Edward W. “Bill” Topping was born on April 22, 1908 in Akron, OH.  to Edward Weston Topping and Florence Cowles Durr.  He was raised by his grandparents when his parents were among the 96 victims of the Wellington, Washington train avalanche on March 1, 1910.  Bill’s father, Edward Weston Topping, had worked at Goodyear and was a close friend of the President and Board Chairman, Mr. Paul Litchfield.  He continued to live with his grandparents until their passing away in 1936 and soon met and married his wife, Evelyn Ann Copenhaver in 1938. Bill attended the Case School of Applied Science and always had an interest in aviation and building models.

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 aircraft models which were not very detailed.  Bill asked what the price was for the models and commented 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 Hellcat.

During 1942, Topping also started producing props for flying wire controlled model airplanes.  The props included a three bladed plastic and a 10 1/4" wooden two bladed adjustable pitch prop.  The same year, he met Leland Hardy, an Army WWII veteran who owned a small company named H & P Plastics and flew models as a hobby. Mr. Hardy's business was run out of the basement of his home in Grafton, OH. with up to 14 employees.  Mr. Hardy had recommended Toppings early plastic models be made by Majestic Molding Co. and is also credited to introducing Topping to Joe Goldsmith of Buckeye Molding.  The "Topping 100" kit came out into the market for a short period in December 1945.  The "Topping 100" was constructed of aluminum and came ready to assemble with a three-blade plastic prop.  The cost was $10  however did not include the engine or wet cell.  Toppings business with injection molded models grew and soon sold the propeller business to Mr. Hardy.  Mr. Hardy passed away at the age of 94 on July 8, 2012.  

                           

 

   

                          Topping 100 original kit box                                                                   Hobbycraft magazine ad - March 1946 

 

 

 

 

While employed with Goodyear, the new company, Topping Models officially became full time in 1945 and incorporated on May 15, 1950 with the office headquarters located in Akron.  Topping Assemblies, Inc. was formed on October 3, 1955 and located in Elyria, OH.  approximately 52 miles Northwest of Akron. 

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.  The first step was to make a "master model" and send to the 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.  

Before long, 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 a secretary and bookkeeper.  His 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 while in High School, learning the model and sales 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 remained in Akron until all operations were moved to 147 Kenwood in May 1962.  Topping entered into a 10 year lease with the building owner, Joe Goldsmith.  

New Idea Paint Masks - Brass

Topping Assemblies, Inc.

New Idea Spreaders

While no complete production records exist today, there are a few Topping Models cost sheets for detailing specific orders and summary records.  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 Topping Assemblies, Inc. production summary for May, June and July 1958 is shown below.

Topping Assemblies Employees - 1960

Aadiline Ansel

Erika Dellisanti

Wilma Dennison

Gladys Dougan

Mary ESterday

John Fisher

Mary Lou Gainer

Charles Gamble

Cecil Gamble

Elizabeth Gardner

Eric Alice Giyen

Alice Goor

David Benson

Donald Blakely

Helen Brouse

Joann Cantrall

Elizabeth Chaffee

Dorothy Cooper

Charles Curney

Nellie Crites

Vera Czuprun

Mary Jo Deimling

Helen Hamilton

Ruth L. Harbert

Erma Hedrick

Dorothy Hopkins

Clara Kidney

Helen Lanaghan

Doris Landin

John Lemon

Mary Leslie

Juanita Lett

Ethel Herwig

Earl Mann

Eileen Mets

Icy Morris

Elva Remsier

Richard Roberts *

Richard Schoerverth

Ceraldine Sharpe

Irene Stauffer

Gladys Thomas

Alberta Triplett

Violet Mundell

Mary Trott

Frances Wahl

Charolette Wallice

Gladys Webb

Donald West

Jane Wise

Malvina Young

Peral Youngberg

Ann Ziger

*Richard Robert was a 2nd shift molder and future co-owner of RoLen Models Inc.

Topping was a great 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 back-lit sign. The pegboard display remained at the Precise warehouse until the building was sold.   The lighted sign has been re-wired and is still on display.

Trade Show Booth Display

Topping Models Inc.

Trade Show Lighted Sign

Topping Models Inc.

Topping Models Tooling Costs & Model Pricing

Information from Topping Records - The Prices and Quantity are not representative of total production.

Model                                                     Tooling Cost       Price        Quantity              Model                                                   Tooling Cost         Price          Quantity

