Plastic scale model kit manufacturer Airfix may be more synonymous with aircraft and warships than little toy houses but in the early 60's they went head to head against Lego and produced their own building kit series.
Betta Bilda (often mistaken for 'Betta Builder' or 'Better Builder') was essentially a cheaper version of Lego. Although suitable for children of all ages, Betta Bilda sets were notoriously challenging and instructions recommended that you got used to how the bricks worked together to provide the best 'structural support' before endeavouring to set out to construct a bigger object.
At the time, Betta Bilda bricks were a little bit sturdier than Lego, so it was possible to make far more adventurous designs (although the huge Empire State Building design on the front of instruction booklet that was twice the size of the lad building it may have been a trifle ambitious).
The most popular Betta Bilda package was the housing set. The original 60's packaging was a cardboard box with a transparent blue tray inside. All of the various sized bricks were split into different compartments and included green tiles, windows and doors. The instruction booklet that came with the sets explained in great detail how you could gradually go from basic little huts to a more elaborate 'country club', 'office block' or even a 'tudor house'. 'Until you are familiar with the different components and their uses, start by making some of the smaller building illustrated in this folder,' explained the included booklet. 'First set out the necessary bases and then begin building the walls, interlocking the bricks as shown. This is particularly important as it adds strength to the whole building and prevents a wall collapsing due to lack of the proper support. Before putting windows and doors in position don't forget to snap in the correct size panes.' Although the Betta Bilda building kit didn't go to great lengths explaining how to build the various designs from scratch, like some Lego kit books did, it did provide some good, clear diagrams of some of the bits of architecture you could only aspire to create.
The other kits in the series, including the vehicles were suitably impressive. However, as well as getting your head around the ins and outs of building the basic structures, you also had to master the mechanics of a 'standard' or '4-wheel drive motor'.
What's your 'Betta Bilda' worth? Here are some recently sold items (UK):
|Airfix 1950 S Construction Toy Job||05/2019||£30.00|
|Airfix Building Set No 4 1960's Boxed||06/2019||£33.00|
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|Airfix Building Set No 3 1960's Boxed||05/2019||£32.99|
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