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Shite in Miniature II


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15 minutes ago, bunglebus said:

This also landed on the mat today, by far the oldest catalogue I've found. 1958 Dinky. Behold:

Dinky 1958 001

Amazingly, the loose price list was still inside

Dinky 1958 016Dinky 1958 017


Fabulous!  That's my era.  I used to get 1d for each year of age as weekly pocket money, so in 1958 that would have been 8d.  After the daily temptations of sweet cigarettes, sherbet fountains and 3d jamboree bags, saving for a Matchbox toy would take weeks and Dinky toys were usually a holiday purchase once per year.  I've still got 90%  of the toys I had at that age, plus a few earlier Dinkys which I bought from a 2nd hand shop when we lived in Southsea in 1961 - they were 3d each. 

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As it's on the first page of that catalogue, seems a good time to show my recently acquired market find Dublo Austin truck.

Two flat tyres this side...


...and a random piece of baking powder label stuck to the other!


It was introduced to its relatives. They only ever came in green but this one isn't the same shade as my other (which IIRC came from @eddyramrod) and has different wheels. The two-tone one is a repaint done by a friend over 40 years ago.


Plans for it? Maybe fit some better wheels, glazing and interior and see if I can bring it up to modern standards.

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Always good to see Dinky Dublo models – a well-intentioned, if ultimately unsuccessful, effort to compete against Matchbox. They really are very charming in their own right; a couple have passed through my hands over the years and they’re very good quality.

But today I’ve been thinking about the time when Matchbox tried to take on Dinky… and also lost.

I’m talking about Matchbox's tragically short-lived 'King Size Cars' range.

I've been aware of these for a while now, but only managed to get my hands on a couple of ropey examples over the summer.

Basically, with the Superkings range of large trucks, service and construction vehicles doing rather well at the tail end of the 1960s, it probably seemed logical to Lesney's management go after Corgi and Dinky's traditional patch of large, 1/43-ish passenger cars.



After all, Corgi had only just freed themselves from the restrictive Woolworths/Husky deal by 1969, and were squaring up to take on Matchbox 1-75s with their expanded Corgi Juniors range, now available in toy shops worldwide.

Dinky, now under the ownership of Lines Brothers, was also well aware of Matchbox's dominance in the small-scales market, and despite the Dublo failure of the 1950s, began overseas production of their own Mini-Dinky range in 1968 - hoping, no doubt, to snatch some market share for itself. However, chronic quality control problems and slow sales led to the enterprise being abandoned after only a year or so.

So, perhaps feeling that their toes were in danger of being stepped on, Lesney took the fight to its rivals with a new, handsome range of high-quality 1/43 models, featuring opening doors, working suspension and steerable wheels. Product diversification for the win.

Matchbox rolled out four brand-new King Size Car models in the 1969 catalogue - the K-21 Mercury Cougar, K-22 Mercury Commuter Police Car, K-23 Dodge Charger, and K-24 Lamborghini Miura. These four were roughly the same scale, and used the same chromed plastic wheel hubs with separate plastic tyres as the K-6 Mercedes-Benz W110 'Binz' Ambulance, introduced to the King Size range two years before, in 1967.

Mostly though, these were scale-ups of models already in the smaller 1-75 range. The Mercury had previously been seen in smaller format as No.62, introduced in 1968...




While a smaller Mercedes was also available as No.3 in the range, also with an opening rear loading door:





Although, interestingly, the smaller version appeared in the 1-75 range the year after the larger King Size version made its debut.

Similarly, the smaller version of the Muira had already been in the toy shops since 1968 as No.33, while the Mercury wagon had been introduced in both similar Police colours as No.55, and as a civvie suburban hack as No.73, the same year.


And yet, after only two years the King Size Cars range was dropped - replaced in 1971 by the new Speed Kings range, resulting in the Commuter, the Merc Ambulance and Miura gaining plastic speed wheels, but both the Cougar and Charger castings were chopped-up to turn them into drag racers with lairy paint jobs and stickers.

So what gives, Daddy-o?

In a word: Mattel.

The introduction of Hot Wheels in 1968, in a blaze of publicity, sent the market leaders - and their profits - into a tailspin. Suddenly, making finely detailed models of cars you'd see on the road wasn't enough - average customer age had already fallen during the 1960s, and the flashy, speedy Hot Wheels with their gravity-defying playtracks represented a serious threat in the fight for Little Tommy's birthday ten-bob note - or indeed, Little Hank's dollar bill.

