Memories of Nuremberg by Rod Ward

March 2014

Nuremberg Hall 3A

Every industry has its own trade fairs, where new products, processes and other innovations are on show to the congnoscenti. Most of these fairs pass by unnoticed by the general public, perhaps with the exception of fashion fairs, which are closely watched by newspapers and fashion magazines. Toy trade fairs have also been widely publicised to the general collector audience, in a rather similar way to fashion trade fairs; to see what you’ll be buying in the year to come.

Why are the trade fairs held so early in the year? Well traditionally the big selling season for toys and models has always been at Christmas, so the idea was to grab buyers while they can still remember what sold well, and while they are still buoyed up by seasonal sales, so that they are ready to place big orders. There used to be another factor. When toy brand owners also owned their own factory, their manufacturing plans for the rest of the year would be based on orders received at the fair. If a proposed toy did not raise much interest from buyers, it might never be made. On the other hand, if a lot of orders were received for an item, then it would be allotted a bigger production quantity. This is often not possible nowadays, as by the time a new product is revealed at the trade fair, production slots will have already been booked with a Chinese sub-contractor, right down to specific quantities, colours and detailed specifications.

From early January until the end of February participants felt like hamsters on a wheel, chasing from one European toy trade fair to the next. Manufacturers would start by exhibiting at Harrogate, then go on to London, then to Nuremberg.  Milan and Paris would be included for some folk, while others would jet off to New York.

The Harrogate fair, in early January, was a curiosity; originally it was set up by the stationery industry to sell Christmas cards and decorations to the wholesale trade, which would have empty warehouses by then. Gradually other giftware and toy trade manufacturers chose to exhibit their wares at Harrogate, primarily to toy wholesale firms, of which there were many hundreds in the UK in the 1950s to 1980s. In Leeds alone, I used to visit four local toy wholesalers on a regular basis in the 1970s, which gives you some idea of how many such companies existed.

Many specialist wholesalers exhibited at the London toy fair, a couple of weeks later, showing the ranges they had signed up at Harrogate. The London toy trade fairs, variously held at Earls Court or Olympia, were where UK retail shopkeepers visited, to order from wholesalers and manufacturers. Orders could be placed in advance for the year’s releases, after inspecting handmade prototypes of toys or models not yet in production.

I used to visit both Harrogate (a notoriously chilly spot, where more than once our car was jammed in a snowdrift) and London, both as a buyer for our retail business and, with a press pass, for Model Auto Review.

As the number of producers of diecast models grew, UK distributors such as Modeltime and David Conway’s Model Import Company exhibited new ranges for collectors. In 1982 we were approached by an exhibitor who needed to raise some cash for a new venture. With a friend, Ian Livingstone was selling the new Dungeons & Dragons fantasy game from his Shepherd’s Bush flat. His uncle used to own a toyshop, and Ian sold us the remaining stock of tinplate stations, dolls’ heads etc. We transferred the stock between our cars in the Earls Court underground car park. Soon afterwards, Ian and his pal opened the first Games Workshop store, expanding to become a chain of shops, and the rest is history.

The London toy fair would close on the Wednesday lunchtime, after which there was a scramble for the afternoon flight from Heathrow to Nuremberg for exhibitors and press alike. Nuremberg opened on Thursday, where larger companies had already set up elaborate stands, but their senior executives only arrived from London at the last minute.

Bavaria has always been the historical centre of the world’s toy industry, with factories dotted around Franconia in northern Bavaria and Bohemia, now in the Czech Republic.

Nuremberg is notorious as the home of the Nazi rallies in the 1930s, and some evidence remains of massive ceremonial structures. After the war the town, already battered by bombing and artillery bombardment, was bulldozed by the American forces, but it was rebuilt in the old style, and is now a popular tourist destination where attractions include the house of Albrecht Dürer the artist, and a toy museum.

