You’ve probably heard about Francois Verlinden’s retirement by now. A few weeks ago photos were posted to Facebook showing the closure of his warehouse outside St. Louis. It’s a sad time for the hobby, but we have much to be thankful for given Verlinden’s presence in the hobby.
When I started building plastic models I focused solely on aircraft, but an early mentor introduced me to armor, sometime around 1983 I think. At the same time he introduced me to Francois Verlinden’s work just when his business was taking off. My mentor had incorporated some of Verlinden’s techniques into his own armor modeling, and I dutifully followed his lead by doing the same. All these years later I can credit my mentor and Verlinden for my interest in armor, even if the techniques we use today have significantly changed over the years.
I saw Verlinden do a presentation at the 1984 IPMS National Convention, which I recall was simply a slide show of his work, but what we saw was inspiring at the time. He painted and weathered armor with much more contrast than we’d ever seen before and the results were stunning. In the years that followed I bought some of his books — those about modeling techniques as well as the Lock-On series featuring what we might today refer to as “walkarounds” — and several issues of Verlinden Productions Modeling Magazine. They made me a better modeler.
Several years later I was driving through Missouri and had time to stop at VLS’s headquarters and see Verlinden’s models in person (as well as Bob Letterman’s dioramas). I have to admit that their work didn’t look quite as good in person as it did in photographs, but the ambition of their efforts was a point of inspiration. I don’t think it’s a surprise that many modelers today are drawn to big, expansive dioramas, in part due to Verlinden and Letterman’s early work.
Verlinden’s products, while not always the easiest to build, set a standard for the products that we now enjoy from the aftermarket industry. His company produced products for armor, aircraft, and figure modelers. Other modelers and entrepreneurs with good product ideas followed Verlinden’s lead. I’m sure many of you still have a Verlinden conversion or detail set in your stash.
It’s unfortunate that the Verlinden brand didn’t continue beyond its founder’s retirement, but his presence in the hobby laid a foundation that many others built upon.
Read more about other inspiring modelers.