|Product type||Die cast toy|
|Related brands||Matchbox, Corgi Toys|
- 1 Pre-war history
- 2 Post-war history
- 3 Television and movie tie-ins
- 4 Country-specific models
- 5 Demise
- 6 See also
- 7 References
Frank Hornby established Meccano in 1901 to make metal erector construction sets (Dalefield no date). Hornby's first trains appeared in 1920 (Ellis 2009, p. 15). Some of Meccano's other early products were "British Village" houses, church, bridge, and mill rail set accessories replete with villagers and a canvas landscape with roads and stream in natural colours.
In the early 1930s, Meccano had made many types of tin plate and other metal cars, like its Morgan and BSA three-wheelers, mostly in kit form (Interesting 1934, pp. 306–307). In 1933 Meccano Ltd issued a series of railway and trackside accessories to complement their O scale (1/45) Hornby Trains model train sets (Force 1988, p. 6; Ramsay 1933, p. 88). These accessories were first called "Modelled Miniatures", but in the April 1934 issue of Meccano Magazine they were given the name 'Dinky Toys' for the first time (Meccano Dinky 1934 p. 332).
The legacy of vehicles
At this time, the first model car available individually was numbered 23a – a sports car based on an early MG. Soon after, seven vehicles were introduced (designated 22 a through f), including a sports car, a sports coupe, a truck, a delivery van, a farm tractor, and a tank. These were produced alongside model track workers, passengers, station staff and other O scale trackside accessories (Meccano Dinky 1934 p. 332). The cars were generic representations rather than identifiable marques and had die-cast metal bodies, tin plate bases and wheels with rubber tyres. By December 1935 there were around 200 different products in the Dinky range which included the doll house furniture (Ramsay 1993, p. 135). Later, Frank Hornby, owner of Meccano, expanded the range to include die-cast ships and aeroplanes. These retailed for four shillings. These first model cars were available individually in trade packs of 6 cars per pack. Models would not be available in individual boxes until 1952.
In 1935, a new series was introduced which featured accurate likenesses of specific vehicles. The number of commercial vehicles expanded with the addition of Series 28 which included many delivery vans. Liveries of well known companies began to decorate these vehicles. Production was halted during the Second World War and the Binns Road factory in Liverpool was given over to producing diecast items for the Allied War effort.
Series 30 included:
It has been said that the famous 'Dinky' name came from a friend of one of Frank Hornby's daughters, and was likely derived from the Scottish "dink" meaning neat or fine. Just as logical an explanation, however, can be found in the common Merriam-Webster dictionary where the word has meant "overly or unattractively small" since the 1880s (McCullagh 2008; Merriam-Webster 2011).
Dinkys had acute problems on early models with zinc pest, caused by either impure alloys or, more commonly, a reaction of bad paint which repelled molecules in the alloy causing cracking of the metal (Harvey 1974, p. 1997). Metal would then crumble prematurely. This was much more common before the war, and a main reason it is rare to find surviving toys in good condition from this period (Ramsay 1993, p. 88). Some early castings have survived in numbers, while others are rare without some form of damage - such as the 28 Series vans. Another theory is that lead from Hornby train production, as well as from lead ties from sacks in the factory found its way into the metal, corrupting it.
In 1938 a number of military vehicles numbered from 151 to 162 were introduced. These were painted dark olive green and consisted of two sizes of tanks, an Austin 7 military car, a Jeep, a six wheeled passenger truck, troop carrier, a searchlight truck, a light Dragon tractor and mobile guns. Most interesting were several fairly detailed trailers, including: equipment trailer, cooker trailer, water tank trailer, and a fuel tender. These models were produced through 1940 though a few - the clever 161b Anti-Aircraft Gun, the Jeep, and some of the trailers - were also made again in 1946–1948 immediately after the war (Force 1988, pp. 19,162–163).
In some instances it is difficult to tell if the model is pre-war or post. Tracks on the tanks and the 162a personnel carriers were done with Meccano wire-link sprocket chain wrapped around the hubs. This gave a mechanical, but not very realistic, appearance to the tracks. With the Anti-Aircraft Gun, the side panels folded and not only did the gun swivel 360 degrees, but a little lever geared to its side moved it from level to about a 50-degree angle upward.