The Nuremberg toy fair began as a local showcase for the Bavarian toy industry, then became the German national toy fair, and thus the international toy fair, held in an enormous exibition complex which grew larger every time we visited. Other trade fairs are now held there, but the ‘Messe’ was originally built for the toy fair. There is indoor display space of 170,000 m2, plus outdoor display areas. If you can imagine a dozen Earls Court exhibition halls arranged in a ring, you have some idea of its size. We would visit for three or four days, and still not manage to get round all of it, so we had to eliminate halls which we thought were of no interest (computer games, dolls, children’s books) but this could mean missing out on a new product which had slipped in at the last minute and got a stand cancellation in an inappropriate location, or where an exhibitor displayed items on behalf of a friend, which were unrelated to his own products.

In the days of film cameras, I would expose 50 36-exposure films, photographing items for Model Auto Review, filling bags with film cans, in addition to photography cases, sacks of catalogues and even a sample or two. Hotel accommodation was scarce in the relatively small town of Nuremberg, so we could be an hour’s drive away by courtesy coach. It set off early enough for exhibitors to be at their stands by opening time, and left after the fair closed, so these were long days.

After a few years we changed our travel arrangements, driving from Yorkshire to Bavaria via North Sea Ferries, Europoort and the superb German autobahns. Once at the Minichamps stand, Paul Gunther Lang asked us if we still drove over in a Range Rover; we did, one of three we owned one after the other. At the time he was uninterested in making a model of it, as the car was virtually unknown in Germany. Soon afterwards we changed to a Jaguar XJ6, but he didn’t make a model of that car either.

The first year we took the Jaguar, via a short cut from home to the M62, we were met by a police car coming the other way. They told us the road was impassable for a low-slung car due to flooding; the Range Rover would have made it. So we had to go the long way round. We never had any problems driving in freezing weather to the middle of the Continent, but once there, it could be frighteningly cold. The hardy locals would stand outside, eating hot sausages and drinking ice-cold beer from a sales trailer. We would prefer to sit on one of the many restaurants in the Messe complex, enjoying the excellent food and lovely Tücher beer.

The high-flying management of the big toy firms arrived by private jet, stayed in luxury hotels and ate enormous expense-account meals. Lesser mortals like ourselves stayed in distant hotels, but after a few years we found our favourite location, in a place called Egloffstein, in so-called ‘Franconian Switzerland’, a village which was a summer health resort, where German workers on sick leave could take an ‘air cure’ (ie breathing fresh air). Thomas, a local chef and hotelier, saw the opportunity to reopen the village each year for a week in February. There we would enjoy his wild boar, fresh trout or ham hocks, accompanied by even more draught beer, and sometimes meet friends. One year we met a group of Belgian retailers and collectors, after Leo Tack wandered into the bar with the latest issue of MAR tucked under his arm.

In fact, the best aspect of our Nuremberg visits was the opportunity to see friends in our collecting community from around the world. Our usual base camp was Leslie Hurle Bath’s Replicars stand, where we would leave our heavy bags and catch up on the gossip. As well as showing us the latest ranges he was distributing, Leslie would point us at new ranges he had spotted elsewhere. I would try not to make appointments for specific times, although some exhibitors insisted on it. You always knew when someone was late for such an appointment three or four halls away by their speed of movement. In the 1980s and 1990s many new ranges appeared, and most specialist collector ranges were represented at Nuremberg. Sometimes the manufacturers exhibited (even Mike and Joyce Stephens of Western Models had their own stand) but often they were represented by a distributor.