Foreshadowing much of how Western Europe's manufacturing was to go in coming decades, very low staff costs and tax-free import deals meant that the Hong-Kong made Hot Wheels toys cost less to make than their competitors’ diecast, while making bigger profits for their parent company. The writing was on the wall, and would stay there until the mid-1980s when the last of the 'old guard' of toymakers collapsed into insolvency. It was no accident that Matchbox and Corgi toys were all Chinese-made by the late 1980s.

Overseas sales quickly plummeted for Lesney, where the US represented a major export market (40% of their products were sold there) - by 1969, their sales had collapsed by nearly 79% in the face of the Hot Wheels onslaught, causing Lesney's share price to tumble accordingly.

Corgi too was left on the back foot after a devastating fire at their Swansea warehouse in January 1969 destroyed a year's worth of production, causing unfilled orders and shopkeepers casting around for other toy cars to stock their shelves. Mattel were happy to step into the breach.

After a terrible year, Matchbox and Corgi both went all-out in 1970 to show that they too could be hip cats with fast-rolling, death-defying stunt cars in eye-popping colours - Matchbox's Superfast range landed just before Corgi's Rockets, and both were in direct competition with Mattel's product.

Corgi had quite possibly the better product, scooping the coveted Toy Of The Year award in 1970 for its Rockets, but a nasty legal spat with Mattel over track patents led them to withdraw the entire range by the end of 1971. The cars themselves, with separate chassis and metal 'tuning keys' were also expensive, and hadn't sold as well as Mettoy had hoped.

Matchbox, perhaps fearful of similar action, appeared to quietly modify some of their Superfast track sets, renumbering them from 1972 on, and continuing with the Superfast name and their ever-expanding custom and fantasy range. The initial Superfasts were mostly re-wheeled and re-coloured versions of their existing 1-75 range, but quickly new cars were developed - often custom or fantasy vehicles, just like Hot Wheels. Despite this makeshift approach, it seemed to work - sales of Matchbox shot back up, and the farm was saved.

Mattel, despite being a significant disruptor in diecast toymaking circles, were quite reluctant to admit that their Hot Wheels range hadn't been quite as successful as they'd planned, either - despite crowing about their Hong Kong factory’s capability of churning out a staggering 16 million toys a month, production very quickly slowed to just 1 million pieces a month, before closing in 1973 and production moving to Malaysia.

For all the excitement generated, track cars had been a fad, a flash in the pan, and like so many of other must-have new toys - think Furbies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars figures - an initial rush of sales driven by their wild and immediate popularity couldn't be sustained at the same level in the long-term.

So where did that leave the range of Matchbox King Size cars?

Well, initially nowhere - as Lesney struggled mightily throughout 1969 for their core product line's survival, the King Size range stood still as designers and marketing were flat-out developing the Superfast line. So the rather nice little 1/43 King Size Cars were pretty much forgotten about, puttering on unchanged into the 1970 catalogue, which heavily emphasised the Superfast range but still contained those lovely line illustrations.




But the following year, the brand revamp expanded into their bigger-scaled range. The 1971 Matchbox catalogue not only used colour photography rather than illustrations, but it also dumped the King Size branding, splitting their bigger models into the Super Kings range – made up mostly of commercials - and the Speed Kings range, now consisting of seven models.

This range encompassed the newly-modded K-21 Cougar and K-22 Charger: 


And the K-23 Commuter and K-24 Miura (largely unchanged, beyond their new plastic one-piece wheels):


...plus a lightly retooled Mercedes Ambulance, now with much bigger rear arches to accommodate the speed wheels, and renumbered K-26.


Added to the range was the new K-27 generic Camping Cruiser, plus the K-25 Seaburst power boat and trailer.

The K-28 'Drag Pack' matched a plain green Commuter with the Cougar dragster on a trailer, while the Miura was (somewhat implausibly) fitted with a towbar to pull the powerboat.


This all went hand in hand with the 'Superfastication', if you will, of the rest of the large-scale Super Kings line - for 1971, most of the former King Size models found themselves gaining bright paint, and large plastic one-piece wheels as a stop-gap process to modernise these older castings.

So the white K-2 Scammell Heavy Wreck Truck went metallic gold; the K-10 Scammell Pipe Truck became hot pink; the K-16 Dodge Tipper went bright yellow and blue; and the K-17 Ford D-Series low loader was made over in lime green.




Subtle, it wasn't.

