|Product type||Die cast toy|
|Country||Liverpool, England - Paris, Bobigny and Calais, France.|
|Related brands||Matchbox, Corgi Toys|
|Previous owners||Meccano Ltd, Triang, Airfix, Matchbox|
Dinky Toys are die-cast zamac miniature vehicles that were produced by Meccano Ltd. They were made in England from 1934 to 1979, at a factory in Binns Road in Liverpool. Dinky Toys were among the most popular diecast vehicles ever made predating other popular diecast marques, including Corgi, Matchbox, and Mattel's Hot Wheels (Ralston 2009, 7; Richardson 1999, 128).
- 1 Pre-war history
- 2 Post-war history
- 3 Television and movie tie-ins
- 4 Country-specific models
- 5 Demise and rebirth
- 6 Collectors
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Frank Hornby established Meccano Ltd. in 1908 to make metal construction sets. The company later moved into model railroading with their first O gauge clockwork trains appearing in 1920 (Ellis 2009, p. 15; Wainwright 2013).
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 "Hornby Modelled Miniatures", but in the April 1934 issue of Meccano Magazine they were given the name "Meccano Dinky Toys" for the first time (Meccano Magazine 1934 p. 332) in August 1935, the name Meccano was dropped and the marque became DINKY TOYS until 1971 (Encyclopédie Dinky Toys). By December 1934 the Dinky name was also used for the "Dinky Builder" sets where coloured flat metal pieces could be hinged together to make buildings and vehicles (Esplen 2013).
One story is that the "Dinky" name came from a nickname that a friend gave to Frank Hornby's daughter (Simpson 2008). Another version is when one of Frank's daughters-in-law first saw the models, she called them "dinky", a Scottish word meaning neat or fine.
The legacy of vehicles
In the mid-1930s, then, six vehicles were introduced (designated 22a through f), including a sports car, a sports coupe, a truck, a delivery van, a farm tractor, and a tank. They were all cast in lead. Soon after, the first Dinky model car available individually was numbered 23 – a sports car based on the MG Magic Midget. At this early time a series 24 (a-h) were introduced and included a generic ambulance (made until the late 1940s) a grand sport open four-seater, a grand sport two-seater, a coupe and a limousine (Gardner and O'Neill 1996, pp. 46–47). The 24 series was also made in France.
Some smaller vehicles were also produced alongside model track workers, passengers, station staff and other O scale track side accessories (Meccano Dinky 1934 p. 332). All of these early cars were inaccurate representations and had die-cast metal bodies, chassis and wheels with rubber tyres. By August 1935 there were around 200 different products in the Dinky Toys range which included die-cast ships, aeroplanes and small trains. Dinky Toys model cars were available individually in trade packs of 6 cars per pack. Most models would not be available in individual boxes until 1952.
The number of commercial vehicles expanded with the addition of Series 28 which included many delivery vans. In 1935, a new series 30 was introduced which featured accurate likenesses of specific vehicles for the first time. These included a generic ambulance, a Daimler saloon, a Vauxhall saloon, a Chrysler Airflow saloon, and a Rolls-Royce saloon (Gardiner and O'Neill 1996, pp. 46–47). Smaller Matchbox-sized Austin 7 saloons and tourers were also made. About this same time, several models were also made and marketed in France. Liveries of well known companies began to decorate the commercial vehicles.
Series 30 included:
- 30a Chrysler Airflow Saloon (originally no. 32)
- 30b Rolls-Royce
- 30c Daimler
- 30d Vauxhall
- 30f Ambulance
In 1938, a new Series 36 was introduced. Most of these models were also made after World War II up to 1948. Production was halted during the war while the Binns Road factory in Liverpool produced many items for the War effort. Models in series 36, meanwhile, included a Rover Saloon, a Bentley 2 seat sports coupe, an Armstrong-Siddeley limousine, a British Salmson 4 seater convertible, a British Salmson 2 seat convertible, and a Humber Vogue coupe (Gardiner and O'Neill 1996, pp. 48–49). Chassis were cast with open holes in them, saving expense and metal. Provisions were made in some models for attachment of metal drivers, but not many appeared before the war, making them more valuable (Gardiner and O'Neill 1996, p. 48).