Aircraft and ships
In the early days of the Dinky Toys range aeroplanes and ships formed a considerable part of the output of the Binns Road factory alongside models of cars and vans. Both civilian and military aircraft were subjects for the Dinky modellers, and the model of the Spitfire was also sold in a special presentation box between 1939 and 1941 as part of The Spitfire Fund in order to raise money for the production of real Spitfires. Some models were clearly identified whereas others had generic names such as Heavy Bomber (66a) and Two Seater Fighter (66c). The reason for this is not clear and it may have been that these were not true representations of particular aircraft types, but there were rumours that some models of aircraft and ships were disguised so that enemy agents would not be able to recognise allied aircraft and shipping from the Dinky models. This was of particular importance in the production of French Dinky models due to the political friction in Europe before the war and the fact that France was occupied by the Axis forces during hostilities.
Production of model aircraft continued after the war with a mixture of civilian airliners and new jet-powered aircraft. Production of Dinky planes tailed off in the 1950s and 1960s but was resurgent in the 1970s with a range of World War II types to coincide with the release of the film The Battle of Britain complete with battery-powered propellers; modern jet fighters; and even a helicopter. These are some examples of the sizeable range:
- 60a Imperial Airways Liner (Armstrong Whitworth Atalanta) (1934)
- 62a Supermarine Spitfire (1939)
- 60c Percival Gull (1934)
- 60d Sikorsky S58 Helicopter
- 60f Cierva C.30
- 60g de Havilland Comet
- 60h Short Singapore
- 60r Short Empire Cheviot
- 60s Fairey Battle (1940–41)
- 60w Flying Boat
- 62g Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (1939)
- 62k The King's Aeroplane
- 62m Airspeed Envoy
- 62p Armstrong Whitworth Ensign
- 62s Hawker Hurricane (1940)
- 62w Imperial Airways Liner Frobisher Class
- 63 Mayo Composite
- 63b Mercury Sea Plane
- 64a Amiot 370 (1939)
- 64b Bloch 200 (1939)
- 67a Junkers Ju 89 (1941)
- 70a Avro York (1946)
- 70c Vickers Viking (1954)
- 70d Twin Engine Fighter
- 70e Gloster Meteor (1946)
- 70f Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star (1947)
- 701 Short Shetland Flying Boat
- 702 de Havilland Comet BOAC (1954)
- 703 Handley Page Herald (1955)
- 704 Avro York Airliner (1954) – re-issued from 70a
- 705 Vickers Viking – re-issued from 70c
- 706 Vickers Viscount Airliner (1956)
- 707 Avro Vulcan – renumbered as 749 before release
- 708 Vickers Viscount Airliner (BEA) (1957)
- 710 Beechcraft Bonanza S35
- 712 US Army T-42A – retracting undercarriage
- 715 Beechcraft Baron – retracting undercarriage
- 716 Westland Sikorsky S51 Helicopter
- 717 Boeing 737 in Lufthansa Livery
- 731 Twin Engine Fighter – re-issue of 70d
- 730 Hawker Tempest II Fighter
- 732 Gloster Meteor (1946) – re-issue of 70e
- 732 Bell Police Helicopter – same issue number as above (Meteor) – 1970s release
- 733 Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star – reissued
- 734 Supermarine Swift (1955)
- 735 Gloster Javelin (1956)
- 736 Hawker Hunter (1955)
- 737 P.1B Lightning Fighter (1959)
- 738 de Havilland Sea Vixen (1960)
- 715 Bristol 173 Helicopter
- 718 Hawker Hurricane Mk IIe (1972) – motorised propeller
- 719 Supermarine Spitfire Mk IV (1969) – motorised propeller
- 721 Junkers Ju 87 'Stuka' (1969) – motorised propeller
- 722 Hawker Siddeley Harrier (1970) – retracting undercarriage
- 723 Hawker Siddeley H.S.125 Executive Jet – retracting undercarriage
- 724 Sea King Helicopter and Apollo Spacecraft Capsule (1971) – motorised main rotor.
- 726 Messerschmitt Bf 109E (1972) – motorised propeller
- 730 US Navy McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom (1972)
- 731 SEPECAT Jaguar (1973) – retracting undercarriage
- 749 Avro Vulcan (1955) – boxes marked "992" – "Supertoy" range
- 998 Bristol Britannia Airliner (1959)
- 999 Comet Airliner (1956) – re-issue of 702
Although the production of aircraft models continued after the war, the heyday of Dinky ships was between 1934 and 1939. The models were cast from the same unstable alloy that was used across the entire pre-war Dinky range and have therefore also suffered from metal fatigue that makes survivors all the more rare. Small metal wheels were also included in the design and concealed in the underside of the hull so that the models could be moved smoothly across surfaces. Mirroring the aircraft range, both civilian and military ships were issued, and again, some were disguised. It was not until the 1970s that any further models were added to the long line of maritime releases from Dinky Toys. Models in the pre-war range include:
- 50a HMS Hood
- 50d HMS York
- 50e HMS Dehli
- 51g Cunard Britannia
- 52a Cunard/White Star Queen Mary
- 52c SS Normandie
Few Dinky models were made during World War II. The Dinky factory was on war work but every Christmas a few models would be assembled from pre-war parts. Thus during and after the war a few 'pre-war' models survived (Harvey 1974, p. 1997-1998).
