06 December 2022
Looking at Ertl’s models based on a 1980s British TV cartoon
Jimbo and the Jet-Set was a 1986 TV cartoon made by Maddocks Productions for the BBC. Peter Maddocks was a former newspaper cartoonist who branched out into animation in 1983, producing short five-minute shows. In 1986, he created Jimbo and the Jet-Set, about a small, anthropomorphic jet plane.
Jimbo was meant to be a Jumbo Jet, but the aircraft builder got his plans mixed up and used centimetres instead of inches when constructing him – resulting in a plane that was less than half the required size. The programme revolved around Jimbo’s adventures at London Airport and his flights to other countries. His supporting cast included the airport control chief (whose life Jimbo made a misery), various other aircraft, including his girlfriend Gloria, and the airport service vehicles. Jimbo and the Jet-Set ran for 25 episodes of around five minutes each, from 1986 to 1987, and was shown in a number of countries around the world.
In 1986, Ertl released a pair of toy vehicles based on the show. This would seem to be a strange combination, given that Ertl was a company based in rural Iowa that mainly specialised in diecast tractors, and the cartoon wasn’t shown in the USA. However, Ertl was a leading producer of diecast character toys and models during the 1980s, and had produced models specifically for the British market. The company had had great success with a line of models based on Thomas the Tank Engine. Unlike the Thomas models, though, the Jimbo items were all plastic.
The first thing you noticed about Jimbo was that he wasn’t a Jumbo Jet. Jimbo is about the size of an egg, with a length of 7cm and a wingspan of 8cm. The fuselage was constructed of upper and lower parts, with the wings sandwiched in-between. The wheel assembly was made of white plastic, and plugged into the underside, with the rotating wheels covered by spats. There are no rear wheels, with a large skid as part of the lower fuselage. The fuselage parts were made from yellow plastic with printed details, including a white roof, googly eyes in place of cockpit windows, and red stripes with black passenger windows along the sides. The wings were made from soft red plastic, as was the tail with its tiny tail-wings painted yellow. Two white engines were fitted to the tail. Jimbo’s nose was black, common for jets in the 1980s, and was a separate black plastic piece, with his mouth printed below.
Jimbo’s girlfriend was Gloria Gatwick, a female plane. She was the same size as Jimbo, indicating that he wasn’t the only miniature jet produced. The model of Gloria was almost identical to that of Jimbo, but with more ‘girly’ features typical of the era. Her wheels, tail and stripes were in pink, while her wings were white. She had eyelashes and wore lipstick, and there was a pink ribbon tied to her roof. Gloria was only in one episode of the show, but was probably included in the toy range as she required minimal tooling modifications from Jimbo.
The models were packed in large blister packs showing Jimbo and Gloria flying together in front of a blue sky. Each character had its own packaging with their name in large letters at the top. Jimbo and the Jet-Set only ran for 25 episodes, and as a result the models were only produced for a short time. They are not easy to find mint and boxed.