Dinkys had acute problems on early models with zinc pest also known wrongly as metal fatigue, caused by impure alloys in which corrosion happens between molecules causing cracking of the metal (Harvey 1974, p. 1997). Metal would then crumble prematurely. This was much more common before the war in the years 1938–1941, 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 28/2 Series vans. Another theory is that lead from Hornby train and Dinky Toys production, lead ties from sacks and foil from cigarettes wraping found their way into the metal, corrupting it.
Between 1937 and 1939, a number of military vehicles numbered from 151 to 162 were introduced. These were painted army green and consisted of a medium and a light tank, an Austin 7 military car, a six-wheeled truck, a reconnaissance car, a searchlight lorry, an anti aircraft gun, a light Dragon tractor with limber and 19 pdr gun. Most interesting were several fairly detailed trailers, including: amler, cooker trailer and water tank trailer. The military offerings were produced through 1941 though a few select models – the clever 161b Anti-Aircraft Gun, the 151a medium tank and some of the trailers – were also made again in 1946–1955 after the war (Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia).
Pre-war models were fitted with thin dia 1.626 mm. (0.064 in.) axles and the post war axles were 2.032 mm. (0.08 in.). The pre-war hubs were smooth and after the war, there was a raised part in the center of the hub. Tracks on the tanks and the 162a Light Dragon Artillery Tractor were done with 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 it could be moved from level to about a 50-degree angle upward. The searchlight was also adjustable in horizontal and vertical directions.
Military models, however, were made up through the end of production in the late 1970s. A wide variety of military vehicles were produced, like the Jeep-like Austin Champ with driver and passengers.
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, vans and trucks. Both civilian and military aircraft were subjects for the Dinky Toys 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 supply of a real Spitfire to the Royal Air Force. Some models were clearly identified whereas others re-issued in 1945 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 Toys 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. These theories do not stand as the models with generic names were issued in 1945 and at that time there was no enemy any more, the allies had dealt with them. (Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia).
Production of model aircraft resumed after the war with a mixture re-issues of pre-war and new models of civilian airliners and new jet-powered aircraft. Production of Dinky planes tailed off in 1968 but was resurgent in 1971 with a range of World War II types complete with battery-powered propellers, modern jet fighters, and even a Sea King helicopter. These large scale planes had been developed by Airfix but were made by Meccano Ltd. which had just been bought by Airfix.
The range included:
- 60a Imperial Airways Liner (Armstrong Whitworth Atalanta) (1934)
- 62a Supermarine Spitfire (1939)
- 60c Percival Gull (1934)
- 60d Sikorsky S58 Helicopter
- 60f Cierva C.30A autogiro
- 60g de Havilland Comet
- 60h Short "Singapore III" flying boat
- 60r Short S 23 Empire flying boat
- 60s Fairey "Battle" bomber (1940–41)
- 60w Clipper III 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 aircraft
- 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) – 1974 release
- 733 Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star – re-issue of 70f
- 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" – "Supertoys" range
- 997 SE 210 Caravelle Airliner (1962) made alternatively in France and in England – "Super toys" 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 immediate pre-war Dinky range and have therefore also suffered from metal fatigue that makes survivors all the more rare. Small metal rollers 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 1976 that five further models were added to the long line of maritime releases from Dinky Toys, these were in the larger scale of 1/180–1/200. The liner France was the only Dinky Toys ship made in France after the war, it was made partly of zamac and partly of plastic at the scale of 1/1200. (Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia).