Other long-running models retained their existing paint schemes, like the K-15 Merryweather fire engine and the K-7 Shelvoke & Drury Refuse Truck, but their upright 1950s stylings looked frankly daft on the big, chunky wheels.


A few retained their separate tyre and red hub arrangements into 1971, but in the case of the K-5 Racing Transporter, its days were numbered and it never made the transition to the Superfast era – maybe for the best, as I don’t think its lines would have suited speed wheels.


At this stage, the design team at Lesney were busy with the next generation of Super Kings and Speed Kings - such eye-poppers as the Cambuster, Bazooka, Bandolero and Shovel Nose were in the works, sweeping away the replica dustcarts and horseboxes for what they believed kids really wanted - wild colours, cartoon proportions, and the promise of untrammelled speed.

Naturally, I'd quite like to track down all five models from the King Size Cars range – they’re not mega rare and they do crop up now and again, with the Charger seemingly the most valuable of them. I did have a Speed Kings Commuter towcar in green, now sold on, but I’d like to find a regular wheels police version.

The original plastic tyres are fragile and can break easily – ask me how I know. Steve Flowers can supply reproduction parts, but fitting them will require drilling the base to remove the shell, so I’m still in two minds about what to do with the Cougar and the Merc Ambulance.

It’s hard to know whether there was ever really a future for the King Size Cars range, even if the Hot Wheels threat hadn’t reared its head – Corgi and Dinky already had a substantial chokehold over the 1/43 market, and many of the then-current cars you’d have seen on the road were already being modelled.

The fact that three of the five were American cars may have hinted at where Lesney's sights were set with this range, but quite possibly there wouldn’t have been space in the market for yet more cars of this scale - sales of which had already peaked by the late 1960s, and would never return to the same levels again.

And yet – the cast-in detailing of these big Lesney cars is really crisp, and in many ways better than the models being punted out by their rivals in Liverpool and Swansea.

It’s an intriguing might-have-been; and there’s a few 1-75s from that era that I’d have loved to see blown up to 1/43 scale to join the King Size Cars range – can you imagine the MG 1100 made bigger, for example, or the VW 1600 TL fastback, or the Studebaker Wagonaire, or the Lincoln Continental...?

Don't get me wrong, I like Matchbox across all eras and I have plenty of nostalgia for their 70s output, but I think the transformation of the "beautiful... fabulous" King Size Cars into the "kings of speed on floor or table" Speed Kings marks the point at which the demands of a younger, action-oriented customer base overtook the previous brief to produce detailed model miniatures.

Still, we weren't completely denied a smaller-scale Dodge Charger - I wonder if the No.70 Dodge Dragster was originally conceptualised as a road car version for the 1-75 range, but ended up as a funny car?


Either way, it was Matchbox's biggest selling model in the US, so it made a lot of kids very happy... and at the end of the day, entertainment's what it's all about, no?

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I don't think I've come across the Mercury on those early wheels, but I have the Cougar and Charger here. Thought I had the Muira too but it must be in the loft. There was a nice Mercedes ambulance at the boot sale last year but for some reason couldn't bring myself to unbuckle the fiver asked for it. Probably ought to have done, it was a nice example but just couldn't get that excited about it. Would definitely pick up the Mercury if I saw one, it would be nice to have all three Septics. There's also one of the pink Dodge dragsters here which I have been consistently failing to remember to post to flat4alfa for a few weeks now.. 


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here my stash some last week 2 spot on dart and bristol today straight in my display cabinet, dont ask how i ended up with 2 speedboats no not been on bulls eye lol,buick am leaving others be restoring the aston be robbing the chassie sure the wheels are wrong on the restored one,anglia got soft spot my 1st car in 1984 love another one,










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My "era" would be the 80s, but the majority of my cars were 2nd hand from my cousin or jumble sales, so much as those Dinkys are nice things, they don't fill me with nostalgia the way a Volks-Dragon or "Toyman" Dodge Challenger does, but then I also understand and feel the appeal of the 60s onwards cars cars from all the manufacturers. 

I do have all the King Size cars, and lovely they are too


Can't say I've thought about it much, but I agree with @Datsuncog that some of the regular wheels would have made amazing models scaled up - VW 1500 saloon with some opening parts, or the Caravette would be my choice

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The definition of excitement was getting a super kings or speed kings for christmas - pressing the cheapo wrapping paper against the header card so you could see the writing through the paper. I have no idea hos many I had - I still have some boxed ones but not many - some are expensive now.

