Thread: MPC History
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Old 07-19-2017, 12:59 AM
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Initiator001 Initiator001 is offline
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Default MPC History

The discussion about MPC rocketry products in the thread about the collection at the Museum of Flight has caused me to dig up an old article I wrote for my NAR Section newsletter in 1990.

Additional information has come to light since then concerning MPC rocketry but I thought I would run this old article as a brief history of the company.

I welcome additional discussion/information concerning MPC rocketry history and products.

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(Note: This article was originally printed in the NAR Section 317 DART newsletter Warp 9, Vol. 3, #2, March/April 1990. It is dated but provides a basic introduction to MPC rocket products )

The last year has seen a tremendous growth in the number of new companies producing products for model rocketry enthusiasts. It was also a year when past model rocket companies made news. One of these was Model Products Corporation (MPC). Unexpectedly, beginning in the Spring of 1989, nearly two decade old MPC kits began to appear on shelves of many hobby shops. There has been much speculation about the reappearance of these old kits and a new interest in the history of MPC model rockets.

MPC, part of the General Mills Food Group, entered the hobby market in the late 1960’s. General Mills bought a fledgling model rocket company known as Model Rocket Industries (MRI) in 1968 and established their own model rocket company, MPC. MPC retained MRI’s founder, Mike Bergenske, to design and develop products for MPC. Additional model rocket brain-power was provided by G. Harry Stine who was hired on as a consultant.

MPC tested the acceptance of its new model rocket line at the 1969 Hobby Industry of America (HIA) trade show. At this show MPC took an order from the K-Mart chain for over a half-million dollars (in 1969, yet!). MPC went into high gear and shipped out the K-Mart order. To match the way K-Mart displayed plastic model kits, MPC packaged its rockets in shrink-wrapped boxes.

Thanks to this initial large order, MPC was able to fund the development of many new kits and other rocketry products, establishing the company as a major player in the model rocket industry. MPC lead the industry in the introduction of plastic parts and assemblies – plastic fins, transitions and nose cones became common in MPC kits. While other companies incorporated wood in their launch pads, MPC produced and all plastic one. The final expression of this ‘plastic is best’ philosophy was the introduction of two, all plastic, scale kits – a Titan IIIC and a Vostok RD-107, both in 1/100th scale. These two kits could be built as display models or the optional flight parts could be incorporated to make a flying model.

Not long after this initial excitement the situation began to sour for MPC. Twenty years ago many states regulated model rocketry by their own laws, unlike today when most states observe some form of the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) code for unmanned rockets. This usually meant laws designed for regulating fireworks were applied to model rockets. As a result MPC, with their rockets being displayed in a major chain store, ran into a great deal of difficulty due to various state and local laws.

Not willing to put up with such difficulties, K-Mart returned their remaining stocks to MPC. After refunding K-Mart for returned kits and motors, MPC found itself in financial difficulty. AS MPC management struggled to come up with a solution to this problem, Bergenske was left in charge of the model rocket division and continued to develop new products. This second wave of new products saw the introduction of the 13mm diameter 1/4A to B mini-motors. These motors were very popular for NAR competition events and a special line of kits (‘Minirocs’) were created for these motors.

Eventually, MPC management decided to sell off their model rocketry assets. A ‘deal’ was worked out and Mike Bergenske ended up with all of MPCs molds, motor making machines and other related items.

Bergenske set up a new company called Aerospace Vehicles, Inc. (AVI) to sell the former MPC products plus new items. AVI folded in the late 1970s and the MPC tooling disappeared, although it was rumored to be in storage somewhere in Wisconsin along with many cases of unsold MPC kits.

It now appears that someone managed to find these missing stocks of kits and motors and sold them to a hobby distributor and from there they were distributed to various hobby shops. The motor making machines were also located and are now the property of Flight Systems, Inc. The machines consist of three for making 18mm motors and two for making 13mm ‘mini-motors’. It is understood that the condition of these machines is poor as they had not been properly stored. The exact location of the kit molds is not known, but rumor has it that they are in excellent shape and could be used to make more parts.

The final chapter concerning the MPC model rockets has yet to be written. It is well known that many of the MPC kits, especially the Vostok and Titan IIIC, are sought after collector’s items. We may yet see these kits again!

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I knew more about what happened with the MPC molds and some other items but was asked not to discuss it.

For the moment let me just say I was privy to information which would lead to the announcement of Quest Aerospace.
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