In those days ranges were exclusively handled by national distributors, and there were often ‘turf wars’ when distributors sold models to another country, with the defence that the EU was a single market. I had occasional arguments with manufacturers on this topic; notably an unusually disagreeable Italian. Mostly, however, our meetings were very cordial; we always looked forward to seeing Thomas Wolter of Tin Wizard from Germany, who shared his stand with Gerhard and Elizabeth Klarwasser of Toys for Collectors in the USA. Jacques Greilsamer of Eligor always offered us a drink, while complaining that he would leave France for Switzerland if a Socialist government took power. Some stands were friendly and welcoming, such as BBR, ABC, Brumm from Italy. Others were efficient, such as Solido, Schabak, Conrad and all the German H0 scale ranges. Some were shambolic at times, including Corgi, where the sales manager once asked me to find out the price of a competitor’s product, because he was scared to do it himself. Some were cold and unreceptive, such as NZG, or even downright obstructive, such as Maisto (May Cheung) who would never let us take photos on their stand. Exhibitors could experience aggro as well. The fair organisers had very strict rules; in error a British exhibitor built his stand 2cm higher than the permitted height. A nearby German exhibitor complained, and the Brit was given the choice of entirely rebuilding his stand, with a day to go before opening, or to leave the fair. Other exhibitors are eagle-eyed about copies of their products being displayed, If they complain, the organisers remove the offending item until the dispute is resolved, effectively for the duration of the fair. It has been known for firms to use this ploy to have a particularly promising new release removed from a competitor’s stand.

As well as meeting friends and acquaintances who were exhibitors, I also enjoyed meeting other visitors to the fair, whom I hadn’t seen since the same time the previous year. It was always interesting to compare experiences with our opposite numbers in other countries, such as Jean Fontaine of Calandre in Paris. There could even be quite a crowd of old friends gathered together comparing notes or telling jokes. I recall one occasion when our multinational group of British, French, Dutch, South African, American, and Argentine visitors were being told a joke by an Australian distributor. As we blocked the aisle, chattering in English and laughing, we were eyed suspiciously by passing Bavarian shopkeepers, wearing national costume. They always visited the fair on the Sunday, when their shops were closed.

I usually visited around 200 stands, some regular stopping points, many others with surprise finds. Occasionally there were disappointments; an absentee or a lack of new releases. As time went on there would be fewer new ranges we didn’t already know, and from the 1990s onwards the internet allowed us to access news from manufacturers without spending the best part of a week away from home and spending a couple of thousand pounds in the process. Personal circumstances stopped Val and myself from visiting the Nuremberg toy fair, but by that time there was less to see, and we were getting reports from regular contributors, especially Hans-Georg Schmitt. He would take hundreds of photos, as I used to, and collect two of every catalogue; one for me. His load could be as much as 70kg of paperwork. One year BBC television filmed at Nuremberg, and caught a glimpse of Hans-Georg at high speed, towing his trolley-load of catalogues. He also managed to augment his collection by acquiring free samples of special toy fair model issues from dozens of stands, but fewer companies produce special models these days.

Times continue to change; Hans-Georg still sends his reports for MAR, but there are fewer surprises. He doesn’t have to post 30kg of catalogues to me, as most manufacturers produce CD-ROMs or just keep their ‘catalogue’ online.

Even long-standing exhibitors now cease to take a stand at Nuremberg. Rio Tatarletti of Brumm, who always had one of the most stylish and welcoming stands, did not exhibit at the 2014 Nuremberg toy fair on his own account. He said it was ‘because of the excessive cost in respect of a steady decrease of clients attended’.

Hans-Georg tells us that Nuremberg toy fair was quieter than ever this year, with empty aisles two hours before the official closing time. I prefer to keep my memories of a busy, bustling, exciting annual experience.


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Oz Cars

BY JOHN QUILTER                                         June 2015

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Trax, the Australian based marketer of diecast and resin models has recently expanded their range of 1:43 scale items and now included are two Australian versions of cars that were UK based. First is the 1947 to 1952 Austin A40 Tourer, a car based on the Austin A40 Dorset which was in turn the two door version of the longer running Devon of the early 1950s. The Australians modified the car and built a tourer for the sunny climate down under. The model (Trax #TRR07) is in bright red which is a bit on the pink side with a brown interior, and cream wheels. It even includes black wing welting front and rear, a nice detail touch rarely seen. Also featured are correct chrome bumpers, grill, door handles, boot handle, and even a very delicate flying “A” bonnet ornament. Unlike some other models the grill has been black washed to bring out its detail. Photoetched wipers are provided as well as some fascia detail and a three spoke “banjo” steering wheel. The chassis show a considerable amount of detail including the frame, front and rear suspension, engine sump and final drive.