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So today I completed my very first diecast restoration!

If you remember last week, I bought a few 80s models for a pound a pop at a really cool store - including this Majorette Peugeot 205:


Now that's all well and good, but I really wanted to tidy it up a bit and make it more stock. So, some primer, white spray paint and terrible detailing skills later...


...we have a little Peugeot 205 Junior! Alright, it's hardly the best job in the world (those side trims are an absolute mess and the rear light clusters are the wrong way around) but as a first attempt I'm not displeased. 

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Thanks for the insight into King Size DC, a very interesting little batch of models these it seems.

I picked up the Charger from a little curiosity shop in Linlithgow for £4 a few years ago. It had no front tyres and it took me a few years more to get around to finding the right ones for it. Thankfully I found some and it displays well now.

What I like most about it is that it is based on a completely stock example. No fat tyres, roll cage or shakers poking through the bonnet. The pale blue interior is very believable too. 

Nice models but nevertheless quite odd in my opinion. The front wheels are merely posable and can't be steered during play like the Corgi 'prestomatic' system.  Also, the mechanism is too stiff and the wheels just want to return to centre somewhat. So with opening doors being the only feature, at least on the Charger, I think that Dinkys and some Corgis of the time had many more features and play value. Take the Corsair 2000E of a year or 2 earlier as an example. Pressure steering, bonnet with 'remote' release and windows that can be lowered. Or the Renault 16 with the 'remote controlled' rear seat and opening bonnet with spare tyre. 

Early SuperKings were a real head turner for me though. The Datsun 240Z rally car with its remote bonnet release and rally theme was fun, and it's nice to see that they continued with the finely cast badges and scrolls in the body, something that was missing by the 1980s. The Ford Capri II was awful though. Massively oversized wheels and proportions that were a mile out, with only an opening boot. 

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10 hours ago, bunglebus said:

oldest catalogue I've found. 1958 Dinky

Strangely enough I've had 732, 733, 734, 735 & 736 for many years. Thanks for posting the catalogue. Until now I'd never really considered when they dated to. Now I'm wondering if they were available in years other than 1958? 

I think all the aircraft they were modelled on had first flights before the end of 1951. Going by their playworn state and the ages of the relatives they most likely belonged to originally, I wonder if they were available before 1958 (since 1958 seems a bit late for them to have still been playing with them).

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905 and 252 look strangely familiar too. I'm sure I played with a 252 when I was very young, although I don't remember it having much paint on it or the remaining paint being the colours shown in the catalogue. 

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17 minutes ago, TheOtherStu said:

Is there anywhere on the Interwebz where there is a database of known miniatures where you could search manufacturer, made/model, country of issue etc.?

There are a few that have been set up over the years but none are complete from what I have seen.  What there are tend to cater for a particular type or era

What is it you are looking for?  KTG Holdens?

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21 minutes ago, bunglebus said:

A couple of new 5 packs in Tesco


And two Minis right at the front of the pegs! One will be going to miss BB for the December festivities 

Really need to get my arse into gear and head down to the Tesco and get stocked up.

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23 minutes ago, flat4alfa said:

There are a few that have been set up over the years but none are complete from what I have seen.  What there are tend to cater for a particular type or era

What is it you are looking for?  KTG Holdens?

I've been trying to find out for a while who makes MR2 Roadsters and particularly, if anyone ever did the Facelift model.
i've seen a few PFLs, but never a facelift (the main difference is the front and rear lights, side panels and the addition of foglights)

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13 hours ago, MiniMort said:

So today I completed my very first diecast restoration!

If you remember last week, I bought a few 80s models for a pound a pop at a really cool store - including this Majorette Peugeot 205:


Now that's all well and good, but I really wanted to tidy it up a bit and make it more stock. So, some primer, white spray paint and terrible detailing skills later...


...we have a little Peugeot 205 Junior! Alright, it's hardly the best job in the world (those side trims are an absolute mess and the rear light clusters are the wrong way around) but as a first attempt I'm not displeased. 

That's a cracking job you've done there! I never thought those Majorette 205s could look so good in civvie colours.

Nice one.

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1 hour ago, flat4alfa said:

Forgive me, I have sinned.


Heh, fret not, my son... I'm sure it'll find  good home before long! Penance not required.

No market attendance today - with the Forester undriveable and MrsDC needing the Yaris today for work, my usual Friday morning sojourn into Belfast had to be relinquished.

But never worry, I'm sure fresh opportunities will arise before long.

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