Besides some of the military vehicles offered before and after the war, the first significant releases from Dinky in the late 1940s were the 40 series, which were all British Saloons. These were the opening chapter of the "golden age" of Dinky Toys in the post-war era and represented far greater accuracy and detail than their pre-war relatives. These were very popular and today are often considered by collectors to be the quintessential Dinky models. The 40 series cars were manufactured from better quality alloy, meaning that the survival rate is higher and although originally sold in trade packs of six, they were re-coloured in two-tone paintwork and renumbered in 1954, becoming some of the first models sold in their own unique boxes. The first two were in 1:48 scale, while the others were in 1:45 scale (Schellekens 2010). The Jowett Javelin sedan is an interesting case as plans were made, but the model was never issued. More recently, Odgi Models have remade the Jowett and a couple other Dinky Models which were planned but never manufactured. The series included:
|40c||Jowett Javelin||Not issued|
|40d||Austin A40 Devon||1949|
|40h||Austin FX3 Taxi||1952|
|40j||Austin A40 Somerset||1953|
As part of the post-war development and expansion of the range, in 1947 Meccano Ltd introduced a series of model lorries also modelled to the usual Dinky scale of 1:48, and called the range Dinky Supertoys. To many collectors these are the most desirable Dinky Toys, and big premiums are paid for rare issues and difficult to find casting / wheel variations. Some models issued in this line included:
|501||Foden 8 Wheel Wagon||1947|
|502||Foden Flat Truck||1947|
|503||Foden Flat Truck with Tailboard||1947|
|504||Foden Tanker 'Mobilgas'||1953|
|505||Foden Flat Truck with Chains||1952|
|933||Leyland Comet 'Ferrocrete'||1954|
|942||Foden Tanker 'Regent'||1955|
|943||Leyland Tanker 'Esso'||1958|
|944||Leyland Tanker 'Shell BP'||1963|
In 1950 Dinky Supertoys introduced a number of appealing Guy Vans finished in period liveries. Each model was an identical all metal box van with opening rear doors. The Guy cab was joined by a Bedford S cab in 1955 and a Guy Warrior cab was introduced in 1960. Supertoys were commonly packaged in white boxes with thin blue horizontal lines and were marketed all on their own - no longer were the models solely focused on railroad accessories. Still, they were not quite reached the commercial marketing level of later diecast brands like Corgi or Solido.
|514||Guy Van 'Slumberland'||1950|
|514||Guy Van 'Lyons'||1952|
|514||Guy Van 'Weetabix'||1952|
|514||Guy Van 'Spratts'||1952|
|918||Guy Van 'Ever Ready'||1955|
|919||Guy Van 'Golden Shred'||1955|
|920||Guy Warrior 'Heinz'||1960|
|923||Bedford S Van 'Heinz'||1955|
Dinky continued producing beautifully detailed Supertoys commercial vehicles through the fifties and sixties, including such diverse subjects as a Mobile Television Control Room and Camera Van in both BBC and ABE Television liveries, a Leyland test chassis with removable miniature 5 ton weights, a series of military vehicles including a Corporal Erector Vehicle and missile (a subject also modelled by Corgi Toys at the same time), a range of Thornycroft Mighty Antar heavy haulage transporters complete with loads and a Horse Transporter in British Railways livery.
Having been well known before the war, Dinky Toys were popular in the United Kingdom in the early 1950s. The smaller cars were in a scale of 1:45, while the larger cars and many Supertoys, as stated above, were in a scale of 1:48, which blended in with O scale railway sets, but many buses and lorries were scaled down further (Schellekens 2010). In 1954, the Dinky Toys range was reorganized with a new numbering system – previously model numbers were commonly followed by letters and often sold in sets with multiple vehicles. Now each model had its own unique three digit catalogue number, and cars were now sold in individual boxes.
