Aviation Retail Direct (ARD) is something of a mecca for the die-cast aviation collector, being one of only a handful of sites globally that still have use real shop to run their business from as opposed to a purely web-based store. Though I buy almost 100% of my models from online sources nothing can quite match the feeling of buying from a shop and taking home your purchases. I didn't think I was originally going to have the time to travel up to London but a few days ago, just before I flew out, the opportunity presented itself at short notice for my first visit to ARD.
ARD has two stores with the primary one being at 10 Sutton Court Road, Hillingdon, Middlesex, UB10 9HP. It something of a slog to get there without a car, when your entry point into London is Victoria, as Hillingdon is the penultimate stop on the Piccadilly Underground line way out in the North-East. In fact though I got into Victoria by about 10ish I didn't get to Hillingdon till well after 11. From the tube station it is about a 15 minute walk to the shop. I nearly didn't make it as I only narrowly avoided a rather spectacular car crash where a lady driver drove over another car and landed on her roof (A-team stylee) right where I would walk a few minutes later. She (and her dog) got out ok and a crowd of helpers got there before I did allowing me to skirt past to the shop.
The shop itself is small, but crowded with shelving and models. Its a bit overwhelming when you first walk in to see the huge range of Aeroclassics and such arrayed on shelving. At the time of my visit I was the only customer but the staff were busy handling online orders. My friend Adrian Balch, an ARD regular, had thoughtfully given Trevor at the shop a warning of my visit so I got a good welcome and the offer of tea or coffee. In terms of models - in 1:400 scale there is a huge range of Aeroclassics, a decent range of Phoenix and Witty and a smaller range of Geminis.
Being a 1:400 scale collector I wasn't entirely prepared for the size and range of 1:200s of which quite a lot where on display. They are really beautiful models but given the price, especially of the handmade in the UK Sky Classics models, its just as well that they weigh far too much for me to ever ship them to NZ.
Below is a selection of the 1:200 scale jets that are on display - being 1:200 scale I'm not really sure of the brands. The ANA Tristar is particularly impressive - when will 1:400 get such a good L-1011?
My favourite of the on display models however must be the Sky Classics 1:200s. The Vanguards, Dash 7s, Avro Yorks, HP Hermes, Deux Ponts, AN-12s, AN-24s, Bristol Freighters, TU-104s, IL-14s etc are spectacular. Will we ever see their like in 1:400? I really hope so...
And that's it for photos. After half an hour or so I had to leave and face the huge commute back to Russell Square, but it was worth it. What did I buy? Well I had to settle for just two models - due to luggage weight issues and the GBP:NZ exchange rate, but I did pick up a nice little Phoenix ERJ and Aeroclassics recent TAESA 737-200. All in all it was a great experience to see the shop and meet Trevor and co. Thanks very much and I can highly recommend ARD's knowhow and customer service. If you're in the area definitely drop-in as you won't be disappointed!
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: