Book Review: Profile Publications

It’s only a little painful to hear some youngster ask how a model built in the 1960’s could have accurate markings. After all, the 1960’s were noted for two things, hippies and the disappearance of the last few dinosaurs–right? But anybody who remembers building plastic model kits in the 60’s knows that plenty of technical information on aircraft markings was available in those days, and, one way or another, a lot of it was stored within the pages of weird little pamphlets called “Profiles.”

I love Profiles. Profiles always have and always will be dandy places to find out stuff about airplanes. Some of the information in then may be wrong, but it’s wrong because the authors didn’t know any better. It’s not wrong because they deliberately invented bogus new “facts” in order to sell more Profiles.

Such infamy had not yet taken over the world of hobby publishing, or the world of business in general for that matter. Profiles were sold for fifty cents American, (“two shillings”) but that was respectable money in 1967. Think of it as the equivalent of five bucks today. Ten bucks in Manhattan. It wasn’t dirt cheap but it wasn’t that expensive, either, and the wonder of it was that you could just buy one of them. If you were building an Airfix Helldiver, you could just buy the Helldiver Profile.

You could collect Profiles as you collected models. It was a system where the lion did not yet strap the lamb to the yoke, work it to death and only then eat it. It was time of remarkable grace and dignity, considering.

Of course, if you were a wealthy person who made, say $25,000 a year, you could afford mahogany paneling in the “den” and you could buy the Profiles in bound volumes. They were priced at about the equivalent of $100 per book in debased 2017 money. No kid could afford that–or would want to. If you had a hundred bucks you would be pretty strange if you spent it on a book and not some kits! So the bound Profiles went to libraries and you checked them out and used them, respectfully. You could imagine that one day, somehow, you might own a copy of your own–but that would be after you climbed Mt. Everest and became a Captain for Pan Am.


Well, here I sit drinking my root beer and pondering that I bought no less than three of these old books a few years ago. Found them in a used book store and pounced. It was bitter sweet. The books are now openly held in contempt by smart-aleck kids who insist on following the latest dicta from various unchallenged experts. “You simply MUST read the LATEST! Green Luftwaffe is OUT! Gray is IN!”

Yeah. You guys are alright. Yeah, you just keep on having fun. But Profiles, generally, contain information that ages well. New landing gear don’t sprout from the undersides of fighter planes. As far as I know, the color of the Hawker Sea Fury hasn’t changed. The colors that are now held to be “wrong” are held to be wrong for notoriously flimsy reasons–don’t get too excited throwing your Profiles out the door.

Oh wait–since these publications are now being sold on “bargain” tables at used book stores–well, go right on ahead. They’re in my price bracket now. I think I like that just fine.

9 Replies to “Book Review: Profile Publications”

  1. Fun thing is in days of lore authors knew they might be held responsible for what they wrote; nowadays everybody writes everything on ze net knowing full well that its toll free!!! Don’t post a pic though – unless its your own, that you own.
    And then we’ve gone full circle – writers be responsible; if you don’t have a source to cite tell us its YOUR opinion – not fact.
    I happen to like books; I grew up reading books. The funny thing is you just may find stuff in these ancient scriptures that already knew whats being tossed about on ze net today. Remember reading stuff about Danish military aircraft procurement in the interwar years decades ago only to rediscover it less than ten years ago on ze net and then cross-checking with my books. Oh, I had the knowledge all the time – in old books. 🙂
    The good thing about the net is that you have instant access to so much information – still however its YOUR task to sort the wheat from the chaff. Not everybody is good at that. 😉

    1. If I get my information from an old Profile, I’ll certainly explain where it’s from and mention that it’s unsupported. A drawing, even in a Profile, is just somebody’s opinion unless you can match it to a photograph. I think at least part of the hostility to these old books is that they break the special rule–that any book with fancy printing MUST be true. It just galls people who worship a printed book as “the truth” (just because it’s a book), that an old book like a Profile can be so obviously wrong about some things. At least, it disagrees with the latest–so SOMEBODY has to be wrong! It aggravates them. It would be so much easier to control the past if one could destroy old books using some kind of “memory hole.” Then we’d have one printed truth, now and forever. Insecurity and shame would at last fall away. My my but bad parenting certainly complicates things…

      1. Its been tried a couple of times in China and Europe and possible other places too usually with very bad consequences. Peoples just won’t learn from experience.
        Of course a profile may be wrong but if that was what was available at the time its excuseable though that shouldn’t be the reason for dismissing them all. We all know that we may get better information over time like when the Eastern Bloc archives got opened but still some stuff may be elusive and then we have to say – “I suppose, because…”
        Whoever invented “Follow my leader” opened a can of worms! 😀

        1. My point of view is really a very ordinary kind of skepticism. Unfortunately, “follow my leader” wasn’t invented, it seems to be hard-wired into our DNA. We just love to appoint someone “The Great Expert” and then we can stop thinking. What prompts this? Why do we resort to an appeal to authority as a first resort? Why not try reasonable discussion before dropping names and trying to “shame” the other side into compliance? Is simple, logical discussion just “beyond” most people? I’ve talked to religious people who are quite comfortable talking about whether “God” exists–but grow very uncomfortable if I want to discuss whether we exist. Scientists are quite comfortable talking about the scientific method, but very uncomfortable talking about empiricism. We have a “comfort zone” that limits what we can think, apparently. I say that my “Molders” Bf-109E is probably wrong–it should have the beige RLM 02 up the sides of the fuselage and MOTTLED on the wings, with the original 70/71 under the 02. I put 2 and 2 together and that seems logical based on color photos. But I’ve never seen a model like that. I almost never see a model with “mottled” wings. We build models based on illustrations (profiles) and other models. But the internet gives us all the ability to become experts. We should do it! If any old-style experts get offended, well, no need to spit in their eye, just step around them and let them stew.

          1. Well there isn’t a whole lot to support a discussion about whether ‘we’ exist. The answer has no significance, since we cannot find out. Existence is only based on what we ‘know’ and all I know is that I am currently typing these words. Such an argument is down to belief and cannot be proved either way. Accept or deny as you will.

            Aircraft colours are another can of worms, as are various other military colours. Official documents state various schemes etc that ‘should’ have been used, while veterans know this isn’t always the case. That is, veterans that cared enough to note paint colours. I myself never bothered knowing exactly what colours were used on Australian army vehicles, so unless it looks entirely different to what my vague recollection is, I don’t really notice.

            These publications are as good as anything to go off when painting a model.

            1. I’ll tell ya what I’m seeing. I’m seeing that this WordPress theme seems to have a really bad formatting problem for comments. It should not indent the comments so much that they crowd up on the right side of the screen like this. Damn! Now I’ll have to figure out how to to fix this…grumble.

  2. I switched off nested comments. This will work for now until I figure out a better solutions. My guru Shamus Young has a customized comment system that allows nesting even if there are hundreds of comments. I’m not saying that I’ll start getting hundreds of comments any time soon…

  3. Yes, it was a bit silly. I was wondering after I posted whether we would be going towards a one word per line comment by the end.

  4. I still enjoy Profile Publications to this day. Despite their age, it’s interesting how they’re still used for reference (including by manufacturers.) Remember the original issue of the Minicraft 1/144 DC-3 in 1996? The color options looked like they thumbed through the Profile Publication for the DC-3 / C-47.

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