Models in the pre-war range include:
- 50a HMS Hood
- 50b Battle ship Nelson class
- 50c Cruiser Effingham
- 50d HMS York
- 50e HMS Dehli
- 50f Destroyer Brook class
- 50g K class submarine
- 50h Destroyer Amazon class
- 50k X class submarine
- 51b Norddeutscher Lloyd Europa
- 51c Italia Line Rex
- 51d CPR Empress of Britain
- 51e P & O Strathaird
- 51f Furness Queen of Bermuda
- 51g Cunard White Star Britannic
- 52a Cunard/White Star Queen Mary
- 52c Paquebot La Normandie made in France
- 52c Battleship Dunkerque made in France
No Dinky Toys models were made between 1941 and 1945. The French Meccano factory was occupied by the Germans, some of whom worked for Märklin, and the British factory was on war work but every Christmas a few models would be sold from pre-war stocks. Thus during and after the war a few 'pre-war' models survived and were sold in 1945 (Harvey 1974, p. 1997-1998) (The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia). The first new models released after the war were U.S. military jeeps ref.153a in April 1946 in England and ref. 24M in France, it was the first Dinky Toy made at the scale of 1/43.
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. The first new model car released was an Armstrong Siddeley Coupe (Smeed 1980, p. 31). 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 Toys models. The 40 series cars were manufactured from better quality alloy, meaning that the survival rate is higher and although originally sold in trade boxes of six, they were renumbered in 1954 and re-coloured in two-tone paintwork in 1956, the Austin Somerset ref. 40j is probably the first model sold in its own individual yellow box. The first two models in the 40 series were in 1:48 scale, while the others were in 1:45 scale (Schellekens 2010). The Jowett Javelin saloon 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 Toys 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 modeled to the usual Dinky scale of 1:48, and introduced the altered name of Dinky Supertoys. Some models issued in this line included:
|501||Foden 8 Wheel Wagon||1947||901|
|502||Foden Flat Truck||1947||902|
|503||Foden Flat Truck with Tailboard||1947||903|
|504||Foden Tanker 'Mobilgas'||1953|
|505||Foden Flat Truck with Chains||1952||905|
|941||Foden 8 wheel tanker 'Mobilgas'||1953|
|942||Foden Tanker 'Regent'||1955|
|943||Leyland Tanker 'Esso'||1958|
|944||Leyland Tanker 'Shell BP'||1963|
In 1950, Meccano introduced in the Supertoys series a number of Guy Vans finished in appealing 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. Later, A.E.C. and other models were also added. Supertoys were commonly packaged in white boxes with thin blue horizontal lines and were marketed all on their own – no longer were these models solely focused on railroad accessories. Still, they did not quite reach the commercial marketing level of later diecast brands like Corgi Toys 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|
Meccano continued producing detailed Dinky Supertoys commercial vehicles through the fifties and sixties, including such subjects as a Mobile Television Control Room and Camera Van in both BBC and ABC Television liveries, a Leyland test chassis with removable miniature 5 ton weights, a series of military vehicles including a Corporal Erecting 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 Box in British Railways and later in Newmarket liveries.
Post-War Car Lines
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). The scale of the Dinky Toys land vehicles range from 1/27 for the Lunar Roving Vehicle ref. 355 and 1/99 for the Duple Viceroy Luxury coach ref. 293 / 296. Because of the introduction of data processing, the British Dinky Toys range was reorganized in 1954 with a new numbering system – previously model numbers were commonly followed by letters and often sold in sets with several vehicles. Now each model had its own unique three digit catalogue number (with no letters), and cars were now sold in individual boxes (Smeed 1980, p. 33). The renumbering also happened in France, but in 1959 (The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia).
The Dinky Toys ranges became more sophisticated throughout the 1950s. Some cars in the sporty pre-war line were carried on after the war like the Alvis sports tourer, the Sunbeam Talbot, or the Frazer-Nash BMW. These offerings then led to a magnificent line-up in the post war Dinky range, which included a Lagonda, an Armstrong-Siddeley, MG, Sunbeam Alpine, Austin Atlantic, Austin Healey 100, Aston Martin DB3S racer, Morris Oxford sedan and Triumph TR2 (Gardiner and O'Neill 1996, pp. 50–51). Additionally, several models introduced were American cars, and even now still seem unique choices, such as 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 not everyday selections, e. g. the Connaught racing car, Maserati Sports 2000, AC Aceca, Humber Hawk, 1954 Bristol LeMans car with large fins - and a Daimler instead of the more routine Jaguar.
