transferred to a Goodyear mechanical dept. in 1940 and 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 the aircraft which were not very detailed.  Bill asked what the price was and 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,  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 with the office located in Akron.  Topping Assemblies, Inc. was formed on October 3, 1955 and located in Elyria, OH.  

Bill developed the technique of injection molding, likely drawing upon his experience at Goodyear with the mechanical production.  He established what turned out to be a long term working relationship when he met Joe Goldsmith, a die maker in Elyria in 1942. To make the models, a "master model" was sent to the aircraft manufacturer engineers for final approval before the production runs were approved.  Bill traveled extensively making contact with aircraft manufacturers such as McDonnell, Chance Vought, North American Aviation, Grumman, Lockheed, Boeing, etc. 

Topping now 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 a bookkeeper and secretary.  Business partner, Paul Schneider managed the model manufacturing at Topping Assemblies located at 147 Kenwood St. in Elyria, OH.  Paul's son, Gary Schneider was also employed part time at Topping and learned the business at a young age.  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 entered into a 10 year lease on the building with Joe Goldsmith.  


       

Assembling New Idea Manure Spreaders at Topping Assemblies, Inc.        New Idea Paint Masks - Brass

 

 

Topping Assemblies Employees - 1960

 

Madiline Ansel

David Benson

Donald Blakely

Helen Brouse

Joann Cantrall

Elizabeth Chaffee

Dorothy Cooper

Charles Curney

Nellie Crites

Vera Czuprun

Marye Jo Deimling

 

 

 

 

Erika Dellisanti

Wilma Dennison

Gladys Dougan

Mary Esterday

John Fisher

Mary Lou Gainer

Charles Gamble

Cecil Gamble

Elizabeth Gardner       

Eric Alice Giyen

Alice Gorr

 

 

 

Helen Hamilton

Ruth L. Harbert

Erma Hedrick

Ethel Herwig

Dorothy Hopkins       

Clara Kidney

Helen Lanaghan  

Doris Landin

John Lemon

Mary Leslie

Juanita Lett 

 

 

Earl Mann

Eileen Mets

Icy Morris

Violet Mundell

Elva Ramsier

Richard Roberts*

Richard Schoerverth      

Ceraldine Sharpe 

Irene Stauffer

Gladys Thomas

Alberta Triplett 

 

 

Mary Trott

Frances Wahl

Charlotte Wallice

Gladys Webb

Donald West

Jane Wise

Malvina Young

Pearl Youngberg        

Ann Ziger 

 

*Molder 2nd Shift

  (Future RoLen)

 

While no complete production records exist today, there are a few remaining Topping Models “cost sheets” for specific orders. One sheet dated August 1964 for 200 Lockheed Hercules C-130E models lists the 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.  The production summary record for Topping Assemblies May, June and July 1958 is shown below.


 


Topping was a salesman, always looking for the next sale and project.  He 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. trade show booth with rotating tabletop
 
 
       
 
The Topping display sign measures 6' x 3' and had been stored at Precise Models Inc. since the Topping sale.  It has been cleaned and re-wired to light up again.   

 - Topping Models Original Tooling Costs & Model Pricing -

Models are listed in order as shown in the 1961 Topping Catalog

Pricing & Qty are not representative of total production

Model

Tooling Cost

Price 

Qty. 

Convair Atlas Centaur

   $5,000 

$9.72

n/a

Martin Titan "J"