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For scale verifiers the wheelbase measures 2.2 inches which equates to 95.5 inches while the real car has a wheelbase of 92.2, a very minor difference. Length is 3.63 equating to 156 while the real car is 153 inches long which would be deemed as pretty accurate. Dorsets were exported to the USA in the late 1940s but sadly their ¾ scale American car looks from the late 1930s resulted in many of them being converted into dragsters in the 1950s, housing huge V8 engines suitable only for setting records in a quarter mile race.

A recent review of the Trax website shows the red A40 tourer as sold out but if prior history is correct Trax often relaunches the model in a different colour later.

The next Trax item of British origin is the BMC Mini Moke. Again suitably modified for Australian use. The model is offered in two colours, a bright metallic blue (Trax number TRR04) and a white one (Trax number TRR04A). Both with blue seats and a folded down hood in blue. White “spoker” wheels are fitted and the model, comes with a pair of surf boards and a beach cooler these cars being popular with the open air beach going set in Australia.

1980_Moke_Australian_1.JPG

The Moke has a storied and varied past, it being first launched in the mid 1960s in the UK as a variation of the Mini 850. It was thought that such a minimal utilitarian vehicle might be of interest to the military and in fact some were tried out by the US Army but were found to have too limited ground clearance for arduous military service. The intention was they could be parachuted out of an aircraft and met on the ground by paratroopers for transport. This was the inspiration for perhaps the first 1:43 scale model of this vehicle by Dinky Toys which was even offered in a para-Moke version with a parachute for small children to drop from a height.

1980_Moke_Australian_w_people_1.JPG

The Australian Moke differed from the original English version in having a larger 1098cc engine and 12 inch wheels in the 1971 locally produced version. The 12 inch wheels gave it a slightly greater ground clearance than the original 10 inchers, but a full length sump protector was still fitted to protect the aluminum gearbox case. In 1977 the Australian built Moke acquired the larger 1275cc engine and much larger, more robust bumpers front and rear known as “roo bars” which are replicated on the Trax model. Moke production ended in Australia in 1981 but that was not the end of the story as production moved to Portugal where over 8,500 of them were produced by the local British Leyland subsidiary there between the years 1980 and 1990. Like the last of the Australian Mokes these were known as Californian Mokes.

And the final chapter of the Moke story was in a still born project to produce Mokes in Italy by Cagiva who were a motorcycle maker in Bologna. This never actually happened but production did continue in Portugal until 1993 at which point over 50,000 had been produced worldwide. For a period Leyland Australia produced a version of the Californian Moke that was acceptable in the USA and some were used as rental vehicles on Santa Catalina Island, appropriately off the coast of Southern California. Over the years the Moke made use of a number of BMC derived A series engines from 850cc to 998cc to 1098cc to 1275cc and BMC experimented with a twin engine Moke to achieve four wheel drive but this still did not satisfy the US Army who were more concerned with ground clearance. It is reported, however, that four strong soldiers could, with use of the tubular bumpers simply boost the tiny vehicle over any terrain obstacles it got impaled on! That however, did not meet the military’s requirements.

1980_Moke_Australian_X3_2.JPG

The photographs above show the Moke with the beach accessories, a pair of surfboards and a cooler and some likely beachgoers (Omen miniatures). The ones with three Mokes show the Dinky Para Moke, the Vitesse in green, and the Trax.

Over the decades the Moke has become a sort of cult vehicle highly cherished by collectors and enthusiasts in many parts of the world.

Back to the Trax model. This has the white spoker 12 inch wheels, the roo bar bumpers, and a tall triangular side window presumably to somewhat reduce drafts while underway. This model has a fair undercarriage detail which includes an engine sump and aluminum tail pipe and silencer. In correct Moke fashion a spare tire resides on the rear off center. Rear mud flaps are fitted with white lettering “MOKE”. There is a folded top and even a touch of luxury, twin windscreen mounted sunvisors. The model’s wheelbase measures 1.82 which equates to 78.3 inches while the actual vehicle has a wheelbase dimension of 79.5, or just about dead on accurate.