Several colourful gift sets of sports and racing cars were offered in the mid-1950s, usually five cars to a set. For example, Gift set no. 4 / 249 offered Cooper-Bristol in British racing green, Alfa Romeo in the Italian red, Ferrari in the blue and yellow of Argentina (Juan Manuel Fangio's country), and H.W.M. in light green, and Maserati in the red and white colours of Switzerland. 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) (The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia).
Production of agricultural machinery and implements had occurred since the 1930s, such as the 1933 number 22e Fordson farm tractor, and such offerings were maintained post-war. One interesting model was the odd Opperman 3-wheeled Motocart, a tilting 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 1:76 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 or windows on some, 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 (see photo, Force 1988, p. 47). Wheels, however, (the Land Rover had one on the bonnet as well as one underneath) were somewhat flatter and wider than those of Matchbox and their circumference was not ribbed at the beginning but this feature was added later. 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 which was a cut, curved extension of the baseplate. 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 ref. 072 Bedford articulated lorry was a reproduction of the Meccano factory lorry, its articulated flat trailer was dimensioned to receive the Hornby Dublo container. (The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia).
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 Dinky Dublo 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) and (The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia) :
- 061 Ford Prefect: Introduced in March 1958 and withdrawn October 1960. Three model variations and one box variation.
- 062 Singer Roadster: Introduced in March 1958 and withdrawn 1960. Two model and one box variation.
- 063 Commer Van: Introduced in March 1958 and withdrawn 1960. Three model and two box variations.
- 064 Austin Lorry: Introduced December 1957; withdrawn 1962. Four model variations and four box variations.
- 065 Morris Pick Up: Introduced December 1957; withdrawn 1960. Two model and one box variation.
- 066 Bedford Flat Truck: Introduced December 1957; withdrawn 1960. Four model variations and two box variations.
- 067 Austin Taxi: Introduced March 1959; withdrawn 1966. Two model variations and two box variations.
- 068 Royal Mail Van: Introduced April 1959; withdrawn 1964. Three model variations and two box variations.
- 069 Massey-Ferguson Tractor: Introduced September 1959; withdrawn 1964. 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 October 1959; withdrawn 1964. Two model variations and two box variations.
- 071 Volkswagen Delivery Van: Introduced March 1960; withdrawn 1964. Three model variations and two box variations.
- 072 Bedford Articulated Flat Truck: Introduced June 1959; withdrawn 1964. Two model variations and no box variations.
- 073 Land Rover & Horse Trailer: Introduced September 1960; withdrawn 1966. 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 June 1960; withdrawn 1964. No model variation 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 1966. 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 window glazing. While Corgi Toys 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 1963-1969.
Truck offerings remained continuously creative including a Simca glass truck with a sheet of "glass" (clear plastic) and a mirror (polished aluminium), a Leyland Octopus flatbed truck complete with realistic chain around the bed, a car carrier with a car carrying trailer, a Dunlop tyre rack full of tyres, 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. 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 was 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 or Dinky Toys. To compete with Spot-on, the scale of British Dinky Toys was increased 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, Meccano 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 1947 (The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia).
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 racing 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 and the Mysterons, UFO, Thunderbirds, the Pink Panther, The Secret Service, 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 British made 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 doors and bonnets painted in separate colours from the rest of the body. Many just did not look quite right. Others, like the no. 1453 Citroën DS Présidentielle saloon were still impressive – flying French flags, with driver, and battery operated lights (Gardiner and O'Neill 1996, p. 23). Some of the truck and construction models remained very clever as well, with many moving features, like the Bedford refuse truck or the Taylor Excavator. At this time, Dinky also introduced "Action Kits" which were regular models that came disassembled with build instructions and consisted of about 40 pieces (Smeed 1980, p. 44-45). On the other hand, French Dinky Toys, which had to compete with Solido since 1957, were much more accurate with better paint and sharper details than their English counterparts. The no. 825 DUKW military truck is a good example of the quality of French Dinky Toys (The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia).
A second series of small scale models was introduced four years later in 1968, somewhat larger than the Matchbox range at 1:65. Mini-Dinky Toys, as the range was called, featured opening bonnets, doors and boots and were produced in Hong Kong and the Netherlands, with some construction models designed in Italy by Mercury to a smaller 1:130 scale.
