What did you do with your Dinky Toys and Matchbox models when you were a kid? My guess is that you enjoyed them to the full by playing with them. That's what they were for.

 They were real toys, simple honest toys made for children to play with. They got buried in the garden, raced around school playgrounds and driven along brick walls until the tyres shredded and fell off. Who needs tyres?

They could still be pushed along rough surfaces till the wheel hubs wore down! The toys had to suffer kids standing, even jumping on them. And the axles got bent.

A simple component like an axle can speak volumes for progress in the die-cast business. These unsophisticated toys were designed to survive as much as possible the treatment that imaginative play demands.


So the early Dinky Toys were fitted with quite thick axles made of mild steel. But simple, less than perfect die-cast wheels turned inefficiently on thick axles.

The friction produced between axles and mountings was also a problem. In the case of some early Lesney Matchbox miniatures, wheels often would not turn at all! Children were not bothered by this and would just apply a little extra 'oomph' to get the car in motion.

It did bother the likes of Mattel in the USA however, who felt that sales would be increased by adding to the play value of certain of their products. In the late 1960s, they started making their axles of thin spring-steel wire which was flexible enough to give the impression of 'suspension' while resisting bending forces.

 It immediately conquered the friction problem by reducing the surface area between wheels, axles and mounts. Because the models now ran so smoothly, the range marketed as 'Hot Wheels' became hugely successful in the States.

British manufacturers had to respond quickly in order to compete. Soon we were seeing Matchbox 'Superfast' (1970), Corgi Toys WhizzWheels' (1972), Lone Star 'Flyers' (1972), and Dinky Toys 'Speedwheels' (1973).

 It seems odd that the market leader, Meccano, seems to have lagged behind others from the early 1970s  but they did have financial difficulties right through that decade. Mettoy had introduced The Ones With Windows' (otherwise known as Corgi Toys) in 1956.

The big selling point with their new offering was indeed the fact    that all models in the range were fitted with window glazing.

This novelty immediately put them ahead of the long-established Dinky Toys factory who found themselves facing stiff competition not only from the new breed but also from Tri-ang Spot-On which appeared in 1959.

 Right from the start, Corgi seemed able to remain one jump ahead of Dinky, regularly introducing novel features like opening doors, bonnets and boots and working suspension.


 They provided extras like miniature luggage, spare wheels and loads for lorries (a feature recently re-introduced by the present Corgi company). No surprise then, that Corgi again beat Dinky in the race for smooth- running play by fitting "Whizz Wheels' for their model vehicles.

Survival in the die-cast business obviously depends on providing novelty and features for collectors.
Children were the original collectors but die-cast toys are regarded solely as models nowadays and few people of any age play with them, even though the play value inherent in some current models is very high! Quality of production and the inclusion of features seems now to be of less interest to kids so adults now collect them as models and have an eye on their investment potential. Indeed — much modern production is becoming of limited availability in order to make models that much more sought after. .

Collectibles Coach

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