Vintage Gunpla: How They Looked in the ’80s

A couple months ago, a guy named Nick emailed me and asked if I’d like to buy not one, not two, but 16 vintage Gunpla off of him. I couldn’t believe he was serious. But fast forward to the present, this is what our living room looks like:


These Gunpla all pre-date our modern organization of grade and scale. Elaborate paintings take the place of photography of the completed models on the front, perhaps because these early Gunpla models always looked much more rigid than the dynamic poses viewers expected from the TV screen.

One of my favorites, the Argama, is at 1:2200. With just two runners, you can imagine that this model is going to be extremely tiny once it’s completed. Also, note that while the Argama is red, white, and blue, the plastic kit is simply white. Back then, builders had to do a lot of painting.


I also like this Psycho Gundam model, which is dated 1986, meaning it’s the same age as I am!


At 1:300, it’s quite a bit smaller than today’s 1:100 Master Grades, and not even half as detailed. It comes with four runners in purple and an elaborate painting chart for how to match your model to the TV version’s reds, blues, and yellows.


The painting guide is even more detailed than the instructions. You’ll notice that the helpful symbols we use today to figure out the trickier sections are nowhere to be found.


Naturally, I was very curious about the origin of these incredible models. So I wrote back to Nick and asked him to share the story behind his collection. As you might have guessed from the selection, he’s a big Gundam Zeta and ZZ fan. After discovering Gundam through Gundam Wing on Toonami, Nick made it his mission to go through the entire Universal Century. These are some of the Gundam universe’s oldest shows, and as he watched, he would scour eBay for vintage kits that came out at the same time.

“There is an authenticity to me in the old models,” he told me. “I like that they almost defy you to put them together.”

Now that Nick has a job, a family, and a hobby as a musician, however, he didn’t have time to take on these especially tricky models, and looked to us as fellow fans who might be able to devote the time to them that they deserve. John and I are thrilled to be their forever home.

See also:

Keep Reading


  • Wow… quite remarkable ^^d

  • I managed to actully snag a 80s model from ushicon as well. They are very tiny compared to todays model, but with how much detail they managed to put in them back then, its still impressive. I hope you have fun painting those, takes a steady hand to do so, and its reccomended you use some cement to glue them together since they seem to like to fall apart quite easily

    • @milkykou:disqus thank you, I am terrified! I will definitely pick up some cement. Fortunately their value is extremely low so it’s not like I’m about to ruin a priceless treasure =)

  • this models are cheaper than hg, i start painting theese older models before trying something on an mg xD
    here in tokyo u can find them from 2-3 dolars xD

  • Patrick Sheridan
    March 13, 2015 10:39 pm

    Those box-art poses are amazing. Psycho gundam looks like a pro wrestler and Hyaku Shiki just asked for directions to the post office.

  • Noel Bautista
    June 18, 2015 10:08 pm

    Awesome find! I remember seeing these in Japan for very cheap. Be careful in assembling these because the plastic doesn’t seem to age very well.

  • Wow–I had a couple of these myself back when I started collecting Gunpla back in the early 1990s (ordered from Galactic Trade Commission–this was pre-HobbyLink Japan!). Painting was tough, but boy did I like these kits. Still–today’s HGUC and Master Grade kits are light years beyond these. That still doesn’t dim the fond memories I had of these kits, or the fact that they were my introduction to the Gundam universe.

  • You should not build them and leave them boxed, these kits have a beauty of their own as new and are becoming rare to find! You can always find the same Gundam in a more modern kit. These are history right here!

  • Just a while ago I got re-issue kits of the GM II and the Gaplant from Hobby Link Japan. Bandai has been doing new issues of old content every so often. If you look at the runners, you might find a clock-like indicator showing when it was molded. Original issues will NOT have the indicator on the runner.

Comments are closed.

“Gunpla is freedom.”

Gunpla is not about being perfect, it’s about building a model you love from a show you love with your own hands. Here at Gunpla 101, we provide resources for Gunpla builders of all skill levels.

Most Viewed Posts