Corgi verses Dinky: Sports cars
In this series featuring Corgi and Dinky toys from the 1950s up to the 1970s, we 'unwrap' a few of the models to reveal a sprinkling of detail. These two market leaders were once great rivals, and yet both gave such pleasure to collectors of all ages.
The first of our featured sports cars was released by Dinky Toys in 1961, as model No.112. The Austin Healey Sprite MK ll was issued in red with a cream interior and silver trim. This was a fabulous little open top sports car, with a really well produced interior, right down to the gear stick. The interior was a major feature, as all previous open top car interiors had generally been part of the casting, and therefore were metal. The Sprite interior was plastic and had a softer more realistic appearance. It also had ‘fingertip steering’ a solid front screen, a tinplate base, spun hubs and detailed rubber tyres. It was available in a red and yellow illustrated box, until 1966.
The MG ‘MGB’ Sports Car was released in 1962, as model No.113. This MG was finished in off-white, with a red interior, which formed part of the casting, and silver trim. The number one feature on this car was the opening doors. It also had a driver, ‘fingertip steering’, 4-wheel suspension, a steering wheel, tinplate base, spun hubs and rubber tyres. The red and yellow box was rather special, with a racing flag on the front, advertising a first sports car with opening doors. The MGB was available for seven years, until 1969.
Dinky also released the Jaguar ‘E’ Type in 1962. This was issued as model No.120, in red with a cream interior. This E-Type came with a black plastic hardtop and also a rolled-up cream plastic soft-top cover. Each of these items was able to slot into place, so that the Jaguar could be used as either version of this luxury sports car. Besides the different tops, the Jaguar also had ‘fingertip control’, 4-wheel suspension, shaped hubs and detailed tyres. It was a particularly well-balanced version of the E-Type, which was available in a red and yellow box until 1967.
The final sports car from the Dinky stable is the Triumph Spitfire. This model was released as No.114, in 1963. There were four colour variations to choose from. The most common is probably the metallic gold version with a red interior but silver, red and purple were also available. There were two versions of the metallic gold Spitfire, as some had a transfer on the boot: ‘I’ve got a tiger in my tank’, and others did not. This very shapely sports car had a fully opening bonnet with a detailed engine, jewelled headlights, and ‘Prestomatic steering’. At the wheel of this delightful open top sports car was a lady driver wearing a seat belt, and a head scarf – both important safety features during the 1960s. The Triumph Spitfire also had a diecast base, spun hubs and detailed tyres. It came in a beautifully illustrated red and yellow box, and was available for eight years, until 1971.
One of the first contributions from the Corgi stable, was the Austin Healey Sports Car, released in 1956 as model No.300. This was a very serious open top sports model, in red with cream seats, or cream with red seats – both with silver trim. It had a front screen, a metal steering wheel, tinplate base, flat or shaped hubs and detailed tyres but no suspension. It is featured in the earlier blue box but was also available in the later blue and yellow box. It was clearly quite a popular toy, which had a comparatively long nine year reign, until 1965.
The MG ‘MGA’ was not far behind, released in 1957 as model No.302. This beautifully shaped car was issued in metallic green with cream seats, or red with cream seats, both with silver trim. Like the Austin Healey open top sports car, the MGA had an interior, which formed part of the casting. It had a front screen, metal steering wheel, tinplate base, flat or shaped hubs and detailed tyres. The MGA was also available for a number of years, until 1965.
Corgi released the MGB GT in 1967, as model No.327. It appeared in deep red with a very well detailed light blue moulded plastic interior. The front seats could be raised and lowered, and it had a silver metal steering wheel. The bumpers and grill were finished in chrome and the jewelled headlights and spoked hubs, completed this car’s super sporty appearance. The MGB had opening doors, and a rear opening tailgate, with space in the rear of the car to accommodate a travelling suitcase. The diecast base in grey made this car an all-round sturdy toy, and the excellent suspension and realistically shaped tyres provided good road holding. This model proved to be a very desirable sports car, which was purchased in a blue and yellow box, and was available until 1969.
Finally, the Lotus Elan S2 Hardtop was released in 1969, as model No.319. The car was issued in blue with a white hardtop, or red with a white hardtop, both colour variations had a detailed off-white interior, with tip-forward seats. This model managed to get three of the main features used on an earlier Lotus Elan release. Besides the hardtop, this elegant sports car had an opening bonnet and a detachable chassis unit. All these features were first used in the Lotus Racing Gift Set. This Elan had also been up-graded to cast hubs and square based tyres. It was available in a yellow and blue box for just two years until 1969.
It is probably just as well that many of us enjoyed some of the sports cars featured, when we were young drivers at school. For all sorts of reasons, it was much harder to own a real one later on in life. Dinky and Corgi provided a number of fine examples of the day, many of which are still keenly sort after. As usual, the colour variations together with the numerous features presented us with a range of excellent models to add to our collections.