The Dinky ranges became more sophisticated throughout the 1950s. Several models introduced even today still seem to have been unique choices, and included several American vehicles, including a 1954 Packard convertible, a 1955 Plymouth Belvedere, a Cunningham, the 1953 and 1957 Studebakers (and a 1957 Packard), a Chrysler New Yorker Convertible, a 1957 Rambler, and a late model Hudson Hornet. In many cases, even domestic British / European vehicle choices for models were just as interesting as those from Corgi, e. g. a Connaught race car, a Maserati Sports 2000, the AC Aceca, a Humber Super Snipe, and a Daimler instead of the more routine Jaguar.
Several colorful gift sets of sports and race cars were offered in the mid-1950s, usually five cars to a set. For example, Gift set no. 249 offered Cooper-Bristol, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari (often in blue!), H.W.M., and Maserati. No. 149, the sports car set offered an MG, Austin-Healey, Sunbeam Alpine, Aston-Martin and Triumph TR-2 (Gardiner and O'Neill 1996, pp. 22–23).
Production of agricultural machinery and implements had occurred since the 1930s, such as the 1935 number 22e, and such offerings were maintained post-war. One interesting model was the odd Opperman 3-wheeled Motocart, a flat-bed vehicle with engine hanging off to the side of its large front wheel (Rixon 2005, pp. 122–123).
In November 1958, Meccano Ltd introduced the Dublo Dinky range of models in 1:78 (OO scale, designed to be used with the Hornby railway system (Force 1988, pp. 165–166). These were relatively cheap to produce - having a one piece die-cast metal body, a base plate and plastic wheels. There was the added bonus of being able to compete in the small scale toy car market which, at the time was dominated by Lesney's Matchbox (see Force 1988, p. 47).
There were a total 15 Dublo models, although with upgrades and modifications there are possibly up to 42 variations (not including box variations) manufactured (Force 1988, p. 47). All models came boxed. There were no colour changes throughout the short life of Dublo.
Models were well-proportioned and looked similar in style to contemporary Matchbox or Budgie Toys. For example, similar to Matchbox, the Land Rover (which came with a horse trailer) had windows, grey or black plastic wheels and a black base (Force 1988, p. 47). Wheels, however, (the Land Rover had one on the bonnet as well) were somewhat flatter and wider than those of Matchbox and their circumference was not ribbed. The baseplate, however, was pressed steel with etched lettering (not diecast with moulded lettering as was the case with Matchbox, Budgie Toys or Lone Star vehicles). Finally, the Land Rover had a trailer hook behind - a cut and curved extension of the baseplate, just behind the rear rivet. The front and rear axles were held to the vehicle differently. The front was covered by the tube of the baseplate and held pinched on each side by extensions of the diecast body. The rear axle was exposed and run through holes in rounded sections folded over on each side of the plate.
The range met with limited success and the first model was withdrawn in October 1960 having only been on sale for 18 months - there was no replacement. Within 22 months of their launch there were price reductions to 3 models. Further models were withdrawn in May 1961, September 1962 and March 1963 until in November 1963 those models that remained were taken off the shelf six years after the Dublo Dinky line was introduced. Thus ended the production of Dublo Dinky Toys under Meccano who went into receivership two years later.
Five of the Dublo models enjoyed a new lease on life when Meccano was purchased by Lines Brothers.
The range (see Force 1988, pp. 165–166):
- 061 Ford Prefect: Introduced in April 1959 and withdrawn October 1960. Three model variations and one box variation.
- 062 Singer Roadster: Introduced in April 1959 and withdrawn November 1961. Two model and one box variation.
- 063 Commer Van: Introduced in April 1959 and withdrawn November 1961. Three model and two box variations.
- 064 Austin Lorry: Introduced November 1958; withdrawn April 1962. Four model variations and four box variations.
- 065 Morris Pick Up: Introduced November 1958; withdrawn October 1960. Two model and one box variation.
- 066 Bedford Flat Truck: Introduced November 1958; withdrawn November 1961. Four model variations and two box variations.
- 067 Austin Taxi: Introduced April 1960; withdrawn May 1963. Two model variations and two box variations.
- 068 Royal Mail Van: Introduced May 1960; withdrawn May 1963. Three model variations and two box variations.
- 069 Massey-Ferguson Tractor: Introduced October 1960; withdrawn November 1963. Five model variations and two box variations. Model was also issued with a low sided wagon as part of the Hornby Dublo railway system, no. 6494, boxed.