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. 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 the United Kingdom. The French factory produced only one TV series related model: the 1406 Renault 4 Sinpar "Michel Tanguy" (The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia).
|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|
|1406||Renault 4 4x4 Simpar Michel Tanguy.||1968||The Aeronauts|
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 1931 in Bobigny where production of the Dinky Toys range would be based. In the early days production consisted mainly of tiny model trains cast in lead, with vehicles gradually increasing in number. By the late 1930s 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 and eventually including; Citroën, Peugeot, Simca, Renault, Panhard and Ford of France (Gardiner and O'Neill 1996, pp. 62–63).
During the Second World War the Meccano factory was commandeered by the invading Germans and used in the Nazi war effort. The Bobigny factory was also produced an equivalent toy to the Meccano using the Märklin name. From 1945, the model vehicles were forcibly shod with solid metal wheels and the pumps did not have rubber hoses due to the shortage of rubber which was needed for the army. In the early post war period, rubber was needed badly as the French supply came from Cambodia and Laos in war against France, rubber tyres were not fitted on models until 1950. In 1951, the headquarters and offices which were still at Rue Rebeval closed and Dinky Toys production was now solely based at Bobigny. (The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia and Dinky Toys les modèles d'avant guerre, 1934–1940).
In 1951, French Meccano has 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 1946 Meccano France released their first car in 1:43 scale: the Jeep (24M) (Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia).
By the late 1950s, Italian, German and other marques, like the Dutch DAF were also offered by Dinky Toys of France (Gardiner and O'Neill 1996, pp. 64–65). Focusing on export, American cars were also made like the late 1950s Studebaker, Chrysler's DeSoto, Buick Roadmaster, Plymouth Belvedere Coupe, Chrysler New Yorker convertible and Saratoga sedan, Ford Thunderbird "Squarebird" and Lincoln Premiere sedan (Gardiner and O'Neill 1996, pp. 66–67). 1960s cars produced by Meccano France were the first Corvair sedan, a 1967 Ford Thunderbird coupe and a 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 sedan.
Some models such as the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia were produced both in France as 24M / 530 and in the UK 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 models. The vast majority of the French Dinky range was only available in the home market, Belgium, Switzerland, U.S.A. and other non British Commonwealth countries although a few models did make it across the English Channel both before and after the war. 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 for another 2 years when the final single sheet catalogue spelt the domestic end for the best known name in diecast toys. A contract had been signed with the Spanish firm Auto Pilen who received some tools and produced some models both as Dinkys and Auto-Pilens. (Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia and Dinky Toys les modèles d'avant guerre, 1934–1940).
As import duties were high on finished goods and reduced on components, to get into the Spanish market, Meccano s.a. (France) exported sixteen unpainted and unassembled Dinky Toys to The Novades Poch Company in Barcelona. There the models were finished and fitted with specific Pirelli tyres.
The models are :
- 509 Fiat 850
- 510 Peugeot 504
- 513 Opel Admiral
- 514 Alfa Romeo Giulia
- 517 Renault 8
- 518 Renault 4L
- 519 Simca 1000
- 520 Fiat 600
- 523 Simca 1500
- 530 Citroën DS 19
- 534 B.M.W. 1500
- 537 Renault 16TL
- 553 Peugeot 404
- 558 Citroën 2cv
- 559 Taunus 17M
- 560 Fourgoneta 2cv Citroën
In 1974 labour was getting too expensive in France, and Meccano subcontracted the manufacture of some models to Auto Pilen s.a. in Spain. These models had already been made in France and were sold exclusively under the marque Dinky. When the Calais factory closed down some of the recent tools were sent to Liverpool where the models were produced with new baseplates. Some of these tools were later sent to Auto-Pilen where they were modified or updated before; being re-issued, however it is not known if the dies were modified by Meccano or by Pilen. These models were sold in France under the marque Dinky, they were clearly identified as Dinky and as MADE IN SPAIN on the base plate. In Spain they were sold as Pilen and marked as such. Pilen models, most of which were Dinky dies, were very popular and numerous in Spain and commonly sold in El Corte Engles and Galerias Preciados department stores.
