07 October 2022
In part two of our series, we dig out more unusual diecasts from the back of sofa...
If you read the first instalment of this series (if not, read it here), you’ll know that I got somewhat bogged down with the letter K in terms of forgotten diecasts. Well, there are no such worries with this issue’s input, though; and we are kicking off by crossing the border.
It is tempting to think that British toy makers were all confined to London and the south in the years succeeding the second world war. While it’s true that many were, equally, others were manufacturing outside the metropolis. Wales might sound an unlikely spot for toy output but you may recall that Thomas Toys was busy there, as indeed was the UK factory of Louis Marx; and don’t forget the Tudor Rose name, either. With all that going on, you’ll appreciate that manufacture was widespread.
Another Welsh name to add to that list is Jolly Roger. This rather odd moniker dates back to 1941 and was a brand of Tremo Mouldings, Tremo having been the trademark of the defunct (by that time) Treforest Mouldings, whose waterline ship models in 1/1200 scale were similar to the output of Tri-ang. Tremo ships occasionally surface at swapmeets, incidentally.
Whilst the Jolly Roger vehicle range is pretty finite (a Plymouth four door saloon car and an open Maserati racing car are the vehicles that you’re likely to encounter), the upside is that boxes do survive and the models themselves are readily identifiable, thanks to the MADE IN WALES and JOLLY ROGER embossing on the underside.
The Maserati (in this instance a 4 CLT type of racer) is an interesting subject for it strongly resembles the Timpo car of the same type; were moulds shared, one wonders? To add to the intrigue is the very scarce Merlin manufactured version which could be bought as a push-along model or one fitted with a starting crank that linked to the rear axle via an elastic band, thereby providing (very erratic) motive power. All three, when placed side by side, look as though they might have had the same birthplace...
Sherwood Forest rules!
Lincoln green suited a certain Mr Hood, but it’s debatable whether his adventures in realigning the UK’s distribution of wealth gave inspiration to the Toy Products company’s brand. Manufacturing a series of diecasts under the name of the legendary outlaw might sound bizarre – but then we have already covered Jolly Roger. And let’s be honest: Corgi? Husky? Impy? I’ll leave you to decide.
Toy Products was based in the Midlands, in Walsall, and appears to have commenced manufacture in the 1940s. By the mid 1950s it was dead in the water, though, possibly through growing competition, the need to evolve or even materials shortages.
An interesting, albeit limited, range was produced, in a scale somewhat larger than the (by then) familiar Dinky products. Possibly the most common example (and common is a relative word, for these models don’t surface too often) is the dodgem car-looking, rather dumpy Midget Sports Car. The jury is out on whether this was based on a real car or not: the Austin A40 could well have been the original idea in this instance. The Modern Saloon Car (which the utilitarian box describes as “gaily coloured”) is reminiscent of a Standard Vanguard although there are also strong trans-Atlantic overtones present.
There are other models out there, including a two-door sports coupe (an Allard?), a Streamline Coupe, a US-inspired Shooting Brake as well as a Rolls Royce and a Sports Car. In terms of commercials (if you’re making cars, then you might as well do these too!), a tipper truck, a fire engine, petrol tanker, furniture van and lorry were all produced. Some of these were equipped with clockwork motors: they have metal wheels with rubber tyres for traction, whereas the push-along variety made do with simple metal wheels.
Identification can be a problem here. Helpfully, some have ROBIN HOOD embossed on their undersides, whilst others have the familiar MADE IN ENGLAND. Some, though, lack either rubric.
Collecting the complete set might take quite a while - so be warned.
Well, not exactly. If you like your models to be talking points and enjoy educating anyone curious enough to enquire about your collection, then this next model will be right up your street.
It’s not truly a diecast, although it looks like one. LILO appears to be the brand name and I believe that the company’s premises were in London. The model represents a Ford V8 saloon (allegedly) and possibly dates from the 1940s. What is strange about this survivor (and survive it does – it’s not hard to find an example on the internet) is that it is made from rubber – and the story goes, from old rubber tyres, in fact. Could this strange creation have been the harbinger of the green movement? Whatever, it’s extremely robust although by now most examples will have suffered from flaking paint, revealing the rubber compound below.
In any event, the similarity between it and the Merlin MG (not to mention the Crescent saloon) are quite noticeable, although scales and detail differ. If still visible, one chassis rail will reveal 0717 TOYS in raised capital letters – quite why part of the die should have been reversed is unclear, for LILO is the name you’ll see if you hold a mirror up to the numerical sequence.