- 070 AEC Mercury Tanker: Introduced November 1960; withdrawn May 1963. Two model variations and two box variations.
- 071 Volkswagen Delivery Van: Introduced May 1961; withdrawn November 1963. Three model variations and two box variations.
- 072 Bedford Articulated Flat Truck: Introduced May 1960; withdrawn November 1963. Two model variations and no box variations.
- 073 Land Rover & Horse Trailer: Introduced July 1959; withdrawn November 1963. The most complex of all Dublos; three model variations and three box variations. The horse came in light, medium and dark tan.
- 074 This number was never used : Land Rover was to be marketed as separate but model was never produced.
- 075 This number was never used : Horse trailer was to be marketed as separate but model was never produced.
- 076 Lansing Bagnall Tractor & Trailer: Introduced May 1959; withdrawn November 1963. No model but two box variations.
- 077 This number was never used : The planned model was to have been an AEC Transporter but model was never produced.
- 078 Lansing Bagnall Trailer (Trade box of 6): Introduced June 1960; withdrawn November 1963. Three box variations.
Competing with the 'Ones with Windows'
Dinky offerings at this time were striking, but due to the lack of much competition, development of new models was perhaps a bit slow at least until July 1956 when Mettoy introduced a rival line of models under the Corgi brand name. The most obvious difference was the addition of clear plastic windows. While Corgi called their vehicles, "The Ones With Windows", Meccano Ltd responded by updating the Dinky Toys range and the models from both companies quickly became more and more sophisticated featuring such things as working suspension, 'fingertip steering', detailed interiors, and jewelled headlights. The first model to have jewelled headlights was the no. 196 Holden Special sedan made from 1963-1970.
Truck offerings remained continuously creative including a Simca glass truck with sheets of 'glass' (clear plastic), a Leyland Octopus flatbed truck complete with realistic chain around the bed, a car carrier with a car carrying trailer, a Dunlop tire rack full of tires, a Berliet truck hauling an electrical transformer, and an intricately detailed Brockway bridgelaying truck. One of the most astounding was the Mighty Antar truck hauling a large gold ship's propeller (Force 1988, 42–56). A wide variety of military vehicles continued under production.
A rival third range of model cars also appeared in 1959 called "Spot-on" which were manufactured in Northern Ireland and produced by Tri-ang, a division of Lines Brothers. This range were kept to one scale, 1:42, also featured mainly British makes, and were comparatively more expensive, never managing to sell as many units as Corgi and Dinky. To compete with Spot-on, the scale of British Dinky Toys was increaseed to 1:42 in 1963 (Schellekens 2010). In 1964 Tri-ang took over the parent Meccano company (which included Hornby trains as well as Meccano itself). Since Dinky Toys were more popular, Spot-On Models were phased out in 1967, although a few cars originally designed for Spot-On were made in Hong Kong and marketed as Dinky Toys. After the take-over, Dinky continued to use the 1:42 scale for many of the English made cars and trucks until 1977. The French factory stuck to 1:43 scale, which it had used since 1951 (Schellekens 2009).
The Mattel onslaught
In 1967, Mattel's Hot Wheels entered the U.K. model car market. Their low-friction axles and bright paint schemes gave play value and appeal that Dinky and other British brands did not possess. Each manufacturer responded with its own version of this innovation – Dinky's name was "Speedwheels" (Force 1988, p. 8). The company continued to make innovative models, with all four doors opening (a first in British toy cars), retractable radio aerials (another first), Speedwheels, high quality metallic paint, and jewelled headlights (which were pretty, but not very realistic). Such features, however, were expensive to manufacture and the price could only be kept down if the quantities produced were sufficiently high, and in the face of Mattel's creation, Dinky was facing an uphill battle.
Though the writing was on the wall, Dinky's offerings in the 1970s covered the entire spectrum of vehicles, both real and fictitious. Besides the normal gamut of passenger, sports and race cars, buses, farm, emergency and military vehicles – cars, aeroplanes and spacecraft were also offered from popular (mostly British) TV shows of the time like Captain Scarlet, UFO, Thunderbirds, the Pink Panther, and Joe 90 (Dinky Toys 1974). It could be argued, though, that it was too little too late, as Corgi Toys had already been offering for several years vehicles from far more well-known shows and movies in the United States like Batman, The Saint, Daktari, James Bond, and the Man from U.N.C.L.E. Dinky's seemingly weaker standing made it all the more susceptible to Mattel's unstoppable Hot Wheels onslaught. At least the Corgi name still survives as a well-known collectible brand.