According to a contract between Meccano s.a. and Pilen, the last five so called French Dinkys were in fact Pilen models designed and tooled in Algeciras and fitted with a Dinky Toys base plate. Like the previous series, they were sold in France as Dinky and are very rare and as Pilen in Spain. (The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia).
They were :
- 11539 VW Siroco
- 11540 Renault 14
- 11541 Ford Fiesta
- 11542 Simca 1308 GT
- 11543 Opel Ascona
Around 1952 -54, Meccano Ltd shipped to South Africa a limited edition set of vehicles for the South African Defence Force. This set included a Motor Truck, a Covered Wagon, an Ambulance, a Dispatch Rider, a Van, a petrol tanker, a fire engine, a road roller, a Mechanical horse and trailer, a loudspeaker van. (The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia).
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 Toys 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.
South African Dinky Toys from Liverpool.
- 112 Austin Healey Sprite Mk. II
- 113 MG B
- 139 Ford Cortina
- 140 Morris 1100*
- 141 Vauxhall Victor Estate car
- 142 Jaguar Mk. X.
- 144 Volkswagen 1500
- 148 Ford Fairlane
- 155 Ford Anglia
- 172 Fiat 2300 station wageon
- 177 Opel Kapitan
- 181 Volkswagen
- 183 Mini Minor Automatic
- 184 Volvo 122S saloon
- 186 Mercedes 220
- 193 Rambler cross country station wagon
- 194 Bentley Serie S coupe
- 196 Holden special sedan
- 198 Rolls-Royce Phantom V
- 240 Cooper
- 241 Lotus
- 242 Ferrari
- 242 B.R.M.
- 300 Massey Harris tractor
- 405 Universal Jeep
- 449 Chevrolet El-Camino pick-up
South African Dinky Toys from Bobigny.
- 519 Simca 1000
- 548 Fiat 1800 familiale
- 552 Chevrolet Corvair
- 553 Peugeot 404
- 554 Opel Rekord
- 555 Ford Thunderbird
Circa 1967–1973, for reasons related to import substitution, some Dinky Toys were made in Arica, a tax free port at the very north of Chile. Only twelve models are known today, those which in England were packed in clear boxes and were provided in Chile with specific yellow packaging with a red 'globe' symbol. The boxes were printed with "Armado en Arica" ("Assembled in Arica"). Many of these models were painted in different colours from those made in England. The following are some of the models made in Chile:
- 110 Aston Martin DB5
- 116 Volvo 1800 S
- 129 Volkswagen 1300
- 232 Ford RV 40 (with left hand drive)
- 136 Vauxhall Viva (with left hand drive)
- 153 Aston Martin DB6
- 161 Ford Mustang Fast back
- 170 Lincoln Continental
- 215 Ford GT 40 racing car (with left hand drive)
- 216 Dino Ferrari
- 240 Cooper racing car
- 242 Ferrari 156 racing car
- 243 Formula 1 B.R.M.
(The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia)
Original British-made Dinky Toys had been available in select cities in India from pre-war days until about 1955, when import curbs on toys came into effect. Old stocks of original Dinky toys continued to be available for a few years in Calcutta and other metro areas until supplies were exhausted.
Later, similar to how Corgis became Milton Toys and Matchboxes became Maxwells in India, Dinkys eventually appeared there under a distinct name. In 1963, Meccano closed its Speke factory and sold the dies, the casting machines and remains of spare parts and yellow boxes to S. Kumar & Co. in Calcutta, India. Toys were marketed as Atamco Ltd. products. The toys were first assembled with parts made in Liverpool and packed in original yellow boxes with the Dinky Toys name. The quality was very poor and it is believed that Meccano Ltd. asked S. Kumar & Co. not to use the Dinky name. Kumar then applied stickers with the name NICKY on the boxes to hide the name DINKY. Later when the stock of original boxes ran out, NICKY TOYS boxes of poor quality were printed in India (The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia).
These were selected Dinky dies, and not the whole British range – with only 32 different cars and trucks produced. Several aeroplanes were also made.
