How Dinky aimed to beat its rivals with exciting new play features. Part 3
In 1964, Meccano had been taken over by Lines Bros., and the future for Dinky Toys was soon to become clear. Lines Bros. had established the Spot-On diecast range, which it manufactured in a scale advertised as being ‘Spot-on’ at 1/42. This slightly larger scale was to be adopted for many of the new innovative Dinky cars.
In 1966 came the Austin Mini-Moke, model No. 342. In deep metallic green with a grey canopy, this was a real action-packed toy. The opening bonnet revealed a detailed engine and the plastic canopy could be removed. This original Mini-Moke was available until 1972 and complimented so many other vehicles in terms of size and colour. The same casting was used for the taxi, model No. 106, in the iconic TV series of the ‘Prisoner’ between 1967 and 1970. The casting was utilised once again for ‘Tiny’s’ Mini Moke in 1970.
Finally, a military version, the Austin ‘Paramoke’, was released as model No. 601. This ingenious version of the Mini-Moke model came with its own parachute and drop carriage.
Another first, and one of the most exciting models ever to be released is surely Lady Penelope’s FAB 1. This model appeared in 1967 as model No. 100, and caused quite a stir in a perfect shade of pink. As a major TV-related toy this car, along with Thunderbird ll, was an important release for Dinky Toys. The domed canopy was able to slide, the front radiator grille opened to reveal a forward firing missile system, and four pursuit rockets could be launched to the rear of the car. As well as the grille and trim detail, the vehicle had multiple jewelled headlights, which were essential for illuminating any potential targets ahead of you. To complete this very elegant and powerful saloon the detailed interior contained Lady Penelope in person, together with Parker, her loyal chauffeur at the wheel. Overall, this was a fabulous model and was available until 1975.
The same year saw another major innovation – a car with rear stop lights. The Mercedes-Benz 250SE was released as model No. 160. The introduction of stop lights was an interesting innovation, and a real first for Dinky. The car was issued in metallic blue with a white interior. The introduction of stop lights no doubt reduced the number of accidents on carpets and table tops the world over. There were to be no more unnecessary shunts at the crossroads or traffic lights as it was clear that you were coming to a halt. The model was available until 1974.
Following the theme of intermittent lighting, the BMW 2000 Tilux was released in 1968 as model No. 157, and had the first flashing indicators. A fantastic accessory, which would eventually make arm signals a thing of the past – or so one might have thought. This superb safety feature did not catch-on sufficiently to become standard issue, though it was an excellent idea none the less. The car appeared in blue and white with a red interior, and was available until 1973.
Another interesting development, also in 1968, was the use of retractable aerials on the Pontiac Parisienne, model No. 173. These were situated directly behind the rear screen on either side of the car, and were operated with two slide mechanisms, one for each aerial. This model was available in metallic maroon or metallic blue and was withdrawn in 1972.
Dinky Toys was proud of the continued developments and innovations that many of its cars now shared. Attention was drawn to various models with multiple features, including some with four opening doors. This became a major advertising theme involving a number of models released by Dinky Toys:
• 128 Mercedes-Benz 600
• 152 Rolls Royce Phantom V
158 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow
• 164 Ford Zodiac
• 255 Ford Zodiac Police
Towards the very end of the 1960s, the introduction of ‘Speedwheels’ took place. As the whole of the toy industry was set to move ever faster, Speedwheels replaced the normal or regular wheel and axle. These cars were faster with very smooth forwards and backwards motion, with less wheel and axle friction. At a time of greater competition, it must have been a good deal cheaper to fit the new plastic wheels. Collectors generally seem to love or hate Speedwheels and this probably depends on which side of 1969 you did most of your early driving. Some cars clearly looked better, perhaps even more sporty than others, with the latest accessory. A good example is the Morris Mini Minor (Automatic). This excellent little model was first released in 1966 but apparently had to wait until 1972 to be fitted with a new set of wheels all-round. It was released as model No. 183, and was issued in metallic red with a white interior, or metallic blue with a white interior. This car continued to be available until 1974.
1969 is also significant as the firm’s name changed to Meccano-Triang Ltd. This was the first of a number of changes to take place in fairly quick succession.
It seems that the whole toy industry faced enormous challenges during the 1970s and this volatility was to continue for many firms into the 1980s. In 1971 the Lines Group went into liquidation and the Binns Road factory, along with other assets, were transferred to a new company called Maoford Ltd. This was later renamed and bought by Airfix Industries.
This perhaps explains the introduction of the Dinky kits, which were to be featured in the 1972 catalogue.
As toys made by other manufacturers were gradually moving to an even larger scale of 1/36, those made by Dinky Toys were no exception. It was no doubt seen as a major innovation, when in 1977, the larger scale cars were introduced. These early issues included the Volvo 265DL Estate, released as model No. 122. This sturdy looking model had plenty of room inside, and appeared in metallic blue with a brown interior, or orange with a brown interior.
Another noteable model that year, was the Princess 2200HL, released as model No. 123. This model was issued in metallic bronze with a black roof and side panels, or white with a blue roof, or just all-over white.
The development in tooling and production, together with the increased use of plastic materials meant that castings had generally become lighter than previous models. Despite the continued refinement of the Dinky Toys product, however, all was not well in the world of diecast toys. Airfix, who was experiencing financial difficulties, was eventually forced to call in the Receivers in 1979.