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
Marye Jo Deimling
Mary Lou Gainer
Eric Alice Giyen
Ruth L. Harbert
*Molder 2nd Shift
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
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 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
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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