$5,000

$10,025

$9,575

$9,425

$8,125

$8,090

$12,600

$12,415

$15,875

$6,525

$11,375

$6,675

$14,125

n/a

$10,980

$4,400

$7,125

$6,275

$6,787.50

$9,775

$5,450

$10,315

$8,450

$6,375

$10,600

$8,735

$8,700

$7,155

$7,950

$5,355

$9,525

$1,150

$8,350

$12,407.50

$14,495

$11,000

$7,150

$6,345

$9,245

$17,135

$7,198

n/a

n/a

$5,390

$8,300

n/a

Convair Atlas Centaur

Kaman H43B

North American X-15

Boeing Minuteman

Towmotor Lift Truck

Vertol 107

Boeing IM-99 Bomarc

Lockheed UCX-329 Jetstar

F8U-3 Crusader III

Goodyear ZPG-2W

Convair Atlas Mercury

Chance Vought Regulas II

Northrop T-38

N. American A3J-1

N. American T-39

Fairchild AN/USD-5

Avro Avrocar

Fairchild F-27 Friendship

McDonnell F-101A Voodoo

Grumman F11F-1

Martin Bullpup

Convair Atlas-Agena

Lockheed AGena

Raytheon Sparrow III
Grumman S2F-3

LOckheed Polaris

Convair Advanced Terrier

Kaman HU2K01

Beechcraft M33 Revision

Hughes GAR-3A Falcon

Convair Atlas B

Grumman Gulfstream Base

Grumman F9F-6 Cougar

Douglas Nike-Zeus

F8U-2NCrusader

Convair 880

Canadair CF-104

New Idea Spreader

New Idea Single Row Picker

Ferguson 30 Tracgtor

Lycoming T53 engine

Allison CD-850 Cross Drive Transmission

Allison T-40 Trubo-Prop engine

Norht American Rocketdyne S3

Liquid Fuel Missile Engine

B-58 Hustler - Small

Lockheed P3V-1 27" wingspan

Bendix Talos 19"

$9.72

$15.60

$8.25

$6.02

$11.40

$14.50

$6.20

$5.75

$8.63

$7.00

$12.50

$6.75

$8.50

$10.20

$8.25

$8.53

$10.95

$7.00

$5.25

$6.45

$4.75

$10.25

$9.65

$7.10

$10.00

$10.70

$6.95

$14.10

$18.60

$4.55

$10.00

---

$7.20

$15.55

$10.05

$8.65

$8.45

$4.50

$1.19

$2.91

$5.10

---

---

$10.30

$6.61

$105.20

$86.60

---

N/A

350

3,000

3,115

1,000

500

1,000

1,000

1,000

200

400

2,000

2,000

300

3,000

200

500

1,000

2,000

1,000

1,000

300

750

1,000

2,000

2,248

1,000

250

500

1,000

300

---

6,600

595

1,350

822

400

25,000

25,000

25,000

1,000

150-175

150-175

1,000

1,325

50

---

Martin Titan "J"

Hughes GAR-11 Falcon

Grumman A2F Intruder

Sikorsky S-61

Tomotor stamping

N. American GAM 77

Martin Matador

Mercury Space Capsule

Mrtin Titan (framed)

Sikorsky HSS-1

Grumman WF-2 Tracer

Martin LaCrosse

Hiller H-23D

Beechcraft L23 Twin Bonanza

Lockheed Q-5

Sikorsky H-37

Convair Atlas D

Douglas Thor

Ryan Q-2A Firebee

Republic F-105 (Metal)

North American J2J-1

Convair 600/900

McDonnell GAM-72 Quail

Boeing KC-135

Lockheed Polaris Base

Convaiar Tartar

Beechcraft M33 DEbonaiar

Beechcrafat M35 Bonanza

Lockheed C-130 HerculesGrumman Gulfstream

NA273 Redhead Roadrunner

Gurmma F9F8T - Modify

Raytheon Hawk

McDonnell F4H Phantom II

Cessna T-37

Youngstown Dishwasher

incl. wire forms, dishware

WHite 3000 truck

Ferguson Disc Plow

Westinghouse Moduline Kit

Allison V1710-C engine

Allison "501" Prop-Jeet engine

Canadair Forty Four

B-58 Hustler - Fiberglass

Lockheed P3V-1 14" winspan

Bendix Talos 9"

Martin Pershing

$10,300

$5,335

$19,950

$11,335

$5,930

$5,475

$13,000

$,2975

$7775

$5,650

$16,778.51

$18,270

$6,750

$7,950

$5,950

$12,260

$10,000

$17,050

$7,760

$10,327

n/a

$11,000

$4,125

n/a

$3,800

n/a

$7,950

$7,950

$4,525

$10,575

$4,545

$2,375

$6,375

$10,750

$9,871.85

$20,000

$18,169

$4,950

$10,400

n/a

$4,670

n/a

n/a

$12,775

$4,375

$9,845

$8.15

$4.55

$13.25

$11.10

$5.35

$7.15

$4.50

$4.10

$9.10

$10.60

$17.75

$6.50

$15.05

$18.66

$7.00

$5.75

$10.10

$11.00

$5.75

$11.00

$8.00

$8.65

$4.20

$8.55

n/a

$5.50

---

$18.60

$13.60

$9.00

$7.95

---

$7.10

$7.90

$7.25

$6.36

$5.40

.94

$9.25

n/a

$6.50

$46.41

$65.80

$10.60

$6.50

$5.55

1,000

1,000

2,500

1,000

4,000

1,000

1,000

5,000

1,000

1,000

1,000

2,500

1,000

400

500

500

1,342

1,000

500

2,500

3,000

750

1,000

1,500

n/a

1,000

---

200

2,000

1,000

500

---

1,000

1,000

500

50,000

2,000

25,000

1,500

150-175

700

152

600

2,500

1,000

1,000

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 Uni-sphere 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.  

Topping Models -"Made in Japan" - Topping Unisphere

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.  He suffered a series of strokes, passing away on December 8, 1992.   His wife, Evelyn passed away on May 15, 1998.  

 

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 manufacturers 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.

147 Kenwood Street, Elyria, OH.

(Currently - National Molded Products Inc.)

Topping Model Succession Companies

Wm. "Bill" Ed Topping

Mary 15, 950 - April 30, 1965

Dick Roberts

Stan Lenovitch

March 23, 1970 - June 10, 2013

Paul Schneider & Rita Malanowski

Gary P Schneider

May 13, 1960 - December 31, 2005

2009 - Present