Both of the above models come mounted on a black base under the usual clear plastic display case. Trax models are marketed by Top Gear at http://www.topgear.com.au/index.php.


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1964 Mercurys

by John Quilter                                                    May 2014

I find one of the fun things to do with 1:43 scale models is to find an inexpensive but creditable model that lends itself to the creation of multiple variations of the real car it represents. American cars are great subjects for this, as for each model year there were often many different body types on offer from the manufacturer. In this project the models were quite inexpensive Yat Ming replicas of the 1964 Mercury Marauder. The Marauder was the sporty version which sometimes had the optioned of the hot 427 cubic inch V8 engine in place of the more common 390 cubic inch version, not that the four-barrel carburetor variant was any slouch in the performance department.

To create almost the full range of the full sized 1964 Mercurys, I acquired five Yat Mings and proceeded with my modifications. One became a Commuter station wagon using the roof of a partwork model from the James Bond Collection of a 1964 Ford Country Squire station wagon (now available as an Ixo model in light blue or cream). In this era the Mercury and Ford shared the same greenhouse, so this was simply a cut off the roof and transplant job. Of course there was a bit more to it, as the tailgate area had to be formed, and other details created. Not to worry, the roofless Ford took the top from the Marauder and became a Galaxie 500XL hardtop.

1964 Mercury Breezeway conversion by John Quilter

The next Mercury became a four-door hardtop, using a modified Marauder roof. The body sides were modified to show the four doors and painted in a new-for-1964 colour, turquoise. This was one of two four door sedan-hardtop styles offered by Mercury in that model year. It was known as a ‘fastback‘ while the other version had the distinctive reverse-slanted roll down rear glass and was known as a Breezeway. This reverse-slanted window was an on-again off-again Ford feature which  showed up as early as 1958 on the Lincoln Continental, and later on various European Fords such as the mid-sixties Anglia, although none of the European versions had the roll-down feature.

1964 Mercury conversions by John Quilter

Next came a simple job of creating a convertible, which was achieved by removal of the top and creation of a top boot, using some malleable sheet lead, properly formed, textured, and painted. The bucket seats of the Yat Ming Marauder are quite appropriate for the sporting convertible. The final conversion was to make a two-door pillarless hardtop in the Breezeway style.  Here it was necessary to scratchbuild an entirely different roof, which I was able to do with some sheet aluminium. The final contours were created by using epoxy metal known as J B Weld. I was able in this case to preserve the red body colour and the tampo-printed badges,  by making the top in a contrasting colour.  Two-tone cars and vinyl roofs were all optional features of this period, and on these big Mercs.

1964 Mercury conversions by John Quilter


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More Oxford Jaguars

By John Quilter                                     November 2014

 1972_Jag_V12_E_coupe_1.jpg

 

Oxford Diecast has recently launched a 1:43rd scale model of a Jaguar V12 E Type coupe in what Jaguar actually called “Light Blue” and this colour matches my factory colour chip booklet. The V12 E Type was the last in the line of E Types and was a sort of test bed for the newly launched 5.3 litre single overhead camshaft V12 engine that was ultimately intended for the XJ saloon cars. This engine was not the first V12 Jaguar built, the first being the mid-60s four cam engine used in the one off XJ13. This engine was found to be too complex and expensive to produce and was too large to easily fit into production road going cars, hence a simplified version with 60 degree cylinder bank spacing and the single cam per bank. Fuel injection had not been developed sufficiently at the time to meet ever stricter US emission standards so the first years of V12 production were fed by four Zenith Stromberg carburetors, two per bank with “up and over” intake manifolds feeding the intake ports within the V of the engine. Exhaust ports were outboard thus making the engine a cross flow design.

