01 February 2019
In this series featuring Corgi and Dinky toys of the 1950s and 60s, we 'unwrap' a few of the models and reveal a sprinkling of detail.
Corgi verses Dinky: Fire Engines
In this series featuring Corgi and Dinky toys of the 1950s and 60s, we 'unwrap' a few of the models and reveal a sprinkling of detail. It is hard to believe that these two great market leaders of diecast toys, who gave such pleasure to collectors of all ages, still manage to excite and delight collectors today.
Our first Dinky issue is surely a great favourite the world over. The Fire Engine with Extending Ladder (Commer) was released in 1952 as model No.555. This iconic vehicle appeared in red with silver ladder and trim. The model was well detailed, with hoses and storage panels cast into the body, together with two alarm bells over the cab roof. This rapid response vehicle had no interior, or suspension. It had a solid tinplate base, red hubs and grey tyres, and this version was available until 1954. A later model was released with grey or black tyres and window glazing. This was a particularly sturdy, reliable toy, which managed to find its way into every toy box in the land … need I say more.
The Streamlined Fire Engine, was released in 1954 as model No.250. This model had been issued and re-numbered from 25h. It had a long and successful career, and was available until 1962. It appeared in red with silver trim. This fire engine had no interior, or suspension but had a tinplate base, red hubs, and well-treaded tyres. It was issued with or without a bell. This casting also had very clear detail, particularly at the rear of the engine.
The Canadian ‘Fire Chief’ Car was released in 1960, as model No.257. This was the Nash Rambler in red with silver trim, and a red roof beacon. This vehicle had a fire chief logo on the side of the front doors. The Nash Rambler is a basic casting, with no interior or suspension. It does, however, have window glazing, a tinplate base, shaped hubs and detailed tyres. It is a very tidy model, which was purchased in a yellow and red box, and was available until 1969.
In sharp contrast, the Dinky Toys Ford Transit ‘Fire’ vehicle was released in 1968, as model No.286. As a later model, it would naturally have more features but this fire response vehicle had its own retractable hose system. It was issued in red or metallic red, with a white interior, silver trim, an escape ladder and roof alarm bells. It had a number of opening doors, including a side door for extra storage, and a rear door to access the pump system. This is a sturdy but rather heavy model, with suspension, a diecast base, spun hubs and detailed tyres. The Transit was also issued with an aerial and jewelled headlights, and was available until 1974.
The Bedford (Utilicon) Fire Tender was released as model No 405M, in 1956 - right at the beginning of the Corgi era. It appeared in red with silver trim, and a silver or black ladder. The ‘M’ in the model number, denoted that this to had a mechanical flywheel motor on board. A fabulous addition, which did not prove to be particularly popular at the time. The Bedford had no interior or suspension but had a tinplate base and the all-important windows. It carried a ‘Fire Dept.’ logo along the side, and had flat hubs with detailed tyres. It was available in a blue box with leaflet, until 1959.
Corgi released the ‘Jaguar Fire Chief’s Car’ in 1961, as model No.213S. This Jaguar appeared in red with silver trim, an aerial, a roof sign, siren and bell. The version featured was a re-release, which had been upgraded with a yellow interior, steering wheel and suspension – denoted by the ‘S’ after the model number. It has a very colourful emblem on the side, which greatly enhances the vehicle, along with the shaped hubs and detailed tyres. This model had a diecast base and was available until 1962, in one of the new yellow and blue boxes, with model club leaflet.
The Bedford Fire Engine ‘Simon Snorkel’ was released in 1964, as model No.1127. This was a fabulous model, with a number of great features. It was issued in red with a yellow interior, and silver trim. The Bedford had a double extending arm with a firefighting cradle on the end in yellow, where a crew member was stationed with the main fire hose. The extending arms were activated by turning the two protruding screws, one on the turntable platform, and a second situated half way up the extending arm at the hinge point. There were more crew members in the cab, both in the forward facing driving compartment, and in the rear facing seating area. This was a very sturdy model with a diecast base and suspension. There were extending stabilisers to the rear and midway point of the fire engine, which kept the model still while the extending arm was deployed. This larger than average model was one in the Corgi Major series of toys. As such it had a polystyrene base for the model and a simple lift-off cardboard lid. The lid was well illustrated, showing the Bedford Fire Engine ‘Simon Snorkel’ at its action-packed best.
Finally, the ‘American La France’ Aerial Rescue Truck was released in 1968, as model No.1143. This was another Corgi Major model, which came in a window box. This fantastic fire appliance was articulated and carried a four part extending ladder, attached to a turntable platform for greater manoeuvrability. The model was finished in red with lots of chrome, including the base, and yellow ladders. An open top cab housed most of the crew, apart from the one at the rear with additional steering wheel. This vehicle also had jewelled headlight, pull-out stabilisers, and well detailed hose couplings, and body panels.
There certainly was a great variety of fire engines and fire related vehicles on offer from both Corgi and Dinky Toys. The size and type of appliances produced by the toy makers, documents, to some extent, the development of the real-life vehicles, while the introduction of additional features chronicled the progress made in manufacturing and design.