$10,300

 $8.15 

 1,000

Kaman H43B

$10,025 

$15.60 

  350

Hughes Gar-11 Falcon

  $5,335 

 $4.55 

1,000 

North American X-15

  $9,575 

 $8.25 

3,000 

Grumman A2F Intruder

$19,950 

$13.25 

2,500 

Boeing Minuteman

 $9,425 

 $6.02 

3,115 

Sikorsky S-61

$11,335 

$11.10 

1,000 

Towmotor Lift Truck

$8,125 

$11.40 

1,000 

Towmotor stamping

and wire form

$5,930 

 $5.35 

4,000 

Vertol 107

$8,090 

$14.50 

 500 

North American GAM 77

$5,475 

$7.15 

1,000 

Boeing IM-99 Bomarc

$12,600 

$6.20 

1,000 

Martin Matador

$13,000 

$4.50 

1,000 

Lockheed UCX-329 Jetstar

$12,415 

$5.75 

1,000 

Martin Pershing

$9,845 

$5.55 

1,000 

Chance Vought F8U-3 Crusader III

$15,875 

$8.63 

1,000 

Goodyear ZPG-2W Airship

$6,525 

$7.00 

  200 

NASA McDonnell Mercury Space Capsule

$2,975 

$4.10 

5,000 

Martin Titan (in frame)

$7,775 

$9.10 

1,000 

Convair Atlas-Mercury 

$11,375 

$12.50 

  400 

Sikorsky HSS-1 

$5,650 

$10.60 

1,000 

Chance Vought Regulas II 

$6,675 

$6.26 

2,000 

Grumman WF-2 Tracer 

$16,778.51 

$17.75 

1,000 

Northrop T-38 

$14,125

$8.50 

2,000 

Martin LaCrosse 

$18,270 

$6.50 

2,500 

North American A3J-1 Vigilante 

n/a 

$10.20 

  300 

Hiller H-23D

$6,750 

$15.05 

1,000 

North American T-39 

$10,980 

$8.25 

3,000 

Beechcraft L23 Twin Bonanza

$7,950 

$18.66 

  400 

Fairchild AN/USD-5

$4,400 

$8.53 

  200 

Lockheed Q-5 

$5,950 

$7.00 

  500 

Avro Avrocar 

$7,125 

$10.95 

 500 

Sikorsky H-37 

$12,260 

$9.50 

500 

Fairchild F-27 Friendship 

$6,275 

$7.00 

1,000 

Convair Atlas D

$10,000 

$10.10 

1,342 

McDonnell F-101A Voodoo 

$6,787.50 

$5.25 

2,000 

Douglas Thor 

$17,050 

$11.00 

1,000 

Grumman F11F-1 

$9,775 

$6.45 

4,000 

Ryan Q-2A Firebee 

$7,760 

$5.75 

  500 

Martin Bullpup 

$5,450 

$4.75 

1,000 

Republic F-105 (Metal) 

$10,327 

11.00 

2,500 

Convair Atlas-Agena 

$10,315 

$10.25 

  300 

North American T2J-1 

n/a 

$8.00 

3,000 

Lockheed Agena 

$8,450 

$9.65 

  750 

Convair 600 / 900 

$11,000 

$8.65 

  750 

Raytheon Sparrow III 

$6,375 

$7.10 

1,000 

McDonnell GAM-72 Quail 

$4,125 

$4.20 

1,000 

Grumman S2F-3

$10,600 

$10.00 

2,000 

Boeing KC-135 

n/a 

$8.55 

1,500 

Lockheed Polaris 

$8,735 

$10.70 

2,248 

Lockheed Polaris Base 

$3,800 

--- 

--- 

Convair Advanced Terrier

$8,700 

$6.95 

1,000 

Convair Tartar 

--- 

$5.50 

1,000 

Kaman HU2K-1

$7,155 

$14.10 

  250 

Beechcraft M33 Debonair

 

Beechcraft M33 Revision 

$7,950

 

$7,950 

$18.60

 

--- 

  500 

 

