05 July 2011
David Boxall takes a trip down memory lane by looking at vintage diecast ice cream vans produced by Corgi, Spot-On, Dinky Toys and Matchbox. ...
A taste of the summer
Ice cream vehicles have always been popular toys and they continue to be highly sought-after even today.
The mid 1960s appears to be the most popular period for ice cream-related toys as the great majority of these vehicles were introduced from 1963 onwards. There are one or two earlier releases, however, and in this article I have tried to give a ‘flavour’ of the models available.
The Ice Cream Tricycle is a post-1945 model manufactured by F G Taylor. This particular ice cream vehicle carries the ‘ICE BRICKS’ logo with the catchphrase ‘Stop Me and Buy One’ – just as well it’s only pedal power! It would be quite a rare treat to see this model now, and would certainly be an expensive purchase.
The Commer ‘WALLS’ Refrigerator Van was issued during Corgi’s first year of production, 1956. With a light or dark blue cab and cream body, this model reached 229,000 sales. Though it is not an ice cream sales vehicle, it is an important early model related to the ice cream theme – from the delivery side of the business that is. This model is a fairly basic toy with no opening features, suspension or interior but it does have windows as all the Corgi Toys did. It was issued in an all-blue illustrated box.
The Commer was also used for the ice cream van manufactured by Matchbox, released in 1963 as No 47b. This little vehicle, whose official title is the Commer Ice Cream Van, appears in various guises. The more familiar version is blue and sells ‘LYONS MAID’ ice cream. A metallic blue version and a cream version of this model also advertises ‘LYONS MAID’.
A second brand of ice cream ‘doing the rounds’ was sold from both the blue and cream versions of this Matchbox van as ‘LORD NIELSENS ICE CREAM’. This vehicle was also released in 1963 under the same number.
Overall, depending on which variation of wheel types the vehicle has, it is the ‘LYONS MAID’ that commands the higher prices for mint and boxed items. All the variations have the same interior, which includes an ice cream salesperson, and all the boxes were issued with an appropriate illustration.
Also in 1963, Corgi released the ‘Mister Softee’ Ice Cream Van as No 428. A spectacular issue, it came with sliding windows, a roof light (window) and an ice cream salesman who could swivel around in order to prepare your favourite ice cream and serve it from either side of the vehicle.
In the familiar light blue and cream with ‘Mister Softee’ transfers, this vehicle has an ice cream cornet above the front screen. It reached 446,000 sales and was withdrawn only two years later in 1965. The ‘Mister Softee’ vehicle continues to be particularly popular and is quite hard to find now in really good condition. It certainly brings back many happy memories and is so realistic it is hard to resist placing it in a diorama… The box was an illustrated blue and yellow issue.
In 1963/64, Budgie Toys released the Bedford Ice Cream Van ‘TONIBELL’ as No 290. In light blue with transfers to the sides, this vehicle keeps to the tradition of having a recognisable symbol to advertise the product. This sales van had a pink cow over the roof of the cab and was also issued in a colourful and well-illustrated box.
A similar Bedford Van was released as a Spot-On toy in 1964, as No 265. The Bedford ‘TONIBELL’ 15cwt van appeared in light blue/turquoise with a red flash along the side. With a raised roof area for the salesman to stand and serve, the van has glazing on both sides of the model.
The vehicle is clearly stationary as the ice cream seller is preparing and serving in the rear of the van. This Spot-On model has the usual chrome bumper, grille and lights at the front of the vehicle. The red flash along the side together with the bright transfers provide a colourful contrast to the light blue/turquoise body of the Bedford. It was issued in a window box.
In 1963, French Dinky Toys released the ‘GLACES GERVAIS’ Citroen H Van as No 561. Once again, this is a delivery vehicle rather than a sales van but provides a colourful contribution. It was available until 1966 and appeared in a contrasting combination of blue and white. Another well-illustrated picture box accompanied this delightful model.
The ‘WALLS’ Ice Cream Van was released by Corgi in 1965 as No 447. In 1/46 scale and based on the Ford Thames chassis, it appeared in light blue and cream. The vehicle had a brightly coloured printed card within the clear plastic roof, together with additional transfers to be placed by the new owner. The side areas were accessible through large sliding windows and the model was issued with its own diorama base. It came with a salesman and a boy figure to complete the ice cream package. It reached 249,000 sales and was withdrawn the following year in 1966. It was sold in the familiar blue and yellow box with a particularly colourful illustration.
The same casting was no doubt used again when Corgi released the Musical Wall’s Ice Cream Van in 1965 as model No 474. It reached 146,000 sales and was available for three years until 1968.
The van had a handle at the rear, which when turned operated a familiar tune – according to The Great Book of Corgi, the music played was the ‘five note jingle’ of the Walls’ chimes.
Despite the similar casting, the two figures issued with the previous van were not included with this particular model. The blue and yellow box had a different illustration with no figures but showing musical notes rising from the van. It also carried a red ‘splash’ on the front of the box with ‘Musical Chimes’ appearing upon it.
I suppose that the ice cream van is a model that many of us associate with our childhood, probably at the same time as our toy collections were growing. Clearly this type of toy was very popular, and yet it does not fit into any major category. It isn’t a public service vehicle – although that may be debatable! Perhaps it fits into the entertainment side of a collection?
Whatever category it fits into, it could be used in all sorts of situations and venues. It was one of those vehicles that might be called upon only occasionally but one which, when used, always scored top marks for ‘playability’ value.
Bringing us back to the present, ice cream vehicles continue to be manufactured by the likes of Oxford Diecast, Saico and Corgi to name but a few and remain popular to this day. With new releases being issued as collectors’ pieces, these models, both old and new, provide enormous satisfaction to collectors, both as part of collections as well as on display... 99 and a flake anyone!
PICTURED TOP This Matchbox model provided the basis for many ice cream-related vehicles.
PICTURED MIDDLE Corgi model No 453, the Commer ‘WALLS’ Refrigerator Van.
PICTURED BOTTOM Spot-On No 265, the Tonibell Ice Cream Van.