30 November 2012
Eric Bryan puts the spotlight on a highly detailed model of the car introduced in 1965 ...
Though Matchbox, Corgi, and Dinky dominated my childhood pantheon of diecast models, I was lucky enough to also have some Tekno, Solido and a few pieces from other brands, which were less well-known in America at the time. A one-off in my diecast fleet was a Mebetoys Lancia Fulvia Coupe. It was Italian-made in 1/43 scale, and fully-featured.
I had the silver edition with a butterscotch or tobacco interior. The doors opened, the seats folded forward, the boot lid opened to reveal a piece of luggage moulded into the floor of the boot, and it had spring suspension riding on metal hubs and rubber tyres. The bonnet lid also opened to reveal a chromed plastic engine, with the added touch of some red plastic wiring and cooling fan. The model also had a silver or chromed gear shift lever on the floor, and four jewelled headlamps of a golden hue.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
The attention to detail on this little car continued with chromed metal bumpers fore and aft, an Italian number plate affixed to the rear, hand-painted red taillights and front side marker lights. And, most stylishly and charmingly, the make and model of the car were cast into the right rear of the body. The base of the car was black metal, into which was cast the model and make, the Mebetoys model number of A-11, ‘SCALA 1/43’, ‘MADE IN ITALY’ and ‘MEBETOYS’. There was a little bit of detail cast here, in the form of an exhaust and muffler system. But, what always captured my imagination on the model was the Mebetoys logo which was also cast into the base – it looked like a watching eye. There was something about it that suggested to me the Lancia was a spy car of some kind, making me think of it in the spirit of the Corgi Bond DB5.
I don’t remember how or where I acquired my Mebetoys Lancia, but it was one of the earliest models in the Mebetoys range. It was first shown in the 1966 catalogue brochures which were included with Mebetoys models, and it was shown in the line-up in the 1967 catalogue. In both publications, the car was depicted in a white finish. In the brochure, the price was listed as Lire 750, and in the later catalogue as Lire 700. This Lancia Fulvia was also one of the earliest, if not the first, in the Mebetoys series to feature the complete set of opening bonnet, doors and boot lid, and to be fitted with jewelled headlamps. Into the 1970s, the jewelled lights were deleted and replaced with lights that were cast into the body. The metal hubs and rubber tyres were substituted for plastic wheels. The A-11 last appeared in the 1973 Mebetoys catalogue.
TECHNICOLOUR DREAM CAR
The Mebetoys Fulvia Coupe was produced in several colours. Besides silver, it could be found in red, light green, light blue, gold, metallic red, metallic blue, metallic light green, and blue-grey. The interior colour variations were white and red. For dating a Mebetoys Fulvia Coupe, a simple rule of thumb is that the earlier models had the black base plate, and later ones a silver base plate. On the earliest cars, the base had a single screw at the front. In the next phase, the vehicles still had black bases, but with two screws – one at the front and one at the back. The later models with the silver bases always had two screws. To accommodate the rear screw, the piece of moulded luggage in the boot was enlarged.
Another dating clue will be found in the wheels. The hubs of the first models had five indentations or simulated holes, the next series of models had six, and the last series had 10. If you open the bonnet there are more dating clues in the engine compartment. The first models had both the red plastic cooling fan and leads or cables. The next series retained the red plastic wiring but omitted the fan. The last series had neither detail.
HOW TO DATE YOUR REPLICA
If you’re lucky enough to find a Mebetoys Fulvia Coupe with its original box, there are dating indicators here as well. The first boxes were white with brown flowering symbols, the Mebetoys eye logo outlined in black, and with a photographic picture of a white Lancia. The centre of the eyeball was punched out, perhaps so that the colour of the model inside could be seen. The next series of boxes were of a kind of marbleised white, again with a brown flowering symbol and the Mebetoys eye outlined in red. This box showed an illustration of the model in red, with all hinged surfaces opened, the centre of the eye was not punched out, and one side of the box had a cellophane window.
The last version of Mebetoys packaging came when Mattel purchased it in 1970. These models were fastened to an orange or yellow plastic base, and housed in a clear plastic cover. One box variation was the red box on a yellow, instead of marble-white, background, which was used for some of the Fulvia rally models. Going back to the dating of the wheels, the five-holed variety corresponded to the white box, the six-holed hubs go with either the white or red box, and the 10-holed version were sold in the red boxes and later in the clear plastic cases.