In 1931 Meccano announced a complete departure from the long established Meccano range, "Aeroplane Constructor Outfits". There were fewer holes in the parts and they were spray painted in an aluminum finish. The hole spacing was as standard Meccano parts with 1/2" spacing there were special nickel plated nuts and dome headed bolts supplied with the sets. The parts were compatible with the regular Meccano sets so the parts, nuts and bolts could be used together. Indeed the Meccano magazine explained how the new Aeroplane-Constructor parts could be used with standard Meccano parts picture below. I am not sure though how well the colour combination of red and green standard parts and silver Aero parts would have looked though!
Above right is the Meccano Magazine back cover from October 1931 showing the advertisement announcing the introduction of the Aeroplane Constructor outfits. As can be seen a whole range of of different aircraft types could be constructed. The models illustrated were fairly representative of the many types of aircraft built at that time.
The first sets were of a rather flimsy construction with flat wings that were very easily bent. However in 1932 the parts were vastly improved with stronger cambered wings and an increase in the range of parts, to enable much more realistic models to be constructed fuselage tops and wing tips were sprayed red. In 1933 further improvements were made and the range of sets was expanded with "Special Aeroplane Outfits" these very fine sets included operating flaps and rudders, pilot's cabins and window panels to enable airliners to be constructed. There were two boxed sets in each range No.1 and No 2. plus a conversion set No1a. In 1938 outfits were issued with civil registration letters. In 1933 new colour schemes were introduced, red and cream, blue/white and green/cream. It must have been a nightmare for any Meccano dealers stocking the spare parts!
In 1938 outfits were issued with civil registration letters. Strangely some of the parts in the two ranges differed slightly in size.
Further improvements were planned for 1940 including tapered wings and camouflage colours but these never materialized and by the summer of 1941 production of the sets had ceased. They were never to appear again but they certainly would have looked completely at odds with the jets of the post war era. In fact by the late thirties a lot of the aircraft had a rather dated look but never the less they were very popular with boys at the time. The sets now just look so delightful and it is easy to see their lasting and nostalgic appeal second hand prices reflect this today.
On the left is a complete boxed and strung No. 2 Special outfit from 1938.
A small clockwork motor could also be purchased to power the prop of your aircraft this came with a fixed key, drive shaft, small boss and control rod. The version shown on the left is the number 1 motor. This is a very flimsy affair and whirs round very fast as there is no governor and runs down after a few seconds even with a prop fitted.
Later a more powerful version No.2 was introduced this came with a detachable key like the later Magic Motor and with a neat nickel plated tail wheel, the idea being to to both power the prop and drive the model along. I only have the number 1 motor so cannot say how successful the No.2 motor was.
There was also available a cheaper and simpler Aero Constructor range of outfits these were much smaller and not compatible with larger outfits. The outfits used smaller 6BA nuts and bolts. You can find out about these by clicking on the link 00-0 Aeroplane Constructor sets
Below is shown the Aeroplane Constructor parts from the 1932 instruction manual. None of the parts were common with the standard Meccano system except the angle bracket, ½" pulley p/n 23a and spanner although parts could be used together. The first sets had a 1" pulley and rubber ring later replaced with P.55 a special wheel and spongy tyre.
Below is one models I have constructed from my collection of Meccano Aeroplane Constructor outfits click on the image below to view an album of some of the other aircraft I have built.
Above is an Aeroplane Constructor Outfit advertisement from the pages of the Meccano Magazine December 1933.
The aircraft show at the top of the ad is the Fairy Long Range Monoplane originally constructed in 1928 the picture shows the second aircraft built in 1933, this briefly held the world endurance record so it was in the news at this time an article appearing in the February 1932 Meccano Magazine. The Meccano boy appears to building the same aircraft depicted in the illustration it even shows the use of tapered wings a part that was not available in the U.K. Perhaps the advertising department liked the modern looking model, the illustration being frequently used in ads. Another anomaly is in the small illustrations the set and the top two aircraft are from the first sets issued before improvements were made. The illustration of the boy constructing a model of the aircraft was also used on the box label for conversion outfits but with a different aircraft illustration, in fact the illustration of the boy appears frequently in 1930's advertising material.
You can read about the Fairy aircraft here
Aeroplane Constructor sets were also produced by the Meccano Company in France. Later sets had tapered wings a feature advertised in a 1940 UK a sales brochures but never introduced. The French sets also had a pressed corrugated finish on most of the parts in the style of Continental aircraft such as Fokker, Junkers and Farman. A model of this type can be seen in the illustration below on the cover of the French Special sets.
On the left is an illustration from the 1932 Aeroplane Constructor manual a model I built in blue and white parts. This was obviously a very popular model as it was also shown on the cover of Special Outfit manual cover despite the fact that far more complicated models could be built with the outfit but then it is a nice and at the time a modern looking aircraft.
Click on the image below to read about the less known and smaller Aero Constructor sets 00-0 That I have collected and restored.
First published April 29 2009 Last revised February 2 2023