The E Type was approaching 10 years old when the Series III, as the V12 cars were known as, was launched in 1971. Earlier the cars’ range had been expanded to include a long wheelbase four passenger coupe and it was this wheelbase length that was used for both the Series III roadster and coupe. This made the car less of a pure sports car but did address the need for additional leg room for tall drivers. As with the earlier 2+2 coupe the Series III was available with a Borg Warner three speed automatic gearbox along with the traditional Jaguar fully synchronised four speed manual. Unlike the 6 cylinder cars, no overdrive was offered but power assisted rack and pinion steering was standard. Performance of the Series III was quoted as 0-60 in 8.9 seconds with a top speed of 146MPH bringing the car back to the level of the first E, the 3.8 litre six cylinder of 1961.

The car came with standard steel disc wheels either painted silver or chrome plated and optional chrome wire wheels. All wheels were wider than previously used thus the fender flares, one of the styling differences from earlier generations of cars, A larger chrome barred grill was provided to aid cooling of the big V12 and initial cars had a chrome four pipe central exhaust pipe extension. As before, tail lamps and front indicators were mounted below the bumpers.

Oxford has launched the model with silver painted disc wheels, a dark blue interior, billed by Jaguar as French Blue, a black fascia top and a wood colored steering wheel in right hand drive. A hand brake and gear lever are evident. Future colours are shown as Pale Primrose (Q1 2015) and Regency Red (Q2 2015). Twin door mirrors are provided as well as a stub end of a rear wing mounted radio antenna. To improve interior ventilation the coupe’s rear deck includes a chrome rectangular air vent above the “Jaguar E Type V12” badging. Bumpers are chrome and the front and rear screens and side window framing is done in tampo printed silver. The English style of front license plate mounting is replicated in the front with a number plate mounted directly on the leading edge of the bonnet, odd to American observers where the license plates were usually mounted below the main grill.

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A check of the undercarriage shows a black base plate with front and rear suspension details, and engine sump, a pair of massive main silencers, and the previously mentioned four branch tail pipe. A particular detail is a pair of underfloor ducts directing cooling air to the inboard rear disc brakes. The front brakes on the real car being ventilated discs. For the stickler for scale and size the V12 E Type measures 184.4 inches and the model measures out to be 4.37 inches or the 43rd equivalent of 188, the wheel base 2.42 inches or 104 inches versus the actual car at 105. So no significant difference from true 43rd. Production flaws: only one, a crooked left rear tail lamp, easily correctible with a bit of glue. And as always Oxfords come mounted on a black plinth and covered with a nice protective clear Perspex display box.

The V-12 E Type is one of Jaguar’s iconic products although Oxford’s choice of this Jaguar to model is somewhat curious since AUTOart have for a number of years produced a silver, red, and dark green roadster and a black and dark green coupe although some of these are noted on their website as sold out and there are indications these were not widely available in Europe. All of these were also modelled with the disc wheels. In addition to AUTOart, Yatming under their Road Signature label, produce a very inexpensive roadster in dark green and pale primrose again with disc wheels. And going way, way back Tenariv did both a coupe and roadster in resin kits with either wire or disc wheels.

All in all a really nice model and kudos to Oxford for keeping their pricing at reasonable levels. It would be nice to see future versions with chrome wire wheels as they fit to their XK150 models.


1956_Jag_D_Type_1.jpg

Moving on to the much smaller 1:76 scale, Oxford has done a Jaguar D Type in the standard British Racing Green with a white roundel and with number 1. For a 1:43 scale collector these are truly tiny but nevertheless very accurate renditions of the real thing. There were two slightly different versions of the D Type, an original short nose and a later long nose that slightly improved aerodynamics. The model appears to be the long nose version but at this scale that is hard to tell. The difference in the real car was only 7.5 inches and at this scale that is difficult to measure. The number plate is 393RW which is the plate for a real car and photos of it in racing action are on the internet. The relatively few D Types produced had a famous racing history and carried on Jaguar’s racing efforts from the mid ‘50s onwards. Only 71 were made and 5 of those were destroyed in the disastrous fire at the Jaguar plant in 1957. This little model is a great companion to the other Oxford Diecast items such as the modern series of current XJ, XK coupe, and roadster, XF, and F Type roadster. If one has limited display space and still wants a great display of really small Jaguars this range in 1:76th scale fills the bill. The photo shows the car with a US penny to give an indication of its size.

 


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