Into the 1970s, many Dinky vehicles lost the precision quality of detailing and proportions seen during the two previous decades. Models like no. 186 Jensen FF or no. 213 European Ford Capri were rather chunky and unrefined with thick metal door frames, imprecise grilles, and ungainly painted doors and hoods in separate colors from the rest of the body. Many just did not look quite right. Others, like no. 1453 Citroën DS Presidentielle limousine were still impressive - flying French flags, with driver and with battery operated lights (Gardiner and O'Neill 1996, p. 23).
A second series of small scale models was introduced four years later in 1968, this time somewhat larger than the Matchbox range at 1:65. Mini-Dinky Toys, as the range was called, were of a high quality and featured opening bonnets, doors and boots and were produced in Hong Kong and Holland, with some construction models designed in Italy by Mercury to a smaller 1:130 scale.
In a bid to make this series stand out in toy shops, and compete against formidable competition, each model was sold in stackable red plastic garages, with clear removable top and sides. The model would slide out of a double hinged opening door to one end. This was in place of the usual cardboard box. This novel marketing feature, however, advertised as a "Free garage with every model", did not help sales, especially in light of all the excitement Mattel's Hot Wheels were causing. Some Mini-Dinkys were also blister packaged in a dark grey pack (some with garage and some not) with bright yellow lettering (Mini Dinky 2011).
Television and movie tie-ins
Although Dinky Toys were not known as widely for producing television related models as Corgi Toys, they still made a number of vehicles widely known from the small screen. Many of these models were the result of beating Corgi Toys to the signing of a licensing deal with Gerry Anderson's Century 21 Productions, whose programmes are immensely popular in Britain.
|100||Lady Penelope's FAB1||1967||Thunderbirds|
|102||Joe's Car||1969||Joe 90|
|103||Spectrum Patrol Car – SPC||1968||Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons|
|104||Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle – SPV||1968||Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons|
|105||Maximum Security Vehicle – MSV||1968||Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons|
|106||The Prisoner Mini Moke||1967||The Prisoner|
|107||Stripey the Magic Mini||1967||The Magic Toyshop|
|108||Sam's Car||1969||Joe 90|
|109||Gabriel, Model T Ford||1969||The Secret Service|
|112||Purdy's Triumph TR7||1978||The New Avengers|
|113||John Steed's Jaguar XJ12C||Not issued||The New Avengers|
|350||Tiny's Mini Moke||1970||The Enchanted House|
|352||Ed Straker's Car||1971||UFO|
|353||S.H.A.D.O. 2 Mobile||1971||UFO|
|354||The Pink Panther's Car||1972||The Pink Panther Show|
|357||Klingon Battle Cruiser||1977||Star Trek|
|358||USS Enterprise||1977||Star Trek|
|359||Eagle Transporter||1975||Space: 1999|
|360||Eagle Freighter||1975||Space: 1999|
|361||Zygon War Chariot||1978|
|477||Parsley's Car||1970||The Adventures of Parsley|
|602||Armoured Command Car||1976||The Investigator|
In 1912 Frank Hornby set up an office in Paris on Rue Ambroise Thomas to import Meccano toys into France. By 1921, the French market had proved so successful that production of Meccano began in Paris at the newly opened factory on Rue Rebeval, with another plant opening in 1929 at Bobigny where production of the Dinky Toys range would be based. In the early days production consisted mainly of model ships and aeroplanes, with vehicles gradually increasing in number. During the Second World War the Meccano factories were commandeered by the invading Germans and used in the Nazi war effort. French Dinky factories were also used for production of vehicles in the German Märklin train and toy range. In the early post-war years the model vehicles were forcibly shod with metal wheels due to Nazi war activity that virtually cut off supplies of rubber to France. Rubber tyres were not fitted on models until 1950. In 1951, the old factory at Rue Rebeval closed and Dinky Toys production was now solely based at Bobigny.
In 1951, French Dinky seems to have been the first post-war European manufacturer to introduce 1:43 scale. Initially, the scales of French Dinky Toys were similar to those of English Dinkys. The Citroën Traction Avant (24N), released in 1949, was 1:48, while the Ford Vedette 1949 (24Q), released in 1950, was 1:45, the same scales as used in the British 40 series. But then, in 1951 Meccano France released their first car in 1:43 scale: the Peugeot 203 (24R) (Schellekens 2009).