In September 2011, a Nicky Toys catalogue sold on eBay for $105.00.
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. 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.
Demise and rebirth
The Matchbox connection
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 or a 1953 Buick Skylark convertible, were attractive and honoured the tradition of the Dinky name in realism. In fact these were often even more detailed than original Dinkys, instead resembling something more like 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.
Atlas partworks issues
In 2008 French partworks publishers, Atlas Editions, began to reissue models previously available as Dinky Toys under licence from Mattel. These models were only available by subscription in some European countries, initially France. This range is a twice monthly partwork featuring a particular Dinky Toy model complete with certificate and an information leaflet on the history of the casting and the real model. These models were from brand new tooling as the original Meccano dies had been previously sold to other toy makers worldwide or were destroyed or lost. The castings were similar to original Dinky Toys but the baseplates were marked "Atlas Editions – Made in China" and replacing the "Meccano – Made in England" (or "France") imprint respectively. The new range was finally also available in The UK, Denmark,The Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden.
In 2016, DeAgostini, the parent company of Atlas editions, launched another range of Dinky Toys in The United Kingdom and Italy. This time offerings to the general public were through selected newsagents in Dorset and Milan or by subscription. After a test run of 5 issues the range was discontinued until further notice. These appear to be castings from Atlas Editions with the baseplate now reading DeAgostini. In the United Kingdom, the first five models issued were the Triumph TR2, Bedford CA Van, Ford Thunderbird, Morris Mini Traveller and the Jaguar XK120 coupe. In Italy the first three issues were the Citroen DS, Fiat 600 and the Volkswagen beetle. Issue 6 will be issued at a later date according to a letter attached to issue 5.
In later times Dinky Toys became sought-after collectors' items. An auction of 3,500 models dating from 1937 to the early 1970s fetched £150,000 at auction in 2016.(BBC News, 15 June 2016)
- Corgi Toys
- Corgi Classics
- Hot Wheels
- Auto Pilen
- Schuco Modell
- Coopee, Todd. "Klingon Battle Cruiser from Dinky". ToyTales.ca.
- BBC News, 15 June 2016, Rare Dinky toy collection fetches £150k at Devon auction
- Binns Road website. No date. South African Defense Force Military Items 1950s 
- Cavendish, Richard. 2011. The Death of Frank Hornby. History Today online, vol. 61, no. 9. 
- Dalefield, Wes. 2013. History of Meccano webpage. Wes Dalefield's Meccano Erector website. 
- The Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia.
- Ellis, Chris. 2009. The Hornby Book of Model Railways. Conway/Anova. ISBN 978-1844860951
- Dinky Toys. 1974. Catalogue no. 10. Tough die-cast metal models.
- Dujardin, Jacques. 2015. Dinky Toys Encyclopaedia. Editions. 2016, 3000 + colour pages on DVD, ISBN 978-2-7466-3115-1.
- 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.
- DINTOYS. No date. Website Dinky Toys – Supertoys Club of Net Catalogue. http://www.dintoys.fr/
- Ralston, Andrew. 2009. Diecast Toy Cars of the 1950s & 1960s. Dorchester, England: Veloce Publishing. ISBN 9781845841805.
- Ramsay, John. 1993. Catalogue of British Diecast Model Toys (5th ed.). Swapmeet Toys and Models. pp. 88–148. ISBN 0-9509319-6-9.
- Richardson, Mike and Sue. 1999. Christie's Presents WHEELS: The Magical World of Automotive Toys. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0811823202.
- 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.
- Simpson, Margaret. 2008. Collection of Dinky Toys, 1935. Powerhouse Museum Collection online. 
- Smeed, Vic, general editor. 1980. The World of Model Cars. London: Bison Books, A Chartwell Book. ISBN 0-89009-324-5.
- Stoneback, Bruce and Diane Stoneback. 2002. Matchbox Toys. Royston, Hertfordshire: A Quantum Book, published by Eagle Editions, Ltd. ISBN 1-86160-525-0.
- Wainwright, Oliver. 2013. Frank Hornby: The Man Who Put the World in a Box. Art & Design section. The Guardian online, 15 May. 
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