How Dinky aimed to beat its rivals with exciting new play features. Part 1
Innovations by all the manufacturers of diecast toys came thick and fast during the late 1950s then continued throughout the 1960s, and Dinky Toys was often at the forefront of these developments. One of the attractive changes to be made to Dinky Toys, in the 1950s, was probably the two-tone paint finish. A different colour scheme extended the use and added to the desirability of the casting. Two examples of the two-tone colour scheme were the Rover 75, and the Jaguar XK120.
The Rover 75 was released as model No. 156, in 1954 and was available until 1959. The first three models up until 1956 appeared in red, green or maroon but from 1956 to 1959, the two-tone colours were available. These were issued in a number of combinations. The Jaguar XK120 was released in 1954 as model No. 157 and was available in yellow, red, white, dark sage and beige until 1957. From 1957 to 1959 the two-tone colours were available, and these also appeared in a variety of different combinations.
In April 1958, the Austin A105 was released as model No. 176, and was the first Dinky to be fitted with windows. It was available between 1958 and 1963, and appeared in cream with a blue body panel, or light grey with red body-line panel, and even cream with mid-blue roof and panel line. On later models this body-panel line would be referred to as a flash, particularly as the panel line became narrow and less stylised. The A105 had various coloured hubs, and the later models were fitted with spun wheels.
In December 1958 and into 1959, the first model with ‘spun wheels’ was the De Soto Fireflite, which was released as model No. 192. As the first Dinky Toys model to have spun hubs, all the following variations also had this wheel design. It was available until 1964, and appeared in grey with a red roof and side flash, or turquoise with tan roof and flash.
In February 1959 the Rolls Royce Silver Wraith was fitted with the first four-wheel suspension system. Issued as model No. 150, this was not only a luxury car with classic lines but it had a comfortable and luxurious feel on the tabletop. The car was finished in two-tone grey, with chrome bumpers, grill and trim.
One of the most exciting innovations was surely the development and use of the ‘interior’. There is no doubt that toys look far more realistic with even the simplest of interiors. In May 1960, the Kennebrake Standard Atlas Van, model No. 295, became the first enclosed diecast Dinky model to be fitted with an interior. The van was available in blue and grey, and all-over blue. It had spun hubs and retained the tinplate base.
In August 1960, the first steering system - referred to as ‘Directional Control’, was fitted to the Jaguar 3.4 MK ll, which was released as model No. 195. It was issued in cream or light grey with a red interior, or in maroon with an off-white interior. The Jaguar 3.4 was a particularly elegant four-door saloon. While it had no opening features, or working parts, it did have suspension and the front ‘twist’ action of the pressure steering. This model also retained the tinplate base.
There was a major change to the road holding of a number of cars in the Dinky Toys range in 1961, with the move from smooth to treaded tyres. I suppose that the sportier versions were particularly in need of the new ‘safe grip’ tyres. A good example was the Austin Healey Sprite MK ll, which was released as model No. 112. This model was issued in red with a cream interior, spun hubs and silver trim. The interior for this particular model was manufactured using a plastic moulded injection process. As an open-top car, the interior could easily be utilised for a driver, passenger, and even for luggage on the back seat. With a tinplate base, this car also had ‘Directional Control’ or steering. Clearly a popular model with many other collectors, this car was finally withdrawn in 1966.
In October 1962, the first opening doors feature was fitted to the MGB model No. 113. This was another open-top sports car but unlike the Austin Healey Sprite MK ll, which had the plastic moulded interior, this car’s interior was part of the casting. It had a plastic screen, steering wheel and driver, and was issued in off-white with a red interior. This car retained the tinplate base, the ‘Directional Control’ and the spun wheels. The opening doors were a real breakthrough, which made this car a very popular model.
In November 1962, the Rolls Royce Phantom V was released as model No. 198. This car had two features, which were used for the first time. The two-tone colours of metallic green and cream, with ‘polychromatic’ paint, which we know as ‘metallic’, gave this model a fresh and authentic look. The second innovation was the sliding windows. Two of the three side windows on both sides of the car opened by sliding up to close and down to open. With red interior and tinplate base, ‘Directional Control’ or steering, spun wheels and chrome grill and bumpers, this was indeed a magnificent vehicle worthy of any collection. It was popular too, remaining available until 1969. It was so special that it even had a Dinky Toys chauffeur to drive it. This car is a particularly difficult model to find in mint condition. It has a number of potential ‘damage points’, including the mascot on the radiator grill and the all-round chrome work.
As a major manufacturer in a very competitive market, it was important to continually develop and introduce new features. This is particularly true throughout the 1960 and more special features will be considered in part two in a future issue.