By the 1950s the French Dinky Toys range had begun to diversify from that of the British parent company, concentrating on the products of the French motor manufacturers; Citroën, Renault, Peugeot and Simca, along with choices of American cars perhaps thought to be exotic to mainland Europe. Some models such as the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia were produced both in France as 24m and in Great Britain at the Binns Road plant in Liverpool as number 187. By the 1960s there was virtually no crossover of product between the two countries resulting in a fascinating range that complemented the better known UK models. The vast majority of the French Dinky range was only available in the home market although a few models did make it across the English Channel. Similarly, some examples of the British range of Dinky Toys were exported to France at the same time. The factory at Bobigny closed in 1970 and production moved to Calais where the range continued to be manufactured until closure in 1971. French Dinky dies, however, were sold and produced in other countries, particularly Spain.
The company Pilen produced several models originally sold as French Dinky Toys through the 1970s until the early 1980s. For example, the Talbot/Simca/Chrysler 150 sedan, Renault 12 sedan, and Mercedes 250 coupe were apparently earlier French Dinky castings. The Ferrari P5, Citroen DS Pallas, and Matra Simca Bagheera also looked to be Dinky copies (Force 1988, p. 8; Johnson 1998, p. 15). Bickford's online source for diecast oddities claims that Pilen was licensed to make French Dinkys in Spain, but they were never marketed under the Dinky name there (Bickford 2009).
In the mid-1950s, Meccano Ltd shipped to South Africa a limited edition set of military vehicles for the South African Defence Force. They were all painted military green and included a Motor Truck, a Covered Wagon, an Ambulance, a Dispatch Rider and a Van.
When South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth in 1961, it imposed a luxury goods import tax, making Dinky Toys very expensive – a potential loss for Meccano Ltd. To resolve this problem, Meccano Ltd began shipping Dinky Toy parts to South Africa in 1962 where models were assembled and painted locally. The import of unfinished goods was not subject to the tax. These models were sold in South Africa between 1962 and 1963 and it is believed that only one batch of each model was produced, making South African Dinky Toys very rare. South Africa also imported Dinky Toy parts from the French factory in 1966 and six models were assembled and painted locally (Binns Road website).
Some of the distinguishing features of South African Dinky Toys are:
- The boxes have Afrikaans lettering at the one end and "Printed in South Africa" on the side.
- The colours are often different from those on the same models assembled in the UK.
- The base plates have a glossy finish, whereas the same models released in the UK have matt black base plates.
Similar to how Corgis became Milton Toys and Matchboxes became Maxwells in India, Dinkys eventually appeared there under a distinct name. In the late 1960s, some toolwork was sold by Meccano to S. Kumar & Co. in Calcutta, India, and toys were marketed as Atamco Ltd. products. First the toys were sold under the Dinky name. Apparently, copyright infringement halted use of the Dinky appellation in India and the brand name was changed to Nicky Toys (Dinky Toys 2008–2011).
These were selected Dinky dies, and not the whole British range – with only 32 different cars and trucks produced. Several aeroplanes were also made. Though appealing, paint quality was more spotty, wheels were often a simpler unattractive plastic and the touch-up on highlights was more crudely applied than on the original British models.
Packaging was similar to Dinky with vehicle artwork on a yellow box with "Nicky Toys" in red squarish serif font very much like the boxes used for British Dinky Toys. In September 2011, a Nicky Toys catalogue sold on eBay for $105.00, so collectability doesn't only apply to original British and French Dinky Toys.
Between 1965 and 1967 six model cars were produced for Dinky Toys in Hong Kong for the lucrative U.S. market. Originally intended to be produced by Spot-On, but re-branded as Dinky Toys when the Spot-On parent company (Tri-ang) bought Meccano Ltd, they were built to the usual Spot-On scale of 1:42. These were all American vehicles:
- 57-001 Buick Riviera
- 57-002 Chevrolet Corvair Monza
- 57-003 Chevrolet Impala
- 57-004 Oldsmobile 88
- 57-005 Ford Thunderbird
- 57-006 Rambler Classic
During 1978 and 1979, production of Dinky Toys in Hong Kong was again resumed. These were poor quality models, however, compared to earlier Dinkys, and an attempt to cut production costs and possibly shift production should the Binns Road Factory close, which it eventually did. So, the last new Dinky Toys made by Meccano were Hong Kong products. Ironically, these are now some of the most sought after of all Dinky Toys. A few, such as the Mk2 Ford Granada, and Steed's Jaguar from the New Avengers TV series exist as pre-production examples only.
