08 December 2010
Christopher Moor takes a look at the New Zealand diecast model manufacturer Fun Ho! ...
Fun in small packages
New Zealand toy maker Fun Ho! entered the small scale diecast market c. 1964 launching the Midgets, a series of models designed to compete with the Matchbox 1-75 series in New Zealand. Despite the original versions lacking the Perspex windows, detailed plastic interiors and, in most cases, the moving parts of the imports from Britain, the Midgets really took off, and today are among the best remembered of the toys from Fun Ho!
Fun Ho! realised there was a gap to fill on the domestic market, successfully plugging it until increasing deregulation brought competition from an influx of cheaper plastic alternatives. In 1982, it made continuing production uneconomic.
All the Midget models were made at Inglewood, on the Underwood Engineering site that, in 1990, became the original home of the Fun Ho! National Toy Museum.
Before their introduction, many people had queued outside New Zealand shops to buy Matchbox Toys whenever a new shipment from Britain was advertised.
The original Midgets sported a chrome and copper-plated finish, which the Fun Ho! Collectors’ Reference says makes them look “quite unique”. From early 1966, the Midget bodies got painted in the same bright colours as the Fun Ho! cast aluminium toys. Zinc-plated bases date from around this period and eventually became standard on all Midgets.
A marketing arrangement saw the models sold in Mobil packaging c.1964-67, a connection that lasted at least until the Articulated Milk Tanker (No 40) judging from the catalogues found inside the boxes. Models then appeared in red and yellow boxes, and later Visi-Packs of various sizes, although models continued to be sold in Mobil packaging after the Mobil association ended.
*Diecast Collector is a monthly magazine which focuses on all types of diecast models from Dinky Toys to Oxford Diecast