Peter Cooke

Peter Cooke was a scratch-built scale model maker active during the 1970s to 1990s.  He specialised in Second World War aircraft and worked exclusively in 1/24th scale. His models can be found in museums and private collections around the world and regularly featured in articles in Aeroplane Monthly in the 1980s.

Peter started his model making career as a child with his sister remembering his keen interest in making kits of the time.  His hobby then took a back seat as he trained as a Mechanical Engineer and then began a career as a teacher which he pursued for around 20 years. His love of model making was re-kindled when his young son started making up Airfix kits of his own.

Frustrated with the inaccuracy of the plastic kits, he started to modify them to match the real aircraft. Curious as to why the kits varied from the live aircraft, he went back to the original engineering drawings and discovered that many of the modifications that had been made on the shop floor when these aircraft were being manufactured had not always been fed back into the master drawings, which were what the kit manufacturers had faithfully reproduced.

Realising that the modifications to the kits were taking more time than it would take him to build from scratch, he changed tack.  In order to get the accuracy he wanted he also drew on his mechanical engineering training and drew up him own sets of drawings using measurements taken from the surviving planes in museums. He was very fortunate that the enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff at these facilities allowed him access and helped him with this and there are still examples of his work at RAF Coningsby.

By the mid-1980s he was routinely entering and winning model making competitions. He would also be regularly asked to build models for others, but always refused as it did not fit in alongside his full- time job and raising a young family.  That all changed when for the third year in a row he won the top prize at the IPMS annual competition.  After a very long conversation with his wife, the decision was taken to go professional.

Peter had already got a waiting list of people asking for models and so he picked he most requested mark of Spitfire and made a master; from this he took a series of moulds which would allow him to produce a small batch (normally 3-6) of more structurally-stable resin copies.

Each one of these would then be assembled and customised: no two models would ever be the same as each client would ask for a specific aircraft and often from a particular date. Peter would then do extensive research to allow him the get the markings, paint scheme and any modifications accurate; in pre-internet days this involved finding photo references, log book entries and personal testimony from many different sources. The models could also be requested in an ‘in use’ state, so that the models will often show airflow marks on the wings and exhaust streaks. On at least one occasion he was asked to produce a model to aid the restoration of an aircraft, so that the team that was looking ahead to many years of work could see what the final product would look like.