Changing fashions in the toy industry, international competition and the switch to cheap labour in lower wage countries meant that the days of British-made toy vehicles like Dinky Toys were numbered. After attempts at simplifying the products as a means of saving costs, the famous Binns Road factory in Liverpool finally closed its doors in November 1979. By comparison, Corgi Toys managed to struggle on until 1983. Matchbox was taken over by Universal International of Hong Kong in 1982 (McGimpsey & Orr 1989, p. 28). Thus ended the era when UK-made die-cast toy models were dominant.
The Dinky trade-name changed hands many times before ending up as part of Matchbox International Ltd in the late 1980s. This seemed to be a logical and perhaps synergistic development, uniting two of the most valuable and venerated names in the British and world die-cast model car market under one roof. For a time some Matchbox vehicles were sold under the Dinky name (Stoneback 2002, p. 24). In the 1980s, Matchbox began issuing model cars of the 1950s and 1960s through the 'Dinky Collection' – these models were marketed toward adult collectors. The models, like a Wolseley Hornet, were attractive and honoured the tradition of the Dinky name in terms of both quality and scale, and resembled Lledo's Vanguard range. Still, production stopped after only a few years.
The 'Dinky Collection' eventually was absorbed into a themed series offered by Matchbox Collectibles Inc, owned by the US giant Mattel - which portrayed little interest in any historical honoring of the Dinky brand. Mattel has preferred to occasionally re-badge normal Matchbox models with the Dinky name for some editions in certain markets. In some cases 1:43 scale models from the Matchbox era were sometimes given the Dinky name. No new "dedicated" Dinky castings have been created in the Mattel era since Matchbox Collectibles was shut down in 2000.
- Corgi Toys
- Corgi Classics
- Hot Wheels
- Auto Pilen
- Schuco Modell
- Bickford, Keith. 2009. Entry on 'Auto Pilen'. Bickford's Diecast Oddities. Presented by the Bickford Diecast Research Center. 
- Binns Road website. No date. South African Defense Force Military Items 1950s 
- Dalefield, Wes. No date. History of Meccano webpage. Wes Dalefield's Meccano Erector website. 
- Dinky Toys. 1974. Catalogue no. 10. Tough die-cast metal models.
- Dinky Toys. 2008–2011. Entry at Planet Diecast website. 
- Ellis, Chris. 2009. The Hornby Book of Model Railways. Conway/Anova. 176 pages. ISBN 978-1844860951
- Force, Dr. Edward. 1988. Dinky Toys. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing.
- Gardiner, Gordon, and O'Neill, Richard. 1996. The Collector's Guide to Toy Cars: An International Survey of Tinplate and Diecast Cars from 1900. London: Salamander Books, Ltd. ISBN 0-517-15977-5.
- Harvey, Brian. 1974. Motoring in Miniature. The World of Automobiles: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Motor Car, Vol. 17, pp. 1995–1998. London: Orbis Publishing, distributed by Columbia House.
- Interesting Three-Wheeler Cars. 1934. Meccano Magazine 19/4, April.
- Johnson, Dana. 1998. Collector's Guide to Diecast Toys and Scale Models, 2nd ed. Padukah, Kentucky: Collector Books, a division of Schroeder Publishing Co. Inc.
- McCullagh, John. 2008. (7 April 2008). Boys' Toys of the 1950s. The Newry Journal on-line. 7 April. 
- McGimpsey, Kevin and Stewart Orr. 1989. Collecting Matchbox Diecast Toys – The First Forty Years. Major Productions, Ltd.
- Meccano Dinky Toys. 1934. Meccano Magazine 19/4, April.
- Mini Dinky. 2011. Forum. Planet Diecast website. 
- Dinky. Entry in Merriam-Webster online dictionary. 
- Ramsay, John. 1993. Catalogue of British Diecast Model Toys (5th ed.). Swapmeet Toys and Models. pp. 88–148. ISBN 0-9509319-6-9.
- Rixon, Peter. 2005. Miller's Collecting Diecast Vehicles. London: Miller's, a division of Mitchell Beasley. ISBN 1-84533-030-7.
- Schellekens, Jona. 2009. The history behind 1:43. Model Collector 24 (12), pp. 54–55.
- Schellekens, Jona. 2010. Dinky Toys car scales: Was there a standard? Model Collector 25 (11), pp. 72–73.
- Stoneback, Bruce and Diane Stoneback. 2002. Matchbox Toys. Royston, Hertfordshire: A Quantum Book, published by Eagle Editions, Ltd. ISBN 1-86160-525-0.
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