What I know About The Douglas Factory Models (DFM’s)
I wish I could say I was an expert on the history of the Douglas Factory Models (DFM’s) but I’m not. Here is what I do know about these Beautiful Models. Back in the 1940s, or perhaps in the 1930s, Douglas Aircraft began making high quality, polished aluminum models of their aircraft (commercial & some military). I know that there are many examples of DFM’s of the DC-4, dating from the 1940s through the DC-8 and DC-9 Series that dated to the late 1960s. I have seen DC-2 & DC-3 DFM’s which are 1/2 of a fuselage cut down the middle and a single wing sticking out from the plaque. The ½ model on the plaque is decorated appropriately with a customer’s livery and has a polished aluminum surface. If you would like to see an example of one of these plaque/models then please click here.
The only full-size DFM DC-3 model I have seen is pictured with Donald Douglas Sr. along with the other DC Variants up to the then proposed DC-8. Click here if you would like to see that photo.
When I originally posted this article I had stated “Other than that single DC-3, I have not seen or heard of any DFM DC-1, 2 or 3 models being made, though I do know that other model makers around the world, such as the master model maker Matthys M. Verkuyl, have made some fine examples of these aircraft in metal, but not polished aluminum. I imagine that Douglas didn’t make many if any DC-3 DFM’s back in the 1930s & early 1940’s due to the depression & World War II in which there was a scarcity of metal as well as money.”
Since then I have heard from some collectors from around the world that have identified DC-3 DFM’s at museum’s in Belgium and our own Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington D.C. Thus, Douglas evidently did make some DFM’s of the DC-3 and perhaps the DC-2 and even the DC-1 as well. Thanks to my fellow collectors to correcting me on this point.
These Douglas Factory Models were made primarily for Airline Executives & Marketing Offices, though some also wound up in larger Travel Agencies. I presume that Douglas gave these models to prospective customers and also the confirmed customers for their aircraft. I have heard stories that they gave a certain number of DFM’s for each aircraft purchased by a customer. It could be one DFM per aircraft bought or perhaps up to five or more DFM’s for each aircraft bought for the big customers like United or Eastern – I’m not really sure.
Also, I have been told that the customers could buy additional DFM’s from Douglas if they wanted more of them. Back when I started collecting in 1973, I heard that the going rate for them from Douglas in the early 1960s was $250.00 for a 1/50 scale DC-8 model and $195.00 for a 1/72 DC-8 model. Even considering the change in the value of the dollar from 1960 to 2008, this was still a good investment.
Evidently, the whole DFM enterprise was a venture headed by Donald Douglas Jr., son of Douglas Aircraft Founder Donald Douglas Sr., and perhaps one or more partners. However, when McDonnell Aircraft bought Douglas Aircraft in 1967, Donald Douglas Jr. had to divest himself from the model organization and it then evolved into a company named Marketing Aids (see the logo at the top right of the page).
Back in 1973, I was lucky enough to visit Marketing Aids and acquire a few plastic/fiberglass models, some 1/50 DC-8 & DC-9 decals & best of all, a 1/50 DFM DC-8-61 polished aluminum blank (unfinished model) for $50.00. What is really unfortunate is that Marketing Aids went out of business in 1975 and they either gave away or threw away the remaining Douglas Factory Polished Aluminum Blanks, many of the DC-8-61/62/63 Series as well as DC-9-10 & 30 Series as well as some older Douglas Propeller blanks.
If only someone had saved these beautiful blanks they would have a small fortune in their hands because of these blanks are now selling on eBay for anywhere from $500 to $1500 or more, depending on the rarity & condition of the blank. I would love to have bought more of these back in the 1970s but I was putting myself through college at the time & this didn’t allow for such expenses.
Several people have contacted me about the numbering system of the DFM’s. What I know for sure is that the fuselages & wings were matched and numbered with the same number because each fuselage & wing were cast to fit each other very tightly and thus were numbered with the same number to keep them paired together. The big question in my mind is, did Douglas also use this numbering system to keep track of what blank numbers where being finished for a specific airline or company.
I would think they did and I sure would love to have that book showing just what DFM’s went to what airline and when! Unfortunately, I don’t know if such a book ever existed or still exists. With the above being said, I have seen DFM’s with different wing & fuselage numbers but I think this was done by collectors and are not originally from the company.
I’m 99 percent sure that each Douglas Aircraft made (DC-4, DC-5, DC-6, DC-7, DC-8 & DC-9) the DFM’s made for that aircraft type started at number 1. The lowest number in my collection is 6 (not 006 but just a 6 with an _ under it) and the highest is 1024 for the standard DC-8 Series 10 through 50. The Super Sixty Series DC-8s were numbered differently.
The DC-8-61’s had a 61- preceding the casting number (61-XX) and the same applies for the -62 and –63. I don’t know if Douglas did subtype numbering similar to the Super DC-8s for the DC-6 & DC-6B or DC-7, DC-7B, DC-7C but the few props DFM’s I have seen were not subtyped. For example, a DC-7B would have a regular number on it (like 537) and not a 7B-537 or similar on it. However, they might have reserved a series of numbers for these old prop planes. For example, 0-500 or the DC-7, 501-1000 for the DC-7B & 1001-1500 for the DC-7C. I can’t confirm this but it would make sense. Keep in mind that I’m giving this my best guess here and don’t know this for a fact.
This is the saga of the Douglas Factory Models, from what I know. In my option these Beautiful Models are Second Only in Beauty & Detail to the Lockheed Factory Models of the Constellation which were made from sheet metal, showing nearly every rivet finished off in fine detail of the airline and polished out beautifully like the DFM’s were.
However, DFM’s are first in durability and many of them have survived in fine shape for over 50-60 years. Even when a DFM is damaged it can many times be fixed because the aluminum used was a softer aluminum which can be gently bent back where other metal models will just break apart.
There are some Beautiful Examples of Airliner Models (aka Travel Agent Models) which were made in metal by other companies, such as the above mentioned “master modeler” Matthys M. Verkuyl who was simply a genius in model making. A couple of other companies worth mentioning for beautiful models of the First Generation, Jet Era was Fermo of Denmark who made excellent polished aluminum & resin models, Westway models who did wonderful Cut-Away style models – showing what the interior of the airplane resembled, and last but certainly not least, the Tenshodo & Nemoto Models which were made of wood or resin and hand-painted with detail like no other.
All in all, though, I’m happily “addicted “ to the DFM’s and hope to continue collecting them as long as I can.
If you have any information about Douglas Factory Models and their history please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org(new) Any & All Information Will Be Most Appreciated & You Will Be Acknowledged on This Site If Desired.