---

Beechcraft M35 Bonanza

$7,950

$18.60

  200

Hughes GAR-3A Falcon 

$5,355 

 $4.55 

1,000 

Lockheed C-130 Hercules

$4,525 

$13.60 

2,000 

Convair Atlas B

$9,525 

$10.00 

  300 

Grumman Gulfstream 

$10,575 

$9.00 

1,000 

Grumman Gulfstream base 

$1,150 

--- 

--- 

North American NA 273 Redhead Roadrunner 

$4,545 

$7.95 

  500 

Grumman F9F-6 Cougar 

$8,350 

$7.20 

6,600 

Grumman F9F-8T - Modify 

$2,375 

--- 

--- 

Douglas Nike-Zeus 

$12,407.50 

$15.55 

  595 

Raytheon Hawk 

$6,375 

$7.10 

1,000 

Chance Vought F8U-2N Crusader 

$14,495 

$10.05 

1,350 

McDonnell F4H Phantom II 

$10,750 

$7.90 

1,000 

Convair 880 

$11,000

$8.65 

  822 

Cessna T-37 

$9,871.85 

$7.25 

  500 

Canadair CF-104 

$7,150 

$8.45 

  400 

Youngstown Dishwasher

Incl. wire forms, dishware

$20,000 

$6.36 

50,000 

New Idea Spreader 

$6,345 

$4.50 

25,000 

New Idea Single Row

Corn PIcker 

$9,245 

$1.19 

25,000 

White 3000 Truck 

$18,169 

$5.40 

2,000 

Ferguson 30 tractor

$17,135 

$2.91 

25,000 

Ferguson Disc Plow 

$4,950 

$0.94 

25,000 

Lycoming T53 engine 

$7,198 

$5.10 

1,000 

Westinghouse Moduline Kit

$10,400 

$9.25 

1,500 

Allison CD-850 Cross Drive Transmission 

n/a 

n/a 

150-175 

Allision V1710-C engine 

n/a 

n/a 

150-175 

Allison T-40 Turbo-Prop engine

n/a 

n/a 

150-175 

Allision "501" Prop-Jet engine 

$4,670 

$6.50 

  700 

North American Rocketdyne S3 Liquid Fuel Missile Engine 

$5,390 

$10.30 

1,000 

Canadair Forty Four 

n/a 

$46.41 

152 

B-58 Hustler - Fiberglass 

n/a 

$65.80 

  600 

B-58 Hustler - small

$8,300 

$6.61 

1,325 

Lockheed P3V-1

14" wingspan 

$12,775 

$10.60 

2,500 

Lockheed P3V-1

27" wingspan 

record show

incl. in price

$105.20 

50 

Bendix Talos   9" 

$4,375 

$6.50 

1,000 

Bendix Talos 19" 

n/a 

$86.60 

   2 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Initially, Topping and his wife 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 an 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.  

 

Topping had produced a small number of catalogs, the most popular was the one produced in 1961.  A full color reproduction of the 1961 Topping Catalog can be purchased on this website.

 

The final demise of Topping Models was the contract to produce the Unisphere Globe for the 1964 New York World’s Fair.  Bill Topping had understood he had the exclusive right for vendors to market 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 of the three versions produced.  Not shown is a metal replica of the Unisphere which Topping produced in addition to the two sizes shown.  The small metal globe on the right has a "made in Japan" sticker underneath and was on Paul Schneider's desk for many years.  


 


                                                          1964 World's Fair Unisphere Globe Model

                                                   Topping Models Inc.                           "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. Mr. Topping subsequently suffered a stroke in 1967 and spent the next three years recovering. When his health did recover in 1970, 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.  

 

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.”

 

Bill retired in 1973 and spent the next 10 years working on a private collection of models.  Bill was described as an aggressive salesman, perfectionist and had a sincere interest in aviation.  He dined his customers and prospects well as was the custom and expected for the time.  He was always looking for that next project and continually built models his whole life.


 

Most of the Topping tooling, injection molds and model inventory was purchased by Precise Models at the first bankruptcy auction in 1965. 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 later purchased by the current owner and business, National Molded Products, Inc.  They also molded models for Precise Models Inc. 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.  Lake Erie Plastics was one of the first plastic molding companies in the area and this small formerly separate building is now under roof of National Molded Products.  The rear of the building now extends to the next block.

 


 Former Topping Assemblies, Inc. at 147 Kenwood St., Elyria, OH. 

(Currently - National Molded Products Inc.)


 

Topping Models Spin-offs

 

From Topping Models, Inc., 

          Precise Models, Inc., Elyria, OH.  - Paul Schneider and Rita Malanowski

          RoLen, Elyria, OH. - Dick Roberts and Stan Lenovitch

          RoLen Plastics, Inc. Grafton, OH. Dick Roberts (closed November 2013) 

          Precise Models LLC - currently

Related Links:

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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